Conflicting dates may cast doubt on the federal indictment that paints Daniel Boyd as a terrorist combatant, waging a war against the Soviets in the rugged Afghan countryside 20 years ago.
The indictment says Boyd, 39, a drywaller from Johnston County is an imminent danger, with links to terrorists and specialized training that could have enabled him to launch suicide missions in Israel and Pakistan in the name of Islam.
But if Boyd traveled to Afghanistan in 1989 to fight the Soviets, he was late.
The last of the Soviet foot soldiers withdrew eight months before Boyd and his family arrived in Peshawar in neighboring Pakistan. By fall 1989, visitors could buy a Russian soldier's hat as a souvenir from a street vendor there.
The Soviets' occupation of Afghanistan was set against the backdrop of the Cold War. Rebel forces, known as the mujahedeen, drew the support of America as it fought the Soviets and the Afghan's communist leadership in a nine-year civil war.
Some Soviets lingered to help prop up the Afghan government, which was shaky and ultimately doomed. If Boyd had crossed into Afghanistan to attack Soviets, he would have had to target them in the crowd of Afghans they were assisting.
"The Soviets in these years would have been hidden in the background," said Larry Goodson, an expert on Afghan history who lived in Peshawar in the 1980s. The city has long been a jumping-off point to Afghanistan and a sanctuary for those fleeing the turbulent country.
This week, Boyd and seven others, including his two sons, were arrested in what prosecutors have heralded as a victory for freedom and democracy. Federal agents watched Boyd and his comrades for three years, tapping their phones and tracking their international travel. They say Boyd stockpiled weaponry and raised money to commit violent jihad in Israel and Pakistan in the name of his Islamic faith.
Boyd's lawyers and his wife could not be reached Friday.
Boyd's past is not essential to proving whether he may have plotted suicide missions abroad. But, if investigators are shaky on the facts, attorneys for the defendants could poke holes in the case.
"Inaccuracies in the indictment are not fatal to the case, but it's potentially mildly embarrassing," said Jeff Welty, a criminal law expert at the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill. It would not unravel the case and could be corrected later in the process, Welty said.
A spokeswoman for the FBI in Charlotte said her agents didn't write the indictment and couldn't address the discrepancy. George E.B. Holding, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, said he could not comment beyond the indictment.
His life in Peshawar
What drew Boyd to Pakistan and how he spent his time there are still largely unknown. Some details of his adventure did emerge in 1991 when he became the center of an international scandal after a conviction in a bank robbery earned him a sentence to have his arm and foot amputated.
Boyd wouldn't have been out of place in Peshawar in 1989. The city drew drifters in those years, adventurers and do-gooders from around the globe. They wanted a piece of the action, Goodson said, or a slice of the international funding pouring into Peshawar. Their pasts and their identities there were curious; it was hard to take newcomers' stories at face value, Goodson said.
"There were all sorts of doubts about who people really were here. It would be difficult at best to prove the facts in an environment like this," Goodson said.
Daniel Boyd was barely 20, a husband and father to two boys in diapers. He'd converted to Islam as a teen, under the guidance of his mother's second husband, an Islamic lawyer in Washington, D.C. After high school, he'd done construction work.
By fall 1989, Boyd was ready for an adventure. The call he was answering in Pakistan is not quite clear. According to an interview with The Washington Post in 1991, Boyd said he came to Peshawar to do aid work for the 3 million refugees that had fled Afghanistan.
Boyd and his young family settled into the city, overrun by homeless and hopeless Afghans. The family's life, too, by Sabrina Boyd's account to a Post reporter in 1991, was its own sort of trial. Baby supplies were scarce. Water had to be treated before using. But, here, in the most modest of settings, the family's Islamic faith solidified.
At some point, Daniel Boyd and his brother become affiliated with Hezb-e-Islami, a radical group headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a Muslim militant who was largely funded by the United States government during the Afghan war. Hekmatyar's group, like a half-dozen or so others, launched guerrilla warfare to help loosen the Soviets' grip on Afghanistan.
A Hezb-e-Islami ID card
It is this association that has led to much speculation about Boyd's activities; he was carrying one of Hezb-e-Islami's ID cards when he was arrested after the bank robbery.
Clyde Hostetter, an American doing contract work for the United States in Peshawar in the fall of 1989, said Boyd's association with Hezb-e-Islami makes sense.
"He probably went over there bright-eyed and hopeful, ready to help, and gets there and aligns himself with a group that's getting the most money from the United States. You had to belong to get anything done," Hostetter said.
Belonging to Hekmatyar's group would have been risky, though, for a Westerner such as Boyd. Goodson, the Afghan scholar, said that some Westerners disappeared after setting off on adventures with the Hezb-e-Islami.
That association couldn't keep Boyd and his brother out of trouble with Pakistan's government in 1991.
They were accused of robbing a bank, a mix-up the brothers swore arose from an attempt to regain money swindled from Daniel Boyd's wife, Sabrina, according to the Post story. A higher court eventually spared the Boyd brothers from amputations, and they returned to the United States.
Back home, the Boyds appeared to fall into a benign, middle-class life. Still, the years in Peshawar hang over Boyd and his future.
News researcher Denise Jones contributed to this report.