Expert: Miami Group Ready for Holy War

MIAMI (AP) — A group of men accused of plotting to destroy Chicago’s Sears Tower were in the final stages of forming a homegrown terrorist cell dedicated to waging an Islamic holy war before they were arrested, a prosecution terrorism expert testified Tuesday.

Distress of Nations

“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity the sea and the waves roaring;”
—Luke 21:25

Ishmael

“And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”
—Genesis 16:12

Raymond Tanter, a Georgetown University professor and terrorism scholar for 40 years, said suspected ringleader Narseal Batiste and the other six had nearly completed the “radicalization process” and moved toward acts of terrorism before their arrests in June 2006.
Hallmarks of this process include religious conversion, operation within a military-style hierarchy and adoption of goals shared by al-Qaida and other terrorist groups to destroy U.S. landmarks, Tanter said. The final stage — which he called “jihadization” — means the group is ready to plan, recruit and prepare for an attack.
“I believe that Mr. Batiste falls in the jihadization, or final stage of the radicalization process,” Tanter said, adding the other members of the “Liberty City Seven” also fall into that category.
Evidence introduced at trial shows that Batiste “was talking only about violent jihad” and not other meanings of the Arabic word, such as self-examination, Tanter said.
The oath of allegiance to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden taken by the seven men — captured on an FBI videotape — “is the manner in which al-Qaida binds individuals to the organization,” Tanter said.
The oath was administered by a man Batiste’s group knew as “Brother Mohammed” who claimed to be an emissary sent by al-Qaida to assist in the purported terror plot. In reality, “Mohammed” paid FBI informant Elie Assad, who testified earlier that he was playing a role under close watch of FBI agents.
Tanter also testified that al-Qaida uses affiliate groups in many countries that may have local concerns but also share the terrorist organization’s broader goals of imposing by force a strict form of Islamic fundamentalist government. Prosecutors say Batiste wanted to stage attacks that would create chaos and ultimately bring down the U.S. government.
“There probably are affiliate groups of al-Qaida in the United States. Al-Qaida would like to extend its reach into the United States,” Tanter said.
Tanter’s testimony drew strong objections from defense attorneys, who unsuccessfully sought a mistrial from U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard. Albert Levin, attorney for defendant Patrick Abraham, said the jury could unfairly conclude that the group intended to commit terrorist acts based on the expert’s opinions.
“This testimony is extremely prejudicial, goes right to the heart of this case,” Levin said. “His testimony has totally polluted this (jury) pool.”
But Lenard concluded that the testimony did not violate her order prohibiting Tanter from giving an opinion about the group’s actual intentions or mental state.
Defense lawyers have sought to portray Batiste and the others as merely hoping to con “Mohammed” out of money by going along with all the terrorist talk. They say the group never intended to attack the Sears Tower or bomb FBI buildings, as the government claims, and never acquired the means to do so.
The defense is expected to begin cross-examination of Tanter on Wednesday, with the prosecution possibly resting its case by the end of the week.
The seven men each face as many as 70 years in prison if convicted of all four charges against them, including conspiracy to levy war against the United States and conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaida.

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