Ohio Al Qaeda operative attended same Columbus mosque as shopping mall and Brooklyn Bridge bomb plotters
April 15, 2007
Resort Bomb Plot Suspect Pleads Innocent
By JOHN McCARTHY
Associated Press Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio man pleaded not guilty Friday to federal charges that he joined al-Qaida and conspired to bomb European tourist resorts and U.S. military bases overseas.
Christopher Paul, 43, a U.S. citizen living in Columbus, did not ask to be released on bond.
Paul had learned hand-to-hand combat and how to use grenades and assault rifles at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan in the early 1990s, according to a federal grand jury indictment announced Thursday. He then joined the terrorist group in Pakistan and told al-Qaida members he was dedicated to committing violent jihad, prosecutors allege.
When U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost asked for his plea, Paul said "not guilty."
"And that is to all three counts, correct?" Frost said.
"Yes, sir," Paul replied.
Prosecutors and his defense attorney declined to comment after the hearing.
Paul, arrested Wednesday at his apartment, is charged with providing material support to terrorists, conspiracy to provide support to terrorists and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, which carries the most serious penalty of up to life in prison.
Court records also show links between Paul and two other Columbus men previously charged with terrorism.
One of the men, Nuradin Abdi, was accused of plotting to blow up a Columbus-area shopping mall and is awaiting trial on charges including conspiring to aid terrorists. A laser range finder and a night vision scope seized from Paul's residence are listed among items that the government intends to use as evidence in Abdi's case. Abdi also listed Paul as a reference on a government employment application, records show.
Paul was friends with the other man, Iyman Faris, who was sentenced in 2003 to 20 years in prison for a plot to topple the Brooklyn Bridge. The two attended the same mosque, Faris' attorney, David B. Smith, told The Columbus Dispatch.
The investigation into Paul spanned four years, three continents and at least eight countries, FBI agent Tim Murphy said.
The indictment says Paul traveled to Germany in 1999 to train co-conspirators to use explosives to attack European and U.S. targets and plotted to bomb government buildings in Europe and vacation spots frequented by American tourists.
A fax machine in his home contained names, phone numbers and contact information for key al-Qaida leadership and associates, according to the indictment.
Paul also sent $1,760 by wire transfer to an alleged co-conspirator in Germany, prosecutors allege.
Paul was born Paul Kenyatta Laws. He legally changed his name to Abdulmalek Kenyatta in 1989, then to Christopher Paul in 1994, according to the indictment.
His sister, Sandra Laws, said defense lawyers advised the family against talking publicly about the case. Paul's wife, daughter, father and brother also attended the arraignment.