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RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - The leader of a small militant group in North Carolina pleaded guilty on Wednesday to conspiracy to carry out acts of terrorism overseas and scheming to helping other militants, the Justice Department said.
Daniel Boyd, 40, and seven others were first indicted in 2009 for training and seeking to carry out attacks in places like Kosovo, Jordan and the Gaza Strip. He is the first from the group to plead guilty.
"This case proves how our world is changing. Terrorists are no longer only from foreign countries but also citizens who live within our own borders," U.S. Attorney George Holding said in a statement after the hearing in U.S. District Court in New Bern, North Carolina.
Boyd, a U.S. citizen who also went by the name Saifullah, is set to be sentenced in May and faces up to life in prison. His two sons, Zakariya and Dylan, were also charged in the case.
Boyd on Wednesday pleaded guilty to two counts: conspiracy to support terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim, and injure people in a foreign country.
He was accused of going to Pakistan and Afghanistan between 1989 and 1992, receiving training there and then fighting in Afghanistan.
It was unclear who he fought against. The FBI said Boyd claimed to have gone to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets but Soviet troops left in 1989.
Boyd had been indicted for allegedly plotting an attack by the group on the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, but his plea did not include that specific charge.
While Boyd was mostly seeking to launch attacks overseas, U.S. officials have been increasingly concerned about U.S. citizens becoming radicalized and carrying out attacks within the United States on behalf of militant groups like al Qaeda.
In recent years, Boyd lived quietly in the small community of Willow Spring just south of Raleigh, North Carolina. He attended local mosques and operated a drywall business.
But federal investigators said he was preparing for violence and a raid found guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Mauri Saalakhan of the Peace Through Justice Foundation in Washington has followed the case and attended hearings in Raleigh. He said Boyd had a reputation for exaggerating his exploits abroad and "that may have played a large part in the trouble he has gotten himself into."
Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington and Ned Barnett in Raleigh, N.C.; Editing by Will Dunham