WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S.-born man who trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and fought in Bosnia in the 1990s pleaded guilty on Tuesday to plotting to bomb targets in the United States and Europe, the Justice Department said.
Christopher Paul, 44, entered his plea in U.S. district court in Columbus, Ohio. He agreed to serve 20 years in prison under terms of the deal.
“Today’s guilty plea brings an end to the long, dangerous career of Christopher Paul,” Patrick Rowan, acting assistant U.S. attorney general for national security.
Paul was born in Ohio as Paul Kenyatta Laws and converted to Islam while in college, the Columbus Dispatch reported. He grew a beard and addressed some friends in Arabic. New acquaintances were surprised to learn he was American.
Paul, known also by a string of aliases including Abdul Malek Kenyatta, was arrested last year in Ohio on charges of conspiring to aid terrorists, conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and providing material support to terrorists.
He pleaded guilty to the second count and also acknowledged a three-page fact summary detailing his involvement with al Qaeda.
The activities dated back to the early 1990s when he traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and continued until 1999 and 2000 when he helped Islamists in Germany who were planning to bomb Americans vacationing at foreign resorts, the summary said.
Paul trained at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in basic battle techniques, then joined the group and received advanced training in rappelling, explosives and military history.
He fought in Afghanistan, then returned to Columbus and began recruiting to form a jihadist group, the summary said. From 1993 to 1995 he made more Islamist contacts while fighting in Bosnia.
Authorities searching Paul’s home in Columbus found a master list of “terrorist contacts and bomb-making information” that he had created while in the Balkans, the summary said.
It said al Qaeda members in Europe in 1997 asked him to form a jihad group, which he trained around Columbus. He went to Germany in 1999 to meet members of a Islamic fundamentalist cell. Asked to provide explosives training, he agreed to help the group, which also intended to attack within the United States, the summary said.
Editing by Alan Elsner