Federal officials believe they have broken up an al-Qaida terrorist cell in Lodi and have arrested two men and detained two others as part of a wide-ranging investigation, authorities said Tuesday.
One of the men arrested, 22-year-old Hamid Hayat, is accused in a federal criminal complaint of training in an al-Qaida camp in Pakistan to learn "how to kill Americans" and then lying to FBI agents about it.
His purported training included explosives and weapons instruction and using photographs of President Bush as targets, court documents indicate.
His father, 47-year-old Umer Hayat, a Lodi ice cream truck driver, is charged in the complaint with lying about his son's involvement and about his own financing of the terrorist camp.
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Both men are U.S. citizens who live in Lodi, and both made a brief initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Sacramento on Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter A. Nowinski. They are being held in the Sacramento County jail pending further court proceedings.
Hamid Hayat's attorney was not present for the court hearing, and Nowinski set a bail hearing for Friday. An attorney representing Umer Hayat downplayed the charges against his client.
Two other Lodi men were detained over the weekend for questioning, area residents said Tuesday. The men were identified by one source as Muhammed Adil Khan and Shabbir Ahmed, and are being held on immigration violations in an undisclosed location.
The two were believed to be working to open a religious school in Lodi to teach young Muslims. Both were detained after they met separately with Umer Hayat in the predawn hours Saturday.
Umer Hayat wore a concealed FBI listening device for both meetings, one source said, and Umer Hayat's family members in Lodi confirmed the source's account.
Khan is well-known in the area and is an imam at the Lodi Muslim Mosque.
The investigation came to light Tuesday as FBI agents fanned out across Lodi, which is 35 miles south of Sacramento, questioning residents and serving search warrants on the mosque and other sites, area residents said.
FBI agents stationed outside the Lodi mosque would not comment, and U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said he could not discuss what he called an "ongoing investigation."
However, an FBI affidavit filed in federal court describes the investigation as beginning on May 29 when Hamid Hayat was flying from Pakistan to San Francisco.
Hayat had traveled to Islamabad, Pakistan, leaving San Francisco on April 19, 2003, and arriving in Pakistan on April 21, and returned to the United States late last month, the affidavit states.
The plane had stopped in South Korea en route to San Francisco. Shortly after it took off, authorities learned Hayat was on the plane and that he was on a federal "no-fly" list, said the affidavit from FBI Special Agent Pedro Tenoch Aguilar.
The plane was diverted to Tokyo, where an FBI agent questioned Hayat, then decided to downgrade his status from the no-fly list and allow him to enter the United States.
Hayat arrived in San Francisco on May 29, and he was interviewed by FBI agents Friday at the Sacramento field office and denied ever having attended any terrorist training camps, the affidavit states.
"He stated that he would never be involved with anything related to terrorism," Aguilar wrote.
Hayat's father, Umer Hayat, also was interviewed Friday and said his son was not a terrorist, the document states.
The questioning continued through the night into Saturday, one source said. Eventually, Hamid Hayat agreed to take a polygraph test, "and his answers to the relevant questions were found to be indicative of deception," the affidavit states.
"After approximately two more hours of questioning, Hamid indicated that he had, in fact, attended a jihadist training camp in Pakistan," according to the affidavit.
Hayat, who was born in San Joaquin County in 1982, told agents he had trained at a camp near Rawalpindi, Pakistan, for six months in 2003 and 2004, the court documents state.
"Hamid later confirmed this camp was run by al-Qaida," the affidavit states. "Hamid described the camp as providing structured paramilitary training, including weapons training, explosives training, interior room tactics, hand-to-hand combat and strenuous exercise."
Part of the weapons training included sessions where photographs of Bush were pasted onto targets for trainees to shoot at, the affidavit states.
Classroom sessions also focused on "ideological rhetoric" against the United States and other non-Muslim nations, the document states.
Hayat told agents he had not participated in all facets of the training, but that he knew of all the types being offered and that "he and others at the camp were being trained on how to kill Americans," the affidavit states.
"Hamid advised that he specifically requested to come to the United States to carry out his Jihadi mission," the affidavit said.
Umer Hayat continued to deny that he knew anything about terrorist camps in Pakistan, the affidavit said, until agents showed him a videotape of his son's confession.
"Shortly after viewing that videotape, Umer confirmed that Hamid Hayat attended a jihadist training camp in Pakistan in 2003-04," the court documents state. "Umer admitted that he paid for Hamid's flight and provided him with an allowance of $100 per month, knowing that his intention was to attend a jihadi training camp."
Hamid Hayat's interest in attending the camp began when he was a teenager living in Pakistan, the father told agents, and was influenced partly by his education at a madrassah, or religious school, he attended in Rawalpindi.
Hamid Hayat also was influenced by an uncle who fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan as a mujahadeen fighter, the father says, according to the affidavit.
The madrassah was run by Hamid Hayat's grandfather - Umer Hayat's father-in-law - and sent students from the school to the training camp, which is run by a close friend of the grandfather, according to the affidavit.
Umer Hayat also told agents that he had toured several such training camps, the affidavit said. And during the court appearance Tuesday, Nowinski indicated that the father had provided funding for the training camp his son reportedly attended.
Umer Hayat was represented by Sacramento attorney Johnny Griffin III, who conceded the allegations in the case are "shocking" but said his client "is charged with nothing more than lying to an agent."
"This is a bailable offense," Griffin told Nowinski as he asked that Umer Hayat be released on bail.
Nowinski rejected the request, saying Umer Hayat "is both a flight risk and a danger to the community."
"He just returned from Pakistan where he built a new home and contributed financial assistance to an al-Qaida sponsored program training his son and others to kill Americans whenever and wherever they can be found," Nowinski said.
At least two dozen spectators crowded into the courtroom to watch the session, and afterward Basim Elkarra, executive director of Sacramento's Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the Muslim community wanted to ensure that the men were treated fairly.
Hamid Hayat, 22
- Born September 1982 in San Joaquin County.
- Accused in federal criminal complaint of training at al-Qaida camp in Pakistan and then lying to FBI agents about it.
Umer Hayat, 47
- Father of Hamid Hayat.
- Charged in complaint with lying about his son's al-Qaida involvement and about his own financing of the terrorist camp.
Muhammed Adil Khan
- Imam at the Lodi Muslim Mosque; working to open a religious school in Lodi to teach Muslims.
- Being held on immigration violation.
- Working with Khan to open religious school.
- Being held on immigration violation.
FBI alleges pair have terrorist connections
Two Lodi men were arrested and two others detained for alleged immigrationviolations. One suspect, Hamid Hayat, 22, recently returned from Pakistan wherehe reportedly told agents he attended an al-Qaida training camp.
Hamid Hayat's timeline
Sept. 10, 1982: Born in SanJoaquin County
April 19, 2003: Leaves UnitedStates for Islamabad, Pakistan
2003 to 2004: Reportedly trains atal-Qaida camp in Rawalpindi, Pakistan
May 29, 2005: Returns to theUnited States, landing in San Francisco
Tuesday: Charged by U.S. attorneyin Sacramento
Source: U.S. attorney forEastern District of California
About the writer:
- The Bee's Denny Walsh can be reached at (916) 321-1189 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Bee staff writers Emily Bazar and Christina Jewett and Bee researcher Becky Boyd contributed to this report.