Friday, April 20, 2007

Houston man guilty of training with al-Qaida

Former Houston resident Daniel Joseph Maldonado pleaded guilty Thursday to participating in an al-Qaida training camp in East Africa, federal prosecutors said.

Maldonado, 28, was the first American charged in connection with an attempt to establish an extremist Islamic state in Somalia. He also used the name Daniel Aljughaifi, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Maldonado, who was charged with receiving training from a foreign terrorist organization, agreed to plead guilty to the government's criminal complaint in exchange for an agreement that prosecutors would not file any other charges, Assistant U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez said.

Details of the agreement were not available because it is sealed. By accepting the deal, Maldonado avoids possible indictment by a grand jury considering the case.

Federal officials would not say whether Maldonado has provided information that will lead to other terrorism arrests. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 29, when he could be sent to prison for as long as 10 years and fined $250,000.

"For an American to travel overseas to train as a violent jihadist alongside al-Qaida elements who are focused upon threatening the security of our nation, is decidedly disturbing and definitely illegal," U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle said in a prepared statement. "Maldonado's conviction should serve as a strong warning to any American who considers joining forces with terrorist groups here or abroad."

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