Feds say faith became call to kill: Terror suspects stood out
By Mandy Locke,
(Raleigh) News & Observer
Posted: Wednesday, Jul. 29, 2009
During the past few years, a cluster of young men found a purpose in the brand of Islam espoused by Daniel Patrick Boyd, a graduate of Afghan training camps that schooled extremists such as Osama bin Laden, according to some of those close to them.
Friends and neighbors say they watched the young men shed the culture and ideals they grew up with in the Triangle and retreat into ideas that ran counter to much of what they knew. Federal investigators say their faith became a call to kill themselves and strangers abroad.
Agents arrested Boyd and six others Monday, saying they plotted suicide missions in Israel and Pakistan. On Tuesday, investigators searched for an eighth defendant. The Associated Press reported the missing suspect is Jude Mohammad, a Raleigh man arrested in Pakistan last fall and accused of trying to illegally enter tribal land. He is thought to be in Pakistan, the AP reported.
Each man could spend his remaining years in prison if convicted of the charges. They are due in court Thursday for a federal magistrate to determine whether they may be released before trial.
Daniel Boyd, accused of being the mastermind behind the plot, was appointed attorneys Tuesday. Efforts to reach them were unsuccessful. Most of the other suspects declined offers to have lawyers appointed for them.
Federal authorities' description of these men subscribing to a holy war befuddles those who knew them. Of all the half-dozen or so trips overseas that federal authorities say the men made to try to carry out a suicide mission, all failed. Federal documents do not specifically describe what the men had intended during their trips, except to say they meant to commit violent jihad.
Jasmin Smajic, a Cary man who was friends with Hysen Sherifi and Anes Subasic, said he watched his friends grow increasingly religious in the past few years, as they grew to know Daniel Boyd better.
“I thought it was a phase,” Smajic said. “We thought it was all talk, never did we think they had real plans to do anything, hurt anyone.”
Smajic said he believes his friends are innocent of the charges filed against them.
The father of one of the defendants, Omar Hassan, said his son has done no wrong.
“All I can say is my son is innocent,” said Aly Hassan of Raleigh, declining to speak further on the advice of a lawyer.
David Schanzer, a terrorism expert who works at Duke University, was also skeptical about the level of evidence authorities have linking the men to a scheme to murder abroad.
“These arrests occurred without the slightest amount of evidence,” Schanzer said.
He wondered how much of a threat, if any, these defendants posed.
“When you look at the majority of the cases of Muslim terrorists arrested in the United States, they are not terrorist masterminds. They are individuals who radicalized themselves and plotted and attempted to carry out potentially violent episodes.”
Dark, desperate world
Still, in the wake of the arrest, those who knew the defendants are trying to recall moments that might have signaled a slide into a dark and desperate world.
Hysen Sherifi, a Kosovo native who migrated here with his family about 10 years ago, began attending Friday prayer services regularly in recent years. Peter Adler, who lives across the street, noticed that Sherifi began wearing traditional Muslim clothes a few years ago when attending services at a mosque. His ritual was out of step with his parents and four siblings.
“I did think it was strange that Hysen would behave so differently than his family,” Adler said. “His sisters and his brother most certainly were very Americanized. That must not have set well with him.”
Sherifi had married a woman in Kosovo, said Smajic, who has known Sherifi since they were young teens. The couple was expecting a baby, and he planned to join her in Kosovo this week. He was giving up on his American life, Smajic said.
Dylan Boyd, 22, Daniel Boyd's son, was also growing unhappy with life in America. He'd dropped out of N.C. State University after less than a year, uneasy with the presence of women at the co-ed campus, Smajic said.
He went to work for Wake Med Hospital as a clinical services technician. He wanted to grow a beard, and that didn't set well with his supervisors at the hospital. He left that job last year.
Anes Subasic, another suspect, had been having a tough time in America, too. A refugee from Bosnia who immigrated to Wake County after a brutal war in the former Yugoslavia, Subasic had drifted.
His mother died three years ago, an event that triggered Subasic's search for religious meaning. His father, Dragan Subasic, fell into financial difficulty and poor health. Anes Subasic had moved back in with his father in Holly Springs, Smajic said.
He'd tried unsuccessfully to sell cars. His English is so limited that he asked a magistrate Monday for an interpreter to help him during future hearings.
Investigators had pressed Daniel Boyd and the other suspects for years.
Early this year, as Ziyad Yaghi, another suspect, defended himself against armed robbery charges in Wake County, agents from the FBI repeatedly tried to speak with him, said Bert Nunley, a lawyer who represented Yaghi in Wake County.
Nunley said Yaghi “declined to explain what he'd done while in Jordan. That apparently upset the FBI.”
By then, Yaghi had begun posting quotes from fundamentalist Muslim leaders on his Facebook page.
On his Facebook wall, where he describes his view of the world, he closes with a quote from Malcolm X: “It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood. That's the only thing that can save this country.”
Sarah Ovaska and Kevin Kiley of the (Raleigh) News & Observer and news researcher Brooke Cain contributed to this report.