U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has announced long awaited criminal charges against terror suspect Jose Padilla, who has been held by U.S. authorities as an "enemy combatant" for more than three years. Authorities alleged after his arrest in 2002 that he was plotting to detonate a radiological device, or "dirty bomb," in the United States.
Attorney General Gonzales says Mr. Padilla, a U.S.-born Muslim convert, is charged with providing and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to murder individuals abroad.
"The indictment alleges that Padilla traveled overseas to train as a terrorist with the intention of fighting in "violent jihad," a shorthand term to describe a radical Islamic fundamentalist ideology that advocates using physical force and violence to oppose governments, institutions and individuals who do not share their view of Islam," he said.
The indictment from a federal grand jury in Miami makes no mention of the "dirty bomb" allegation.
At a news conference Tuesday in Washington, Mr. Gonzales alleged Mr. Padilla was part of a "violent terrorist support cell" that operated in the United States and Canada. Four others, including a Canadian national, have also been charged with being part of that group.
"As alleged in the indictment, this cell supported terrorists by sending money, physical assets, and new recruits to overseas jihad conflicts," he added. "These defendants also allegedly took steps to disguise their fundraising and recruitment activities by speaking in code and using non-governmental organizations as a front for illegitimate activities."
Mr. Padilla was arrested in Chicago in 2002 as he returned from Pakistan. Authorities allege he received weapons and explosives training from members of al-Qaida.
He was designated by U.S. authorities as an "enemy combatant," a status that allows terror suspects to be held indefinitely without charge.
Mr. Padilla's lawyers had fought the designation in court, arguing that as an American citizen, their client had the right to defend himself against charges or be released.
Mr. Padilla, who is to go on trial September 2006, faces life in prison.