The U.S. Attorney's Office in Houston is planning to ask that accused terrorist Daniel Joseph Maldonado remain in custody without bail as it prepares its case against the man who is the first U.S. citizen charged with joining Islamic extremist combatants in Somalia. VOA's Greg Flakus has more from Houston.
The Maldonado case is scheduled to come before a federal judge in Houston next Tuesday, where prosecutors are expected to ask that bail be denied based on the risk of flight and Maldonado's potential threat to the community. There is as yet no indication of when the case will come to trial.
Maldonado, 28, was arrested by Kenyan troops last month after he crossed over the border from Somalia, where U.S. officials say he was training with al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic extremist groups. The federal complaint against him contains information provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indicating that Maldonado worked with an al-Qaida-associated bomb maker and received extensive combat training. The Muslim convert is said to have gone to Somalia to carry out jihad and expressed a willingness to kill fellow Americans as part of that mission.
Daniel Maldonado, who also uses the name Daniel Aljughaifi, was born in Massachusetts and raised there and in New Hampshire and came to Houston in August 2005. A few months later, he flew to Cairo. About a year later he turned up in Somalia.
Very few people remember Maldonado from his brief time here in Houston. The manager of the apartment house where he lived, Chris Childress, says he has few recollections of the former resident.
"I know him just by seeing him, because we know all of our residents," he said. "Most of us have worked here a long time, but we don't know anything else about him. We are cooperating with the police and giving them all the information they need and I think that is our best situation."
Maldonado came to the attention of federal investigators while he was still living here in Houston by sending messages to an online Islamic Network site. In one message, posted in early November 2005, he accused Christians and Jews of spreading evil, genocide and wars.
FBI officials who interviewed him after his arrest in Kenya, say he went to Somalia to wage jihad, which he described as fighting against all those who are against the Islamic state. While there, the FBI says he participated in the interrogation of a male flight attendant whom the jihadists suspected of being a spy. Maldonado told agents he was brought in because he spoke English, as did the flight attendant who he said was bound and subjected to beatings. Maldonado admitted to pointing his AK-47 rifle at the man and threatening him. He said he heard later the man had been killed.
Maldonado also described his training sessions with a man known as the "bomb maker." He described some of the people involved in the training as members of al-Qaida. When asked about the terrorist organization's attack on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, Maldonado allegedly said he had no problem with that. He described himself as angry at America.
The federal complaint against Maldonado charges him with receiving training from a foreign terrorist organization and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States. He faces life in prison if convicted on the weapon count and 10 years in prison for the training count.