Left to right, Daniel Patrick Boyd, Hysen Sherifi, Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan and Ziyad Yaghi have been charged with supporting violent jihad. Image from the New York Times.
On Sept. 24, a superseding indictment was filed in the criminal case against Daniel Patrick Boyd and his codefendants. Authorities allege that Boyd was the ringleader of an alleged jihadist cell arrested in the Raleigh, North Carolina area on July 22; for further background see my previous post about the case. The superseding indictment contains three new charges: conspiring to murder US military personnel (a charge directed at Boyd and Hysen Sherifi); possession of weapons in furtherance of a crime of violence (a charge directed at Boyd, Sherifi, and Zakariya Boyd); and providing a weapon to a convicted felon (a charge directed at Daniel Patrick Boyd).
Of greatest interest, obviously, is the charge that Boyd and Sherifi intended to attack American military personnel in the United States. Previously, the indictment did not make clear any actions that the defendants actually planned, and FBI Special Agent Michael Sutton, when cross-examined at the detention proceeding, could not name specific targets. The superseding indictment specifies the Marine base at Quantico as a target, in paragraphs 59 to 65.
According to the superseding indictment, Daniel Patrick Boyd and Sherifi “believed violent jihad was obligatory, and further believed that should their efforts to fight jihad overseas prove impossible, jihad would take place here in the United States.” They discussed potential targets in the US, and Boyd “conducted ‘reconnaissance’ at the Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia.” The superseding indictment discusses Boyd reviewing maps of the base, “intending the maps to be used by members of the conspiracy to plan and coordinate an attack on Quantico.” (It is not clear what the “reconnaissance” mentioned in the indictment entailed — whether Boyd had actually traveled to Quantico for surveillance purposes.) Further, the indictment charges that Boyd possessed a weapon that he intended to use in an attack on Quantico, stating that it was “for the base,” as well as ammunition that he said would be used “to attack the Americans.” Given this choice of targets, it is interesting to note that Boyd’s birth father had been a Marine.
Based on the superseding indictment, it seems that the defendants undertook target selection and some surveillance, but not more advanced pre-attack surveillance focusing on vulnerabilities. There is also no suggestion that Boyd and Sherifi went through such steps as evaluating security at Quantico, determining their method of attack, or rehearsing for an attack. The fact that the planning was apparently in its initial stages does not present an absolute barrier to prosecution. The relevant statutory law only requires the commission of “any overt act” by one or more persons who are party to the conspiracy. The superseding indictment names four overt acts (all of which were carried out by Boyd): reconnaissance, review of maps of Quantico, possession of a weapon intended to be used in an attack on the base, and possession of ammunition intended to be used in an attack on the base.
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