A suspected Al Qaeda member, the first foreign-born terror suspect to be brought to the U.S. for trial under the Trump administration, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists in federal court in Philadelphia Monday.
Ali Charaf Damache, 53, an Algeria-born Irish citizen, was originally indicted on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and one count of attempted identity theft to facilitate an act of international terrorism in 2011. He was extradited to the U.S. from Spain in July of last year.
Prosecutors say Damache, who went by the online handle “Theblackflag,” sought to recruit light-skinned women and others who did not fit the traditional terrorist profile to wage jihad. His targets included Colleen LaRose, a Pennsylvania woman who called herself “Jihad Jane,” online; Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, a single mother from Colorado; and Mohammad Hassan Khalid, who at the time was a high school honors student from Maryland. They were all eventually arrested.
Damache was also accused of being involved in a terror cell that wanted to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilk, who depicted the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a dog. The plot never materialized, authorities said.
“Damache knowingly and willingly conspired with others to wage a violent jihad overseas, actively supporting the very ideals that allow terrorism to thrive worldwide,” said William Sweeney, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York office. “For as long as there are those who commit to carrying out these intolerable acts, the FBI will resolutely continue to address counterterrorism as our number one priority.”
Damache married Paulin-Ramirez the day she traveled to Ireland to meet him in 2009. Paulin-Ramirez eventually helped the FBI investigate the terror cell.
As part of his plea, Damache admitted to training a child to prepare for jihad. Prosecutors later identified the minor as Paulin-Ramirez’s child, who she brought with her.
Officials said that Damache’s group recruited men online to wage jihad in South Asia and Europe, and sought to recruit women with western passports to travel through Europe in support of the cause.
LaRose is serving a 10-year prison term. Paulin-Ramirez and Khalid have been released after serving their sentences.
The move to try Damache in the U.S. was counter to Trump’s promise to send terror suspects to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. U.S. Attorney William McSwain said each case has to be handled individually, but the extradition requests that began years ago were always based on Damache being tried in U.S. federal court.
This is exactly the kind of case that we want to be involved in because we want to be in the business of preventing disasters from happening not dealing with disasters after they happen,” McSwain said.
As part of his plea agreement, Damache will receive 15 years in prison and has waived his right to appeal the sentence. When his sentence is complete, Damache will be deported to Ireland or Algeria.
Formal sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 30.
It’s still unclear why Trump didn’t shut down the extradition apparently started under the Obama DOJ and chose to bring this terrorist to the U.S. where, unless he is in permanent solitary confinement, he will recruit and radicalize other inmates. All at taxpayer expense.