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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Florida resident convicted of smuggling plans for Hamas missiles into U.S.

WASHINGTON — Officials said Hamas supporters in the United States have been weighing the use of Hamas weapons for attacks against military targets.

"Hamas has very strong links with both individuals and organizations in the United States," an official said. "Some of these individuals want to copy Hamas's methods."

On Dec. 18, an Egyptian native was sentenced to 15 years on charges that he "provided material support to terrorists."

Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed, a resident of Tampa, Fla., was convicted of smuggling explosives and plans for Hamas missiles and rockets.

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Officials said the FBI has been identifying and tracking others who sought to employ Hamas weapons technology in the United States, Middle East Newsline reported. They said Hamas weapons and missiles were used against U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

"We are satisfied with the court's sentence, the maximum allowed by law, which reflects the seriousness of the crime," U.S. Attorney Brian Albritton said.

A federal indictment said Mohamed was driving a car packed with a potassium nitrate mixture as well as PVC pipe from Florida to South Carolina. Police stopped Mohamed's car for speeding, and the explosives as well as his laptop computer were found.

"The last item played on the laptop computer, prior to the traffic stop, was a video recording relating to the use and firing of Kassam rockets in the Middle East," the Justice Department said.

Officials said Mohamed, who pleaded guilty, was planning to assemble Kassam missiles and bombs. They said he produced a video in Arabic on how to assemble bombs.

"He stated that his purpose in producing the audio/video recording was to teach 'martyrdoms' and 'suiciders' how to save themselves so that they could continue to fight the invaders," Justice said. "He said that he considered the United States military, and those fighting with the United States military in Arab countries, to be invaders. He said that he intended the technology demonstrated in his audio/video recording to be used against those who fight for the United States."

The prospect of a Hamas attack in the United States has been heightened amid the Israel-Hamas war. Officials said the intelligence community has been tracking Islamic websites that were urging Muslims to attack American interests worldwide.

"In response to the Gaza offensive, Islamist websites have posted many messages calling to attack Israeli and American interests worldwide," the Middle East Media and Research Institute said.

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