The latest entry in the wave of dangerously specious terror cases is giving us deja vu. Like Jose Padilla, Daniel Maldonado is a Latino convert to Islam. Like John Walker Lindh in Afghanistan, he is accused of bearing arms for Islamist forces in Somalia, but seems to have not actually done any fighting. He is from small-town New Hampshire, of all places. Most tellingly, if his statements are to be believed, he is a case study in how extremist jihadism and the near-official climate of Islamophobia merely fuel each other in a vicious cycle. From the Eagle Tribune of North Andover, MA, Feb. 23:
Terror suspect: Anti-Muslim bias made me leave U.S.
Handwritten statements released yesterday depict the frustration, confusion and deception that revolved around a U.S. citizen accused of receiving training from al-Qaida in his efforts to help overthrow the Somali government.
Daniel Maldonado gave the three sets of statements to FBI agents after his arrest in Kenya last month. They detail in the 28-year-old’s words why he left the United States, his time in Somalia and the frantic last few days he and his family spent in the country before his capture by authorities.
Maldonado grew up on Pelham, N.H., and was living in Methuen, Mass., when he converted to Islam. In Methuen, he attended the Selimiye Mosque until he was told to leave unless he could tone down his zealotry. He chose to leave.
In his initial handwritten statement, Maldonado wrote that he moved from the United States because of anti-Muslim sentiment following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He said he had heard that Somalia was emerging as a “true Islamic state.”
“I would be able to live, pray, act, dress and be a Muslim without anyone yelling at me, calling me names, refusing me jobs or apartments,” he wrote. He also said in later statements that he wanted to “fight jihad” or a holy war in Somalia.
The documents also detail a phone call Maldonado said he made to his parents in Londonderry, N.H., during which he told them he intended to wage jihad and might die.
Maldonado is accused of traveling last November to an al-Qaida terrorist camp in Somalia, where he was trained to use firearms and explosives in an effort to help topple the government and install an Islamic state. He was captured by the Kenyan military while trying to flee Somalia on Jan. 21.
At a hearing earlier this week, FBI agent Loretta Eglen-Anderson testified she and other agents had him write down what he had done in Somalia.
Maldonado left the United States for Cairo, Egypt, with his wife and three children in late 2005. Maldonado wrote that he didn’t find acceptance in Egypt nor when he first got to Somalia, which has not had an effective national government since 1991.
Eglen-Anderson testified Maldonado initially lied to FBI agents about his reasons for going to Somalia. In later statements, Maldonado admitted he “left out the fact that I wanted to fight jihad.”
After arriving in Somalia, Maldonado wrote he and his family were taken in by a man. In revised statements he said the man gave him a gun and ammunition.
Maldonado left his family in the Somali capital of Mogadishu and traveled to the southern port city of Kismayo, where FBI agents and federal prosecutors said he went to receive weapons and bombmaking training at an al-Qaida camp. Maldonado later admitted he did go for training.
In his statements, Maldonado never mentioned al-Qaida and said he was sick for a week with malaria after arriving in Kismayo.
After recovering in a hospital, Maldonado said, he was asked again “to join the jihad.”
“But I was more concerned with my family in Mogadishu and still doubtful about weather it was a valid jihad.”
Maldonado later admitted he lied about his doubts.
Maldonado wrote that after the fighting in Somalia intensified, he tried to get his family to come to Kismayo so they could leave the country. He was reunited with his family but was told he and his family would have to travel separately to Kenya.
In his worry and frustration, Maldonado wrote, he called his parents and lied to make them feel guilty.
“So I decided to make them feel bad by saying that I was a soldier and I was going to fight jihad and possibly die,” he wrote.
Prosecutors said they don’t think he was lying.
Maldonado was able to travel with his family part of the way to the Kenyan-Somali border.
“We said very sad good by’s hoping for each others safety and her and the children left,” he wrote.
In his efforts to get to the border, Maldonado traveled by boat and truck, ending up in a camp in a wooded area. The camp was raided and Maldonado fled, eventually being captured by Kenyan troops.
Maldonado’s wife died of malaria but it is not clear where or when she died. The couple’s three children are now being taken care of by Maldonado’s parents in Londonderry.
Maldonado faces charges of undergoing military training with a terrorist organization and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, specifically a bomb. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.
A federal magistrate judge ruled Wednesday there was sufficient evidence that Maldonado received weapons and bombmaking training at a Somali camp where al-Qaida members were also present. Maldonado was ordered held without bond until his trial.
If Daniel Maldonado felt oppressed in Massachusetts, imagine how they must feel in Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, with bombs falling on their homes and their lands being ravaged. For every jihadi the US kills in these lands, ten will rise from the ashes. Is there any end to this…?