Ex-Md. man guilty of aiding terrorism

The Baltimore Sun

A former Baltimore man pleaded guilty yesterday in New York to conspiring to aid a Pakistan-based organization that the United States labels a terrorist group.

Prosecutors say Mahmud Faruq Brent, 32, also known as Mahmud Al Mutazzim, attended an overseas terrorist camp five years ago and took martial arts training in an effort to assist Lashkar-e-Taiba, roughly translated as "Army of the Righteous."

According to government transcripts of secret recordings made by an FBI informant, Brent called his work for the group "one of the better decisions in my life."

Brent, who has been imprisoned since his arrest in Newark, N.J., in August 2005, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to providing "material support" for a terrorist organization. Sentencing is set for July 10.

The U.S. attorney's office declined to make a copy of the plea agreement available yesterday.

Prosecutors said Brent faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. It was unclear whether he had agreed to testify against his co-defendants at a trial later this month.

Brent's attorney, Hassen Ibn Abdellah, was not immediately available for comment.

The former Washington cabdriver had lived in West Baltimore in a three-story, multifamily house in the 5300 block of Gwynn Oak Ave.

The 13-page criminal complaint alleged that Brent was involved with Lashkar-e-Taiba from 2001 until May 2005. He attended a training camp run by the group during a visit to Pakistan in 2002, agents said in court papers.

Federal authorities allege that Brent received martial arts training in upstate New York from Tarik Shah, a Bronx jazz musician who is under indictment on similar charges.

Shah is awaiting federal trial in New York.

Shah became an informant against Brent, his former student, according to court documents. Another confidential informant lured Shah into talking, the documents state.

"Shah informed [the confidential informant] that he had previously discussed with other 'brothers' how 'we could pass' knowledge" to others who are ready to fight a holy war, according to the criminal complaint against Brent.

Investigators said they later learned that Shah had an address book containing telephone numbers for "Mahmud Al Mutazzim." Telephone records reveal that one of the numbers listed for Al Mutazzim belonged to Brent's wife, Taisha Abdel-Aziz, at his Baltimore home, court papers show.

Shah told authorities he had trained Brent in martial arts in 2001 when they lived in Beacon, N.Y., about 55 miles north of New York City. The training ended after the Sept. 11 attacks, when officials at the local mosque essentially kicked them out, according to court papers.

Brent told Shah it was difficult to be back in the United States and not in training, according to court papers. He also told Shah that he had not been in Pakistan's cities, but was in the mountains training with "the mujahedeen."

Lashkar-e-Taiba, which sought to organize Pakistani guerrillas fighting Russians then occupying Afghanistan, later turned against India and conducted military operations over the disputed territory of Kashmir.


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