The Associated Press is reporting that that a U.S. citizen (and a former high school valedictorian) from the Washington D.C. suburb of Falls Church, Virginia who was studying in Saudi Arabia has been charged in a plot to assassinate the President.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) – A former Virginia high school valedictorian who had been detained in Saudi Arabia as a suspected terrorist was charged Tuesday with conspiring to assassinate President Bush and with supporting the al-Qaida terrorist network.
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 23, a U.S. citizen, made an initial appearance Tuesday in U.S. District Court but did not enter a plea. He contended that he was tortured while detained in Saudi Arabia since June of 2003 and offered through his lawyer to show the judge his scars.
The federal indictment said that in 2002 and 2003 Abu Ali and an unidentified co-conspirator discussed plans for Abu Ali to assassinate Bush. They discussed two scenarios, the indictment said, one in which Abu Ali “would get close enough to the president to shoot him on the street” and, alternatively, “an operation in which Abu Ali would detonate a car bomb.”Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was related to the “paintball jihad” group of 11 Virginia men charged in 2003. One point of crossroads between Ali and the paintball jihadists is the Dar Al Arqam Islamic center in Falls Church. From the Detroit News report on the paintball jihadists:
Dar Al Arqam is a little-known Islamic center in Falls Church, with none of the grandeur of an important religious center. It is tucked into a beige three-story office building on South Washington Street next to a carpet dealer, an Asian import gallery and a Latino grocery.
It would be easy to miss — except on nights when crowds gather to hear popular speakers.
In recent years, Royer and his friends met periodically at the center, which promotes an orthodox version of Islam known as salafi, the Arabic word for “predecessors.” The draw: a young, articulate preacher, who eventually became a spiritual leader to the men.
Ali al-Timimi is an unusual figure in Washington’s Muslim community. He is the U.S.-born son of Iraqi immigrants and does cutting-edge scientific research as a doctoral candidate at George Mason University. But to Muslim followers, Timimi, 39, is known more for his speeches.It’s also possible that his father held (or holds) a high level position in the Saudi Embassy
Previously Ali was best known for having been held in Saudi Arabia since June 2003 without charges. Today’s announcement goes a long way toward explaining the murky details surrounding his detention.
[Belated thanks to firstbrokenangel for the original tip]
Update: I had assumed that Ali was enrolled at George Mason High School in Falls Church, VA (the only high school in the city), but Rusty Shakelford found this quote from the New York Times:
The Washington Post reported in 2003 that Mr. Ali was valedictorian of his 1999 high school class at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, where school officials described him as “an exceptional student,” with special talent in mathematics and science.
The Islamic Saudi Academy is a bilingual English-Arabic school with a dual American and Middle Eastern curriculum. ISA prepares students for entry into American, as well as international universities and colleges.
Their admission policy page gives credence to the story that Ali is the son of a Saudi diplomat. Admission priorities is given to children of Saudi Arabian nationals living in the United States, and children of Saudi Arabian diplomats or others persons on Saudi governmental assignment are guaranteed admission.
Update 2: Reading this report (via Rusty) gives me a second source on the Saudi Embassy link. Ali’s father is a system analyst in the Royal Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. The headline has been updated.
The Jawa Report has a roundup of other sites covering the story.
Update 3: Charles Johnson reports that supporters of Ahmed Omar Abu Ali crowded into an Alexandria, VA courtroom laughed when the charges were read.
Update 4: The Jawa Report looks at the Saudi government funded Islamic Saudi Academy school and reports the following:
According to the Washington Post and reprinted in the NY Times, he attended the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria Virginia. While family and friends feign that he is the victim of anti-Muslim discrimination, the Jawa Report can reveal that the school in question follows the radical Wahhabi curriculum of the Saudi Ministry of Education. Until recent protest by the US government, this curriculum has included anti-Semetic and anti-Christian bigotry and overt calls to jihad. Thus Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is likely to be an ideologue who actually believed what he was taught at school.
Kind of blows that whole theory that he converted to radical Islam while in Saudi Arabia… It sure looks like he learned it here on U.S. soil.