Prosecutors say Khaleel Ahmed, of Chicago, and his cousin Zubair Ahmed, of suburban North Chicago, were training to kill US soldiers in Iraq.
The I-Team began looking into these "radical cousins" almost two years ago. Even though they lived in metro Chicago, theirs was a case receiving little attention here, possibly because the terror cell itself was headquartered in Ohio and the case prosecuted there. Now, after denying they were sleeper agents to the I-Team, they are going to prison.
The radical cousins learned from jihadist videos how to build suicide bomb vests laced with steel pellets and what happens to dummies at blast time.
Prosecutors in Ohio Monday said the men were training to kill American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan on orders from three terrorist leaders in Toledo who have already convicted in the plot.
A federal judge sentenced Khaleel Ahmed to more than eight years in prison and his cousin Zubair Ahmed to 10 years.
When the ABC 7 I-Team found Zubair Ahmed at his Albany Park home in 2008, he placed his wife as a barrier while claiming to know nothing. According to court records, though, Ahmed's address while the plot took shape was an apartment complex in suburban North Chicago, a few hundred yards from the US Navy's only basic training facility, known as Great Lakes, and right across the street from Great Lakes military housing.
Federal agents said Zubair Ahmed wanted to learn "sniper tactics" and to train on a .50-caliber machine gun, saying he looked forward to "the final war of Islam."
By January 2009, Zubair Ahmed and his cousin Khaleel had pleaded guilty of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.
The cousin Khaleel lived with his father in a Chicago apartment building a block away, where in 2008 the father offered the I-Team a cursory defense.
I-TEAM: "Terrorism?" FATHER: "No. No terrorism. I don't know. Actually, I don't know nothing." GOUDIE: "He's in big trouble." FATHER: "No, no why trouble? No trouble, nothing."
At the time authorities smashed the Ohio terror ring it was estimated that 5,000 al-Qaeda network agents lived in the US, blending into communities in 40 states. Among them, the three Ohio al-Qaeda leaders, who are already in prison.
When the Ahmeds were first arrested and still planning to take their cases to trial, they submitted dozens of letters from acquaintances to the federal judge in Ohio. The letters of support cited the cousins' integrity and were written by friends, college professors--even a Chicago policeman. All urged the court to let the Ahmeds out on bond, which is just what happened. Now that they have pleaded guilty they are headed to prison.