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Two plead guilty in Oregon terror case


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(CNN) -- Two members of an alleged Portland, Oregon, cell with links to al Qaeda pleaded guilty to conspiracy in federal court Thursday, U.S. officials said.

In the agreement, Jeffrey Battle and Patrice Ford admitted they planned to travel to Afghanistan to fight alongside al Qaeda and the Taliban against American and allied forces.

Their effort proved unsuccessful. They traveled to China but were unable to cross the Pakistan border.

Their guilty plea to one count each of "conspiracy to levy war against the United States" -- commonly known as seditious conspiracy -- carries a maximum penalty of 20 years. Officials said the defendants are likely to receive sentences of about 18 years in prison.

Details of the plea agreements were announced Thursday afternoon by Attorney General John Ashcroft; Karin Immergut, U.S. attorney for Oregon; and FBI officials at a Justice Department news conference in Washington.

With the pleas Thursday, all six defendants in custody have confessed to charges in the case, ranging from conspiracies to wage war against the United States, providing material support to al Qaeda and contributing services to al Qaeda and the Taliban. In what the federal government has called a seven-member Portland cell, five were accused of planning to travel from Oregon to Afghanistan to assist the Taliban in fighting against U.S. forces.

The five left the United States in October 2001 but did not make it to Afghanistan, according to the government.

In October 2002, a federal grand jury in Oregon indicted Ford; Battle and his ex-wife, October Martinique Lewis; and brothers Ahmed Abrahim Bilal and Muhammad Imbrahim Bilal. A sixth defendant, Habis Abdulla Al Saoub, also was charged but remains at large.

In April, charges were filed against a seventh suspect, Maher Hawash, a 39-year-old software engineer and U.S. citizen living in the Portland area.

Meanwhile, federal authorities are scrambling to confirm the suspected death of Al Saoub, a Jordanian. U.S. law enforcement authorities said they believe Pakistani forces killed him in a shootout this month with al Qaeda members and supporters in a remote region of Pakistan near the Afghan border.

Federal law enforcement sources said they are awaiting DNA test results to confirm whether Al Saoub was killed.

The government has offered a $5 million reward for his capture. He was charged in a Portland indictment with conspiracy to levy war against the United States and conspiracy to provide material support to al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Prosecutors allege Al Saoub was the man who recruited the five male co-defendants to go to Afghanistan and fight against U.S. forces.


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