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Four indicted in alleged L.A. terror plot

FBI: Robberies were to fund attacks on military, Jewish facilities

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Four men were charged Wednesday in connection with what the Justice Department calls a terrorist plot to attack U.S. military and Jewish facilities in the Los Angeles area.

Those targets included military bases and recruitment centers as well as the Israeli consulate, the offices of the Israeli national airline and several synagogues, according to a federal indictment.

"Had these four defendants succeeded in their alleged plots, their attacks would have taken an untold number of Americans," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told reporters.

Named in the indictment were Kevin James, an inmate at the California State Prison, Sacramento; Levar Washington, a former inmate at the same prison; Gregory Patterson; and Hammad Samana, a Pakistani national.

They are charged with conspiracy to wage war against the U.S. government through terrorism, and conspiracy to kill members of the U.S. government armed services, among other counts.

Court documents allege James used a group that he founded while in prison -- Jam'iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh -- to organize the plot. Officials would not say how many members the group has or whether it has expanded.

James used the group to push a radical interpretation of Islam, the indictment alleges. In December 2004 he instructed Washington to "recruit five individuals without felony convictions and train them in covert operations; acquire firearms with silencers; and appoint an individual ... to find contacts for explosives," according to the indictment.

At the time, Washington was on parole after serving time at the same prison. He and Patterson were arrested this spring after investigators linked the men to a series of gas station robberies. Samana also is in custody.

FBI Director Robert Mueller said they were "pretty far along in their plotting," allegedly having acquired money for the operation through the gas station robberies. According to Mueller, the men already had identified targets and acquired weapons to carry out the attacks.

Federal officials have not alleged the men are linked to any international terrorism organization.

The probe into a series of 11 gas station robberies in the suburb of Torrance last spring was what led authorities to Patterson and Washington, officials said.

When Washington's home was searched, police found found "jihadist material," including documents with "radical Islamic rhetoric," some with positive mentions of Osama bin Laden.

On Wednesday, Patterson's lawyer, Winston McKesson, read a statement from his client's parents before the unsealing of the charges that said, "We do not condone religious extremism or violence..." and "we believe there is a side to this story that has not been told."

The parents also said in their statement, "We support our country and its political institutions."

McKesson previously have said his client was not part of any terrorist-related activity. A lawyer for Washington has said he didn't have enough information to comment on the case.

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