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Former school official faces terrorism charges

From Justine Redman

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A former top official for the District of Columbia's public schools is being held on charges of conspiring to raise money and recruit fighters for Muslim extremists.

Kifah Wael Jayyousi, arrested Sunday at an airport in Detroit, Michigan, was chief facilities director for public schools in Washington from 1999 to 2001. But in the years running up to that high-profile position, he supported "violent jihad" in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya and Somalia, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Monday.

Jayyousi's arrest is connected to the investigation of The Global Relief Foundation and what federal authorities allege was a network providing material support to terrorists, mostly through supposed charities.

Jayyousi, a U.S. citizen originally from Jordan, is accused of conspiring with Adham Amin Hassoun, who has been in U.S. custody since 2002. Also charged in the criminal complaint is Kassem Daher, described in an FBI affidavit as living in Lebanon.

Jayyousi was arrested by FBI agents at Detroit Metro Airport after a computer check by customs officials showed an outstanding arrest warrant for him. He was arriving from Doha, Qatar.

His attorney, William Swor, said Jayyousi was working in a contract engineering job in Doha and was traveling to Detroit to visit his father, who was scheduled to undergo open-heart surgery.

Swor said Jayyousi had been interviewed by the FBI eight times in the past. Before he left for the job in Doha, Jayyousi contacted the U.S. government, reported his plans and offered to meet with government representatives, Swor said. Federal officials then searched Jayyousi's home before returning his passport to him.

The criminal complaint against Jayyousi, 43, was filed in Miami, Florida, in December, and cites an investigation that began in 1993. It alleges that Jayyousi and his two co-conspirators set up nonprofit charities through which they raised money and recruited fighters for jihadi groups affiliated with al Qaeda.

The charities include American Islamic Group and American Worldwide Relief. In one instance, Jayyousi is described as having recruited a person to provide satellite phones to Chechen mujahedeen commanders.

It was in 1993 that the Omar Abdel Rahman was arrested and charged with plotting to blow up several New York landmarks. Abdel Rahman, now serving a life sentence, was a spiritual leader of Egypt's largest Islamic militant group, al-Gama'a al-Islamiya.

An FBI agent's affidavit describes Jayyousi as a "supporter and follower" of Abdel Rahman and says that in 1994 and 1995, investigators intercepted phone conversations between the two men.

"Jayyousi would update [Abdel Rahman] with jihad news, many times reading accounts and statements issued directly by terrorist organizations," the affidavit says.

Jayyousi's lawyer said his client lived in Detroit before he lived in Washington and returned to Detroit after his public schools job. There, he was teaching at Wayne State University, but went on sabbatical leave in September 2003 to take the contract job in Doha. His wife and three daughters accompanied him, while his two sons remained in Detroit attending college.

In an apparent contradiction, the criminal complaint says Jayyousi moved to Egypt in 2003.

Jayyousi was ordered held in custody at a court hearing in Detroit on Monday. He will face trial in U.S. District Court in Miami where, his lawyer said, he plans to plead not guilty.

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