'Not guilty' plea in bombing case that spreads halfway around the world

Story highlights

  • Accused of orchestrating a deadly 2009 bombing in Iraq, Faruq Khalil Muhammad 'Isa pleads not guilty in U.S. court
  • Authorities believe he helped set up the attack from Edmonton, Alberta, in Canada
  • Five U.S. soldiers and several Iraqi citizens died in the suicide bombing

(CNN)When a suicide bomber detonated his truck outside Forward Operating Base Marez in Iraq in 2009, it wasn't the first time that type of attack killing U.S. soldiers took place. But the bombing took a different and disturbing turn when investigators determined it was facilitated not by militants on the battlefields of Iraq but out of one man's home just north of the United States.

According to the Department of Justice, this suicide operation, which killed five U.S. soldiers and several Iraqi citizens, was orchestrated from Edmonton, Canada, by Faruq Khalil Muhammad 'Isa, a 36-year-old accused of being member of a global terrorist recruiting cell that funneled foreign fighters into Iraq.
Though 'Isa was arrested in Edmonton in 2011, where he has been detained ever since, he was extradited to the United States on Friday.
    And on Saturday, in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York, he entered a plea of not guilty to his alleged role in the gruesome attack.

    A dump truck and deadly attack

    On April 10, 2009, a five-vehicle convoy of U.S. soldiers were exiting FOB Marez in Mosul. U.S. military personnel eyewitnesses described a dump truck coming under fire by Iraqi guards at on the road at the perimeter of the base.
    The truck managed to breach the checkpoint, passing four of the vehicles before detonating next to the fifth vehicle. The 60-foot-deep crater left at the blast site was about 50 yards outside of the base's entrance.
    The explosion killed five U.S. soldiers: Sgt. Edward Forrest Jr., PFC Bryce E. Gautier, Sgt. FC Bryan E. Hall, Cpl. Jason G. Pautsch and Staff Sgt. Gary L. Woods. Several Iraqi citizens were also killed.
    `Isa is charged not only with the murder of these five soldiers, but also with providing material support to terrorists, as well a conspiracy to commit murder of foreign nationals abroad.
    The last charge stems from a multiyear investigation by Canadian, Tunisian and U.S. law enforcement using wiretaps, email surveillance and other physical evidence that places 'Isa in an integral role in what is referred to as a "facilitation network."

    Guiding prospective bombers to Iraq

    Law enforcement officials say 'Isa's role in the network included instructing prospective suicide bombers on leaving their homes without raising suspicion, figuring out the route they should take to enter Iraq and putting them in touch with Iraqi-based terrorists.
    In recorded phone and electronic communications with numerous co-conspirators, including would-be suicide bombers and facilitators based in Iraq, 'Isa often referred to carrying out terrorist attacks as getting "married," as in marriage to 70 virgins or "farming," because they "plant metal and harvest metal and flesh," according to the Justice Department's criminal complaint.
    'Isa is accused helping at least eight Tunisian foreign fighters cross into Libya, eventually making their way to Mosul, Iraq, via Syria to meet with his network of Iraqi-based facilitator contacts. The investigation, according to Justice officials, revealed that at least three of these foreign fighters carried out at least two suicide attacks. One of them was the FOB Marez attack.
    At least three other individuals listed as "facilitators" were arrested in Iraq by Department of Defense officials and subsequently debriefed by the FBI, but it is unclear whether they have or will face similar charges.
    Court documents show 'Isa regularly checking in with the foreign fighters to find out the status of their "marriages" -- and he even discussed his terrorist activities with his own family based in Iraq. They purport that he told his mother how effective that a sniper rife, or "bride with a crown," would be in Baghdad against coalition forces. And that he urged his sister to "learn about weapons and go attack the police and Americans."
    In a news release announcing 'Isa's extradition from Canada, Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said, "The families of these five Americans and all who have lost loved ones to act of terrorism should know that we will never cease seeking to hold terrorists accountable for their acts."