Zachary Chesser and Paul Rockwood: latest US citizens linked to al-Awlaki
Zachary Chesser and Paul Rockwood are two American Muslims charged with plotting to commit acts of violent jihad. Both had alleged connections with Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical cleric in Yemen who may have motivated November's Fort Hood rampage.
(Page 2 of 2)
Mr. Rockwell’s plea agreement says that while residing in Virginia he converted to Islam and became a “strict adherent to the violent Jihad-promoting ideology of cleric [Awlaki].”Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The document adds: “This included a personal conviction that it was [Rockwood’s] religious responsibility to exact revenge by death on anyone who desecrated Islam.”
Even after he moved to King Salmon, Alaska, Rockwell still followed Awlaki’s ideology, “including devotion to [Awlaki’s] violence-promoting works, 'Constants on the Path to Jihad' and '44 Ways to Jihad.' "
According to federal court documents filed in the Virginia case, Mr. Chesser told a federal agent that he first became interested in Islam in July 2008. His conversion came via videos, discussions, and debates broadcast on the Internet.
He is said to have found Awlaki particularly persuasive. Chesser sent several e-mail messages to Awlaki, and received two replies, according to federal documents.
In one e-mail, Chesser reportedly asked Awlaki to interpret dreams he’d had. In explaining one dream, Chesser reportedly told Awlaki that he prayed to Allah to let him join Al Shabab.
Chesser also set up and ran websites dedicated to discussions about Islamic holy war and the obligations of Muslims to defend their religion.
Chesser tried to leave the US twice for Africa – once in 2009 and, most recently, two weeks ago when he attempted to board a flight to Uganda with his infant son. Chesser was refused admission to the plane and was told he was on a No-Fly list.
During questioning at the airport by an FBI agent, Chesser was asked why he posted Internet materials supportive of Awlaki when Awlaki was an enemy of the US. Chesser is said to have told the agent that he did not necessarily disagree with Awlaki.
Chesser is schedule for a hearing on Friday in US District Court in Alexandria, Va., to determine whether he should be released on bond or held in jail pending trial. He is being represented by lawyers with the federal public defender’s office.
- Virginia man arrested over alleged efforts to join terrorist group Al Shabab
- 'Jihad Jane' joins growing list of American terror suspects
- Blog: Five Americans arrested in Pakistan: Are more US citizens joining jihad?