Homegrown Terrorist Convicted, Inspired by Al Qaeda's Anwar al-Awlaki

Brooklyn man arrested in Kosovo after recording martyrdom video.

July 8, 2011, 4:43 PM

July 8, 2011 — -- A New York man who was inspired by al Qaeda internet videos to carry out attacks on U.S. troops abroad was convicted on terrorism charges Thursday.

Betim Kaziu, from Brooklyn, became radicalized in part by watching internet videos featuring Anwar al-Awlaki, one of al Qaeda's most high profile commanders, as well as fighters from Somalia's al Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabaab, according to the FBI.

Kaziu was convicted of several charges including conspiring to commit murder overseas and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

According to the government's account, in 2009 Kaziu and another man, Sulejah Hadzovic, traveled from New York to Cairo, Egypt, where they attempted to acquire automatic weapons.

From there, Kaziu considered traveling to Somalia to join al-Shabaab but instead went to Albania where he recorded a martyrdom video of his "last few moments." From Albania, Kaziu traveled to Kosovo where the FBI said he planned to carry out attacks against U.S. troops, but instead was arrested in September 2009. By then, he had already purchased a ticket to travel to Pakistan.

"[Kaziu] made these trips with the full intention of joining a jihadist group to kill U.S. soldiers overseas," Department of Justice spokesperson Dean Boyd told ABC News.

In the midst of their travels, however, his friend Hadzovic got cold feet, returned to the U.S. and eventually became the primary witness in Kaziu's trial where he gave "damning testimony," according to the FBI.

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Hadzovic testified that the pair wanted to take up arms against the U.S. because they were "upset at what was happening in places like Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay," according to a report by The Associated Press.

Would-Be Terrorists Inspired by al-Awlaki

The American-born al-Awlaki, considered by some to be the most dangerous man in the world, is believed to be the inspiration behind several plots by suspected terrorists against the U.S., including Maj. Nidal Hasan's assault on Fort Hood, the Times Square bombing plot by Faisal Shahzad and attempted Christmas Day "underwear bomb" plot by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

With the exception that his attack was to take place overseas, Kaziu appears to fit squarely into what U.S. counter-terror officials have repeatedly called one of the greatest threats to U.S. security: self-radicalized, homegrown terrorists.

"We have seen U.S. citizens become radicalized and use the Internet to further their radicalization, contribute to the radicalization of others, or provide services to facilitate Internet radicalization. Whereas the Internet was previously used to spread propaganda, it is now used in recruiting, radicalizing, training, and inciting terrorism," FBI counter-terrorism division assistant director Mark Giuliano said in April.

As part of their case against Kaziu, prosecutors presented parts of Kaziu's social networking webpage which included quotes from Osama bin Laden.

Richard Clarke, former White House counter-terrorism advisor and ABC News consultant, said Kaziu is "exactly" the type of terrorist about whom the Obama administration is most concerned.

"The focus of the new White House counter-terrorism strategy is exactly this homegrown terrorist, the lone wolf, remotely activated, inspired online" Clarke said. "They're difficult to find before they act."

DOWNLOAD: National Strategy for Counter-Terrorism (WhiteHouse.gov, PDF)

Kaziu's sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 4, where he could face up to life in prison.

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