Paintball Terrorist?
Another American Citizen Arrested for Supporting Alleged 'Terrorists'
Update: June 28, 2003 2:30 pm EDT
by Mike Ewens
June 27, 2003

The official indictment is located here (pdf file).

Ismail Royer, an American citizen and a former official of CAIR, was arrested today with six other men, "charged as part of an ongoing probe into alleged jihad training and weapons violations," CNN reports. The report continues:

The men are believed to be linked to Lashkar-E-Taiba, a Kashmir separatist group that the United States designated a terrorist organization in 2001.

Update: The LA Times now reports that 11 men have been arrested, specifically charged with "being part of a Virginia-based cell of a militant Muslim organization called Lashkar-E-Taiba. "

Earlier this month, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported the FBI investigation revolved around twelve men – including Royer – from the Washington area. At the time, the investigation of some of the men's homes turned up supposed terrorist materials:

The items included what agents described as a "terrorist manual" and a "printout of the FBI headquarters building" in downtown Washington, as well as an array of paintball equipment. But one of the inventories listed a "grenade launcher" that a prosecutor said he thinks is a flare gun.

The warrant for Royer issued in March was based on the suspicion he provided material support to a group the State Department defined as a terrorist organization – Lashkar-E-Taiba .

The men's paintball activities also got the attention of the FBI, says Gordon Kromberg, the assistant U.S. attorney handling the case:

"'It's very easy to jump to conclusions on facts like these. You know the guys are playing paintball, they're playing soldiers,' said Kromberg, who said he has donned fatigues himself and played paintball. 'On the other hand, if they're doing more than that, maybe there's a problem.'"

The current "jihad training" and "weapons possession" allegations apparently stem from this popular activity the men engaged in.

However, the men involved understood the possible misconception of their paintball games, and stopped playing after 9/11:

After more than a year of regular outings to a woodsy plot of land in Spotsylvania, the men abruptly stopped the games, fearing what it would look like to a world reeling from 9-11.

One name that appears throughout these stories is a man named Ali Al-Timimi, a Islamic scholar who held lectures in northern Virginia, which Royer attended. The Post-Dispatch reported that Al-Timimi had suggested " that the men travel abroad to Muslim countries after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001." This advice stemmed from his worry that a "war on Muslims" would begin after 9/11 and a Muslim male would best avoid America altogether. Royer heeded his advice; temporarily moving to Bosnia - where, in the 1990s, he had fought in the Bosnian army against Slobodan Milosevic.

The FBI believed that these trips were meant to send the men to train as terrorists in foreign lands. Royer maintains that he spent the seven months in Bosnia aiding refugees. The other men investigated also denied claims of "jihad training."

As mentioned, the FBI claims that the impetus for Royer's arrest was his supposed ties to a terrorist group in 2000 – Lashkar-E-Taiba – itself declared "terrorist" in December 2001. The Post Dispatch described Royer's past affiliation:

[Royer] went to Pakistan and helped write press releases and set up a worldwide e-mail list for Lashakar-E-Taiba in 2000. . . . the group's leaders assured him they had no ties to Osama bin Laden or al-Qaida. He said he gave al-Hamdi and Kwon a contact number for Lashkar-E-Taiba leaders when they traveled to Pakistan.

The full story has yet to surface, so please stay tuned to for updated reports.

Update: 6:30 EDT, June 27, 2003

The L.A. Times reports that 11 suspects have now been arrested. The charges have also become more severe:

The suspects were described as being part of a Virginia-based cell of a militant Muslim organization called Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations and is characterized as strongly anti-U.S.

Although this Kashmiri group has no connections to al-Qaeda, the FBI believes they are aiding extremist organizations:

US officials believe that Lashkar-e-Taiba has no official ties to such global terrorist organizations as Al Qaeda, but that it may be expanding its portfolio to help in Muslim conflicts elsewhere in the world, in part through recruiting, plotting and fund-raising in the United States.

Assistant. Atty. Gen. Christopher Wray claims that the meetings which Royer was a part of - lectures held by Al-Timimi and the paintball gatherings pre-9/11 - are instances of these men "meet[ing] in the shadows of our nation's capital to prepare for violent jihad."

This writer spoke to an unnamed friend of Mr. Royer who said that when Mr. Royer visited Pakistan in 2000, Lashakar-I-Taiba was not considered a terrorist organization and further, that this was his last contact with the organization.

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Mike Ewens is Associate Editor of and an economics and mathematics major at Washington University in St. Louis. Visit his archives or his blog.

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