July 10, 2017 / 7:22 PM / a month ago

Al Qaeda supporter pleads guilty to seeking Ohio judge's murder

(Reuters) - An Indian citizen pleaded guilty in a U.S. court on Monday to conspiring to aid an al Qaeda leader in Yemen and attempting to pay an undercover FBI agent $15,000 to murder a U.S. federal judge, authorities said.

Yahya Farooq Mohammad, 39, who studied engineering at Ohio State University from 2002 to 2004 and married a U.S. citizen in 2008, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Toledo to one count of conspiracy to provide and conceal material support to terrorists and one count of solicitation to commit a crime of violence, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

Mohammad is expected to be sentenced to 27-1/2 years in prison and then deported under the terms of his plea agreement, according to the department.

Mohammad and three co-defendants were charged in 2015 with conspiring to funnel money to Anwar al Awlaki and a Yemen-based affiliate of al Qaeda to support of attacks on U.S. forces.

Awlaki, a cleric, was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011. U.S. intelligence had identified him as the head of external operations for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an offshoot of the militant group.

In July 2009, Mohammad travelled with others to Yemen to deliver $22,000 that they had raised to Awlaki, according to prosecutors. The case against three other defendants is pending, and they have pleaded not guilty.

While awaiting trial in April 2016, Mohammad admitted soliciting an undercover FBI agent posing as a hitman to kidnap and murder U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary, who was assigned to his terrorism case. He was introduced to an undercover agent by another prisoner at the Lucas County Corrections Center in Toledo, and he told the agent he would pay him $15,000 for the job.

He provided $1,000 as a down payment though a family member and said the rest of the money was coming, according to court documents.

Reporting by Chris Kenning; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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