PHILADELPHIA - A Pakistan-born teen has pleaded guilty to terrorism charges for helping a US woman who called herself Jihad Jane support an Irish terror cell planning to wage a Muslim holy war in Europe.
Mohammad Hassan Khalid had won a full scholarship to prestigious Johns Hopkins University before the FBI arrested him last year at age 17, making him a rare juvenile held in federal custody.
Khalid, now 18, faces up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to a single count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. In a secret life online, the high school honours student had agreed to raise money and recruit terrorists for jihad.
Khalid's parents and three siblings had become naturalised US citizens, while he had not. He therefore faces likely deportation when he leaves prison, US District Judge Petrese B Tucker warned him.
"It's absolutely tragic," defence lawyer Jeffrey M Lindy said after the plea.
"Was he feeling lonely after coming from Pakistan? Absolutely. But he was not a loner. He wasn't the big man on campus, or captain of the football team. But he wasn't a black trenchcoat-wearing loner."
Khalid met Colleen LaRose in a chat room when he was 15. LaRose, who called herself Jihad Jane, had secretly converted to Islam and was appearing in jihadist YouTube videos. She faces life in prison after admitting last year that she had plotted to kill a Swedish artist whose cartoon had offended Muslims.
LaRose was being watched by the FBI after posting online videos in which she vowed to kill or die for the jihadist cause.
In court yesterday, prosecutors said Khalid once received a package from LaRose, removed a passport from it and forwarded other items to co-conspirators. He wanted to deliver the passport to them himself, Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said.