WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department Friday charged six people, including a former member of the U.S. Army Reserves, with conspiracy to wage war against the United States by fighting on the side of al Qaida and the Taliban in the months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Four were arrested Friday morning -- three in Portland, Ore., and one in Detroit. Two remain at large outside the United States, officials said.
"Today is a defining day in America's war against terror," said Attorney General John Ashcroft who announced the arrests at a Justice Department news conference. Earlier Friday, American Taliban John Walker Lindh was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, pled guilty to all charges.
Five of the terror suspects indicted Friday were U.S. citizens. One was a citizen of Jordan and a legal U.S. resident. All were at one time residents of Portland, officials said.
The indictment charges that five of the six -- U.S. citizens Jeffrey Leon Battle, Patrice Lumumba Ford, Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal and Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal, and Jordanian national Habis Abdulla al Saoub -- attempted to travel to Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001, to join forces with the Taliban and al Qaida.
The sixth conspirator, October Martinique Lewis, Battle's former wife, sent money overseas to support the men in their mission.
None of those arrested Friday had actually made it to Afghanistan. Officials would not comment if the remaining two men had successfully joined forces with al Qaida.
The conspiracy came to the attention of federal officials in part through the efforts of a local sheriff in Skamania County, Washington, officials said Friday.
On Sept. 29, Deputy Sheriff Marc Mercer had come across six men practicing with high-powered firearms in a gravel pit, said David Brown, the chief deputy sheriff in the county.
No arrests were made at the time, but the sheriff brought the incident to the attention of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Portland, officials said.
In October, the five men indicted bought plane tickets and traveled to Hong Kong, from where they attempted to travel to Afghanistan. After traveling through a variety of countries, including Bangladesh and China, three returned home, officials said.
Battle, 32, joined the U.S. Army Reserves in preparation for his role as a fighter against the United States. He discharged himself from the reserves while he was in Bangladesh in January before returning to the United States.
Battle, Ford, 31, and Abraham Bilal, 24, were expected to appear in Portland federal court Friday afternoon. Muhammad Bilal, 22, the brother of Abraham, appeared in court in Detroit. A spokeswoman for the Detroit court said Bilal would be transferred to Portland to face charges.
No evidence was presented that the men had tried to wage terrorist attacks within the United States, or that they had connections with other suspected terrorists.
Ashcroft said Friday the "terrorist cell" had been neutralized, but added that investigations would continue.
All six were charged with conspiracy to levy war against the United States, conspiracy to provide material support and resources to al Qaida, conspiracy to contribute services to al Qaida and the Taliban, and possessing firearms in the furtherance of crimes of violence, the indictment said.
If convicted, they will face up to life in prison, Ashcroft said.