Washington: A US man accused in a plot "to advance violent jihad" in other countries pleaded guilty on Wednesday to conspiracy to murder and other terrorism-related charges, officials said.
The Justice Department said 40-year-old Daniel Patrick Boyd, known by the name "Saifullah”, pleaded guilty in federal court in North Carolina to charges of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons in a foreign country.
In another in a series of homegrown terrorism cases, Boyd was charged along with seven others in a federal indictment on July 22, 2009. He was arrested a week later.
The guilty plea came as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned that the United States faces a "heightened" threat of terrorist attack, possibly the highest since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
She told lawmakers in Washington there is "an increased emphasis on recruiting Americans and Westerners to carry out attacks”.
"These groups are trying to recruit people to carry out attacks that have connections to the West, but who do not have strong ties to terrorist groups that could possibly tip off the intelligence community," she added.
"They are also encouraging individuals in the West to carry out their own small-scale attacks, which require less of the coordination and planning that could raise red flags and lead to an attack`s disruption.”
According to investigators, Boyd travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan during the period of 1989 through 1992 "where he received military-style training in terrorist training camps for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad”, a Justice Department statement said.
Following the training, according to the indictment, he fought in Afghanistan.
From November 2006 through at least July 2009, Boyd "conspired with the other defendants to provide material support and resources to terrorists, including currency, training, transportation and personnel," the statement said.
"The object of the conspiracy, according to the indictment, was to advance violent jihad, including supporting and participating in terrorist activities abroad and committing acts of murder, kidnapping or maiming persons abroad."
At the time of the arrests, US officials said Boyd was the ringleader of the group, which included two of his sons and that the members "were were willing to die as martyrs”.
"This case proves how our world is changing," said US Attorney George Holding in a statement.
"Terrorists are no longer only from foreign countries but also citizens who live within our own borders. We must protect our homeland. I am committed to using any and all legal means to take on the challenge of finding and prosecuting others with similar radical views who plot violent attacks."
Boyd, who will be sentenced in May, faces a potential term of life in prison for murder conspiracy charges, with the other charges carrying a potential term of 15 years imprisonment.
The plea comes just a week after an American woman who called herself "JihadJane" and surfed the Internet to recruit jihad warriors on Tuesday pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist.
Colleen LaRose, 47, pleaded guilty to terrorism, plotting to kill in a foreign country, lying to the FBI and attempted identity theft -- charges for which she could face life behind bars. She was arrested in 2009 in a plot to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who unleashed a storm of protests from Muslims with his cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed seen as insulting to Islam.
Last October, a Pakistani-American was sentenced to life in prison for his botched car bomb attempt in New York`s famed Times Square, but in a chilling statement warned that jihadist war "has just begun”.
Faisal Shahzad, a recently naturalised US citizen who lived in Connecticut and led what appeared to be a typical immigrant`s life, pleaded guilty in June to the May 01 bombing attempt.