EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 23, 2007

Terror suspect: Anti-Muslim bias made me leave U.S.

Handwritten statements released yesterday depict the frustration, confusion and deception that revolved around a U.S. citizen accused of receiving training from al-Qaida in his efforts to help overthrow the Somali government.

Daniel Maldonado gave the three sets of statements to FBI agents after his arrest in Kenya last month. They detail in the 28-year-old's words why he left the United States, his time in Somalia and the frantic last few days he and his family spent in the country before his capture by authorities.

Maldonado grew up on Pelham, N.H., and was living in Methuen, Mass., when he converted to Islam. In Methuen, he attended the Selimiye Mosque until he was told to leave unless he could tone down his zealotry. He chose to leave.

In his initial handwritten statement, Maldonado wrote that he moved from the United States because of anti-Muslim sentiment following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He said he had heard that Somalia was emerging as a "true Islamic state."

"I would be able to live, pray, act, dress and be a Muslim without anyone yelling at me, calling me names, refusing me jobs or apartments," he wrote. He also said in later statements that he wanted to "fight jihad" or a holy war in Somalia.

The documents also detail a phone call Maldonado said he made to his parents in Londonderry, N.H., during which he told them he intended to wage jihad and might die.

Maldonado is accused of traveling last November to an al-Qaida terrorist camp in Somalia, where he was trained to use firearms and explosives in an effort to help topple the government and install an Islamic state. He was captured by the Kenyan military while trying to flee Somalia on Jan. 21.

At a hearing earlier this week, FBI agent Loretta Eglen-Anderson testified she and other agents had him write down what he had done in Somalia.

Maldonado left the United States for Cairo, Egypt, with his wife and three children in late 2005. Maldonado wrote that he didn't find acceptance in Egypt nor when he first got to Somalia, which has not had an effective national government since 1991.

Eglen-Anderson testified Maldonado initially lied to FBI agents about his reasons for going to Somalia. In later statements, Maldonado admitted he "left out the fact that I wanted to fight jihad."

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