Man held for years as ‘enemy combatant’ pleads guilty to terror support charges in Ill.

Former ‘enemy combatant’ pleads guilty in Ill.

PEORIA, Ill. — A man held since 2001 as an alleged al-Qaida sleeper agent pleaded guilty Thursday to supporting terrorism.

Ali al-Marri entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Michael Mihm in Peoria. He admitted to one count of conspiring to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.

Al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident and native of Qatar, was arrested in late 2001 while studying at Bradley University in Peoria after federal authorities alleged he had links to organizers of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The Bush administration declared al-Marri an “enemy combatant” in late 2001 and held him without charges for more than five years at a Navy brig in South Carolina. The designation was dropped when he was indicted by a federal grand jury in Illinois.

The conspiracy charge carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. Sentencing was scheduled for July 30.

The government says al-Marri met with Osama bin Laden in the summer of 2001 and was sent to the U.S. to help al-Qaida operatives carry out post-Sept. 11 attacks.

He got a bachelor’s in business management administration from Bradley in 1991, then went to work for a bank in Qatar. He is married and has five children.

Al-Marri decided to return to Bradley, obtained a student visa and returned to the U.S. on Sept. 10, 2001.

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