EL PASO -- A Lebanese man who was part of a complex federal investigation into a suspected U.S. terrorist network with ties to al-Qaida is in custody at the El Paso immigration detention center facing deportation, officials have confirmed.
According to court documents, Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi, 44, told the FBI he was a freedom fighter in 1988 and 1989 against the Soviets in Afghanistan, where he also attended a jihad military training camp, provided small-arms instruction and was a sniper.
Elaine Komis, spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Immigration Review in Falls Church, Va., said her office could not discuss anything about the case due to a "non-disclosure order" by the Department of Justice. She said that the Department of Homeland Security initiated the case, and that it's now up to the Justice Department to decide Elzahabi's immigration status.
Adelina Pruneda, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration & Customs Enforcement, in San Antonio, said Elzahabi is being held at the El Paso federal detention center. No other details, including his hearing date and name of his new lawyer, will be released as long as the non-disclosure order is in effect.
Elzahabi caught the attention of authorities in Canada, Minnesota, New York and Massachusetts, who learned he and three other men fought in Afghanistan and all became cab drivers in Boston. Elzahabi has continually denied he was part of a sleeper cell or terrorist group.