Trial for man accused of plotting Texas attack nears end

PHOENIX (AP) — Attorneys are scheduled to make closing arguments Friday at the trial of an Arizona man charged with plotting an attack at a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas.

Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem is accused of hosting two friends at his home to discuss plans for the May 3 attack in Garland, Texas. Investigators say Kareem provided the guns used in the attack and went target shooting with two friends who were later killed in a police shootout outside the contest.

He also is charged with providing support to the Islamic State terrorist group.

The 44-year-old moving company owner denies the allegations, and his attorneys maintain that the government is using guilt through association to target their client.

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Kareem’s case is the first in which the U.S. government has tried a person on charges related to the Islamic State.

A trial in New York that started halfway through Kareem’s trial concluded Wednesday with a guilty verdict against a U.S. military veteran charged with attempting to join the terrorist group.

The Texas attack ended with police officers fatally shooting Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi as they exited a car outside of the contest with semiautomatic rifles.

It’s unknown whether the attack was inspired by the Islamic State or carried out in response to an order from the organization.

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Authorities say Kareem, Simpson and Soofi had researched travel to the Middle East so they could join Islamic State fighters.

Prosecutors said Kareem tried to carry out an insurance scam to fund the conspiracy to support the Islamic State and attempted to indoctrinate two teenage boys in his neighborhood on radical jihadism.

They also say Kareem, Simpson and Soofi initially wanted to blow up the Arizona stadium where the 2015 Super Bowl was held, but when that plan failed, they set their sights on the contest in suburban Dallas.

Kareem surprised many in the courtroom by taking the stand in his own defense, testifying steadfastly that he that he knew beforehand about the plans for the attack.

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Kareem told jurors that he evicted Simpson from his home because he believed Simpson was putting tracking devices in his car. He also said he strongly disapproved of Simpson using Kareem’s laptop to watch al-Qaida promotional materials.

A key government witness at trial was one of Kareem’s former roommate, Stefan Verdugo, who said Kareem wanted to get revenge against people who portrayed the Prophet Muhammad in drawings.

Verdugo, who is in jail charges of forcing his girlfriend to work as a prostitute, said Kareem inquired about the types of explosives that would be needed to blow up a stadium in metro Phoenix. Kareem denies inquiring about explosives.