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Monday, June 16, 2003  

Meet the Portland Seven
Part V: The brothers Bilal

By the time federal authorities moved in and made their arrests of the first four of the Portland Seven on October 4, 2002, Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal, 22, was living in in Dearborn, Mich., when in the United States. He was arrested there and extradited to Portland.

Bilal is an American citizen, but much of his family is in his native Saudi Arabia, according to federal authorities. He also once lived in Portland.

Authorities say Bilal has traveled extensively.

Bilal was described by a government prosecutor as unemployed. But she said he had traveled recently to Hong Kong, China and Indonesia, had "substantial ties to family in Saudi Arabia," and posed a flight risk as well as "a danger to the community."

His brother, Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal, 24, is also an American citizen who grew up mainly in Saudi Arabia. He was taken into custody in Malaysia in October 2002.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNN) -- An American charged with conspiring to assist al Qaeda and the Taliban in waging war against the United States has been arrested in Malaysia and faces deportation within days.

Bilal turned himself in after seeing reports of the arrests Friday of his alleged co-conspirators on CNN, police sources said.

Like the other Portland Seven defendants, the Bilal brothers are charged with conspiring to offer aid and comfort to an enemy.

The four-count indictment alleges a conspiracy to levy war against the United States, a conspiracy to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda - the group Washington blames for the September 11, 2001 attacks - a conspiracy to contribute services to al Qaeda and the Taliban, and possession of firearms to further crimes of violence.

While in Portland, the Bilals were known in the Muslim community. However, they were not members of the Portland Islamic Center, the mosque considered the most radical in the area.

Muhammed Bilal, 24, and his 22-year-old brother, Ahmed, are natives of Saudi Arabia who at one point attended a Beaverton mosque where they were known for their fluent Arabic, said Shahriar Ahmen, president of the mosque.

The brothers are said to have worked at odd jobs and attempted to set up a hauling enterprise with another suspect, 'Mike' Hawash.

None of the defendants ever reached Afghanistan, though some did get as far as Bangladesh before giving up and returning to the U.S. If convicted, all of them could be sentenced to life in prison.

The Bilals and October Lewis, 25, are the youngest of the defendants.

2:29 AM