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Zachary Chesser and Paul Rockwood: latest US citizens linked to al-Awlaki

Zachary Chesser and Paul Rockwood are two American Muslims charged with plotting to commit acts of violent jihad. Both had alleged connections with Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical cleric in Yemen who may have motivated November's Fort Hood rampage.

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Federal prosecutors this week announced two different terrorism cases involving American citizens who converted to Islam and were allegedly plotting acts of violent jihad.

In one case, a Virginia man was charged with trying to travel to Somalia to join forces with Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group that the US has designated a terrorist organization.

In the second, Alaska resident Paul Rockwood pleaded guilty to assembling a hit list of 15 targets for assassination or bomb attacks of those within the US who had desecrated Islam. He has agreed to serve an eight-year prison sentence.

In Virginia, Zachary Chesser, a former George Mason University student, has been charged with providing material support to the Somali-based terror group he reportedly sought to join.

The cases share a common denominator: Both men appear to have had contact with US-born militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to be in a remote part of Yemen and head of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. His speeches and sermons circulate internationally via a network of militant Islamic websites and blogs.

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