Going also by the names “Ahmad Ali” and “Abu Isa,” Jeffrey Leon Battle was a member of the Portland Seven, an Oregon-based cell of Islamic terrorists who conspired to levy war against the United States and to provide support and resources for al Qaeda and the Taliban. Battle’s fellow Portland Seven members included his ex-wife October Martinique Lewis (whom he wed in 1999 and divorced five months later), Maher Mofeid Hawash, Habis Abdulla Al-Saoub, Patrice Lumumba Ford, Ahmed Abrahim Bilal, and Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal.
A child of divorced parents, Battle was born in 1971 and was raised in Houston, Texas. He became a Jehovah’s Witness as a young adult before converting to Islam. After a difficult stint in military boot camp, Battle tried to get out of his commitment to the U.S. Army Reserves. In the late 1990s he left Houston, where he had been serving as a bodyguard for New Black Panther Party leader and community activist Quanell X, and resettled in Portland, Oregon.
Shortly after the 9/11 terror attacks, Battle and some of his Portland Seven accomplices—who were initially contemplating acts of mass murder against Jewish schools or synagogues in the United States—underwent training in the use of shotguns, assault rifles, and semiautomatic pistols. On September 29, 2001, Deputy Sheriff Mark Mercer, acting on a tip from someone who had heard gunfire, discovered Battle, Habis Abdulla Al-Saoub, Patrice Lumumba Ford, and a few other men engaged in shooting practice in a gravel pit in Skamania County, Washington. After taking the men’s names, Mercer let them go and reported the incident to the FBI.
Mercer was fortunate to survive his brush with the terrorists. In a subsequent recorded conversation with an undercover FBI informant who was investigating the activities of the Portland Seven, Battle revealed how close he and his companions had come to killing Mercer:
“We was up there [at the gravel pit] blowin’ it up … We was lightin’ it up…. [W]e looked at it as worship because what our intentions were, to learn to shoot for. And a cop [Mercer] came up and he was like hey … you don’t understand how close he was gonna get popped … yeah, we was gonna pop him.”
Battle then proceeded to tell the informant that because he and his accomplices had been able to successfully hide their automatic weapons from Mercer, and because Mercer was a “gun guy”—and therefore “cool”—they decided not to murder him.
Once the U.S. began bombing Taliban and al Qaeda strongholds in Afghanistan in October 2001, Battle became increasingly eager to fulfill what he described as his “burning desire” to become an Islamic martyr. Thus he and his five male accomplices from the Portland Seven—calling themselves by the Arabic name Katibat Al-Mawt (“The Squad of Death”)—traveled to China and then Pakistan, in hopes of gaining entry from there into Afghanistan, where they planned to join al Qaeda and Taliban forces who were engaged militarily against American soldiers. But upon finding that they were unable to breach Afghanistan’s sealed-off borders, five of the six—all except Habis Abdulla Al-Saoub—returned to the U.S. between November 19, 2001 and February 2002.
Meanwhile, at the Portland residence of Battle and his ex-wife (with whom Battle continued to live after their divorce), federal investigators who were working on the Portland Seven case found such books as: (a) Jihad in Islam; (b) The Qur’anic Concept of War; and (c) Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam. They also found downloaded Internet literature titled Making the World Safe for Terrorism and Islam Ruling on Defending Muslim Land Under Attack.
In 2002, the aforementioned FBI informant clandestinely taped a number of conversations with Battle wherein the latter spoke about the need for the Muslim community to fearlessly, single-mindedly wage jihad against the kaffirs (non-believers), as he called the American people, whom he also derided as “pigs” in “the land of the enemy.” Declaring that it was “stupid” for any Muslim to live in the United States, Battle likened his own role as a U.S. resident to that of an “undercover” combatant working to do damage “behind enemy lines.”
In other exchanges with the FBI informant:
A federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon (in Portland) indicted Battle on October 3, 2002, and he was arrested the following day. On October 16, 2003, Battle pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. Less than six weeks later, on November 24, he was sentenced to eighteen years in prison, including two years that were added to his term for refusing to testify before a grand jury.
Further Reading: “The Portland Six” (Newsweek, 10-13-2002); “The Making of a ‘Terrorist’” (Willamette Week, 10-15-2002); “Terrorist Blamed His Failure on Bush” (Human Events, 2-10-2006); “How Target Practice Led to Arrests” (San Francisco Chronicle, 10-5-2002); “Jeffrey Battle, Patrice Lumumba Ford Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison for Seditious Conspiracy” (U.S. Department of Justice, 11-24-2003).