British terror suspect fights U.S. extradition

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A 30-year-old British computer expert, accused of running several Web sites to promote holy war and funnel money to terrorist organizations, was in a London court yesterday to fight a U.S. extradition request.

Babar Ahmad was named in a federal grand-jury indictment handed up in August in Bridgeport, Conn., and unsealed this week, on charges of conspiring to provide support to terrorists; providing material support to terrorists including al Qaeda and the Taliban; conspiring to kill, kidnap or injure U.S. citizens; and engaging in money laundering.

Extradition papers filed in the case said that when Mr. Ahmad was arrested Aug. 5, he possessed classified documents describing movements of a U.S. Navy battle group in the Middle East — and instructions on how best to attack those vessels with rocket-propelled grenades from small boats.

The papers said he also had communications with a U.S. Navy enlistee aboard the USS Benfold, a guided missile destroyer, who the extradition documents described as “sympathetic to al Qaeda causes.” The sailor tentatively has been identified as Hassan Abujihaad, who served aboard the Benfold in 2000 and 2001.

An e-mail purportedly sent by the sailor expressed support for those who had attacked the USS Cole in Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000, calling them “men who have brought honor this week to the [Islamic nation] in the lands of Jihad — Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya,” according to the extradition documents. Seventeen U.S. sailors died in the attack.

The Aug. 4 indictment said Mr. Ahmad, a Web site administrator at London’s Imperial College, used U.S.-based Internet sites, including Azzam.com, to recruit al Qaeda, Taliban and Chechen fighters and raise cash for terrorist groups.

One of the groups he helped is led by Chechen leader Shamil Basayev, who has claimed responsibility for the Beslan school massacre in Russia last month.

The indictment also said Mr. Ahmad supplied terrorist groups with gas masks, night-vision goggles and camouflage gear.

His arrest culminated a three-year investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with agents from the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and New Scotland Yard.

The extradition documents also tied Mr. Ahmad to Noor Khan, named as a top al Qaeda computer expert. They said the two were involved in efforts to purchase 5,000 pounds of fertilizer and other bomb-making equipment. Khan also is in custody in London.

The documents said authorities found a tourist brochure for the Empire State Building in a search of Mr. Ahmad’s residence. The brochure included details about the building, including its ventilation system, and featured aerial shots and a map.

Law-enforcement authorities said his Web site encouraged people to train in street combat, land-mine operations and sniper combat, and contributors were urged to smuggle cash into Pakistan and pass it to the Taliban’s consul general.

“If you’re supporting the Taliban and the Taliban is killing American soldiers, we’re alleging you’re conspiring to kill American citizens abroad,” said U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Connor.

Charges were filed in Connecticut because Mr. Ahmad reportedly used an Internet provider in that state to host one of his sites.

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