Thursday, November 11, 2004

U.S. authorities are seeking to extradite from Britain a 30-year-old British computer specialist accused of running Web sites in this country to promote jihad and funnel cash to terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda.

Babar Ahmad was named in a federal grand jury indictment in August in Bridgeport, Conn., on charges of conspiring to support terrorists, providing material support to terrorist organizations, conspiring to kill, kidnap or injure U.S. citizens, and money laundering.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman Dean Boyd said Mr. Ahmad is scheduled for an extradition hearing Thursday in London.

Extradition papers said Mr. Ahmad, arrested Aug. 5, possessed classified plans describing the movements of a U.S. Navy battle group operating in the Straits of Hormuz in April 2001, along with instructions on how best to attack those vessels with rocket-propelled grenades from small boats. The plans were seized in December by British authorities and later confirmed as authentic by U.S. Navy personnel.

According to an affidavit in the case, Mr. Ahmad communicated with a U.S. Navy enlistee aboard the USS Benfold, a guided missile destroyer, who was said to be “sympathetic to al Qaeda causes.” The sailor tentatively has been identified as Hassan Abujihaad, who served aboard the Benfold in 2000 and 2001.

The sailor voiced what the affidavit said was “strong support” for the mujahedeen, including praise for those who attacked the USS Cole in Yemen killing 17 sailors as “men who have brought honor this week to the ummah [community of Islamic believers] in the lands of Jihad Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, etc.”

Mr. Ahmad’s arrest culminated a three-year ICE investigation. ICE agents worked with agents from the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and New Scotland Yard.

Law-enforcement authorities said investigators linked Mr. Ahmad with Noor Khan, identified as one of al Qaeda’s top computer specialists. The affidavit said the two men were involved in efforts to purchase 5,000 pounds of fertilizer and other bomb-making equipment.

Khan also is in custody in London. Officials said that it was information from his computer that was responsible for the heightened threat alert against specific financial institutions in New York City, northern New Jersey and Washington.

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

Mr. Ahmad, a Web site administrator at London’s Imperial College, used U.S.-based Internet sites, including, to recruit al Qaeda, Taliban and Chechen fighters and raise cash for terrorists, the indictment said.

According to the affidavit, filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert M. Appleton in Connecticut in support of the government’s extradition request, Mr. Ahmad offered through his U.S.-based Web sites and e-mails to make available cash and other property — including military items — for use by terrorists in Chechnya and Afghanistan.

The affidavit said the acts were intended to achieve “political, religious and ideological ends” by intimidating government officials and the public in both countries through acts of violence.

A criminal complaint said Mr. Ahmad provided assistance, solicited support and coordinated with the Chechen mujahedeen and Taliban fighters battling U.S. troops in Afghanistan, using Web sites in the United States.

Mr. Ahmad is accused of conspiring with others to use his privately owned Azzam Publications Web sites and e-mail accounts to solicit resources for those involved in a conspiracy to kill people abroad, engaging in illegal financial transactions with the Taliban, Chechen mujahedeen and other terrorists, and providing supplies, money, personnel and weapons to the Taliban, al Qaeda and other terrorists.

One of the Web sites, the affidavit said, included a page describing its purpose as to “propagate the call for jihad, among the Muslims who are sitting down, ignorant of this vital duty.”

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