- The Washington Times - Friday, April 30, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) — Two U.S. citizens were charged Friday with conspiring to provide computer assistance, watches and other support to help “modernize” al Qaeda.

A vaguely worded indictment unsealed Friday in federal court in Manhattan accused Wesam El-Hanafi of traveling to Yemen to meet with unnamed al Qaeda members in February 2008.

The terrorists “instructed him on operational security measures and directed him to perform tasks for al Qaeda,” the indictment says. While there, he also “took an oath of allegiance to al Qaeda,” it adds.

In February 2008, Mr. el-Hanafi bought computer software that allowed him to secretly communicate over the Internet, federal prosecutors say. That summer, he met with an unnamed co-conspirator and the second defendant, Sabirhan Hasanoff, in Brooklyn to discuss joining al Qaeda, according to the indictment.

The confidential co-conspirator paid $50,000 to Mr. Hasanoff, who later traveled to New York City and performed unspecified “tasks for al Qaeda,” the court papers say. The papers say that the conspiracy included Mr. el-Hanafi purchasing seven Casio digital watches, but doesn’t say why.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the men had schemed “to modernize al Qaeda by providing computer systems expertise and other goods and services.” His office declined further comment.

Mr. el-Hanafi, 33, and Mr. Hasanoff, 34, were to make an initial court appearance in federal court in Alexandria, Va. Friday afternoon. The names of their lawyers were not immediately available.

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