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Law

Briton charged in terror conspiracy

Money allegedly raised from U.S.-based Web sites

From Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve
and Producer Jonathan Wald

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Court documents have revealed alleged communications between a British citizen and Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, an al Qaeda computer expert arrested in Pakistan in July.

A Bridgeport, Connecticut, grand jury returned the indictment Wednesday against Babar Ahmad on charges of conspiracy to provide support to terrorists, including helping to ship gas masks to the Taliban; providing material support to terrorists; conspiracy to kill, kidnap or injure people in a foreign country; and money laundering.

Ahmad, 30, is accused of using U.S.-based Web sites to raise money for terrorists, including Chechen leader Shamil Basayev, who has claimed responsibility for the Beslan school massacre in Russia.

All but the money laundering charge against Ahmad carry a maximum penalty of life in prison if he's convicted. If found guilty of money laundering, he could face up to 20 years behind bars.

Ahmad was arrested in London on August 5. An affidavit supporting his extradition to the United States also was made public Wednesday.

The document states authorities found what appears to be a 1960s or 1970s tourist brochure for the Empire State Building during a search of Ahmad's residence. That brochure includes details about the building, including its ventilation system. It also features aerial shots of the building from north, east, south and west, and a map.

The search also allegedly discovered two manuals containing detailed instructions on guerilla warfare tactics.

The affidavit also details e-mail correspondence indicating Ahmad sought to purchase up to 5,000 pounds of phosphate-based fertilizers and large amounts of several chemicals for a third party.

It also alleges Ahmad purchased 100 cold weather camouflage combat suits from a company on Long Island and had them delivered to himself in Britain in 1998.

Authorities also found a floppy disc that detailed movements in 2001 of a U.S. Navy battle group in the Strait of Hormuz, and discusses its vulnerability to terrorist attack, according to the affidavit. "Weakness: They have nothing to stop a small craft with RPG etc, except their SEALs' stinger missiles."

Ahmad allegedly exchanged e-mails with a U.S. Navy enlistee aboard the USS Benfold at about the same time.

One e-mail from the sailor allegedly voices enmity toward the "American enemies" and expresses support for those who attacked the USS Cole, calling them "men who have brought honor this week to the ummah in the lands of Jihad Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya."

Ahmad allegedly replied, telling the sailor to "keep up the psychological warfare."

The indictment accuses Ahmad of maintaining several Web sites, including azzam.com, which posted messages saying "the best way of helping Jihad and the Mujahadeen is by actually going to the lands of Jihad and physically fighting.

"The first and most important thing that Muslims can do in the West is to donate money," the Web sites state, according to the document.

It also allegedly directs readers to obtain firearms training and, where permissible, obtain an assault rifle. "Military training is an Islamic obligation, not an option."

The Web sites, according to the indictment, provided instruction for the surreptitious transfer of funds to the Chechen Mujahadeen and the Taliban, and instructions for travel to Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight with these groups.

U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, Kevin O' Connor told CNN the United States was committed "to fighting terror at its financial roots."

"Money is the blood of terrorists," he said. "It allows them to travel, to train people and ultimately to kill."

"These charges send a message to anyone who thinks they can anonymously raise money for terror groups."

Law enforcement agencies in the United States and abroad have been working on the investigation for about three years, according to Michael Garcia, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He called the indictment "a significant development in our efforts to target those who are alleged to equip and bankroll terrorists via the Internet."

Ahmad is being held at Woodhill Prison near London and has had three hearings at Bow Street Magistrates' Court in London to determine whether his extradition can go ahead and if he should remain in custody. His next hearing is to take place Thursday.

O'Connor said he was confident Ahmad would eventually be extradited but it could take more than a year.

In a letter published in September in the British newspaper The Guardian, Ahmad wrote, "I can't comment on the case as my lawyers are dealing with it, but I am optimistic."

"I can't believe that the government can extradite a British citizen to the land that invented Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram, for his human rights to be abused for "crimes" allegedly committed in Britain."


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