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Terror suspect 'had Navy plans'


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Ahmad arrives at London's Bow Street Magistrates' Court.
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Intelligence sources tell CNN a suspect arrested in Britain is a major al Qaeda player.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A British man facing extradition to the United States on terrorism-related charges was found in possession of a U.S. Navy battle group plan, U.S. officials have alleged.

The charges against Babar Ahmad also link him to a Chechen group that seized a Moscow movie theater and hundreds of hostages in October 2002.

Ahmad is accused of using U.S.-based Web sites in connection with "acts of terrorism in Chechnya and Afghanistan."

Ahmad was denied bail when he appeared before a London judge on Friday. He told Bow Street Magistrates' Court he did not want to voluntarily go to the United States, and he was remanded to jail until his next hearing on August 13.

Later Friday, the U.S. Attorney's office in New Haven, Connecticut, unsealed the 31-page indictment against Ahmad detailing the charges against him.

U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor said investigators found a floppy disk at Ahmad's home that contained plans for a U.S. Navy battle group from April 2001.

The plans included drawings of the battle group's formation, details of specific assignments of individual ships and details of each ship's vulnerability.

The battle group was patrolling the Straits of Hormuz and tasked with operations against al Qaeda and enforcing sanctions against Iraq.

The document concludes that the battle group had nothing except Navy SEALs armed with Stinger missiles to stop an attack by a small vessel armed with rocket-propelled grenades.

Ahmad is charged in Connecticut with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists; conspiracy to provide money to support the Taliban, to kill people abroad and to support terrorists; conspiracy to support designated terrorist groups; and solicitation to commit crimes of physical violence.

The charges carry maximum penalties from 10 years in prison for conspiring to support designated terrorist groups to life in prison for conspiring to provide material support for terrorists.

"Between 1997 and 2003, Mr. Ahmad -- through various entities -- created, maintained and operated Web sites in Connecticut, Nevada and outside the United States," O'Connor told a news conference in New Haven.

"The main purpose of all of these sites was to solicit financing for certain terrorist organizations including the Taliban and Chechen mujahedeen and to recruit individuals to travel to Afghanistan and Chechnya for the purpose of waging jihad against the perceived enemies of Islam, including the United States."

Ahmad, 30, was arrested in Britain on Thursday by the Extradition and International Assistance Unit of the Metropolitan Police Service. Officers from the Anti-Terrorist Branch were searching three residential properties and one office in southwest London on behalf of U.S. authorities.

Friday's hearing included a formal reading of charges. After the charges were read, the judge asked Ahmad if he understood them.

"Not really," he responded. "It's a bit confusing."

The charges against Ahmad link him to a Chechen group that seized a Moscow movie theater -- and hundreds of hostages -- in October 2002. More than 125 of the hostages died in the rescue.

U.S. authorities argued that freeing Ahamad before his trial would result in his continued cooperation with terrorists and the destruction of evidence.

Ahmad's attorney said he was in need of psychiatric care, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder following what he called an assault by police last year.

The attorney said that police raided his home on December 2, 2003, assaulting him in his home and later in a police van, leaving him with kidney and soft-tissue damage.

At the August 13 hearing, the judge will consider whether to allow the extradition to move forward. Ahmad will remain in Woodhill prison near London until then.

In New Haven, O'Connor said he expected Ahmad to fight extradition.

"I don't expect it to happen very quickly, even with the cooperation of our counterparts, because there are certain rights that this individual is afforded," he said. "It could take more than one year. Five years? I hope not."

O'Connor also said it was "impossible to tell" whether any of the money Ahmad allegedly raised on his Web sites was used for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States

"There was a lot of activity pre 9/11, and there was a lot of activity post 9/11," he said. "But after it gets into Afghanistan, it's impossible to tell what it was used for. We don't know if any of it was used for 9/11 and we'll probably never know."

O'Connor said the investigation had uncovered at least two U.S. citizens who had made contributions via Ahmad's Web sites.

The investigation also identified a U.S. sailor serving aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Benfold who sent a sympathetic e-mail to Ahmad in July 2001, O'Connor said.

Authorities have not decided whether to charge them, he said.

O'Connor said Ahmad's arrest was the result of more than two years of investigation sparked by a U.S. Customs officer who "for a long time was a bit of a lone ranger."

"One tenacious agent, to his credit, began this investigation," he said. "It didn't come easy. It took two years of document review, subpoenas and the like."

CNN's Diana Muriel in London contributed to this report


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