American al-Qaida operative freed after less than 5 years in prison

An American who grew up in New York and became an operative at a terrorist training camp run by al-Qaida has been sentenced to 10 years probation after spending less than five years in prison, court records show.

It's a remarkably lenient outcome, but one that federal prosecutors say was appropriate given his subsequent cooperation with the FBI.

Mohmammed Babar was sentenced without fanfare — or the usual public notice — by a Manhattan federal judge in December, a fact just now coming to light.

Babar, a native of Queens, admitted going to Pakistan in 2004 to furnish cash, explosives, night vision goggles and camping equipment to al-Qaida. He later told investigators he stayed there to set up a training camp and met other terrorists who would become involved in the 2005 suicide bombing in London.

'Kill every American I see'
Interviewed before leaving the U.S. for Pakistan in 2004, he expressed strong hatred for his native country. "I will kill every American that I see in Afghanistan. And while I'm in Pakistan, if I see them in Pakistan, I'll kill every American soldier I can in Pakistan," he said.

But from the moment of his arrest, federal authorities say, he freely told the FBI what he knew about al-Qaida. He admitted buying explosives for terrorists who planned to bomb London's tallest office building and testified against the defendants at their trial. And he was a key witness at the trial of the accused leader of 2005's suicide bomb attacks on London's busses and subway system.

In urging a federal judge to sentence him to time served, a federal prosecutor described Babar's efforts to cooperate with investigators as "more than substantial. They were in fact exceptional," providing information that was "credible, forthright, and detailed."

Court documents reveal that Babar was actually released on bail two years ago. During his December sentencing hearing, he told the judge, "I regret the choices I have made in the past. These are not the views that I have going forward. Getting married and having a daughter has led him to renounce any interest in violence, he said.

Outrage in England
The sentence prompted a fierce reaction in Britain, where a lawyer representing victims' families and survivors of the London bombings called the move "crazy."

"There is no way a reduction of this size has any regard to the feelings of victims," Clifford Tibber told the Associated Press.

Graham Foulkes, whose 22-year-old son David was killed by one of the blasts that hit London's transportation network, said Babar's cooperation with U.S. authorities does not diminish his role in the attacks.

"To be responsible for the deaths of 52 people, serve four-and-a-half years and be released and to say that means he has paid his debt to society just beggars belief," Foulkes told the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper.

Under the terms of his release Babar must meet monthly with a probation officer and cannot travel without the government's permission. After five years he can apply to have the remaining five years of probation lifted, court documents show.