A British man arrested earlier this week operated two U.S.-based Web sites to recruit and raise money for Taliban fighters and possessed a classified Navy document, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Authorities said that Babar Ahmad, 30, also had links to the e-mail account of a Chechen mujaheedin leader. They said the document had information on battle group plans for U.S. Navy vessels involved in operations against Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan.
Ahmad, who was arrested Wednesday in London on a U.S. extradition warrant, made his first court appearance there Friday. When asked if he understood the charges against him, he told the court: “Not really. It’s all a bit confusing to me.”
According to an arrest warrant affidavit unsealed in Connecticut on Friday, the Navy document was discovered by investigators on a floppy disk at his parents’ house in London, where he lived as recently as 2001. Authorities also found a compact disc with audio tracks praising Osama bin Laden.
The document detailed planned movements of a battle group that included the USS Benfold, and a drawing of the group’s formation when it was to pass through the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East, the affidavit said. It also detailed the ships’ vulnerabilities to attacks by small boats, the affidavit said.
In the London courtroom, Rosemary Fernandes, representing the United States, said the April 2001 Navy document had been seized by British police in 2003 and verified by U.S. authorities.
The battle group was never attacked.
Navy enlistee reportedly helped
Ahmad was allegedly communicating with a U.S. Navy enlistee on the USS Benfold who was sympathetic to the jihad cause, U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Connor said. Authorities have not named the man, or accused the enlistee of providing the document to Ahmad.
“You can rest assured the Navy knows who he is and is taking appropriate precautions,” O’Connor said.
The affidavit said that Ahmad ran two Web sites, registered to an alias in London. One, azzam.com, was run out of a Trumbull, Conn.-based internet provider, OLM LLC, from 1999 until 2001. From 1997 to 1998, the document says, it was run through a Las Vegas-based Internet provider, Internet Quality Services.
The affidavit quoted the site as saying: “Azzam Publications has been set up to propagate the call for jihad ... to incite the believers and also, secondly, to raise some money for the brothers.”
The affidavit said the Web site also encouraged people to become trained in martial arts, street fighting, sword and knife fighting and use of firearms, the affidavit said. It also told people to research sniper training, land mine operations, mortars and combat, according to the affidavit.
O’Connor said the Internet companies were not a target in the investigation, and both were cooperating with authorities.
Reportedly got money from two others
U.S. investigators said they know of two U.S. citizens, one in Connecticut and one in New Jersey, who provided money to Ahmad. Their names were not released, though investigators said their identities are known.
Ahmad faces charges of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to launder money with intent to support the Taliban, kill persons in a foreign country and provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to support the Taliban and, finally, solicitation to commit a crime of physical violence.
He could face life in prison if convicted of the first charge, and a combined 50-year prison sentence if convicted on the three other charges.
The extradition process is expected to begin soon, but could take years, U.S. officials said. His next court appearance was set for Aug. 13.
Ahmad’s arrest was not believed to be linked to the detentions in Britain of 12 other men this week. The 12 were linked to the seizure of computer files in Pakistan that contained surveillance information of London’s Heathrow Airport and major financial sites in New York, Washington and Newark, N.J. The United States issued a terror alert based on those files.
Ahmad’s lawyer, Carolina Guiloff, said in London that her client was abused by police when he was arrested last December as a suspected terrorist. He was freed a week later, but he feared he might be abused again now that he is back in custody, she said.