British suspect raised cash for terror, U.S. says
The man was arrested this week in London on a U.S. extradition warrant.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- A British computer specialist used U.S.-based Web sites to recruit and raise money for Taliban fighters and obtained classified documents detailing a Navy fleet's weaknesses to terrorist attacks, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Authorities said Pakistani-born Babar Ahmad, 30, also had links to the e-mail account of a Chechen rebel leader behind the October 2002 Moscow theater siege, and was exchanging e-mails with a Navy sailor who expressed sympathy for terrorists.
Ahmad was arrested Wednesday in London on a U.S. extradition warrant accusing him of trying to raise funds for "acts of terrorism in Chechnya and Afghanistan" from 1998 through 2003.
At a court appearance in London on Friday, Ahmad was asked if he understood the charges, and replied: "Not really. It's all a bit confusing to me."
According to an arrest warrant affidavit unsealed Friday in Connecticut -- where one of his Web sites was hosted -- the Navy document was discovered at his parents' London home. Authorities also said they found a compact disc with audio tracks praising Osama bin Laden.
The document detailed planned movements of a battle group that included the San Diego-based USS Benfold, and a drawing of the group's formation when it was to pass through the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, the affidavit said.
It also showed the ships' vulnerabilities to attacks by small boats, the affidavit said.
The intelligence documents are dated months after the Oct. 12, 2000, terrorist attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 sailors. The Benfold's battle group was never attacked.
As the naval intelligence was being gathered, Ahmad was allegedly exchanging e-mails with a Benfold sailor. In one exchange, the sailor praised those who attacked the Cole, according to the affidavit. The sailor was not named, nor was he accused of providing the document to Ahmad.
Lt. Ohene Gyapong, a U.S. Navy spokesman, said the sailor was no longer in the Navy and was not in custody, though U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor said in Connecticut that the Navy has identified him "and is taking appropriate precautions."
In other developments in the war on terrorism, law enforcement officials said Friday that documents found by American troops at a terrorist camp in Iraq last year contained the name of a New York mosque imam now facing federal charges of plotting to obtain a shoulder-fired grenade launcher.
An entry in an address book found by the soldiers at an Ansar al-Islam camp last summer in northern Iraq referred to Yassin Aref as "the commander" and included his address and telephone number in Albany, N.Y., the officials said.
Although Aref had come to the FBI's attention before the address book's discovery, two law enforcement officials speaking on condition of anonymity said it was a strong indication that Ansar al-Islam had a presence in the United States.
The officials insisted on anonymity because the information is not yet officially public.
Aref, 34, and Mohammed Hossain, 49, are charged with money laundering and attempting to conceal material support for a terror organization. They were arrested Thursday as part of an FBI sting operation using an informant who the Justice Department says led them to believe they were taking part in the purchase of an RPG-7 grenade launcher for the assassination of Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations.