NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Two British nationals were extradited from the United Kingdom late Friday, and now face terrorism-related charges in the United States. If convicted of the charges, both face up to life in prison. This investigation is being led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Babar Ahmad, 38, and Syed Talha Ahsan, 33, were extradited Oct. 5, arriving in the United States early in the morning Oct. 6. They appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Janet C. Hall the same day. Both pleaded not guilty, but were ordered detained while they await trial.
Ahmad and Ahsan are charged with terrorism-related offenses stemming from their involvement in, and operation of "Azzam Publications," an entity in London that allegedly provided material support to the Chechen Muhjahideen, the Taliban and associated terrorist groups.
On Oct. 6, 2004, a federal grand jury sitting in Bridgeport, Conn., returned an indictment charging Ahmad with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, providing material support to terrorists, conspiring to kill persons in a foreign country and money laundering.
On June 28, 2006, a Bridgeport grand jury returned an indictment charging Ahsan with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, providing material support to terrorists and conspiring to kill persons in a foreign country. Ahmad and Ahsan have been detained since their arrests by British law enforcement authorities Aug. 5, 2004, and July 19, 2006, respectively.
The indictments allege that Ahmad and Ahsan were members of a group that supported the Chechen Muhjahideen, the Taliban and associated terrorist groups through various means, including the operation of a series of websites under the name of "Azzam Publications," which promoted violent jihad and featured jihadi training manuals, interviews with Al-Qaeda and Chechen leaders and associates, and stories and martyrdom videos of fallen jihadists. The indictments allege that the defendants assisted the Taliban and the Chechen Mujahideen by providing funds, military items, communications equipment, lodging, training, safe houses, expert advice and assistance, personnel, transportation, false documentation and identification, and other supplies, knowing and intending that such conduct would support the military activities of these and associated groups.
Among other things, the indictments allege that Ahmad made efforts to secure GPS devices, Kevlar helmets, night vision goggles, ballistic vests and camouflage uniforms. In addition, Ahmad and Ahsan are alleged to have recruited and arranged for individuals to travel to Afghanistan to train for violent jihad.
The indictments further allege that a search of Ahmad's residence in the United Kingdom in December 2003 revealed Ahmad in possession of an electronic document setting forth what were previously classified plans regarding the makeup, advance movements and mission of a U.S. Naval battle group as it was to transit from California to its deployment in the Middle East. The document discussed the battle group's perceived vulnerability to terrorist attack. Ahsan is alleged to have possessed, accessed and modified the electronic battle group document in April 2001.
"Homeland Security Investigations continues to use every available resource to protect the American public from those who would compromise our national security through terrorism," said ICE Director John Morton. "This extradition demonstrates law enforcement's resolve to bring to justice anyone who supports those who would target American interests at home or abroad. As a result of HSI's extraordinary cooperation with our British partners, Ahmad and Ahsan will now face justice for their alleged crimes in a U.S. courtroom."
"This has been a lengthy process, but the government's commitment to presenting this case to a jury during a fair and open trial has never wavered," said U.S. Attorney David B. Fein, District of Connecticut. "The allegations contained in the indictments, which include promotion of terrorism and conspiracy to murder persons living abroad, are as serious today as when they were initially charged. I commend Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI and the many other law enforcement agencies here and in the U.K. for investigating this matter. I also want to acknowledge the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and Department of Justice attachés at the U.S. Embassy in London and the attorneys and staff at the Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs who have seamlessly coordinated with us during this extradition process."
"Today, more than at any other time in U.S. history, terrorism investigations involve the identification, disruption and dismantling of material and financial support systems," said Kimberly K. Mertz, special agent in charge of the FBI New Haven Division. "Without those support systems, terrorists and terrorist groups simply cannot survive. This investigation underscores Homeland Security Investigations' and the FBI's enduring commitment to combating terrorism by uprooting these global and often complex support networks."
This case is being investigated by a task force in Connecticut led by HSI. Other law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation include: FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force; Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Criminal Investigation Division; IRS, Criminal Investigation Electronic Crimes Program; Defense Criminal Investigative Service; and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
U.S. Attorney Fein praised the substantial efforts of law enforcement authorities from the Metropolitan Police Service's Anti-Terrorist Branch and the Extradition and International Assistance Unit, both within New Scotland Yard, whose efforts and assistance have been essential in the investigation in this case. U.S. Attorney Fein also thanked the U.S. Marshals Service for its assistance in the extradition of the defendants.
The case is being prosecuted by a team of federal prosecutors including Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Reynolds, District of Connecticut; and Attorneys Sharon Lever and Alexis Collins from the National Security Division's Counterterrorism Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington.