Two men who admitted to supporting terrorism used a Trumbull-based Website hosting company, according to prosecutors.
The company did not know of the men's activities, prosecutors said.
Babar Ahmad and Syed
Talha Ahsan pleaded guilty Tuesday, Dec. 10, in New Haven federal court to conspiring to
provide and providing material support, including funds, personnel and physical
items, to terrorists. The charges stem from their involvement in, and
operation of, “Azzam Publications,” an entity in London that provided material
support to the Chechen mujahideen, the Taliban and associated terrorist
groups, prosecutors said.
"For a period of time, the Azzam websites were made possible through the unwitting services of a web-hosting company headquartered in Trumbull," according to statement from Acting U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly.
Ahmad, 39, and Ahsan, 34, both British citizens, have been detained since their arrests by British law enforcement authorities on Aug. 5, 2004, and July 19, 2006, respectively, and both were extradited to Connecticut in October 2012 following lengthy extradition proceedings abroad.
“Today, Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan admitted that they supported terrorists,” Daly said. “They acknowledged that they solicited funds, recruited personnel and provided additional support for acts of terror, including efforts based out of the United States and solicitations for support that were specifically targeted at U.S. residents."
On October 6, 2004 and June 28, 2006, federal grand juries in Connecticut returned separate indictments charging Ahmad and Ahsan, respectively, with terrorism-related offenses.
According to court documents:
- Ahmad also made efforts to secure GPS devices, Kevlar helmets, night vision goggles, ballistic vests, and camouflage combat suits.
- In addition, Ahmad and Ahsan recruited and arranged for individuals to travel to Afghanistan to train for violent jihad.
- A search of Ahmad’s residence in the United Kingdom in December 2003 revealed Ahmad in possession of an electronic document setting forth 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 was alleged to have possessed, accessed, and modified the electronic battle group document in April 2001.
- Azzam Publications posted articles on how to train for and support the jihad and the mujahideen, posted biographies of “martyrs,” and also produced and/or sold a number of audio and video products that were advertised on the websites, including videos containing real combat footage and biographies and images of deceased mujahideen.
- In 2001, Azzam Publications also posted on its websites an article entitled “What You Can Do to Help the Taliban,” which provided detailed instructions on how to raise, transport and personally deliver amounts over $20,000 in cash to the Taliban government via its consulate in Pakistan.
- Ahmad and Ahsan also admitted that Azzam Publications solicited personnel and physical items, including military suits and gas masks, for the Taliban.
- Ahsan also did not dispute that, with the assistance of Ahmad, he traveled to and fought in Afghanistan, and attended terrorist training camps run by Al Qaeda.
Ahmad and Ahsan each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and one count of providing material support to terrorists.
"Due to the statutory maximum penalties that were in place during the time frame of each defendant’s criminal conduct, Ahmad faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years and Ahsan faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years," Daly said.
"Pursuant to a binding plea agreement, if accepted by the court, Ahmad faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 25 years. At sentencing, the government intends to offer additional evidence of both defendants’ conduct," she added.
U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall scheduled sentencing for March 4, 2014.