Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan admit to supporting Taliban and Chechen jihadists via radical websites
By Jon Swaine, New York
10:02PM GMT 10 Dec 2013
Two Londoners who mounted a high-profile fight against extradition to the US are facing lengthy prison sentences after pleading guilty to terrorism charges in an American court on Tuesday.
Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan admitted to a court in Connecticut that they sent jihadi recruits and money to terrorists in Afghanistan and Chechnya via their radical websites.
The British Muslims, from Tooting in south London, were sent to the US last year after being detained in Britain for eight and six years respectively while campaigning to be tried in London.
The pair confessed to assisting the Chechen muhjahideen, the Taliban and other groups via the websites Azzam.com and Qoqaz.net, which Ahmad ran under the name Azzam Publications.
“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 US residents,” Deirdre Daly, the US Attorney for Connecticut, said on Tuesday.
Both pleaded guilty to two counts of “conspiring to provide and providing material support” to terrorists. Ahmad, 39, is facing a 25-year prison sentence while Ahsan, 34, could get 15 years.
Prosecutors in Connecticut, where the Azzam websites were hosted, alleged the two men “recruited and arranged for individuals to travel to Afghanistan to train for violent jihad”.
One article on Azzam, What You Can Do to Help the Taliban, gave detailed instructions on how to raise and deliver more than $20,000 (£12,000) in cash via the Taliban’s consulate in Pakistan.
Meanwhile Ahmad “made efforts to secure GPS devices, Kevlar helmets, night vision goggles, ballistic vests, and camouflage combat suits” for terrorists overseas, according to the prosecutors, while Ahsan “did not dispute” that he travelled to Afghanistan to fight and attend al-Qaeda terrorist training camps.
They were also found to have documents outlining classified plans for a US naval battle group’s deployment from California to the Middle East.
Ahmad, who has previously admitted to fighting in Bosnia in the 1990s, was in paid £60,000 compensation by the Metropolitan Police after claiming he was the victim of a vicious assault after his 2004 arrest. However the officers involved were subsequently cleared.
He was also at the centre of a bitter row between police and MPs in 2008 when it emerged that conversations he had during prison visits from his Labour MP, Sadiq Khan, had been bugged.
Ahmad, Ahsan and several other terror suspects such as Abu Hamza, mounted lengthy appeals in the English and European courts against extradition but were eventually sent to the US in October last year. The two men are due to be sentenced on 4 March 2014.