Two NY Men Arrested For Trying to Help Al Qaeda

United States of American v. WESAM EL-HANAFI, a/k/a "Khaled," and SABIRHAN HASANOFF, a/k/a "Tareq," Defendants.
Updated at 3:51 p.m. EDT

Two United States citizens residing in Brooklyn, N.Y., have been arrested and charged with trying to aid Al Qaeda terrorists.

According to the indictment obtained by CBS News, the men, Wesam El-Hanafi, 33, and Sabirhan Hasanoff, 34, are charged with one count of "conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization."

The charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

El-Hanafi and Hasanoff have appeared in court in Virginia. They waived their rights to a hearing in Virginia and will be sent to New York for a detention hearing.

Both men said they had spoken to their lawyers prior to the Friday afternoon hearing. The men were dressed in Oxford shirts and slacks and spoke softly with no discernible accent, with their hands folder behind their backs.

Among the overt acts alleged in the indictment are:

  • In November 2007, Hasanoff received $50,000 from an unnamed co-conspirator referred to in the indictment as "CC-1."
  • In or about February 2008, El-Hanafi, traveled to Yemen where he met with two members of al Qaeda who instructed him on operational security measures and directed him to perform tasks for al Qaeda.
  • In May 2008, El-Hanafi purchased a subscription for a software program that enabled him to communicate securely with others over the internet.
  • Read the complete indictment

    "The defendants would and did agree to provide al Qaeda with, among other things, computer advice and assistance, services, and currency, knowing that al Qaeda had engaged and was engaging in terrorist activity," according to the indictment.

    Thirteen overt acts are alleged in the indictment, including "El-Hanafi accepted an oath of allegiance on behalf of al Qaeda from [an unnamed co-conspirator]," and "Hasanoff traveled to New York City and performed tasks for al Qaeda."

    Al Qaeda is blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

    U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement, "As alleged in the indictment, Wesam El-Hanafi and Sabirhan Hasanoff conspired to modernize al Qaeda by providing computer systems expertise and other goods and services. El-Hanafi is also alleged to have traveled to Yemen to meet with al Qaeda members face-to-face. These two New Yorkers, who allegedly pledged allegiance to al Qaeda, will now be held to account for their actions. This case confirms our commitment to work with the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force to protect our citizens against the clear and present danger posed by terrorists and those who provide them material support."

    El-Hanafi was born and raised in Brooklyn. Hasanoff has U.S. and Australian citizenship, according to the indictment.