A British man was indicted Wednesday on charges he helped run terrorism fundraising Web sites, set up terrorists with temporary housing in England and possessed a classified U.S. Navy document revealing troop movements.
Syed Talha Ahsan, 26, was arrested at his home in London on a federal indictment in Connecticut charging him with conspiracy to support terrorists and conspiracy to kill or injure people abroad.
Ahsan is the second person charged in an investigation that began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and became one of the first to target online terrorism financiers. Officials believe they disrupted a network that recruited and financed terrorists, outfitted them with equipment and dispatched them to fight in countries such as Afghanistan.
"We're trying to make it as difficult, if not impossible, for people to commit terrorist acts," U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor said Wednesday. "If you can deprive these terrorist organizations of money, it's like depriving them of oxygen."
Ahsan is accused in the same case as Babar Ahmad, a British computer specialist who was indicted in Connecticut in October 2004. Both are accused of running several Web sites including Azzam.com, which investigators say was used to recruit members for the al Qaeda network, Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime and Chechen rebels.
"This was one of the first investigations launched after 9/11 into the use of the Internet to provide financial and other support to terrorist organizations," said Julie L. Myers, assistant secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
It appears that Ahmad is still awaiting extradition to the United States, so Wednesday's indictment does not advance the case beyond Ahsan's arrest in London, CBS News reports. Ahmad has been fighting extradition to the United States for nearly two years.
Customs agents tracked the Web sites through an Internet service provider in Connecticut to build the case.
Prosecutors allege that from 1998 until at least 2002, Ahsan and Ahmad operated Web sites encouraging people to donate money or equipment. The sites allegedly operated in Connecticut, Nevada, Britain, Ireland and Malaysia.
U.S. prosecutors said Ahsan helped terrorists find temporary residence in London and shuttled them into Afghanistan and Chechnya to participate in "jihad."
A few months before Sept. 11, Ahsan allegedly possessed classified documents discussing a U.S. Navy battle group's movements and vulnerability to attack.
The existence of that document became public with Ahmad's arrest in 2004 but authorities have not said how Ahsan allegedly obtained it. The battle group was not attacked.
Ahsan was arraigned in England on Wednesday and ordered held without bail.