New York: An associate of British cleric and terror convict Abu Hamza has pleaded guilty to terrorism charges related to efforts to establish a terrorist training camp in the US.
Haroon Aswat pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court yesterday to providing material support to terror group Al-Qaeda and faces 20 years in prison.
"With this guilty plea, Haroon Aswat is being held accountable for his provision of material support to al-Qaeda and his role in a plot to establish a terrorist training camp on American soil," Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin said.
Aswat was arrested in Zambia in July 2005 and a month later was deported to the United Kingdom. He was extradited to the United States from the UK last October.
US Attorney Preet Bharara said Aswat had fought his extradition to the US for almost 10 years but pled guilty to supporting Al-Qaeda within just six months of arriving in the country.
"For providing support to al-Qaeda, Aswat now comes face- to-face with justice and faces up to 20 years in prison, and after the completion of his term he will be deported," Bharara said.
According to the allegations contained in the indictment, in late 1999, Aswat, along with co-defendants Hamza, Ouassama Kassir and Earnest James Ujaama, attempted to create a terrorist training camp in the US to support Al-Qaeda.
Aswat conspired with Hamza to establish the terrorist training camp on a rural parcel of property in Bly, Oregon where Muslims would receive various types of training ? including military-style jihad training.
Later, Hamza directed Aswat and Kassir, both of whom resided in London and attended his mosque there, to travel to Oregon to assist in establishing the camp. The duo traveled to Bly for the purpose of training men to fight jihad.
Kassir told witnesses that he supported Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and that he had previously received jihad training in Pakistan.
After leaving Bly, Aswat and Kassir traveled to Seattle, where they resided at a mosque for approximately two months.
While in Seattle, Kassir, in Aswat's presence, provided men from the mosque with additional terrorist training lessons including instructions on different types of weapons, how to construct a homemade silencer for a firearm, how to assemble and disassemble an AK-47 and how an AK-47 could be altered to be fully automatic and to launch a grenade.
A ledger recovered in September 2002 from an al-Qaeda safe house in Karachi, Pakistan, listed a number of individuals associated with the group, including Aswat.
The safe house was used by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al Qaeda's chief operational planner and the alleged planner of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Hamza was in January this year sentenced life in prison after being convicted at trial of multiple counts of providing material support to Al-Qaeda.