Two NY men plead guilty to assisting al Qaeda

The two US citizens had planned to travel to Afghanistan and Iraq to fight for al Qaeda.

Updated: Jun 19, 2012, 18:52 PM IST

New York: Two US citizens, who had planned to travel to Afghanistan and Iraq to fight for al Qaeda, have plead guilty to providing material and financial support to the terror group.

Wesam El-Hanafi (37) and Sabirhan Hasanoff (36) plead guilty in Manhattan federal court to providing material support, including financial support, equipment and technical advice to al-Qaeda associates in Yemen and elsewhere.

El-Hanafi is a US citizen who was born and lived in Brooklyn, while Hasanoff is a dual citizen of the US and Australia and resided in Brooklyn.

They both face a maximum sentence of 20 years each in prison.

Hasanoff is scheduled to be sentenced on July 23, while El-Hanafi will be sentenced on October 22.

They had been transferred to the US custody following their arrest in the UAE in 2010.

Indian-origin US Attorney Preet Bharara described the guilty pleas of two "avowed supporters" of al-Qaeda as a "chilling reminder of the threat of homegrown terrorists and the unwavering vigilance that must be exercised so they can be thwarted."

According to court documents, beginning in 2007 the two conspired with others to support and receive assignments from al Qaeda.

In November 2007, Hasanoff received approximately USD 50,000 from a co-conspirator with the understanding that some part of the money would be used to support the terrorist organisation.

The two also helped finance the terror group by regularly sending money to al Qaeda through international wire transfers and couriers.

They were interested in fighting along with al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Iraq and other locations abroad and had discussed travelling to engage in jihad.

They however never succeeded in participating in armed conflict.

Additionally, in August 2008, Hasanoff travelled to New York City where he performed assignments for al Qaeda.

They continued discussions about seeking out more contacts with al-Qaeda through 2009.

In February 2008, El-Hanafi traveled to Yemen, where he met with two members of al Qaeda and swore an oath of allegiance to the group.

He received instructions from al Qaeda on operational security measures and received assignments to perform actions for al Qaeda.

While in Yemen, he instructed the members of al Qaeda on how to communicate covertly over the internet in a manner that would avoid law enforcement detection.

After El-Hanafi returned from Yemen, he met with a co-conspirator in May 2008 in Brooklyn encouraging him to join al Qaeda.

He also discussed seeking out additional contacts within al Qaeda.

He purchased a subscription for a software programme that enabled him to communicate securely with others over the internet.