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20-05-10, 08:57
Australian Sabirhan Hasanoff charged over al-Qaeda links

Australian Sabirhan Hasanoff charged over al-Qaeda links
Tom Hays From: AP May 01, 2010 1:26PM Increase Text Size Decrease Text Size Print Email Share Add to Digg Add to del.icio.us Add to Facebook Add to Kwoff Add to Myspace Add to Newsvine What are these?
TWO men, including a US-Australian dual citizen, have been charged with conspiring to give computer advice, buy wrist watches and do other tasks to help al-Qaeda "modernise".

A vaguely worded indictment unsealed yesterday in Manhattan’s federal court accused Wesam El-Hanafi, who was born in Brooklyn, of travelling to Yemen to meet with unnamed al-Qaeda members in February 2008.

The terrorists "instructed him on operational security measures and directed him to perform tasks for al-Qaeda," the indictment says. While there, he also "took an oath of allegiance to al-Qaeda," it adds.

In February 2008, El-Hanafi, 33, bought computer software that allowed him to secretly communicate over the internet, federal prosecutors allege. That summer, he met with an unnamed co-conspirator and the second defendant, US-Australian dual citizen Sabirhan Hasanoff, in Brooklyn to discuss joining al-Qaeda, according to the indictment.

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The confidential co-conspirator paid $US50,000 ($53,900) to Mr Hasanoff, 34, who later travelled to New York City and performed unspecified "tasks for al-Qaeda", the court papers say. The papers say that the conspiracy included Mr El-Hanafi purchasing seven Casio digital watches last year, but doesn't say why.

Two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press yesterday that both men were detained overseas and brought to the United States, arriving in Virginia. The officials spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing; they did not specify the men were detained overseas.

Prosecutors described Mr Hasanoff only as a dual citizen of the United States and Australia who has lived in Brooklyn. Public records show he has a Queens address and is a certified public accountant.

A professional networking site says a Sabir Hasanoff was a senior manager at Pricewaterhouse Coopers who graduated from Baruch College in Manhattan. Pricewaterhouse spokesman Kelly Howard said the accounting firm employed Mr Hasanoff from 2003 to 2006.

The employment history is striking comparison to other recent cases involving suspects who were recruited by al-Qaeda for operations on US soil, including that of Najibullah Zazi. Mr Zazi - who admitted plotting a suicide attack on Manhattan subway stations after receiving al-Qaeda explosives training in Pakistan - and his accomplices were younger and less educated. Mr Zazi was a coffee cart vendor and an airport van driver in Colorado at the time of his arrest; another suspect was a New York City cab driver.

US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement that the men had schemed "to modernise al-Qaeda by providing computer systems expertise and other goods and services." His office declined further comment.

At an initial court appearance yesterday afternoon in Alexandria, Virginia, Mr El-Hanafi and Mr Hasanoff waived their rights to a hearing there. They were detained and ordered transferred to New York for a bail hearing.

Prosecutor John Cronan declined to answer questions about the case after the hearing. There was no immediate response to phone messages left with the men's defence lawyers.

The case was investigated by the FBI New York's Joint Terrorism Task Force.