NEW HAVEN -- A British man was indicted yesterday on charges that he helped run websites that raise funds for terrorism , set up terrorists with temporary housing in England, and possessed a classified US Navy document disclosing troop movements.
Syed Talha Ahsan, 26, was arrested at his house 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 say they 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," US Attorney Kevin O'Connor said yesterday. ``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 websites, including one 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 Sept. 11 into the use of the Internet to provide financial and other support to terrorist organizations," said Julie L. Myers, assistant secretary for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Customs agents tracked the websites through an Internet service provider in Connecticut to build the case.
Prosecutors allege that from 1998 until at least 2002, Ahsan and Ahmad operated websites that encourage people to donate money or equipment. The sites allegedly operated in Connecticut, Nevada, Britain, Ireland, and Malaysia.
US 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 a classified document discussing a US 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 obtained it. The battle group was not attacked.
O'Connor said Ahsan was arraigned and held without bail in England. Extradition papers were being prepared, he said.
Ahmad has been fighting extradition to the United States for nearly two years. Prosecutors said they won't wait for Ahsan's extradition to begin trying Ahmad.