Queens Terror Suspect Pleads Guilty on Eve of Scheduled Trial

On the eve of his scheduled trial in Manhattan, an alleged member of a notorious British-based Islamic extremist group pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of conspiring to provide material support to Al Qaeda, according to a federal official who asked for anonymity when discussing the case. Syed Hashmi was arrested in London four years ago and was extradited to the United States in May 2007—the first case in which anyone had been extradited from Britain to America on terrorism charges, according to a press release issued at the time by the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan. Hashmi was accused of providing military gear to others who then sent it to Qaeda "associates" in Pakistan's notorious jihadist haven of South Waziristan, near the Afghan border. He was also accused of agreeing with other parties to provide military gear that could be used to fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

According to a Justice Department document made available to Declassified, Hashmi is a former member of the New York branch of Al-Muhajiroun, a now defunct organization that was active in Britain in the years before and immediately after 9/11. The group was founded by Omar Bakri Mohammed, a notorious Syrian-born preacher who was interviewed several times by Declassified while he lived in London. He was an outspoken apostle of radical Islamist views, praising the 9/11 hijackers as "the magnificent 19" and advocating the imposition of Sharia law in Britain. On one occasion the preacher claimed to Declassified that he had once met Osama bin Laden, but in a subsequent interview he denied ever meeting the Al Qaeda leader. He had spent several years proselytizing young Muslims in Britain before the country barred him from returning after a 2005 trip to Lebanon. The group itself was formally banned in Britain earlier this year after it tried to organize demonstrations in a town through which military motorcades carry the bodies of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hashmi allowed co-conspirators to use his apartment for storing gear that was to be shipped to anti-U.S. forces in Afghanistan, according to the Justice Department document, which says he also permitted an unnamed co-conspirator to use his cellphone to contact other Qaeda supporters. One of those called was a Briton named Omar Khyam, who is now serving a life sentence for his role in a plot to attack soft targets in Britain using homemade explosives, as exposed by an investigation known as "Operation Crevice." A former American militant who testified against Khyam, Mohammed Junaid Babar, was also expected to testify against Hashmi if his trial went ahead, according to the New York Daily News.

Federal investigators believe al Muhajiroun once had a branch in Queens, N.Y, and a law-enforcement official says there were indications that some supporters might stage a noisy protest if Hashmi's trial went ahead as scheduled on Wednesday. With his guilty plea, his supporters are likely to be disappointed.

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Queens Terror Suspect Pleads Guilty on Eve of Scheduled Trial | World