WASHINGTON (AFP) – A former US Navy sailor was arrested Wednesday for supplying a pro-Al-Qaeda website with information on US ship movements and vulnerabilities, the Justice Department said.
Hassan Abujihaad, formerly known as Paul R. Hall, was arrested in Phoenix, Arizona on charges that he had supplied information on a US Navy battle group involved in missions against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban to London-based Azzam Publications and the Azzam.com website, the department said in a statement.
Abujihaad was being held in Phoenix for transfer to New Haven, Connecticut, where he will be prosecuted, it said.
The charges are tied to a pending terrorism case involving two British nationals linked to Azzam who are currently facing a US request for extradition from Britain.
The Azzam website, which promoted jihad and support for the mujahideen fighters and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, had been hosted on servers in Connecticut.
The Justice Department statement said that while Abujihaad was serving in the Middle East aboard the ship USS Benfold in 2000-2001, he supplied Azzam with classified information on his battle group’s movements between California and the Gulf.
The documents he supplied included a discussion of the perceived vulnerabilities of the battle group, which at the time was on a mission to enforce sanctions against the Afghan Taliban regime and undertake operations against Al-Qaeda.
Charges against Abujihaad, who left the navy in January 2002, include providing material support and resources to Azzam knowing these would be used to attack Americans, and providing US defense secrets to unauthorized people.
The charges could bring him 25 years in jail.
The Justice Department said that in 2003 British police searching the London residence of Babar Ahmad, one of the figures behind Azzam, discovered a computer disk carrying the classified US Navy information.
In a further investigation another Azzam-connected figure, Syed Talha Ahsan, was shown to have accessed and made use of the password-protected file.
Investigators then found e-mails between Abujihaad and Azzam in which the US sailor made a small donation, expressed enmity toward the United States and praised Osama Bin laden, and praised the October 2006 attack on the USS Cole as a “martyrdom operation.”
“Keep up … the psychological warefare (sic),” said the Azzam response, according to the Justice Department statement.
Ahmad and Ahsan were indicted in 2004 by US authorities in Connecticut for conspiring to provide material support and resources to persons engaged in terrorism, and were arrested in London, where they now face possible extradition to the United States.