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2 U.S. men charged with aiding al-Qaida

NEW YORK, May 1 (UPI) -- A computer engineer and an accountant, both with New York roots, have been charged with providing al-Qaida technical advice and other support, officials said.

Wesam El-Hanafi, the 33-year-old computer engineer, and Sabirhan Hasanoff, 34, the accountant, were brought from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Alexandria, Va., where a federal magistrate judge ordered both be detained Friday.

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El-Hanafi, an American citizen who was born in Brooklyn, and Hasanoff, a dual citizen of the United States and Australia, were to be transferred to Manhattan for further proceedings, the U.S. attorney's office in New York said.

"Wesam El-Hanafi and Sabirhan Hasanoff conspired to modernize al-Qaida by providing computer systems expertise and other goods and services," Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.

Prosecutors allege in El-Hanafi traveled to Yemen in 2008 and "swore an oath of allegiance to al-Qaida, received instructions on operational security measures and assignments to perform for al-Qaida." He later carried out assignments, the indictment said, without specifying what assignments.

In June 2008, the indictment says, El-Hanafi directed an unnamed co-conspirator "to perform various tasks for al-Qaida." The document does not specify which tasks.

In April 2009, El-Hanafi bought seven Casio digital watches over the Internet "on behalf of al-Qaida" and had them shipped to his Brooklyn home, the indictment said. Watches have been used to make improvised explosive devices.

The indictment said Hasanoff received $50,000 from the co-conspirator in 2007 and traveled to New York and performed unspecified assignments for al-Qaida.

Both suspects attended New York public schools and Baruch College in New York, the New York Daily News said. El-Hanafi had worked for Lehman Bros., Hasanoff for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

They were each charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Both face as much as 15 years in prison if convicted.

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