British engineer sentenced in U.S. on terror charge

With credit for time served, British engineer Babar Ahmad could be freed from a U.S. prison soon.
By Frances Burns  |  July 16, 2014 at 4:35 PM
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NEW HAVEN, Conn., July 16 (UPI) -- A British engineer who designed websites that built support for the Taliban and other Muslim groups was sentenced Wednesday to 12 1/2 years in a U.S. prison.

But Babar Ahmad, 40, could be released soon. At a hearing in New Haven, Conn., U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall gave him credit for 10 years already served, mostly in Britain while he fought extradition to the United States.

"It is the court's conclusion, and I hope I am not wrong, that Mr. Ahmad has a low likelihood of recidivism," the judge said. "This is a good person who does not and will not act in the future to harm other people if they are different from him. He's not likely to engage in criminal activity again."

Ahmad and his associate, Syed Talha Ahsan, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and support of terrorism. Ahsan, who is also a British citizen from a Pakistani family, is to be sentenced later.

Ahmad, who worked in information technology at Imperial College in London, built what became known as the Azzam network. He started in the 1990s, initially using the sites to support Muslim fighters in Bosnia and Chechnya.

The sites broadcast interviews with a top commander in Chechnya and with Osama bin Laden's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Osama's 1999 declaration of war against the United States.

"The reason the website was so credible was that it had real access," said Evan Kohlmann, a government consultant on terrorism. "It wasn't just reprocessing material that it had gotten elsewhere. It was generating original jihadist content and it was incredibly powerful material."

In a statement to the court Wednesday, Ahmad admitted that he tried to generate support for the Taliban after the Sept. 21, 2001, terrorist attacks. He said he was deceived by bin Laden, who denied responsibility, and confused about the relationship between al-Qaida and the Taliban.

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