Al-Qa'ida 'online propaganda expert' arrested in Britain


A London man has been arrested on suspicion of helping to design and publish online propaganda for an al-Qa'ida offshoot behind an electronic magazine credited with spreading the group’s ideology and its terrorist tactics around the globe.

Minh Quang Pham, 29, who is of Vietnamese origin, was detained by Scotland Yard officers last week on an extradition warrant from the America, where he faces a minimum sentence of 40 years’ imprisonment if he is convicted of all the charges against him.

Also known as Amin, he is accused of travelling to Yemen in December 2010 and taking an oath of allegiance to al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an offshoot of Osama Bin Laden’s organisation now regarded by western intelligence as the most threatening splinter group of the Islamist extremist movement.

In the latest example of British and American counter-terrorism agencies tracking alleged “clean skins”, suspected terrorists without previous known links to extremist groups, Mr Pham is understood to have been held in immigration detention prior to his formal arrest last Friday. The Yard declined to comment on his nationality or where in Britain he was arrested.

An indictment filed on behalf of the FBI claims that Mr Pham, a computer expert who had been living in the New Cross area of south London, spent six months in Yemen receiving weapons training and providing “expert advice and assistance in photography and graphic design of media” for AQAP.

Janice Fedarcyk, assistant director of the FBI’s New York office, said: “The defendant not only allegedly pledged an oath to al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula, and received military training from AQAP. He also helped design and disseminate its propaganda.”

It is unclear whether Mr Pham is being accused of direct involvement in the creation of Inspire, a highly-polished online English language magazine which mixes Koranic analysis and jihadist propaganda with descriptions of how make a homemade bomb and tips on encryption.

Sources close to the US investigation said Mr Pham, who is being held at a top security unit in south London’s Belmarsh Prison, is alleged to have met numerous senior AQAP figures including the group’s then leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, who is thought to have come up with the idea of Inspire, and the magazine’s editor, Samir Khan.

The men, who were both American citizens, were killed in a CIA drone strike last year after a series of attacks and spectacular near-misses associated with AQAP, including the plot to smuggle a bomb concealed in underwear onto an airliner that was disrupted by a British agent this May.

Al-Awlaki, whose group was also behind two bombs hidden in photocopier toner cartridges intercepted in Britain and Dubai in 2010, preached via the internet and influenced a string of so-called “lone wolf” terrorists, including Major Nidal Hasan, the American army officer who murdered 13 people on a Texas military base, and Roshonara Choudry, the student who stabbed Labour MP Stephen Timms in his east London surgery.

Inspire, which is now in its ninth issue and promotes itself as “the first magazine to be issued by the al-Qa'ida organisation in the English language”, is part of a wider strategy by AQAP to promulgate its doctrine and influence single attackers rather than rely on conventional terrorist cells.

Material published includes an article entitled “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom” and an illustrated guide on how to handle and fire a handgun and other weapons.

According to the American authorities, Mr Pham was engaged in a range of activities while in Yemen and was spotted toting a Kalashnikov rifle in March or April last year. The indictment claims that the Londoner and others provided AQAP with “personnel, property, services, facilities, communications equipment, expert advice and assistance, training and weapons”.

Mr Pham was arrested last July at Heathrow airport after arriving from Bahrain.

In a statement, the Yard said: “Minh Quang Pham has been arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service Extradition Unit. He was arrested in connection with alleged terrorism offences in the Republic of Yemen.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Ed Miliband and David Cameron are neck and neck in the polls
election 2015Armando Iannucci: on how British politics is broken
Life and Style
Great minds like Einstein don't think alike
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power