British suspect 'was found with US naval documents'

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The Independent Online

A British man whom the United States wants to extradite to face terrorist charges was found with documents detailing US naval forces in the Gulf, a court heard yesterday. Babar Ahmad, 30, is also accused of raising money through internet sites in the US for militants in Chechnya and Afghanistan. During the extradition hearing at Bow Street magistrates' court yesterday it emerged that Mr Ahmad was arrested in London by anti-terrorist police nine months ago but was released without charge. He was held as a suspected terrorist in a raid at his home in Tooting, south London, on 3 December. Following his release six days later, he complained that he had been assaulted by police.

Mr Ahmad was re-arrested on Thursday following a request from the US authorities for his extradition. The warrant says he solicited money for "acts of terrorism in Chechnya and Afghanistan" from US-based websites and through e-mails to US citizens.

He also ran several pro-Jihad websites, two of which appealed for Muslims to use every means at their disposal to train for Jihad, it was claimed. He had e-mail links to one of the men suspected of planning the theatre bombing in Moscow in October 2002, it was also alleged.

If extradited and found guilty, he is likely to be given a jail sentence of 20 years to life. "I don't want to go," he told the court after Judge Christopher Pratt asked if he were willing to be extradited. He was remanded in custody to reappear before the court next Friday.

The US is seeking his extradition to face four charges relating to alleged offences between 1998 and the end of last year. Rosemary Fernandes, appearing on behalf of the US government, described how, in December last year, when Mr Ahmad was arrested, he had a document which detailed the plans of a US naval battle group operating in the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf in April 2001.

"The documents went on to describe the battle group's vulnerability to a terrorist attack and provided specific examples of how the ships might be attacked ... The document included the specific assignments of each ship," she said.

Ms Fernandes said Mr Ahmad was also alleged to have links to an e-mail account linked to Chechen mujahedin leaders who planned the Moscow theatre attack, and was a US-designated terrorist. She said he was also alleged to have operated Jihad websites appealing for Muslims to "use every means at their disposal to undertake training for Jihad".

Carolina Guiloff, defending, said that her client had been assaulted in December last year during a police raid on his home, and assaulted again in a police van. She said that after he was arrested he was held for six days before being released without charge, but claimed that he was now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Meanwhile, a 25-year-old man arrested in a series of raids against a suspected al-Qa'ida cell on Tuesday was released last night without charge. Police were continuing to question the 11 other men arrested. They have been granted an extension to custody time limits, until tomorrow evening.