TERRORIST Haroon Aswat faced “overwhelming evidence” of his role in a plot to train Jihadi fighters for Afghanistan.
Prosecutors in the USA laid out a trail which hinged on a ledger containing Batley Carr-raised Aswat’s name.
It was found in September 2002 at a safe house in Pakistan used by al-Qaeda’s operations chief Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Aswat conspired with three other men to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon in 1999. They were Abu Hamza, of London’s Finsbury Park Mosque, and Ouassama Kassir and Earnest James Ujaama. This was for preparation of “jihad” in Afghanistan and included military-style training.
Ujamma scouted locations and sent a fax from the USA to Hamza in London stating a property he found in Bly, Oregon, “looks just like Afghanistan”.
Aswat and Kassir, who both lived in London, were directed by Hamza to help Ujamma. On November 26 1999 the pair arrived in New York and then travelled to the remote Dog Cry Ranch in Bly, Oregon. It was chosen partly because it was in a “pro-militia and firearms state”. The group was also “stockpiling weapons and ammunition”.
But the only activity was weapons training including target practice for about 15 people.
Court papers said from there Kassir and Aswat went to Seattle, where they lived at a mosque for about two months.
Kassir, in Aswat’s presence, provided men from the mosque with additional terrorist training lessons.
This included how to make an AK-47 rifle fully automatic and how to launch a grenade.
Aswat then went to the al Farq training camp in Afghanistan, which was al-Qaeda’s main terrorist training base.
Prosecutors said recruits were trained in topics including military tactics, weapons and explosives. Aswat stayed in Afghanistan until after September 11 2001 and subsequent invasion of that country by allied forces.
Having left for Pakistan, he met two of the July 7 2005 terrorists, whom he first knew at the Finsbury Park Mosque in London.
One of the two he met was ringleader Mohammed Siddique Khan, who had lived in Thornhill Lees.
Aswat, named as a suspect in the London suicide bombings, was found in Zambia later in 2005 and extradited to the UK.
Upon his arrest in Zambia he was found in possession of a computer which contained the following:
• A book on survival skills in the event of a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon detonation;
• The “Anarchist Cookbook”, which contained instructions on how to make bombs and hack into computers;
• A hand-to-hand combat instruction manual, which noted that its purpose was to “teach you how you can kill another person with your own two hands”;
• The “Close Combat Textbook”;
• The “Big Book of Mischief”, with detailed and extensive instructions on how to make explosives.
Prosecutors amassed compelling case
PROSECUTORS in the USA welcomed the 20-year sentence for Haroon Aswat.
He was extradicted from the UK on October 21 last year after a long battle that went to the European Court of Human Rights.
US Attorney Preet Bharara said Aswat conspired to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon. Aswat faced “overwhelming evidence” against him, including that he went to Afghanistan to receive training from al-Qaeda.
Mr Bharara said the sentence is “... further proof that justice in international terrorism cases continues to be delivered in American civilian courts.”
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes state and local police, led the probe. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P Carlin said authorities had worked for more than a decade to bring Aswat to justice.
He said: “Haroon Aswat provided material support to al-Qaeda and plotted to establish a terrorist training camp on American soil.
“... his sentence is the result of the tireless and persistent efforts of law enforcement to hold accountable all those who wish to harm the United States, whether at home or abroad, no matter how long it takes.”