IHT : Former U.S sailor in terror case discussed attacking military personnel, prosecutor says

Monday, July 23, 2007

Former U.S sailor in terror case discussed attacking military personnel, prosecutor says

The Associated Press | July 23, 2007

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut: A former U.S. Navy sailor charged with supporting terrorism by disclosing secret information about the location of Navy ships and the best ways to attack them also discussed attacking military personnel and recruiting stations, prosecutors disclosed Monday.

Hassan Abujihaad discussed sniper attacks on military personnel last year and in 2003 or 2004 discussed attacking military recruitment sites, federal prosecutors said.

Abujihaad, who worked in a UPS warehouse in Phoenix, is accused in a case that began in Connecticut and followed a suspected terrorist network across the country and into Europe and the Middle East. The Internet service provider where the investigation started was based in Connecticut.

Abujihaad is charged in the same case as Babar Ahmad, a British computer specialist arrested in 2004 and accused of running Web sites to raise money for terrorism. Ahmad is to be extradited to the U.S.

Prosecutors said it was unclear whether Abujihaad would face new charges based on the new alleged discussions. Prosecutors have told Abujihaad's attorneys that they may use the discussions to try to introduce evidence of uncharged conduct.

"It's an ongoing conspiracy to engage in attacks on U.S. military personnel," prosecutor Stephen Reynolds said in U.S. District Court.

Abujihaad's lawyers reacted skeptically.

"There's essentially allegations which in our view the government will have a tall task claiming there is a conspiracy out of that," said Robert Golger, one of Abujihaad's attorneys.

Abujihaad allegedly had the discussions with his former roommate, Derrick Shareef, 22, of Genoa, Illinois, who was accused of planning to use hand grenades to attack holiday shoppers at a mall in a separate case.

Abujihaad, 31, pleaded not guilty in April to charges he provided material support to terrorists with intent to kill U.S. citizens and disclosed classified information relating to national defense. He has been held without bail since his arrest in March in Phoenix.

During a search of Ahmad's computers, investigators discovered files containing classified information about the positions of U.S. Navy ships and discussing their susceptibility to attack, officials said.

Abujihaad exchanged e-mails with Ahmad while on active duty on the USS Benfold, a guided-missile destroyer, in 2000 and 2001, according to an FBI affidavit. In those e-mails, Abujihaad discussed naval briefings and praised Osama bin Laden and those who attacked the USS Cole in 2000, according to the affidavit.

Abujihaad's attorney, Dan LaBelle, has characterized the government's case against him as weak.

"They do not have an e-mail substantiating the claim that he sent this information," LaBelle said in May. "It simply doesn't follow that because he visited that Web site he gave them that information. They could have got it from other sources."

Reynolds has acknowledged there was no "forensic footprint" connecting Abujihaad to the documents detailing the positions of ships. But he disagreed the case was weak, saying Abujihaad made statements suggesting he was responsible for sending the document.

Abujihaad, who received an honorable discharge from the Navy in 2002, faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. His trial is expected to start early next year.