The Edge of Terrorism
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|Jim Kouri||June 20th 2012|
Brooklyn-born Wesam El-Hanafi pleaded guilty to one count of providing material support to a terrorist group and one count of criminal conspiracy. The Manhattan federal prosecutors in the case agreed with the defendant's defense attorneys to accept a guilty plea and recommended a 20-year prison sentence.
El-Hanafi told U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood that in July 2009, he had a conversation with others in which they discussed contacting al Qaeda operatives.
El-Hanafi was arrested in April 2010, along with Sabirhan Hasanoff, 36, a dual U.S.-Australian citizen. Hasanoff had already pleaded guilty on June 4 to the same crimes. The two Islamists, who were arrested overseas and brought to the United States to be prosecuted, were unaware that law enforcement officers had them under surveillance.
According to a law enforcement source close to the investigation, El-Hanafi is a well-educated computer engineer, His associates and friends described as being smart and sophisticated,
Prosecutors noted that El-Hanafi purchased seven digital watches over the Internet from Amazon.com in order to send them to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) members fighting the military and police in Yemen.
A New York Police Department bomb technician explained to the Law Enforcement Examiner that the alarms in those Casio watches are often used to detonate improvised explosive devices (IEDs). But El-Hanfi's defense counsel claimed the seven digital watches were to be gifts for his family.
At a court hearing at the time of his arrest in 2010, a federal prosecutor accused El-Hanafi of traveling to Yemen in February 2008 in order to meet with al-Qaeda commanders.
El-Hanafi admitted eventually that once in Yemen, al-Qaeda terrorists covered his head and face with a black hood and he was then transported to a building where he met with supposed senior members of al Qaeda, to whom he pledged allegiance, the prosecution stated.
According to a detective with the NYPD's Joint Terrorism Task Force, in the months before his apprehension, El-Hanafi's name had been on a U.S. "no-fly list."
In February 2010 he contacted U.S. authorities in the United Arab Emirates to find out why he was barred from flying and was arrested shortly afterward.
El-Hanafi is due back in court in October but a sentencing date has not been set because of claims that he's suffering with ill health due a blood clot in his leg.
Jim Kouri writes for the Examiner, from where this article in adapted