U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement removes convicted terrorism supporter to U.K.

BOSTON — A British man who pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorism in U.S. federal court was deported Aug. 20 by officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

Syaed Talha Ahsan, 34, was escorted to London by ERO officers and turned over to British authorities. On July 16, Chief U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall sentenced Ahsan, to 96 months of imprisonment, time already served. Ahsan assisted with the operation of “Azzam Publications,” which maintained a then-pre-eminent series of websites which provided extensive material support to terrorist groups, including the Taliban. An investigation by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) further revealed the material support occurred when the Taliban was harboring Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, and allowed them to have a base of operations in Afghanistan from which they could plan terrorist attacks directed at the United States.

Ahsan was indicted in June 2006, and has been detained since his arrest by British authorities July 19, 2006. Following lengthy extradition proceedings, Ahsan was extradited to Connecticut in October 2012. On Dec. 10, 2013, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and one count of providing material support to terrorists.

At the time of their pleas, Ahsan specifically agreed in writing that he pleaded guilty freely and voluntarily, and without intimidation or coercion of any kind, because he was guilty of conspiring to provide and providing material support to terrorists.

For a period of time, the Azzam websites were made possible through the unwitting services of a web-hosting company headquartered in Trumbull, Connecticut. While the websites were in operation, the Taliban allowed territory under its control in Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven and base of operations for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, who had committed and threatened to continue committing acts of violence against the United States and its nationals, including the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in Africa, the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In 2001, Azzam Publications also posted on its websites an article entitled “What You Can Do to Help the Taliban,” which provided detailed instructions on how to raise, transport and personally deliver amounts over US$ 20,000 in cash to the Taliban government via its consulate in Pakistan. Azzam Publications solicited personnel and physical items, including military suits and gas masks, for the Taliban. This solicitation appeared on the Azzam websites following Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida’s having claimed responsibility for the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and was intended to assist the Taliban defend against a claimed forthcoming attack by the United States in retaliation for al-Qaida’s attack on the U.S.S. Cole.

Azzam Publications’ support continued even after Sept. 11, 2001, when U.S. forces were actively fighting Taliban and al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan, and after Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida had claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks. For example, from at least the fall of 2001 through mid-2002, the Azzam sites posted an “Appeal to Pakistanis All over the World,” which, post-9/11, encouraged Pakistanis worldwide to travel to and fight against “the Crusaders” in Afghanistan, and provided detailed instructions for Pakistani nationals to obtain a Pakistani visa under false pretenses. On a linked page discussing the fighting in Afghanistan, the Azzam site also posted a bar graph comparing casualties at the World Trade Center with casualties in Afghanistan.