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Feds: Two New York men plead guilty to supporting al Qaeda

By Julia Greenberg, CNN
June 19, 2012 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Two U.S. citizens pleaded guilty to terror-related charges in New York
  • Indictment charged men with conspiring and providing material support to al Qaeda members
  • One man allegedly trained al Qaeda in "covert" Internet communication

New York (CNN) -- Two New York men pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to providing material support to al Qaeda, according to a statement from Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

Wesam El-Hanafi and Sabirhan Hasanoff, both U.S. citizens, pleaded guilty to providing "financial support, equipment, and technical advice to al Qaeda associates in Yemen and elsewhere, and to conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda," the statement said.

El-Hanafi, 37, and Hasanoff, 36, first appeared in federal court in April 2010. According to the statement, they were taken into U.S. custody following their arrests in the United Arab Emirates in 2010.

A federal indictment filed in April 2010 stated the men were "engaged in planning and perpetrating a federal crime of terrorism against the United States, citizens and residents of the United States, and their property," but it does not detail any specific plans for terrorist action.

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According to the statement, the pair first began conspiring with others "to support and receive assignments from al Qaeda" in 2007.

In the indictment, prosecutors alleged that in February 2008, El-Hanafi met with two members of al Qaeda in Yemen, where he received assignments and instructions on operational security measures after swearing an oath of allegiance to al Qaeda.

"Also while in Yemen, El-Hanafi instructed the members of al Qaeda on how to communicate covertly over the Internet in a manner that would avoid law enforcement detection," the U.S. attorney's statement said.

The indictment alleged that Hasanoff "performed assignments for al Qaeda" in New York City in August 2008. It provided no further details.

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It also said he received $50,000 in November 2007 from an unnamed co-conspirator who in June 2008 pledged allegiance to al Qaeda. That month, according to the indictment, El-Hanafi directed the co-conspirator to "perform tasks" for al Qaeda, and Hasanoff instructed him "not to fill his United States passport with stamps to retain the passport's value to al Qaeda."

The statement from the Southern District of New York further claims El-Hanafi and Hasanoff also helped finance the international terrorist organization, "by regularly sending money to al Qaeda through international wire transfers and through couriers."

"The pleas of these two avowed supporters of al Qaeda is a chilling reminder of the threat of homegrown terrorists and the unwavering vigilance that must be exercised so they can be thwarted -- as they were in this case," Bharara said in the statement.

El-Hanafi was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Hasanoff has dual citizenship in Australia and the United States. Both resided in Brooklyn, New York.

The two men each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Hasanoff's sentencing is scheduled for June 23. El-Hanafi is scheduled to be sentenced on October 22.

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