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Ashcroft Announces Arrest of Muslim Cleric Abu Hamza

Aired May 27, 2004 - 10:04   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go live to New York City. Here is Attorney General John Ashcroft.

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: ... George Toscas, who's the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice, and Robert Baylor (ph) of the Southern District of New York. And they are with us this morning and I'm grateful to them for joining us.

This morning, I am announcing the arrest in Great Britain of Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, also known as Abu Hamza. Hamza is the imam of what was known as the Finsbury Park Mosque in London prior to the closure of that mosque by British authorities.

At the request of the United States, Hamza was arrested earlier today by the metropolitan police of New Scotland Yard.

He is being held on terrorism charges that were filed in the United States. Hamza faces charges of conspiracy to take hostages and hostage-taking in connection with an attack in Yemen in December of 1998. The hostage taking resulted in the death of four hostages.

Hamza is also charged with conspiracy to provide and conceal material support to terrorists, and providing and concealing material support and resources to terrorists and a foreign terrorist organization, specifically al Qaeda.

These charges are related to Hamza's alleged attempts in late 1999 and early 2000 to set up a training camp for violent jihad in Bly, Oregon, here in the United States.

Hamza is also charged with providing material support to al Qaeda for facilitating violent jihad in Afghanistan, as well as conspiracy to supply goods and services to the Taliban.

ASHCROFT: The maximum sentence for hostage-taking, the charges directed toward Hamza, is death penalty or life in imprisonment. Hamza also faces a maximum sentence of up to 100 years in prison on the additional charges contained in the indictment.

We are actively seeking Hamza's extradition from Great Britain to face justice in our courts on these serious charges. An 11-count indictment was unsealed today that was returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York in April of this year. An indictment contains allegations, of course, and defendants are presumed innocent under our law until and unless proven in a court of law.

The indictment alleges that from about December 23, 1998, until December 29, 1998, Hamza and others plotted to take hostages in an attack in Yemen. According to the indictment, Hamza provided a satellite phone to the leader of the faction of the Islamic Army of Aden and other co-conspirators in a hostage-taking plot.

The indictment alleges that Hamza received three calls from that phone to his home on December 27th, one day before the terrorists stormed a caravan of vehicles containing 16 tourists, including two Americans, and then taking them hostage.

The indictment further alleges that Hamza spoke to the co- conspirators after the attack, agreed to act as an intermediary for them, and ordered 500 British pounds worth of additional air time for the satellite phone being used by the terrorists.

On December 29th, in 1998, when the Yemeni military attempted to rescue the hostages, Hamza's terrorist co-conspirators used the hostages as human shields.

ASHCROFT: The military did overpower the terrorists, but four hostages were killed and several others were wounded.

The indictment further alleges that Hamza conspired with others in October of 1999 and provided support to create a training camp for violent jihad in Bly, Oregon.

The indictment alleges that on or about October the 25th, 1999, a co-conspirator communicated to Hamza that co-conspirators were stockpiling weapons and ammunition in the United States. It is also alleged that around the same time, Hamza received a proposal by fax regarding the creation of the Bly jihad training camp.

The indictment also charges Hamza with material support violations for facilitating violent jihad in Afghanistan. The indictment alleges that one of Hamza's co-conspirators, a U.S. citizen, traveled from London to New York and raised money for Hamza's mosque. Those funds were deposited into a mosque account that was later used to fund the travel, at the request of Hamza, of two co- conspirators to Afghanistan.

Later, in March or April of 2001, the indictment alleges Hamza sent directions to one of these co-conspirators to seek out a front- line commander at the training camp for violent jihad in Afghanistan.

Finally, the indictment alleges that Hamza conspired to supply goods and services to the Taliban. It is alleged that from about the spring of 2000 until September 6th of 2001 Hamza posted messages on the supporters of sharia Web site, urging his followers to donate money, goods and services to Taliban-sponsored programs in Taliban- controlled areas of Afghanistan.

ASHCROFT: The investigation that led to today's arrest was conducted by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the joint terrorism task force in New York City, including the New York City Police Department, with the assistance of other FBI and other federal agencies across the country and around the world.

And I want to thank Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney David Kelly of the Southern District of New York for their leadership on this case.

The investigation in today's arrest also received substantial assistance from the Metropolitan Police at Scotland Yard -- New Scotland Yard, pardon me, and the Crown Prosecution Service in Great Britain. I thank them for their dedication and their ongoing efforts in the war -- the international effort in the war against terror.

This war against terrorism is being fought on many fronts. It is a war where innocent lives are endangered, not only by the terrorist who carries the bomb but by those who recruit and equip the terrorists.

As today's arrest makes clear, the Department of Justice is bringing the full weight of the criminal law against those who support the activities of terrorists. The United States will use every diplomatic, legal and administrative tool to pursue and to prosecute those who facilitate terrorist activity and we will not stop until the war on terrorism is won.

ASHCROFT: I am grateful for this opportunity now to call to the podium Pat D'Amuro of the FBI here in New York.



The investigation which led to today's arrest in the United Kingdom of Abu Hamza is a shining example of cooperative law enforcement on both the national and international scale. Close working relationships among law enforcement and intelligence agencies are critical to the success in the war on terrorism.

At the front of this effort once again is the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force. Created 24 years ago in partnership with the NYPD, it has become the model for the other 83 joint terrorism task forces across the country and, along with the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, has been at the center of almost every major investigation of al Qaeda and its allied groups undertaken by our government over the past 10 years.

The investigative success of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force...

KAGAN: We've been listening in to Attorney General John Ashcroft announcing the arrest in Great Britain of a Muslim cleric, Abu Hamza. He is charged when he will eventually be extradited here to the United States, including a number of crimes, hostage taking in Yemen, aiding al Qaeda, and trying to get goods and services to members of the Taliban.


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