London man faces life imprisonment in US for Al-Qaida links

Reuters/Jenevieve Robbins
A web designer from London is facing a possible life sentence in the US, following his extradition. He was accused of working as a propagandist for Al-Qaida and training to commit terrorist acts.

Prosecutors announced on Tuesday that Minh Quang Pham is charged with the possession and use of an AK-47 rifle “in furtherance of crimes of violence,” and for receiving training and providing support to Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemeni branch of the terror group.

The Vietnamese citizen allegedly boasted he had “traveled to Yemen in order to join AQAP, and to wage jihad on behalf of AQAP,” according to US authorities.

Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara said on Tuesday that Pham’s support for the group began after he “surreptitiously traveled from the UK to Yemen in late 2010.”

Bharara said Pham told his wife in South East London he was travelling to Ireland.

Mr Pham is also accused of contributing to Al-Qaida’s English language magazine ‘Inspire.’ Prosecutors say the publication may have helped the Boston Marathon bombers to make explosives.

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“During the half year he spent in Yemen, Pham allegedly vowed to wage jihad, swore bayat (loyalty), and provided material support to high-level AQAP members, almost always brandishing a Kalashnikov rifle,” Bharara said.

The Londoner is reported to have converted to Islam after moving to the UK as a boy. He was known as “Amin” to Al-Qaida members. Prosecutors claim he worked with two now deceased American members of the organization.

The two were reportedly killed in a US drone attack in Yemen in 2011.

The prosecution alleges a witness spoke to radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Inspire editor Samir Khan and “understood from them that Pham was providing valuable assistance.”

Pham was detained at Heathrow Airport after he returned to the UK in 2011, and was, according to the prosecutors, “found to be in possession of a live round of .762 caliber armor-piercing ammunition, which is consistent with ammunition that is used in a Kalashnikov assault rifle.”

He is also alleged to have been carrying computer files identical to those owned by a suspect who later became a US government witness.

The 32-year-old was arrested in the UK in 2012 after an indictment was issued in New York, but he challenged his extradition, which was delayed until last month. A judge ruled against him, leading to his deportation.

He is charged with five counts, including conspiracy to provide material support to AQAP, conspiracy to receive military-type training from AQAP, receiving military-type training from AQAP, and the “use, carrying and possession of a firearm (machine gun) in furtherance of crimes of violence.”

If convicted on all counts, he faces a life sentence, and would be made to serve a minimum of 40 years.

The case continues.