Briton sentenced to 12.5 years in US for Taleban support

NEW YORK (AFP) - A US judge on Wednesday sentenced a British former website operator to 12.5 years in prison for conspiracy to provide and for providing equipment and personnel to the Taleban.

Babar Ahmad, 40, was extradited to the United States in October 2012 on charges of supporting not just the Taleban, but Chechen fighters and other related terror groups. He initially pleaded not guilty but in December changed his plea on the first two counts of the indictment - conspiring to provide and providing material support to the former Taleban regime in Afghanistan.

Judge Janet Hall sentenced him in a US federal court in Connecticut, which heard the case because websites he ran in London relied for a time on a Connecticut hosting company.

"Ahmad received 150 months of imprisonment," a court spokesman said after the hearing.

Ahmad has been in custody ever since his arrest in Britain in 2004. He was extradited to the United States with radical cleric Abu Hamza, who was convicted in New York in May and faces life behind bars.

Ahmad was accused of supporting terrorism by running the websites, which were produced under the name Azzam Publications and which operated from 1996 to 2002. He recruited and arranged for would-be fighters to travel to Afghanistan to train for jihad, and admitted to soliciting items, including military suits and gas masks, for the Taleban.

US prosecutors described the case as an early example of using the Internet to radicalise others and to promote terror groups.

The Taleban, in power from 1996 until late 2001, provided shelter to Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. They were toppled by the 2001 US-led offensive that followed the 9/11 attacks, but regrouped and today fight against the Western-backed Afghan government and a NATO combat mission.

Ahmad worked to secure GPS devices, Kevlar helmets, night vision goggles, ballistic vests and camouflage combat suits. A search of his home in Britain in December 2003 showed he also had previously classified plans regarding the deployment of a US naval battle group from California to the Middle East.

In 2001, Azzam Publications posted an article entitled "What You Can Do to Help the Taleban," which provided detailed instructions on how to raise and deliver amounts over $20,000 in cash to the Taleban via its consulate in Pakistan.