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British Terrorism Suspect Linked to Alleged Plot to Attack US Navy - 2004-08-06

Prosecutors here in the United States have detailed what they say was yet another plot linked to al-Qaida to attack an American target. This, in connection with the arrest of a British man in London who U.S. authorities are now asking to be extradited to the United States. Arrests this week have also netted what U.S. and British officials describe as a key al-Qaida leader involved in selecting new American targets for attack.

As he appeared in court in London, prosecutors here in the United States were revealing details of Babar Ahmad's alleged attempt to incite jihad, and work to raise funds through American websites to support terrorism.

In documents unsealed by federal prosecutor Kevin O'Connor Friday, authorities disclosed the 30-year-old Briton of Pakistani descent had obtained a classified U.S. Navy document detailing plans by a battle group operating against the Taleban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

"That these ships might be attacked since they quote 'have nothing to stop a small craft with rocket propelled grenades, except their stinger missiles.' In addition, the document specifically noted that the battle group was tasked both with enforcing sanctions against Iraq and with conducting operations against Afghanistan and al-Qaida," said Mr. O'Conner.

Prosecutors are now asking Britain to extradite the suspect to face terrorism-related charges in the United States, a move his lawyer objected to, saying there is insufficient evidence.

U.S. authorities are also interested in another man arrested in Britain this week whom they describe as one of the most important al-Qaida figures detained in the war on terrorism so far. Abu Issa al-Hindi is alleged to have directed surveillance of key government and financial landmarks in Washington, New York and New Jersey. While that surveillance was believed to have been carried out before the 9/11 attacks, U.S. officials only learned about it recently through computer discs recovered in Pakistan.

Speaking to a convention of minority journalists Friday, President Bush defended his administration's decision to raise the terror alert level in New York and Washington, despite the fact that some of the information that led to it was at least three years old.

"When we find out intelligence that is real that threatens people, I believe we have an obligation as government to share that with people," said Mr. Bush. "And imagine what would happen if we didn't share that information with the people in those buildings if something were to happen. Then what would you write?"

Much of the information that has triggered the new alerts in the United States has been obtained from suspects arrested in Pakistan. Friday, Pakistani Interior Ministry spokesman Abdur Rauf Chaudry told reporters more than 200 people in all have been detained in the past two weeks with the United States paying cash for several.

"No details (are) available but some amount has been paid [by the United States]," he said.

U.S. officials have said they believe al-Qaida or groups sympathetic to it are working to strike the United States sometime between now and Election Day in November.