Hassan Abujihaad and would-be mall jihadist Derrick Shareef once lived together. And that, apparently, is why Abujihaad has now been charged, but the connections are murky. “Sailor Started E-Mail on Terror, U.S. Says,” by Jennifer Medina for the New York Times:
HARTFORD, March 8 “” When Hassan Abujihaad was a sailor on a United States Navy destroyer in 2001, federal prosecutors said, he began exchanging e-mail messages with a man who ran an Internet site seeking to raise money for terrorist causes.
Hassan Abujihaad served on the guided missile destroyer Benfold.
Mr. Abujihaad initially contacted the administrators of the Web site to buy DVDs that promoted Muslim separatist fighting in Chechnya and elsewhere, the authorities said. But in 2001, he shared information about his ship’s whereabouts and vulnerabilities, according to a complaint filed by the Department of Justice.
Now, Mr. Abujihaad, 31, of Phoenix is accused of supporting terrorism with the intent to kill American citizens and with transmitting classified information to unauthorized recipients. He was arrested and charged in Phoenix on Wednesday, and next he will be transferred to Connecticut, where his case is part of larger investigation of a suspected terrorist network based in Britain.
According to the United States attorney”s office in New Haven, the Web site that Mr. Abujihaad contacted was run by Babar Ahmad, a British citizen. In 2004, Mr. Ahmad was indicted by a federal grand jury for arranging the purchase of potential terrorist tools. He is scheduled to be extradited from Britain, but has appealed the extradition several times. Mr. Ahmad’s Web sites were apparently registered with an Internet service provider based in Trumbull, Conn.
When Mr. Ahmad was arrested, investigators said that they had found e-mail records from 2001 detailing how some Navy ships going through the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf could be singled out for an attack. At the time, Mr. Abujihaad was serving as a signal man on the guided missile destroyer Benfold and had access to information about its movements.
In one e-mail message sent in 2001, about six months after the bomb attack on the American destroyer Cole in 2000 off Yemen, Mr. Abujihaad indicated that the attack had provoked “psychological anxiety” among the military, according to an affidavit by Agent David Dillon of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“I want to let it be known that I have been in the Middle East for almost a total of three months,” wrote Mr. Abujihaad, the F.B.I. affidavit states. “For these three months you can truly see the effects of this psychological warfare taking a toll on junior and high ranking officers.”
In another e-mail message, Mr. Abujihaad wrote to Mr. Ahmad encouraging him to “keep up with the dawah,” referring to Islamic missionary work, the affidavit says.
Mr. Abujihaad is also accused of giving information that enabled Mr. Ahmad to create maps of Navy battle groups and make plans for attacking them using small weapons.
When Mr. Ahmad was arrested three years ago, the authorities announced that he had been communicating with a Navy enlistee, but did not release Mr. Abujihaad’s name, although it came out in later news reports.
Indeed, in August 2004, we posted a San Diego Union Tribune story about an “ex-San Diego sailor” who was told by Ahmad, “keep up the dawah and the psychological warfare,” but his name was not given. Why doesn’t the Times give the full quote — you see above that they quote Ahmad simply as saying, “Keep up the dawah.” Are they shying away from linking Islamic proselytizing and psychological warfare, even though a Muslim made that link?
Anyway, if investigators knew Abujihaad’s name at that time, why did they wait until Shareef’s revelation to charge him?
Then in December 2006 came the arrest of a 22-year-old man, Derrick Shareef, in Genoa, Ill., who was accused of planning an attack on a mall. Mr. Shareef and Mr. Abujihaad apparently lived together at the time Mr. Ahmad was arrested, according to the affidavit. After reading the news of that arrest, Mr. Abujihaad became very upset, saying, “I think this is about me,” Mr. Shareef told investigators.
You can read about Shareef’s own planned jihad attack on a mall in Chicago here.
Mr. Abujihaad enlisted in the Navy at age 19 and was on active duty from 1998 until 2002, when he was honorably discharged, according to the affidavit. He spent three and half years aboard the Benfold. After his discharge, he apparently lived in Arizona for several years, working for a parcel delivery service.
So apparently it wasn’t until Shareef spilled the beans that investigators decided to charge Abujihaad for sending the treasonous emails to Ahmad. What took them so long? Apparently they knew his name before that, since, according to this story, it had leaked out in some reports after Ahmad’s arrest.