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Webmaster held on terror charges

Pro-jihad sites helped funnel money and manpower to Islamic extremists, U.S. authorities say.

The publisher of two pro-jihad Web sites has been arrested in London on suspicion of terrorism-related activities, U.S. investigators said on Friday.

Babar Ahmad, 30, was remanded in custody by a London magistrates court on Friday on a U.S. extradition warrant. American authorities are seeking to try Ahmad on five federal charges, including material support of terrorism and prohibited support of the Taliban, according to a U.S. Department of Justice official.

If found guilty, Ahmad would face more than 20 years in federal prison.

Ahmad is accused of raising money for Islamic militants through two American-based Web sites that he operated, and Azzam was hosted by Internet service providers in Nevada and Connecticut, and Qoqaz was run outside the United States, the Justice Department said.

Ahmad hid his connection to the sites using encrypted data and aliases, such as the name of his college roommate, according to a 37-page affidavit outlining the charges that was filed this week in U.S. District Court in Connecticut.

Between Feb. 29, 2000, and Dec. 17, 2001, both Web sites urged Muslims to "use every means at their disposal to undertake military and physical training for jihad" and told them to take up physical and firearms training, the Justice Department said. The sites also provided "explicit instructions" about how to raise funds and deliver them to the Taliban. It directed couriers to carry letters saying the money they carried was from charitable donations in the United States, the agency said.

U.S. investigators said they have uncovered e-mails on an Azzam account that link Ahmad to an unnamed Chechen Mujahedeen leader suspected of taking part in a Moscow theater attack in October 2002. In addition, they found an e-mail message dated July 2001 from a U.S. Naval enlistee on active duty that "expressed anti-American sentiment and offered praise for the Mujahedeen," the Justice Department said.

British authorities had apparently been investigating Ahmad since 2003, when they recovered authentic U.S. naval battle plans while searching a location connected to the Web site publisher. Among other things, the documents describe the naval battle group's vulnerability to specific types of terrorist attacks, the Justice Department said.