An Atlanta terrorism case which begins this week details the intricate threads behind several international terrorism investigations that were unfolding in 2005 and 2006 that had FBI officials and counterterrorism officials around the world on high alert due to multiple convergences in the U.S. and abroad.
The trial of Syed Haris Ahmed, a former Georgia Tech student, before a federal judge in a bench trial, weaves together several terrorism cases in the U.S., the United Kingdom and Canada and demonstrates how cyberspace has served as a key place for terrorist recruiting.
Ahmed, now 24 years-old, was arrested in March 2006, and his alleged accomplice Ehsanul Islam Sadequee was arrested in April of 2006 on charges that they provided material support to Lashkar e-Tayyiba, a Pakistani terrorist group. While Ahmed's trial will be decided by a federal judge, not a jury, Sadequee's jury case will go to trial this August.
The men's travels, the government alleges, took them to Canada in 2005, where they met with members of a Toronto terrorism cell that was under investigation by the FBI and Canadian security and intelligence services. In March 2005 the two traveled from the Atlanta area on a Greyhound bus and met with members of the Toronto group.
According to the indictment in the case, Ahmed and Sadequee discussed with the group, "strategic location in the United States that were suitable for terrorist attack including military bases and oil storage facilities and refineries. The government has also alleged Ahmed and Harris discussed planning to attack Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia.
A month after their visit to Canada, the Justice Department has contended that the two men recorded casing videos in and around Washington, DC in April 2005, "targets of potential terrorist attacks in the Washington, D.C., area, including the United States Capitol; the headquarters building of the World Bank in downtown Washington; the Masonic Temple in Alexandria, Virginia; and a group of large fuel storage tanks near I-95 in northern Virginia."
U.S. counterterrorism officials and federal law enforcement sources say that Ahmed and Sadequee sent the videos to Younis Tsouli, a British propaganda master who distributed jihadist materials and training videos on how to construct bombs all from his home in West London.
Tsouli was known on the Internet as "Irhabi007" or translated into Arabic "Terrorist007"; at the time of his arrest by British security services and Scotland Yard in October 2005, he was in possession of videos on constructing car bombs and the videos that Ahmed and Sadequee had filmed in Washington, DC, along with videos from Iraq and Afghanistan including brutal beheadings that circulated on websites worldwide.
Tsouli developed propaganda from Al Qaeda and other networks including for Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi and helped spread their messages on the internet. Authorities also believe Tsouli was in contact with the members of the Canadian group that Ahemed and Sadequee had met with, and what concerned some officials most was that Tsouli's propaganda was influencing numerous cells around the world and inspiring them to undertake operations.
Counterterrorism officials were finally able to close in on Tsouli days after Bosnian authorities disrupted a terrorism cell there where the suspects were caught with explosives and martyrdom messages they had recorded to send to Tsouli.