War on Terrorism

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison for Terrorism Charges



Minh Quang Pham, aka Amin, 33, was sentenced to 40 years in prison today in the Southern District of New York for terrorism charges based on Pham’s efforts in support of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a designated foreign terrorist organization.  On Jan. 8, 2016, Pham pleaded guilty to one count of providing material support to AQAP, one count of conspiring to receive military training from AQAP and one count of possessing and using a machine gun in furtherance of crimes of violence.

The sentence was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York and Assistant Director in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

“This sentence holds Minh Quang Pham accountable for his terrorist activities, including providing material support to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and receiving explosives training from Anwar al-Aulaqi in Yemen for the purpose of committing an attack in the United Kingdom,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin.  “Counterterrorism is the National Security Division’s highest priority, and we will continue to bring justice to those who seek to aid designated foreign terrorist organizations in their efforts to commit violent attacks against the United States and our allies.”

“Minh Quang Pham committed himself to the violent mission of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a terrorist organization that has claimed responsibility for deadly attacks around the world, including the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara.  “Pham went to Yemen to receive military training from AQAP and contributed to Inspire magazine, a recruitment tool and ‘how-to’ guide for would-be terrorists around the world.  This prosecution and today’s sentencing show that terrorists and those who support them will continue to be brought to justice in American courts, thanks to the continuing resolve of the Department of Justice, this Office and our global law enforcement partners.”

"Minh Pham traveled to Yemen, where he received military-style training from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, including learning to build explosive devices, with the intent to commit harm against the United States and our allies," said Assistant Director in Charge Abbate.  "Pham also contributed to terrorist propaganda in order to promote acts of violence and hate across the globe.  This sentence sends a strong message that the FBI and our law enforcement partners can and will track down dangerous terrorists anywhere in the world and return them to face justice for their crimes.”

According to the indictment, extradition materials, court filings and statements made at related court proceedings, including today’s sentencing:

In December 2010, after informing others that he planned to travel to Ireland, Pham traveled from London, where he resided, to Yemen, the principal base of operations for AQAP.  Pham traveled to Yemen in order to join AQAP, to wage jihad on behalf of AQAP and to martyr himself for AQAP’s cause.  After arriving in Yemen, he swore an oath of loyalty to AQAP in the presence of an AQAP commander.

While in Yemen in 2010 and 2011, Pham provided assistance to and received training from Anwar al-Aulaqi, a U.S.-born senior leader of AQAP.  Al-Aulaqi advised Pham to return to the United Kingdom for the purpose of finding and making contact with individuals who, like Pham, wanted to travel to Yemen to join AQAP.  Al-Aulaqi also provided Pham with money, as well as a telephone number and e-mail address that Pham was to use to contact al-Aulaqi upon his return to the United Kingdom.  In addition, Pham exchanged his laptop computer with al-Aulaqi, who provided him with a new “clean” laptop to take with him when he returned to the United Kingdom so that the authorities would not find anything if they searched his computer.

In or about June 2011, prior to his departure from Yemen, Pham approached al-Aulaqi about conducting a suicide attack whereby he would “sacrifice” himself on behalf of AQAP.  Al-Aulaqi personally taught Pham how to create a lethal explosive device using household chemicals and directed Pham to detonate such an explosive device at the arrivals area of London’s Heathrow International Airport following Pham’s return to the United Kingdom in 2011.  Al-Aulaqi instructed Pham to carry an explosive in a concealed backpack and target the area where flights arrived from the United States or Israel.

During his time in Yemen, Pham also assisted with the preparation and dissemination of AQAP’s propaganda magazine, Inspire.  Pham worked directly with now-deceased U.S. citizen Samir Khan, who was a prominent member of AQAP responsible for editing and publishing Inspire.  Pham, who has college degrees in both graphic design and animation, received training in the various types of software used for Inspire and worked closely with Khan, contributing to the magazine in numerous ways.  Pham used graphic design software to edit videos and photos that would be used as propaganda in Inspire; recorded television programs that Khan might find useful to the magazine; and offered his camera to be used for the taking of numerous photos used for Inspire.  Pham also posed in photographs that accompanied Inspire articles and provided instructions to its followers.  Among those were a series of photographs accompanying an article with instructions on disassembling and cleaning a Kalashnikov assault rifle.  In another photograph, accompanying an article entitled, “Why Did I Choose Al Qaeda,” which was written by al-Aulaqi, Pham and three other men were shown wielding automatic Kalashnikov assault rifles.  In addition, AQAP trained Pham in the use of a Kalashnikov assault rifle and provided him such a rifle, which he used in furtherance of his activities on behalf of AQAP in Yemen.

On July 27, 2011, Pham returned to the United Kingdom.  Upon his arrival at London’s Heathrow International Airport, U.K. authorities detained Pham, searched him and recovered various materials from him, including various electronic media that contained computer files forensically identical to those possessed by a cooperating witness who had previously reported sharing electronic documents with Pham while they were in Yemen with AQAP.  In addition, Pham was found to be in possession of a live round of .762 caliber armor-piercing ammunition, which is consistent with ammunition that is used in a Kalashnikov assault rifle.

Pham was arrested in the United Kingdom on June 29, 2012, and extradited to the United States in February 2015.

In addition to the 40 year prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan of the Southern District of New York also imposed a life term of supervised release and a $300 special assessment.  On Jan. 8, 2016, Judge Nathan issued an order that Pham be removed from the United States to the United Kingdom upon completion of his sentence.

Assistant Attorney General Carlin joined U.S. Attorney Bharara in praising the extraordinary investigative work of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  They also expressed their gratitude to the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force for the critical role it played in the investigation and prosecution.  Assistant Attorney General Carlin and U.S. Attorney Bharara also thanked the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for their significant assistance, as well as the Metropolitan Police Service/SO 15 Counter Terrorism Command at New Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service for their cooperation in the investigation and prosecution.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anna M. Skotko, Sean S. Buckley, Shane T. Stansbury and Ian McGinley of the Southern District of New York, with assistance from Trial Attorney Rebecca Magnone of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

International Arms Trafficker Found Guilty for Conspiring to Kill Americans and Provide Material Support to a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization



Virgil Flaviu Georgescu, 43, of Romania, was convicted by a federal jury today of conspiring to sell large quantities of military-grade weaponry to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (the FARC), a designated foreign terrorist organization, to be used to kill Americans in Colombia.  Georgescu’s conviction followed a 10-day trial before U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams of the Southern District of New York.

The conviction was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York.

“As the jury swiftly found, Virgil Flaviu Georgescu conspired to kill American officers and provide material support to the FARC,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara.  “In concert with his co-defendants, Georgescu conspired to obtain and sell to the FARC military weapons, including anti-aircraft cannons and rocket propelled grenades, to be used against American personnel and aircraft in Colombia.  Having sought to profit from the murder of U.S. officers abroad, Georgescu has now been convicted in the U.S. by a unanimous jury.”

According to the allegations in the indictment, other documents publicly filed in federal court and the evidence introduced at trial:

Between May 2014 and December 2014, Georgescu, a Romania-based weapons broker, conspired with his co-defendants, a former Romanian government official and a former member of the Italian Parliament, to sell an arsenal of weapons, including machine guns and anti-aircraft cannons, to the FARC, with the understanding that the FARC would use the weapons against U.S. personnel in Colombia.  During a series of recorded telephone calls and in-person meetings, Georgescu and his co-conspirators agreed to sell the weapons to three confidential sources (CSs), who represented that they were acquiring these weapons for the FARC but were, in fact, working with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  Georgescu and his co-conspirators agreed to provide these weapons to the CSs with the specific understanding that the weapons would be used to kill Americans and, in particular, to shoot down American helicopters and airplanes.

Georgescu first spoke with a CS in May 2014.  Thereafter, Georgescu recruited both of his co-conspirators to help obtain the weapons for the CSs, with the understanding that the former Romanian government official would provide weapons expertise and the former Italian Parliament member would help secure fraudulent end-user certificates, in order to make the illegal sale of weapons look legitimate.  Georgescu instructed his co-conspirators and others involved in the deal to use encrypted applications when communicating about the weapons deal to avoid detection by U.S. authorities.

Over the course of five consensually-recorded meetings with the CSs in Romania and Montenegro, Georgescu and his co-conspirators provided the CSs with catalogues of weapons that included anti-aircraft cannons, rocket propelled and thermobaric grenades and other high-powered weapons, as well as military-grade optical equipment.  During these meetings, the CSs explained that the arms would be used to kill Americans and Georgescu offered his thoughts on what weapons would best suit the FARC’s needs.

Between September 2014 and December 2014, Georgescu and his co-conspirators traveled to Romania, Montenegro, Italy, Germany, Albania, Poland and Bulgaria to advance the weapons deal.  During this period, the co-conspirators met with weapons suppliers, obtained sample fraudulent end-user certificates and test-fired military-grade rifles.  In December 2014, Georgescu and his co-conspirators secured a signed contract from a European weapons supplier to provide more than $17 million worth of weapons to a straw purchaser.  On Dec. 15, 2014, Georgescu met with the CSs, showed them the signed contract and discussed means of payment and transportation of the weapons to Colombia.

Georgescu was arrested by Montenegrin authorities on the charges in the indictment on Dec. 15, 2014, and extradited to the United States on Feb. 25, 2015.

Georgescu was convicted of one count of conspiracy to kill U.S. officers or employees, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, and one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.  Georgescu is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Abrams on Sept. 16, 2016, at 3:00 p.m. EDT.

Assistant Attorney General Carlin joined U.S. Attorney Bharara in praising the outstanding investigative efforts of the DEA’s Special Operations Division, the DEA’s Bucharest Country Office, the DEA’s Rome Country Office, the Montenegrin National Police and the Romanian Authorities.  Assistant Attorney General Carlin and U.S. Attorney Bharara also thanked the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrea Surratt and Ilan Graff of the Southern District of New York, with assistance from Trial Attorney Josh Parecki of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Carter Meets With Canadian Counterpart to Discuss Counter-ISIL Efforts



DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, February 10, 2016 — Defense Secretary Ash Carter met for the first time with Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan today at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a readout of the meeting.

NATO defense leaders have gathered in Brussels for two days of meetings, which will include updates on the effort to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

In his discussion with Sajjan, the U.S. defense secretary reinforced the United States' commitment to intensify the fight against ISIL, Cook said. Carter also thanked the minister for Canada's announcement that they intend to triple their training mission in northern Iraq, double their intelligence effort and to expand their humanitarian and development contributions, the press secretary said.

The leaders also discussed Canada’s future contributions to the air campaign through aerial refueling and surveillance operations, he added.

Both Carter and Sajjan agreed that Afghan security forces have made progress in Afghanistan, Cook said, and that they will need additional support going forward.
The two leaders reiterated the unbreakable bonds between the United States and Canada and the importance of the longstanding military ties between the two countries and committed to stay in close communication, the press secretary said.