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From The Times, May 3, 2007 The supergrass I helped to create - Mohammed Junaid Babar Our correspondent reveals how his TV interview led to Mohammed Junaid Babar turning informer in the Crawley bomb plot trial
As the TV camera rolled Mohammed Junaid Babar’s eyes shone indignantly behind nerdish glasses: “There is no negotiation with the Americans. I will kill every American that I see in Afghanistan, and every American I see in Pakistan.”
Babar was an American-born al-Qaeda terrorist, who would go on to plot hundreds of murders. So what caused him to give three separate television interviews that led to his own capture and imprisonment and the jailing for life of five fellow terrorist conspirators? I’d like to know, because it was me who filmed them.
Mohammed Junaid Babar, 31, was the world’s first al-Qaeda supergrass, and the first US witness to testify in a UK terror trial. The star prosecution witness in the largest and costliest terror trial in UK history. Over three weeks he gave evidence against co-conspirators with whom he had plotted to blow up a British shopping centre and a nightclub, poison football stadium food, destroy the Houses of Parliament, and detonate a “dirty” nuclear bomb. It was Britain’s biggest post-9/11 terror plot. His detailed confessions helped to condemn his former friends to a lifetime behind bars.
The reason Babar found himself in court at all was because six years ago in Pakistan he let me interview him – the only time that he ever appeared on film. Those hate-filled rants, aired on CNN and worldwide, alerted the FBI to his existence. Three years later he was arrested, charged and persuaded to turn state witness.
I first met Babar near Islamabad shortly after the 9/11 attacks. We were introduced by Hassan Butt, a smooth-talking university dropout from Manchester acting as spokesmanfor al-Muhajiroun, a radical Islamic movement.
Babar was a plump, talkative American with a nasal New York accent. He was intelligent and likeable. Keen to discuss religion and global politics. Despite his virulent antiWesternism, he once took me for a meal at KFC. I wondered how eating in a US fast-food chain sat with his rabid loathing of the infidel West. I soon learnt that Babar’s principles had the solidity of the milk-shake in his hand.
In spite of his nerdiness, Babar’s sentiments were anything but comical: “My intention is to go to Afghanistan and fight the Americans that have invaded and attacked our Muslim brothers and sisters in Afghanistan.”
At that time such remarks seemed extraordinary. But Babar was one of the first of a breed of young men who have come to define our century: home-grown Islamic terrorists, radicalised in Pakistan.
Later, in Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi, I met dozens more, clamouring for global jihad in Cockney, Brummie or Yorkshire accents. One, an 18-year-old from Dagenham named “Abdullah”, promised to kill every British soldier he found. Another calling himself “Abdul Falam” said that he “couldn’t wait” to kill British soldiers and claimed to have recruited hundreds of UK Muslims for the Taleban. His real name was Kazi Rahman, 24, an East London plumber. Last year he pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to attempting to buy sub-machine guns and missle launchers for terrorism and was jailed for nine years.
In this secretive company, though, US citizen Babar stood out, actively seeking the TV spotlight while friends melted away: “I will kill every American that I see in Pakistan. I am willing to kill American soldiers if they enter into Afghanistan,” he raged.
His own story was incredible. His mother had barely escaped from the burning northern tower of the World Trade Centre. “She used the fire escapes because the stair-wells were full of smoke. She said everybody was running, people were falling all over.”
Had this experience turned him against radical Islam? Far from it – he had “no remorse, and no loyalty with the US. My loyalty is and will forever be with my Muslim brothers.”
Babar’s family had emigrated to New York from Lahore when he was just 2. His was an unhappy childhood, full of bullying and racist abuse.
“There was a great deal of racism where we lived in New York,” he said. “I was not only the only Muslim but the only nonwhite in my school at the time, and I was ostracised. Even going out to job markets you could feel the racism.”
Babar’s Islamic grandfather had nurtured his unhappiness into a hatred of American values. “He instilled in me the idea that your loyalty is with Islam, your loyalty is with the Muslims not the Americans.”
He dropped out of college, taking up menial jobs. With each upheaval, his resentment for the society in which he lived grew. He studied the teachings of the UK-based clerics Omar Bakri Mohammed and Abu Hamza, and when war broke out in Afghanistan post9/11 – what he called “the playing field of jihad” – he, like many hundreds of others, had responded to the call to arms. “I can’t stand by and live in America while my Muslims are being bombed. My loyalty and responsibility are towards them – now it’s time to prove my loyalty.”
Babar had even taken time to say goodbye to a friend in the US Army, telling him: “Hopefully we won’t have to meet on the other side.”
At the time it was hard to believe that this Bunterish figure could be a terrorist. But, in Pakistan, it seems that I had misjudged him. Shortly after we parted he met Waheed Mahmood, 30, a Crawley-born al-Qaeda gun-runner, and they began to scheme. Later he met Omar Khyam and Salahuddin Amin, two of the other convicted Operation Crevice plotters.
Those were innocent times for journalists. Even as I said goodbye to Babar in Lahore, in Karachi a US reporter named Daniel Pearl was tapping up contacts in search of a scoop. Those contacts snatched him. In January 2002 a British public school-educated terrorist, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, organised his kidnapping. Pearl was later beheaded and the killing broadcast on the internet. Babar and Sheikh later became friends. Had they met earlier this grim fate could have been my own.
By summer 2003 the group of talkative college dropouts and idealists had become hardened would-be terrorists. Babar organised a Taleban terror training camp in the mountains of northern Pakistan, attended not only by himself and his friends, but Mohammad Sidique Khan, thefuture London 7/7 Tube-bombing mastermind. He also met Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, the so-called “al-Qae-da No 3”, recently captured by the US in Iraq. By this stage Babar was taking orders directly from al-Qaeda, and it is thought that it ordered him to plan a UK attack.
At our final meeting, in the shadow of Islamabad’s Faisal Mosque, Babar told me that he would never return home. “I have no intention of going back to New York. Right now I see my life here in Pakistan and Afghanistan and I’m here to see this conflict through.”
But then he did two extraordinary things. He fell in love with a local Pakistani woman and got married. Soon they had a child. Then in early 2004, for reasons that remain unclear he did return to the US, where the FBI promptly arrested him. The authorities had been diligently tracking him since the day our first interview had been aired.
In room 538 of the plush Embassy Suites Hotel, in Manhattan, FBI agents gave him a choice: a lifetime in jail separated from his wife and child, or turn supergrass against his friends. Babar agreed to cooperate. He spent a week spilling his guts, and pleaded guilty to five counts of providing material support to terrorists.
The authorities said that they’d never seen anyone turn state’s witness so fast. Babar’s final words outside that mosque now seem grimly ironic: “I see my struggle and life’s work here. Maybe I’ll miss a couple of friends from home, but I’ve made more friends and more brothers who are involved with me in the struggle and these people are with me for life.”
As some of those lifelong “friends” sat in the dock of Old Bailey courtroom eight watching Babar sell them out for his own freedom, perhaps they wondered where that lifelong commitment had gone.
It was at the Old Bailey that our own paths crossed for the last time. Babar, surrounded by policemen and lawyers, stood in the witness box. Watching from the press gallery, I saw how he had changed: the wispy goatee replaced by a full beard. Puppy fat by the gauntness of a two-year incarceration. Only the voice was the same, as high-pitched and frenetic as it had been in Pakistan.
Not once in 17 days did Babar look at the five former friends he was condemning to a life in jail. Nor did he look at me, although he did have one last unpleasant surprise up his sleeve. The jury watched transfixed, as Babar’s America-hating interviews to me were played on court TV. When asked why he did it, Babar declared that I had paid him cash to “sex up” his remarks.
Now it was my turn to stare at the videos. This lie would make little difference to his eventual fate, but was easily enough to destroy my career as a broadcast journalist. Finally, after agonising moments, he changed tack. Babar admitted that he’d tried to deceive the FBI to save his skin.
The conundrum still remains, though. Why did Babar talk to me so willingly in the first place? It’s a question that I’ve been asking myself for more than six years. Some suggest that he may have already been an FBI agent. If so he was the most indiscreet “sleeper” in their history. His life sentence hardly an incentive to future recruits.
There may be those who suspect that, like a hack in search of a kiss-and-tell story, I somehow coerced this potential mass murderer. Certainly such confessions are meat and drink to a broadcast journalist. But I am sure of this much: Babar knew what he was doing. We even discussed the impact his remarks were having, which at the time seemed to please him.
His character clearly plays a part: a victim of bullying with a sense of perpetual injustice, combined with an attention-seeking vanity that was to prove his undoing.
And as his eagerness to cooperate with the FBI indicates his precious principles were as disposable as the Western cultures that he so hated.
In the end this was a case of modern information warfare that backfired spectacularly. Babar was obsessed with the media and its perceived antiMuslim bias: “There’s more sides to the story than just the one the Western media is portraying,” he fumed. “They use any excuse to attack Islam.” He saw himself as a bin Laden-esque 21st-century jihadist warrior, using the West’s propaganda tools to his own advantage: “I try to portray Islam not the way the media portrays it but the way it really is,” he said. There is just one crucial difference: Osama bin Laden did not fly to New York and enrol in a taxi school.
Not even Babar himself knows how long he will spend behind bars. He is pencilled in as star witness for at least two more terror trials, and will be squeezed mercilessly for information before any thought is given to his release: such is the fate of a supergrass. Perhaps he takes solace in knowing that his wife and daughter are safe: flown to the US after his arrest and given new identities courtesy of the FBI’s witness-protection scheme.
Mohammed Babar is not in al-Qaeda’s good books. Like other self publicists, perhaps he soaks up articles about himself such as this. Although the content may be less enjoyable from behind the bars of a US prison cell than his comfortable home in Pakistan.
In this celebrity-driven age it seems that even some jihadists will sacrifice their principles, and ultimately their liberty, for a few minutes of fame on CNN.
This case has taken on a number of weird twists and turns and I'll do my best to examine them each separately.
The first oddity is this article from Monday's Washington Post entitled "Pakistani American Aiding London Probe".
It goes on to state that a Pakistani-American man named Mohammed Junaid Babar, arrested last year on terrorism charges, has been helping the authorities in the London case. Specifically:
Babar has told authorities that he recognized Khan, one of the London bombers, as a person he met in Pakistan and that he accompanied him to a jihad camp in the area, sources said.
Essentially Babar was shown photographs of Siddique Khan, the 30 year old 7/7 bomber and said he knew him and had accompanied him to a "jihad camp" in Pakistan.
What makes this so suspicious is the back story of exactly who Babar is. I wrote a full-length article on him in August 2004 entitled Don't Drink the Junaid. Click on the link for all the details but:
* Junaid's mother was in the WTC towers on 9/11 but survived * Junaid went on television in November 2001 stating his vocal support for the 9/11 attacks and Osama bin Laden and that he didn't care his mom almost died * Junaid was in Pakistan at the time and gave that statement to several different television crews, including ITV (Britain) * Junaid then returns to New York City in April 2004 but is not arrested or detained * Junaid is secretly arrested in June 2004 while on his way to "taxi school" in Queens * Not a word about his arrest is spoken to the media until June, when an ABC reporter in court on other business sees this guy and asks questions about who he is, breaking the story * It is not until August however that the news of his arrest is trumpeted in the media * Although Junaid's testimony is sealed (and still secret), the Justice Department releases partial transcripts (in August) where Junaid said he bought "sleepingbags, waterproof socks, ponchos, night vision goggles and aluminum powder" for Al-Qaeda in Pakistan * Reporters trying to find Junaid's back story come up with nothing and his family is "disappeared" into the witness protection program
I will also add here that Junaid was linked to the Pakistani Britons who had 1000 pounds of ammonium nitrate in what was later called "Operation Crevice".
What I didn't know then but know now is that the NYT story about Junaid was written on August 11, just 9 days after the story which outed Noor Khan, the Al-Qaeda "communicator" who was in contact with sleeper cells in Britain. So now we know both stories came out at a time when the administration was trying to justify the terror alerts by leaking information saying "see? we got some real terrorists under lock and key here".
So now this guy (who by the way has yet to be sentenced almost one year later!) is "confirming" that Siddique Khan was in some kind of jihadi training camp in Pakistan? Of course we just have the administration's word on it, as no journalist can question him.
Furthermore, from this week's Washington Post, note this ominous aside:
Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey also said in an interview during the same period that Babar's case provided a lesson on the importance of greater surveillance powers for the government, citing evidence that he checked e-mail at a library despite having access in his home.
The WaPo also notes that Babar's mother is still unable to be located.
In short, we've got a guy who gave numerous interviews to television stations, shouting to the rooftops how much he loved Al-Qaeda, later mysteriously arrested and spirited away from prying eyes, giving all kinds of supposedly useful information to authorities. Meanwhile nothing about his personal life can be confirmed and nobody who knows him can be found to be interviewed. Interesting...
Whatever or whomever Babar is, the point is now that he's tied Siddique Khan to both the Operation Crevice British Pakistanis as well as "placing" him inside a jihadi camp in Pakistan in 2004. From my own previous parts of this investigation, Siddique Khan is also tied to the Noor Khan Pakistanis (Aug 2004) as well as a New York based Al-Qaeda group (April 2004).
Despite all the arrows pointing to him now, MI5 never thought he was a threat despite "investigating" him in a "routine assessment" last year.
17.06.04 20:41:29 There's an old saying in my family - "Don't drink the Junaid". Well, something like that.
As reported on this blog (two stories below this one), a report has trickled out that an American man, Mohammed Junaid "Babar", was secretly arrested in Queens, New York in April. Yesterday, a local New York TV station broke the news. My guess is that the ABC reporter was wandering the halls of justice when this guy went in to make his secret plea. From there the story trickled out to CNN and now the New York Times and the AP are on it.
From the Times we learn a lot of valuable information:
A Queens man has been arrested and the authorities are investigating accusations that he aided a group of men who British authorities believe were planning to blow up pubs, train stations and restaurants in London, law enforcement officials said yesterday.
The man, Mohammed Junaid Babar, 29, was taken into custody in Queens in April on his way to a taxi-driving school he had been attending in Long Island City, one official said. He was arrested by F.B.I. agents and New York City police detectives assigned to a Joint Terrorist Task Force squad that investigates international terrorists, the official said. The arrest was first reported yesterday by ABC News.
One official said that Mr. Babar had pleaded guilty in a sealed court proceeding in federal court in Manhattan to providing material support to the group in London and that he was cooperating with investigators. But no charges against him have been made public, and the official would not describe what specifically Mr. Babar is accused of doing. He would say only that Mr. Babar "provided material support directly linked to plans to bomb the British targets." A spokesman for the United States attorney's office in Manhattan would not comment.
It could not be determined yesterday whether Mr. Babar had a lawyer, and last night, a woman who answered the door at a home that a neighbor identified as his parents' simply shook her head and politely declined to answer questions.
Let me just say three words: anonymous, anonymous and anonymous. Nobody is named, nobody is speaking on the record, there are no known charges against Junaid, nobody knows what he's testified to (it's sealed, nobody knows what he's pleading guilty to, and nobody can find his parents or family.
Yesterday we learned they had all been placed under federal protection. Since when do terrorist's families get put under federal protection? When did that start?
Later in the article we learn that he is the same Junaid who told a British (the Times is wrong and reports it as a Canadian channel) TV camera crew in Pakistan in October 2001 that his mom had been rescued from the World Trade Center on 9/11 but he didn't care if she had died - it would've been "worth it" because the attacks were a successful strike against America.
Also from the Times:
Another law enforcement official said that investigators also had developed information linking Mr. Babar to the London plot, in which eight men were arrested by British authorities in London and southeastern England during a series of raids on March 31. During the raids, the authorities seized 1,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, which can be used to make explosives.
Well yesterday it was "nearly a ton" and now we learn it is half that, or 1,000 pounds. Was it exactly 1,000 pounds this time or "nearly" a thousand pounds?
We learn from here that the British group had the fertilizer (yep that's what it is, ordinary farm fertilizer) in some kind of storage locker in London and that it "could have been used" to make a bomb. Yep, it sure could have. It also could have been used to fertilize a field in a farm.
So Junair goes to Pakistan in October 2001 and returns to the United States in March 2004. He then makes some kind of "communication" with the 8 British guys who are arrested on March 31st for suspicions to blow up "pubs, restaurants and train stations". Junair is then put "under surveillance" on April 6th and then arrested on April 10th.
And ever since has been held in secret incommunicado non-arrested detention where he has been giving secret, sealed information to the federales who in turn are accepting a secret, sealed "plea" to an unknown charge.
The odd thing about the British 8 is that they belong to a very small organization called Muhajiroun, which has their own website. There you will see kind of strange statements in defense of fundamentalist Islam, such as urging British Muslims not to vote in public elections.
The truth is that Muhajiroun is a tiny group (500 members at most, per press reports) of British Muslims who tend to make fiery, antagonistic speeches in London which get the government quite riled up. But making fiery speeches and commiting acts of violence are two different things altogether.
Muhajiroun got quite angry when a British Muslim cleric named Abu Hamzza al-Masri was arrested a few weeks ago at the direct request of the United States. One of the things the American government want to try Hamza for is the alleged kidnapping of westerners in Yemen. In other words, they're charging him with doing something in a third country. Hamza has denied all participation in terrorist events but freely admits he makes pro-Osama statements. Britain hasn't found anything to charge Hamza with despite the fact he's been making these antagonistic statements for years.
But Hamza is probably the "fieriest" British cleric. Muhajiroun have been denying their links or affiliation with Al-Qaeda since 1998. The BBC did a really great story about what Muhajidoun is about - they had someone secretly on the inside of this small group.
I've read the entire report and my impression is that these guys make some pretty antagonistic statements but they seem to me to be all bark and no bite. I think many Muslims in Britain (and the US, where Muhaijiroun has a branch) often feel overwhelmed by being immersed in a non-Muslim, secular, exhibitionist society. I think sometimes they turn towards a "back to basics" approach to their Muslim identity, and groups like Muhajiroun represent the fundamentalist edge of that movement.
Certainly some of the things Muhajiroun have said are troubling and I strongly disagree with them personally. But someone's troubling free speech is a horse of a different color than actual plans and actions to commit violence against other people.
I remain utterly convinced that Junaid was, if not a spy in the truest sense of the word, a planted informant. I think his information has been less than stellar - information about eight guys (that everybody in British law enforcement is ALREADY watching like a hawk) with a few bags of fertilizer is hardly a great advance in the "War on Terror".
This seems to me to be more of what I call this "war" - the 5 Minute Hate. Junaid's personal information is too outrageously simplistic, and all the key details about him are being held secret. Even more troubling is the anonymity and refusal to be on the record by all the law enforcement agencies/officials/spokespersons. If you've got real evidence against the man, then use your real name so we can hold you accountable to it.
And that reminds me to ask - how many other people are in secret "detention" (not arrest) as "material witnesses" through the United States? Five? Five hundred? A thousand? How many?
I'm an American. I was working to protect the public's safety on 9/11. But I didn't sign up for a country that makes secret arrests and denies people access to a lawyer.
From Kelli Arena CNN Wednesday, June 16, 2004 Posted: 2038 GMT (0438 HKT)
(CNN) -- The FBI has had in custody since April a Pakistani-American who is believed linked to al Qaeda and who allegedly participated in plots to attack Americans overseas, law enforcement sources said.
Mohammed Junaid Babar is cooperating with authorities, the sources said. He is being held as a material witness as part of an ongoing investigation, which means details of his case are under seal.
Several sources said a plea deal with Babar is expected to be announced soon, possibly as early as Thursday. The sources would not say what charges might be involved.
Babar, a naturalized American citizen, was arrested in Queens. The sources said he is believed to have been involved in a financing operation in the United States to send money to a group in London known to law enforcement as "al Muhajiroun," which includes Pakistani terrorists.
That group allegedly was plotting bombings and assassinations overseas.
One senior law enforcement source said Babar was "on the radar screen" for a while before being taken into custody. The group he is associated with in London has been under British surveillance and members of it purchased nearly a ton of ammonium nitrate that has been used in bomb making, the source said.
Law enforcement sources said Babar "is the real thing -- a dangerous terrorist."
The sources said there are no other people currently in U.S. custody connected to Babar, but the investigation into him continues.
This story starts out looking like another case of heavy handedness on the part of the United States, but I think something else is afoot.
He's being held as a "material witness", which means he isn't charged with a crime (and can therefore be held indefinitely - nice eh?), but he is cooperating. Then you read he's about to enter a plea agreement, which is sort of strange because he hasn't been arrested for anything he could plead to.
He's under "suspicion" for financing a group in London which purchased "nearly a ton" of ammonium nitrate. First of all, don't tell me "nearly a ton", tell me the actual amount. Secondly, practically every farmer in England buys "nearly a ton" of ammonium nitrate. It's a 100% legal product.
If you talk to bomb experts, they'll tell you that ANFO bombs, of which ammonium nitrate is one ingredient (the other is often diesel) are extremely powerful chemical bombs. Chemical bombs are rapid changes at the molecular level when two or more chemicals interact. The famous baking soda and vinegar "volcanoproject" kids do for science fairs is a version of a chemical "bomb" except that the change happens too slowly to injure anyone.
Chemical bombs are much weaker per mass than other kinds of bombs, such as dynamite or Semtex or plastique. The only way to make an ANFO bomb do some serious damage is to make an enormous bomb.
Conventional wisdom is that the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19 was a Ryder truck packed with an ANFO explosive. They also require a relatively higher level of bomb knowledge because to have a reliable explosion you have to forcefully inject the FO (diesel) into the ammonium nitrate. The accident in Romania recently in Mihailesti was an unlucky fluke. People transport millions of tons of ammonium nitrate by diesel-power trucks every single day.
If it were that easy to make an ANFO bomb, then those fertilizer trucks would often detonate if they got into a bad motor vehicle wreck....
Now, how much ammonium nitrate would you need to fill up a Ryder truck? A lot. Maybe "nearly a ton" or maybe even more. If these guys in England were that close to making a bomb, then why weren't they also arrested?
But the key piece of knowledge is here, where we learn his family is under federal protection. Hmmm... and he's offering prosectors "significant amounts" of Al-Qaeda information.
There are still a lot of questions to ask about this. One such question would be, is this Mohammed Junaid the same guy as this Mohammed Junaid from November 7, 2001?
Group: J7 Forum Team
Member No.: 18
Joined: 24-January 06
Excerpts of an article, hosted at Caged Prisoners, originally published in the Canadian Globe & Mail on 22/4/2004 entitled 'The Anatomy of a Betrayal' by COLIN FREEZE AND GREG MCARTHUR
It was April 6, 2004, and the police and the terrorist were in the Embassy Suites Hotel in lower Manhattan. The building is more frequently used by tourists and corporate clients such as IBM and Merrill Lynch who negotiate contracts and strategize in the hotel's expansive conference rooms.
But the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation opted to use Room 538 — a 10-metre by 15-metre space — to make a deal with different consequences. This was the interrogation that would sever friendships and help authorities dissect a bombing conspiracy that had been uncovered in Britain.
It would also bolster the evidence against Momin Khawaja, then a 24-year-old computer programmer from Ottawa and the first man to be charged under Canada's anti-terrorism legislation.
Inside the confines of Room 538, the agents started pressing Mr. [Mohammed Junaid] Babar to give evidence against Mr. Khawaja and the other accused, a court has heard.
“I don't know if it was because I was tortured by my thoughts or in custody, but I had many nights where I couldn't sleep,” Mr. Babar, a native New Yorker, would later testify.
He had been devoted to his militant version of Islam and his Muslim brothers, and now he was being severely tested.
To make his decision, he turned to the life of the Prophet Mohammed.When Mr. Babar made his first public appearance as an aspiring Islamic warrior, he picked the perfect venue. In November of 2001, the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad was a holding pen for the world's press.
Dozens of reporters were holed up there, awaiting permission to enter Afghanistan to cover the U.S. invasion. Every morning they were greeted in the lobby by potential translators, fixers and Pakistanis trying to pitch them stories.
Mr. Babar and his friends joined the flock, saying they were members of a group called Al-Muhajiroun, a British-based organization of militant Muslims who were calling for a global Islamic revolution.
He said he was from New York and had flown to Pakistan shortly after the attacks on his hometown — to help fight U.S. soldiers.
“I will kill every American that I see in Afghanistan. If I see them in Pakistan, I will kill every American soldier I can in Pakistan,” he told a British television news reporter. “It's time to prove my loyalty to the Muslims of Afghanistan.”
The press was skeptical. Anne Barnard of The Boston Globe wondered about this bearded young man in glasses. He knew the subway route to Yankee Stadium, and even said his own mother had fled from the north tower of the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11 attacks.
“He seemed like the kind of kid who would have never been in a schoolyard fist fight,” she recalled. “I kept asking him: ‘Have you ever fired a gun? Have you ever hit a guy?'
“He seemed like a guy who was trying to prove his manhood or something.”
Just to be safe, before she wrote a story about her encounter, one of her colleagues checked public records for the man. None was found, because Mr. Babar had given her a false name. He dropped his last name, and called himself Mohammad Junaid.
His story seemed impossible. Mr. Babar even told her he was going to start his own terrorist training camp.Then the Taliban was ousted faster than Mr. Babar expected and he never made it into Afghanistan.
But he was serious and he kept his word on the training.
Mr. Babar found a wife and settled in Lahore, but often travelled to Britain. His anger toward the Western incursions into Muslim lands persisted. During his trips, and on the Internet, he sought out others — usually Western Muslims like himself — who felt the same way.
In his backyard, he and a close circle of intimates from Britain began conducting small-scale bomb experiments, detonating spice jars full of ammonium nitrate fertilizer — but only when his wife was away. They decided that if they wanted to be full-blown jihadis, they had better get serious.
A core group of six Britons and Mr. Babar made their way to a training camp in the mountains of Malakand, near the Afghan border, Mr. Babar would later testify. As they travelled, they pretended to be secular Western tourists who wanted to take a peek at Pakistan's glaciers.
No public praying was allowed on the journey. Everyone was to stay clean shaven. They took a lot of pictures along the way.
During one trek to the 3,050-metre peak, one warrior faltered because he had no mountain boots — only Nikes without laces. Another got food poisoning and became notorious for hogging the bathroom at pit stops. It has come out in court that another was given a nickname by his impatient peers: “Abu Finish-up!”
Still, at the end of the journey, Kalashnikov rifles awaited on a mountain top. Mr. Babar says that jihadis-in-training took target practice with cans, and learned how to assemble and disassemble their rifles. A lucky few even got to fire the rocket launcher, Mr. Babar would later testify.
Others experimented with fertilizer bombs.
Mr. Babar left jihad training early — he had to see the birth of his child. But he would later testify that the Britons at the camp gave him another task — to get in touch with a Canadian who also wanted to train.
“What up bro, listen my name is Kashif,” Mr. Babar, using a pseudonym, wrote in an e-mail that was later displayed in court. “[The group leader] is away for a little while and won't be back for a couple of weeks. He told me to e-mail you and arrange everything with you.
“Send me your flight information because I will be picking you up from the airport. . . . I will be wearing green trousers, a blue Diadora T-shirt and blue Nike sneakers.”
The response came quickly.
“Alright bro, arriving on Thursday July 15 at 3 p.m. at Islamabad airport.”
British prosecutors say the e-mail was sent by Mr. Khawaja, a Canadian newcomer who would become a close confidante of Mr. Babar.Mr. Khawaja had grown up in suburban Ottawa, playing street hockey with his brothers and praying in a mosque across the street from a Tim Hortons. The son of Pakistani immigrants, his day job was to fix computers for Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs.
But his true passions were Islam and the Internet.
He picked up a lot of his ideas and friends on-line. British prosecutors say he blogged about his “radical approach to Islam” and met likeminded people through instant-messaging programs.
So Mohammed Junaid Babar claimed he was a member of the British-based Al-Muhajiroun, to the world's press-in-waiting in November 2001.
Now how had Babar come into contact with the British-based organization Al-Muhajiroun?
From (the slightly suspect) Western Resistance:
In 1999, according to Richard Watson on BBC's Newsnight - (video here) - Omar Bakri Mohammed wanted to expand Al Muhajiroun's operations. He sent an envoy to New York, called Sajil Shahid (pictured). It was in New York that Shahid, a Dutch/Pakistani, met Mohammed Junaid Babar, whose testimony would later help to convict the Operation Crevice members.
In New York in the mid-1990s, the Queens Islamic Center, based at the Masjid al-Fatima on 37th Avenue, Woodside, had been taken over by radicals from Hizb ut-Tahrir. The US Hizb ut-Tahrir branch had been set up in Queens in the 1980s by Iyad Hilal. He recently lived in Orange County, California, before being forced into hiding.
Aqeel Khan, founder and secretary of the Queens Islamic Center, said of these Hizb radicals: "They had their own programs, which were not the directions of the mosque... There were five times (a day) prayer, but then they had their own meetings here and we - the general public - were not invited." The radicals were officially thrown out after $400,000 had gone missing from mosque funds, but they continued to use the mosque. It is believed to be here that Junaid Babar met Sajil Shahid.
From June 2 to 4, 2000, there was a meeting at the Masjid al-Fatima mosque, with lectures given by Sajil Shahid (pictured) and also American Al-Muhajiroun member Syed "Fahad" Hashmi, who was arrested at London's Heathrow airport on June 6  last year on suspicion of providing cash and military equipment for al-Qaeda terrorists.
In 1999 Shahid's brother Adil Shahid had gone to Pakistan where he set up an Al Muhajiroun office in Lahore, Pakistan. He was joined here by his brother Sajil who met "friends" of Osama bin Laden. These included Khalid Khawaja, who is now in prison. Khawaja, who was sacked from the ISI (Pakistan's intelligence agency) in the mid 1980s, boasted of meeting bin Laden hundreds of times, and said: "Mr Sajil Shahid was promoting jihad, so it is not only Mr Sajil Shahid, any true Muslim has to promote jihad. If he doesn't, he should not call himself a Muslim; he is a hypocrite."
erm, wasn't that the period of charge for the Crevice lot. Was the 'support [that Babar gave] to terrorist groups' his facilitations provided to the Crevice lot? If so Babar's 'plea bargaining' argument appears hollow.
As this BBC report states:
The defence remained deeply suspicious about why Babar, a committed jihadi was picked up off the streets of New York by the FBI and implicated his fellow colleagues.
Several defence lawyers suggested Babar was in fact a US agent who could have been recruited in 2004 when he visited the US embassy in Pakistan to ask for a visa for his family to return to America.
Why would the US grant a visa to a man who had told a British television reporter in 2001 that he wanted to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan, they asked? That was treason and he should have been arrested.
The guilty convictions undoubtedly show the advantages of evidence from witnesses like Babar. Yet his full story and real motivation remain unknown.
When Babar is released he will go into a witness protection programme. The question is how many more will follow his example.
'Supergrass' crucial to fertiliser bomb convictions
Jeevan Vasagar Monday April 30, 2007 Guardian Unlimited
Mohammed Junaid Babar was crucial to the prosecution case in the fertiliser bomb plot trial that ended today.
He was the first al-Qaida supergrass to give evidence in a British court and provided a wealth of detail about activities at a camp in Pakistan, where members of the fertiliser bomb cell and July 7 bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan received weapons training.
Babar has immunity from prosecution in Britain after pleading guilty to terrorism offences in a New York federal court. Two of the charges related to the fertiliser bomb plot - he confessed to obtaining ammonium nitrate and aluminium powder for use in bomb-making.
Babar's family moved to the US from Pakistan when he was two, and he became radicalised after the first Gulf war. The university drop-out came under the influence of the militant preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed in the early 90s, joining a New York branch of Bakri's radical group al-Muhajiroun. Abu Hamza, the Finsbury Park mosque preacher, was also an influence.
After the September 11 2001 attacks, he believed it was his duty to go to Pakistan and try to aid the Taliban, even though his mother worked in a bank at the World Trade Centre and had narrowly escaped death. Babar told the jury: "I loved my mother but if she was meant to die in the attack then she was meant to die in the attack."
While in Pakistan, he gave a series of interviews to journalists, including one with Channel Five in which he vowed to kill US troops who entered Afghanistan. A few months after September 11, he was introduced to Waheed Mahmood as a contact who could get fighters into Afghanistan. In 2002, Babar travelled to Britain to raise money for jihad in Afghanistan and met some of the fertiliser bomb plotters, including Omar Khyam and Anthony Garcia.
Describing the meeting with Khyam, at a mosque in Crawley, West Sussex, he said: "He had a long beard. He was wearing a black robe. We just exchanged greetings."
They went together to talks given by Hamza and militant preacher Abdullah al-Faisal.
Babar told the Old Bailey that in 2003 he met British militants named Ausman, Abdul Waheed, Abdul Rahman and Khalid, in Pakistan. These were aliases of four of the fertiliser bomb plot defendants; Khyam, Waheed Mahmood, Garcia and Salahuddin Amin. Together, they attended a terrorism training camp and tried to make a fertiliser bomb. They were successful once, creating a "U-shaped" hole in the ground.
During his evidence, Babar claimed to have conspired in two attempts to kill the Pakistan president, Pervez Musharraf, and said he would be facing the death penalty in Pakistan if he had not agreed to collaborate with the FBI.
While in Pakistan, he got a job with the Pakistan Software Export Board but never did any work there. He stole five computers from them, three of which he gave to Mahmood. Pakistan Software Export was run by the brother of a man named Sajeel Shahid, who the court heard was a founder member of al-Muhajiroun in Pakistan.
When Babar returned to New York in March 2004, he was approached in the street by members of the FBI, interviewed him over four days in a hotel. He claimed that he cooperated with them because his wife was still in Pakistan and he knew the authorities were searching for her.
He appeared before a US judge in June 2004 and pleaded guilty to five charges including "conspiracy to provide material support or resources" to al-Qaida. Defence barristers in the fertiliser bomb trial accused him of being a double agent for the US government. Babar's wife and child have been allowed into the US, and the family will have a new life under assumed identities when he is released from prison.