Police arrest 3 men for running network of extremist Web sites

An al-Qaida inspired computer expert who dubbed himself "the jihadist James Bond" got 10 years Thursday for running a network of extremist Web sites and hoarding videos of the murders of Americans Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl.

Morocco-born Younis Tsouli, 23, who prosecutors said had uploaded guides to building suicide vests on to the Internet, used the online ID "irhabi007" - the Arabic word for terrorist and the code name of the fictional British spy.

With accomplices Tariq al-Daour and Waseem Mughal - who were also jailed Thursday - Tsouli offered advice and motivation to would-be terrorists on a myriad of Web pages run from their London homes, prosecutors said.

In opening arguments, raised before the group pleaded guilty, prosecutors detailed message traffic on Internet forums run by the men.

One message read: "We are 45 doctors and we are determined to undertake jihad and take the battle inside America."

The Mayport naval base in Florida, home of the now retired carrier USS John F. Kennedy, was named as a potential target.

The message also referred to using six Chevrolet GT vehicles and three fishing boats, and blowing up petrol tanks with rocket-propelled grenades.

Despite the similarities to the methods allegedly used by eight doctors suspected of attempting car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow last week, police officials said they have found no links between the two groups.

The three-man group was the leading distributor of terrorist material on the Internet before the three being arrested in 2005, said Evan Kohlmann, a U.S.-based terrorism consultant who gave evidence in the case.

"There are people, including law enforcers, who initially thought these guys were computer geeks or hackers," Kohlmann told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.

"But they were a lot more dangerous, they were the key aides to al-Qaida. There was no one more skilled at what they did."

Images of Washington, D.C., were found on Tsouli's computer hard drive, stored alongside details of how to make car bombs, cause explosions and produce poisons, prosecutors said.

U.S. law enforcement officials have said the Capitol building was featured in short video clips, but that they were skeptical an attack was being planned.

The case marks the first terrorism convictions in Britain based purely on evidence about use of the Internet, Judge Charles Openshaw said.

Openshaw said Tsouli was a danger, even though "he came no closer to a bomb or a firearm than a computer keyboard."

Tsouli had a clear link to then-leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed by a U.S. airstrike last year, Kohlmann said.

"He was acting like a travel agent for would-be suicide bombers, sending them straight to al-Zarqawi," said Kohlmann, who acted as a case consultant for London police.

Foreign radicals hoping to conduct suicide missions in Iraq would travel to Syria and contact Tsouli via e-mail, Kolhmann said. "He was like al-Zarqawi's telephone operator."

Al-Daour, a 21-year-old, who prosecutors said hoped to study law, was jailed for 6½ years and biochemistry graduate Waseem Mughal, 24, for 7½ years. All three men had pleaded guilty to inciting others to commit acts of terrorism.

Tsouli had referred to receiving orders from al-Qaida leaders in an online exchange with Mughal, claiming "AQ" had asked him to translate a book into English, Ellison said.

Following searches of the group's computers, storage drives and DVDs, police said that they had found extremist material which - if printed out and piled up - would stand thousands of meters (feet) high.

Videos recovered included footage of the beheading of Nick Berg, a 26-year-old American contractor, killed in Iraq in 2004 and the 2002 kidnapping and murder of U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan.

The three were arrested in 2005 as part of a Europe-wide operation to break up an alleged terror cell, which prosecutors claimed was planning an attack. Arrests were made in Bosnia, Denmark and Britain over the plot.

United Arab Emirates-born al-Daour, Tsouli and British-born Mughal, of Chatham, a town in southeastern England, also admitted charges of attempting to defraud banks and credit card companies.