Al-Qaeda 'propaganda expert' arrested in London
A computer specialist has been accused of traveling to Yemen to help provide graphic design expertise as part of a propaganda push by al-Qaeda to find western recruits.
Minh Quang Pham, 29, is said to have sworn an oath of allegiance to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP) after leaving Britain to join the terrorist group in December 2010.
He is said to have received military-style training and helped AQAP with their propaganda efforts before returning to Britain eight months later.
Pham, who allegedly used the pseudonym “Amin,” is thought to be Vietnamese but sources say he had been living in New Cross, South London since at least 2005 where he ran his own computer company.
He was arrested on his return to Heathrow via Bahrain on July 27 last year when a live ammunition round was found in his possession. He was subsequently served with a deportation notice on national security grounds but last week he was re-arrested on a US extradition warrant.
An indictment released by the US Department of Justice and seen by the Daily Telegraph, accuses Pham of providing material support to AQAP, based in Yemen, along with others “known and unknown.”
He is said to have “facilitated communications and provided expert advice and assistance in photography and graphic design” for AQAP’s media wing.
He allegedly met two American citizens, referred to only as “American CC-1” and “American CC-2”, working with the former to produce online propaganda for AQAP.
At the time Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both of whom were US citizens, were running the propaganda operation for AQAP which included the notorious on-line magazine called “Inspire.”
The first edition of the slickly-produced magazine included a recipe called “How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom” by the “al-Qaeda Chef” which has been found in the hands of a number of terrorist suspects in Britain. Both men were killed in a drone attack in September last year.
The Americans say that Pham and his associates provided “personnel, property, services, facilities, communications equipment, expert advice and assistance, training and weapons.”
In return, he allegedly received training from AQAP last March in the use of an automatic Kalashnikov assault rifle and for the next four months carried and used the firearm as part of his training.
The charges say that Pham knew that AQAP “had engaged and was engaging in terrorist activity.” He now faces life in jail in the US.
His arrest comes as Jonathan Evans, the director general of MI5, warned last week that Yemen has become a destination for a small number of British “would-be jihadis” seeking to use the Arab Spring for training and militant activity.
Janice Fedarcyk, Assistant Director-in-Charge at the FBI said: “The defendant not only allegedly pledged an oath to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and received military training from AQAP, he also helped design and disseminate its propaganda.
“The investigation that led to this indictment is the result of the kind of cooperation and coordination, domestically and internationally, that is essential in the effort to prevent acts of terrorism.”
Preet Bharara, US Attorney for Manhattan, New York, praised the “extraordinary cooperation” of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force and the FBI’s Washington Field Office who worked with the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service in Britain to secure the arrest.
A Home Office spokesman said: "Pham, who is wanted in the US for terrorism related offences, was arrested in the UK on 29 June and has been remanded in custody. He will appear in court in due course.”
Vietnam has 63,146 Muslims according to the 1999 census, less than one per cent of the population, three quarters of them living in the South East of the country and largely from the Cham ethnic group, who are related to Malays.