Nigerian pleads not guilty in U.S. court to aiding al Qaeda group


A Nigerian citizen pleaded not guilty in a U.S. federal court in Brooklyn on Friday to helping an al Qaeda affiliate recruit English-speaking people in Nigeria.

Between January 2010 and August 2011, Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi traveled twice from Nigeria to Yemen to train with leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, known as AQAP, U.S. prosecutors said in a statement.

Babafemi, 33, helped AQAP’s media operations, including the publication of its magazine, called “Inspire,” according to the statement.

The group’s leadership, including Anwar al-Awlaki, paid Babafemi almost $9,000 to recruit English-speaking people from Nigeria, according to prosecutors. Awlaki, a U.S. citizen born in New Mexico, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011, Reuters reports.

Babafemi, also known as “Ayatollah Mustapha,” was charged with four counts in an indictment, including conspiracy to provide material support to AQAP and use of firearms. He faces life in prison if convicted on firearms charges and up to 15 years in prison on the material support charges.

U.S. District Judge John Gleeson on Friday ordered Babafemi held without bail.

In August, a Nigerian court granted a U.S. request for Babafemi’s extradition.

The United States and other Western powers are closely watching Nigeria, a supplier of oil with widespread poverty. They fear that al Qaeda-linked militants could launch attacks from the West African nation, which is facing a Sunni Islamist insurgency in its north.
“The defendant threw his efforts behind al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s media, recruitment, and weapons training campaigns in an effort to strengthen the terrorist group’s grip on the region and extend its reach throughout the world,” Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a prepared statement on Friday.
“We will use every tool at our disposal to combat al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in a manner consistent with our laws,” Lynch said.