Plot to smuggle terrorist to US, Pakistani jailed

Washington: A Pakistani national has been sentenced to 50 months in prison for conspiring to smuggle a member of Tehrik-e-Taliban, a designated terrorist outfit, into the US.

Irfan Ul Haq, 37, conspired with others to smuggle into the US an individual who was believed to be a member of a foreign terrorist organisation, said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A Breuer, after the sentencing was announced by a US District Court.

"Such conduct presents a serious threat to our national security, and we will continue to work closely with our domestic and international law enforcement partners to prevent human smugglers from operating at home or abroad, and to punish them for their crimes," Breuer said.

Earlier, two other Pakistani nationals Qasim Ali, 32, and Zahid Yousaf, 43, were sentenced respectively to 40 months and 36 months in prison.

"Today`s sentence successfully brings to a close our prosecution of three criminals who aimed to use their human smuggling network to help a person who they believed to be a terrorist infiltrate our homeland," said US Attorney Ronald Machen.

He said by convicting three Pakistani nationals who were operating out of Ecuador, "we have demonstrated our ability to dismantle human smuggling operations throughout the world when they threaten our national security".

The three were arrested in Miami in March last year. FBI Special Agent in Charge Gillies said that Ul Haq and his co-conspirators sought to smuggle men into the US and did not care if they came here to "blow up" something as long as they got paid.

"Ul Haq in turn provided material support to the TTP. Such would-be supporters of terror will be dealt with severely under our system of laws. I commend the FBI and everyone involved in the prosecution of this case for bringing him to justice," he said.

Based on the defendants` guilty pleas to terrorism conspiracy charges, the government dismissed at the sentencing hearing on Thursday the charges of conspiracy to commit alien smuggling against the defendants, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

Ul Haq, Ali and Yousaf admitted that between January 3, 2011, and March 10, 2011, they conspired to provide material support to the TTP in the form of false documentation and identification, knowing that the TTP engages in terrorist activity and terrorism.

According to court documents, all the three conducted a human smuggling operation in Quito, Ecuador, that attempted to smuggle an individual they believed to be a member of the TTP from Pakistan into the United States.

The TTP was designated as a foreign terrorist organisation by the State Department on September 1, 2010. Court documents also indicated that law enforcement agents directed confidential sources to ask the defendants, who were residing in Ecuador at the time, for their assistance in smuggling a fictitious person from Pakistan to the US.

Over the course of the ensuing negotiations, the defendants were made aware that the person to be smuggled was a member of the TTP who was blacklisted in Pakistan.

Ul Haq, according to the court documents, told the sources that it was "not their concern" what the men "want to do in the United States ? hard labour, sweep floor, wash dishes in a hotel, or blow up. That will be up to them".