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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

Friday, January 8, 2016

Member Of Al Qaeda In The Arabian Peninsula Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court To Terrorism Charges

            Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, John P. Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and Paul M. Abbate, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the Washington, D.C., Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today that MINH QUANG PHAM, a/k/a “Amin,” pled guilty in Manhattan federal court to terrorism charges based upon PHAM’s efforts in support of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (“AQAP”), a designated foreign terrorist organization.  PHAM was arrested in the United Kingdom on June 29, 2012, and was extradited to the United States on February 26, 2015.  PHAM pled guilty today to one count of providing material support to AQAP, one count of conspiring to receive military training from AQAP, and one count of possessing and using a machine gun in furtherance of crimes of violence.

            Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As he has now admitted in an American court of law, Minh Quang Pham swore a terrorist’s oath to wage jihad for AQAP.  Pham traveled to Yemen to receive terrorist training, including instructions in bomb-making by the now-deceased senior AQAP leader Anwar Aulaqi.  Vowing to wage violent jihad and brandishing a Kalashnikov rifle, Pham provided material support to the highest levels of AQAP.  Now, all that awaits him is sentencing for his admitted acts of terrorism.”

            Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin said: “Minh Quang Pham provided material support to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and received explosives training from Anwar Aulaqi while in Yemen.  With his guilty plea, he will be held accountable for his terrorist activities.  Counterterrorism is the National Security Division’s highest priority, and we will continue to bring justice to those who seek to aid designated foreign terrorist organizations in their efforts to wage violent attacks against the United States and our allies.”

            FBI Assistant Director Paul M. Abbate said: “Defendant Minh Quang Pham sought and received military-style training from an al Qaeda affiliate with the intent to martyr himself and inflict harm on behalf of the group.  He also attempted to inspire others toward violence through the preparation and dissemination of terrorist propaganda.  This case and the subsequent extradition of Pham underscores the unwavering resolve of the FBI and our international law enforcement partners to relentlessly pursue and capture dangerous terrorists anywhere in the world and bring them to face justice in the United States.”

            According to the Indictment, extradition materials and court filings, and statements made at related court proceedings, including today’s guilty plea:

            AQAP was designated by the United States Department of State as a foreign terrorist organization in January 2010.  AQAP’s leadership has publicly claimed responsibility for plots to murder U.S. nationals and commit terrorist attacks against U.S. interests, including the 2009 Christmas Day bomb plot, in which an AQAP operative attempted to detonate an explosive device on a civilian airplane traveling to Detroit, Michigan.  Only months later, AQAP attempted to detonate explosive devices within the holds of commercial airliners traveling to the United States.

            In December 2010, after informing others that he planned to travel to Ireland, PHAM traveled from London, where he resided, to Yemen, the principal base of operations for AQAP.   PHAM traveled to Yemen in order to join AQAP, to wage jihad on behalf of AQAP, and to martyr himself for AQAP’s cause.  After arriving in Yemen, he swore an oath of loyalty to AQAP in the presence of an AQAP commander.

            While in Yemen in 2010 and 2011, PHAM provided assistance to and received training from Anwar Aulaqi, a U.S.-born senior leader of AQAP.  Prior to Aulaqi’s death in September 2011, Aulaqi called on his followers to conduct attacks against American interests abroad, including by killing American civilians.  Aulaqi personally taught PHAM how to create a lethal explosive device using household chemicals, and directed PHAM to detonate such an explosive device at the arrivals area of London’s Heathrow International Airport following PHAM’s return to the United Kingdom in 2011.

            During his time in Yemen, PHAM also assisted with the preparation of, and dissemination of, AQAP’s propaganda magazine, Inspire.  To that end, PHAM worked directly with a now-deceased U.S. citizen who was a prominent member of AQAP and responsible for editing and publishing Inspire.  In addition, Pham received training from AQAP in the use of a Kalashnikov assault rifle, and was provided with a Kalashnikov assault rifle by the organization, which he carried with him in furtherance of his activities on behalf of AQAP in Yemen.            

            On July 27, 2011, PHAM returned to the United Kingdom from Yemen.  Upon his arrival at London’s Heathrow International Airport, United Kingdom authorities detained PHAM, searched him, and recovered various materials from him.  For example, PHAM was found in possession of various electronic media that contained computer files forensically identical to those possessed by a cooperating witness who had previously reported sharing electronic documents with PHAM while they were in Yemen with AQAP.  In addition, upon his arrival in the United Kingdom from Yemen, PHAM was found to be in possession of a live round of .762 caliber armor-piercing ammunition, which is consistent with ammunition that is used in a Kalashnikov assault rifle.

            PHAM was arrested in the United Kingdom on June 29, 2012, pursuant to a provisional arrest warrant obtained by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which then requested his extradition.  PHAM then challenged his extradition to the United States.  On February 3, 2015, a court in the United Kingdom denied PHAM’s challenge, and ordered him extradited to the United States.  PHAM arrived in the Southern District of New York on February 26, 2015.

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            PHAM, 33, pled guilty to one count of providing and attempting to provide material support and resources to AQAP; one count of  conspiring to receive military-type training from, and on behalf of, AQAP; and one count of knowingly carrying and using a firearm (machine gun) in furtherance of crimes of violence.  PHAM faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.  The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.  PHAM is scheduled to be sentenced on April 14, 2016.   

            Mr. Bharara praised the extraordinary investigative work of the Washington, D.C., Field Office of the FBI.  He also expressed his gratitude to the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force – which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the New York City Police Department – for the critical role it played in the investigation and prosecution.  In addition, Mr. Bharara thanked the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and Office of International Affairs.  Lastly, Mr. Bharara also thanked the British authorities, including the Metropolitan Police Service/SO15 Counter Terrorism Command at New Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service, for their cooperation in the investigation, prosecution, and extradition.

            This case is being handled by the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anna M. Skotko, Sean S. Buckley, Shane T. Stansbury, and Ian McGinley are in charge of the prosecution.

Press Release Number: 
Updated January 8, 2016