Brooklyn men busted in Dubai may be new faces of terror: expertsBy Alison Gendar and Samuel Goldsmith
May 2, 2010
In the 1998 Baruch College yearbook, Wesam (Khaled) El-Hanafi has the face of a young man on his way to the top.
Dressed in a suit and tie, the handsome student smiled for the camera - but just 12 years later, the picture of El-Hanafi has changed from rising star to suspected Al Qaeda militant.
El-Hanafi, 33, and pal Sabirhan (Tareq) Hasanoff, 34, are accused of pledging allegiance and technical help to terrorists in Yemen.
The pair was busted in Dubai and hauled to Virginia for arraignment. They are accused of trying to modernize an Al Qaeda cell in Yemen, giving $50,000 to the group and supplying them with modern equipment.
"Al Qaeda in Yemen must have been happy to see this kind of recruit come to them, swear allegiance and offer to help," Rep. Peter King (R-L.I.) told the Daily News Saturday. "These guys seem smarter than [accused subway bomb plotter Najibullah] Zazi.
"They have more resources, and they are more part of the fabric, college guys who can travel, who blend in, who are educated," King said.
El-Hanafi is a computer engineer from Brooklyn who loved basketball and went to work for Lehman Bros. after college, neighbors said. Hasanoff, also a Baruch grad, worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers as an accountant.
The emergence of educated, well-paid professionals allegedly turning to homegrown terrorism may mark a shift from disenfranchised, low-income radicals to a new class of criminal.
"Other countries have seen a similar pattern. First the fringe joins. When it gets dicier is when college-educated, ordinary, white-collar people start taking up the cause," a law enforcement source told The News. "They are attractive recruits because they are harder to spot, and move about more easily."
"The question is, how does someone become radicalized, or cross that threshold from expressing their First Amendment rights to delving into criminal or terrorist activity?" asked FBI spokesman Richard Kolko.
"Profiling doesn't work. There is no stereotype for who crosses that line or not. What works is investigating the criminal activities and following it back to those involved," he said.
El-Hanafi and Hasanoff will arrive in New York this week.