NEW YORK — A prosecutor says a native New Yorker accused of conspiring to join al-Qaida returned to the United States from Yemen after pledging allegiance to the group and tried to start his own "mini al-Qaida cell."
Federal prosecutor John Cronan made the accusation against Wesam El-Hanafi on Wednesday as the defendant made his first appearance in federal court in Manhattan.
El-Hanafi pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail.
He was arrested April 30 in Virginia after he was brought to the United States from Dubai, where he'd been working. He's charged along with an accountant with conspiring to modernize al-Qaida with computer expertise and with providing the group with money.