Guilty of U.S. terror charges

An Edmonton man pleaded guilty Tuesday to U.S. charges that he sent money and provided long-distance support to Tunisian jihadists believed responsible for a 2009 suicide attack in Iraq that killed five American soldiers. The deal could spare him a term of life behind bars.

Sayfildin Tahir Sharif — who also goes by Faruq Khalil Muhammad 'Isa — entered the plea in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., for a murder conspiracy charge that carried a maximum life sentence. He instead faces a 26-year prison term followed by deportation as part of the deal, which a judge still must sign off on.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Baldwin told the judge that prosecutors met in person with the families of each of the victims before agreeing to a sentence the government believes "will serve to punish (the defendant) and deter others, while also requiring the defendant to admit his participation in these heinous acts."

Defence lawyer Mildred Whalen said in a statement: "We are mindful of how difficult this case is for so many, but think that the proposed plea agreement would be an appropriate resolution of the case."

Sharif, 50, is a Canadian citizen and Iraqi national who was arrested in 2011 on a U.S. warrant after an investigation by authorities in New York, Canada and Tunisia. He was held in Edmonton until he lost an extradition fight in 2015.

An extradition request cited wiretap evidence and an interview of Sharif that U.S. authorities claim linked him to the terror network that used a suicide bomber to detonate an explosives-laden truck outside the gate of the U.S. base in Mosul, Iraq, on April 10, 2009, killing the soldiers.

During the interview, Sharif admitted he corresponded by email with two of the jihadists while they were in Syria, and that they were on a mission to kill Americans, the paperwork said. The documents allege he corresponded with "facilitators" who were trying to get the attackers into Iraq, and wired one of them $700.

U.S. authorities alleged that the day after the attack on the U.S. base, Sharif asked in an electronic communication, "Did you hear about the huge incident yesterday? Is it known?" He also identified the bomber as "one of the Tunisian brothers," to which a facilitator responded, "Praise God."

Sharif told investigators in the interview that by "huge incident" he meant an explosion, the papers said.

No sentencing date was set.

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