NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Nigerian citizen accused of receiving weapons training from al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate and writing rap lyrics, among other contributions, for the group’s English-language media operations was sentenced on Wednesday to 22 years in U.S. prison, authorities said.
Lawal Babafemi, 35, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John Gleeson in Brooklyn after pleading guilty in April 2014 to providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organisation, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Prosecutors had sought up to 30 years in prison for Babafemi, who was extradited from Nigeria in 2013 after being arrested several times two years earlier on local terrorism charges.
Babafemi’s court-appointed lawyer in Brooklyn was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
Prosecutors said that from January 2010 to August 2011, Babafemi travelled from Nigeria to Yemen twice to meet with leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, known as AQAP.
During his time with that group, Babafemi, who went by the name “Ayatollah Mustapha,” worked on AQAP’s media operations, including its magazine “Inspire,” prosecutors said.
He and two other individuals including a Vietnamese man named Minh Quang Pham contributed writing and editing, prosecutors said, and Babafemi became close with Samir Khan, a U.S. citizen who was Inspire’s editor.
Together, the men appeared in the magazine in a photograph, wearing camouflage and holding rifles, authorities say.
After Khan and Pham had the idea of recording rap songs as AQAP propaganda, Babafemi began writing lyrics about jihad, prosecutors said.
The group’s leadership, including Anwar al-Awlaki, paid Babafemi almost $9,000 to recruit English speakers from Nigeria, prosecutors said.
Khan and Awlaki, a U.S. citizen born in New Mexico, were killed in U.S. drone strikes in Yemen in 2011. Pham was extradited to the United States in March and is awaiting trial.
Reporting by Nate Raymond and Joseph Ax; Editing by Frances Kerry