Washington: Three Pakistani nationals accused of helping to smuggle into the US a member of a terrorist organisation have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to the Pakistani Taliban.

Irfan Ul Haq Qasim Ali and Zahid Yousaf pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organisation at a court hearing on Monday.   

The sentencing is scheduled to take place on December 9, where in each of the defendants faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of up to USD 250,000.
   
As part of their plea agreements, the defendants have agreed to a stipulated order of removal to Pakistan upon the completion of their criminal sentences.

"These defendants sought to smuggle someone they believed to be a member of a terrorist organisation from halfway around the world into the United States," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A Breuer.

"For financial profit, they were willing to jeopardise the safety and security of the American people. Human smuggling operations pose a serious risk to our national security, and we will continue to work closely with our law enforcement1 partners at home and abroad to combat this dangerous threat," Breuer said.
   
Irfan, Ali and Yousaf were arrested in Miami on March 13, on an indictment filed in the District of Columbia, charging them with one count of conspiracy to commit alien smuggling.
   
Based on the defendants' guilty pleas to terrorism conspiracy charges, the government will dismiss at the sentencing hearing the charges of conspiracy to commit alien smuggling against the defendants.

The Justice Department said Irfan, Ali and Yousaf admitted that between January 3 and March 10 they conspired to provide material support to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the form of false documentation and identification, knowing that the TTP engages in terrorist activity and terrorism.
   
According to court documents, the three men conducted a human smuggling operation in Quito, Ecuador that attempted to smuggle an individual they believed to be a member of the TTP from Pakistan into the United States.
   
According to the court documents, the defendants agreed to move this person from Pakistan into the United States, despite his purported affiliation with the TTP.

(Agencies)