1st ‘Lackawanna Six’ Sentencing

Times Staff Writer

A federal judge Wednesday sentenced a Yemeni American who attended an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan -- where he met with Osama bin Laden -- to 10 years in prison for supporting a terrorist organization.

Mukhtar al-Bakri, 23, was the last of six men from upstate New York to plead guilty in a case that drew national attention last year after the Bush administration dubbed them the “Lackawanna Six” and alleged they were members of an Al Qaeda sleeper cell. He was also fined $2,000.

Like his companions, Al-Bakri agreed to provide information to the FBI and intelligence agencies before sentencing. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization -- a charge that carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. He did not address the court Wednesday.


In a statement issued in Washington, D.C., Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft said: “With today’s conviction, the Department of Justice has succeeded in shutting down and prosecuting a source of material support for Al Qaeda and securing the cooperation of individuals who trained side-by-side with our terrorist enemies.

“The continuing assistance ensured by the pleas in the Buffalo case will continue to strengthen our efforts to prevent terrorism.”

Al-Bakri was seized in a Bahrain hotel room on his wedding night in September 2002 and turned over to U.S. authorities. He had become the focus of U.S. government interest after an e-mail he sent from Saudi Arabia referred to a “big meal,” which intelligence analysts interpreted as a possible terrorist attack.

Before sentencing, prosecutors notified U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny that Al-Bakri had complied with all the conditions of his plea agreement: “Defendant has met with multiple law enforcement officers on multiple occasions and has provided substantial assistance and information deemed highly valuable by the government in its investigation and prosecution of other persons involved in terrorist activities in this nation and abroad,” the court papers said. Prosecutors stressed the majority of the information Al-Bakri provided was “highly sensitive.”

After his arrest, the Yemeni American told investigators that in early April 2001, he and several companions from Lackawanna agreed to attend the Al Farooq camp in Afghanistan. While en route, he said, he stayed at a guest house in Kandahar and was shown videotapes of Bin Laden and of the bombing of the U.S. guided missile destroyer Cole. The attack on the warship while in port for refueling in Aden, Yemen, on Oct. 12, 2000, killed 17 sailors and injured 39.

Al-Bakri then spent several weeks at the camp in Afghanistan, where he received firearms training, including the use of rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and land mines.


Bin Laden spoke at the facility while Al-Bakri was there and the American said he later met with him; throughout the training, Al-Bakri said, staff members talked about Al Qaeda’s intention to attack the U.S.

The other five defendants in the case are scheduled to be sentenced this month. In letters to the judge seeking leniency, family members have said the men were lured to Afghanistan by recruiters who played upon their religion and desire for adventure.