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N.Y. Man Pleads Guilty to Training With Al Qaeda

Times Staff Writer

A second Yemeni American pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to attending an Al Qaeda terrorist training camp the spring before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Prosecutors plan to use both men as key government witnesses against four others from suburban Lackawanna, N.Y.

Shafal Mosed, a 24-year-old telemarketer, acknowledged in a Buffalo, N.Y., courtroom that he had trained at the Al Farooq camp in Afghanistan to use weapons and explosives -- and that Osama bin Laden spoke there, warning that 50 men were on a suicide mission against non-Muslim targets.

In pleading guilty, Mosed became the first person convicted of providing material support -- in essence, himself -- to a known terrorist organization since that law was passed in 1996.

He is likely to receive eight years in prison when he is sentenced in July. But he first must “truthfully and completely” cooperate with the government in pursuing convictions against his remaining co-defendants.

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“Those who provide their money or services to support America’s enemies, even if they are American citizens themselves, will face the full force of America’s justice,” Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft said.

In January, Faysal Galab pleaded guilty to contributing funds and services to terrorists for his part in attending the training facility in violation of a separate law. He may be sentenced to seven years in prison.

A change-of-plea hearing was scheduled for today for one of the remaining four suspects, Yahya Goba. The three others awaiting trial are Yasein Taher, Mukhtar al-Bakri and Sahim Alwan. No trial date has been set.

A seventh suspect, Kamal Derwish, described as the leader of the alleged “Lackawanna cell,” was killed in November in a CIA airstrike in Yemen, authorities have said.

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According to prosecutors, the men -- all Yemeni Americans from Lackawanna, just south of Buffalo -- decided in early April 2001 to visit the camp. Most of them arrived in Afghanistan in early May and first stayed at a Bin Laden guesthouse before moving on to Al Farooq, where they received extensive training in terrorism and paramilitary operations.

Bin Laden not only told them of the pending suicide missions, the government contends, but also “claimed responsibility for attacking American embassies on the continent of Africa.”

Most of the defendants returned to western New York by late June.

Mosed, in addition to working as a telemarketer, was a community college student. After his arrest, agents learned that he also carried 11 credit cards under six names, and that he had two Social Security numbers.

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In another domestic terrorism case, a federal judge in Detroit on Monday refused to postpone the trial of four defendants there until the war in Iraq ends. Instead, he ordered that jury selection continue.

Defense lawyers argued last week that a fair trial would be difficult because they thought the war would inflame anger against Muslims. But U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen disagreed.

“We simply do not know, or cannot know, when we could pick a time in the foreseeable future when the trial of the issues in this case would be more likely to occur in [an] uncharged, completely calm setting,” the judge said.

Jury selection began a week ago for Karim Koubriti, Ahmed Hannan, Farouk Ali-Hamoud, and Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi. The selection process has been underway in Rosen’s closed courtroom, and a jury is expected to be seated by the end of this week.

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The case will be the first trial arising from federal investigations after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Three of the defendants were arrested days after the World Trade Center was destroyed, and authorities said all four men were acting as spotters for other terrorist operatives seeking new targets in the United States. Among the alleged targets, the government has indicated, were Disneyland and the MGM Grand casino in Las Vegas.


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