A Tanzanian man testified he was “tricked” into selling bomb-making materials to an alleged al-Qaeda terrorist facing trial for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
Hussein Abebe, 46, a former miner, said yesterday he wants to serve as a government witness against fellow Tanzanian Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, who is scheduled to be tried before a federal jury in New York Sept. 27 for his alleged participation in a global al-Qaeda conspiracy that includes the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings at U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
“He tricked me, he lied,” Abebe said under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz.
The prosecutor asked Abebe why he wanted to come to the U.S. to testify.
“A lot of people in the world know that I am involved in selling these explosives, so I’m anxious to be coming to clean myself up, and that’s why I want to testify,” Abebe testified in Swahili, speaking through an interpreter.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York, who is presiding over the case, must decide whether to let Abebe to testify at the trial.
Abebe’s testimony continues today. After court concluded for the day, Farbiarz told Kaplan that Abebe was a “giant” government witness. Ghailani’s lawyers are trying to block Abebe’s testimony, saying the government learned of his involvement through a coercive interrogation of Ghailani by the Central Intelligence Agency and that Abebe was pressured into cooperating.
Cried When Questioned
Abebe, who hasn’t been prosecuted by the U.S. or Tanzanian authorities, said he cried when he was first questioned by U.S. authorities in August 2006 about his role in providing explosives to Ghailani.
“I was crying because I sold for him to do work,” Abebe said, referring to the TNT.
“But then he made it to kill the people,” Abebe said. “For myself, I cannot even slaughter a chicken. I want to take out the anger that’s inside my heart.”
Farbiarz asked why Abebe refused to speak to Ghailani’s lawyers when they traveled to Africa to interview him for the case.
“Because I do not want to defend him,” Abebe said. “Because I sold him explosives for use in the mines like I do,” he said. “He went to use it for destruction.”
Ghailani is accused of helping deliver bomb-making components, including TNT and oxygen tanks, in a truck detonated outside the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam. Almost simultaneously, another bomb went off outside the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. The two blasts killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and injured at least 5,000 others.
He was indicted by a federal grand jury in New York in December 1998 on 286 separate counts, including conspiring with Osama bin Laden in a plot to kill and maim U.S. citizens in both bombings. He fled Tanzania after the bombing and served as a cook and bodyguard for bin Laden, prosecutors said.
Ghailani was captured in July 2004 in Pakistan, taken to Guantanamo Bay in 2006 and transferred to a prison in the U.S. in June 2009. He would be the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in a U.S. civilian court.
The case is U.S. v. Ghailani, 98-CR-1023, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).