Al-Qaeda Member List Said by U.S. to Include Bombing SuspectPatricia Hurtado
Al-Qaeda’s worldwide membership list includes a Saudi Arabian man accused of helping Osama bin Laden publicize threats and is set to be presented at a New York trial over the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
U.S. forces recovered the list of 170 names in Afghanistan in late 2001, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, prosecutors said. Written in Arabic and de-classified for the trial, the document refers to the embassy bombing defendant, Khalid al-Fawwaz, by what the government says was his alias, “Hamad al Kuwaiti.”
Al-Fawwaz is described on the list as “captured in England in 1998,” and “in long-standing, repeated and direct contact” with Muhammad Atef, who the government alleges was a top bin Laden lieutenant before he was killed by a U.S. air strike in Afghanistan in November 2001.
Opening statements in the case are set for Thursday in Manhattan federal court under heightened security that includes rifle-toting police wearing body armor and helmets. The extra protection was ordered in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, including the fatal shootings of nine journalists at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, court officials said.
Al-Fawwaz is charged with taking part in a global plot by bin Laden to attack U.S. citizens and buildings that included the near-simultaneous bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998.
Working for the group out of an office on Beethoven Street in London in the 1990s, al-Fawwaz was bin Laden’s British contact and publicized the terrorist group leader’s messages, the U.S. said. The space also operated as a front that concealed the group’s procurement of equipment and funds for terrorist attacks, according to prosecutors.
Al-Fawwaz is accused of helping obtain a satellite phone which al-Qaeda leaders used to communicate with its members and associates before and after the bombings.
The defendant, who has pleaded not guilty to four counts of conspiracy, argues he didn’t share the group’s views. His lawyers claim he told an associate he “wasn’t happy with the communique” bin Laden issued in August 1996, titled “Declaration of Holy War,” which called for jihad in retaliation for U.S. forces occupying the Arabian Peninsula.
Al-Fawwaz has asked U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan to let him use written testimony from two people he knew in London who could describe his mindset and discomfort with the declaration. The judge hasn’t ruled on the request.
Arrested by U.K. authorities in London in September 1998, al-Fawwaz fought extradition to the U.S. for more than 14 years. After losing a final bid by a U.K. court, he was sent to New York in October 2012 for trial.
Anas al-Liby, a Libyan who was set to be tried with al-Fawwaz, died at a hospital on Jan. 2. His lawyer said he suffered from liver cancer. Kaplan rejected a bid by al-Fawwaz’s lawyers to delay the trial or move it out of New York. A third man pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.
The trial is the third stemming from the embassy attacks, in which 224 people were killed, including 12 U.S. citizens. Four men were convicted in 2001 after a five-month trial and were sentenced to life in prison. Ahmed Ghailani, the first Guantanamo Bay detainee tried in U.S. civilian court, was convicted at a Manhattan trial in November 2010 of one count of conspiracy for his role in the embassy attacks. He’s also serving a life term.
The case is U.S. v. al-Fawwaz, 98-cr-01023, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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