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Two of 6 men admit to being at terror camp
Buffalo News ^ | september 20 2002 | Dan Herbeck

Posted on 09/20/2002 9:02:25 AM PDT by ganesha

Two of 6 men admit being at terror camp By DAN HERBECK News Staff Reporter 9/20/2002

One of the Lackawanna sleeper cell suspects now admits that he trained with al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan, but insists that he left their camp in fear and disgust over the "crazy radical mentality" that he witnessed there.

Sahim Alwan, 29, said he pleaded several times with al-Qaida leaders to allow him to leave the camp last year, and was allowed to leave only after faking an ankle injury.

He also maintains that he never heard any "specific threats" of terrorism aimed at the United States or any other country.

"My purpose in attending the camp was to see what it was all about," Alwan said in a statement read Thursday in federal court. "After realizing the crazy radical mentality of the people at the camp, I decided to leave."

Alwan's account of his experiences at the al-Qaida camp were related by his attorney, James P. Harrington, during a bail hearing for the six Yemenite men accused of providing material support to Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization.

Some of the suspects were described by their attorneys as heroes and role models during the lengthy hearing, which continues this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr.

The judge said he hopes to rule sometime next week on whether any of the six men will be released on bail while awaiting trial in their internationally publicized case.

During Thursday's hearing, the attorney for a second suspect, Mukhtar al-Bakri, 22, also admitted that his client went to the al-Qaida training camp, but al-Bakri denies allegations that he had knowledge of any plans for terrorist attacks on Americans.

Also charged in the case are Faysal H. Galab, 26; Yahya A. Goba, 25; Shafal A. Mosed, 24; and Yasein A. Taher, 24. Their attorneys said they admit going to Pakistan for religious studies, but do not admit going to the al-Qaida camp.

The Lackawanna suspects are the first U.S. citizens to be charged by the Justice Department with providing material support to the al-Qaida network. Investigators believe the local men were recruited and trained by al-Qaida for the purpose of functioning as a sleeper cell, to be called into action at some later, unspecified date.

Supporters of the defendants say they are earnest, religious men who never would support al-Qaida or any of its terrorist acts, especially the airliner hijackings that killed thousands of people on Sept. 11, 2001.

In a courtroom packed with supporters from Lackawanna's Yemeni community, defense lawyers spent Thursday attacking the government's charges and urging Schroeder to release the men on bail.

They told the judge that friends and relatives of the defendants are willing to put up nearly $2.2 million worth of property and cash as bail. One businessman who attended the hearing said he believes the community could raise even more bail - as much as $5 million - if that is required.

"The response from the community has been total support for these men, and people asking, "What can we do to help?' " said Joseph M. LaTona, Galab's attorney. "The people of this community have rallied behind these young men."

Pieces of the story

"Even after the picture that has been painted by the media and prosecutors . . . we absolutely believe these guys are truly innocent," added Galab's brother, Moses Galab, 35, a Buffalo businessman.

But Dr. Khalid Qazi, president of the American Muslim Council, said he and many others in the community regard it as "unacceptable" if the men did go to the al-Qaida camp.

"To go to a training camp, to learn to use firearms and receive military training, it's unacceptable," Qazi said prior to Thursday's proceedings. "You can't be so stupid not to know. If it's true, it is unacceptable.

"None of us knows the whole story yet. I don't know if any of us will ever know the whole story."

Those in the courtroom heard at least part of the story, with the most surprising revelations coming from Harrington, Alwan's attorney.

Harrington described his client's trip to Afghanistan, his experiences at the al-Qaida camp, his encounter with bin Laden at the camp, and the strong devotion to the Muslim religion that led him there.

He also said Alwan has been talking to an FBI agent who investigates terrorism for well over a year.

"One of the best arguments I can think of for releasing this man on bail is his relationship with the FBI," Harrington said. "When my client got back from his trip to Afghanistan, a phone message from the FBI was waiting for him at his home."

Alwan, who works as a counselor for troubled youths in Medina, is a deeply religious Muslim who was president of his mosque several years ago, Harrington said.

The attorney said Alwan decided to visit Pakistan last year - months before Sept. 11 - for intense religious studies. Once there, Alwan agreed to visit an al-Qaida camp at a desolate, isolated location in Afghanistan.

Harrington said Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. gave the court incorrect information Wednesday when he said Alwan and others at the camp would have been "free to leave" at any time.

"These young men were driven to the camp. It was heavily guarded. You were not free to leave," Harrington said. "Even if you were able to leave, you would not know where you were."

Though the training session was supposed to last seven weeks, Alwan left early, after about 10 days. He had some rudimentary training with firearms, but never fired a single bullet, his attorney said.

Alwan did not agree with the virulent anti-American views he heard from bin Laden, who spoke at the camp, and other al-Qaida leaders who were there, Harrington said. He added that Alwan also wanted to leave because he missed his wife and three children.

"(A leader at the camp) told me I could not leave and told me to go back and finish the training. I pleaded with them to let me go. I told him I wanted to see my family. I cried when I asked him," Alwan said in a statement read by the lawyer.

"I could not sleep at night, and even falsified an ankle injury in order to be allowed to leave. . . . On about the 10th day of the camp, (they) allowed me to leave. I took a ride in a pickup truck.

"The original plan for my trip to Pakistan was to attend Tablighi Jamaat (religious studies). I did not realize we were going to a training camp until I arrived."

Law enforcement officials believe Alwan and his Lackawanna associates were encouraged to attend the al-Qaida camp by other men who have not yet been arrested in the case. Authorities say a former Lackawanna man, Kamal Derwish, is the subject of a worldwide manhunt as the group's alleged ringleader.

Harrington said his client loves life as an American and would never engage in terrorism against his country. The attorney also said Alwan has spoken to a Buffalo FBI agent on several occasions over the past 18 months. Last week, he said, Alwan admitted to the agent that he had gone to the al-Qaida camp, and the agent told him he would probably be arrested.

"My understanding is that President Bush himself ordered these arrests, and that nothing happens in this case without the president's authority," Harrington said.

FBI allowed to search home

On Friday, the evening of his arrest, Alwan voluntarily met the FBI at his home and allowed agents to search it, Harrington said.

Attorneys for Goba, Galab, Mosed, Taher and al-Bakri also told Schroeder that their clients would present no danger to the community if they were released on bail.

Patrick J. Brown, the attorney for Mosed, said he disputes allegations made by Hochul that Mosed spent $89,000 (Canadian) at Casino Niagara.

"He wishes he had that kind of money," Brown said. "He tells me he hasn't been there in about four years."

Responding to a report from Hochul that the FBI found $6,400 in Mosed's home over the weekend, Brown said, "That's money my client did not know about, that his wife got from her mother."

Brown said Mosed is a law-abiding citizen who told him after his arrest: "I am proud to be an American. . . . I don't buy into that other stuff."

Taher's attorney, Rodney O. Personius, said his client is a lifelong Lackawanna resident with strong family connections in the region and no previous criminal convictions. He said Taher denies Hochul's contention that he was seen exchanging $15,700 in U.S. money for Canadian at the casino in October.

Personius said he believes Taher's brother, Mohamad, who faces a federal drug charge, was the person who exchanged the cash, while using Taher's identification.

Goba is considered a "hero" by some Muslims because of all the time he spends teaching religion to young people, said his attorney, William Clauss of the federal public defender's office.

The government's case "rests entirely on speculation on what a so-called sleeper cell is supposed to be," Clauss said.

Disputed e-mail

The last of the attorneys to speak was John J. Molloy, who represents al-Bakri. Molloy said his client admits he took part in some training at the al-Qaida camp, but strongly denies other allegations made about him by prosecutors.

Molloy said Hochul falsely characterized an e-mail that al-Bakri sent to a friend in July as referring to an impending terrorist attack in America. When al-Bakri sent the e-mail, Molloy said, he was merely passing on some remarks that were made to him by an elderly man and a cabdriver while he was on a visit to Saudi Arabia with his family earlier this year.

Molloy also charged that Hochul went overboard with his description of a tape recording purportedly called "A Call to Jihad," which the FBI reported finding in al-Bakri's Lackawanna residence over the weekend. Hochul said the tape included threats against the United States and Israel.

The tape was made about 20 years ago, and it actually encourages Muslims to fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, Molloy said. The defense lawyer said the tape might even have been circulated by the U.S. government.

Molloy added that al-Bakri has been in the Middle East since May, having traveled there to take part in a wedding.

Al-Bakri considers himself an American, Molloy said, and when he heard some of the allegations that are being made against him, "he cried."


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; News/Current Events; US: New York
KEYWORDS: alquaeda; buffalo; lackawanna; terrorcell; terrorism
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1 posted on 09/20/2002 9:02:25 AM PDT by ganesha
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To: ganesha
One of the Lackawanna sleeper cell suspects now admits that he trained with al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan, but insists that he left their camp in fear and disgust over the "crazy radical mentality" that he witnessed there. <p what, he mistook it for GIRL SCOUT CAMP???
2 posted on 09/20/2002 9:05:40 AM PDT by xsmommy
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To: ganesha
OK, this is complete and utter BS. We are supposed to believe that he went to a terrorist training camp and was surprised by what he saw? Come on, how would you even know the contacts to make to arrange a stay at one of these camps. What circles would you have to travel in?

And yes, he heard no anti American talk when there. Ofcourse, that is pretty much their reason for existance but hey, sure, we believe you.

3 posted on 09/20/2002 9:11:04 AM PDT by riri
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To: Alamo-Girl

Looks like the Buffalo Al Qaeda perps have been "lawyered-up," as these excuses don't even pass the "giggle test."
4 posted on 09/20/2002 9:32:25 AM PDT by anymouse
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To: xsmommy
People don't just "go" to al Qaeda training camps (you know, like an al Qaeda training camp was like a B & B). They're screened & then invited, after being vetted in the US, then in Pakistan, before they were let into Afghanistan.
5 posted on 09/20/2002 9:47:23 AM PDT by Catspaw
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To: xsmommy; doug from upland
Didn't Doug from Upland write a song about "Camp Osama" sung to the tune of "Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda?" It seems to me that he did that some months ago.
6 posted on 09/20/2002 9:49:31 AM PDT by demnomo
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To: ganesha
Too late. U can't just waltz into one of these camps.

Attendees are recruited, then investigated, then allowed access.

Does anyone else think dropping big bucks at a casino is somewhat reminiscent of Atta&Co whooping it up at a titty bar in FL before the Attacks. A last earthly fling before the "Big Meal".
7 posted on 09/20/2002 9:52:29 AM PDT by swarthyguy
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To: xsmommy
Whether they are gulity of any crime or not is the job of the jury, not the press.

Look at it from another angle, would you lock up or take to court as Terrorists, all the US based Militas. Who distrust/hate the Federal Gov. and if the Gov. try to take their guns away from them, there would be a war.

Michigan Militia

Montana Militia

Patriots for the Second Amendment We defend our inherent Right to Self Defense as enumerated in the The Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America

U.S.A. Patriotic/Militia/Anti-NWO Links

U.S.A. The Republic How You Lost It! How You May Get It Back!

8 posted on 09/20/2002 10:10:06 AM PDT by John_11_25
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To: anymouse
So true. Thanks for the heads up!
9 posted on 09/20/2002 10:12:49 AM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: Catspaw
Currently, in Washington, there is a joint Congressional committee hearing going on re: who missed what prior to 9-11. Not really pointing a finger of blame but somewhat trying--FBI,CIA, the President, INS--anyone that the Congress critters can make look bad.

Now at the same time, in Buffalo, an extensive, 3 days long, bail hearing is occurring to try to get six of these ATTA wannabees out of jail.

What is wrong with this picture? Somewhere, as usual, the right hand of the government does not know what the left hand is doing.

These guys were not at fantasy baseball camp--they were at a camp that was training people to wage murder and mayhem against Americans. They belong locked up!

The Tarheel

10 posted on 09/20/2002 10:13:15 AM PDT by Tarheel
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To: John_11_25
i have no idea how your point relates to the fact that this is complete BS that they are spewing, about being turned off by the HATERS at the Camp Be-An-Al-Queda-Op.
11 posted on 09/20/2002 10:14:29 AM PDT by xsmommy
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To: xsmommy
One of the Lackawanna sleeper cell suspects now admits that he trained with al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan

As Katie Couric said, "But other than that..."

12 posted on 09/20/2002 10:23:13 AM PDT by lds23
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To: lds23
well, katie has a point. no one knows for certain that he wasn't just there to learn how to do macrame and make smores....
13 posted on 09/20/2002 10:25:23 AM PDT by xsmommy
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To: xsmommy
Was it a crime to go to these camps in Afghanistan before September 11 2001. NO

You will probably find the US government were helping recruit people for these camps when they wrere fighting the Soviets.

Lots of people have been to the Milita camps within the US and is this a crime ?


Do they say things against the federal GOV.?


Would they attack the Federal Government if they try to take their weapons?


Or do we want to lock them up because they are Muslim ?

The answer seems to be yes.

14 posted on 09/20/2002 10:36:52 AM PDT by John_11_25
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To: John_11_25
Or do we want to lock them up because they are Muslim ?

The answer seems to be yes

i'm quite sure you must be right. they never intended any harm. it was a love of arts and crafts that had them there.

15 posted on 09/20/2002 10:43:48 AM PDT by xsmommy
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To: lds23
Yes, Katie really gets to the heart of the matter.
16 posted on 09/20/2002 10:51:16 AM PDT by 2rightsleftcoast
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To: John_11_25
Training with enemy soldiers is prima facia evidence of hostility to the US.

Nice to see a Saudi or oil-bribed dhimmi shilling for terrorists. What a delightful change.
17 posted on 09/20/2002 11:01:49 AM PDT by rmlew
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To: John_11_25
You are such an apologist for these morons!!
18 posted on 09/20/2002 11:49:48 AM PDT by crazykatz
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To: rmlew
19 posted on 09/20/2002 11:50:16 AM PDT by crazykatz
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To: Travis McGee
Please post your ON TARGET comments about the religion of pieces!!
20 posted on 09/20/2002 11:51:18 AM PDT by crazykatz
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