Terrorist Group Sought Uranium

Thursday, February 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — A former aide to Osama bin Laden testified in the embassy bombing trial he was dispatched in 1993 to try to buy uranium, which prosecutors say the terrorist leader wanted for a nuclear weapon.

Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl told jurors Wednesday that bin Laden was prepared to spend $1.5 million for black-market uranium as part of his holy war, or jihad, against Americans.

Al-Fadl described arranging a series of meetings with shadowy dealers, saying one bin Laden terrorist organization, al Qaeda, was ``very serious'' about the purchase. He said he did not know if the deal was ever completed.

Testifying at the trial of four men charged in the deadly bombings of the U.S. embassies in east Africa, Al-Fadl also said that two years before the 1998 attacks he warned American officials that terrorists might strike. He claimed he told the officials that al Qaeda might ``try to make bomb against some embassy.''

He did not name specific targets. Al-Fadl said he warned U.S. officials that attacks were possible within the United States, against U.S. military forces overseas and at American embassies.

Prosecutors have portrayed the 1998 blasts at U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, as part of a worldwide plot by bin Laden. Twelve Americans were among the 224 people killed.

Wahid El-Hage, 40, and Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, 35, could get life sentences if convicted of conspiracy. Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-'Owhali, 24, and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27, could face the death penalty if convicted of murder conspiracy.

Al-'Owhali allegedly rode in the bomb-carrying truck to the embassy in Nairobi. Mohamed is accused of helping to pack explosives and riding in the bomb truck to the embassy in Dar es Salaam.

In his second day on the witness stand, Al-Fadl said he decided to alert U.S. officials after he was kicked out of bin Laden's organization for stealing.

Sometime in 1996, Al-Fadl said, he went to an unidentified U.S. embassy and told officials he had ``information about people who want to do something against your government.''

Al-Fadl said he told embassy officials, and later the FBI, that militant Muslim followers of bin Laden were preparing to wage war against America.

Federal authorities have acknowledged they were cautioned about terrorist threats and lax security before the nearly simultaneous embassy bombings. A commission appointed by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright criticized the State Department for better safeguarding U.S. missions.

But Al-Fadl's testimony was a reminder that victims ``weren't told we were in harm's way,'' said Sue Bartley, whose husband, Consul General Julian Bartley, and son died in the Kenyan blast. ``That information had not been dispensed to our families.''

Al-Fadl, a Sudanese who lives in the United States, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in a deal that required him to testify.

He has already described the origins of al Qaeda and how the exiled Saudi millionaire declared a religious war on Americans in the early 1990s. He also has identified scores of bin Laden associates, including El-Hage, who allegedly worked as bin Laden's personal secretary.

Prosecutors hope to show the embassy bombings were the work of well-trained Islamic militants who were given new goals of terror by bin Laden after they forced the former Soviet Union out of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Al-Fadl said bin Laden started construction companies and other businesses in Sudan to raise money for his jihad. After falling into disfavor with bin Laden for secretly pocketing $110,000 in ``commissions'' while trading oil and sugar for al Qaeda, Al-Fadl said he fled Sudan and approached U.S. officials.

The trial resumes Tuesday, when Al-Fadl faces cross-examination.


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