Terrorist Says He Warned U.S.
Wednesday, February 7th 2001, 12:00 am
News On 6
NEW YORK (AP) â€” A key government witness at the trial of four men accused in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies testified Wednesday he warned American officials two years earlier that terrorists might strike.
Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl, a one-time follower of Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, said he decided to alert U.S. officials to the threats after being kicked out of bin Laden's terrorist group, al Qaeda, for stealing. Sometime in 1996, he said, he went to a U.S. embassy in an unidentified country and got in a line for visas.
``I don't want a visa, but I have some information about people who want to do something against your government,'' he recalled saying once he reached the front of the line.
Al-Fadl said he told embassy officials, and later FBI agents, that bin Laden's militant followers wanted to wage war against America. He warned of possible attacks within the United States and on U.S. military forces overseas.
The witness said he had also heard talk that the group would ``make bombs against your embassies.''
Prosecutors have portrayed the attacks on the 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.
Al-Fadl, a Sudanese who lives in the United States, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in a deal that required him to testify. U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand warned courtroom artists not to draw his face; before Tuesday, he was identified in court papers only as CS-1, which stands for ``confidential source.''
As the government's first witness in a trial expected to last several months, Al-Fadl has provided a rare glimpse into al Qaeda and its deadly goals.
After the Gulf War, Al-Fadl testified, bin Laden issued a series of fatwahs, or religious edicts.
``We have to do something to take them out,'' he quoted bin Laden as saying about the U.S. military. ``We have to fight them.''
And after Americans went to Somalia in 1993, he testified, bin Laden said: ``We have to stop the head of the snake.''
Prosecutors hope to show the embassy bombings were the work of well-trained Islamic militants who did not want to put down their weapons after forcing the former Soviet Union out of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Wadih El-Hage, 40, and Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, 35, face possible life sentences if convicted of conspiracy. Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-'Owhali, 24, and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27, could face death sentences if convicted.
Al-Fadl identified scores of bin Laden associates, including El-Hage, who allegedly worked as bin Laden's personal secretary.
He described moving to the United States in the 1980s to attend school. He spent time in Georgia, North Carolina and New York, where he attended a Brooklyn mosque actively recruiting people to fight in Afghanistan.
Al-Fadl said he met bin Laden while training at several camps in Afghanistan. He said he fought on the front lines before going to more camps for training in explosives.
In 1989, he said, he again met bin Laden, who was thinking about creating al Qaeda because ``everything's over in Afghanistan.''
``He said we want to change our governments,'' Al-Fadl recalled.
By the early 1990s, he followed bin Laden to Sudan, where, he said, the wealthy exile started construction companies and other businesses to raise money for his jihad against the United States.
Military exercises were held on local farms, he said. Bin Laden held court in the evenings at his home, with followers sitting around talking about ``jihad and Islam,'' Al-Fadl said.
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