Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
FILE - This image made from video provided by by Al-Jazeera shows Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law and spokesman. Abu Ghaith goes to trial Monday, March 3, 2014 in New York on charges that he conspired to kill Americans in his role as al-Qaida's mouthpiece after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He is the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to stand trial on U.S. soil since the attacks. (AP Photo/Al-Jazeera, File)
American tells of meeting bin Laden before 9/11
First Published Mar 06 2014 04:35 pm • Last Updated Mar 06 2014 04:34 pm

NEW YORK • An American who trained at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan in the spring of 2001 before losing his nerve testified Thursday how he encountered Osama bin Laden and the terror group’s spokesman at a safe house — and that bin Laden hinted that a suicide attack on U.S. soil was in the works.

"Just know you have brothers willing to carry their souls in their hands," bin Laden told the witness, Sahim Alwan, and other recruits, Alwan said on the witness stand in federal court in Manhattan.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Asked what he thought that meant, Alwan responded, "To die."

His testimony came at the trial of bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who’s accused of plotting to kill Americans by being a motivational speaker at al-Qaida training camps before the Sept. 11 attacks and as a spokesman for the terror group afterward when it sought to recruit more militants to its cause.

Alwan, 41, was among a half-dozen men who became known as the Lackawanna Six after their arrests on charges of providing material support to terrorists by attending bin Laden’s al-Farooq camp in Afghanistan in 2001. He pleaded guilty in 2003 and served about seven years behind bars.

Testifying under subpoena, Alwan told jurors that he became an aspiring jihadist after worshipping at a mosque in Lackawanna , N.Y., where he grew up. In April of 2001, he traveled to Pakistan and crossed the border to Afghanistan, where he was directed to the safe house to wait for an assignment to a training camp.

While staying there, bin Laden showed up in a truck with an entourage of AK-47-toting men with masks on their faces, Alwan said. He testified that he recognized bin Laden as the FBI’s "most wanted guy."

He also testified that Abu Ghaith showed up at the house days later and explained an Islamic oath, or "bayat." He said the defendant told the men that if they swore allegiance to bin Laden, they were also expected to back the Taliban.

The recruits were shown a video depicting the 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole in Aden harbor in Yemen that killed 17 American sailors, Alwan said. Prosecutors say the video was narrated by Abu Ghaith, and portions of it were shown to jurors Thursday.

After seeing the video and understanding who was behind the USS Cole attack and the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in August 1998 that killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans, he said, "I knew I was in over my head."


story continues below
story continues below

Once at the camp, where bin Laden visited the trainees one day, Alwan informed his trainers that he wanted to go home. He said he even faked an ankle injury, hoping to be sent to Kandahar.

But he was told that he needed to meet face-to-face with bin Laden first and that the al-Qaida leader knew he was from the United States even though he and the others had been warned not to disclose that fact.

He testified that Bin Laden quizzed him about America, asking, "How are Muslims there? ... How are the youth there? What do they think of the operations?" By operations, Alwan said, he assumed bin Laden meant suicide missions.

"I just said, ‘Oh we don’t think about it,’" he testified.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.