NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A western New York man convicted of terrorism charges a decade ago testified Monday that he met Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law when he first arrived in Afghanistan intending to join al Qaeda.
Sahim Alwan, who was convicted and served about seven years in prison for providing material support to al Qaeda, said he had second thoughts about joining the terrorist organization after Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, bin Laden’s son-in-law and chief spokesman, said he would have to pledge his allegiance to the late al Qaeda boss and also the leader of the Taliban.
Alwan testified that he told his al Qaeda trainer, “I’m not swearing allegiance to anybody,” WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.
Alwan, who is from Lackawanna, N.Y., a Buffalo suburb, said he spent two months in military training before he was released from al Qaeda. On the day he was released, he had his third meeting with bin Laden himself, Alwan said. He testified that bin Laden did not threaten him or accuse him of spying, but he wanted to know what his fellow Muslims in the United States thought of his suicide operations.
“We try not to think about it,” Alwan replied, according to his testimony.
Three months later, bin Laden launched the Sept. 11 attacks.
Prosecutors are trying to prove that Abu Ghaith knew of al Qaeda’s plans when he promised in videotapes sent across the world in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks that “the storm of airplanes will not abate” against Americans and advised Muslims in America and Great Britain to stay off aircraft.
Abu Ghaith, born in Kuwait, faces a possible life prison sentence if he is convicted of conspiring to kill Americans and of providing material support to al Qaeda. His trial began in federal court in Manhattan last week, a year after he was captured in Turkey and brought to the United States for trial. About five years ago, he married bin Laden’s eldest daughter, Fatima.
Prosecutors were also Monday questioning Saajid Badat, the terrorist convicted in an al Qaeda-sponsored shoe-bombing plot in 2001 aimed at bringing down an airplane. He was testifying live via videotape from London.
Badat, a 34-year-old United Kingdom resident, said he was recruited in fall 2001 to blow up a plane on a domestic flight in America or a plane in Europe. He said he quit the plot in December 2001.
Abu Ghaith, 48, a onetime imam at a Kuwaiti mosque, has pleaded not guilty in the case. He is the highest-ranking reputed al Qaeda figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11 attacks.
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