NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A woman who lived in Oregon testified in a Manhattan court Thursday that she witnessed al Qaeda operatives training near her home in Oregon.
As WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported, Angelica Dawn Morris was the first witness called in the trial of Mustafa Kamel Mustafa — also known by the aliases Abu Hamza and Abu Hamza al-Masri.
Morris, who said she converted to Islam, testified that she was living on a ranch outside Bly, Ore., when the property was being turned into a jihad training camp for al Qaeda.
She described the arrival of two men dressed in all black who showed up with guns and knives and began firing their weapons, practicing to be snipers.
They were followed by two Muslims from London who told of being trained in Afghanistan and having ties to Osama bin Laden, she testified. She said the men brought manuals for building explosives and making poison gas, she said. They claimed to have been sent by Mustafa, Morris said.
Earlier Thursday, a defense lawyer told the jury that Mustafa, an Egyptian Islamic preacher on trial on charges that he supported terrorism around the world, has never harmed Americans.
Attorney Joshua Dratel told jurors during an opening statement that Mustafa will testify on his own behalf.
Dratel spoke after a prosecutor claimed Mustafa was part of a global campaign to spread terror.
The government says Mustafa tried to create an al Qaeda training camp in Bly in late 1999 and early 2000. He’s also charged with helping kidnappers in Yemen in a 1998 attack that killed four people and arranging for fighters to attend an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan.
Federal prosecutor Edward Kim described Mustafa as a man with a mission to establish an al Qaeda training camp in this country, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.
He told the jury the defendant financed and sent two men to Bly to set up the compound to train others.
Kim said the men carried knives, pistols and rifles and worked to train others to shoot, to build silencers for guns and to slit throats, Cornell reported.
The prosecutor said Mustafa was a leader with a global stage who was not just a preacher of religion, but a trainer of terrorists.
The 55-year-old cleric had been jailed since 2004 in Britain on separate charges. He was extradited from England in 2012 only after the U.S. agreed to a civilian, not military, trial, and the death penalty was taken off the table.
Mustafa has one eye and claims to have lost his hands fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.
The trial of Mustafa comes a month after a jury in Manhattan convicted Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, bin Laden’s son-in-law and al Qaeda’s spokesman after the Sept. 11 attacks, of charges that will likely result in a life sentence.
Mustafa became well-known in the 1990s as his Finsbury Park Mosque in London became a training ground for extremist Islamists, including 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid.
The trial is expected to last about a month. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
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