Bin Laden relative warned of ‘storm’ of plane attacks in wake of 9/11
Jurors in Manhattan trial of alleged al-Qaeda operative shown video of him making the threat one month after September 2001 strikes on US
Jurors in the trial of alleged al-Qaeda operative Suleiman Abu Ghaith have watched videos of the defendant warning of a "storm" of airplane attacks a month after September 11, 2001.
Abu Ghaith, 48, a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, is on trial in Manhattan federal court for conspiring to kill Americans, among other charges. Prosecutors contend he was a top-tier member of al-Qaeda and knew of various terrorist plots.
On Monday, prosecutors played two videos from October 2001 in which Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti, is seen warning of further attacks in the wake of 9/11.
"There are thousands of young Muslims who look forward to die for the sake of Allah," Abu Ghaith said in one video. "The storm of airplanes will not stop."
At another point, Abu Ghaith warns Muslims "not to board aircraft and we advise them not to live in high rises and tall buildings".
Also on Monday, prosecutors questioned via a video feed a convicted al-Qaeda operative linked to "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, who testified that he was planning shoe-bomb attacks on airplanes around the same time that Abu Ghaith was warning of additional attacks. The implication was that Abu Ghaith was aware of these planned attacks.
The government witness, Saajid Badat, testified that he met bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders about a plan to explode devices on planes.
At the same time, he acknowledged that he never spoke to Abu Ghaith about the plot and said he did not know if Abu Ghaith was aware of it.
Badat, 34, appeared via video from the United Kingdom, his head shaved and wearing a trim beard along with a grey suit.
Badat said he encountered bin Laden at least 20 times during roughly three years in Afghanistan. He described a murky world of moving between al-Qaeda-run guesthouses and training camps, meeting al-Qaeda leaders and learning such skills as how to fire an AK-47 and how to rappel down a wall while holding a weapon.
In Afghanistan, Badat said, one high-ranking al-Qaeda member told him: "If you want to take part in attacks on Jews and Americans, we can also arrange that."
From late October to December 2001, Badat said he plotted attacks with Reid, the man who became known as the "shoe bomber" after his attempt to detonate explosives on a flight to Miami in 2001. Reid, a British citizen, pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in a US district court in Boston.
Badat, also a British citizen, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for the plot after pleading guilty in Britain to conspiring to harm an aircraft. His sentence was later reduced for his cooperation with authorities and he has since been released from prison.
Earlier on Monday, another prosecution witness, Salim Alwan, finished testifying about his abbreviated terrorist training in Afghanistan in spring 2001. Alwan said he saw Abu Ghaith once in an al-Qaeda-run guesthouse.
Under cross-examination, defence attorney Geoffrey Stewart tried to cast Alwan as a liar. He noted that Alwan never told his wife or parents in upstate New York that he was travelling to Pakistan and Afghanistan in spring 2001.
Stewart also asked Alwan why he failed to disclose details of his Afghanistan training or his encounters with bin Laden to the FBI in late 2001, after he had agreed to co-operate.
"I didn't want to get in trouble," said Alwan.
Alwan, 41, served nearly eight years in prison for providing material support to al-Qaeda and was released in July 2010.
Additional reporting by McClatchy-Tribune