9-11 trial witness cites hijacker threat

Friday, August 29, 2003

HAMBURG, Germany -- A witness at the trial of a Sept. 11 terror suspect was pressed Thursday by a judge about her memory that one of the suicide hijackers in 1999 predicted an attack on the United States that would kill thousands.

The testimony by librarian Angela Duile could be important in the case against Abdelghani Mzoudi, 30, who is accused of supporting the Hamburg al-Qaida cell.

In her testimony Thursday, Duile recalled an anti-American outburst by Sept. 11 hijacker Marwan al-Shehhi at the library where she worked in 1999.

"I don't know how it happened. It was really spewing forth," she testified. "And then he said something will happen, you'll see. There will be thousands of dead. I believe the words 'World Trade Center' also were mentioned."

Duile said the incident occurred in May or June 1999. Her wording prompted Presiding Judge Klaus Ruehle to ask Duile whether she was sure about the reference to the World Trade Center.

"I believe the words were mentioned, but I could not say it 100 percent," she said. Still, she stood by her account, explaining she was just leaving work when she ran into al-Shehhi and remembered asking a friend immediately afterward what the World Trade Center was.

Al-Shehhi lived and studied in Hamburg along with fellow suicide pilots Mohamed Atta and Ziad Jarrah. Mzoudi is accused of providing logistical help to their cell.

To prove the terrorism charge, prosecutors must establish that Atta, al-Shehhi and the others formed a group.

Duile also gave an account of al-Shehhi's outburst during el Motassadeq's trial -- but questions were raised over it then as well. Federal prosecutors had previously cited the outburst as key evidence that the Sept. 11 attacks were meticulously planned, but had dated it to April or May 2000.

Duile testified she only worked at the library until August 1999. Defense lawyers for el Motassadeq claimed that al-Shehhi was taking pre-university courses in Bonn in early 1999 and could not have been a regular visitor to Hamburg, a 3 1/2-hour train ride away.

But the head of the Bonn school recalled in court that al-Shehhi was often absent and finished final exams by late May 1999.

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