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Terror cell suspects may be flight risk to Yemen

Sunday, September 29, 2002

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The U.S. lacks an extradition treaty with Yemen, one reason why the six men suspected of belonging to a terror cell in western New York should be denied bail, according to prosecutors.

"Given that the defendants have strong familial ties to Yemen, the defendants are provided an easy opportunity and incentive to go where they are free of the jurisdiction of this court," U.S. Attorney Michael Battle said in court papers Friday.

In separate documents, defense lawyers argued that the men pose no danger or flight risk, with families in Lackawanna, five miles south of Buffalo, willing to pledge property to guarantee their presence at trial.

The six, all U.S. citizens of Yemeni descent in their 20s, lived just blocks from each other in Lackawanna.

They were arrested on Sep. 13, suspected of being part of a hidden terrorist cell.

The detainees deny alleged al-Qaida membership. U.S. Magistrate H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr. said he would make his decision on bail by Thursday.

All six, who are Muslims, say they went to Pakistan in the spring of 2001 to pursue religious training.

However, Sahim Alwan, 29, and Mukhtar al-Bakri, 22, said the six also attended a military training camp in Afghanistan run by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, according to their lawyers.

Both gave statements to the FBI, the basis for the federal charges of supporting a foreign terrorist organization.

But attorneys for Faysal Galab, 26, Yasein Taher, 24, Shafel Mosed, 24, and Yahya Goba, 25, dispute that their clients ever went to Afghanistan and dispute the other men's credibility.

According to prosecutors, Osama bin Laden declared at the camp, a few months before the Sept. 11 attacks, that there "is going to be a fight against Americans." Also, they say that "al-Bakri acknowledged to the FBI that, when he was at the camp, he was a member of al-Qaida."

John Molloy, al-Bakri's lawyer, said his client didn't accept any of what he was told in Afghanistan. "There was no showing in the government's proffer that Mr. Al-Bakri bought into any of the propaganda or was willing or able to put any of the training offered into practice."

James Harrington, attorney for Alwan, said his client acknowledged getting some instruction in the use of a Kalashnokov rifle at the camp, but never fired live ammunition. "Mr. Alwan stated that he realized immediately that he did not belong at the camp and wanted to leave it," said Harrington.

But prosecutors questioned why the six would go there at all then quietly return to their lives in the U.S. While Alwan left the camp after about 10 days, prosecutors allege the others stayed five to six weeks.

Adding to his arguments at an earlier three-day bail hearing that the men are dangerous, prosecutor William Hochul Jr. said cassette tapes and papers were recovered from the homes of Alwan, Taher and Goba that contain "highly incendiary" language referring to suicide missions and holy war.

A document allegedly recovered in a Sept. 25 search of the Hamburg, N.Y, apartment used by Taher said, "Martyrdom or self-sacrifice operations are those performed by one or more people against enemies far outstripping them in numbers and equipment ... The form this usually takes nowadays is to wire up one's body, or a vehicle or suitcase with explosives, and then to enter into a conglomeration of the enemy ... in order to cause the maximum losses in enemy ranks."


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