N.Y. Yemeni-American gets 10 years on terror charge

Man trained at al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan

December 04, 2003|By John J. Goldman | John J. Goldman,LOS ANGELES TIMES

NEW YORK - A federal judge sentenced a Yemeni-American who attended an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan - where he met with Osama bin Laden - to 10 years in prison yesterday for supporting a terrorist organization.

Mukhtar al-Bakri, 23, was the last of six men from upstate New York to plead guilty in a case that drew national attention last year after the Bush administration dubbed them the "Lackawanna Six" and alleged they were members of an al-Qaida sleeper cell. He was also fined $2,000.

Like his companions, al-Bakri agreed to provide information to the FBI and intelligence agencies before sentencing. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization - a charge that carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both. He did not address the court yesterday.

In a statement issued in Washington, Attorney General John Ashcroft said: "With today's conviction, the Department of Justice has succeeded in shutting down and prosecuting a source of material support for al-Qaida and securing the cooperation of individuals who trained side-by-side with our terrorist enemies."

Al-Bakri was seized in a Bahrain hotel room on his wedding night in September 2002 and turned over to U.S. authorities. He had become the focus of U.S. government interest after e-mail he sent from Saudi Arabia referred to a "big meal," which intelligence analysts interpreted as a possible terrorist attack.

Before sentencing, prosecutors notified U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny that al-Bakri had provided was "highly sensitive" information.

After his arrest, the Yemeni-American told investigators that in early April 2001, he and several companions from Lackawanna agreed to attend the al-Farooq camp in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden spoke at the facility while al-Bakri was there, and the American said he later met with him personally. Throughout the training, al-Bakri said, staff members talked about al-Qaida's intention to attack the United States.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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