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Witness says he warned U.S. two years before embassy attacks

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald
Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald  

Bin Laden wanted to buy uranium, ex-associate says

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Debt forced witness to leave bin Laden

Cross-examination begins next week


NEW YORK (CNN) -- A former aide to Osama bin Laden testified Wednesday that he warned U.S. officials of a potential strike two years before the deadly 1998 embassy bombings in Africa.

In his second day of testifying in the trial of four men accused of the embassy attacks, Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl also said he had once attempted to purchase uranium for bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the bombings.

On August 7, 1998 the twin bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and injured thousands. Prosecutors have portrayed the 1998 blasts as part of a worldwide plot by bin Laden.

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CNN's Deborah Feyerick reports Bin Laden wanted to buy uranium, according to an ex-associate (February 8)

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Al-Fadl, a 37-year-old from Sudan, has been a top confidential source to those investigating bin Laden's activities for five years, since his split with the Saudi exile over money. He told the court Tuesday he was an original member of al-Qaeda, bin Laden's alleged terrorist network.

Al-Fadl started informing U.S. officials, he testified Wednesday, after approaching an American embassy in an unidentified country in the summer of 1996. He told officials of his al-Qaeda associates, "They try to make war against your country."

When asked what kind of war, Al-Fadl replied, "maybe they try to do something inside United States and they try to fight the United States Army outside, and also they try make bomb against some embassy outside."

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald did not elicit any further testimony on the bomb warning. However, the witness confirmed that he later spoke to FBI agents at another U.S. embassy in Europe.

Debt forced witness to leave bin Laden

Earlier, Al-Fadl described a 1994 effort to buy uranium, a key component in nuclear weapons, for al-Qaeda for $1.5 million. He said the uranium came in a 2- to 3-foot cylinder with engravings indicating the source as South Africa. Whether the transaction was completed was left unanswered.

The effort to obtain nuclear and chemical weapons and their components, while supported by Al-Fadl's public testimony, has long been alleged in the government's indictment of the defendants.

Al-Fadl told the court Wednesday he eventually left bin Laden's orbit because he was caught stealing $110,000 by taking unauthorized commissions from sales of palm oil and sugar by bin Laden's Sudanese-based companies.

Al-Fadl, who used the money to buy four parcels of land and a new car, said he tried to return the money but could only come up with $25,000 or $30,000.

"There is no forgive (sic) until you pay it back," bin Laden told him in a private meeting, Al-Fadl testified.

After fleeing Sudan, Al-Fadl reached a deal with U.S. prosecutors to plead guilty to terrorism charges related to transporting weapons and explosives. His prison sentence could be as high as 15 years or as little as no time, depending on government requests for leniency due to his cooperation. After nearly two years living in FBI custody, Al-Fadl is now in the federal witness protection program.

U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Sand ordered court artists not to sketch the witness's face.

Until this week, he was known only in court documents as "CS-1," for "confidential source number one." His main value to the government's case has been to provide details of bin Laden's organization, which he joined as one of its first members in the late 1980s.

Cross-examination begins next week

Al-Fadl will face cross-examination beginning February 13, when the testimony resumes.

courtroom sketch
Al-Fadl, whose face cannot be shown, is questioned by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.  

The embassy bombings are the main part of a 308-count indictment naming 21 individuals for participating in an alleged decade-long conspiracy to kill Americans and destroy U.S. government property.

In two days of testimony, Al-Fadl cited 10 of the alleged conspirators named in the sweeping indictment, most of whom are fugitives not on trial at this time. Bin Laden, the lead defendant, is believed to be living in Afghanistan.

Of the four men standing trial, Wadih el Hage, a naturalized American from Lebanon, was the only one identified by Al-Fadl. He described knowing el Hage, 40, as someone who worked in al-Qaeda's offices in Sudan in the early 1990s.

El Hage is accused of terror conspiracy charges but not direct participation in the embassy bombings. His attorneys concede he worked for bin Laden's business interests but deny any connection to violent acts.

The three other men on trial are alleged Kenya embassy bombers Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, a 35-year-old Jordanian, and Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali, a 24-year-old Saudi; and alleged Tanzania embassy bomber Khalan Khamis Mohamed, a 27-year-old Tanzanian.

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Links to United States Embassies and Consulates Worldwide
Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1999
FBI Websites Document Evidence Against Bin Laden
Dept of State/International Information Programs:
Ussamah Bin Laden
US District Court, Southern District of New York
U.S. State Department - Counterterrorism
Terrorism Research Center
Africa News on the World Wide Web

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