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Feds want to keep bin Laden-Somalia link in trial

Osama bin Laden  

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The defense presentation in the embassy bombings trial will pause Monday so federal prosecutors can make their case that Islamic militants loyal to Osama bin Laden trained the Somali fighters who killed 18 American soldiers in 1993.

The charge, largely ignored in 10 weeks of trial testimony and evidence about the August 7, 1998, bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, is one the U.S. attorney has not dropped in a proposal for reduced charges submitted to the trial judge.

In a one-day presentation, the government is expected to call an expert witness from the U.S. military to sum up what happened in the Somalia capital of Mogadishu on October 3, 1993.

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On that day, a firefight resulting from a U.S. Army raid to capture lieutenants of Somali tribal leader Mohammed Farrah Aidid left 18 U.S. soldiers dead.

The U.S. troops were in Somalia to assist a U.N. mission distributing food and relief supplies and restoring order to the war-torn nation. The United Nations had put a bounty on Aidid after his men ambushed and killed 24 Pakistani peacekeepers that June.

A federal indictment accuses bin Laden and 21 others in a terrorist conspiracy to kill Americans dating to the early 1990s. Four of those named in the indictment have been on trial since January, accused of roles in the embassy bombings, which prosecutors say were the culmination of the conspiracy. The two truck bombings killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.

Prosecutors completed their initial evidence presentation to the jury on April 4 after calling more than 90 witnesses.

On Thursday, at the request of U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand, the U.S. attorney's office submitted a revised indictment to simplify the charges the jury will be asked to consider.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in court this week that one of the six terror conspiracy charges -- plotting to attack U.S. national defense facilities -- would be dropped and that the list of more than 150 overt acts alleged in the main conspiracy count would be reduced.

Copies of the revised indictment were under court seal, pending a court conference scheduled Monday afternoon.

Fitzgerald has told Sand the actions alleged in Somalia will remain in the government's case.

Defendant Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, 36, a Jordanian national, is the only defendant in court directly implicated in Somalia. The indictment names Odeh as one of seven known members of bin Laden's group, al Qaeda, who trained Somali tribes.

Aside from the unforeseen casualties, the U.S. military action on October 3, 1993, "was a success," according to a memo by Maj. Gen. William Garrison, the commanding officer. "The targeted individuals were captured." More than 500 Somalis died from the battle.

Aidid died in 1996, his son Hussein succeeding him as tribal leader and de facto president, although Somalia had no central government until last year. A peace-brokered parliament installed last summer elected a new president, Abdiqasim Salad Hasan, to a transitional three-year term.

The three men now on trial in New York along with Odeh are Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali, 24, a Saudi; Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27, a Tanzanian; and Wadih el Hage, 40, a naturalized American.

None of the defendants are expected to testify. The defense is expected to rest at the end of next week.

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U.S. State Department
 •  International Information Programs:
 •  Counterterrorism
 •  Links to United States Embassies and Consulates Worldwide
Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1999
FBI Websites Document Evidence Against Bin Laden
Ussamah Bin Laden
US District Court, Southern District of New York
Terrorism Research Center

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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