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Boyhood friend fingers defendant in Y2K bomb plot

Mokhtar Haouari
Haouari, a Montreal shopkeeper, is charged with multiple counts of aiding a terrorist plot and fraud.  

By Phil Hirschkorn
CNN Producer

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A government witness told a jury Thursday that Mokhtar Haouari sent him to Seattle to help in a New Year's 2000 bomb plot.

Abdel Ghani Meskini is testifying against Haouari, who is accused of providing material support to a terrorist enterprise, namely the foiled plot that prosecutors allege targeted Los Angeles International Airport.

The plot unraveled when U.S. border patrol guards caught Ahmed Ressam driving a rented Chrysler across the Canadian border into Washington state. His trunk contained explosive materials and timing devices.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Bianco has said Ressam, who was convicted in an April trial in Los Angeles, will tell them he planned to detonate a suitcase bomb outside an LAX terminal.


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Meskini, whose Brooklyn phone number was found on a scrap of paper in Ressam's car, was originally Haouari's codefendant. He pleaded guilty to almost identical charges in March and is now cooperating with the government.

Meskini, 33, and Haouari, 32, both Algerians, are former schoolmates who immigrated to Canada in the mid-1990s. They became reacquainted at a Montreal coffee shop in 1997.

"He told me the way he was involved in bank fraud," Meskini said of his friend. "He told me he make [sic] fake checks, company checks, and cash them," Meskini said.

Meskini said he was engaged in bank frauds, some involving the defendant.

Meskini said Haouari paid him to open three accounts in Canadian banks, where counterfeit checks would be deposited and cash withdrawn with ATM cards.

Meskini said Haouari provided him a fake Canadian passport and citizenship card under an alias, Mustafa Nhaily, before Meskini sneaked across the Vermont border into the United States.

In addition to the terrorism counts, Haouari faces five counts of fraud by providing fake passports, driver's licenses and citizenship cards, and by trafficking in counterfeit credit cards and checks.

Meskini is scheduled to resume testifying when the trial reconvenes Friday.


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