Sixth man charged in Buffalo terror probe
LACKAWANNA, New York (CNN) -- A sixth man has been charged in upstate New York with providing "material support" to the al Qaeda terrorist network.
Mukhtar al-Bakri, 22, was charged Monday in U.S. District Court in Buffalo. He was arrested over the weekend in Bahrain, where he was to be wed in an arranged marriage, according to Dr. Khalid Qazi, a member of the local Muslim community.
He was arraigned Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Buffalo.
"He was arrested in violation of Title 18 [of the] U.S. Code, providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations," FBI Special Agent Peter Ahearn said.
Al-Bakri is being held at a federal detention facility outside Buffalo with five other men who were arrested in FBI raids that began Friday in the Buffalo suburb of Lackawanna. Al-Bakri's home was one of the sites searched in the raids.
All six men, Americans of Yemeni descent, will appear in court again Wednesday for a bond hearing.
U.S. Attorney Michael Battle said officials do not have any information to indicate that the men were planning an attack, but he said the arrests were "very significant."
Authorities identified the other five as Yahya Goba, 25; Sahim Alwan, 29; Shafal Mosed, 24; Yasein Taher, 24; and Faysal Galab, 26. One is employed, another is a student, and the other three are unemployed, officials said. Four were born in the United States, and one is a naturalized citizen, according to FBI Special Agent Peter Ahearn.
Galab was arrested Saturday morning, while the other four were arrested Friday night.
They were charged Saturday in U.S. District Court with one count each of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. The government alleges that the men's participation in the al Qaeda camps amounted to "material support."
If convicted, the men face as many as 15 years in prison, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Larry Thompson said. A federal magistrate entered not guilty pleas for the five men Saturday because none had legal counsel at the time.
The suspects lived within blocks of one another in Lackawanna, a former steel town of about 20,000 with a large Yemeni community.
Battle said there is evidence that the men trained in an al Qaeda camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan, at the same time as John Walker Lindh, the California man captured while fighting with Taliban forces in Afghanistan last year. The FBI has described the facility as a "boot camp" for al Qaeda recruits.
"We are not aware that they were awaiting any orders," Battle said. "What we do know is that they trained in a camp and that camp was run by al Qaeda trainers."
Government sources described the men as low-level operatives who had been under investigation since before the September 11 terrorist attacks. They were arrested because of an "increase of chatter from this group and the gravity of what they were saying," one source said.
Fearing a backlash within the community after the arrests, local authorities beefed up security Monday at area schools. New York Gov. George Pataki is scheduled to speak to residents Monday afternoon.
Family members and some neighbors said they doubted any of the men were involved in terrorist activities.
Mohamed Saleh, who works at the mosque the suspects attended, said the government is justified in investigating the men but said he does not believe they are guilty of the charges. "They're very peaceful human beings," Saleh said.
Battle said authorities are investigating whether the suspects have connections to similar cases in other states.
In August, the government charged four men in Detroit, Michigan, with planning attacks on targets in the United States, Jordan and Turkey. James Ujaama, a Muslim activist in Seattle, Washington, has been charged with conspiring to set up an al Qaeda training camp in the Pacific Northwest.
Battle said the suspects in the Lackawanna case "engaged in similar activity" to suspects in Detroit and Seattle but added that "our investigation of whether there are any other links continues at this time."
"One of the things that makes this crew somewhat unique is that they're American-born citizens." he said. "That tells us a little bit more about what's going on in our country."
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