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Testimony: Bin Laden sought Americans 'willing to die'

One of six New York men pleads guilty to aiding al Qaeda

The six defendants are shown in a courtroom sketch from a court appearance in September.
The six defendants are shown in a courtroom sketch from a court appearance in September.

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• Criminal complaint: U.S. v. Goba, et al external link
• Criminal complaint: U.S. v. al-Bakri external link

BUFFALO, New York (CNN) -- One of the six upstate New York men accused of forming an al Qaeda cell inside the United States has revealed, for the first time, details about an Osama bin Laden speech seeking suicide attackers in the United States.

On Friday, prosecutors said Faysal Galab, 26, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York to aiding bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Court papers show that Galab says Osama bin Laden asked "whether anyone in America is willing to die for the cause."

Galab is one of six men of Yemeni heritage accused of attending an al Qaeda training camp inside Afghanistan in summer 2001, just months before the September 11 terrorist attacks.

All of the defendants, who lived in Lackawanna, New York, near Buffalo, were indicted in October on charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

Galab pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of contributing "funds, goods and services to and for the benefit of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda" in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. In a 1998 executive order, former President Clinton added bin Laden and al Qaeda to the list of "specially designated terrorists" and prohibited transactions with them.

In his plea, Galab admitted attending the al Farooq camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan and being trained to fire a Kalashnikov rifle and to make explosives.

Present at bin Laden lecture

Galab also admitted attending a lecture by bin Laden in mid-May 2001, where the al Qaeda leader "stated that 50 men were on a mission to attack America," according to court papers.

Bin Laden asked one of Galab's co-defendants, Sahim Alwan, in a private meeting "whether anyone in America is willing to die for the cause," according to the papers.

At the same meeting, bin Laden admitted responsibility for ordering the truck bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. At the same time, a New York jury was deliberating the fate of four bin Laden soldiers accused of carrying out the attacks in East Africa. Those four men were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Galab faced a maximum of 15 years in prison under the original charges, but the plea agreement calls for him to serve seven years, according to his defense attorney, Joseph LaTona.

"With the entering of a guilty plea by Faysal Galab, justice has been served," U.S. Attorney Michael Battle said. "This is a significant resolution toward bringing this case to finality."

Battle's office said Galab is cooperating with the investigation and that Galab will be required to testify whenever the government requests, including at military tribunals.

The six defendants have been in custody since their arrests September 13 and 14. They appeared in court December 30 to appeal a decision denying them bail.

U.S. Magistrate Kenneth Schroeder had ruled October 8 that Galab and four of the other men -- Yahya Goba, 25; Shafel Mosed, 24; Mukthtar al-Bakri, 22; and Yasein Taher, 25 -- should remain incarcerated because they might flee or pose a danger to the community.

Schroeder granted conditional bail to defendant Alwan, 30, the eldest of the group and the only one of the alleged recruits who fled the camp early. After three months, Alwan's family is still raising collateral for his $600,000 bond.

Before Friday, only Alwan and al-Bakri admitted attending the camps, according to the government's criminal complaint, which said that Alwan told the government he had seen Galab in the camp.

According to Galab's plea, Alwan repeatedly advised him to lie about his travel if questioned by the FBI. Galab said he flew from New York to Pakistan in April 2001 and spent six weeks in the camp before returning in late June with Mosed and Taher. Galab said they all left before completing the training.

In the September raids, FBI agents found no weapons or al Qaeda materials espousing violence in Galab's possession.

Joseph LaTona, Galab's defense attorney, had described Galab as a "loyal American who loves his country."

Except for four years as a child in Yemen, Galab has always lived in the Buffalo area. He has been a part-owner of a Sunoco station in Lackawanna since April 2002.

Galab is married with two children, and his wife is pregnant. He has no prior criminal record other than a misdemeanor conviction when he was 18.

The government contends that the six men's mere presence at the al Farooq camp legally constitutes material support for terrorism.

But the government has been inconsistent on whether the Buffalo group constituted a so-called "sleeper cell" awaiting orders to carry out some future attack in the United States.

"I suppose the court could conclude that," lead prosecutor William Hochul said during the bail appeal hearing in December.

An American citizen regarded as the recruiter of the alleged Buffalo cell was among six people killed during a CIA operation against al Qaeda in Yemen in November. Ahmed Hijazi, also known as Kamal Derwish, was killed by a missile fired from an unmanned Predator aircraft.

Derwish was one of two unindicted conspirators in the case. An eighth alleged cell member, Jaber Elbaneh, is also believed to be in Yemen.

--From CNN's Phil Hirschkorn, Susan Candiotti, and Terry Frieden.

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