US citizen with alleged al Qaeda ties faces trial

Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, right, is depicted in a courtroom sketch from 2015.

Story highlights

  • Texas born Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh is on trial in New York
  • Al Farekh has pleaded not guilty of conspiring in an attack on an American military base

(CNN)American citizen Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, who authorities say is a member of al Qaeda, is standing trial, accused of participating in an attack on a military base in Afghanistan.

Opening arguments, delivered by Assistant US Attorney Saritha Komatireddy, began Monday in Brooklyn, New York, according to John Marzulli, spokesman of the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.
Al Farekh, 31, had pleaded not guilty to attacking Americans and conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization.
    He is charged with nine counts, including conspiracy to murder US nationals, conspiracy to bomb a government facility, use of explosives and use of a weapon of mass destruction.
    Al Farekh's membership in al Qaeda lasted from 2007 through 2014, according to Marzulli. Court papers filed in July 2017 detail his involvement in a January 2009 attack on a US military installation, Forward Operating Base Chapman, in Khost, Afghanistan.
    "The attack plan was evidently for the first vehicle to detonate at the gate," court records read, "so that the second vehicle -- a truck following closely behind that was carrying significantly more explosive ordinance than the first vehicle -- could enter FOB Chapman and detonate inside the base to maximize casualties and damage."
    Ultimately, the first vehicle exploded at the gate, injuring several Afghan nationals and knocking a US soldier to the ground.
    The second vehicle was stuck and undetonated. Eighteen fingerprints collected from packing tape used to bind together the explosive materials matched to Al Farekh.
    The Houston-born defendant grew up in Dubai. According to the US Attorney's Office, he attended the University of Manitoba in Canada between 2005 and 2007, where he joined the Muslim Students Association and became friends with co-conspirators -- and later fellow al Qaeda members -- Ferid Imam and Maiwand Yar.
    According to court documents, Al Fatekh left to train in Pakistan after he viewed videos encouraging violent jihad and online lectures by the now-deceased al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, who "inspired numerous terrorist plots against Western targets."