- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 15, 2002

BUFFALO, N.Y. Five American men of Arab descent charged yesterday with supporting terrorism were trained to use assault rifles and other weapons at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden spoke about his anti-American beliefs, authorities said.
U.S. Magistrate H. Kenneth Schroeder unsealed a criminal complaint against the five men, who appeared in court yesterday. They are in their 20s, of Yemeni descent and living within a few blocks of one another in the Buffalo area.
The men, dressed in casual clothes and handcuffed and shackled, quietly answered "yes" or "no" as Judge Schroeder asked whether they could afford lawyers.
The judge entered a "not guilty" plea for each man and set a detention hearing for Wednesday. He ordered the men jailed until then.
Charged were Shafal Mosed, 24; Faysal Galab, 26; Sahim Alwan, 29; Yasein Taher, 24; and Yahya Goba, 25. If convicted, each could face as long as 15 years in prison.
Officials did not say what support the men were suspected of providing. However, they said the discovery of the cell was connected to information that also prompted the Bush administration to raise the United States' terror alert to "code orange" the second-highest on the eve of the September 11 anniversary.
Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson announced yesterday that the men had trained at an al Qaeda terrorist camp in Afghanistan where bin Laden gave a speech promoting his anti-American and anti-Israeli views.
"The United States law enforcement has identified, investigated and disrupted an al Qaeda trained terrorist cell on American soil," Mr. Thompson said at a news conference in Washington.
FBI Special Agent Edward J. Needham wrote in the complaint that unindicted co-conspirators had told him Mr. Goba, Mr. Alwan, Mr. Mosed and Mr. Taher attended al Qaeda's al-Farooq terror training camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan, where they were trained to use Kalashnikov assault rifles, handguns and long-range rifles.
One of the three co-conspirators said Mr. Mosed also trained to use heavy artillery and that bin Laden spoke to the trainees, the agent said. The co-conspirators are not named, but two are described as U.S. citizens.
Agent Needham said that in one interview, Mr. Alwan "stated that he and his friends had attended terrorist camps" in the spring and summer of 2001.
It was the same camp John Walker Lindh attended, but officials declined to say whether Lindh assisted with the investigation.
About a half-dozen family members rushed from the court after the hearing, declining comment.
Just before the hearing in U.S. District Court, a carload of people drove by the federal building chanting: "U.S.A, U.S.A." Three members of the protest group Act Now to Stop War and End Racism silently held signs reading "Stop the racist witch hunt" from across the street.
"It's taking away people's rights for due process under the law, and you see it happening here, where people are being tried in the press before any evidence is revealed," said Beverly Heistand, of Buffalo.
Officials said that although they had evidence of contacts with foreign terrorists and training, there was no evidence the men arrested in the Buffalo area were in the midst of starting an attack.
Mr. Thompson, in Washington, said the investigation stemmed from information "indicating that a number of individuals" from the area had participated in weapons training last year at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan.
Citing the complaint filed against the men, Mr. Thompson said two of the men confirmed that they and six associates attended a training camp in Afghanistan and that bin Laden visited the camp.
"We do not want to get into the details of the investigation, but we have had great cooperation from the Muslim-American community and we appreciate that a great deal," Mr. Thompson said.
The five men were arrested Friday night after federal agents raided several houses and a social club. Agents were seen taking two boxes and a blue cooler from an apartment above an Arabian foods deli.
John Kuryak, mayor of the Buffalo suburb of Lackawanna, said the FBI told him six months ago that agents were investigating a national security matter in the area.
Relatives of the men denied they were involved with the al Qaeda terrorist group. Albaneh Mosed said FBI agents burst into his home and arrested his brother, Shafal Mosed.
"If he was a terrorist, I'd be the first to know," he said. He said his brother, who is married with a 3-year-old, attended community college and worked as a telemarketer. "He's a peaceful person."
Ahmed Jamil said he was painting a house when FBI agents raided it Friday night looking for a man in his 20s. He said the man occasionally filled in for the leader at the Lackawanna Islamic Mosque, two blocks away. Mr. Jamil said he didn't believe any of the men had ties to the al Qaeda network.
Phone messages at the mosque were not immediately returned.
Mohamed Albanna, a local civic leader and member of the Yemenite Merchants Association, said he knew many of the people targeted in the federal investigation.

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