- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Six Yemeni-Americans recruited to a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan shortly before the September 11 attacks have told the government about al Qaeda leaders, their training methods and other topics, according to federal authorities.

Since pleading guilty to providing material support to Osama bin Laden’s organization, the “Lackawanna Six” have provided “substantial assistance and information deemed highly valuable” to government terrorism investigations, prosecutors said in court papers reviewed by the Associated Press.

During several interview sessions lasting from two hours to full days, the men, obligated by plea deals to cooperate, detailed:

• Al Qaeda recruiting methods, including “how to identify potential recruits from among the American population.”

• Means by which recruits were transported from their home countries to training camps abroad.

• How recruits are indoctrinated to identify America as an enemy.

• Descriptions of “a number of al Qaeda leaders, trainers and recruits.”

• Weapons and explosives training at the al Farooq camp in Afghanistan, and the availability of “additional, advanced terrorist training” offered by al Qaeda elsewhere.

• The location of al Qaeda “guest houses” and routes taken in and out of Afghanistan.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Buffalo outlined the findings to support sentencing recommendations for Shafal Mosed, 25; Mukhtar al-Bakri, 23; Faysal Galab, 27; Sahim Alwan, 30; Yahya Goba, 26, and Yasein Taher, 25.

The men face between seven and 10 years in prison when they are sentenced over the coming weeks, beginning with al-Bakri on Dec. 3. They could have faced up to 15 years if convicted at trial.

The government, citing the “highly sensitive nature” of the information, provided few details. Besides Buffalo-area investigators, the six have been interviewed by U.S. military officials, FBI agents and other investigators.

“The debriefing in this case has been extensive, more extensive than in my 28 years of practicing law,” said Galab’s attorney, Joseph LaTona.

The “Lackawanna Six,” so named for the working-class city where they lived, were arrested in September 2002 after an anonymous letter tipped investigators to their travels to Afghanistan in the spring of 2001.

A seventh man, Jaber Elbaneh, remains a fugitive, believed to be in Yemen. The FBI has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

Although authorities said there was no evidence the group was involved in imminent terrorist plans, the case has been used by the Bush administration as a model in pursuing and prosecuting terrorism suspects.

Relatives have written to U.S. District Judge William Skretny seeking leniency and painting portraits of loving husbands, community leaders and brokenhearted fathers who struggle to explain to young children why they cannot come home.

Friends say the six men were manipulated into going to the camp by high-pressure recruiters who came to their mosque with a message of religious service — then were pressured again by the government to plead guilty.

“Everyone once in their life have that moment where they wish they could turn back the hands of time,” wrote Amira Nasser, Mosed’s wife, in the court papers.

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