- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2003

Federal authorities are offering a $5 million reward for a New York man accused of conspiring with a “sleeper cell” of six suspected members of the al Qaeda terrorist network operating out of Buffalo, N.Y.

Jaber Elbaneh, 37, a U.S.-born citizen who lived in Lackawanna, N.Y., is accused of conspiring with al Qaeda members and others to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. The charge is based on the group’s suspected attendance at an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist training camp.

Elbaneh, the last to be charged in the case, remains at large and is believed to be in Yemen. The reward was announced this week by Peter J. Ahearn, who heads the FBI field office in Buffalo, and U.S. Attorney Michael A. Battle, also in Buffalo, as part of the State Department’s “Rewards for Justice Program.”

The six others were indicted Oct. 21, 2002, by a federal grand jury in Buffalo on charges of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists from the spring of 2001 through Sept. 13, 2002.

They also were accused of providing material support from the spring of 2001 through Aug. 2, 2001, and receiving military-type training at the Al Farooq camp affiliated with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda near Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The material-support statute prohibits anyone from knowingly providing or conspiring to provide support to a foreign terrorist organization, as designated by the State Department. Al Qaeda was designated as a foreign terrorist organization in October 1999.

The six — all Yemeni-Americans ranging in age from 23 to 30 — admitted in court that they received training at Al Farooq in the use of a number of weapons, including assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, plastic explosives, Molotov cocktails and land mines.

The six are Mukhtar al-Bakri, 23; Yahya Goba, 26; Yasein Taher, 25; Shafal Mosed, 24; Faysal Galab, 25; and Sahim Alwan, 30. All have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government in its ongoing terrorism investigation. All seven grew up or lived in Lackawanna, about five miles south of Buffalo. All are married, and five have children.

An FBI affidavit in the case said al-Bakri admitted in an interview that he and others, including Elbaneh, traveled to Pakistan in the summer of 2001 to attend religious training and spent a week in Karachi before moving on to Kandahar, Afghanistan. The affidavit said the men then went to the Al Farooq training camp near Kandahar, where they received weapons training.

The affidavit, by FBI Agent Edward J. Needham, said 200 persons were being trained at the camp at the time and they were divided into smaller groups of 20, each member of which was given a code name. The affidavit said al-Bakri told the FBI that while his group was at the camp, bin Laden visited and gave a speech to all of the trainees.

According to the affidavit, bin Laden talked about “the alliance of the Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda” and espoused anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli statements.

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