The arrests near Buffalo, N.Y., were connected to information that prompted a "code orange' alert.
September 15, 2002
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Five American-born men charged Saturday with supporting terrorism had trained to use assault rifles and other weapons at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden spoke about his anti-American beliefs, federal authorities said.
The men, all in their 20s and of Yemeni descent, appeared in a Buffalo courtroom Saturday in handcuffs and shackles and were charged with unlawfully providing material support and resources to foreign terrorist organizations.
The judge entered a "not guilty" plea for each and ordered the men jailed until a detention hearing Wednesday.
Officials did not say what support the men were suspected of providing, however, they said the discovery of the terrorist cell was connected to information that prompted the Bush administration to raise America's terror alert to "code orange," the second-highest, on the eve of the Sept. 11 anniversary.
"The United States law enforcement has identified, investigated and disrupted an al-Qaida trained terrorist cell on American soil," Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson said.
While there is evidence the men trained with al-Qaida, officials said they found no sign that they were in the midst of launching an attack.
According to the criminal complaint unsealed by the judge Saturday, all five -- Shafal Mosed, 24; Faysal Galab, 26; Sahim Alwan, 29; Yasein Taher, 24; and Yahya Goba, 25 -- live within a few blocks of each another in the Buffalo suburb of Lackawanna and trained together.
FBI Special Agent Edward Needham wrote in the complaint that unindicted co-conspirators told him Goba, Alwan, Mosed and Taher attended al-Qaida'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 that Mosed trained to use heavy artillery and that bin Laden spoke to the trainees, the agent said. The co-conspirators are not identified, but two are described as American citizens.
Needham said that in one interview, 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 if Lindh assisted with the investigation.
"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," Thompson said.
The men said little in court, quietly answering only "yes" or "no" when U.S. Magistrate Kenneth Schroeder asked if they could afford lawyers.
Mosed, tall and slim, frequently used a copy of the complaint to shield his face from courtroom spectators. After answering Schroeder's questions, Galab issued a hearty "Thank you, sir."
William Clauss, a federal public defender assigned to represent Goba, said he had just met his client and couldn't comment.
The five were arrested Friday night after federal agents raided several houses and a social club in Lackawanna. Agents were seen taking two boxes and a blue cooler from an apartment above an Arabian foods deli.
Lackawanna Mayor John Kuryak said the FBI told him six months ago that agents were investigating a national security matter in the area.
"When you first hear about it, you do get that initial shiver. You almost tell yourself, "Not in your back yard. Not in my community.' But that was for a split second," Kuryak said. "No one can be that naive or take anything for granted these days since 9-11."
Relatives of the men denied that they were involved with al-Qaida.
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 child, attended community college and worked as a telemarketer. "He's a peaceful person."