Sulaiman Abu Ghayth, aka “Suleiman Abu Gayth”, a former associate of Usama Bin Laden, has been arrested and charged in an indictment unsealed today in New York City with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, announced Attorney General Eric Holder, Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa Monaco, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office George Venizelos, and the Police Commissioner of the City of New York (NYPD) Raymond W. Kelly. Abu Ghayth is expected to be presented and arraigned tomorrow, March 8, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan.
“No amount of distance or time will weaken our resolve to bring America's enemies to justice,” said Attorney General Holder. “To violent extremists who threaten the American people and seek to undermine our way of life, this arrest sends an unmistakable message: There is no corner of the world where you can escape from justice because we will do everything in our power to hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
“The arrest of Abu Ghayth is an important milestone in our ongoing counterterrorism efforts. I applaud the many agents, analysts and prosecutors responsible for bringing about this significant case and arrest,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco.
“It has been 13 years since Abu Ghayth allegedly worked alongside Usama Bin Laden in his campaign of terror, and 13 years since he allegedly took to the public airwaves, exhorting others to embrace al Qaeda’s cause and warning of more terrorist attacks like the mass murder of 9/11,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “The memory of those attacks is indelibly etched on the American psyche, and today’s action is the latest example of our commitment to capturing and punishing enemies of the United States, no matter how long it takes.”
“Sulaiman Abu Ghayth held a key position in al Qaeda, comparable to the consigliere in a mob family or propaganda minister in a totalitarian regime,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Venizelos. “He used his position to persuade others to swear loyalty to al Qaeda’s murderous cause. He used his position to threaten the United States and incite its enemies. His apprehension is another important step in the campaign to limit the reach of al Qaeda and enhance our national and international security.”
“While New York City must remain vigilant to continued terrorist threats against it, Abu Ghayth's apprehension and prosecution promises to close another chapter in al Qaeda's notoriously violent history of killing Americans,” said NYPD Commissioner Kelly. “This case also represents another success in the ongoing partnership between Federal agents and NYPD detectives through the JTTF.”
As alleged in the superseding indictment that has been filed against Abu Ghayth in federal court:
Since around 1989, al Qaeda has been an international terrorist organization, dedicated to opposing non-Islamic governments with force and violence. Usama Bin Laden served as the leader or “emir” of al Qaeda until his death on or about May 2, 2011. Members of al Qaeda typically have pledged an oath of allegiance, called bayat, to Bin Laden and to al Qaeda.
The core purpose of al Qaeda, as stated by Bin Laden and other leaders, is to support violent attacks against property and nationals, both military and civilian, of the United States and other countries. Between 1989 and 2001, al Qaeda established training camps, guest houses, and business operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries for the purpose of training and supporting its agenda of violence and murder. Members and associates of al Qaeda have executed a number of terrorist attacks, all in furtherance of the organization’s stated conspiracy to kill Americans, including the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, which killed approximately 2,976 people.
From at least May 2001 up to around 2002, Abu Ghayth served alongside Usama Bin Laden, appearing with Bin Laden and his then-deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, speaking on behalf of the terrorist organization and in support of its mission, and warning that attacks similar to those of September 11, 2001 would continue.
In particular, around May 2001, Abu Ghayth urged individuals at a guest house in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to swear bayat to Bin Laden. On the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks on the United States, Bin Laden summoned Abu Gayth and asked for his assistance and he agreed to provide it. On the morning of Sept. 12, 2001, Abu Ghayth, appeared with Bin Laden and Zawahiri, and spoke on behalf of al Qaeda, warning the United States and its allies that “[a] great army is gathering against you” and called upon “the nation of Islam” to do battle against “the Jews, the Christians and the Americans.” Also, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Abu Ghayth delivered a speech in which he addressed the then-U.S. Secretary of State and warned that “the storms shall not stop, especially the Airplanes Storm,” and advised Muslims, children, and opponents of the United States “not to board any aircraft and not to live in high rises.”
Abu Gayth arranged to be, and was, successfully smuggled from Afghanistan into Iran in 2002.
The indictment charges Abu Ghayth with participating in a conspiracy to kill United States nationals. The offense carries a maximum term of imprisonment of life. No trial date has yet been set in the case.
The charges and arrest of Abu Ghayth are the result of the close cooperative efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the Joint Terrorism Task Force – which principally consists of agents and detectives of the FBI and the New York City Police Department – the United States Marshals Service and the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and the U.S. Department of State also provided assistance.
The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys John P. Cronan and Michael Ferrara of the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, with assistance from Trial Attorney Jolie Zimmerman of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.