Department of Justice Seal

Remarks of Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson
News Conference - September 14, 2002

(PLEASE NOTE: The Deputy Attorney General often deviates from prepared remarks.)

Good afternoon. Today I am joined by New York Governor George Pataki, FBI Director Robert Mueller and other federal and state officials to announce that United States law enforcement has identified, investigated, and disrupted an al Qaeda-trained terrorist cell on American soil.

In the past twenty-four hours, federal authorities have arrested five United States citizens who reside near Buffalo, New York on charges of providing material support to al Qaeda.

In custody of federal authorities this afternoon are Faysal Galab, Sahim A. Alwan, Yahya A. Goba, Shafel Mosed, and Yasein Taher, all native born citizens of the United States and residents of Lackawanna, New York.

These charges are the result of an intensive investigation conducted by agents of the FBI in coordination with the Joint Terrorism Task Force, other federal, state and local law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The investigation was initiated as the result of information indicating that a number of individuals from the Lackawanna, New York area had participated in weapons training in the early summer of 2001 at a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. This camp, al-Farooq, is known to be used by al Qaeda. It is the same camp at which John Walker Lindh received terrorist training.

According to the complaint, two members of the al Qaeda-trained Buffalo cell have confirmed that they and six of their associates attended the al-Farooq training camp near Kandahar in June, 2001. At the al Farooq camp, the complaint charges, these individuals received weapons training, including training in the use of Kalashnikov assault rifles, handguns and long range rifles. While they were at the camp, Usama Bin Laden visited and delivered a speech instructing the approximately 200 trainees in anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment as well as al Qaeda doctrine. All of the individuals charged left the camp prior to September 11, 2001.

If convicted of the crimes with which they are charged in today’s complaint, these five defendants could face a maximum penalty of fifteen years in prison. I want to emphasize, however, that the investigation of the Buffalo cell is ongoing. We are working to develop additional evidence and information about the activities of this cell and the defendants named today. In addition, efforts to apprehend the associates of today’s defendants are ongoing.

Today’s action is the latest in a series of material support for terrorist charges that have been brought in the past three weeks against individuals residing in the United States. Ernest James Ujaama of Seattle, Washington and several other U.S. residents were indicted late in August for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. Although the facts of these cases differ, together they demonstrate the commitment of the Department of Justice to aggressively pursue terrorists and those who aid terrorists, wherever they reside. Terrorism and support of terrorists is not confined to the large cities and metropolitan areas of America; it lurks in small towns and rural areas as well. Today’s arrests send an unambiguous message that we will track down terrorists wherever they hide. American citizens who see fit to aid and abet America’s enemies will face the full force of America’s justice.

We are a nation at war and a citizenry on alert. I thank Governor Pataki, who in this case and so many others has proved a invaluable partner in the campaign against terrorism. I thank and acknowledge Director Mueller, for his unparalleled leadership in this time of national challenge and institutional change.

I am also grateful to Mike Battle, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, and FBI Special Agent in Charge Peter Ahearn for their outstanding contribution to the cause of justice in this case. I am grateful, as well, to the many agents of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies who played a critical role in these arrests. [In addition, I thank the Muslim community of Buffalo for their extraordinary cooperation. The assistance of Muslim-Americans in this case has helped make the Buffalo community and the nation safer, and we are indeed grateful.]

Thank you. Director Mueller will now make remarks.