FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MONDAY, MAY 19, 2003
TDD (202) 514-1888
MUKHTAR AL-BAKRI PLEADS GUILTY TO PROVIDING MATERIAL SUPPORT TO AL QAEDA
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Attorney General John Ashcroft, Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff of the Criminal Division, and U.S. Attorney Michael Battle of the Western District of New York announced today that Mukhtar al-Bakri, the last of the six defendants indicted as part of the Buffalo cell case, has pleaded guilty to a charge of providing material support to the al Qaeda terrorist organization.
Al-Bakri, of Lackawanna, N.Y., entered the plea to a charge of providing material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization at federal court in Buffalo, N.Y., this afternoon before Judge William M. Skretny. All six defendants charged in an October 2002 federal indictment have now pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with ongoing investigations.
The two-count indictment last year charged the defendants with providing material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, based on their attendance at an al Qaeda-affiliated training camp. In court today, al-Bakri pleaded guilty to Count Two of the indictment, a violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339B, and admitted that he provided material support to al Qaeda by obtaining a uniform, traveling to the al Farooq training camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan, and providing guard duty at the training camp. He also admitted receiving weapons training and meeting with Usama bin Laden while at the al Farooq camp.
The charge to which al-Bakri pleaded guilty to, a violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339B, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail, a fine of $250,000, or both.
“With today’s conviction, the Department of Justice has succeeded in shutting down and prosecuting a source of material support to al Qaeda, and securing the cooperation of individuals who trained side-by-side with our terrorist enemies. The continuing assistance ensured by the pleas in the Buffalo case will continue to strengthen our efforts to prevent terrorism,” said Attorney General John Ashcroft. “I commend the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Criminal Division and the FBI for bringing us closer to our ultimate goal of victory in the war on terrorism.”
The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, Michael A. Battle, praised the intensive investigation conducted by the FBI in coordination with the Joint Terrorism Task Force and other federal, state and local law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Battle further stated: “The al-Bakri guilty plea, like those of the other five defendants, obligates the defendant to cooperate with the government’s ongoing criminal investigation into terrorist activity and helps our efforts to disrupt terrorist operations.”
Al-Bakri admitted in court that he, along with co-defendants Shafal Mosed, Faysal Galab, Yayha Goba, Yasein Taher, Sahim Alwan and others, agreed in April 2001 to attend a military-type training camp in Afghanistan to receive training for jihad.
In his admission, al-Bakri states that he, Alwan, Goba and another man left New York on May 12, 2001, and arrived in Karachi, Pakistan the next day. On al-Bakri’s second day in Pakistan, he was told that he was going to the al Farooq camp, and that he was going to meet the “most wanted” at the camp - a reference he knew meant bin Laden, according to his admission in court. Al-Bakri and Goba then traveled to a guest house in Kandahar associated with al Qaeda, where al-Bakri viewed videotapes which contained footage concerning the bombing of the USS Cole and speeches by bin Laden. It was at the guest house that al-Bakri obtained a uniform to be worn at al Farooq, according to the plea agreement.
Al-Bakri admitted that he traveled to al Farooq with Goba and others, and over a period of several weeks, he worked under the direction and control of members of the al Qaeda organization. Al-Bakri admits receiving, among other things, training and instruction in the assembly and use of firearms, including a Kalishnikov rifle, 9mm handgun, M16 automatic rifle, and rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Al-Bakri was also required to perform guard duty at the camp, and he received training on subjects related to explosives - including plastic explosives, TNT, detonators, landmines and Molotov cocktails - and in concealment and camouflage techniques.
Al Bakri’s plea states that while all the defendants named in the indictment and other individuals were at al Farooq, bin Laden appeared there and spoke about the alliance of al Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and threatened America and Israel. Al-Bakri also admitted meeting personally with bin Laden while both were at the camp, and that trainers at the camp spoke about the Tanzania Embassy bombing, the intention of al Qaeda to attack the United States, and the request of trainees to volunteer for suicide missions.
Al-Bakri states that he left the al Farooq camp after completing the training, eventually returning to Lackawanna, N.Y., on or about Aug. 11, 2001.
Defendant Yasein Taher pleaded guilty earlier this month to providing material support to al Qaeda. Co-defendants Sahim Alwan, Yahya Goba and Shafal Mosed had previously pleaded guilty to the same charge. Defendant Faysal Galab pleaded guilty in January 2003 to contributing funds and services to specially designated terrorists, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
The charge al-Bakri pleaded guilty to prohibits anyone from knowingly providing or conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, as designated by the State Department. Al Qaeda was first designated an FTO in October 1999; that two-year designation was renewed in October 2001.
Al-Bakri’s plea agreement requires the defendant to cooperate with the government, including the military, by providing complete and truthful information regarding his knowledge of any and all criminal activity. The obligation to testify truthfully and completely extends to proceedings in federal, state and local courts including military commissions.
The Buffalo cell case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Hochul, in consultation with the Counterterrorism Section at the Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice. The investigation was led by the FBI, Special Agent in Charge Peter Ahern, in coordination with the Joint Terrorism Task Force and other federal, state and local law enforcement and intelligence agencies.