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22 May 2024

Videos show Bin Laden relative warning of 'storm' of airplane attacks

By Reuters

Jurors in the trial of alleged Al Qaeda operative Suleiman Abu Ghaith on Monday watched videos of the defendant warning of  a "storm" of airplane attacks a month after Sept 11, 2001.

Abu Ghaith, 48, is on trial in Manhattan federal court for conspiring to kill Americans, among other charges. Prosecutors contend he was a top-tier member of Al Qaeda and knew of various terrorist plots.

On Monday, prosecutors played two videos from October 2001 in which Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti and son in law of Osama bin Laden, is seen warning of further attacks in the wake of 9/11.

"There are thousands of young militants who willingly take up the challenge to kill," Abu Ghaith said in one video. "The storm of airplanes will not stop."

At another point, Abu Ghaith warns, "not to board aircraft and we advise them not to live in high rises and tall buildings."

Also on Monday, prosecutors questioned via a video feed a convicted Al Qaeda operative linked to "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, who testified that he was planning shoe-bomb attacks on airplanes around the same time that Abu Ghaith was warning of additional attacks. The implication was that Abu Ghaith was aware of these planned attacks.

The government witness, Saajid Badat, testified that he met with Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders regarding a plan to explode devices on airplanes. At the same time, he acknowledged that he never spoke to Abu Ghaith about the plot and said he did not know if Abu Ghaith was aware of it.

Badat, 34, appeared via video from the United Kingdom, his head shaved and wearing a trim beard along with a gray suit.

From late October to December 2001, Badat said he plotted attacks with Reid, the man who became known as the shoe bomber after his attempt to detonate explosives on a flight to Miami in 2001. Reid, a British citizen, pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in a US District Court in Boston.

Badat, also a British citizen, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for the plot after pleading guity in Britain to conspiring to harm an aircraft. His sentence was later reduced for his cooperation with authorities and he has since been released from prison.

Badat has testified in other terror cases, including the successful prosecution in Brooklyn federal court in 2012 of Adis Medunjanin, for planning a suicide bomb attack on New York City subways.

Abu Ghaith is one of the highest-ranking figures linked to Al Qaeda to face a civilian jury on terrorism-related charges since the attacks that destroyed New York's World Trade Center, which stood just blocks from the courthouse where he is on trial. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Abu Ghaith's lawyers plan to cross-examine Badat on Tuesday. The trial is expected to last until the end of March.

The case is US v Abu Ghayth, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 98-cr-01023.