Terror suspect went to Afghanistan to fight jihad

AP News
Posted: Mar 20, 2012 3:04 PM
Terror suspect went to Afghanistan to fight jihad

A German-Afghan man whose information prompted terrorism warnings across Europe in 2010 told a court Tuesday he traveled to the Afghan border region with the intention of fighting there, not of returning home to carry out attacks.

Ahmad Wali Siddiqui told the Koblenz state court in the second day of his trial that he and a group of others bought iPhones, Sony laptops and other electronics on credit in Germany, then sold them on eBay to fund their 2009 trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"We wanted to fly there to live life according to (Islam's) Sharia law and fight jihad," he said, using the Arabic word for holy war. "We didn't want to ever return."

The 37-year-old faces a possible 10-year sentence, if convicted of membership in a terrorist organization.

No pleas are entered in the German legal system, and the first two days of his trial have been one long statement by Siddiqui about how he ended up in the border region at a training camp of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and later al-Qaida.

Presiding Judge Angelika Blettner tried to focus the testimony at one point, telling Siddiqui "you say a lot, but when it comes to the accusations against you, you don't say anything."

Though he never specifically admitted to being a member of either terrorist group, he told the court he had gone to the region with the intention of joining al-Qaida but first encountered two German-speaking members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, so went with them instead.

He did acknowledge, however, he also knew exactly what the IMU was.

"Naturally we knew that this was a jihad group, nothing else," he said. "They make propaganda and fight against Americans."

But the time with the IMU was tense and short-lived, he testified.

When he injured his knee on the march to their camp, he said a member of the group threatened him with his rifle when he didn't want to continue on.

Then, his younger brother, who was part of the group of about a dozen radical Muslims that Siddiqui had left Germany with, had a confrontation with one of their teachers that left him fearing for his life.

After only five days at the training camp, where they were being taught how to use assault rifles, he and his brother were able to leave after agreeing to make a propaganda video in German for the IMU, he told the court.

He eventually found contact people for al-Qaida and told the court he was able to link up with the group in a village in Pakistan near the Afghan border, even though they had been wary of taking in someone already associated with the IMU.

He told the court that at one point he met Said Bahaji, a man believed to have helped Mohamed Atta and the other Hamburg-based Sept. 11 suicide hijackers with their plot, who fled Germany shortly before the attacks.

It was not clear when or where the two met, however. Bahaji was known to be in the area at the time, with Pakistani soldiers finding a German passport belonging to Bahaji during operations in South Waziristan, Pakistan, in October 2009.

Siddiqui had not finished his testimony when the court session ended Tuesday.

According to the indictment, after he linked up with al-Qaida he received orders to return to Germany to become part of a European network of the terrorist organization, prosecutors said.

"The network was supposed to secure financial support for the organization, but at the same time be ready for other, not yet concrete, orders from the al-Qaida leadership," prosecutors have said.

Instead he was captured by U.S. troops in Afghanistan in July 2010, and while in custody provided details on alleged al-Qaida plots supposedly targeting European cities. No attacks materialized.

He was turned over to German authorities last April.

The trial is scheduled to resume on Monday.