Al-Qaida suspect met Sept. 11 figure in Pakistan

AP News
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Posted: Mar 27, 2012 11:44 AM
Al-Qaida suspect met Sept. 11 figure in Pakistan

A German-Afghan man whose information prompted terrorism warnings across Europe in 2010 told a court Tuesday he received orders from a senior al-Qaida militant in Pakistan, and met a key member of the Hamburg al-Qaida cell that included three of the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers.

Ahmad Wali Siddiqui, 37, concluded four days of testimony before the Koblenz state court by admitting that he received orders from al-Qaida's Younis al-Mauritani, who was apprehended in 2011 by Pakistani agents working with the CIA.

No pleas are entered in the German legal system, and Siddiqui faces a possible 10-year sentence if convicted of membership in a terrorist organization. Courts often reduce sentences, however, if suspects are seen as cooperative.

His testimony in the opening days of the trial has given a rare glimpse into the operations of al-Qaida along the Afghan border.

Siddiqui told the court Tuesday that he and others met twice in mid-2010 with al-Mauritani in an al-Qaida apartment in Mir Ali, one of the main towns in North Waziristan near the Afghan border. He and a friend from Germany were told to return to Europe "with the aim of weakening the economy."

He said there were no concrete plans for a terrorist attack, but they were told to prepare themselves and wait for orders, while blending in by wearing Western style clothes and not otherwise attracting attention.

But he was captured by U.S. forces in Kabul in July, 2010, on his way back to Germany, and his friend was captured in Pakistan, so neither made it home to find out what they were to do, he testified.

He told the same information to interrogators while in custody, and it led the U.S. and others to issue a travel alert for Europe around Christmas that year. No attacks materialized, and he was turned over to Germany in 2011.

While Siddiqui has testified he did not swear an oath to al-Qaida, he has also made it clear he felt part of the operation. On Tuesday he told the court his intention from the start had been to fight jihad, or holy war, in Afghanistan with the group.

"I wanted to go with the boys to (the eastern Afghan city of) Jalalabad and fight there for al-Qaida and the Taliban," he said.

He said they tried to get across the border to join forces with the group, but plans failed. Instead they contacted al-Qaida to ask what they could do, which led to al-Mauritani's approach.

In other testimony, Siddiqui told the court he once met Said Bahaji in Mir Ali. Bahaji is believed to have helped suicide hijackers Mohamad Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah with logistics when they were in Hamburg, and to have himself fled shortly before the attacks.

Siddiqui testified that Bahaji came to visit him and a friend who Bahaji knew from his days in Hamburg.

He told the court Bahaji had married a Spanish woman and had two children, and was helping produce propaganda for al-Qaida's media wing, Al-Sahab, but was otherwise vague about the meeting.

"We drank tea together," he told the court, adding that his friend and Bahaji had spoken Arabic, which he did not understand.

The information seems in line with what is already known about Bahaji's situation.

In October, 2009, Pakistan's military announced they had found Bahaji's passport during an offensive inside the militant stronghold of South Waziristan. The passport included a tourist visa for Pakistan and a stamp indicating he'd arrived in the southern city of Karachi on Sept. 4, 2001.

Another passport, from Spain, bore the name of Raquel Burgos Garcia _ believed to be Bahaji's wife.

In addition to Bahaji, he told the court on Monday that he had once encountered a Jordanian doctor known as Abu Dujana al-Khurasani _ also known as Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi _ who would go on to kill seven CIA employees in a suicide attack in Afghanistan.

The trial is scheduled to resume April 2.