ShareThis Page
Nation

Bin Laden wanted to use plane as weapon in 1990s, American testifies

| Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015, 9:24 p.m.
A ballistics investigator examines the burned-out wreckage of the U.S. Embassy in 1998 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
A ballistics investigator examines the burned-out wreckage of the U.S. Embassy in 1998 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

NEW YORK — In the terrorism trial of a man accused of being one of al-Qaida's early leaders, an American described being asked in 1995 by Osama bin Laden to kill Egypt's president by ramming his plane with his own in midair.

“It took me by surprise,” Ihab Mohammad Ali testified recently in New York. “I responded, ‘Well, wouldn't I be killing myself?'”

Ali, 52, said bin Laden answered: “Well, then you would be a martyr.'”

The glimpse into the early days of al-Qaida when bin Laden had a private jet and was barely known to law enforcement officials came amid the government's presentation of evidence over the past three weeks against Khaled al-Fawwaz, a man portrayed by prosecutors as a key player in the terror group when it was in its infancy.

Al-Fawwaz has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to kill Americans in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. The attacks killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans. The government rested Thursday.

Ali testified he met bin Laden 25 years ago at an al-Qaida guest house in Pakistan, around the time he pledged allegiance to al-Qaida. He said he met al-Fawwaz, whom he identified in court as a member of al-Qaida.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Ali said he came to America with his family at age 11, living in New York before moving to Florida, where he underwent 13 hours of flight training while in high school. He said he attended American College for the Applied Arts in Los Angeles in 1987 and 1988, when he began attending a mosque and developing an interest in fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

He said he went to Pakistan in 1988 — by then he was a U.S. citizen — and underwent al-Qaida training in 1990. He described encounters with bin Laden, including when he was among over two dozen al-Qaida members in a room when the leader explained they were moving operations from Pakistan to Sudan.

Bin Laden's request to attack Egypt's president came after al-Qaida paid $9,000 to fund his pilot training in 1993 and thousands more in 1994 in the Oklahoma cities of Ardmore and Norman and at another school in Los Angeles, Ali said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me