NEW YORK (AP) - A man from Western New York who trained at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan months before the Sept. 11 attacks has testified for the government in its conspiracy case against the terrorist group's former spokesman.
The witness, Sahim Alwan, originally from Lackawanna, was called Thursday to testify against Sulaiman Abu Ghaith. Abu Ghaith is charged with conspiring to kill Americans and conspiring to support al-Qaida.
Alwan pleaded guilty in 2003 to providing support to al-Qaida and served most of a 9½-year prison sentence. He says he was testifying Thursday because he was subpoenaed by the government. There was a testimony cooperation agreement originally as part of Alwan's plea deal but that has since expired.
The 41-year-old Alwan says he was born in Buffalo, N.Y., but went to Afghanistan with three others after meeting them at a mosque in Lackawanna, N.Y., where he grew up.
Retired Buffalo FBI Special Agent in Charge Peter Ahearn helped lead the investigation stemming from the 2002 FBI raids and arrests of the Lackawanna 6 suspects. He tells wgrz.com that he was not surprised to hear that Alwan had testified in the Abu Gaith trial. Ahearn says "They did have a sitdown with Osama Bin Laden. That was verified. Alwan was the one that you know would talk about that. But when Osama bin Laden found out that you had actual Americans in the camp he did want to meet with them. Amnd he did meet with them. So the other possibility when I talk about two issues here, there could be a situation there where this individual who is on trial right now...the son in law of bin Laden and one of his drivers, they might have been able to identify him as being at the camp when they had the meeting with bin Laden back in 2001."
Presentation of evidence began Wednesday in the trial. Alwan will be back in court on Monday when he is questioned by defense attorneys for Abu Ghaith.
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