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Ex-Sgt. pleads guilty in bomb case
October 21, 2000
NEW YORK (AP) -- A former Army sergeant pleaded guilty Friday to helping plot the deadly U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, admitting he joined terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and others in a holy war to kill Americans anywhere they could be found. Ali Mohamed, a 48-year-old native of Egypt, is the first to plead guilty of the 17 key people indicted in the United States for the 1998 bombings in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
Eight of those named in the indictments are fugitives, including bin Laden, the Saudi-born millionaire who allegedly engineered the bombings and is believed to be in Afghanistan.
Mohamed, a U.S. citizen who once taught soldiers in the American special forces about Muslim culture, said he was part of a jihad, or holy war, to cleanse the Middle East of Western influence. He said he joined the conspiracy in the early 1980s, before meeting bin Laden and before joining the Army for a three-year stint that ended in 1989.
Mohamed said he was told by bin Laden in late 1993 to survey potential U.S., British, French and Israeli targets in Nairobi, preparing a report with pictures and diagrams of the American Embassy, the U.S. Agency for International Development Building, the U.S. Agricultural office, the French Cultural Center and the French Embassy.
"These targets were selected to retaliate against the United States for its involvement in Somalia,'' he said.
The work was later reviewed by bin Laden in Sudan, Mohamed said.
"Bin Laden looked at the picture of the American Embassy and pointed to where a truck could go as a suicide bomber,'' Mohamed said.
Mohamed, who was scheduled to go on trial in January, pleaded guilty to five federal counts of conspiracy. He admitted he conspired with bin Laden and others to murder Americans, to attack the U.S. military in Somalia and Saudi Arabia, to kill Americans at unspecified embassies, and to conceal the conspiracy.
U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand at first said the plea bargain with prosecutors guaranteed a minimum of 25 years in prison. After defense attorneys objected, the judge did not specify the potential prison term.
Prosecutors declined to comment.
In entering his plea, Mohamed read from a three-minute statement in which he said the goal of the conspiracy was to force the United States and other Western governments out of the Middle East. In response to a question, he said one means of forcing the United States out was the killing of Americans.
Mohamed made no effort to apologize for his actions or to express regret.
He admitted he helped secretly move bin Laden from Pakistan to Sudan in 1991 and gave members of his terrorist organization, al Qaeda, military and basic explosives training in Afghanistan. The goal, he said, was to create terrorist cell organizations.
Mohamed also said the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, a guerrilla group, trained members of bin Laden's terrorist organization in the early 1990s.
In the 1980s, Hezbollah was believed to be behind pro-Iranian militants who claimed responsibility for the 1983 suicide truck bombings of the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Marine and French military bases in Beirut, three attacks that killed 258 Americans and 58 French soldiers.
Mohamed said he once arranged security for a meeting in the Sudan between Hezbollah's chief and bin Laden. He also said Iran supplied bin Laden's group with weapons and with explosives that were "disguised to look like rocks.''