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Thursday, 8 February, 2001, 07:54 GMT
Aide 'warned US of bombings'
Artist's sketch of the trial
Attacks were part of a global plot say prosecutors
A former aide to Islamic militant Osama bin Laden has told a court he warned US officials that its missions might come under attack, two years before the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa.

That information had not been dispensed to our families

Embassy blast widow Sue Bartley
Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl, testifying at the trial of four men charged in connection with the bombings, said he told US officials that the Saudi dissident's group was trying to "make war" against the United States and would make bombs against "some embassy".

Mr al-Fadl told the New York court he decided to alert US officials after he was kicked out of Mr bin Laden's organisation for stealing.

Prosecutors say the 1998 blasts at US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, were part of a worldwide plot by Mr bin Laden, who has been indicted for the crimes.

Osama bin Laden: Alleged bombing mastermind
Osama bin Laden: Alleged mastermind
The bombings killed 224 people - 12 Americans, 201 Kenyans and 11 other Africans.

Federal authorities have acknowledged that they were warned about the threats and lax security before the nearly simultaneous embassy bombings in East Africa.

A commission appointed by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright criticised the State Department for not doing more to safeguard US missions.

Religious war

Sue Bartley, whose husband, Consul General Julian Bartley, and son died in the Kenya blast, said Mr Al-Fadl's testimony was another reminder that victims "weren't told we were in harm's way.

"That information had not been dispensed to our families."

The four accused are:

  • Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27, a Tanzanian, accused of conspiracy and murder in the Dar es Salaam bombing. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

  • Mohamed Rashid Daoud al Owhali, 23, a Saudi, charged with conspiracy and murder in the embassy bombings. Accused of throwing a grenade at US embassy guards in Nairobi. He too faces the death penalty if convicted.

  • Wadih el Hage, 40, a Lebanon-born US citizen, accused of conspiracy, but not direct involvement, in the bombings. Faces life in prison if convicted.

    Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, 35, of Jordan, accused of helping plan the bombing in Kenya. He too faces life in prison if convicted.

Mr Al-Fadl, a Sudanese who lives in the United States, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in a deal that required him to testify.

He has already described the origins of Mr bin Laden's group, al Qaeda (the Base), and how the exiled Saudi millionaire declared a religious war on Americans in the early 1990s.

Mr bin Laden is currently in Afghanistan, but the country's hard-line Islamic leaders have refused to hand him over, saying there is not enough evidence against him.

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See also:

06 Feb 01 | Americas
Witness reveals bin Laden threats
06 Feb 01 | Americas
Embassy bombing trial 'unfair'
03 Jan 01 | Americas
Embassy bombings trial begins
20 Dec 00 | South Asia
Who is Osama bin Laden?
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