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British shoe-bomb plotter says he flew with bomb

Wednesday - 3/12/2014, 2:08am  ET

In this undated Photo provided by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, defendant Suliman Abu Ghayth, right, is seated with al-Qaida founder Osama Bin Laden, center, and Bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, in Afghanistan. Suliman Abu Ghayth, is being tried in New York, charged with plotting to kill Americans by being a motivational speaker at al-Qaida training camps before the Sept. 11 attacks and as a spokesman for the terror group afterward when it sought to recruit more militants to its cause. (AP Photo/US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York)

LARRY NEUMEISTER
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- A British man testifying in the terror trial of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law said Tuesday he flew on planes over the Middle East and Europe with explosives in a shoe after the Sept. 11 attacks but didn't detonate them because he was saving the bomb for an attack over America.

Saajid Badat revealed details of the plot as he testified for a second day at the New York trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, bin Laden's son-in-law and al-Qaida's spokesman after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Badat testified he wore a shoe bomb on at least one flight from Karachi, Pakistan, to Holland and another from Holland to Great Britain in December 2001, choosing not to detonate it because he wanted to use it for an attack against an American aircraft.

He said he was left with only one shoe because he gave his other shoe-bomb in early December 2001 to some Malaysian men who wanted to blow open a plane's cockpit door and carry out a Sept. 11-style hijacking of their own. Afterward, he flew from Pakistan to Holland and then on to Great Britain.

"I was wearing the shoe," he said, referring to the shoe bomb.

Prosecutors are using Badat's testimony to show Abu Ghaith played a pivotal role with al-Qaida when he warned Americans "the storm of aircrafts will not stop" on videotapes widely distributed after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Abu Ghaith could face life in prison if he is convicted of conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to al-Qaida. He is the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on U.S. soil since Sept. 11.

Badat described enthusiasm among al-Qaida recruits after the Sept. 11 attacks.

At one point on cross examination, he was asked about a moment after Sept. 11 when he and others laughed as professed mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed crossed the World Trade Center's twin towers off a list of the world's tallest buildings.

"Three thousand plus Americans dead was humorous to you?" defense attorney Stanley Cohen asked.

"Unfortunately, yes," he said with a sheepish expression.

Badat said his eagerness to carry out a suicide mission following more than three years with al-Qaida operatives in Afghanistan wilted when he visited his parents in Gloucester, England, in December 2001 and they asked what he'd done in Afghanistan.

"You'd better not be one of those sleepers," Badat said his father told him.

His mother warned that she "wouldn't want my son to be one of those sleepers," he recalled.

"It was then I decided to back out of the mission," Badat said in testimony from London shown on video screens in a Manhattan courtroom.

Badat sat across from Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Lewin and Cohen as he recalled being asked in late September or October 2001 whether he'd be willing to carry out a suicide attack.

He said bin Laden met with him soon afterward, telling him that the American economy was like a chain.

"If you break one link, you'll bring down the American economy," Badat said bin Laden told him. He said al-Qaida's leader also described sections of the Quran to read if he got scared.

Badat, who was sometimes called "sheik" because he had memorized the Koran by age 12, said he saw bin Laden between 30 and 50 times in al-Qaida training camps, including once when he gave awards to one of his sons and to a man who was one of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

Badat was testifying by videotape because he refuses to come to the United States because he was indicted in 2004 in Boston on charges he conspired with shoe-bomber Richard Reid. He faces charges including conspiring to destroy an aircraft and conspiracy to commit homicide.

He described his changing views about jihad as he was cross examined aggressively by Cohen.

The lawyer questioned him about experiments involving poisons conducted in Badat's presence on rabbits and dogs, asking if he was bothered by animals screaming out in pain as they died.

Badat tried to justify the experiments, saying it was similar to what scientists do on animals. He said his instructor at an al-Qaida camp called out references to American presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and former Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as the animals were being killed. Earlier, he had testified that faces of the presidents and Sharon were used as targets during al-Qaida weapons training exercises.

"This is Clinton! This is Bush! This is Sharon!" he recalled the poison instructor shouting.

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