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Yemeni-American pleads guilty to training in al-Qaida camp

BUFFALO, N.Y. — An American of Yemeni descent pleaded guilty Tuesday to training in an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan, becoming the third defendant to reach a deal with prosecutors in a case that sent shock waves through the Buffalo suburb where they live.

Yahya Goba, 26, is one of six men charged with providing support to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization by training at the camp in spring 2001. The men, all in their 20s and American citizens of Yemeni descent, lived within blocks of one another in Lackawanna.

Goba’s plea agreement, in which he detailed his trip to Afghanistan, said four unidentified men helped steer him and his five co-defendants to Afghanistan. His plea deal was the first to mention the four unidentified men.

He described two of the men as having recruited the Lackawanna group to prepare for jihad, or “preparation for a possible battle against people not of the same faith,” as prosecutor William Hochul described it.

A third man helped pay for the trip of one of the defendants, and a fourth joined some of the men on the trip, court papers said.

One of the men stayed at Goba’s home before and after the training, and told Goba after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that he was leaving “to fight for the Taliban against the Americans.” He was believed captured in Afghanistan, the papers said.

Federal prosecutors declined any further comment on the unidentified men.

Goba’s plea came one day after co-defendant Shafal Mosed pleaded guilty to the same charge: providing material resources to a foreign terrorist organization. A third suspect, Faysal Galab, pleaded guilty in January to a lesser charge of supporting al-Qaida.

Prosecutors said they would seek a seven-year sentence for Galab, eight years for Mosed and the maximum 10 years for Goba, whom they believe to be one of the group’s leaders. The original two-count indictment carries a maximum 15-year sentence.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys said negotiations were continuing to reach plea agreements with the other defendants.

Investigators will rely heavily on the defendants’ cooperation, Hochul said.

“Every time somebody has pled guilty, there are some additional details that can be brought to the table and can be followed up and pursued by the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force,” Hochul said.

Like Mosed on Monday, Goba admitted he trained to use assault rifles and other weapons at al-Qaida’s al-Farooq camp in Afghanistan. He said he and the others heard bin Laden denounce the United States and Israel and speak about “men willing to becoming martyrs for the cause.”

Defense lawyers have said the men, despite training with al-Qaida up until the month before Sept. 11, 2001, had no advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks.

Government authorities said there was no evidence the men had posed an imminent threat in western New York but did not rule out the possibility the men were awaiting orders.

Associated Press