Lackawanna Six terrorist Goba testifies dirty bomber wannabe Padilla was at Afghan jihad camp visited by Bin Laden
May 20, 2007
Terrorist trained for jihad 'at same camp as terrorist'
A man told a court that he learned about weapons and explosives and prepared for holy war at an al Qaida training camp allegedly attended by terror suspect Jose Padilla.
Yahya Goba, a 30-year-old Yemeni-American and a member of the Lackawanna Six terror group, said in federal court in Miami that he filled out a "mujahedeen data form" identical to the one allegedly completed by Padilla for the al-Farooq camp in a remote area near Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Padilla, held for three-and-a-half years as an enemy combatant, and two co-defendants are on trial for allegedly supporting al Qaida and other Islamic extremists.
The 36-year-old US citizen and former Chicago gang member was arrested in May 2002 at O'Hare International Airport on suspicion that he was part of an al Qaida plot to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a US city. Those allegations are not part of the Miami indictment, which claims he was part of a North American support cell for Muslim radicals around the world.
Padilla was added to the existing Miami case in November 2005 during a legal battle over the president's wartime powers to indefinitely detain US citizens. He and co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi face life in prison if convicted.
Goba, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence, testified about his stay at the Afghan training camp in the summer of 2001, where he learned about plastic explosives, war tactics and how to fire weapons such as AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and handguns.
At the end of the six-week course, Goba said he was told to provide his US address and contact information and to destroy his passport to hide his movements, which he did by placing it in a washing machine.
He said he and several associates from Lackawanna, New York, went to the camps to prepare for a possible mission related to jihad, or holy war.
"If any time called upon to perform jihad, I had the proper training," said Goba, who appeared in court with a full beard, wearing a loose-fitting tan prison outfit and watched closely by at least three extra federal marshals.
Prosecutors say Goba's testimony is critical because it describes the goings-on at the al-Farooq camp, which the government claims Padilla attended in summer 2000. It also indirectly links the defendants to al-Qaida.
"Is it possible to just show up at one of the camps?" asked prosecutor Brian Frazier.
"No," Goba replied.
"You had someone to help you – someone known and trusted by al Qaida," Frazier continued.
Goba and five other Lackawanna-area men have pleaded guilty to terrorism support charges. Goba said it was clear al-Qaida ran the training camp. A guesthouse for recruits had many copies of a book by Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida leaders gave speeches there.
On the "mujahedeen" form, Goba said he hid his US citizenship by describing himself as a Yemeni because he was told "it wouldn't be safe to put down that I was from America."
All the recruits, he said, used aliases rather than real names.
"I was told not to reveal my true identity," Goba said.
Padilla's purported form is under the nickname Abu Abdallah Al Muhajir, prosecutors say.
Goba has testified in two other federal terror-related trials in Idaho and New York and acknowledged today that he is co-operating with authorities in hopes of shaving some time off his 10-year prison sentence.
Lawyers for Padilla and his co-defendants objected strenuously to his testimony, arguing it had little or no connection to their clients.
"What Goba did is not relevant to anything in this case. Period," said Jayyousi's lawyer, William Swor.
Prosecutor Brian Frazier, however, said testimony showed "the intent of the person filling out this (al-Qaida) form" and that without Goba, the government's "knees are going to be cut out from under us" in terms of proving their case.