Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Conviction of High-Ranking al Qaeda Terrorist for Conspiring to Kill Americans and Other Terrorism Offenses
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the conviction on February 26 in Manhattan federal court of KHALED AL FAWWAZ, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, on multiple terrorism offenses relating to his participation in Al Qaeda’s conspiracy to kill Americans. After a six-week jury trial before U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan that began on January 20, 2015, FAWWAZ was found guilty of all four counts in which he was charged, and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As a unanimous jury has found, for nearly a decade, Khaled al Fawwaz played a critical role for Al Qaeda in its murderous conspiracy against America. Dedicating himself to Al Qaeda in the early 1990s, Fawwaz was one of Osama bin Laden’s original and most trusted lieutenants, serving first as the leader of an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, then as a leader of Al Qaeda’s terrorist cell in Kenya, and finally as bin Laden’s media adviser in London. From his position in London, Fawwaz served as bin Laden’s bridge to the West in the pre-Internet era, facilitating interviews of bin Laden in Afghanistan by Western media and disseminating bin Laden’s 1998 fatwah commanding followers to kill Americans anywhere in the world. That directive was followed by the 1998 bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which resulted in the murder of 224 innocent people, and the wounding of thousands more. From the time of the embassy attacks, all 10 defendants tied to those attacks have now been convicted by trial or guilty plea in a Manhattan courtroom. From his one-time place at the top of Al Qaeda’s membership list, Fawwaz now joins the long membership list of convicted, jailed terrorists. That list includes two other major figures in the past year alone, Abu Ghayth and Abu Hamza, all of whom have received full justice in a Manhattan courtroom—the verdict of 12 ordinary Americans rendered after a fair and open trial. We hope this verdict gives some comfort to Al Qaeda’s victims around the world.”
According to the evidence presented at trial:
During the early 1990s, FAWWAZ trained at Al Qaeda’s Jawar military training camp in Afghanistan and then became the emir, or head, of Al Qaeda’s al Siddiq military training camp in Afghanistan. In approximately 1993, FAWWAZ moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where he served as one of the leaders of the Al Qaeda members there, during a time when Al Qaeda was sending fighters through Nairobi to Somalia to fight, and to train Somalis to fight, United States and United Nations forces in Somalia. FAWWAZ was also a leader of Al Qaeda in Nairobi when Al Qaeda began its preparations to attack the United States Embassy there.
The evidence further showed that, in 1994, FAWWAZ began to act as Osama bin Laden’s media representative in London, England. FAWWAZ served as bin Laden’s conduit to Western media, screening requests for interviews of Bin Laden and facilitating travel to Afghanistan by journalists who were allowed to interview bin Laden. FAWWAZ also publicized bin Laden’s threats of violence against the United States. Among other things, FAWWAZ delivered bin Laden’s August 1996 Declaration of Jihad against the United States to a journalist for publication and helped arrange for the publication of a February 1998 fatwa, signed by bin Laden and others, that claimed it was the individual duty of every Muslim to kill Americans, civilian and military, in any country where it was possible to do so. In addition, FAWWAZ provided Al Qaeda with advice about how best to disseminate to the West its message of terror, and helped obtain for Al Qaeda items that were difficult to obtain in Afghanistan, such as generators, vehicles, and communications equipment. In addition, a list of Al Qaeda members recovered in Kandahar, Afghanistan, by the United States military in late 2001 contained FAWWAZ’s alias, and had him numbered ninth on the list.
Following FAWWAZ’s arrest in England in September 1998, FAWWAZ challenged his extradition to the United States for over a decade. He arrived in the Southern District of New York in October 2012.
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FAWWAZ, 52, was convicted of conspiring to kill United States nationals (Count One), conspiring to murder officers and employees of the United States (Count Three), conspiring to destroy buildings and property of the United States (Count Five), and conspiring to attack national defense utilities (Count Six). Counts One, Three, and Five each carry a maximum term of life in prison, and Count Six carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for May 15, 2015, at 10 a.m. The statutory maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force—which principally consists of agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and detectives from the New York City Police Department. Mr. Bharara also thanked the United States Marshals Service, the United States Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, and the National Security Division for their efforts. Mr. Bharara additionally thanked New Scotland Yard for its cooperation in the investigation and prosecution.
The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean S. Buckley, Adam Fee, Nicholas J. Lewin, and Stephen J. Ritchin are in charge of the prosecution.