A Yemeni American man accused of belonging to a terrorist sleeper cell today pleaded guilty in federal court in Buffalo to supporting the al Qaeda terrorist network by attending a training camp in Afghanistan.
Shafal Mosed, a 24-year-old college student and telemarketer, admitted to providing "material support" to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda by traveling to the al Farooq training camp in the spring of 2001 with five friends from Lackawanna, N.Y.
In January, another member of the group, Faysal Galab, who attended the camp with him, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of providing "funds and services" to al Qaeda in exchange for testifying against his friends. Prosecution of the four remaining defendants continues.
Mosed said in a plea agreement that he flew to Pakistan on April 28, 2001, and then headed to Afghanistan, where he stayed at a guest house connected to bin Laden and watched movies about the conflicts in Bosnia and Chechnya and bought a uniform. Mosed then traveled to the al Farooq training camp, where he spent several weeks working as a guard and learning how to use explosives, and Kalashnikov and M-16 automatic rifles.
At al Farooq, Mosed also heard bin Laden deliver a speech in which he claimed that 50 men were on a suicide mission and admitted responsibility for the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, according to the plea agreement. But Mosed left the camp before he finished his training, saying he disliked it.
"He is ashamed that he went," said his lawyer, Patrick Brown. "He absolutely does not buy into that, the al Qaeda party line."
Mosed's plea marks the first time a person has been convicted of providing material support to bin Laden and al Qaeda. In the only other previous conviction under the material support law, a North Carolina man was found guilty of sending money raised through cigarette smuggling to the terrorist organization Hezbollah.
Mosed's conviction carries a 10-year sentence, but his cooperation could shorten his prison time to eight years, Brown said. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 16.
Brown said that Mosed decided to plead guilty now because he feared prosecutors would file more serious charges, such as treason or serving as an enemy combatant, that carry longer prison terms.
Last September, Mosed's younger brother, Aiban Mosed, said that the trip Shafal Mosed had made to Pakistan was his brother's first trip out of the United States. He described his brother as a religious and generous family man who bought him sneakers and clothes. His brother's joys were his wife and son.
"My brother wouldn't kill a mosquito for biting him," he said.