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U.S. Arrests Six in Probe of Possible Al-Qaida Group

BY Admin  September 16, 2002 at 1:10 PM EDT

The suspect, identified as Mukhtar al-Bakri, had traveled to Bahrain from his home outside Buffalo, New York to prepare for an arranged marriage in the small Gulf state, the Times reported.

The Times quoted an FBI official who the paper said confirmed al-Bakri was in custody. The suspect’s brother and sister told the Times they “don’t have any idea” why al-Bakri was arrested, saying they “do not think he was involved” in a crime.

The arrest follows the capture of five other men — all born in the United States — who lived near al-Bakri in a Yemeni community in the Buffalo suburb of Lakwanna for allegedly providing “material support” to the al-Qaida network. Four of the men were arrested Friday night, the fifth early Saturday.

“We have the key players in western New York,” FBI special agent Peter Ahearn told reporters. “They worked together, they socialized together, they lived within blocks of each other. It’s a trained group of individuals that were trained in Afghanistan. It’s an al-Qaida-trained cell.”

The five men — identified as Shafal A. Mosed, 24; Yahya A. Goba, 25; Yasein A. Taher, 24; Sahim A. Alwan, 29; and Faysal H. Galab, 26 — appeared in court Saturday, to face charges that included allegations they had undergone weapons training at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan in the spring and summer of 2001. The judge entered not guilty pleas for each of the five and ordered them held in custody until a detention hearing Wednesday.

“At this point in time, we’re not sure they have in fact committed a crime, regardless of any conduct they might have been engaged in,” James Harrington, a lawyer for Alwan, told CNN.

FBI officials had reportedly been investigating the men for some time before making the arrests. FBI Director Robert Mueller told reporters the bureau did not know what the group’s mission was, but said, “We have not seen any plan for an imminent attack in western New York or anywhere in the United States.”

Meanwhile, U.S. officials are working to secure the transfer of Ramzi Binalshibh, a man who allegedly played a key role in helping al-Qaida plan the Sept. 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Binalshibh was arrested last week in Pakistan in a raid that also allegedly netted other suspected al-Qaida operatives.

“We will be working with the Pakistani officials to make certain that he gets to the right place,” National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told ABC on Sunday. “There’s no doubt that the United States will want to have access to him and to have him, because this is an important breakthrough.”

Also Monday, the government of Singapore announced it had arrested some 21 people, 19 of whom are allegedly part of Jemaah Islamiya, a group linked to al-Qaida and active in Southeast Asia that officials say planned to attack the U.S. embassy.

“These latest arrests have seriously disrupted the Jemaah Islamiya network in Singapore,” the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement. All of the men are citizens of Singapore and were arrested in August, the statement said.