NEW YORK: Al Qaeda saw London's Canary Wharf as a terror target after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, a British convict told a federal court in New York on Monday.
Al Qaeda recruit, Saajid Badat, 35, testified at the trial of British hate preacher Abu Hamza, who faces life behind bars if convicted on 11 kidnapping and terror charges after being extradited to the United States.
Badat expanded on his testimony last month at the trial of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, in which he had said al Qaeda had an almanac of the world's tallest buildings.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-declared 9/11 mastermind, crossed out the two World Trade Centers in New York as he leafed through the book looking for fresh targets, Badat had said.
On Monday, Badat added that Mohammed also asked about a target in Britain.
“I believe Canary Wharf was mentioned,” Badat said, referring to the business district with a high concentration of tall buildings in east London.
Badat met with bin Laden
Badat was ordered by al Qaeda to blow up a US jetliner with bombs hidden in his shoes in late 2001 and met one-on-one with bin Laden before leaving Afghanistan.
The meeting in Kabul ended “with him giving me a hug and wishing me luck in my mission,” Badat told the courtroom by video link from Britain because he faces arrest on US soil in connection with the bomb plot.
Badat spent three years from January 1999 to December 2001 based in Afghanistan, training at al Qaeda camps and working for the terror organisation.
He initially went to Afghanistan to train for jihad and help other British recruits do the same, and planned to return to university after six months.
He took a laptop equipped with encryption software “to encrypt messages sent back to Karachi and onto London” and an encyclopedia of jihad in CD form to help him.
Once he arrived in Kandahar, a senior Al-Qaeda lieutenant offered to recruit him to carry out attacks on Jews and Americans, but Badat said he refused.
He said he had orders from Babar Ahmad, who headed a group of young Muslims interested in violent jihad in London, to forge a path for other British recruits.
“I said I'd rather continue with my plan because at this time that kind of thinking was a step too far and also I had orders from Babar Ahmad to do something different,” Badat said.
Badat then identified clips from an al Qaeda propaganda video about the 2000 attack on the USS Cole and al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan that the US government said were confiscated from Abu Hamza's home.
Abu Hamza listens quietly
Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, 56, better known in Britain as Abu Hamza al-Masri, has pleaded not guilty to 11 kidnapping and terror charges which pre-date the 9/11 attacks.
He faces the rest of his life in a maximum security US prison if convicted in the Manhattan federal court after a trial expected to last well into May.
Blind in one eye and with both arms blown off at the elbow in an explosion in Afghanistan years ago, he sits quietly in court tracksuit bottoms and a T-shirt.
The US government calls him a “global exporter of violence and terrorism” who was intent on waging war against non-Muslims.
He is charged over the 1998 kidnapping in Yemen of 16 Western tourists, four of whom were killed, and conspiracy to set up an al Qaeda-style training camp in Oregon in late 1999.
He is also accused of providing material support to al Qaeda, of wanting to set up a computer lab for the Taliban and of sending recruits for terror training in Afghanistan.
Abu Hamza was first indicted in the United States in 2004 and served eight years in prison in Britain before losing his last appeal in the European Court of Human Rights against extradition.