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Jordanian Testifies in German Terror Trial

June 25, 2003|From Associated Press

DUESSELDORF, Germany — A Jordanian accused of helping to plot terrorist attacks in Germany testified Tuesday that he became immersed in Islam while living on welfare, starting a journey that prosecutors said took him to an Al Qaeda training camp and into a radical Palestinian movement.

Shadi Abdalla, 26, could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of belonging to a terrorist group and forging passports. Questioned on the opening day of his trial at a Duesseldorf state court, he portrayed himself as a drifter who "never thought about the future."

Abdalla, who has said he briefly served as Osama bin Laden's bodyguard at an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, was among nine people detained in April 2002 on suspicion of plotting attacks for Al Tawhid, a radical Palestinian movement.

The group is accused of planning to shoot people in a square in one German city and detonate a hand grenade near a Jewish or Israeli target in another. Prosecutors have not identified the precise targets.

Prosecutor Dirk Fernholz said Abdalla took orders from Abu Musab Zarqawi, the operational leader of Al Tawhid. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has described Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant, as an "associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda lieutenants."

Abdalla allegedly was in Afghanistan from December 1999 to May 2001. He met Zarqawi in May 2000, Fernholz said. Zarqawi told Abdalla in May 2001 to return to Germany and help a Jordanian who headed an Al Tawhid cell, Fernholz said.

Abdalla has provided "comprehensive information" on Al Tawhid and its links to the Al Qaeda network, Fernholz told reporters. He offered no details.

Abdalla said he came to Europe in 1995 and applied for asylum, claiming to be an Iraqi, in Belgium and Germany. Both applications failed, but German authorities let him stay on humanitarian grounds. By 1999, he was living on welfare in the town of Krefeld.

"I wasn't even trying to find a job," said Abdalla, adding that he spent his welfare payments smoking hashish with people who attended a local mosque.

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