WASHINGTON – Trainees at terrorist camps in Afghanistan learned how to assassinate, commit sabotage, unleash poisons and build explosives, a convicted terrorist collaborator testified in chilling testimony two months ago.
Ahmed Ressam told a court in July that his training for chemical attacks included watching his ``chief'' place a dog in a box and lace the box with cyanide and sulfuric acid.
It took the dog about four minutes to die, Ressam testified.
``We wanted to know what is the effect of the gas,'' Ressam told the court. ``In regard to targets in general, yes. Yes, we were speaking about America as an enemy of Islam.
Ressam testified in the trial of a man accused of conspiring with him to bomb the Los Angeles airport as part of a millennium terror plot. Ressam was convicted and became a cooperating witness in hopes of receiving a shorter sentence.
Those at the camp with him in 1998 learned how to place cyanide near a building's air intake to kill as many people as they could without endangering themselves, he testified.
Ressam told authorities that while at the camp, he learned how to mix poisons with oily substances and smear them on doorknobs so those who touched them would be killed by toxins coursing through their blood.
Law enforcement authorities investigating the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are investigating whether additional attacks using crop-dusters or hazardous chemical tankers were planned.
They have issued warnings to police to guard against the hijackings of such vehicles.
Saudi Arabian multimillionaire Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network are the U.S. governments prime suspects in the attacks. Bin Laden runs terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, U.S. investigators say.
Ressam has told U.S. officials he was allied to a London man with close ties to bin Laden.
Ressam, an Algerian living in Montreal, was stopped in December 1999 trying to enter Washington state by ferry from British Columbia in a car packed with bomb-making materials.
Investigators say Ressam was part of a broader plot to bomb U.S. targets during millennium festivities. He testified at the trial of another Montreal Algerian, Mokhtar Haouari, who was also convicted on conspiracy charges stemming from the scheme.
At Haouari's New York trial, Ressam testified that he spent about six months training in Afghanistan.
From 50 to 100 people were at the Khalden camp at any given time, Ressam said.
They included people from Jordan, Algeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Germany, France, Turkey and the Chechen region of Russia, Ressam testified.
Ressam, who had ties to Algeria's violent Armed Islamic Group, said he was grouped with about 30 fellow Algerians at the camp. They were further divided into groups of five or six known as cells. Each cell had a certain area, such as Europe, and was led by an emir, Ressam testified.
His cell discussed a plan to meet in Canada, rob banks to raise money and use it to finance an attack on a U.S. airport, he said.
Ressam said that in the course of training at the Khalden camp and a camp at Toronta, he received instruction in light weapons, handguns, machine guns, a rocket launcher and explosives. Ressam told the court that the weapons and ammunition were purchased from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban.
The training included sabotage, ``how to blow up the infrastructure of a country,'' such as military installations, electric plants, corporations, airports and railroads, Ressam testified.
The explosives training also covered ``how to surveil a place. When you go to a place you would wear clothing that would not bring suspicion to yourself, you would wear clothing that tourists wear,'' he said.
Those at the camps also learned urban warfare, how to attack buildings and block roads, and how to carry out assassinations, Ressam said.
And they received tips on security.
``One is to preserve your secrets, Ressam testified. ``And when you work in a group, each person knows only what he is supposed to do, not more, to preserve your secrets.''