BUFFALO, N.Y. – A sixth alleged member of an Al Qaeda terrorist cell based in suburban Buffalo was arrested in the Middle East and brought into court here Monday to face federal charges.
Prosecutors said 22-year-old Mukhtar al-Bakri -- a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Yemen -- admitted being at an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. He was arrested last week in the Persian Gulf country of Bahrain.
Al-Bakri was brought into court in handcuffs and shackles. He was granted a public defender and ordered held without bail pending a hearing Wednesday with the five other men, who were arrested last week in suburban Lackawanna. A federal magistrate entered an innocent plea for him.
The six men are charged with providing material support and resources to foreign terrorist organizations.
The first five arrested were born in the United States and are of Yemeni descent.
Prosecutors said earlier that the five were members of a terror cell trained by Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network and were under investigation even before the Sept. 11 attacks. They said the men had intensified their communications this month.
According to the criminal complaint, Al-Bakri told the FBI in a Sept. 11 interview that he, two of the first five defendants and a third man went to Pakistan in the summer of 2001 to attend religious training. According to the complaint, an FBI agent said he thought al-Bakri was not being truthful, and al-Bakri admitted the group went to the Al-Fraooq training camp maintained by al Qaeda near Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Federal authorities who announced the first five arrests said bin Laden lectured the men while they were at Kandahar.
It was the same camp John Walker Lindh attended, but officials would not say if Lindh assisted with the investigation.
FBI agent Peter Ahearn said Monday that the Lackawanna cell was limited to the six men in custody and two other as-yet-uncharged conspirators.
"I don't have any information that there's any other part of this group operating in the Buffalo area," he said.
Officials have said the discovery of the cell was connected to information that also prompted the Bush administration to raise America's terror alert to "code orange" -- the second-highest -- last week on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Al-Bakri's lawyer, John Molloy, questioned the strength of the government's case.
"The complaint charged is aiding a terrorist organization," he said. "I don't know what that means. The strength of their case might be impaired if there are no specific acts that they think are imminent."
In court, al-Bakri said he had been living in Bahrain since May and has been unemployed and supported by his family. He last worked for Unity Wholesale in Lackawanna as a deliveryman earning $300 a week. One of the five men arrested earlier, Yahya Goba, also worked at Unity Wholesale.
Al-Bakri's 32-year-old brother, who would not give his name, said from the steps of his Lackawanna home Monday that his brother, who came to the United States at 15 or 16, was arrested the night of his marriage.
"He's innocent. I raised him up," the brother said. "He graduated from Lackawanna High School. He played soccer and hockey."