DUESSELDORF, Germany – A Jordanian accused of helping plot terror attacks by a radical Palestinian network went on trial in Germany on Tuesday accused of membership in a group that supports Al Qaeda (search).
Shadi Abdellah (search), 26, who has said he served briefly as Usama bin Laden's bodyguard at a camp in Afghanistan, was among nine alleged extremists detained across Germany in April 2002 on suspicion of plotting imminent attacks. He is charged with belonging to a terrorist organization, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, and forging passports.
Prosecutors allege the German cell was acting under orders from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search), a Jordanian militant whom Secretary of State Colin Powell described in February as an "associate and collaborator of Usama bin Laden (search) and his Al Qaeda lieutenants."
Al-Zarqawi, whose real name is Ahmed al-Khalayleh, has been identified as a suspect at large in a plot to carry out terror attacks on U.S. and Israeli targets in Jordan, culminating in last year's slaying of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley.
The German cell, part of the Al Tawhid group, "developed a plan to attack people in a busy square of a German city using a pistol with a silencer, and to detonate a hand grenade in another German city in the immediate vicinity of an Israeli or Jewish installation with the goal of killing as many people as possible," prosecutors said in announcing charges last month.
Al Tawhid supports the worldwide "holy war" against nonbelievers, in particular the efforts of bin Laden and Al Qaeda, prosecutors said.
Four other suspected Al Tawhid members, including the German cell's alleged leader, identified only as Abu D., remain in custody. Another four have been released but remain under investigation.
Al-Zarqawi instructed Abu D. during a September 2001 meeting in Iran to carry out terror attacks on Jewish or Israeli institutions in Germany, prosecutors say.
Abdellah's task allegedly was to identify possible targets in German cities and to procure the necessary weapons. He is accused of ordering a pistol with a silencer and a crate of hand grenades from another cell member, Jamel M., in March 2002, but the men were arrested before the delivery could be made. Two other suspects, both in custody, allegedly were to carry out the attacks.
Prosecutors have not identified the cities the group allegedly wanted to target.
While prosecutors have not linked the Al Tawhid cell to the Hamburg-based cell of Sept. 11 plotters, Abdellah's significance extends beyond the case.
Testifying in November at the Hamburg trial of Sept. 11 suspect Mounir el Motassadeq, Abdellah said he briefly was bin Laden's bodyguard while training in Afghan camps between early 2000 and May 2001 and that he saw el Motassadeq in one of the camps.
Motassadeq, a Moroccan, was convicted in February of aiding the Hamburg cell around suspected lead hijacker Mohamed Atta and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Abdellah's trial, being held in a special high-security courtroom, is scheduled to run through late September.