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Former Bin Laden Bodyguard Overheard Talk of Attack on US - 2002-11-27

A witness at the trial in Germany of an alleged associate of the September 11 hijackers said Osama bin Laden boasted months before the attack that thousands of people in the United States would die. Shadi Abdellah, said he briefly served as a bodyguard to Osama bin Laden, while attending an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan.

Mr. Abdellah is a prosecution witness at the trial of Mounir el-Motassadeq, a Moroccan, whom German authorities accuse of being a member of the al-Qaida cell in Hamburg that planned the September 11 attacks. They have charged Mr. Motassadeq with being an accessory to the murder of the more than 3,000 people who died in the attacks.

The Motassadeq trial is the first of a September 11 suspect.

Mr. Abdellah said he and Mr. Motassadeq were at the same camp in Afghanistan, and that it was widely known there that Osama bin Laden intended to attack the United States. But, he said, he and his fellow trainees had no knowledge of the details of the planned attack.

Mr. Abdellah, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin who moved to Germany in the mid-1990s, said that, while he served as Osama bin Laden's bodyguard at the training camp, the al-Qaida leader called for a holy war against the United States because of its military presence in his native Saudi Arabia. It was just months before the September 11 attacks, he said, that he heard Osama bin Laden mention that there would be thousands of deaths in the United States.

Mr. Motassadeq, the defendant, has admitted attending a training camp in Afghanistan, but he has denied ever meeting or seeing Osama bin Laden. His lawyers say Mr. Motassadeq was not involved in the September 11 attacks, despite knowing many members of the al-Qaida cell in Hamburg.

One prominent suspected member of the Hamburg cell who was at the training camp at the same time as Mr. Motassadeq and Mr. Abdellah was Ramzi Bin Al-Shaibah, whom Mr. Abdellah said was in close contact with Osama bin Laden. Ramzi Bin Al-Shaibah, a citizen of Yemen, was arrested in Pakistan last September, and is now in U.S. custody.

Mr. Abdellah himself was arrested by German authorities, after they accused him of belonging to an Islamic extremist group that plotted to attack U.S., British and Israeli targets in Germany.