A British man who trained to be a shoe bomber a decade ago says Osama bin Laden told him shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks that he believed a follow-up terrorism attack could doom the American economy.
Saajid Badat recounted his meeting with the al-Qaida founder in videotaped testimony that was played Monday for a federal jury in Brooklyn.
"So he said the American economy is like a chain," Badat said. "If you break one — one link of the chain, the whole economy will be brought down. So after Sept. 11 attacks, this operation will ruin the aviation industry and in turn the whole economy will come down."
Badat, 33, was convicted in London in a 2001 plot to down an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes. His testimony came in the federal trial of a man accused in a 2009 plot to attack New York's subways with suicide bombs.
Badat said he was supposed to carry out a simultaneous bombing with failed shoe-bomber Richard Reid but he backed out because of his reluctance, fear and the effect it would have on his family. He said he informed his handler in Pakistan by email but never notified bin Laden.
In testimony recorded last month, Badat said he refused a request to testify in person because he remains under indictment in Boston on charges alleging he conspired with Reid and he has been told he'd be arrested if he set foot in the United States.
Arrested in November 2003, Badat is free after serving six years of an 11-year prison sentence. He testified that he began cooperating in part because he hoped to testify someday against Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who has claimed responsibility while in U.S. custody as the architect of the Sept. 11 attacks. He said Mohammed gave final orders to himself and Reid, who is serving a life sentence.
"He just gave us advice, uh, on how to interact with each other, how to contact each other," Badat said.
Badat said he believed Mohammed and others like him take advantage of vulnerable youths to carry out terrorism attacks. On cross-examination, he said he believed some of the Sept. 11 hijackers were victims like the others who died that day, "to lesser extent, to a much lesser extent."
Reid and Badat traveled with each other just weeks before the planned December 2001 attacks, meeting for a time with a group of Malaysians who were preparing to perform a hijacking similar to the Sept. 11 attacks, Badat said.
"I provided them with one of my shoes because ... both had explosives inserted into them," he testified.
The videotape of his testimony was played just before the prosecution called to the witness stand a Long Island man who went to Pakistan in 2007 and joined al-Qaida forces in an attack against American soldiers.
Bryant Neal Vinas, who says he spent three weeks training with the Army in 2004 before dropping out because he thought it was too mentally difficult, testified that he later recommended that al-Qaida bomb a Long Island Rail Road train and a Walmart.
Vinas said he told others in al-Qaida in the summer of 2008 that they could leave a suitcase aboard an LIRR train, while explosives could be hidden inside a television that was being returned to a Walmart.
"It would cause a very big economy hit," Vinas said. "Walmart is the largest retail store in the country."
He said he was aware that hundreds of people would die and conceded on cross-examination that he was proud of himself for coming up with the idea. An al-Qaida associate suggested it would be more successful if a suicide bomber destroyed the train and a portion of the tunnel through which trains move from Long Island into Manhattan by setting off explosives while in the tunnel, he said.
Vinas, 29, a native of Patchogue on Long Island, has pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in Brooklyn and become a key government co-operator. The judge who will eventually sentence him watched him testify Monday.
Vinas said he went to Pakistan in 2007 to find a militant Islamic group and within weeks had latched on to a group that attacked American soldiers in Afghanistan. He said he went on one mission but the group stashed its ammunition and retreated because there were too many planes overhead.
Bothered by altitude sickness, he said, he believed it would be easier to volunteer to be a suicide bomber, the "highest, most honorable death," but was rejected because he had not undergone enough religious training.
By March 2008, he had linked up with al-Qaida, undergoing training for weeks that included theory about explosives and instructions on how to make portions of a suicide bomber's outfit, he said. Vinas said he was involved in one attack in which four rockets nearly hit a U.S. military camp in Afghanistan, but he described his role as a defensive position in his unit rather than one in which he would launch the explosives.
Vinas testified that he was arrested in Pakistan after leaving the tribal areas because the fighting season was over and he wanted to find a wife.
Although he was testifying at the trial of Adis Madunjanin, Vinas said he did not know the principal characters involved in the plot to attack Manhattan subways in 2009. Madunjanin has denied involvement in the plot.