by Adam Tanner
27 November 2002
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Osama bin Laden boasted of planning to kill thousands of people in the United States four months before the September 11 attacks, a man who briefly served as his bodyguard told a German court yesterday.
"He said there would be thousands of deaths," Shadi Abdalla told the court at the trial of Mounir el Motassadeq, a Moroccan accused of supporting the al-Qaida cell that allegedly led the World Trade Centre and Pentagon attacks.
Mr Abdalla said he had served as Bin Laden's bodyguard for about two weeks at an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan and heard the statement before he left the country in May 2001.
"All the people [in the camp] knew that Bin Laden said that there would be something done against America, but what he had in mind we did not know," said Mr Abdalla.
"America was going to be hit. Within the radical Islamic camps in Afghanistan, America was clearly seen as the enemy.
"All people who were there said that the aggressors against Islamic countries should be killed. Everyone there agreed on this," Mr Abdalla said.
Mr Motassadeq, a 28-year-old electrical engineering student, is charged with being an accessory to 3,045 murders in New York and Washington and with belonging to an Islamist cell operating in Hamburg which is believed to have led the September 11 attacks.
The witness also said a suspected key member of the September 11 plot, Ramzi bin al-Shaibah, was in Bin Laden's inner circle and in frequent contact with the al-Qaida leader.
"He had a special position in the camp. He was very close to Bin Laden and spoke very often with him and gave lessons in the mosque," Mr Abdalla said of the man captured in Pakistan in September and handed over to the United States. "He was part of the inner circle."
Prosecutors see Mr Bin al-Shaibah as a key figure in the Hamburg cell led by the town planning student Mohamed Atta, the man believed to have piloted the first plane into the World Trade Centre.
Mr Abdalla, a Palestinian born in Jordan, moved to Germany in the mid-1990s and was granted asylum. He said he became Bin Laden's bodyguard after meeting the husband of Bin Laden's daughter in Saudi Arabia.