Egyptian militant admits links to 1998 US Embassy bombings
By RICHARD A. SERRANO | Tribune Washington Bureau (MCT) | Published: September 20, 2014
WASHINGTON — A longtime Egyptian militant with ties to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden admitted in federal court Friday that he had links to the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa, a surprise guilty plea that the judge sharply questioned because it reduces his prison time from a potential life sentence to 25 years.
The defendant, Adel Abdel Bary, read from a script in the Manhattan courtroom, acknowledging that he passed crucial messages to top al-Qaida leaders after the twin embassy blasts killed 224 people in one of the first large-scale terrorist attacks against the United States.
The 54-year-old Egyptian said that after the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, he telephoned media outlets and passed on claims from al-Qaida that it was responsible and warned of future attacks to come.
“I arranged to transmit messages from media personnel to my co-conspirators,” he said, identifying them as bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri, now the declared leader of al-Qaida.
Bary pleaded guilty to three charges dealing with threats to kill, injure or intimidate people and damage and destroy property. He initially faced hundreds of other charges and a maximum of life in prison with no parole.
The deal would instead give him 25 years in prison. That term could be drastically cut if he is granted credit for his jail time in London and the U.S. He was arrested in Britain in 1999 and extradited to this country in 2012.
U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan did not immediately accept the plea deal. He asked prosecutors and defense lawyers to report back next week with more information on how the plea arrangement was reached.
“You could well appreciate why I have questions in my mind,” the judge said, according to published reports.
Outside the courtroom, defense lawyers declined to discuss the matter with reporters, including whether the sudden plea deal was related to their client’s son, Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 24.
The younger man is a British rapper whom some media outlets have identified as the person British intelligence officials suspect is the terrorist seen in an Islamic State video beheading American journalist James Foley.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, raised doubt about whether the younger Bary was the man in the video.
FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said investigators had not confirmed the name of the killer.
Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in New York, praised the work of the FBI, federal prosecutors and other federal agents and New York police in wrapping up the case.
“Adel Abdel Bary filled supporting positions in Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al-Qaida,” Bharara said, “assisting, fomenting and inciting violence and terrorism, and conspiring to kill innocent people, including American civilians serving their country abroad.
“Today he has admitted his guilt, and subject to the further information requested by the judge, awaits the sentence to be imposed by an American civilian court.”
According to U.S. authorities, Bary in 1997 led the London cell of the militant group Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which a year later merged with al-Qaida and began training radicals to attack Americans. He and others became influential members of al-Qaida. The day after the Aug. 7, 1998, embassy bombings, Bary began transmitting al-Qaida warnings of future attacks to media outlets in France, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
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