NEW YORK – 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. 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.
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 Wal-Mart.
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 Wal-Mart.
“It would cause a very big economy hit,” Vinas said. “Wal-Mart 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 cooperator. 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. 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 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.