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Eye On Boise

Recruited by al Qaeda

Dressed in bright orange-yellow jail-issue scrubs, Yahya Goba gave short answers and took long pauses as he told the court about how he went to an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, at the urging of a friend and mentor from Lackawanna, N.Y., who's now dead.

"I looked up to him a lot," Goba said of Kamal Derwish, a U.S. citizen and al Qaeda recruiter who later died in a U.S. missile strike in Yemen.

Goba said he looked at web sites and videos after he returned from the training camp, and was shown some videotapes by another recruiter, Juma Al-Dosari, before he left New York for the training. "They were inspiring," he said of the videos, but they weren't what got him to go to the camp.

"The main recruiting was done by Derwish," Goba told the court.

The heavy-set, bearded young man then left the witness stand, and Khwaja Hasan, a Virginia man who, like Goba, is serving more than a decade in prison on terrorism-related charges, was led in.

Hasan said he had looked at Internet sites about Muslim fighters in Chechnya and elsewhere, and recounted with some gusto watching the movie "Russian Hell 2000" that included a graphic scene in which a Chechen commander shoots an injured Russian soldier dead "with an AK." But he said he never considered going overseas to fight until a dinner at a friend's house in Fairfax, Va. four days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

There, Ali Al-Tamimi, a man whose religious knowledge he respected, told him Taliban leader Mullah Omar had called for all Muslims to come to the defense of Afghanistan against American forces, and that it was his obligation to go and fight jihad, Hasan said. He agreed to go, and just five days later left the United States for Pakistan, where he trained for three and a half weeks at the Lashkar E Taiba training camp. But after the training, he lost the heart for the fight, and instead of going to Afghanistan, he returned to the United States.

Both young men are serving time under plea agreements that require them to cooperate in other cases, like Sami Al-Hussayen's trial on charges of supporting terrorism. Prosecutors contend they are examples of how Al-Hussayen's work on Islamic web sites helped terrorists draw recruits. Hasan was sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison for conspiracy, and for discharging a firearm in relation to the conspiracy. Goba is serving 10 years for providing material support and resources to al Qaeda, a designated terrorist organization.

U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge plans to hear more arguments from attorneys in a rare Friday-morning court session tomorrow, then decide on Monday morning whether to allow the jury to hear from the two young men. Jurors were excused for the weekend Thursday afternoon before the two men came in - and they couldn't hide their grins as they left early.

Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.