By Paul Cruickshank, CNN Terrorism Analyst
Saajid Badat, a U.K. terrorist convicted for plotting in December 2001 to blow up a shoe bomb on a transatlantic airliner heading from Europe to the United States, revealed in a U.S. court Thursday that he met Osama bin Laden several times in Afghanistan between 2000-2001.
When he pleaded guilty in 2005, Badat indicated that had been directed by al Qaeda to launch the plot, but this is the first time he has publicly revealed his interactions with the terrorist group’s founder.
As part of his guilty plea, Badat admitted he had conspired with shoe-bomber Richard Reid to launch the plot against transatlantic aviation. In December 2001 Reid attempted but failed to blow up a plane travelling from Paris to Miami with a device made from the explosive PETN hidden in his shoe, and
subsequently pleaded guilty of the plot in the United States.
The revelations about Badat’s ties to bin Laden suggest it is possible the deceased terrorist leader had a hand in the plots to target U.S. bound aviation with shoe bombs in late 2001.
The plots have previously been linked to two of bin Laden’s close lieutenants. In a 2007 Guantanamo hearing, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed stated “I was responsible for the Shoe Bomber Operation to down two American airplanes.” After the Taliban were driven from Kabul in 2001, records of Reid’s travels were found on an al Qaeda computer used by Ayman al Zawahiri.
Badat testified that he met bin Laden on several occassions in Afghanistan and peformed some tasks for him. He said al Qaeda members referred to their organization as “Jamaat us Sheikh” – the Sheikh’s group - and that the Sheikh they were referring to was bin Laden. He said he also met several other al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan.
Badat stated he travelled from the United Kingdom to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in 1999 when he was 19 with the intention of getting military training for violent Jihad, and had not initially intended to join al Qaeda. He stated he began acting under the directons of the group in the Summer of 2000 after receiving paramilitary training and traveling to a range of locations including Kabul, Jalalabad and Kandahar.
Badat traveled back to the United Kingdom from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region with an explosive device in December 2001 but decided to pull out of launching the attack. He was arrested two years
Later, he said.
Badat’s testimony came via pre-recorded video in the trial in a federal court house in Brooklyn of alleged American al Qaeda recruit Adis Medunjanin who U.S. authorities accuse of plotting to launch an attack on New York Subways in 2009. Badat was smartly dressed in a suit, white shirt and blue tie and spoke eloquently in crisp sentences. His close shaved head and stubble made him almost unrecognizable from photos published at the time of his arrest.
Badat stated he was testifying in the case as part of his cooperation agreement with U.K. authorities, which saw his sentence cut. He explained had decided to testify via video link because he feared arrest if he travelled to the United States because of outstanding terrorism charges against him there for the plot to target transatlantic aviation.
Badat’s testimony is scheduled to continue Monday.