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Terrorism in America

Guilty pleas on seven counts of plotting bombing and murder by one of twelve defendants in the New York terrorism trial fortifies the prosecution's concept of an extremists' war of mayhem.

The alleged conspiracy in which Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali admitted his part was thwarted by the FBI, thus preventing the planned bombing in July 1993 of the United Nations, a federal office building and two Hudson River auto tunnels plus the assassination of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and U.S. politicians friendly to Israel. All this purportedly was prevented when the FBI arrested eight men mixing diesel fuel and fertilizer into the explosive AMFO, in the Jamaica section of New York, on June 24, 1993. FBI investigators moved in when the explosive components came together.

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Out of that grew this trial for a sustained conspiracy among followers of the extremist Islamic preacher, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is wanted in his native Egypt for fomenting violence and is considered the inspiration of terrorism there. The conspiracy allegedly embraces the World Trade Center bombing New York in February 1993, and the assassination of the American-Israeli extremist, Rabbi Meir Kahane, in 1990.

Four men were convicted in March 1994 of the World Trade Center bombing, on forensic evidence, and sentenced to 240 years of prison apiece. Three were followers of Sheik Omar. A fifth, the alleged ringleader, has just been captured in Pakistan and shipped to New York for a new trial. An associate of Sheik Omar was acquitted in 1991 of the murder of Rabbi Kahane, but convicted in a shooting that followed the murder, and is in prison. The prosecution said then that he was acting alone.

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Until Siddig Ali's plea bargain, the current prosecution was depending on the testimony of a wired informant, Emad Salem, a former Egyptian army officer whom the defense accused of entrapping the others. Siddig Ali's guilty plea and expected testimony add credibility. It is not a total surprise to co-defendants. He flirted with plea bargaining in July 1994 and has been jailed separately from the others since.

The trial must proceed. Even with the Siddig Ali testimony, the case against Sheik Omar for advocacy is problematic and riveting. But there can now be no doubt that terrorism has been planned and financed in this country, as several Middle East governments have been trying to tell Washington.

It is political extremism, not religious fundamentalism, that commits crimes, even when one masquerades as the other. Siddig Ali pleaded guilty "to send a clear message to all Muslims and non-Muslims all over the world that the acts that I personally was involved in with others do not represent Islam and do not reflect Islam at all because God did not tell us to kill innocent people for his sake."


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