- Member of the New York-based al Qaeda cell, the Lackawanna Six
- Trained at the Al-Farooq al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan
- Was sentenced to eight years in prison for providing support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization
Born in Detroit, Michigan, in June 1978, Shafal Mosed was a member of a six-man al-Qaeda terrorist cell based in Lackawanna, New York (near Buffalo) during 2001-02. His five accomplices were Mukhtar Al-Bakri, Sahim A. Alwan, Faysal Galab, Yahya A. Goba, and Yasein Taher. This group eventually came to known as the Lackawanna Six or Buffalo Six, and all of its members hailed from a community of approximately 3,000 Yemeni Muslim residents of Lackawanna. They were recruited into terrorism by two veteran mujaheddin, Kamal Derwish and Juma al-Dosari, who encouraged the men to attend a six-week-long weapons course at al-Qaeda’s Al-Farooq training camp in Afghanistan, near Kandahar.
Mosed traveled to the Al-Farooq camp in the spring of 2001, though he falsely told his relatives and friends that he was going to Pakistan to study with the Islamic evangelical group Tablighi Jamaat. The first leg of Mosed’s trip was a stopover in Pakistan, where Kamal Derwish met him and escorted him across the border into Afghanistan.
Mosed was present on one occasion in June 2001 when Osama bin Laden visited the Al-Farooq camp with his chief lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and delivered a 20-minute speech in Arabic to the hundreds of trainees. In his address, bin Laden discussed the recent merger between al-Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad; hinted about suicide operations that were planned against the U.S. and Israel; and exhorted those in attendance to pray for some 40 operatives who he said were about to embark on a very important mission (presumably a reference to 9/11).
In early June 2001, the FBI’s Buffalo, New York field office received an anonymous, handwritten letter from someone in Lackawanna’s Yemeni community naming several locals (including Mosed) who allegedly had been recruited by “two terrorists” and then traveled to “meet bin Laden and stay in his camp for training.” FBI agent Edward Needham checked these names against criminal databases and found that a number of them had previously been convicted of such offenses as drug dealing and cigarette smuggling. Needham put the names on an FBI watch list and formally opened an investigation on June 15.
Throughout the spring and summer of 2001, the Al-Farooq training camp conducted numerous evacuation drills in anticipation of a possible U.S. bombing raid. At various times, each of the Lackawanna Six left the camp and returned to the United States without completing their basic training course. (A seventh Lackawanna resident, 36-year-old Jaber Elbaneh, stayed in the Middle East and remained loyal to al-Qaeda.)
On June 27, 2001, Mosed returned to the U.S. with Faysal Galab and Yasein Taher. After their plane landed in New York, the three were stopped and questioned for two hours by the FBI and then immediately released. The authorities did not yet know that these men had attended an al-Qaeda training camp.
The FBI probe continued, however, and Mosed was eventually arrested in Lackawanna on September 13, 2002. On October 21, he was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization (al-Qaeda). Mosed and his accomplices initially pleaded not guilty, but over the next few months all six defendants reversed course and decided to plead guilty in exchange for prison terms of approximately six-and-a-half to ten years. According to the chairman of the American Bar Association’s Task Force on Treatment of Enemy Combatants: “The defendants believed that if they didn’t plead guilty, they’d end up in a black hole forever.”
Mosed was eventually released from prison in 2010 and transferred to a federal halfway house in Rochester, New York, where he worked as a day laborer. He planned to move back to Lackawanna when freed from federal custody in September 2011.