January 18, 2018 / 12:12 AM / 8 months ago

U.S. prosecutors charge German man with supporting al Qaeda

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday accused a German man currently imprisoned in France of supporting al Qaeda in the years leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on New York City, and conspiring to kill Americans.

In an indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court, New York federal prosecutors said Christian Ganczarski, 51, had personal relationships with Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda members.

They said Ganczarski helped al Qaeda plan attacks on Americans by sharing his expertise in computers, radio communications and weapons systems, and that he traveled from Germany to Pakistan and Afghanistan at least five times between 1999 and 2001 and met with al Qaeda leaders.

Ganczarski was in Germany at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, but said afterwards that he “had been aware that something big was about to happen,” according to the indictment.

It was not clear whether Ganczarski had an attorney in the United States.

The Polish-born convert to Islam was sentenced in France in 2009 to 18 years in prison, following his conviction for helping to plan an al Qaeda attack on a synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia that killed 21 people in 2002.

A bomber carried out the attack by driving a tanker truck filled with cooking gas into the synagogue and blowing it up. The synagogue, which had stood on the site for 1,900 years, was largely destroyed.

Ganczarski’s sentence is due to end in February, and U.S. authorities have previously indicated that they want him extradited.

French officials said that Ganczarski attacked prison guards last week, after being recorded on a telephone call saying he would do something in order to remain in France.

French prosecutors opened a counter-terrorism investigation into the attack on the guards, which could delay any extradition.

Reporting By Brendan Pierson, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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