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Final member of Lackawanna 6 sentenced

The final member of the Lackawanna Six was sentenced Wednesday in Buffalo, N.Y., to 9½ years in prison for attending an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan in 2001.
/ Source: Reuters

The last of the "Lackawanna 6" group of Yemeni-Americans who attended an al-Qaida weapons training camp in Afghanistan in 2001 was sent to prison Wednesday for 9½ years.

U.S. District Court Judge William Skretny rejected a prosecution recommendation that Sahim Alwan be jailed for nine years under a plea deal.

The judge said Alwan, 31 — who twice met personally with the radical Islamic group's leader, Osama bin Laden — had lied to the FBI about the purpose of his visit to Afghanistan and "significantly undermined the investigation of terrorism crimes in this case."

Alwan said he traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan to further his education in Islam.

He pleaded guilty in April to providing "material support" to a "foreign terrorist organization" under a 1996 anti-terrorism law. All six men from the former steel town of Lackawanna near Buffalo on the Canadian border struck plea bargains with prosecutors in exchange for lighter sentences.

At his sentencing Wednesday, Alwan apologized for his actions. The judge sentenced him to 9½ years in prison and ordered him supervised for three years after his release.

The five other men were sentenced this month to prison terms ranging from seven to 10 years.

"I'm going to do what I can for the rest of my life to atone for it to my community, to my family, the court, my religion and my country and anyone I caused heartache to," said Alwan, who is married and has three children.

The six men said they went to the al Farooq military-style al-Qaida camp months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but they were never charged with involvement in the hijacked plane strikes, the planning of attacks or other violence.

The case of the men known as the "Lackawanna 6" has been described by the Bush administration as a model for its pursuit of terrorism suspects, but civil rights lawyers accused the government of being overzealous in prosecuting them.