Hostage testifies against British hate preacher
British hate preacher Abu Hamza admitted supplying advice and a satellite phone to the Islamist kidnappers of 16 Western tourists in Yemen in 1998, a survivor told a court Wednesday.
Mary Quin, a US-New Zealand citizen who currently heads a government agency in New Zealand, confronted Abu Hamza head-on in a Manhattan federal court, where he is on trial for 11 kidnapping and terror charges.
She spoke about the terrifying 24-hour kidnapping that ended with four hostages being killed and testified to meeting Abu Hamza in October 2000 while researching her published memoir "Kidnapped in Yemen."
During that interview at Finsbury Park Mosque in London, Quin said Abu Hamza justified the kidnapping and killing of civilians in defense of Islam.
"Islamically it's a good thing to do," she quoted Abu Hamza as saying of the kidnapping of foreign tourists.
He told Quin that the chief kidnapper, Abu Hasan, called him during the kidnapping and that he advised him to stay back to avoid being killed during the Yemen army's rescue operation, she said.
When she asked how the kidnappers got their satellite phone, Abu Hamza said: "It came from outside."
"From you?" Quin asked.
"Yeah perhaps," he replied, according to her testimony and a transcript of the interview submitted as evidence.
The cleric said the motive was to exchange the Australian, British and US hostages for detainees in Yemen, but was vague on whether they included Britons.
Five British men and an Algerian were arrested in Yemen on December 23, five days before the kidnapping.
Three other British men were arrested on January 27, 1999. Among the eight Britons were a son and step-son of Abu Hamza.
At no point did he express regret to Quin for the four Westerners who died during the rescue operation, she said.
At one point, however, he even implied they got off lightly by saying it would have been "easy" to have fired a rocket and blown up a car of tourists.
The kidnapping was intended to undermine the Yemeni government and end the tourist industry, which was bankrolling "unIslamic behavior," Abu Hamza told her.
-'Defendant was laughing'-
Quin said Abu Hamza laughed after asking why none of the hostages had a cell phone.
"The defendant was laughing and said you should have a compass as well," Quin said.
Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, 56, better known in Britain as Abu Hamza al-Masri, has pleaded not guilty to all the charges but faces life in prison if convicted.
Blind in one eye and with both hands blown off in an explosion in Afghanistan, he sat quietly in tracksuit bottoms and a T-shirt, taking notes.
Quin said he claimed not to know the arrested Britons were going to Yemen, but if he had, would have advised them to travel under false identities.
He would also have told them to take bombs and "some James Bond things," she quoted Abu Hamza as saying.
She was the second of the two US former hostages to testify about their horrific ordeal and the more than two-hour gunfight that ended in their rescue.
The kidnappers lined up hostages on a berm and opened fire between their legs, she said.
"I could feel a bullet go so close to my face I felt the air move," she said. She described the "zinging sound of the bullets" as "just like in the movies."
At one point she grabbed a gun off a kidnapper nicknamed "Purple Skirt" because of his traditional attire, in her bid to run for safety.
He was shot and trying to hold onto his AK-47, as the two screamed at each other, she said.
"I put my foot down on his head and that gave me enough leverage to rip the gun out of his hand."
Abu Hamza was indicted in the United States in 2004 and served eight years in prison in Britain before losing his last appeal against extradition in 2012.
© 2014 AFP