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Tuesday, 6 February, 2001, 23:02 GMT
Witness reveals bin Laden threats
Artist's sketch of the trial
The trial is expected to last for 10 months
By Rob Watson in Washington

The first witness in the trial of four men charged with the bombing of two US embassies in Africa has told a jury in New York that Islamic militant Osama bin Laden first called for a holy war against Americans in 1991.

The witness was called by the prosecution, which argues that the bombings of the embassies which killed 224 people were part of a wider plot by Mr bin Laden to kill Americans where ever they could be found.

Jamal Ahmed Alfadl is one of the prosecution's star witnesses.

Members of the US Marshal Service
There is unprecedented security at the trial
They say he is a former close aid to Mr bin Laden who approached them for protection after being caught stealing money from Mr bin Laden's organisation, al-Qaeda.

In his testimony before the jury, which is expected to continue for several days, Sudanese born Mr Alfadl quoted Mr bin Laden as telling him: "We have to fight the US military, we have to do something to take them out."

Although Mr bin Laden has been indicted for the embassy bombings, a court appearance is unlikely as US officials believe he is currently in hiding in Afghanistan.

During the trial's opening day on Monday, lawyers for two of the defendents admitted their clients' links to the Saudi exile but urged the jury that that did not mean they were terrorists.

A lawyer for another defendent admitted his client had been involved in making one of the bombs but said he had not known of the deadly purpose for which it would be used.

The fourth defendent's lawyer declined to make an opening statement.

The trial is expected to last for 10 months and is taking place under unprecedented security in a Manhattan court.

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