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Last Updated: Friday, 20 June, 2003, 02:54 GMT 03:54 UK
Trucker 'planned US bridge attack'
Brooklyn Bridge
The plot aimed to cut the bridge's cables
A lorry driver who has met al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has admitted taking part in a plot to sabotage a New York bridge, US officials say.

Iyman Faris, 34, has pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to provide support.

He admitted his guilt as part of a plea deal in which he agreed to fully co-operate with US prosecutors, Attorney General John Ashcroft told reporters.

Faris led a secret double life... He travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, covertly met with Osama Bin Laden, joined al-Qaeda's jihad against America
John Ashcroft

Government documents say Mr Faris received instructions from senior al-Qaeda figures, including suspected 11 September mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is in US custody overseas.

The alleged plan to cut the cables which support the bridge - believed to have been Brooklyn Bridge, close to the site of the World Trade Center attacks - was not carried out.

But Justice Department documents unsealed on Thursday indicate that detailed plans were in place.

"In apprehending Faris and reaching this plea agreement, we have taken another American-based al-Qaeda operative off the streets, who appeared to be a hard-working American trucker, but secretly scouted terrorist strikes that could have killed many of his fellow citizens," Mr Ashcroft said.

'Coded message'

Mr Ashcroft said Faris, also known as Mohammed Rauf, was told by an al-Qaeda operative to get hold of equipment to cut the cables of the bridge.

He was also told to obtain tools to derail trains.

On a trip to inspect the bridge in late 2002, Faris apparently decided that the plot would be unlikely to succeed.

The Justice Department statement says he sent a coded message to al-Qaeda leaders early this year: "The weather is too hot."

Faris was born in Kashmir, entered the US in 1994 and became a US citizen five years later. He lived in Columbus, Ohio.

"On any given day, Iyman Faris appeared to be a hard-working independent truck driver," Mr Ashcroft told reporters in Washington.

"But Faris led a secret double life. He travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, covertly met with Osama Bin Laden, joined al-Qaeda's jihad (holy war) against America."

The guilty plea was filed at a closed hearing in Virginia on 1 May, but was kept secret for more than a month.

Faris faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000 at his sentencing on 1 August.

The BBC's Ian Pannell
"Faris met Osama Bin Laden at a training camp in Afghanistan"


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