"Millennium Bomber" Sentenced to 22 Years in Prison
Posted: July 28, 2005
More than five years after being caught smuggling explosives into the United States in a plot to blow up the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Algerian national Ahmed Ressam has been sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Ressam, 38, was sentenced on July 27 in U.S. District Court in Seattle for conspiracy to commit an international terrorist act, smuggling explosives and other criminal counts.
Ressam was arrested at Washington's Port Angeles in December 1999 by U.S. customs agents as he drove off a ferry from British Columbia. Agents discovered more than 100 pounds of explosives stashed in the wheel-bed of the trunk of his rental car. At that time he admitted his plan to blow up LAX on the eve of the new millennium, authorities said.
Ressam faced up to 130 years in prison when he was convicted in April 2001. Seeking a reduced sentence, Ressam began to cooperate with federal agents; his information and testimony gave what authorities described as "startlingly helpful" information on Al Qaeda and other Islamist activities.
Ressam reportedly provided information on the identities of more than 120 people and gave testimony in the trial of Mokhtar Haouari, who was later convicted of assisting in the plot to bomb LAX.
Ressam, however, stopped talking to investigators in early 2003. Prosecutors indicated that his refusal to cooperate jeopardized cases against two of his co-conspirators, Samir Ait Mohamed and Rachid Boukhalfa (a.k.a. Abou Doha), a radical Muslim imam awaiting extradition from Britain to stand trial for allegedly masterminding the plot. Boukhalfa is a "central player in North African terrorist networks," according to a brief filed by prosecutors.
During his trial, Ressam described traveling from Algeria to Montreal, then through Europe to an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, and back to Montreal to prepare the Los Angeles bombing attempt.