LACKAWANNA, NY (WKBW)- It was a story that grabbed headlines not only through Western New York, but across the globe in the summer of 2002. Six Yemeni-American men living in Lackawanna arrested for their involvement in terrorist training at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan.
A lengthy investigation led to the arrests of: Yaya Goba, Yasein Taher, Faysal Galab, Shafal Mosed, Sahim Alwan and Mukhtar Al-Bakri. All the men were in their 20's at the time and were American born or naturalized citizens of the United States.
"What came out of this is why this happened," said Former Buffalo FBI Special Agent in Charge Peter Ahearn. "It was critical to understand what was the homegrown issue, how could they be radicalized? Why did they do what they did?"
The men later pleaded guilty to proving material support to a terrorist organization, cooperated with further investigations and served anywhere from 7 to 10 years in federal prison. More than a decade after their arrests, all of them are free. Many remain in the Western New York Community, married with children. Defense Attorney Joseph LaTona represented Fasal Galab.
"Where he is, is something I'd rather not say. All I can say is he is no longer a resident of the Federal Bureau of Prisons," said LaTona. "None of them took the oath to join al-Qaeda. They didn't complete the training and basically by their conduct, in my opinion, repudiated what Bin Laden was teaching over there."
U.S. Attorney William Hochul was the lead prosecutor at the time and says he's actually had conversations with one of the men he helped imprison.
"I've engaged in very pleasant conversations with him and his family. I think that is a success of the criminal justice system because while we punish people for what they've done. Once they served their time and acknowledged their own wrong doing, we do need to forgive as well."