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Police informant reveals NYPD terror probe tactics

By Staff
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NEW YORK, May 3 (Reuters) An Egyptian immigrant turned police informant testified how he infiltrated a New York mosque, even winning a seat on its board, in one of the first post-September 11 terrorism investigations by police to end up in federal court.

Osama Eldawoody, 50, was giving testimony in the trial of Pakistani Shahawar Matin Siraj, 24, who is accused of plotting to bomb a Manhattan subway station.

Eldawoody said in Brooklyn federal court that in 2003 and 2004 he served as the eyes and ears of New York Police Department detectives, reporting on ''everything, good or bad.'' He secretly taped conversations with Siraj in which the younger man discussed the idea of bombing the Herald Square station as well as a hazy plan to blow up several bridges. None of the attacks materialized.

Defense lawyers contend Siraj was entrapped by a man twice his age who misused police surveillance powers.

The case is the first of its kind to be tried in the Brooklyn court after a terrorism probe conducted mostly by police and ighlights a shift in tactics by the NYPD to combat terrorism after the September 11, 2001 attacks killed nearly 3,000 people.

Since then the NYPD has moved into terrorism-related duties once seen as the domain of the FBI, including a larger focus on suspects like Siraj who are not affiliated with any major terrorist group.

More than 1,000 of its 37,800 police officers are now assigned to daily counterterrorism duties.

In 2003 a federal judge granted the department expanded anti-terror surveillance powers, after police lobbied for increased surveillance of city mosques that were believed to shelter extremist Islamic militants.

Siraj's defense lawyer, Martin Stolar, questioned both those powers and the tactics used by police. He asked Eldawoody why he prayed daily and reported on activity in the mosques, including the numbers of people praying as well as conversations with imams and an Arabic newspaper publisher.

''I report on everything, good or bad, about anything I see,'' said Eldawoody, who previously testified he was told by police to keep his ''eyes and ears open.'' Stolar asked whether Eldawoody, a trained nuclear engineer who was paid more than 100,000 dollars by the NYPD for more than two years of informing, received police permission to be elected to the board of one of the mosques.

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has been subpoenaed to testify at the trial, which is expected to last several weeks.

REUTERS DKS RN0719

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