Terrorist gets 45 years in prison for bombing Army base
A Texas man-turned-al Qaeda terrorist was sentenced to 45 years behind bars Tuesday for a bombing outside a US Army base in Afghanistan – as a soldier injured in the 2009 blast recalled its lasting impact on him.
Mohanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, 32, and other jihadists planned the attack at Forward Operating Base Chapman where two bombs were set off, including one that failed to detonate, authorities said.
“On the day of the explosion, I was alone. I was a 19-year-old soldier over 7,000 miles away from home,” Private First Class Mark Ferrell, of the National Guard, wrote in a letter read in Brooklyn federal court by a prosecutor. “I will never forget the feeling of not knowing if I am going to die or not.”
Ferrell and several Afghans, including a pregnant woman, were injured in the first blast. The impact caused a truck carrying about 7,500 pounds of explosives to become stuck in a crater without exploding. Farekh’s prints were found all over the undetonated bomb.
“The defendant has caused me physical and emotional stress for the rest of my life,” said Ferrell, who was standing guard in a watchtower when the first bomb went off.
He said he still has ringing in his ears.
Prosecutor Richard Tucker said it was a miracle no one died in the bombing.
“His intention to kill was clear by his actions,” Tucker said of Farekh in urging Brooklyn federal court Judge Brian Cogan to sentence the terrorist to life in prison. “The defendant is and will remain a violent person.”
Farekh asked for a more lenient sentence of 20 years – but failed in convincing the judge that he was a changed man.
“I do not believe in violence at all. I do not believe in violence, and I don’t understand it,” Farekh said in his own letter, which was read by his lawyer. “It is my view that following that path is risky and fundamentally wrong. Jihad is not the proper [way of] teaching Islam.”
Cogan acknowledged that Farekh was an “intelligent man” but also “pretty hardcore al Qaeda.”
“It’s by the grace of God that more people were not killed in this attack,” the judge said. “A pregnant woman had a large piece of shrapnel in her back. That’s as serious as it gets.”
He added, “I have to acknowledge the possibility that [Farekh] is not a changed person.”
Farekh and two co-conspirators, who were then all students at the University of Manitoba in Canada, traveled overseas to join al Qaeda.
A jury found Farekh, an American citizen originally from Houston, guilty in September.