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'Millennium Bomber' Ahmed Ressam sentenced to 37 years for pre-9/11 plot

Algerian-born Ahmed Ressam wanted to blow up LAX during new millennium celebrations.

Ahmed ressam millennium bomber 2012 03 12Enlarge
Artist Teresa Malinowski shows Algerian national Ahmed Ressam sitting between lawyer Tom Hillier and an Arabic interpreter on December 22, 1999 at the US Federal Courthouse in Seattle. (TERESA MALINOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

“Millennium Bomber” Ahmed Ressam, an Al Qaeda operative who tried to attack the US almost two years before 9/11, received a 37-year sentence today in a Seattle courtroom.

A judge had twice sentenced him to 22 years in prison, but federal prosecutors appealed by saying the sentences were too lenient, Reuters reported.

While imposing the harsher penalty for trying to blow up Los Angeles airport, District Judge John Coughenour said life in prison isn’t necessary given the crime was prevented.

“This case provokes our greatest fears ... but fear is a foul ingredient for sentencing calculations,” Coughenour said, according to Reuters.

Ressam tried to enter the US from Canada on December 14, 1999 with the intention of building and detonating a bomb at LAX, the Seattle Times reported.

He wanted the explosives to detonate as LA celebrated the new millennium.

However, a customs official decided he was acting erratically, and asked him to pull over so officers could search his car.

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After he tried to flee on foot, they caught him and found explosives in his trunk.

The discovery triggered warnings of a terrorist attack. Seattle cancelled its New Year’s Day fireworks as a result.

“If Mr. Ressam had succeeded it is likely hundreds if not thousands of innocent lives would have been lost,” Assistant US Attorney Helen Brunner said, the Times reported.

Ressam was born in Algeria but lived in Canada and trained with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, The Associated Press said.

After his capture, he cooperated with terrorism investigators from several countries and gave the FBI key evidence of Osama bin Laden’s plan to strike on US soil.

More from GlobalPost: ‘Millennium bomber’ Ahmed Ressam’s sentence overturned by appeals court

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/121024/millennium-bomber-ahmed-ressam-sentenced-37-year