By David Ingram and Jessica Dye
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. grand jury has indicted a Saudi-born man accused of being an al Qaeda operative who from 2002 to 2005 conspired to attack American soldiers in Afghanistan and U.S. diplomats in Nigeria.
The indictment against Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun, also known as "Spin Ghul," was unsealed on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York.
Harun, 43, was born in Saudi Arabia and claims citizenship in Niger, the Justice Department said in a statement. He is in U.S. custody, the department said.
Harun's lawyer, David Stern, had no comment. Harun was scheduled to appear in court on Friday.
According to the indictment, Harun travelled to Afghanistan from Saudi Arabia in 2001, arriving shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks. While in Afghanistan, he received military-type training at Al Qaeda camps and, between 2002 and 2003, tried to kill American soldiers there, according to prosecutors. He then travelled to Nigeria where, with others, he planned to bomb U.S. diplomatic facilities, the indictment says.
The indictment does not say whether Harun killed soldiers. It charges him with conspiracy, supporting a foreign terrorist organization and illegal use of firearms and explosives.
Harun was indicted in February 2012 and extradited to the United States on October 4. He entered a plea of not guilty to all charges the following day, according to court records.
Harun is the second alleged al Qaeda figure this month to be cited in a plot against the United States.
Two weeks ago, prosecutors unsealed an indictment against Suleiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, charging him with conspiracy to kill Americans.
That move brought protests from Republican in Congress, who oppose bringing terrorism suspects into the United States for trial in civilian courts.
The Justice Department said Harun was detained by the Libyan government in 2005, while on his way to Europe, and remained in custody there until 2011.
The indictment does not describe any plots after 2005 but it alleges that Harun continued to try to support al Qaeda through September 2011.
Italian authorities arrested him after he declared his affiliation with al Qaeda and assaulted officers on board a refugee ship bound for Italy, the Justice Department said. He was indicted and extradited to the United States last year, the department said.
According to a letter dated October 4 from the Justice Department to the judge overseeing Harun's case, U.S. authorities interviewed Harun for several days in September while he was in Italian custody, in the presence of his counsel and a judge in that country.
U.S. authorities said they believed Harun had direct knowledge about top-level al Qaeda members, and that he had made contact while in Africa with numerous other members of extremist groups, including affiliates of al Qaeda and others targeting Westerners, the letter said.
The government requested that the charges against Harun be kept under seal until they determined whether he could provide additional information, the letter said.
The U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, Loretta Lynch, called Harun "a prototype al Qaeda operative, trained by al Qaeda in terrorist tradecraft, deployed to fight American servicemen, and dispatched to commit terrorist attacks throughout the world."
(Editing by Warren Strobel and Doina Chiacu)