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New York City, the scene Tuesday of the most devastating terrorist act in United States history, has been at the center of three major terrorist trials since the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. At the most recent trial in May, four men were convicted of participating in a terrorist conspiracy to kill Americans and attack American embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. Like Tuesday’s attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Virginia, the bombings of the embassies in Tanzania and Kenya occurred within a short time of each other. U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Mary Jo White had sought the death penalty for two of the men convicted in May — Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-’Owhali and Khalfan Khamis — but, in two separate hearings, a federal jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the punishment and instead sentenced the men to life in prison. The sentencing of al-’Owhali had been scheduled for today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. All four men were allegedly part of al Qaeda, a terrorist group thought to be led by Usama Bin Laden. The trial of the embassy bombers prompted intense security measures for Southern District Judge Leonard B. Sand’s courtroom and the judge was guarded round-the-clock by U.S. Marshals. In a 1999 pretrial hearing in the case, Sand was nearly attacked by one of the defendants, Wadih El Hage, when he leaped over the jury box and charged the bench, but was tackled before he reached his intended victim. TIGHTENED SECURITY In the two years leading up to the embassy bombing trial, security around U.S. courthouses and other federal buildings was substantially increased, though not specifically for the embassy case, officials said at the time. For more than two years, dump trucks filled with sand blocked the portion of Pearl Street in New York between the U.S. Courthouse at Foley Square and the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse. Judges and delivery trucks could only enter the garages after one of the dump trucks moved and let them through. The trucks were replaced with gated guard houses and reinforced steel barriers last January. Tuesday’s attack will undoubtedly give more impetus for increased security throughout the courthouses and federal buildings. Looking on at the billowing smoke from the vicinity of the World Trade Center towers, several court officers stationed outside 100 Centre Street and 111 Centre Street, home of Manhattan’s criminal and civil courts, said Tuesday that they were on alert for possible follow-up attacks, especially bombs. “A bomb could be in any one of a thousand places here,” said Officer John McCormick, sweeping his hand across a backdrop of government buildings and thin clouds of dust. Prior to the embassy bombing convictions was the trial of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and El Sayyid Nosair. In 1996, the pair were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in a failed terrorist conspiracy that included plots to bomb the World Trade Center, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, and the George Washington Bridge, among other New York landmarks. Eight lesser defendants received between 25 and 57 years for their roles in the plots. The first major terrorist attack on New York City occurred at the World Trade Center in 1993, when a car bomb exploded in the building’s basement. Four men — Mahmud Abouhlima, Ahmad Ajaj, Nidal Ayydad and Mohammad Salameh — were convicted of planning and executing the attack, which killed six people and injured more than 1,000. The men were sentenced to life in prison.

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