Case closed: District court dismisses bin Laden charges after nearly 13 years

New York Southern District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan dismissed all criminal charges Friday against Osama bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan last month.

Bin Laden had been wanted for more than a decade in New York, where his al-Qaida network twice helped mastermind attacks against the World Trade Center and succeeded in destroying the towers, killing 3,000 people, in 2001. But bin Laden was not charged formally for those crimes.

The case dismissed Friday centered on the twin embassy bombings in 1998 in Tanzania and Kenya, in which 224 people, including 12 Americans, were killed. It includes charges of murder and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against Americans, as well as training operatives.

Other indictments against the al-Qaida leader detail his role in ordering his operatives to provide military training and assistance to Somali tribes opposed to the United Nations intervention there. These al-Qaida trainers-and their trainees-killed 18 U.S. military personnel in an ambush in Mogadishu in 1993.

Bin Laden was later indicted for his role in masterminding the 2000 suicide attack on the Navy destroyer USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden.

"Since 1998… certainly our expectation was that if [bin Laden] could be found -- and there were efforts to find him -- that he would be likely returned to the southern New York for trial on those charges," said Mary Jo White, who was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for nearly nine years until 2002.

The dismissal documents, filed nearly seven weeks after the raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, included an affidavit from a senior national security official confirming the al-Qaida leader's death and the steps taken to prove his identity. Overall, it was a simple court proceeding, a paperwork transfer-- and a common practice for all defendants with outstanding charges who die before they can be tried.

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