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FBI confirms Elbaneh escaped from prison

The Buffalo office of the FBI has confirmed that Jaber A. Elbaneh, a former Lackawanna resident accused of having ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network, was among the 23 terror suspects who escaped Feb. 3 from a Yemeni prison along with the mastermind of the USS Cole bombing attack.

The Yemen Ministry of the Interior had indicated that Elbaneh, 39, was one of the men who escaped in the breakout from the Political Security Prison in Sana, Yemen, said Peter J. Ahearn, special agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI office. But because of the difficulty in obtaining definitive information from the Yemen government, authorities were not 100 percent certain until late last week, Ahearn said.

Elbaneh is charged with providing material support to al-Qaida by attending the al-Farooq training camp run by Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan months before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Unlike the other members of the so-called "Lackawanna Six" group, Elbaneh never returned to the United States after the training.

"He's running with a dangerous group of people. . . . For his own safety and security, he should turn himself in," Ahearn said.

The U.S. government posted a $5 million reward for information leading to Elbaneh's arrest in September 2003. The reward still stands, Ahearn said.

Ahearn said the FBI believes Elbaneh had been in the custody of Yemen prison authorities for more than two years.


12-year term imposed in drug, weapons case

David Harper was sentenced to 12 years in prison Friday after pleading guilty to drug and gun crimes, including firing about a dozen shots from a 9mm pistol outside the JFK Community Center last July 21.

State Supreme Court Justice Joseph S. Forma, citing Harper's criminal record, called him "reprehensible" while imposing the sentence.

Harper, 22, of Hollister Street, has been jailed since his capture about a half-hour after the incident last summer in which no one was injured.


Police accuse man of burning pipe bomb

WHEATFIELD -- A North Tonawanda man found burning what turned out to be a pipe bomb was charged with reckless endangerment Friday by Niagara County sheriff's deputies.

Daniel W. DeMonte, 19, who was stopped for questioning as he left a secluded area off Witmer Road, led deputies to a burning plastic canister, according to reports. He said it held personal items, but after dousing the fire, deputies said they discovered the charred container was packed with gun powder and diesel fuel that had failed to detonate.


Welland men accused of growing marijuana

WELLAND -- Two Welland men were arrested Friday on drug charges after police said a search turned up a marijuana growing operation that was cultivating more than 400 plants.

Niagara Regional Police said, after obtaining a search warrant, they found the hydroponic growing operation in an Ontario Road apartment. Police said the marijuana plants had a street value of $400,000, while the growing equipment was worth $10,000.

Stuart I. Bailey, 40, and Ronald B. Potter, 33, were charged with the production and possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell.


Arrest follows break-in at Michigan Ave. home

A Grape Street man was arrested on charges of breaking into his former girlfriend's Michigan Avenue home early Saturday and threatening her with a handgun.

The woman reported that David E. Mitchell, 24, kicked in the door, punched and choked her, and threatened her with the weapon, police said.

Central District Officer Jeremy Mott said he subdued Mitchell after a struggle and charged him with first-degree burglary and criminal use of a firearm, as well as assault, menacing, harassment, resisting arrest and obstruction.


Sale of car ordered as part of sentence

LOCKPORT -- Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza ordered a drunken driver Friday to sell his car as a condition for a sentence of three years' probation.

Bradley J. Lauzau, 44, of Willow Road, Wilson, was given 30 days to sell his car, which he said is broken and off the road.

Sperrazza said Lauzau has a problem with unlicensed driving and not having a car around might reduce the temptation.

Lauzau had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor driving while intoxicated and second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation following his arrest March 10 in Wilson.

In another case, Wanda J. Johnson, 38, of Ferry Avenue, Niagara Falls, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor driving while intoxicated Dec. 23 in North Tonawanda. Judge Peter L. Broderick Sr. scheduled sentencing for April 28.

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