Shot US hostage tells NY terror trial she feared death

Shot US hostage tells NY terror trial she feared death
Security officers stand outside of US Federal Court House on the morning the court begins jury selection for Abu Hamza terrorism trial on April 14, 2014 in New York City.

NEW YORK - An American retired oil company employee, kidnapped in Yemen with 15 other Westerners in 1998, told a New York terror trial Tuesday how she feared they would all die.

Margaret Thompson, wearing a double string of pearls and left with a limp as a result of being shot during the hostage standoff, testified against British hate preacher Abu Hamza.

Hamza, who was extradited to the US in 2012, faces the rest of his life behind bars if convicted on 11 terror and kidnapping charges that pre-date the 9/11 attacks.

He is accused of providing the kidnappers with a satellite phone, advice and 500 pounds ($850 today) of extra airtime on the day after the hostage taking.

The tour group was kidnapped on December 28, 1998 while driving in a convoy of jeeps to the port city of Aden.

The next day, the Yemen army mounted a rescue attempt that ended with four of the hostages being killed.

The most harrowing part of Thompson's testimony focused on intensifying gunfire between the soldiers and the kidnappers out in the desert.

The abductors ordered them to stand with their arms in the air for around an hour and half, Thompson said.

As the gunfire got more frequent, one of them told the Westerners "it's goodbye to you all," Thompson said.

Asked what she thought that meant, she replied: "I hoped it meant they were getting ready to release us, but I feared it meant we were going to die."

'Whizzing bullets' 

She told how they were marched to a berm and told to stand in line as their abductors opened fire.

"The kidnappers were lying on the berm, shooting their guns between our legs," Thompson told the court.

"I could hear the whizzing of the bullets," she added.

Thompson described how one of the kidnappers pushed an Australian woman to the ground and told to her to "sleep." As she curled up "he fired his gun into the sand all around her head," Thompson said.

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