WASHINGTON (AP) In the first criminal indictment stemming from Sept. 11, a federal grand jury yesterday charged a Frenchman who was jailed a month before the attacks with conspiring with Osama bin Laden to murder thousands in the suicide hijackings.

The 30-page indictment against Zacarias Moussaoui, 33, who was born in France of Moroccan descent, laid out in copious detail an international plot dating to 1998 that involved the 19 hijackers, bin Laden, top al-Qaida deputies and tens of thousand of dollars.

Moussaoui was charged with six felonies, including four that carry the death penalty. The indictment sets the stage for a trial in a federal courtroom in the Virginia suburbs of Washington rather than a military tribunal.

“The United States of America has brought the awesome weight of justice against the terrorists who brutally murdered innocent Americans,” Attorney General John Ashcroft said in announcing the indictment on the three month anniversary of the deadly hijackings.

“Al-Qaida will now meet the justice it abhors and the judgment it fears.”

Ashcroft called Moussaoui an “active participant” with the 19 hijackers who crashed four jetliners in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, killing thousands.

Though jailed since Aug. 17 in Minnesota after raising suspicions while seeking flight training, Moussaoui had worked in concert with bin Laden associates to carry out the attacks, the attorney general alleged.

The indictment said Moussaoui”s activities mirrored those of the 19 hijackers he attended flight school, opened a bank account with cash, joined a gym, purchased knives, bought flight deck videos and looked into crop dusting planes.

“Moussaoui followed many of the same patterns and took many of the same steps as the 19 hijackers,” FBI Director Robert Mueller said.

The indictment charged Moussaoui “with conspiring with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida to murder thousands of innocent people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11.”

Moussaoui faces arraignment Jan. 2 on six charges of conspiracy: terrorism, aircraft piracy, destruction of aircraft, use of weapons of mass destruction, murder and destruction of property.

The indictment also identifies bin Laden, his top lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahri and other alleged member of al-Qaida as unindicted co-conspirators.

Among the unindicted co-conspirators was Ramsi Binalshibh, a Yemeni fugitive who lived in Germany with some of the hijackers. Mueller has said Binalshibh was supposed to be the 20th hijacker on Sept. 11, but failed to make it into the United States.

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