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Context of 'April 26-May 3, 1995: Bin Laden’s Brother-in-Law Deported from US'

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Mohammed Jamal Khalifa.Mohammed Jamal Khalifa. [Source: CBS News]Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law to bin Laden, is arrested in the US. He is held for visa fraud, but he is believed to be a major terrorist. His arrest takes place at a Holiday Inn in Morgan Hill, California. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001] That is only about 20 miles from Santa Clara, where double agent Ali Mohamed is running an al-Qaeda cell (see 1987-1998). Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will later say of Khalifa and Mohamed, “It seems to me that they were probably in contact. I’m basing that only intuitively on the fact that they were in the same area, they were close to bin Laden, and they would’ve had an incentive to stay together.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 167] According to one account, Khalifa is arrested on behalf of the government of Jordan, because he is on trial there. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001] Another account claims that Philippine authorities “tipped off Federal authorities on Khalifa’s movements.” [Filipino Reporter, 4/27/1995] He is traveling on a Saudi passport. He’d flown into the US from London on December 1 and has papers indicating he would be heading back to the Philippines. [Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159] It has been claimed that the CIA helped him get his US visa (see December 1, 1994). There are many reasons for US authorities to suspect Khalifa is a major terrorist figure:
bullet He is arrested with Mohammed Loay Bayazid, one of the dozen or so original members of al-Qaeda. Bayazid had attempted to purchase nuclear material for bin Laden the year before (see December 16, 1994).
bullet Philippine investigators had recently completed a secret report on terrorist funding. The report focuses on Khalifa, and says his activities in the Philippines strongly link with Muslim extremist movements in Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Russia, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Romania, Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, Albania, the Netherlands, and Morocco. It calls a charity which Khalifa runs a “pipeline through which funding for the local extremists is being coursed.” Perhaps not coincidentally, the report was released just one day before Khalifa’s arrest in the US (see December 15, 1994).
bullet His possessions, which are quickly examined and translated, include a handwritten manual in Arabic detailing how to set up a terrorist curriculum at a school in the Philippines, giving lessons in bomb-making and assassination. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001]
bullet Khalifa’s business card was discovered in a search of the New York City residence of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman in 1993 (see August 1993).
bullet He is an unindicted coconspirator in the “Landmarks” bombings plot, which would have killed thousands in New York City. The trial is getting underway at this time. Abdul-Rahman will be convicted and sentenced to over 300 years in prison (see June 24, 1993).
bullet A State Department cable from days after his arrest states Khalifa is a “known financier of terrorist operations and an officer of an Islamic NGO in the Philippines that is a known Hamas front.”
bullet An alias is found in his personal organizer that was also used in a bomb-making manual brought into the US by Ahmad Ajaj, Ramzi Yousef’s travel partner, when the two of them came to the US to implement the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see September 1, 1992).
bullet Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah’s phone number is found in Khalifa’s possessions. The Bojinka plot, if successful, also would have killed thousands (see January 6, 1995). [Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159]
bullet A number in Pakistan that Ramzi Yousef had used to call the Philippines is found as well. Author Peter Lance will later note that such numbers “should have led the FBI directly to Ramzi Yousef, the world’s most wanted man” at the time. [Lance, 2006, pp. 160]
However, despite this wealth of highly incriminating material, within weeks of his arrest the US will decide to deport him to Jordan (see January 5, 1995). Over the next four months, even more of his links to terrorist activity will be discovered (see Late December 1994-April 1995). But Khalifa will be deported anyway (see April 26-May 3, 1995), and then soon freed in Jordan (see July 19, 1995).

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Steven Emerson, US Department of State, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Philippines, Ahmad Ajaj, Peter Lance, Mohammed Loay Bayazid, Ali Mohamed, Osama bin Laden, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Jordan, Omar Abdul-Rahman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The US decides to deport Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, who was arrested in the US in mid-December 1994 (see December 16, 1994-May 1995). Khalifa was sentenced to death in Jordan later in December and the Jordanian government wants the US to deport him to face retrial, even though Jordan does not have an extradition treaty with the US. On this day, Secretary of State William Christopher writes a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno: “Jordan is aware of Mr. Khalifa’s presence in the United States and has asked for our assistance in sending him to Jordan so that he may be brought to justice. To permit Mr. Khalifa to remain in the United States in these circumstances would potentially be seen as an affront to Jordan and at odd with many of the basic elements of our cooperative bilateral relationship [and] potentially undermine our longstanding and successful policy of international legal cooperation to bring about the prosecution of terrorists.” The next day, Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, acting for an absent Janet Reno, sends a letter supporting the deportation request. [Lance, 2006, pp. 160-161] Gorelick will later be named one of the ten 9/11 Commissioners. The 9/11 Commission will not discuss the decision to deport Khalifa at all. Victim’s relative Monica Gabrielle will later note, “Gorelick was one of those who wanted [the 9/11 Commission] to concentrate only on the last few years.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 169] In April 1995, Khalifa’s conviction will be overturned in Jordan after a key witness recants, making it highly probable Khalifa will be found innocent if deported there (see Early April 1995). But the US will go ahead with the deportation anyway, and Khalifa will be found innocent and set free (see April 26-May 3, 1995).

Entity Tags: Warren Christopher, Jamie Gorelick, Janet Reno, Jordan, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Bomb making materials found in Yousef’s Manila apartment.Bomb making materials found in Yousef’s Manila apartment. [Source: CNN]After a late night raid of the Manila, Philippines, apartment central to the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), investigators find what the Los Angeles Times will call “an intelligence gold mine.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Very quickly, a team of US intelligence agents joins Philippine investigators to sort through the evidence, which fills three police vans. Investigators are able to match fingerprints in the apartment with fingerprints on record for Ramzi Yousef, already believed to be the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993). There are priests’ robes, pipe bombs, a dozen passports, chemicals, maps of the Pope’s planned route through Manila, and more. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] “The most damning information was gleaned from Yousef’s notebook computer, and four accompanying diskettes.” The data is encrypted and in Arabic, but technicians are quickly able to decipher and translate it. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001] Computer data includes “the names of dozens of associates, and photos of some; a record of five-star hotels; and dealings with a trading corporation in London, a meat market owner in Malaysia, and an Islamic center in Tucson, Ariz.… They describe how money moved through an Abu Dhabi banking firm.” [Washington Post, 9/23/2001] Photographs of all five operatives who would place bombs on airplanes are recovered from a deleted computer file. [Los Angeles Times, 5/28/1995] Wali Khan Amin Shah is identified from one of these five photos, plus a list of cell phone numbers found on the hard drive. He is traced to another Manila apartment and arrested on January 11. Under interrogation, Shah, who soon escapes from custody in unexplained circumstances (see January 13, 1995), confesses that most of the funds for the Bojinka plot were channeled to Yousef through a bank account belonging to Ahmad al-Hamwi, a Syrian working at the International Relations and Information Center (IRIC), a charity front run by Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001] But despite these leads, Ramzi Yousef is the only other person successfully arrested based on all this data (and Yousef’s arrest will largely be due to an informant responding to an existing tip off program (see February 7, 1995)). The Philippine government will arrest other Bojinka plotters later in the year, including another one of the five operatives assigned to place bombs on the planes, but they will all be released (see April 1, 1995-Early 1996). Al-Hamwi is never arrested, while Khalifa is actually in US custody at the time of the Bojinka raid but is soon let go (see April 26-May 3, 1995). The IRIC will be closed down, but its operations are immediately taken over by another close associate of Khalifa (see 1995 and After).

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Operation Bojinka, Wali Khan Amin Shah, International Relations and Information Center, Abdul Hakim Murad, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Ahmad al-Hamwi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The flow chart made by Colonel Mendoza.The flow chart made by Colonel Mendoza. [Source: Peter Lance] (click image to enlarge)Philippines investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza makes a remarkably accurate flow chart connecting many key operators in the Bojinka plot, and sends it to US investigators. The chart is based on what he is learning from interrogating Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad (see February-Early May 1995), while also drawing on a terrorism report he recently finished (see December 15, 1994) and debriefings of a key undercover operative (see Early February 1995). The chart identifies the following key organizations as being involved in the plot:
bullet Al-Harakat al-Islamiya. Meaning “Islamic Movement,” this is an apparently meaningless group name used by Ramzi Yousef and others to disguise their connections to al-Qaeda. Yousef also sometimes uses the equally meaningless name “The Liberation Army.”
bullet The Abu Sayyaf. This Philippine Muslim militant group is believed to help with the Bojinka plot that is also penetrated by Philippine intelligence (see Late 1994-January 1995). The chart mentions 20 Abu Sayyaf operatives trained by Yousef in 1992 (see December 1991-May 1992). [Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4]
bullet IRIC (International Research and Information Center). Most of the money for Bojinka is believed to flow through this charity front. The chart names the only three employees: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa (bin Laden’s brother-in-law), Abu Omar (whose real name is Ahmad al-Hamwi (see 1995 and After), and Dr. Zubair. Mendoza’s 1994 report names Abdul Salam Zubair as an Iraqi working as Khalifa’s assistant in running a number of charity fronts. [Japan Economic Newswire, 4/24/1995; Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4]
bullet Konsonjaya. Money for the Bojinka plot also flows through this Malaysian business front (see June 1994). Amien Mohammed (real name: Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari) is named and is one of the company directors. There is a link to Wali Khan Amin Shah, another company director. Hambali, a major al-Qaeda figure, is also a company director but is not included in the chart.
The chart also mentions many other key figures in the plot:
bullet Osama bin Laden, who is connected to the IRIC and Yousef’s group.
bullet “Usama Asmorai / Wali K” is Wali Khan Amin Shah.
bullet “Yousef / Adam Ali / A Basit” is Ramzi Yousef.
bullet “Salem Ali / Mohmad” is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM).
bullet Abdul Hakin Murad. [Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4]
bullet “Ibrahim Muneer / Munir.” Ibrahim Munir, a rich Saudi Arabian businessman, has close ties to bin Laden. He came to the Philippines in November and witnesses say he was Yousef’s constant companion. In 2003, it will be reported he is still wanted by authorities. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 139; Ressa, 2003, pp. 20]
bullet The names in hexagonal boxes are the girlfriends of the plotters. Some Bojinka money is transferred in their names.
However, despite the accurate information in this chart, only Shah, Yousef, and Murad will be caught before 9/11. Khalifa is actually in US custody at the time the US is given this chart (see December 16, 1994-May 1995), but he is allowed to be deported a short time later (see April 26-May 3, 1995). The US also learns about a connection between Konsonjaya and bin Laden by searching Yousef’s apartment. But the other Konsonjaya directors, including Hambali, will not be apprehended, and the IRIC will be allowed to continue functioning with the same staff after being taken over by another charity front connected to Khalifa (see 1995 and After). [Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4]

Entity Tags: Rodolfo Mendoza, Ramzi Yousef, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ahmad al-Hamwi, Abu Sayyaf, Abdul Salam Zubair, Konsonjaya, Hambali, Abdul Hakim Murad, International Relations and Information Center, Ibrahim Munir

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, who is being detained in the US, files a civil suit to have his possessions returned to him. These possessions, confiscated at the time of his arrest, include an address book and computer files linking him to Islamic militancy (see December 16, 1994-May 1995 and Late December 1994-April 1995). On this day, the Justice Department states that it has no objection to returning his possessions to him. Author Peter Lance will later call these possessions a “treasure trove of al-Qaeda related intelligence” that the US loses access to. While some or all of the material may have been copied, having the originals would increase their value in future trials. [Lance, 2006, pp. 162] Khalifa will be deported from the US with all his possessions in early May 1995 (see April 26-May 3, 1995).

Entity Tags: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A Jordanian appeals court overturns the conviction of Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law. A Jordanian court had convicted Khalifa and sentenced him to death in December 1994, shortly after he was arrested in the US (see December 16, 1994-May 1995). His conviction hinged on the testimony of one witness, a student at a school in the Philippines run by one of Khalifa’s organizations. The witness claimed that Khalifa had given him $50,000 to finance bombings and assassinations in Jordan. But when the case goes to the appeals court, the witness recants, and the court overturns the conviction. [Associated Press, 4/9/1995; Associated Press, 4/16/1995; San Francisco Chronicle, 4/18/1995] Shortly after the court’s ruling, Khalifa’s lawyer says that Khalifa wants to be deported to Jordan and retried in person. He is confident a new trial will end in his acquittal. [Associated Press, 4/26/1995] The US will deport Khalifa to Jordan about one month later (see April 26-May 3, 1995). He will quickly be retried, found innocent, and set free (see July 19, 1995).

Entity Tags: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Jordan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Philippine President Fidel Ramos says he has asked the US to postpone the deportation of Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, to Jordan. Khalifa had been arrested in the US in December 1994. Jordan requested his extradition and the US agreed, but earlier in April a Jordanian court overturned a conviction of Khalifa. Ramos says, “We have asked [US authorities] to hold his deportation because we are finding out his links with local terrorists here.” A Philippines intelligence report completed in December 1994 already tied Khalifa to several planned attacks that could have killed thousands (see December 15, 1994). By comparison, he has already been acquitted of attacks in Jordan that injured several but killed no one. [Japan Economic Newswire, 4/24/1995] Despite the request from Ramos, a US judge will approve Khalifa’s deportation to Jordan two days later (see April 26-May 3, 1995). He will be acquitted again there and then set free (see July 19, 1995).

Entity Tags: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Fidel Ramos

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

An immigration judge approves the deportation of Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, saying “his presence in the United States would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences.” Khalifa reportedly leaves the US for Jordan on May 3, although there is some evidence he remains in US custody until August (see May 3, 1995-August 31, 1995). [United Press International, 5/5/1995] He will quickly be retried in Jordan, pronounced not guilty of all charges, and set free (see July 19, 1995). Jacob Boesen, an analyst at the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center, will later recall, “I remember people at the CIA who were ripsh_t at the time. Not even speaking in retrospect, but contemporaneous with what the intelligence community knew about bin Laden, Khalifa’s deportation was unreal.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 4/18/1995; Associated Press, 4/26/1995; New York Times, 5/2/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 233-35] Author Peter Lance will later comment, “If this arrest had been properly followed up by the FBI and the Justice Department, it could have led to the seizure of both Ramzi Yousef and his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and stopped the 9/11 plot dead in its tracks.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 158]

Entity Tags: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Jacob Boesen, Peter Lance, Jordan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, is reportedly released from a US prison on May 3, 1995, and deported to Jordan to stand trial there. He had been sentenced to death while outside Jordan, but according to Jordanian law he is allowed a retrial if he shows up in person for it. Media accounts at the time place Khalifa in Jordan, attending his retrial. For instance, according to one article published on May 15, “In San Francisco last week, American police officials quietly placed a slender, bearded man on a plane to the Middle East, where he was taken into custody by Jordanian security guards.” [US News and World Report, 5/15/1995] Another article from July 19 puts him in a Jordanian courtroom, saying, “Khalifa sobbed in relief as the verdict was pronounced….” [Agence France-Presse, 7/19/1995] However, US prison records released years later will indicate Khalifa was transferred to the custody of another unnamed US government agency on May 3 instead. He then remained in the US or in a remote US facility overseas until leaving the prison system on August 31, 1995, almost four months later. By that time, his trial in Jordan is over and he is allowed to go free there. Whether this contradiction is a clerical error or if there is some other explanation is not known. [Lance, 2006, pp. 165-166]

Entity Tags: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa is pronounced not guilty of all charges and set free in a retrial in Jordan. Khalifa had been convicted and sentenced to death in a December 1994 Jordanian trial, but then a key witness recanted and the verdict was overturned in April 1995 (see Early April 1995). The US then deported him to Jordan to face retrial anyway (see April 26-May 3, 1995). [Agence France-Presse, 7/19/1995] He quickly returns to Saudi Arabia, where he has citizenship. Michael Scheuer, the first head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, will later claim that that “day he flew back to Saudi Arabia, he was greeted by a limo and a high-ranking official of the government embraced him.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 164] One later article similarly claims, “Returning to Saudi Arabia, Khalifa was allegedly welcomed like a hero by Prince Sultan, Saudi’s second deputy premier.” [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8/11/2000] Khalifa will go on to help found a militant group in Yemen that will take credit for the USS Cole bombing in 2000 (see 1996-1997 and After), while his Philippine front companies will continue to fund militant groups with few obstacles long after 9/11 (see 1995 and After).

Entity Tags: Michael Scheuer, Jordan, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Sultan bin Faisal

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, apparently continues to visit Southeast Asia and fund militant attacks there. Khalifa had run a number of charity fronts in the Philippines (see 1987-1991) until he was arrested in the US in late 1994 (see December 16, 1994) and then let go in 1995 (see April 26-May 3, 1995). It has been widely assumed that he did not risk returning to the Philippines after that, but a 2006 book on terrorism funding will state that he “returned occasionally [to the Philippines] and was often seen elsewhere in Southeast Asia.” [Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 191] Presumably, these travels come to an end shortly after 9/11 when the Saudi government prohibits him from leaving the country until 2007 (see January 30, 2007). [Guardian, 3/2/2007] Khalifa is also is frequent phone communication with militant groups in the Philippines and elsewhere, at least through the late 1990s (see Late 1990s).

Entity Tags: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Radical London imam Abu Qatada is convicted in absentia on terrorism charges in Jordan. He is alleged to have masterminded a plot aimed at Western tourists. One bomb was discovered and defused outside the American School in Amman, the other, hidden in a car, exploded outside the Jerusalem Hotel, which is popular with US visitors. The prosecutor claimed that Abu Qatada, who was sentenced to life in prison, was the mastermind. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/16/2004; O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 107-108; Times (London), 4/15/2008] There were also to be bombs placed under the cars of a former intelligence chief and a former minister of the interior. [Associated Press, 4/15/2005] Abu Qatada will also be convicted in connection with the Millennium Plot in Jordan later this year (see November 30, 1999). However, he will deny the charges, saying: “Jordan discovers every year or two nothing but organizations claiming that they wanted to cause explosions and destruction. It was proven later that the explosions inside the cinema were unfortunately the work of some intelligence officers to cause confusion.” [CNN, 11/29/2001] Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohamed Jamal Khalifa was deported from the US to Jordan in 1995 (see April 26-May 3, 1995), but Abu Qatada, who will be arrested in Britain in 2002 (see October 23, 2002), will still not have been deported to Jordan many years later, due to a drawn-out legal battle over his extradition.

Entity Tags: Abu Qatada

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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