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Context of 'June 1998: KSM Almost Caught in Brazil; Using Exposed Bojinka Front Company as Cover'

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A young Indonesian nicknamed Hambali forms a front company that ties al-Qaeda figures to the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), an early version of the 9/11 plot. Hambali had fought in Afghanistan in the late 1980’s, repeatedly met with bin Laden there, and allied himself to bin Laden’s cause. In 1994, Hambali, living in a village north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, began frequently receiving visitors. According to his landlord, “Some looked Arab and others white.” There has been no explanation who these “white” visitors may have been. Hambali had been very poor prior to this time, but he is suddenly “flush with newfound cash” brought by the visitors. In June 1994, he founds a front company called Konsonjaya with Wali Khan Amin Shah, a key Bojinka plotter, and both their names are listed on the eight-person board of directors. Shah fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan, and bin Laden will even admit knowing him and praise him in an 1998 interview (see May 28, 1998). Philippine police phone taps show that frequent calls are made from the Konsonjaya offices in Malaysia to the Philippines offices of Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law who is also believed to be part of the Bojinka plot (see 1994). [Time, 4/1/2002] A Malaysian official will later say that Hambali spends time in the Philippines with Shah and bomber Ramzi Yousef in 1994 as they plan the Bojinka plot. [Washington Post, 2/3/2002] Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari, another Konsonjaya director, makes frequent trips from Malaysia to the Philippines while planning for the Bojinka plot is under way, and he is later believed to play a key role in financing the plot. In early 1995, after the Bojinka plot is broken up, one of the arrested Bojinka plotters will confess to Konsonjaya’s role in the plot (see February-Early May 1995) and a Philippine investigator’s flow chart of the Bojinka plotters and their connections will prominently include Konsonjaya (see Spring 1995). However, neither the Philippine nor US government appears interested in capturing Hambali, al-Ghafari, or the others involved in Konsonjaya before 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 6/24/2002; Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12/1/2002] Hambali will continue to live openly in Malaysia, even throwing a party every year for hundreds of people (see April 1991-Late 2000). He will go on to plan other al-Qaeda attacks and will attend a key planning meeting for the 9/11 plot in 2000 (see January 5-8, 2000). [Time, 4/1/2002] Al-Ghafari will finally be deported in 2002 after years of police protection (see October 8-November 8, 2002).

Entity Tags: Wali Khan Amin Shah, Ramzi Yousef, Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari, Konsonjaya, Hambali, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Operation Bojinka

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

One of Ramzi Yousef’s timers seized by Philippines police in January 1995.One of Ramzi Yousef’s timers seized by Philippines police in January 1995. [Source: Peter Lance]Responding to an apartment fire, Philippine investigators uncover an al-Qaeda plot to assassinate the Pope that is scheduled to take place when he visits the Philippines one week later. While investigating that scheme, they also uncover Operation Bojinka, planned by the same people: 1993 WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). [Independent, 6/6/2002; Los Angeles Times, 6/24/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Many initial reports after 9/11 will claim the fire was accidental and the police discovery of it was a lucky break, but in 2002 the Los Angeles Times will report that the police started the fire on purpose as an excuse to look around the apartment. In the course of investigating the fire, one of the main plotters, Abdul Hakim Murad, is arrested. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] The plot has two main components. On January 12, Pope John Paul II is scheduled to visit Manila and stay for five days. A series of bombs along his parade route would be detonated by remote control, killing thousands, including the Pope. Yousef’s apartment is only 500 feet from the residence where the Pope will be staying. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 78; Lance, 2006, pp. 138] Then, starting January 21, a series of bombs would be placed on airplanes. [Insight, 5/27/2002] Five men, Yousef, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Abdul Hakim Murad, Abd al-Karim Yousef (a.k.a., Adel Anon, Yousef’s twin brother), and Khalid Al-Shaikh (thought to be an alias for KSM) would depart to different Asian cities and place a timed bomb on board during the first leg of passenger planes traveling to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, and New York. They would then transfer to another flight and place a second bomb on board that flight. In all, 11 to 12 planes would blow up in a two day period over the Pacific. If successful, some 4,000 people would have been killed. [Agence France-Presse, 12/8/2001; Insight, 5/27/2002; Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12/1/2002] According to another account, some of the bombs would be timed to go off weeks or even months later. Presumably worldwide air travel could be interrupted for months. [Lance, 2003, pp. 260-61] A second wave of attacks involving crashing airplanes into buildings in the US would go forward later, once the pilots are trained for it (see February-Early May 1995).

Entity Tags: Abd al-Karim Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Yousef, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Operation Bojinka, Al-Qaeda, Abdul Hakim Murad

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bin Laden and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) apparently travel to Brazil together. After KSM will be captured in 2003, documents in his possession will show he had a twenty-day visa to Brazil during December 1995. Brazilian intelligence sources will later claim that bin Laden travels with KSM, and is caught on video at a meeting in a mosque in the Brazilian town of Foz do Iguacu. This town is in the tri-border area of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, which has the largest Muslim population in South America and has long been known to be a haven for criminal activity. Bin Laden is said to appear in the video with a goatee instead of his usual full beard. [Agence France-Presse, 5/4/2003] In 1996, US intelligence will learn that KSM and bin Laden traveled together to a foreign country in 1995 (see 1996). It is not known if that is a reference to this trip or if they made other trips together. The Brazilian government will later claim that it told the US about this trip in late 1998. [Reuters, 3/18/2003]

Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is almost caught in Brazil. Apparently, the Malaysian government discovers that KSM is in the country using an alias and an Egyptian passport, and that he has obtained a Brazilian visa. So on June 25, 1998, the US asks Brazil to help capture him. A former US official will later say, “We were fairly convinced… that he was there” in the town of Foz de Iguazu, a criminal haven that he had visited at least once before (see December 1995). [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/2002; Knight Ridder, 3/13/2003] However, KSM gets away. Time magazine reporter Tim McGirk will later claim, “They almost nailed him in Brazil. They knew that he’d left from Malaysia to Brazil….” [National Public Radio, 3/3/2003] “He had supposedly gone there to promote Konsonjaya, a Malaysian company that secretly funded Muslim rebels in Southeast Asia.” [Playboy, 6/1/2005] Konsonjaya was the front company used for the Bojinka plot in 1995 (see January 6, 1995 and June 1994), and it supposedly dealt in Sudanese honey and palm oil. [Los Angeles Times, 2/7/2002; Financial Times, 2/15/2003] The Telegraph, in an apparent reference to Konsonjaya, will later report that KSM “acted as financier and coordinator, through another [Malaysian company] which traded Sudanese honey. He traveled widely, including at least one trip to Brazil….” [Daily Telegraph, 3/2/2003] The honey distribution business had a base in Karachi, Pakistan, and employed KSM’s nephew Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (a.k.a. Ammar al-Baluchi). [US Department of Defense, 4/12/2007, pp. 17 pdf file] It is remarkable that KSM would be connected to this company in 1998, considering that the company’s records were introduced as evidence in a public trial of some Bojinka plotters in 1996. [Los Angeles Times, 2/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Konsonjaya, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

It has been widely assumed in media reports that US intelligence did not connect al-Qaeda leader Hambali to the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995) before 9/11. However, the 9/11 Commission will mention in a footnote, “Hambali also was one of the founders of Konsonjaya, a Malaysian company run by close associate of Wali Khan [Amin Shah]. FBI report, Manila air investigation, May 23, 1999.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 489] The Christian Science Monitor will later note, “Konsonjaya was not just supplying money. It also coordinating the Bojinka plotters” (see June 1994). [Christian Science Monitor, 2/14/2002] In the spring of 1995, Philippine Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza gave the US a chart he made of the Bojinka plotters, and Konsonjaya was centrally featured in it (see Spring 1995). He later said, “It was sort of their nerve center.” [Christian Science Monitor, 2/14/2002] Shortly after Ramzi Yousef’s Manila apartment was broken into, documents found there connected Konsonjaya with the “Ladin International” company in Sudan, an obvious bin Laden front. An FBI memo at the time noted the connection. [Lance, 2003, pp. 303] Hambali’s photograph was also found on Yousef’s computer. [New Straits Times, 2/2/2002] In 1996, the company’s records were introduced as evidence in a public trial of some Bojinka plotters, and in 1998, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was nearly caught in Brazil while using Konsonjaya as his business cover (see June 1998). So it’s not clear why it took the FBI four years to learn about Hambali, but that still means they were aware of who he was prior to the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia attended by Hambali and two 9/11 hijackers (see January 5-8, 2000). But apparently the connection will not be made.

Entity Tags: Wali Khan Amin Shah, Konsonjaya, Hambali, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ramzi Yousef, Ladin International

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Future 9/11 hijacker Saeed Alghamdi wires $1,360 from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to someone in Johannesburg, South Africa. The name of the person who receives the Western Union wire is Abdullah Abdulrahman Alghamdi, according to an FBI document of 9/11 hijacker activities made after the attacks. [Investigative Services Division, FBI Headquarters, 4/19/2002] The name may be an alias for alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), who uses very similar aliases and travels very widely in the years before 9/11 (see for instance June 1998). For example, around this same time KSM applies for a US visa using a passport with the name Abdulrahman al Ghamdi and a real photo of himself (see July 23, 2001). Also, a 2006 Guantanamo document will give one of his aliases as Abdul Rahman Abdullah Faqasi al-Ghamdi. [US Department of Defense, 8/12/2006] A later Justice Department indictment will give one of his aliases as Abdulrahman Abdullah al-Ghamdi. [US District Court Southern District of New York, 4/4/2011 pdf file] There is no publicly known al-Qaeda presence in South Africa at this time. However, there is an intriguing mention in another intelligence document that an al-Qaeda operative linked to KSM told another al-Qaeda leader in early 2000 of an address in South Africa where a contact existed who could provide help (see Early January 2000).

Entity Tags: Saeed Alghamdi, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Moroccan militant in a prison in Brazil apparently makes an unheeded warning about the 9/11 attacks. Gueddan Abdel Fatah was imprisoned in January 2001 after a hold-up attempt. On September 5, 2001, he hands a letter to a lawyer named Edith Espinosa, and asks her to take copies to head of the Brazilian prison system and the US embassy. [BBC, 9/15/2001] Espinosa forgets to deliver the letter. On September 10, he sees her again and says that any warning now would be too late. [United Press International, 10/1/2001] In the letter, Fatah says, “I need to talk urgently about very important issues.” He says he intends to reveal information about militant groups that are planning attacks, and he makes reference to “two explosions” that could take place in the US. Shortly after 9/11, he will be questioned and says he was working with a group of Muslim militants in the tri-border area between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay that is a known haven for many Muslim extremist groups. One member of the group had a contact in New York City and “was constantly phoning the United States and holding coded conversations.” This member allegedly told him, “We are waiting for the United States to explode.” [BBC, 9/15/2001] Fatah claims that he visited the US consulates in Argentina and Brazil before his arrest eight months earlier and tried to pass on the warning, but no one paid attention to him. [United Press International, 10/1/2001] Both Osama bin Laden and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed visited the tri-border area in previous years (see December 1995 and June 1998).

Entity Tags: Gueddan Abdel Fatah, Edith Espinosa

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In 1994, several key members of the Bojinka plot, which would have killed thousands if successful (see January 6, 1995), formed a front company called Konsonjaya as part of the plot (see June 1994). Konsonjaya was a trading company that ostensibly exported Malaysian palm oil to Afghanistan and also traded in honey from Sudan and Yemen. All these countries have been important nodes in al-Qaeda’s network. The Philippine government was already wiretapping calls to the Konsonjaya offices before the Bojinka plot was foiled (see 1994), and definitively linked the company to the plot by the spring of 1995 (see Spring 1995). As late as 1998, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was using Konsonjaya as cover in his international travels (see June 1998). By 1999, the FBI had realized the importance of Konsonjaya to the Bojinka plot, and had linked al-Qaeda leader Hambali to it (see May 23, 1999). [Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, 3/7/2003 pdf file] In February 2002, Rodolfo Mendoza, the former head of Philippine counter-terrorism who led that country’s Bojinka investigation, will say, “According to my analysis, Konsonjaya was the nerve center not only for business but also for operational supervision [of the Bojinka plot].… The most critical question now is, ‘Where are the other former directors of Konsonjaya?’” [Los Angeles Times, 2/7/2002] Konsonjaya’s eight-person board of directors was made up of:
bullet Amein Mohammed (Managing Director). His real name is Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari. He appears to have been heavily involved in the Bojinka plot. However, he has intelligence connections in the Philippines and remains the head of another front connected to Bojinka until November 2002. Then he is implicated in an October 2002 bombing and deported (see 1995 and After, February 15, 1999, and October 8-November 8, 2002). His current whereabouts are unknown.
bullet Amein Alsanani (also Managing Director).
bullet Annamalai N. L. Sundrasan (Secretary).
bullet Wali Khan Amin Shah. He is one of the main Bojinka plotters and will later be sentenced to life in prison in the US for his role in that plot (see September 5, 1996).
bullet Medhat Abdul Salam Shabana. Company records show Shabana is from Afghanistan.
bullet Riduan bin Isumuddin (Hambali). He is arrested in Thailand in 2003 and taken into US custody (see August 12, 2003). He is believed to have roles in the 9/11 attacks, the 2002 Bali bombings, and other attacks. [Los Angeles Times, 2/7/2002; Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, 3/7/2003 pdf file]
bullet Noralwizah Lee Binti Abdullah (Hambali’s wife). She is arrested with Hambali and immediately extradited to Malaysia. Two months later, the Malaysian government will place her in indefinite detention, where she apparently remains. A Malaysian official will say: “She was more than a wife to Hambali. She was a trusted aide who handled funds of the Jemaah Islamiyah [militant group].” [Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, 3/7/2003 pdf file; Sydney Morning Herald, 8/16/2003; Associated Press, 10/16/2003]
bullet Hemeid H. Alghamdi. He is described in company records as a thirty-year-old Saudi from Jeddah. [Los Angeles Times, 2/7/2002; Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, 3/7/2003 pdf file]
bullet Cosain Ramos (a.k.a. Abu Ali) is also connected to Konsonjaya, but apparently he used an alias so it is not clear which name matches his. He will be arrested in the Philippines in 2002 after being linked to the 2000 Christmas Eve bombings in Indonesia (see December 24-30, 2000 and Shortly Before December 24, 2000). But bizarrely, not only is he not charged, but he is given the job of janitor at the Philippines’s highest security prison and then helps a key al-Qaeda leader escape in 2003 (see July 14, 2003).
The Los Angeles Times reports in February 2002 that the whereabouts of most of the Konsonjaya board of directors remains unknown. [Los Angeles Times, 2/7/2002] But strangely, investigators seemingly remain uninterested in investigating Konsonjaya’s links. In October 2002, Sundrasan, the company’s secretary as well as one of the directors, will contact a Malaysian newspaper and tell them some details about the company, including that Amin Shah opened many bank accounts in the company’s name and that the company never really conducted any business. But he will also say that no investigators, journalists, or officials have ever questioned him about the company. [Malay Mail, 10/24/2002]

Entity Tags: Amein Alsanani, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Cosain Ramos, Hambali, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Annamalai N. L. Sundrasan, Noralwizah Lee Binti Abdullah, Konsonjaya, Rodolfo Mendoza, Hemeid H. Alghamdi, Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari, Medhat Abdul Salam Shabana

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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