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Context of 'December 24, 2001-January 23, 2002: Reporter Daniel Pearl Investigates Sensitive Topics in Pakistan'

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Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood.Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. [Source: BBC]Two retired Pakistani nuclear scientists create a charity to help the Taliban. The scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, had both retired the year before after long and distinguished careers, and had both become radical Islamists. They set up a charity, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (UTN), purporting to conduct relief work in Afghanistan, including helping to guide the Taliban on scientific matters. A number of pro-Taliban Pakistani generals and business leaders are on the board of directors, including Hamid Gul, a former director of the ISI. But not long after setting up an office in Kabul, the two scientists meet with Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, and discuss weapons development. During a later visit, Mahmood provides one of bin Laden’s associates with information on how to construct a nuclear weapon. (Frantz and Collins 2007, pp. 264-265; Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 310-311) The two scientists will have a more extensive meeting with bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in August 2001, and will discuss how al-Qaeda can make a radioactive weapon (see Mid-August 2001). Shortly before 9/11, the CIA will learn of this meeting (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001), and also learn that UTN offered to sell a nuclear weapon to Libya, but the CIA will take no effective action against the group (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). In late 2001, the Wall Street Journal will report that “One Pakistani military analyst said it was inconceivable that a nuclear scientist would travel to Afghanistan without getting clearance from Pakistani officials and being debriefed each time. Pakistan maintains a strict watch on many of its nuclear scientists, using a special arm of the Army’s general headquarters to monitor them even after retirement.” Furthermore, a former ISI colonel says the ISI “was always aware of UTN’s activities and had encouraged Dr. Mahmoud’s Afghanistan trips. He said the ISI learned last year that Dr. Mahmoud had recently discussed nuclear matters with Mr. bin Laden, and Dr. Mahmoud agreed not to do so again.” (Pearl 12/24/2001) The US will finally freeze UTN’s assets in December 2001 (see Early October-December 2001).

The ransom for a wealthy Indian shoe manufacturer kidnapped in Calcutta, India, two weeks earlier is paid to an Indian gangster named Aftab Ansari. Ansari is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and has ties to the Pakistani ISI and Saeed Sheikh. Ansari gives some of the about $830,000 in ransom money to Saeed, who sends about $100,000 of it to future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. (Watson 1/23/2002; Popham 1/24/2002) The Times of India will later report that Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed, the director of the ISI, instructed Saeed to transfer the $100,000 into Atta’s bank account. This is according to “senior government sources,” who will claim that the FBI has privately confirmed the story. (Joshi 10/9/2001) According to some accounts, the money is moved through a charity, the Al Rashid Trust. Some of the money is also channelled to the Taliban, as well as Pakistani and Kashmiri militant groups. (NewsInsight 1/4/2002; Press Trust of India 4/3/2002) The money is apparently paid into two of Atta’s accounts in Florida (see Summer 2001 and before). The Al Rashid Trust will be one of the first al-Qaeda funding vehicles to have its assets frozen after 9/11 (see September 24, 2001). A series of recovered e-mails will show the money is sent just after August 11. This appears to be one of a series of Indian kidnappings this gang carries out in 2001. (Mitra, Chakravarty, and Ghosh 2/14/2002; Srivastava 2/14/2002) Saeed provides training and weapons to the kidnappers in return for a percentage of the profits. (Swami 2/2/2002; India Today 2/25/2002) This account will frequently be mentioned in the Indian press, but will appear in the US media as well. For instance, veteran Associated Press reporter Kathy Gannon will write, “Western intelligence sources believe Saeed sent $100,000 to Mohamed Atta, the suspected ringleader of the Sept. 11 terrorist hijackings,” although they apparently think the hawala system was used for this. (Gannon 2/9/2002) Some evidence suggests Saeed may also have sent Atta a similar amount in 2000 (see (July-August 2000) and Summer 2000).

Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood.Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. [Source: Public domain]Two retired Pakistani nuclear scientists meet with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri at a campfire in a compound near Kandahar, Afghanistan. The more prominent scientist, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, worked with A. Q. Khan for two decades before having a falling out with him in the early 1990s (however, he was seen with Khan earlier in 2001 (see April 2001)). A highly regarded scientist, he also became an advocate of the Taliban and published a pamphlet predicting that “by 2002 millions may die through mass destruction weapons… terrorist attack, and suicide.” He was forced to retire in 1999 after publicly advocating sharing nuclear technology with other Islamic countries. The other scientist, Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, also retired in 1999 after a long career. In 2000, the two men set up a charity, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau, purporting to conduct relief work in Afghanistan (see 2000). Bin Laden allegedly tells the scientists that he has made great headway in advancing the apocalypse predicted by Mahmood. He claims that he has acquired highly enriched uranium from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and wants their help to turn it into a bomb. The scientists reply that while they could help with the science of fissile materials, they are not weapons designers. They are also asked with other Pakistani weapons experts could be approached for help. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 310-311) They spend two or three days at the compound and discuss how the material could be used to create a so-called dirty bomb, in which radioactive material is blown up using conventional explosives to spread radiation. But the discussion apparently ends inconclusively when bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and others depart abruptly for the mountains. Before leaving, bin Laden says that something great is going to happen soon and Muslims around the world will join them in holy war. (Frantz and Collins 2007, pp. 264-265) Both US intelligence and Pakistani ISI learn about this meeting prior to the 9/11 attacks, but neither group will take any effective action as a result (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001 and Between Mid-August and September 10, 2001).

The US freezes the bank accounts of 27 individuals and organizations, alleging that they had channeled money to al-Qaeda.
bullet The list includes the names of nine Middle Eastern groups that are members of bin Laden’s International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders alliance announced in 1998 (see February 22, 1998). Such groups include the Islamic Army of Aden (based in Yemen), the GIA (Algeria), and Abu Sayyaf (the Philippines).
bullet Individuals named include obvious al-Qaeda figures such as Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, and Muhammad Atef. (Miller 9/25/2001)
bullet Makhtab Al-Khidamat/Al-Kifah, a charity based in Pakistan. A Brooklyn, New York, branch was called the Al-Kifah Refugee Center and had ties to both the 1993 WTC bombing and the CIA (see 1986-1993). It appears it was shut down in Pakistan in late 1995 (see Shortly After November 19, 1995). The Wall Street Journal notes that it “may be defunct or at least operating in a much-diminished capacity only in Afghanistan.” (Cohen et al. 9/25/2001)
bullet The Al-Rashid Trust. This is primarily a humanitarian organization that aims to eject western charities from Afghanistan by taking over their activities. The trust is also so closely linked to the Kashmiri-focused jihidist organization Jaish-e-Mohammed that the Asia Times will comment, “It is often difficult to distinguish between the two outfits, as they share offices and cadres.” The Jaish-e-Mohammed was founded by Maulana Masood Azhar, an associate of 9/11 financier Saeed Sheikh, with the support of the ISI (see December 24-31, 1999). In addition, the trust also provides support to the Taliban, and, occasionally, al-Qaeda. The trust works closely with the Arab-run Wafa Humanitarian Organization. It will continue its social and humanitarian projects, as well as its support for militant Islamic activities, under various names and partnerships despite this ban.
bullet The Wafa Humanitarian Organization, an Arab-run charity. It is closely tied to the Al-Rashid Trust. (Escobar 10/26/2001; Farah 12/14/2003)
bullet A company belonging to one of the hijackers’ associates, the Mamoun Darkazanli Import-Export Company. It is not clear where the Mamoun Darkazanli Import-Export Company is or was based, as it was never incorporated in Hamburg, where Darkazanli lived and associated with some of the 9/11 hijackers. Darkazanli’s personal assets are frozen in October (see September 24-October 2, 2001). (Crewdson 11/17/2002) However, according to some reports, some of the money transferred to the hijackers in the US in 2001 came through the Al-Rashid Trust (see Early August 2001) and possibly another account, and some of the money the hijackers received in 2000 may have come through Mamoun Darkazanli’s accounts (see June 2000-August 2001).
The move is largely symbolic, since none of the entities have any identifiable assets in the US. (Miller 9/25/2001) Reporter Greg Palast will later note that US investigators likely knew much about the finances of those organizations before 9/11, but took no action. (Bosse 3/20/2003)

Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl writes stories about the ISI that will lead to his kidnapping and murder (see January 31, 2002).
bullet On December 24, 2001, he reports about ties between the ISI and a Pakistani organization, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau, that was working on giving bin Laden nuclear secrets before 9/11 (see 2000 and Mid-August 2001). (Pearl 12/24/2001)
bullet A few days later, he reports that the ISI-supported militant organization Jaish-e-Mohammed still has its office running and bank accounts working, even though President Pervez Musharraf claims to have banned the group. The Jaish-i-Mohammed is connected to the Al Rashid Trust, one of the first entities whose assets were frozen by the US after 9/11 and through which funding may have passed on its way to the hijackers in the US (see Early August 2001 and September 24, 2001). “If [Pearl] hadn’t been on the ISI’s radarscope before, he was now.” (Pearl 12/31/2001; McCarthy 7/16/2002; Anson 8/2002)
bullet He begins investigating links between shoe bomber Richard Reid and Pakistani militants, and comes across connections to the ISI and a mysterious religious group called Al-Fuqra. (Anderson and Baker 2/23/2002)
bullet He also may be looking into the US training and backing of the ISI. (Iqbal 3/25/2002)
bullet He is writing another story on Dawood Ibrahim, a powerful Islamic militant and gangster protected by the ISI, and other Pakistani organized crime figures. (Fineman 2/4/2002; Anson 8/2002)
bullet Former CIA agent Robert Baer later claims to be working with Pearl on an investigation of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. (Waterman 4/9/2004) It is later suggested that Mohammed masterminds both Reid’s shoe bomb attempt and the Pearl kidnapping, and has connections to Pakistani gangsters and the ISI, so some of these explanations could fit together. (Shahzad 10/30/2002; Ressa 1/30/2003; Waterman 4/9/2004) Kidnapper Saeed will later say of Pearl, “Because of his hyperactivity he caught our interest.” (News (Islamabad) 2/15/2002) Pearl is kidnapped on January 23, 2002, and his murder is confirmed on February 22, 2002. (Steiger 2/22/2002)

Reporter Daniel Pearl moments before he is killed.Reporter Daniel Pearl moments before he is killed. [Source: Associated Press]Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is murdered. He is reported dead on February 21; his mutilated body is found months later. Police investigators say “there were at least eight to ten people present on the [murder] scene” and at least 15 who participated in his kidnapping and murder. “Despite issuing a series of political demands shortly after Pearl’s abduction four weeks ago, it now seems clear that the kidnappers planned to kill Pearl all along.” (Anderson and Baker 2/23/2002) Some captured participants later claim 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is the one who cuts Pearl’s throat. (MSNBC 9/17/2002; McGirk 1/26/2003) The land on which Pearl was held and murdered reportedly belongs to either the Al Rashid Trust, or one of its supporters, Saud Memon. The Al Rashid Trust, an ostensibly charitable organization that US intelligence linked to the financing of al-Qeada, is closely linked to the jihadi organization Jaish-i-Mohammed and was one of the very first organizations to have its assets frozen after 9/11. It may have been used to funnel money to the 9/11 hijackers in the US (see Early August 2001 and September 24, 2001). (McGirk 1/26/2003; Ansari 5/9/2004; Mir 4/2/2006)


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