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Context of 'December 24-31, 1999: Hijacked Flight Leads to Freeing of Future 9/11 Funder; ISI Allegedly Supports Hijacking'

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Harkat ul-Mujahedeen (HuM) is formed as part of the United Jihad Council. (It will be known as Harkat ul-Ansar until 1997.) Some of the groups affiliated with the council are thought to be funded and supported by Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI. [Jane's International Security News, 9/20/2001] Pakistani Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who will take power in a coup in 1999 (October 12, 1999), is instrumental in arranging the merger and development of HuM. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will claim in a 2007 book that they were told of Musharraf’s pivotal role by sources in the CIA, ISI, Mossad, and British intelligence. This is part of a larger strategy orchestrated by Musharraf at the time to strengthen Islamist militias so they can fight in Kashmir against Indian forces (see 1993-1994). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 241, 508]

Entity Tags: United Jihad Council, Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, Pervez Musharraf

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Imad Mugniyah.
Imad Mugniyah. [Source: FBI]In February 1994, double agent Ali Mohamed goes to Sudan and trains Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards (see February 4-5, 1994 and Shortly Afterwards). While there, Mohamed arranges security for a meeting between bin Laden and Imad Mugniyah, the security chief for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah who is said to have directed the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon (see April 18-October 23, 1983). Bin Laden and Mugniyah are said to discuss upcoming operations. Mugniyah is believed to be involved in the hijacking of an Air India jet in 1999 where passengers will be exchanged for three militants in Indian prisons, including Saeed Sheikh, who will be the paymaster for 9/11 (see December 24-31, 1999). Mohamed will later claim in court that Hezbollah subsequently provided explosives training for al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad. [Los Angeles Times, 10/21/2000; Raleigh News and Observer, 10/21/2001; Chicago Tribune, 12/11/2001; LA Weekly, 5/24/2002] A number of al-Qaeda operatives train with Hezbollah in Lebanon after this meeting (see Mid-1990s). Dan Benjamin and Steve Simon, director and senior director of the National Security Council’s counterterrorism team, will later write that “The meeting between the two preeminent terrorists of the era reportedly did take place, and there was an agreement to cooperate. But there the record ends; there is little evidence that a long-term bond between the Sunni and Shiite groups was ever formed.” [Benjamin and Simon, 2005, pp. 128] Mohamed will return to the US after an FBI agent phones him and asks to speak to him about an upcoming trial (see December 9, 1994).

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Imad Mugniyah, Ali Mohamed, Daniel Benjamin, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, Steve Simon, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

On July 4, 1995, six Western tourists are kidnapped in Kashmir, India. A Norwegian is soon found beheaded while an American manages to escape. The remaining hostages, two British, one German, and one American, are never found and are apparently killed in December 1995. The kidnapping is executed by an alias of the Pakistani militant group later known as Harkat ul-Mujahedeen. The kidnappers demand the release of a number of jailed Islamists, including Saeed Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar, both imprisoned in India (see November 1994-December 1999). Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna claims the leaders of the operation were trained by al-Qaeda. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 284-285] In January 1996, a secret CIA report will say that, according to a foreign intelligence agency, Enaam Arnaout, the US director of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), was in Pakistan and matches the description of a man involved in the kidnapping who then left Pakistan in early October for Bosnia via the US. [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996] Yet despite this information, the US will take no action against Arnaout or BIF. The US will not even designate Harkat ul-Mujahedeen until over two years after the kidnapping. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 284-285] An airplane hijacking in 1999 will free Azhar and Sheikh (see December 24-31, 1999).

Entity Tags: Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, Enaam Arnaout, Al-Qaeda, Benevolence International Foundation, Central Intelligence Agency, Maulana Masood Azhar, Saeed Sheikh

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A secret CIA report indicates the Pakistani ISI is giving “at least $30,000 - and possibly as much as $60,000 - per month” to the Harkat ul-Ansar, a Pakistani radical militant group that will be renamed Harkat ul-Mujahedeen (HUM) one year later. By this time, US intelligence is aware this group kidnapped and killed Americans and other Westerners in 1995 (see July 4, 1995). The CIA reports that Pakistan says it is reducing some of its monetary support to the group, presumably in an effort to avoid being placed on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism. But apparently this is just posturing, because in 2001 the State Department will report that the ISI is continuing to fund HUM (see April 30, 2001). The CIA also notes that HUM “might undertake terrorist actions against civilian airliners.” Saeed Sheikh, an alleged 9/11 paymaster, is a leader of the group (see April 1993), and in 1999 an airplane hijacking will free him and another HUM leader from prison (see December 24-31, 1999). [Central Intelligence Agency, 8/1996 pdf file] Several months later, another secret US report will note the growing ties between HUM, Osama bin Laden, and the Taliban. But the US will not take any serious action against HUM or Pakistan. [US Embassy (Islamabad), 2/6/1997 pdf file] HUM deputy chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil will be one of the cosigners to bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa declaring it a Muslim duty to kill Americans and Jews (see February 22, 1998). [Scott, 2007, pp. 172]

Entity Tags: Saeed Sheikh, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, Osama bin Laden, Taliban, Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. [Source: Government of Pakistan]Gen. Pervez Musharraf becomes leader of Pakistan in a coup, ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. One major reason for the coup is the ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency) felt Sharif had to go “out of fear that he might buckle to American pressure and reverse Pakistan’s policy [of supporting] the Taliban.” [New York Times, 12/8/2001] Shortly thereafter, Musharraf replaces the leader of the ISI, Brig Imtiaz, because of his close ties to the previous leader. Imtiaz is arrested and convicted of “having assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.” It is later revealed that he was keeping tens of millions of dollars earned from heroin smuggling in a Deutsche Bank account. [Financial Times, 8/10/2001] Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed, a close ally of Musharraf, is instrumental in the success of the coup. Ahmed actually secured the capital and detained Sharif, but then honored the chain of command and stepped aside so Musharraf, as head of the military, could take over. Ahmed is rewarded by being made the new director of the ISI. [Guardian, 10/9/2001; Coll, 2004, pp. 504-505]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Pervez Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Deutsche Bank, Mahmood Ahmed, Brig Imtiaz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Hijackers threaten the Indian Airlines plane, under Taliban supervision.Hijackers threaten the Indian Airlines plane, under Taliban supervision. [Source: Agence France-Presse/ Getty Images]Indian Airlines Flight 814 is hijacked and flown to Afghanistan where 155 passengers are held hostage for eight days. They are freed in return for the release of three militants held in Indian prisons. One of the hostages is killed. One of the men freed in the exchange is Saeed Sheikh, who will later allegedly wire money to the 9/11 hijackers (see Early August 2001). [BBC, 12/31/1999] Another freed militant is Maulana Masood Azhar. Azhar emerges in Pakistan a few days later, and tells a crowd of 10,000, “I have come here because this is my duty to tell you that Muslims should not rest in peace until we have destroyed America and India.” [Associated Press, 1/5/2000] He then tours Pakistan for weeks under the protection of the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency. [Vanity Fair, 8/2002] The ISI and Saeed help Azhar form a new Islamic militant group called Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Azhar is soon plotting attacks again. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/2002; Guardian, 7/16/2002; Washington Post, 2/8/2003] The hijacking plot is blamed on Harkat ul-Mujahedeen (also known as Harkat ul-Ansar), a Pakistani militant group originally formed and developed in large part due to Pervez Musharraf in the early 1990s, and led by Azhar and Sheikh before their arrests in India (see Early 1993). Musharraf has just taken power in Pakistan in a coup two months earlier (see October 12, 1999). The Indian government publicly blames the ISI for backing the hijacking. Such claims are not surprising given the longstanding animosity between Pakistan and India; however, US officials also privately say the ISI backed the hijacking and may even have helped carry it out. The US and Britain demand that Pakistan ban Harkat ul-Mujahedeen and other similar groups, but Pakistan takes no action. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 48] The five hijackers, all Pakistanis and members of Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, are released and return to Pakistan. They are never arrested. One of them will later be revealed to be Amjad Farooqi, a leader of both al-Qaeda and Pakistani militant groups who will be killed in mysterious circumstances in 2004 (see September 27, 2004). India is furious with the US for refusing to condemn Pakistan or pressure it to take action against the hijackers. According to some sources, al-Qaeda planned the hijacking in conjunction with Harkat ul-Mujahedeen. [Washington Post, 9/27/2004; Rashid, 2008, pp. 112-113] In 2001, the flight’s captain, Devi Sharan, will say that the hijackers of his plane used techniques similar to the 9/11 hijackers, suggesting a common modus operandi. The hijackers praised Osama bin Laden, had knives and slit the throat of a passenger, herded the passengers to the back of the plane where some of them used cell phones to call relatives, and one hijacker said he had trained on a simulator. [CNN, 9/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Indian Airlines Flight 814, Devi Sharan, Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, Central Intelligence Agency, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Al-Qaeda, Amjad Farooqi, Saeed Sheikh, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Maulana Masood Azhar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mohammed Aziz Khan.Mohammed Aziz Khan. [Source: US Defense Department]After being released from prison at the end of 1999 (see December 24-31, 1999), Saeed Sheikh travels to Pakistan and is given a house by the ISI. [Vanity Fair, 8/2002] He lives openly and opulently in Pakistan, even attending “swanky parties attended by senior Pakistani government officials.” US authorities conclude he is an asset of the ISI. [Newsweek, 3/13/2002] Amazingly, he is allowed to travel freely to Britain, and visits family there at least twice. [Vanity Fair, 8/2002] He works with Ijaz Shah, a former ISI official in charge of handling two militant groups; Lt. Gen. Mohammed Aziz Khan, former deputy chief of the ISI in charge of relations with Jaish-e-Mohammed; and Brigadier Abdullah, a former ISI officer. He is well known to other senior ISI officers. [New York Times, 2/25/2002; India Today, 2/25/2002; National Post, 2/26/2002; Guardian, 7/16/2002] At the same time that he is working closely and openly with the ISI, he is also strengthening his links with al-Qaeda (see 2000).

Entity Tags: Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Mohammed Aziz Khan, Ijaz Shah, Abdullah, Saeed Sheikh, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke leads a meeting of the interagency Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG) devoted largely to the possibility of an airline hijacking by al-Qaeda. The meeting is said to come during a period of low threat, after the millennium alerts had ended (see December 15-31, 1999). Clarke later will recall that the possibility of a suicide hijacking would have been only one of many speculative possibilities considered. The apparent suicide hijacking of EgyptAir Flight 990 off the coast of Massachusetts in late 1999 appears to have been a concern of the CSG around this time (see October 31, 1999). Also, one month earlier, a militant group connected to al-Qaeda successfully hijacked an airplane in India, won their demands, and escaped (see December 24-31, 1999). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 345, 561]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [Los Angeles Times, 1/23/2002; Independent, 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. [Times of India, 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. [India Today, 2/14/2002; Times of India, 2/14/2002] Saeed provides training and weapons to the kidnappers in return for a percentage of the profits. [Frontline (Chennai), 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. [Associated Press, 2/9/2002] Some evidence suggests Saeed may also have sent Atta a similar amount in 2000 (see (July-August 2000) and Summer 2000).

Entity Tags: Al Rashid Trust, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Aftab Ansari, Saeed Sheikh, Mohamed Atta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [New York Times, 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.” [Wall Street Journal, 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. [Asia Times, 10/26/2001; Washington Post, 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). [Chicago Tribune, 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. [New York Times, 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. [Santa Fe New Mexican, 3/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Maktab al-Khidamat, Mamoun Darkazanli, Mohammed Atef, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Greg Palast, Abu Sayyaf, Groupe Islamique Armé, Al Rashid Trust, US Department of the Treasury, Al-Qaeda, Wafa Humanitarian Organization

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Amjad Farooqi.Amjad Farooqi. [Source: Associated Press]Amjad Farooqi, a leader of al-Qaeda and the Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, is allegedly shot and killed in Nawabshah, Pakistan, a town 170 miles north of Karachi. Farooqi had been indicted for the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 (see January 31, 2002), and was said to have been a mastermind of the two assassination attempts against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in December 2003 (see December 14 and 25, 2003). Farooqi is also believed to have taken part in the hijacking of an Indian airliner in late 1999 (see December 24-31, 1999). He is said to be close to al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi. Farooqi was allegedly tracked by his mobile home to a hideout, which was then surrounded by police. He and two associates were killed after a two-hour gun battle, while three others were arrested. A senior Pakistani official says, “Farooqi’s elimination is a crushing blow to the al-Qaeda network in Pakistan because he was the man who had been providing al-Qaeda terrorists with the manpower to carry out attacks.” [Washington Post, 9/27/2004]
Staged Death? - However, the Asia Times reported in June 2004 that Farooqi had been secretly arrested already and that Musharraf was saving him for a politically opportune time. [Asia Times, 6/5/2004] After the announcement of his death, the Asia Times further report that its sources believe Farooqi indeed was killed, but his death was staged and he had been arrested months before. It is claimed that Pakistani authorities wanted him dead to close investigations into the murder of Daniel Pearl and the assassination attempts against Musharraf. In both cases, there are unanswered questions about the links between al-Qaeda and forces within the Pakistani government. Furthermore, some say the 1999 Indian airline hijacking he was said to have been a part of was planned by al-Qaeda-linked militants working with the Pakistani ISI (see December 24-31, 1999).
Allegedly Overhyped - The Asia Times further claims that while Farooqi was involved in Pearl’s death and the Musharraf assassinations, he was not the “super villain” he was made out to be in the months before his death. They also portray him as a stand-alone operator who worked with al-Qaeda and a number of Pakistani militant groups, but did not directly belong to any one group. [Asia Times, 9/28/2004; Asia Times, 9/29/2004]
Questions Unanswered - One senior Pakistani law-enforcement official says after the announcement of his death, “It was very important to catch Amjad Farooqi alive. Farooqi was the key link between the foot soldiers and those who ordered the murder [of Musharraf].” Another says, “Amjad Farooqi is now dead with the most important secret and we still don’t know for sure the real identity of the Pakistani or al-Qaeda or any other foreign elements who had launched Farooqi into action to remove General Musharraf from the scene.” [Asia Times, 9/30/2004]

Entity Tags: Pervez Musharraf, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Al-Qaeda, Amjad Farooqi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

In a Guardian op-ed, British MP and former cabinet minister Michael Meacher suggests that Saeed Sheikh, known for his alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks and the murder of reporter Daniel Pearl, may have played a role in the 7/7 London bombings despite being held in a high-security Pakistani prison since 2002. Meacher states that “reports from Pakistan suggest that Sheikh continues to be active from jail, keeping in touch with friends and followers in Britain.” He cites the India-based Observer Research Foundation, which argues that there are even “grounds to suspect that the [7/7 London bombings] were orchestrated by [Saeed] Sheikh from his jail in Pakistan.” [Guardian, 9/10/2005] While there have been no firm reports linking Sheikh to the 7/7 bombings, he did work with Pakistani militant leader Maulana Masood Azhar (in fact both were released in 1999 as part of a deal to end an airplane hijacking (see December 24-31, 1999)), and there are reports that two of the 7/7 bombers called Azhar and had dealings with others linked to Azhar’s militant group (see August 1, 2005).

Entity Tags: Maulana Masood Azhar, Saeed Sheikh, Michael Meacher

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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