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Context of 'Early 1998: CIA Ignores Ex-Agent’s Warning KSM Is ‘Going to Hijack Some Planes,’ Visiting Germany'

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Bin Laden reportedly visits Qatar at least twice between the years of 1996 and 2000. He visits Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, the country’s religious minister who later becomes the interior minister. [New York Times, 6/8/2002; ABC News, 2/7/2003] In 1999, the New York Times reports that bin Laden visited al-Thani “in Qatar twice in the mid-1990s.” [New York Times, 7/8/1999] Presumably one of these times is in May 1996, when bin Laden stops by Qatar while moving from Sudan to Afghanistan, and is reportedly warmly greeted by officials there (see May 18, 1996). Former CIA officer Robert Baer will later claim that one meeting between bin Laden and al-Thani takes place on August 10, 1996. [Baer, 2003, pp. 195] Al-Thani is known to shelter Muslim extremists. For instance, the CIA narrowly missed catching al-Qaeda leaders Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Mohammed Atef at his farm in May 1996 (see January-May 1996). Al-Thani is a member of Qatar’s royal family, but ABC News will later report, “One former CIA official who preferred to remain anonymous said the connection went beyond al-Thani and there were others in the Qatari royal family who were sympathetic and provided safe havens for al-Qaeda.” [New York Times, 6/8/2002; ABC News, 2/7/2003] Al-Thani will reportedly shelter al-Qaeda leaders like KSM even after 9/11 (see March 28, 2003), but the US has not taken any action against him, such as officially declaring him a terrorism financier.

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Robert Baer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Robert Baer.Robert Baer. [Source: Publicity photo]In December 1997, former CIA agent Robert Baer, newly retired from the CIA and working as a terrorism consultant, meets Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, who was Qatar’s minister of the economy and chief of police until he was deposed and exiled the year before, and whom he calls the “black prince.” Al Thani tells Baer that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) was being sheltered by then Qatari Interior Minister Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani in 1996 (see January-May 1996). However, the black prince knows other details, based on what Qatari police and intelligence learned when KSM was in the country. He says that KSM is chief of al-Qaeda’s terrorist operations (see Early 1998). KSM was leading an al-Qaeda cell in Qatar together with Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, the brother of the Egyptian who had killed Anwar Sadat. They also were linked to bomber Ramzi Yousef. But what worries the black prince is that KSM and Islambouli are experts in hijacking commercial planes. He tells Baer that KSM “is going to hijack some planes.” Further, he says that KSM has moved to the Czech Republic, and has also traveled to Germany to meet bin Laden associates there. In early 1998 Baer sends this information to a friend in the CIA Counterterrorist Center, who forwards the information to his superiors. Baer doesn’t hear back from the CIA. He says, “There was no interest.” [Baer, 2002, pp. 270-71; Vanity Fair, 2/2002; United Press International, 9/30/2002; Baer, 2003, pp. 190-198] Later in 1998, President Clinton will be briefed about a hijacking threat in the US involving Islambouli, but it is unclear if Islambouli was actually involved in the 9/11 plot or any other hijacking plots targeting the US (see December 4, 1998). He will not have been captured by March 2008. Baer tries to interest reporter Daniel Pearl in a story about KSM before 9/11, but Pearl will still be working on it when he is kidnapped and later murdered in early 2002. [United Press International, 4/9/2004] Baer also tries to interest New York Times reporter James Risen in the information about KSM. But just before Risen can come to the Middle East to meet the black prince, the black prince is kidnapped in Lebanon and sent to prison in Qatar. There will be speculation that the CIA turned on the source to protect its relationship with the Qatari government. Risen will publish an article in July 1999 about KSM, but it will not include most of the information from the black prince, since Risen will not be able to confirm it. [New York Times, 7/8/1999; BBC, 7/25/1999; Gertz, 2002, pp. 55-58; Baer, 2003, pp. 190-198] Al-Thani will continue to support al-Qaeda, even hosting visits by bin Laden between 1996 and 2000 (see 1996-2000). [ABC News, 2/7/2003] Yet the US will not have frozen al-Thani’s assets or taken other action by March 2008.

Entity Tags: James Risen, Robert Baer, Ramzi Yousef, Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, Daniel Pearl, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Al-Qaeda, Counterterrorist Center, Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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