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Context of 'Late 1995-September 11, 2001: Bin Laden’s Brother-in-Law Khalifa Still Active in Southeast Asia'

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Mohammed Jamal Khalifa. Apparently this photo was taken in the Philippines.Mohammed Jamal Khalifa. Apparently this photo was taken in the Philippines. [Source: Asharq al-Awsat]Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, moves to the Philippines and sets up numerous financial fronts to benefit al-Qaeda. Khalifa is not only one of bin Laden’s brothers-in-law, but he also says that during the 1980s, “Osama was my best friend. More than a brother….” (Taylor 1/16/2003; Robertson and Schuster 11/25/2004) In the mid-1980s, Khalifa was already a very senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Lebanon and ran the Peshawar, Pakistan, office of the Muslim World League, where he was active in sending recruits to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan (see Late 1980s). Sent to the Philippines by bin Laden in 1987 or 1988, he soon marries two Filipino women. He sets up more than a dozen businesses and charities, all of which appear to be fronts to fund the Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) militant groups:
bullet The Islamic Wisdom Worldwide Mission (IWWM), which will later be blamed for funneling bin Laden money to militants (see February 15, 1999 and October 8-November 8, 2002).
bullet The International Relations and Information Center (IRIC), which is later seen as the main funding vehicle for the Bojinka plot (see Spring 1995).
bullet The Philippine branch of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), founded in September 1991. The IIRO does some charity work, but a Philippine cabinet official will later note that it “built up the good will of the community through charity and then turned segments of the population into agents.” The IIRO is a charity suspected of funding militant activities in numerous places around the world, but the US has been reluctant to prosecute it due to its direct links to the Saudi government (see January 1996 and October 12, 2001). Khalifa is not only the first head of the IIRO’s Philippine branch, but also the IIRO’s regional director for all of Southeast Asia. The IIRO’s offices are often staffed by members of the Abu Sayyaf and MILF. For instance, one IIRO branch office director is also the Abu Sayyaf’s intelligence chief until he is killed in June 1994. (Herrera 8/9/2000; CNN 1/27/2002; Abuza 8/1/2003; Abuza 9/1/2005 pdf file)
It is estimated that as much as 70 percent of the money from these fronts are spent on militant groups. In one case, a charity that Khalifa claimed had built 30 orphanages had only built one. (Vitug 10/22/2001) The Philippines will investigate Khalifa and expel him from the country by late 1994 (see December 15, 1994 and December 1, 1994). He apparently never returns. He will no longer be directly connected to these charities, but they will all continue operating despite widely reported terrorist ties (see 1995 and After, February 15, 1999, August 9, 2000), and they will usually continue to be run by Khalifa’s close associates (see October 8-November 8, 2002 and September 25, 2003). The US will finally officially declare the Philippine branch of the IIRO a terrorism financier in 2006 (see August 3, 2006).

Benevolence International Foundation logo.Benevolence International Foundation logo. [Source: Benevolence International Foundation]One of the founders of al-Qaeda is arrested in the US and then let go. Mohammed Loay Bayazid is arrested in Morgan Hills, California, together with Mohammed Jamal Khalifa (see December 16, 1994-May 1995), Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law and a known terrorism financier, and Salem bin Laden, one of Osama’s brothers (see December 16, 1994). Bayazid was born in Syria but moved to the US with his parents as a teenager and became a US citizen. In the mid-1980s he went to fight in Afghanistan and befriended bin Laden. He was one of the original members of al-Qaeda and took the notes during the group’s founding meeting in 1988 (see August 11-20, 1988). Bayazid moved with bin Laden to Sudan in the early 1990s and has been called bin Laden’s main business adviser there. In 1993, it is believed he was involved in an al-Qaeda effort to purchase nuclear material. By 1994, Bayazid moved back to the US and became the president of the Chicago-based Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), a charity suspected of links to al-Qaeda. (Rizzo 9/9/2006) The driver’s license he shows for identification when arrests gives the Chicago office of BIF as his residence. (USA v. Benevolence International Foundation and Enaam M. Arnaout 4/29/2002, pp. 16-17 pdf file) But surprisingly given Bayazid’s history, he is released not long after his arrest in California. Lorenzo Vidino, an expert on Islamic militants, will later investigate Bayazid but is never able to determine when he was released, why, or where he went after that. (Rizzo 9/9/2006) There is evidence he stays in the US until April 1998, and then moves to Turkey. Bayazid will eventually reappear in Susan, where he will be interviewed by the FBI shortly after 9/11 (see November 2001). He apparently still operates several businesses there. He denies ever having any connection to terrorism. (Herrmann 5/1/2002; Rizzo 9/9/2006)

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.” (DelVecchio 4/18/1995; Knickmeyer 4/26/1995; Miller 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)

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). (Fielding 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).

Now living in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa keeps in contact with charity fronts and militant groups he helped to organize. According to a Philippines police report, he maintains contact with:
bullet Leaders of the Philippine militant groups Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
bullet Abdul Salam Zubair, who was a key employee in the IRIC (International Relations and Information Center), a charity front used in the Bojinka plot (see Spring 1995). By this time, Zubair is working with Khalifa Trading Industries in Manila with other Khalifa associates.
bullet The staff of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) in the Philippines. Many of its staffers, including its Philippines coordinator, are also believed to be Hamas operatives. The US will designate the chapter a terrorist financier in 2006 (see August 3, 2006).
bullet Ibrahim Mata, the head of Islamic Studies, Call and Guidance (ISCAG), in the Philippines.
- - The Philippine chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 194)
bullet The Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). In a post-9/11 trial in the US, US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald will allege that the Illinois office of BIF calls Khalifa in Saudi Arabia as recently as November 19, 1998. (USA v. Benevolence International Foundation and Enaam M. Arnaout 4/29/2002, pp. 14, 21-22 pdf file) The US will officially designate BIF a terrorism financier in 2002. Khalifa also still visits the Philippines periodically (see Late 1995-September 11, 2001).

Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, brother-in-law and former best friend of Osama bin Laden, is killed in Madagascar. Khalifa’s family claims that a large group of armed men broke into his house and killed him as he slept. His computer and laptop is stolen. Khalifa was living in Saudi Arabia but traded precious stones and was staying at a mine that he owns. His family says they do not believe he had been killed by locals. There is considerable evidence Khalifa was involved in funding al-Qaeda-connected plots in the Philippines and Yemen in the 1990s (see December 16, 1994-February 1995, December 16, 1994-May 1995, and 1996-1997 and After). Since that time, Khalifa has steadfastly denied any involvement in terrorism and has criticized bin Laden. CNN reporter Nic Robertson asks, “Was he killed by bin Laden’s associates for speaking out against the al-Qaeda leader or, equally feasibly, by an international intelligence agency settling an old score?” Just one week earlier, a Philippine newspaper published a posthumous 2006 interview with Khaddafy Janjalani, former leader of Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim militant group in the southern Philippines. In the interview, Janjalani claimed Abu Sayyaf received $122,000 from Khalifa and bomber Ramzi Yousef in the mid-1990s (see Early 1991). (CNN 1/31/2007; Iloniaina 2/1/2007) And four days before his murder, Interpol put out a bulletin about him, notifying a number of US intelligence agencies (see January 26, 2007). (Fielding 3/2/2007) His murderers have not been found or charged.


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