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Context of 'Mid-1994: Ramzi Yousef Works Closely with Al-Qaeda Leaders'

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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

Imam Reza shrine.Imam Reza shrine. [Source: Public domain]After failing to bomb the Israeli embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, Razmi Yousef moves back to Pakistan and plots a bombing inside Iran. Yousef, a Sunni Muslim, has a deep hatred of Shiite Muslims, and most Iranians are Shiites. On June 20, 1994, Yousef bombs a mosque in the Iranian town of Mashhad, killing 26 people and injuring over 200 more. The mosque is an important shrine and one of the holiest Shiite sites in Iran, and the attack also takes place on a Shiite holy day. The group Yousef works with this time includes his younger brother, Abdul Muneem, and his father, who is arrested and detained in Iran. While Yousef generally works in concert with or by orders from bin Laden, the Mashhad bombing runs counter to bin Laden’s efforts to work with the Iranian-influenced Hezbollah militant group this same year (see Shortly After February 1994). [Reeve, 1999, pp. 63-67]

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

While Ramzi Yousef occasionally plots attacks not in line with Osama bin Laden’s goals (see June 20, 1994), there is considerable evidence that he usually works in concert with bin Laden. Pakistani investigators will later determine that in the middle of 1994 a group of militant Saudi businessmen visit Pakistan and meet with al-Qaeda operatives to discuss setting up a series of secret radio transmitters to broadcast propaganda into Saudi Arabia. Yousef is present at several of the meetings with two senior al-Qaeda leaders when wider plots to overthrow the Saudi government are discussed. Yousef also spends parts of 1994 in the Philippines, responding to bin Laden’s request to further train the Abu Sayyaf militant group there (see August-September 1994). [Reeve, 1999, pp. 71-72] The 9/11 Commission will not mention evidence such as this, and instead it will conclude that Yousef’s ties to bin Laden were tenuous, saying that in the early 1990s Yousef and his uncle, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, were “rootless but experienced operatives… who—though not necessarily formal members of someone else’s organization—were traveling around the world and joining in projects that were supported by or linked to bin Laden, the Blind Sheikh, or their associates.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 59]

Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, 9/11 Commission, Ramzi Yousef, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Bomber Ramzi Yousef trains with members of the Abu Sayyaf, a Philippine militant group. He sneaks into the Philippines by boat to the southern island of Basilan, where Abu Sayyaf influence is strong. He tries to teach about 20 Abu Sayyaf operatives about explosives, but is frustrated by their inability to learn. After a few weeks, he goes to Manila to make the bombs needed for the planned Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995) himself. However, some Abu Sayyaf militants are involved in the Bojinka plot, though details of their exact roles are scarce (see Late 1994-January 1995). There will be additional training in December 1994, involving five Filipinos and more foreigners (see January 3, 1995). [Reeve, 1999, pp. 72; Ressa, 2003, pp. 25-28] Trusted al-Qaeda operative and fellow Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah also trains the Abu Sayyaf. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 139]

Entity Tags: Wali Khan Amin Shah, Ramzi Yousef, Abu Sayyaf

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

News reports will later reveal that a Philippine government undercover operative working with the Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf was deeply involved in the Bojinka plot, an early version of the 9/11 plot. Edwin Angeles, an uncover operative so deeply imbedded in Abu Sayyaf that he was actually the group’s second in command, gave up his cover in February 1995 (see Early February 1995), weeks after the Bojinka plot was foiled (see January 6, 1995). In 1996, the New York Times will report that according to US investigators, “Angeles said he worked alongside [Ramzi] Yousef as he planned the details of the [Bojinka] plot.” [New York Times, 8/30/1996] The Advertiser, an Australian newspaper, reports that after giving up his cover, Angeles reveals that Abdurajak Janjalani, the leader of Abu Sayyaf, and Abu Sayyaf generally, had a “far greater role in the plot to assassinate the Pope and blow up the US airliners than foreign intelligence agencies had previously thought. He said he had met Yousef several times in the Manila flat…” Unlike the New York Times, which only reported that Angeles switched sides in February 1995, the Advertiser notes that “many people believe” Angeles “was a military-planted spy” all along. [Advertiser, 6/3/1995] This will be confirmed in later news reports, and in fact Angeles secretly had worked for Philippine intelligence since the formation of Abu Sayyaf in 1991 (see 1991-Early February 1995). It is not clear what Angeles may have told his government handlers while the Bojinka plot was in motion, if anything.

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Abdurajak Janjalani, Abu Sayyaf, Edwin Angeles

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Two businessmen inform Philippine police that they heard explosions and saw Middle Eastern men engaged in what appeared to be military-type training on a remote beach two hours from Manila. Police quickly investigate and discover a partially burned Bible and pamphlets preaching a radical version of Islam. As a result, police go on red alert and several days later will foil the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). An investigation conducted the following month will conclude that there were 20 people taking part in military-styled training on the beach from the last week of December until January 2. Fifteen of them were foreign nationals, from Egypt, Palestine, and Pakistan. [Vitug and Gloria, 2000, pp. 222-223; Ressa, 2003, pp. 33] Ramzi Yousef is likely elsewhere at the time, but a beach house at this training location was rented by him. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 86] Despite the suggestion that large numbers of people are involved in the Bojinka plot, the US will apparently lose interest in the case after detaining just three of the plotters. Later in 1995, the Philippine government will arrest several dozen suspected foreign terrorists and then let them go (see April 1, 1995-Early 1996). [Vitug and Gloria, 2000, pp. 222-223; Ressa, 2003, pp. 33]

Entity Tags: Philippine National Police, Operation Bojinka, Ramzi Yousef

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

After the Bojinka plot is exposed in the Philippines on January 6, 1995 (see January 6, 1995), most of the plotters are either arrested or flee the country. An exception is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). According to Philippine police reports, he stays in the country until September 1995. He is most likely under the protection of Abu Sayyaf, a local al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group. When he leaves, he goes to the Persian Gulf, where he already has protection in Qatar (see 1992-1996 and January-May 1996). [Fouda and Fielding, 2003, pp. 100] KSM trained Abu Sayyaf militants in the Philippines in 1991 (see 1991), his nephew Ramzi Yousef had done the same in 1994 (see August-September 1994), and some Abu Sayyaf figures were involved in the Bojinka plot (see Late 1994-January 1995). Abu Sayyaf has been deeply penetrated by informants at this time. In fact, a Philippine informant named Edwin Angeles is so deeply embedded in Abu Sayyaf that he actually is the group’s second in command (see Late 1994-January 1995). Angeles gives up his cover in February 1995, he was closely involved in the Bojinka plot, and he is debriefed for weeks and helps get a number of Abu Sayyaf leaders arrested. But it is unknown if he attempts to help find KSM (see Early February 1995).

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Abu Sayyaf, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Edwin Angeles

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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