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a.k.a. Al-Qaida, Al-Qa'ida
Sheikh Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad serves as Osama bin Laden’s “spiritual adviser” during the war between the Soviet Union and the US-backed mujaheddin in Afghanistan, according to a statement made by Sheikh al-Moayad at his trial in 2004-2005. (Wald and Kokenes 8/2/2005) Al-Moayad’s trial in the United States will cause resentment in Yemen because he is a highly-esteemed cleric and member of the influential Islah party. (Weissenstein 3/10/2005) Another of bin Laden’s “mentors” at this time is Abdul Mejid al-Zindani, a dynamic mujaheddin recruiter who becomes a leader of the Islah party. Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh’s half-brother and military commander Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar also recruits mujaheddin fighters for Bin Laden. These fighters will later establish training camps in Yemen. (Novak 5/28/2005)
Osama bin Laden begins providing financial, organizational, and engineering aid for the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, with the advice and support of the Saudi royal family. (Mayer and Szechenyi 11/5/2001) Some, including Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, believe he was handpicked for the job by Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi intelligence (see Early 1980 and After). (Mayer and Szechenyi 11/5/2001; Fielding 8/25/2002) The Pakistani ISI want a Saudi prince as a public demonstration of the commitment of the Saudi royal family and as a way to ensure royal funds for the anti-Soviet forces. The agency fails to get royalty, but bin Laden, with his family’s influential ties, is good enough for the ISI. (Rosenberg 9/24/2001) (Clarke will argue later that the Saudis and other Muslim governments used the Afghan war in an attempt to get rid of their own misfits and troublemakers.) This multinational force later coalesces into al-Qaeda. (Clarke 2004, pp. 52)
Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden’s mentor, makes repeated trips to the US and other countries, building up his Pakistan-based organization, Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), or “Services Office” in English. It is also known as Al-Kifah, which means “struggle.” Azzam founded the Al-Kifah/MAK in 1984 (see Late 1984). Branches open in over 30 US cities, as Muslim-Americans donate millions of dollars to support the Afghan war against the Soviet Union. The most important branch, called the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, opens in Brooklyn, New York (see 1986-1993). Azzam is assassinated in a car bomb attack in late 1989 (see November 24, 1989). Bin Laden soon takes over the organization, which effectively morphs into al-Qaeda. His followers take over the US offices and they become financial conduits for al-Qaeda operations. (Lance 2003, pp. 40-41)
Alastair Crooke, an agent for the British intelligence service MI6, helps out with the anti-Soviet jihad and gets “to know some of the militants who would become leaders of al-Qaeda.” (Grey 4/11/2005) He also spends “years during the 1980s with Osama Bin Laden’s henchmen in Afghanistan.” (Shipman 6/12/2005) Crooke, whose role is to coordinate British assistance to the mujaheddin, will later be described by CIA officer Milton Bearden as “a natural on the frontier” and “a British agent straight out of the Great Game.” Details of exactly which future al-Qaeda leaders he gets to know are not available. In the 1990s, Crooke will move to Palestine, where he will come into contact with Hamas leaders. (Grey 4/11/2005)
In 1986, Maktab al-Khidamat (a.k.a. Al-Kifah), the precursor organization to al-Qaeda, opens its first branch in the US at the Islamic Center of Tucson, in Tucson, Arizona. Counterterrorism expert Rita Katz will later call the Islamic Center, “basically, the first cell of al-Qaeda in the United States; that is where it all started.” The organization’s journal, Al Jihad (Holy War), is initially distributed in the US from there. Other branches around the US soon follow (see 1985-1989). (Yardley and Thomas 6/19/2002)
A number of important future al-Qaeda figures are connected to the Tucson branch in the 1980s and into the early 1990s, including:
Mohammed Loay Bayazid, one of the founders of al-Qaeda two years later.
Wael Hamza Julaidan, another founder of al-Qaeda, and a Saudi multimillionaire. He was president of the Islamic Center starting in 1983 and leaves the US around 1986.
Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden’s future personal secretary, who will later be convicted for a role in the 1998 US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). El-Hage is connected to the murder of a liberal imam at the rival mosque to the Islamic Center in 1990 (see January 1990).
Mubarak al Duri, al-Qaeda’s chief agent attempting to purchase weapons of mass destruction. (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 521)
Throughout the 1980s, the mosque provides money, support, and fighters to the mujaheddin fighting in Afghanistan. Around 1991, future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour will move to Arizona for the first time (see October 3, 1991-February 1992) and he will spend much of the rest of the decade in the state. He will briefly live in Tucson, but his ties to earlier al-Qaeda connections there remain elusive. (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002)
In the mid-1980’s, Khaled Abu el-Dahab, an Egyptian medical student, joins the militant group Islamic Jihad, and also meets Ali Mohamed. Mohamed convinces el-Dahab to move to the US and become a sleeper cell agent. El-Dahab does so in 1987, moving to Santa Clara, California, where Mohamed has a residence. El-Dahab marries an American woman, becomes a US citizen, and gets a job at a computer company. In 1987, a female acquaintance of el-Dahab enters his apartment unannounced and finds several men there cleaning rifles. She decides it is something she does not want to know about, and breaks off contact with him. In 1990, Mohamed and el-Dahab travel together to Afghanistan. They are financially supported by a network of US sympathizers, including two Egyptian-American doctors. Beginning in 1990, El-Dahab’s apartment becomes an important communications hub for al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad cells all over the world. For much of the 1990’s, the Egyptian government cut direct phone links to countries like Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan or Pakistan in an effort to disrupt communications between radical militants. So Dahab acts as a telephone operator for the Islamic Jihad network, using a three-way calling feature to connect operatives in far-flung countries. He communicates with bin Laden’s base in Sudan (where bin Laden lives until 1996). He receives phone calls from the likes of Islamic Jihad leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who also visits California twice (see Spring 1993; Late 1994 or 1995). He distributes forged documents and makes money transfers. He is trained to make booby-trapped letters, enrolls in a US flight school to learn how to fly gliders and helicopters, and recruits additional US sleeper agents (see Mid-1990s). He helps translate US army manuals and topographical maps into Arabic for al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad training. El-Dahab will move to Egypt in 1998 and get arrested in October of that year. He will confess his role in all of this in an Egyptian trial in 1999. The Egyptian government will sentence him to 15 years in prison (see 1999). (Sachs and Kifner 10/23/2001; London Times 11/11/2001; Williams 11/21/2001; Martin and Berens 12/11/2001)
Fawaz Younis, a Lebanese militant associated with the Amal militia, a Shiite organization that is influential in Lebanon at this time, is arrested in international waters near Cyprus on September 14, 1987, during a joint FBI-CIA operation. However, US authorities fail to ask him about activities in Lebanon, such as the murders of CIA officers, kidnappings of US citizens who will later be part of an arms-for-hostages deal with Iran (see Late May, 1986), and an attack on the US Marine barracks in Beirut, where over 200 people were killed (see April 18-October 23, 1983). Authors Joe and Susan Trento will write, “The key to all these unasked questions may be that those in charge did not want to know the answers.” For example, Younis is not asked about cooperation between the Amal group, which had a covert relationship with the CIA, and Hezbollah in the bombings. One possible reason for this is that Amal head Nabih Berri has “full knowledge of the arms-for-hostages deal,” an aspect of the Iran-Contra scandal. After Younis is released in 2005, the Trentos will interview him and he will say that Amal was co-responsible for the attacks: “Nothing happened in areas we controlled without Amal’s cooperation.” He will also say that Berri ordered some of the hijackings and that he cannot understand “why the United States allowed him to get away with it.” In addition, he will comment, “Privately, people in our government will say we cannot act [against Islamic militancy] in Lebanon because Nabih Berri is a valuable US intelligence asset,” and, “That lack of action is seen by the Hezbollah as evidence of America’s lack of seriousness and resolve in the war on terror.” Regarding 9/11, he will say, “I have no doubt that our experience in breaking through airport security, developing sources and help among airport staff, was information that Hezbollah passed on to al-Qaeda.” (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 213, 215-7)
Robin Cook, British Foreign Secretary from 1997 to 2003, will later say that “al-Qaeda” was originally the name of a database. In a 2005 article, Cook will write that bin Laden was “a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the ‘80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda, literally ‘the database,’ was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujaheddin who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians.” Cook will give no explanation as to how he might know this. (Cook 7/8/2005) Al-Qaeda the organization will be founded in 1988 (see August 11-20, 1988).
In March 2002, authorities in Bosnia, Sarajevo, will raid the offices of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) due to suspected funding of al-Qaeda (see March 2002). The raid will uncover a handwritten list containing the name of twenty wealthy donors sympathetic to al-Qaeda. The list, referred to as “The Golden Chain,” contains both the names of the donors and the names of the recipients (but does not mention amounts given). Seven of the payments are made to Osama bin Laden. (Prothero 2/11/2003) Most accounts will be vague on what year the Golden Chain document was written; some say 1988. (Simpson 3/18/2003) But counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will say it dates from 1989. (US Congress 10/22/2003) Al-Qaeda is formed in late 1988 (see August 11-20, 1988). The Wall Street Journal will later note, “The list doesn’t show any continuing support for al-Qaeda after the organization began targeting Americans, but a number of the Saudis on it have been under scrutiny by US officials as to whether they have supported terrorism in recent years.” (Simpson 3/18/2003) The donors named include:
The “Bin Laden brothers.” Their first names are not mentioned. They give money to Osama bin Laden. UPI will later point out that “the discovery of this document in Sarajevo calls into question whether al-Qaeda has received support from one of Osama’s scores of wealthy brothers.”
Adel Batterjee, a wealthy Saudi businessman who is also the founder of both BIF and its predecessor, Lajnatt Al-Birr Al-Islamiah. He appears to be mentioned as a recipient three times. (Prothero 2/11/2003) The US will declare him as a terrorist financier in 2004 (see December 21, 2004).
Wael Hamza Julaidan, a Saudi millionaire and one of the founders of al-Qaeda. He is listed as a recipient. The US will declare him a terrorist financier in 2002 (see September 6, 2002).
Saleh Kamel, a Saudi billionaire, and the majority shareholder of the Saudi conglomerate Dallah Albaraka. In 2003, Forbes will call him one of the richest people in the world. The list has him giving money to Batterjee.
Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, another Saudi billionaire. The SAAR network, which is named after him, will be raided by the FBI in 2002 (see March 20, 2002). (Emerson 2006, pp. 400)
Khalid bin Mahfouz, another Saudi billionaire. A lawyer for bin Mahfouz will later say bin Mahfouz did contribute a small amount to fund the mujaheddin in the late 1980s, but only at the behest of the US and Saudi Arabia. (Simpson 3/18/2003)
Osama bin Laden conducts two meetings to discuss “the establishment of a new military group,” according to notes that will be found later. Notes will reveal the group is initially called al-Qaeda al-Askariya, which roughly translates to “the military base.” But the name will soon shorten to just al-Qaeda, meaning “the base” or “the foundation.” (Solomon 2/19/2003; Wright 2006, pp. 131-134) With the Soviets in the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan, it is proposed to create the new group to keep military jihad, or holy war, alive after the Soviets are gone. The notes don’t specify what the group will do exactly, but they conclude, “Initial estimate, within six months of al-Qaeda [founding], 314 brothers will be trained and ready.” In fact, al-Qaeda will remain smaller than this for years to come. Fifteen people attend these two initial meetings. (Wright 2006, pp. 131-134) In addition to bin Laden, other attendees include:
Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the head of the Egyptian militant group Islamic Jihad. (Wright 9/9/2002)
Mohammed Atef, a.k.a. Abu Hafs.
Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a.k.a. Abu Hajer.
Wael Hamza Julaidan.
Mohammed Loay Bayazid, a US citizen, who is notetaker for the meetings. (Wright 2006, pp. 131-134)
Al-Fadl will reveal details about the meetings to US investigators in 1996 (see June 1996-April 1997). Notes to the meeting will be found in Bosnia in early 2002. (Wright 9/9/2002) It will take US intelligence years even to realize a group named al-Qaeda exists; the first known incidence of US intelligence being told the name will come in 1993 (see May 1993).
Four men, Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi, Nabil al-Marabh, Raed Hijazi, and Bassam Kanj, meet each other in an Afghanistan training camp. All four of them take part in fighting against the Soviets. This is according to testimony by Elzahabi in 2004 (see April 16, 2004-June 25, 2004). Elzahabi will claim that while there, he met Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, later famous for allegedly attacking US soldiers in Iraq, and al-Qaeda leaders Abu Zubaida and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. This appears to be the genesis of a Boston al-Qaeda sleeper cell that will play vital roles in 9/11 and other al-Qaeda plots. The four men go their separate ways in subsequent years, but by 1998 all of them will be working as taxi drivers in Boston (see June 1995-Early 1999). (Kurkjian and DeMarco 6/27/2004)
CIA contractor Billy Waugh trains various al-Qaeda operatives around the globe, possibly for more than a decade. In his 2004 autobiography he will write, “I worked right there with these al-Qaeda operatives and heard these arguments [about the badness of US policy] firsthand many times, especially during an assignment in Yemen.” This training must take place between 1989, when he is hired by the CIA, and 2001, when he begins his last assignment for the agency in Afghanistan. The reference to Yemen may indicate that Waugh worked there during the 1994 civil war, when the US supported the religiously-oriented North Yemen against the breakaway south (see May 21-July 7, 1994). The descriptions of the extremists’ arguments and attitudes contained in his autobiography indicate that Waugh, who conducted surveillance against Osama bin laden in Sudan in the early 1990s (see February 1991- July 1992), has intimate knowledge of the extremists. For example, he will write, “I have spoken to some of those terrorists [from al-Qaeda and related organizations], and they consider terror attacks against the general public their only outlet to hurt and destroy the infidels who have wrongfully ousted them from their homes so many years in the past.” (Waugh and Keown 2004, pp. 173, 303, 308)
Soviet forces withdraw from Afghanistan, in accordance with an agreement signed the previous year (see April 1988). However, Afghan communists retain control of Kabul, the capital, until April 1992. (Coll 7/19/1992) It is estimated that more than a million Afghans (eight per cent of the country’s population) were killed in the Soviet-Afghan War, and hundreds of thousands had been maimed by an unprecedented number of land mines. Almost half of the survivors of the war are refugees. (Wright 9/9/2002) Richard Clarke, a counterterrorism official during the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations and the counterterrorism “tsar” by 9/11, will later say that the huge amount of US aid provided to Afghanistan drops off drastically as soon as the Soviets withdraw, abandoning the country to civil war and chaos. The new powers in Afghanistan are tribal chiefs, the Pakistani ISI, and the Arab war veterans coalescing into al-Qaeda. (Clarke 2004, pp. 52-53)
In a military journal, William S. Lind, a defense intellectual, and several officers warn that the US must transform its military to fight a new kind of war they call “fourth-generation warfare” or “4GW.” Unlike previous types of warfare relying on massive firepower and centralized command structures, 4GW will resemble terrorism and guerrilla warfare and could emerge from non-Western areas like the Islamic world. They write: “The fourth generation battlefield is likely to include the whole of the enemy’s society. Such dispersion, coupled with what seems likely to be increased importance for actions by very small groups of combatants, will require even the lowest level to operate flexibly on the basis of the commander’s intent. Second is decreasing dependence on centralized logistics. Dispersion, coupled with increased value placed on tempo, will require a high degree of ability to live off the land and the enemy. Third is more emphasis on maneuver. Mass, of men or fire power, will no longer be an overwhelming factor. In fact, mass may become a disadvantage as it will be easy to target. Small, highly maneuverable, agile forces will tend to dominate. Fourth is a goal of collapsing the enemy internally rather than physically destroying him. Targets will include such things as the population’s support for the war and the enemy’s culture. Correct identification of enemy strategic centers of gravity will be highly important. In broad terms, fourth-generation warfare seems likely to be widely dispersed and largely undefined; the distinction between war and peace will be blurred to the vanishing point.… A fourth generation may emerge from non-Western cultural traditions, such as Islamic or Asiatic traditions. The fact that some non-Western areas, such as the Islamic world, are not strong in technology may lead them to develop a fourth generation through ideas rather than technology.” (Lind et al. 10/1989) After 9/11, this article and others developing similar ideas on the need for a smaller, more agile military, will be called remarkably prescient. New York Times columnist Bill Keller will comment: “The fourth-generation threat sounds, when you read this text today, uncannily like al-Qaeda. The authors suggested the threat would emerge from a non-Western culture like Islam, that it might be stateless, that, lacking modern means, its warriors would infiltrate our society and use our own technology against us, that they would regard our whole civilization as a battlefield. Fourth-generation warriors would ‘use a free society’s freedom and openness, its greatest strengths, against it.’” (Perry 9/29/2001; Gould and Spinney 10/9/2001; Vest 12/2001; Keller 3/10/2002) This article and others with a similar orientation will be praised in an article by “Abu ‘Ubeid Al-Qurashi,” reportedly the pseudonym of an Osama bin Laden aide and al-Qaeda theorist. He will say: “In 1989, some American military experts predicted a fundamental change in the future form of warfare.… [F]ourth-generation wars have already occurred and […] the superiority of the theoretically weaker party has already been proven; in many instances, nation-states have been defeated by stateless nations.… The time has come for the Islamic movements facing a general crusader offensive to internalize the rules of fourth-generation warfare.” (MEMRI Special Dispatch 2/10/2002; Wheeler 12/24/2002; Lind 4/7/2003)
Osama bin Laden’s mentor Sheikh Abdullah Azzam is killed by a car bomb in Afghanistan. The killing will never be solved. Azzam has no shortage of enemies. Suspects will include the Mossad, CIA, Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the ISI, and bin Laden. The reason bin Laden will be suspected is because he and Azzam were increasingly at odds over what approach to take since the Soviet Union had been driven from Afghanistan earlier in the year (see February 15, 1989). (Suellentrop 4/16/2002; Coll 2004, pp. 204) In 1998, Mohammed Saddiq Odeh will be arrested and later convicted for a role in the 1998 African embassy bombings. He reportedly will tell US interrogators that bin Laden “personally ordered the killing of Azzam because he suspected his former mentor had ties with the CIA.” However, it is not known if Odeh was just passing on a rumor. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 32) Regardless, in the wake of Azzam’s death, bin Laden will take control of Azzam’s recruiting and support network, Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK)/Al-Kifah, and merge it with al-Qaeda, which was formed the year before (see August 11-20, 1988). (Suellentrop 4/16/2002; Coll 2004, pp. 204)
Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will claim in a 2002 book that “in addition to successfully completing many missions, a significant number of planned bombings and assassinations [by al-Qaeda] have been thwarted. At least three to four dozen operations were detected and disrupted by government security and intelligence agencies or called off by al-Qaeda.” For instance, he cites a 1992 al-Qaeda plot to blow up a plane, which is called off when an operative involved in the plot is arrested. He also cites attempts to bomb US embassies in Albania, Bosnia, and Uganda, and a 2000 plot to assassinate King Abdullah II of Jordan. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 133) Gunaratna has had unusually good access to US intelligence information. One article calls him “something of an ad hoc adviser to US intelligence officials.” And he is the only private citizen believed to have access to some top secret transcripts of al-Qaeda prisoners interrogated after 9/11. (Kelly 7/10/2003)
Egyptian-American El Sayyid Nosair assassinates controversial right-wing Zionist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane. Kahane’s organization, the Jewish Defense League, was linked to dozens of bombings and is ranked by the FBI as the most lethal domestic militant group in the US at the time. Nosair is captured after a police shoot-out. (Friedman 3/30/1993) Within hours, overwhelming evidence suggests that the assassination was a wide conspiracy but the US government will immediately declare that Nosair was a lone gunman and ignore the evidence suggesting otherwise (see November 5, 1990 and After). Nosair will later be acquitted of Kahane’s murder (though he will be convicted of lesser charges) as investigators continue to ignore most of the evidence in his case which links to a wider conspiracy (see December 7, 1991). Nosair is connected to al-Qaeda through his job at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, an al-Qaeda front (see 1986-1993). A portion of Nosair’s defense fund will be paid for by bin Laden, although this will not be discovered until some time later. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 8/16/2002; Lance 2003, pp. 34-37)
US government agencies cover up evidence of a conspiracy in the wake of El Sayyid Nosair’s assassination of controversial right-wing Zionist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane (see November 5, 1990). Nosair is captured a few blocks from the murder site after a police shoot-out. An FBI informant says he saw Nosair meeting with Muslim leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman a few days before the attack, and evidence indicating a wider plot with additional targets is quickly found. (Friedman 3/30/1993) Later that night, police arrive at Nosair’s house and find a pair of Middle Eastern men named Mahmud Abouhalima and Mohammed Salameh there. They are taken in for questioning. Additionally, police collect a total of 47 boxes of evidence from Nosair’s house, including: (Lance 2003, pp. 34-35)
Thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Maps and drawings of New York City landmarks, including the World Trade Center.
Documents in Arabic containing bomb making formulas, details of an Islamic militant cell, and mentions of the term “al-Qaeda.”
Recorded sermons by Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman in which he encourages his followers to “destroy the edifices of capitalism” and destroy “the enemies of Allah” by “destroying their… high world buildings.”
Tape-recorded phone conversations of Nosair reporting to Abdul-Rahman about paramilitary training, and even discussing bomb-making manuals.
Videotaped talks that Ali Mohamed delivered at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Top secret manuals also from Fort Bragg. There are even classified documents belonging to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commander in Chief of the Army’s Central Command. These manuals and documents had clearly come from Mohamed, who completed military service at Fort Bragg the year before and frequently stayed in Nosair’s house.
A detailed and top secret plan for Operation Bright Star, a special operations training exercise simulating an attack on Baluchistan, a part of Pakistan between Afghanistan and the Arabian Sea. (Sullivan and Neff 10/21/2001; Sullivan and Neff 11/13/2001; Waldman 11/26/2001; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 8/16/2002; Lance 2003, pp. 34-35)
Also within hours, two investigators will connect Nosair with surveillance photographs of Mohamed giving weapons training to Nosair, Abouhalima, Salameh, and others at a shooting range the year before (see July 1989). (Lance 2003, pp. 34-35) But, ignoring all of this evidence, still later that evening, Joseph Borelli, the New York police department’s chief detective, will publicly declare the assassination the work of a “lone deranged gunman.” He will further state, “I’m strongly convinced that he acted alone.… He didn’t seem to be part of a conspiracy or any terrorist organization.” The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will later conclude, “The [New York Police Department] and the District Attorney’s office… reportedly wanted the appearance of speedy justice and a quick resolution to a volatile situation. By arresting Nosair, they felt they had accomplished both.” (Friedman 3/30/1993; Lance 2003, pp. 34-36) Abouhalima and Salameh are released, only to be later convicted for participating in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Investigators will later find in Nosair’s possessions a formula for a bomb almost identical to one used in the WTC bombing. (Friedman 3/17/1995) As one FBI agent will later put it, “The fact is that in 1990, myself and my detectives, we had in our office in handcuffs, the people who blew up the World Trade Center in ‘93. We were told to release them.” The 47 boxes of evidence collected at Nosair’s house that evening are stored away, inaccessible to prosecutors and investigators. The documents found will not be translated until after the World Trade Center bombing. Nosair will later be acquitted of Kahane’s murder (though he will be convicted of lesser charges), as investigators will continue to ignore all evidence that could suggest Nosair did not act alone (see December 7, 1991). (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 8/16/2002; Lance 2003, pp. 34-37) District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who prosecuted the case, will later speculate the CIA may have encouraged the FBI not to pursue any other leads. Nosair worked at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center which was closely tied to covert CIA operations in Afghanistan (see Late 1980s and After). (Friedman 3/17/1995)
Haroon Rashid Aswat is a radical Muslim of Indian descent but born and raised in Britain. Around 1995, when he was about 21 years old, he left Britain and attended militant training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is said to have later told investigators that he once served as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. In the late 1990s, he returns to Britain and becomes a “highly public aide” to radical London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri. Reda Hassaine, an informant for the French and British intelligence services (see After March 1997 and Late January 1999), will later recall regularly seeing Aswat at the Finsbury Park mosque where Abu Hamza preaches. Hassaine frequently sees Aswat recruiting young men to join al-Qaeda. “Inside the mosque he would sit with the new recruits telling them about life after death and the obligation of every Muslim to do the jihad against the unbelievers. All the talk was about killing in order to go to paradise and get the 72 virgins.” Aswat also shows potential recruits videos of the militants fighting in Bosnia and Chechnya. Hassaine will add: “He was always wearing Afghan or combat clothes. In the evening he offered some tea to the people who would sit with him to listen to the heroic action of the mujaheddin before joining the cleric for the finishing touch of brainwashing. The British didn’t seem to understand how dangerous these people were.” Hassaine presumably tells his British handlers about Aswat, as he is regularly reporting about activities as the mosque around this time, but the British take no action. (Woods, Leppard, and Smith 7/31/2005) It will later be reported that Aswat is the mastermind of the 7/7 London bombings (see Late June-July 7, 2005). Some of the 7/7 suicide bombers regularly attended the Finsbury Park mosque, and may have been recruited by al-Qaeda there or at another mosque in Britain. Counterterrorism expert John Loftus will later claim that Aswat in fact was working with British intelligence. He will say that in the late 1990s British intelligence was trying to get Islamist militants to fight in Kosovo against the Serbians and Aswat was part of this recruitment effort (see July 29, 2005). (Fox News 7/29/2005)
Mohammed Samraoui, the Algerian army’s deputy chief counterintelligence specialist, will later desert in disgust and explain in a French trial that the Algerian army helped create the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), supposedly an Islamist militant group linked to al-Qaeda fighting the Algerian government. He will say that in the months before an Algerian army coup in January 1992 the Algerian army “created the GIA” in an attempt to weaken and destroy the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), an Islamist political party poised to take power in elections. He will say, “We established a list of the most dangerous people and demanded their arrest, but in vain: they were needed [to be free] to create terrorist groups. Instead, we arrested right, left, and center. We were trying to radicalize the movement.” Army intelligence identified Algerians returning from the Soviet-Afghan war and many times recruited them. “They all took the flight home via Tunis because it was half-price. As soon as they landed in Algiers, we took them in hand.” (Randal 2005, pp. 169-170)
Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who will later be the chief recruiter for and a key member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, travels widely and joins al-Qaeda. Zammar was born in Syria but his family moved to Hamburg, Germany, in 1971. He became a German citizen and renounced his Syrian citizenship about a decade later. By his late teens, he developed a friendship with Mamoun Darkazanli, a fellow Syrian, and both of them joined the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Muslim group banned in Egypt. Zammar worked as an auto mechanic until about 1991, when he decides to become a full time militant, and he mostly lives on government benefits after that.
Training and Fighting in Afghanistan - In 1991, Zammar goes to Afghanistan and trains at an elite camp linked to Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. He fights with Hekmatyar’s forces against the Communist Afghan government before returning to Hamburg by the end of 1991.
Active in Many Countries - Over the next five years, he makes about 40 trips out of Germany, often to countries where Islamist militants are fighting. In 1995, he fights in Bosnia with other Arabs against the Serbians. In 1996, he goes to Afghanistan again and formally pledges allegiance to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, according to an unnamed Arab intelligence agency.
His Travels Cause Attention - All of Zammar’s traveling brings him to the attention of Turkish intelligence, and it notifies German intelligence about his radical militant links in 1996 (see 1996). Knowing that his militant activity is not illegal in Germany as long as he is not involved in a plot targeting Germany, Zammar speaks openly about his travels and exploits, and he becomes very well known within the Islamist extremist community in Hamburg. He begins recruiting others to become active militants and attend Afghan training camps. (Finn 9/11/2002; New York Times 1/18/2003)
The CIA is aware of the term al-Qaeda at least by this time. Billy Waugh is a CIA contractor assigned to follow bin Laden and other suspected criminals in Sudan starting at this time (see February 1991- July 1992). He will later recall in a book that when he arrived in Sudan, the CIA station chief there said to him about bin Laden, “We don’t know what he’s up to, but we know he’s a wealthy financier and we think he’s harboring some of these outfits called al-Qaeda. See what you can find out.” Waugh will note, “I was familiar with bin Laden from [CIA] traffic, but this was the first time I had heard the term al-Qaeda.” (Waugh and Keown 2004, pp. 121) According to most other media accounts, US intelligence does not learn about the existence of al-Qaeda until several years later, not long before the State Department publicly uses the term in 1996 (see August 14, 1996). For instance, US News and World Report will even assert in 2003, “So limited was the CIA’s knowledge that it began using al-Qaeda’s real name only [in 1998]—10 years after bin Laden founded the organization.” (Kaplan, Ekman, and Latif 12/15/2003)
An assailant posing as a Portuguese journalist stabs Zahir Shah, the former king of Afghanistan, in his home in exile in Rome. Shah survives. The New York Times will later report that US investigators concluded the assailant had ties to al-Qaeda. (United Press International 11/6/1991; Risen and Engelberg 10/14/2001) The assailant, a Portuguese convert to Islam named Paulo Jose de Almeida Santos, will later claim he was one of the first members of al-Qaeda. He claims that he discusses the plan to kill Zahir Shah in detail with bin Laden, as there is civil war in Afghanistan at the time and there is a possibility that Shah could return there and lead a secular government hostile to bin Laden’s interests. But he will say he didn’t get specific permission from bin Laden for the attack. “[T]here wasn’t a well-defined hierarchy, we were rather disorganized; you could give a try to whatever entered into your head.” He also says that bin Laden “was the guy who gave money to keep the organization going… but he didn’t give many orders.” Santos is immediately caught and serves eight years in an Italian prison for the attack. (Bergen 2006, pp. 116-119)
Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will later claim in a book that al-Qaeda planned to bomb a target inside the US this year. Operatives plan to get explosives in Italy and ship them to the US via Cuba. However, the operation is aborted. Further details, such as what the target is or who is involved, are unknown. Gunaratna is known to have sources inside US intelligence and will claim the information came from the CIA, but it is unclear when the CIA may have first learned about this alleged plot. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 133)
Al-Qaeda operative Khalil Deek runs military training camps in Southern California in the early 1990s. Those trained in the camps include followers of the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, and some of the people involved in the 1993 “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993). Deek is a member of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell based in Orange County and has reportedly been under investigation by US intelligence since the late 1980s (see Late 1980s). Rita Katz, a private counterterrorism expert who sometimes works with US officials, will learn of these camps when speaking to an FBI agent in early 2002. According to Katz, she is told that the FBI had known about the camps for “years” but had not acted because of the “wall” between criminal and intelligence investigations. The FBI agent will tell Katz that the information about the camps was “Intel information. Unusable.” (Katz 2003, pp. 186-187) Deek also attracts attention for his suspected involvement with Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, the militant group led by Abdul-Rahman, because of the group’s plans “to bomb a Masonic temple in Los Angeles.” (Anderson 9/15/2005) Katz will conclude that “the FBI had learned that Deek was running military training camps for al-Qaeda in California and was planning to blow up various American targets. And the agency let these people go about their business undisturbed.” (Katz 2003, pp. 186-187) Around the same time, Deek also works in Bosnia for a charity suspected of funneling weapons and new recruits to the mujaheddin fighting there (see Early 1990s). In late 1999, Deek will be captured overseas for participation in a planned millennium bombing (see December 11, 1999). It will later be alleged that he was a mole for the Jordanian government (see Shortly After December 11, 1999).
Yemeni Sheikh Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad helps funnel Islamist warriors to Bosnia for al-Qaeda from 1992 through 1995, prosecutors will allege during his 2004-2005 trial. (Weissenstein 3/10/2005) At the trial, a “protected” Croatian witness will testify that al-Moayad is involved in laundering $800-$900 million from a Saudi charitable organization through the Croatian Zagrebacka Bank. The stated purpose of these funds is to aid Muslim refugees from the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, but 90 percent of this money actually goes to al-Qaeda guerrillas fighting on the Bosnian Muslim side. (AFP 9/21/2005)
According to Pakistani investigators, Ramzi Yousef spends most of this time at the Beit Ashuhada guesthouse (translated as House of Martyrs) in Peshawar, Pakistan, which is funded by Osama bin Laden. Pakistani investigators reveal this bin Laden-Yousef connection to US intelligence in March 1995. The CIA will publicly reveal this in 1996. (Central Intelligence Agency 1996 ; Tenet 2007, pp. 100) While living there, Yousef receives help and financing from two unnamed senior al-Qaeda representatives. (Reeve 1999, pp. 47) Yousef will be arrested at another nearby bin Laden safe house in February 1995 (see February 7, 1995) with bin Laden’s address found in his pocket. (Bone and Road 10/18/1997) During these years, Yousef takes long trips to the US in preparation of the WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993) and the Philippines, where several plots are developed (see January 6, 1995). He also uses an al-Qaeda influenced mosque in Milan, Italy, as a logistical base (see 1995-1997).
Ali Mohamed returns to fight in Afghanistan, even though the Soviets have been defeated and the country is now involved in civil war. He trains rebel commanders in military tactics. This is just one of many such trips, as he later will confess spending several months out of each year training operatives overseas for most of the 1990’s. (Weiser and Risen 12/1/1998; Williams and McCormick 9/21/2001; Williams and McCormick 10/11/2001) US prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will later say of Mohamed’s visits to Afghanistan, “Mohamed did not [make a loyalty pledge] to al-Qaeda but he trained most of al-Qaeda’s top leadership—including bin Laden and [Ayman] al-Zawahiri—and most of al-Qaeda’s top trainers. Mohamed taught surveillance, counter-surveillance, assassinations, kidnapping, codes, ciphers and other intelligence techniques.” (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004) FBI agent Jack Cloonan will later say that in addition to bin Laden, others who attend Mohamed’s course are Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri, al-Qaeda’s first military commander, and Mohammed Atef, its second military commander. (Lance 2006, pp. 104-105) During this 1992 trip he teaches intelligence tradecraft, later admitting, “I taught my trainees how to create cell structures that could be used for operations.” Also around this time, he is detained by Italian authorities at the Rome airport when airport security discovers his luggage has false compartments. He is let go after convincing the Italians that he is fighting terrorists. (Weiser and Risen 12/1/1998; Williams and McCormick 9/21/2001; Williams and McCormick 10/11/2001) Mohamed will regularly return to Afghanistan in years to come, as part of at least 58 trips overseas leaving from the US. (Martin and Berens 12/11/2001) Nabil Sharef, a university professor and former Egyptian intelligence officer, will say, “For five years he was moving back and forth between the US and Afghanistan. It’s impossible the CIA thought he was going there as a tourist. If the CIA hadn’t caught on to him, it should be dissolved and its budget used for something worthwhile.” (Waldman 11/26/2001)
Jamal al-Fadl, an al-Qaeda financial agent, is sent from bin Laden’s headquarters in Sudan to Zagreb, Croatia, to gather information about the Bosnian war and the prospects of buying businesses in Croatia for al-Qaeda. In Croatia, he meets with Enaam Arnaout (who will soon become the head of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) in the US), and al-Qaeda operatives Abu Abdel Aziz Barbaros (a.k.a. Abdel Rahman al Dosari), and Abu Zubair al Madani, one of bin Laden’s cousins (he will later be killed fighting in Bosnia). Barbaros tells al-Fadl that al-Qaeda is seeking to create training camps in Bosnia, develop relationships with Bosnian charities, and establish businesses to help finance al-Qaeda activities. He says that BIF is providing money for al-Qaeda to buy weapons to use in Bosnia and that they have already obtained some weapons from Germany with the help of BIF and Mohammed Loay Bayazid (who also works for BIF in the US). According to a later Justice Department indictment, Barbaros also says that “al-Qaeda’s goal in Bosnia [is] to establish a base for operations in Europe against al-Qaeda’s true enemy, the United States.” Around this time, BIF begins providing food, clothing, money and communications equipment to fighters in Bosnia, including the elite Black Swans unit. (USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout 10/6/2003, pp. 24-25 ; Kohlmann 2004, pp. 16-17) In 1996, al-Fadl will defect from al-Qaeda and tell all he knows to US investigators (see June 1996-April 1997).
Jamal al-Fadl travels to Vienna and has meetings with the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA), which has its headquarters in Vienna. He opens up a Vienna bank account and al-Qaeda operative Wadih El-Hage also opens up a Vienna bank account around this time. Presumably these accounts are used by al-Qaeda to send money to TWRA for operations in Bosnia. Around the same time, al-Qaeda leader Mamdouh Mahmud Salim tells al-Fadl that al-Qaeda’s goal is to make Bosnia a base for European operations. (United States of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., Day 21 3/22/2001; USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout 10/6/2003, pp. 24-25 ) TWRA will funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into Bosnia for illegal weapons purchases over the next several years while the US watches but fails to act. In 1996, al-Fadl will defect from al-Qaeda and tell all he knows to US investigators (see June 1996-April 1997).
Al-Qaeda operatives Ahmad Ajaj and Ramzi Yousef enter the US together. Ajaj is arrested at Kennedy Airport in New York City. Yousef is not arrested and will later mastermind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. “The US government was pretty sure Ajaj was a terrorist from the moment he stepped foot on US soil,” because his “suitcases were stuffed with fake passports, fake IDs, and a cheat sheet on how to lie to US immigration inspectors,” plus “two handwritten notebooks filled with bomb recipes, six bomb-making manuals, four how-to videotapes concerning weaponry, and an advanced guide to surveillance training.” However, Ajaj is charged only with passport fraud and serves a six-month sentence. From prison, Ajaj frequently calls Yousef and others involved in the 1993 WTC bombing plot, but no one will translate the calls until long after the bombing. (Braun et al. 10/14/2001) Ajaj will be released from prison three days after the WTC bombing, but is later rearrested and sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. (Braun et al. 10/14/2001) One of the manuals seized from Ajaj will be horribly mistranslated for the trial. For instance, the title page is said to say “The Basic Rule,” published in Jordan in 1982, when in fact the title says “al-Qaeda” (which means “the base” in English), published in Afghanistan in 1989. Investigators will subsequently complain that a proper translation could have shown an early connection between al-Qaeda and the WTC bombing. (Engelberg 1/14/2001) An Israeli newsweekly will report that the Palestinian Ajaj may have been a mole for the Israeli Mossad. The Village Voice will suggest that Ajaj may have had “advance knowledge of the World Trade Center bombing, which he shared with Mossad, and that Mossad, for whatever reason, kept the secret to itself.” Ajaj is not just knowledgeable, but is involved in the planning of the bombing from his prison cell. (Friedman 8/3/1993)
Double agent Ali Mohamed spends much of 1992 training al-Qaeda recruits in Afghanistan. But he also gives specialized training in Sudan, Bosnia, and other conflict zones. Using the alias Abu ‘Abdallah, he is part of a 14-man al-Qaeda team made up of retired US military personnel that enters Bosnia through Croatia to train and arm mujaheddin fighters there. Apparently this will come to light in a 1998 trial in Egypt. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 41, 150, 337) The training takes place at Meskovic, a village near the town of Tuzla. The 14-man team are smuggled into Bosnia one by one in December 1992. The team is said to be sponsored by a “mosque in Newark, New Jersey.” (Brumley 12/3/1995) Mohamed regularly trained militants at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, an al-Qaeda front in the US (see 1987-1989), and there was a mosque associated to it in Newark. This effort takes place at a time when Al-Kifah is sending many US-based militants to fight in Bosnia (see 1992). It will later be alleged that a US Army official met with people at Al-Kifah in December 1992 and offered to help with a covert operation to support Muslims in Bosnia (see December 1992). Twelve of the Americans leave within two months after training a group of 25 mujaheddin in insurgency warfare. But Mohamed and another American only known by the code name Abu Musa remain at Meskovic until June 1993, occasionally accompanying the mujaheddin on attacks behind Serb lines. (Brumley 12/3/1995)
By 1993, the Algerian militant group Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) is extremely active launching attacks in Algeria. For instance, in a two month period of 1994 alone, it will burn down over 500 schools. In 1993, bin Laden sends Qari Said al-Jazairi, an Algerian member of al-Qaeda’s shura (ruling council), to meet with rebel leaders in the mountains. He gives them $40,000 but warns them there is no room for compromise with the government and total war is the only solution. This marginalizes the moderates. According to later testimony by key al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl, the GIA is then treated as an affiliate of al-Qaeda. (Day 2. United States of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al. 2/6/2001; Wright 2006, pp. 189-190) Bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders may not be aware of it, but the GIA is highly infiltrated by the Algerian intelligence agency by this time (see 1991).
Enaam Arnaout, head of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) in the US and an al-Qaeda operative, personally arranges for nine elite instructors from the Al-Sadda training camp in Afghanistan to be sent to central Bosnia to train mujaheddin there. One of the trainers is Al-Hajj Boudella, who will become the long-time director of the BIF’s office in Bosnia. He will be arrested shortly after 9/11 and renditioned to the Guantanamo Bay prison in 2002 (see January 18, 2002). (Kohlmann 2004, pp. 19-20, 255)
The Guardian reports in May 1993 that the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) (then known as Lajnat al-Birr al-Islamiyya) has been closed in Saudi Arabia and “its head, Adel Batterjee, a known political activist, has been detained by the police.” The Guardian hints that the shut down is related to pressure from the Egyptian government. This is possibly the only instance of the Saudis shutting down a charity before 9/11. (Evans 5/5/1993) Al-Qaeda will determine later in the year that the shut down was because the Saudis had found a link between BIF and al-Qaeda, but an operative will report that the problem has been fixed. (USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout 10/6/2003 ) Batterjee is also mentioned in a 1992 New York Times article as the chairman of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), flying wounded Saudis fighting in the Bosnian war and giving them free medical treatment. (Hedges 12/5/1992) BIF stops operating in Saudi Arabia but expands its operations in the US (see 1992-1993). (USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout 10/6/2003 ) The FBI will not begin to seriously investigate it until 1998 (see 1998). US agents will raid WAMY offices in 2004 for suspected ties to radical militants (see June 1, 2004).
Osama bin Laden privately identifies the three most important charity fronts used to finance al-Qaeda. He names:
The Muslim World League (MWL), a Saudi charity closely tied to the Saudi government.
Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), a charity based in Chicago, Illinois.
The Qatar Charitable Society (QCS). Al-Qaeda apparently will stop using this organization after it is publicly linked to an assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1995 (see Shortly After June 26, 1995).
Bin Laden tells this to Jamal al-Fadl, who is helping to run bin Laden’s businesses in Sudan. A Justice Department brief will later explain, “[Al-Fadl] understood from conversations with bin Laden and others in al-Qaeda that the charities would receive funds that could be withdrawn in cash and a portion of the money used for legitimate relief purposes and another portion diverted for al-Qaeda operations. The money for al-Qaeda operations would nevertheless be listed in the charities’ books as expenses for building mosques or schools or feeding the poor or the needy.” (USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout 10/6/2003 ) In 1996, al-Fadl will quit al-Qaeda and tell US investigators all he knows about the organization and its finances (see June 1996-April 1997). Yet the US has yet to list the MWL or QCS as terrorism financiers, and will wait until 2002 before listing BIF. The US knew about the MWL’s support for radical militants even before al-Fadl defected (see January 1996), but its ties to the Saudi government has repeatedly protected it (see October 12, 2001).
Bin Laden asks double agent Ali Mohamed to set up an al-Qaeda cell in Nairobi, Kenya, to support al-Qaeda operations against the US intervention in the neighboring country of Somalia that year. He does so, setting up a cell of a dozen operatives. He creates a car business, a fishing business, and sells scuba diving equipment, luxury automobiles, and diamonds to create income for the cell, and a charity organization to provide operatives with documents. The cell will later plan the 1998 embassy bombings in both Nairobi and nearby Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). He also helps trains Somali clansmen in the months leading up to a battle that will kill 18 US soldiers (see Late 1992-October 1993 and October 3-4, 1993). (Los Angeles Times 10/21/2000; Sullivan and Neff 10/21/2001; Waldman 11/26/2001; Martin and Berens 12/11/2001)
In 1993, the membership director for Islamic Jihad is arrested in Egypt. At the time, Islamic Jihad is a mostly Egyptian-based militant group led by Ayman al-Zawahiri and loosely working with al-Qaeda. It has a blind cell structure so members in one cell do not know members in another. But the membership director has a computer file with the names, addresses, and potential hideouts of every member. As a result, about 800 members are arrested and jailed in Egypt, effectively decimating the group there. Most of the remaining members are in scattered cells in other countries. The group is nearly broke as well, and most members go on the al-Qaeda payroll at this time, since Osama bin Laden has lots of money. Al-Zawahiri will later confide to a friend that joining with bin Laden had been “the only solution to keeping the [Islamic] Jihad organization alive.” In November 1993, while the trials against the 800 arrested members in Egypt are going on, the group attempts to strike back by assassinating Egyptian Prime Minister Atef Sidqi. A car bomb explodes as he drives past a girls’ school in Cairo. Sidqi is unhurt, but a young girl is killed and 21 other people are injured. The girl’s death outrages the Egyptian public to a surprising degree, strongly damaging the group’s reputation in Egypt. This drives Islamic Jihad even closer to al-Qaeda, which has an international focus instead of an Egyptian focus. (Wright 2006, pp. 184-186)
Of all the 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar have the longest records of involvement with al-Qaeda. CIA Director Tenet calls them al-Qaeda veterans. According to the CIA, Alhazmi first travels to Afghanistan in 1993 as a teenager, then fights in Bosnia with Alhazmi (see 1995). Almihdhar makes his first visit to Afghanistan training camps in 1996, and then fights in Chechnya in 1997. Both swear loyalty to bin Laden around 1998. Alhazmi fights in Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance with his brother, Salem Alhazmi. He fights in Chechnya, probably in 1998. (Observer 9/23/2001; ABC News 1/9/2002; US Congress 6/18/2002; McDermott 9/1/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 131 ) He then returns to Saudi Arabia in early 1999 where he shares information about the 1998 US embassy bombings. However it is not clear what information he disclosed to whom or where he obtained this information. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 131 ) It is possible that some or all of this information came from the NSA, which is intercepting some of Alhazmi’s phone calls at this time (see Early 1999).
The Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy, has numerous ties to terrorist activities during this period and after 9/11, and the Treasury Department will call the mosque “the main al-Qaeda station house in Europe.” It is initially headed by Anwar Shaaban (see Late 1993-December 14, 1995 and December 14, 1995), an opponent of the current Egyptian regime and a supporter of the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya militant group, which is run by the ‘Blind Sheikh,’ Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see Late 1993-1994).
It recruits fighters for militant Islamic causes and sends them to Afghanistan for training. One of the recruits, L’Houssaine Kherchtou, who will testify for the prosecution at the trial of men accused of bombing US embassies in Africa in 1998, will say that he knew Shaaban well, adding: “He was my guide. I went there every weekend to be with him.” After studying with Shaaban for some time, Shaaban arranges for Kherchtou and a group of other men to receive military training in Afghanistan. (Hundley 10/22/2001)
There is heavy telephone traffic between the Institute and the New York mosque run by Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, and Italian police say it is a logistical base for the WTC bombing (see Late 1993-1994).
The Algerian militant group Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) gains influence in the mosque after Shaaban dies in the Bosnian Civil War (see After 1995).
It creates a “cottage industry in supplying false passports and other bogus documents” according to European intelligence officials, and serves as a gateway to Europe for operatives from Afghanistan. (Sennott 8/4/2002)
FBI agent Robert Wright is assigned to the FBI’s counterterrorism task force in Chicago. He had joined the FBI three years earlier. (Schlussel 7/14/2004; Seper 7/18/2004) He immediately begins to uncover a wide network of suspected Hamas and al-Qaeda financiers inside the US. Apparently, he gets a key head start from the confession of Mohammad Salah in Israel in early 1993 (see January 1993). Salah names 23 organizations in the US who he says are secretly funding Hamas, and Israel shares this information with US officials. Some of his confession, including the mention of the Holy Land Foundation as a key Hamas funder, is even publicly revealed in a February 1993 New York Times article. (Miller 2/17/1993; Federal News Service 6/2/2003) In the next few years, Wright will uncover evidence that leads him to suspect the following:
Mousa Abu Marzouk, the political director of Hamas, has been laundering money and fundraising in the US for Hamas (see July 5, 1995-May 1997).
The Holy Land Foundation charity is secretly financing Hamas suicide bombings (see October 1993; December 4, 2001).
Saudi multimillionaire Yassin Al-Qadi is funding Hamas (see June 9, 1998).
Al-Qadi is funding al-Qaeda attacks (see October 1998).
Several other US residents and entities are also financing Hamas. In 1996, Wright’s investigations will turn into a larger investigation of terrorist financing, code named Vulgar Betrayal (see 1996). It will continue to discover more leads to connect not only to Hamas, but also to al-Qaeda. (Schlussel 7/14/2004)
In March 1995, Emad Salem, an FBI informant and an ex-Egyptian army officer, publicly testifies in a 1995 trial of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing plotters. He mentions a plot taking place at this time by Islamic radicals tied to the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see July 1990). A Sudanese Air Force pilot would hijack an airplane, attack Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, then crash the plane into the US Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. Siddig Siddig Ali, who will be one of the defendants in the trial, asks Salem for help to find “gaps in the air defense in Egypt” so the pilot could “bomb the presidential house and then turn around, crash the plane into the American embassy after he ejects himself out of the plane.” Abdul-Rahman gives his approval to the plot, but apparently it never goes beyond the discussion stage. Although details of this plot are in public records of the World Trade Center bombing trial, both the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry and 9/11 Commission fail to mention it. (Lance 2004, pp. 196; Berger 4/8/2004) Abdul-Rahman is closely tied to bin Laden and in fact in 1998 there will be an al-Qaeda hijacking plot designed to free him from prison (see 1998). Individuals connected to Abdul-Rahman and al-Qaeda will also plot to crash an airplane into the White House in 1996 (see January 1996).
In the wake of his detention in Canada (see June 16, 1993), double agent Ali Mohamed is interviewed by the FBI and volunteers the earliest publicly known insider description of al-Qaeda. Mohamed is working as an FBI informant on smugglers moving illegal immigrants from Mexico to the US. FBI agent John Zent, Mohamed’s handler, interviews him in the FBI San Francisco office after having helped release him from Canadian custody. (Risen 10/31/1998; Lance 2006, pp. 125, 130) Mohamed says that bin Laden is running a group called “al-Qaeda.” Apparently, this is the first known instance of the FBI being told of that name, though it appears the CIA was aware of the name since at least 1991 (see February 1991). Mohamed claims to have met bin Laden and says bin Laden is “building an army” that could be used to overthrow the Saudi Arabian government. He admits that he has trained radical militants at bin Laden’s training camps in Sudan and Afghanistan. He says he taught them intelligence and anti-hijacking techniques. Mohamed apparently is given a polygraph test for the first time, and fails it (see 1992). However, he denies links to any criminal group or act. An FBI investigator later will say, “We always took him seriously. It’s just he only gave us 25 percent of what was out there.” In addition to his Canadian detention, the FBI is also interested in Mohamed because his name had surfaced in connection with the Al-Kifah Refugee Center as part of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing investigation. (Weiser and Risen 12/1/1998; Williams and McCormick 11/4/2001; Waldman 11/26/2001; Martin and Berens 12/11/2001) By the time this interview takes place, investigators looking into the World Trade Center bombing earlier in the year have already determined that top secret US military training manuals found in the possession of assassin El-Sayyid Nosair (see November 5, 1990) must have been stolen by Mohamed from the US army base where he had been stationed (see Spring 1993). Yet Mohamed is not arrested, though he is monitored (see Autumn 1993). New Yorker magazine will later note, “inexplicably, [the contents of the FBI’s] interview never found its way to the FBI investigators in New York.” (Wright 9/9/2002)
Double agent Ali Mohamed is interviewed by the US military about al-Qaeda, but what exactly is said is uncertain because the interview files are supposedly lost. When Mohamed’s FBI handler John Zent interviewed him in May 1993 (see May 1993), he mentioned al-Qaeda training camps. FBI agent Jack Cloonan, who will later investigate Mohamed, will recall, “John realizes that Ali is talking about all these training camps in Afghanistan. And starts talking about this guy named bin Laden. So John calls the local rep from army intelligence” and arranges for them to interview him. A special team of army investigators shows up from Fort Meade, Virginia, which is the home of the NSA. “They bring maps with them and they bring evidence.… And so they debrief Ali, and he lays out all these training camps.” What else he may reveal is not known. Cloonan is not sure why Mohamed volunteered all this vital al-Qaeda information. Earlier in the year, FBI investigators discovered that Mohamed stole many top secret US military documents and gave them to Islamic militants (see Spring 1993). However, Mohamed faces no trouble from the Defense Department about that. FBI agent Joseph O’Brien will later ask, “Who in the government was running this show? Why didn’t the Bureau bring the hammer down on this guy Mohamed then and there?” Whatever Mohamed says in this interview is not shared with US intelligence agencies, even though it would have obvious relevance for the worldwide manhunt for Ramzi Yousef going on at the time since Yousef trained in some of the camps Mohamed is describing. Several years later, Cloonan will attempt to find the report of Mohamed’s interview with army intelligence but “we were never able to find it. We were told that the report was probably destroyed in a reorganization of intelligence components” in the Defense Department. (Lance 2006, pp. 130-131)
The term “al-Qaeda” is first mentioned in the international media. An article by the French wire service Agence France-Presse on this day entitled “Jordanian Militants Train in Afghanistan to Confront Regime” uses the term, although it is spelled “Al-Ka’ida.” The article quotes a Jordanian militant who says he has been “trained by Al-Ka’ida, a secret organization in Afghanistan that is financed by a wealthy Saudi businessman who owns a construction firm in Jeddah, Ossama ibn Laden.” (The spelling is the same in the original.) (Wright 2006, pp. 410) The term will not be mentioned in the US until August 1996 (see August 14, 1996).
Saeed Sheikh, a brilliant British student at the London School of Economics, drops out of school and moves to his homeland of Pakistan. He had been radicalized by a trip to Bosnia earlier in the year (see April 1993). Two months later, he begins training in Afghanistan at camps run by al-Qaeda and the Pakistani ISI. By mid-1994, he has become an instructor. In June 1994, he begins kidnapping Western tourists in India. In October 1994, he is captured after kidnapping three Britons and an American, and is put in an Indian maximum-security prison, where he remain for five years. The ISI pays a lawyer to defend him. (Watson 2/9/2002; Williams 7/16/2002; Anson 8/2002) His supervisor is Ijaz Shah, an ISI officer. (Varadarajan 3/12/2002; McCarthy 7/16/2002)
Al-Qaeda leaders travel from Khartoum, Sudan, to Mogadishu, Somalia, while US forces are present there. These forces will be attacked shortly afterwards in the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident (see October 3-4, 1993). This is only one of several trips to Somalia at this time (see Late 1992-October 1993).
Details of Trip - The names of all five operatives who travel are not known, but one of them is Mohammed Atef (a.k.a. Abu Hafs), who will later become al-Qaeda’s military commander. According to Essam al Ridi, the pilot who flies them on the first leg of the journey to Nairobi, Kenya, they are dressed in Saudi, Western, and Yemeni outfits. The trip from Khartoum to Nairobi is arranged by an associate of Osama bin Laden’s named Wadih El-Hage, and the five men continue from Nairobi to Mogadishu in a different aircraft. (United States District Court for the Southern District of New York 1/14/2001; United States District Court for the Southern District of New York 5/8/2001) Al Ridi will later say that at some time after the flight he heard the men had gone to Somalia to stir up tribal leaders against American peacekeeping forces. (Miller 6/3/2002)
Surveillance - Bin Laden and his associates are under surveillance in Sudan at this time, by the CIA and Egyptian intelligence (see February 1991- July 1992 and Early 1990s), and the plane used to make the trip to Nairobi is well-known at Khartoum airport and is associated with bin Laden (see (1994-1995)), so the CIA and Egyptians may learn of this trip. However, what action they take, if any, is not known. (United States District Court for the Southern District of New York 1/14/2001; United States District Court for the Southern District of New York 5/8/2001) In addition, Sudanese intelligence will later say that only a handful of al-Qaeda operatives travel to Somalia at this time, although it is not known when and how the Sudanese obtain this information. (Wright 2006, pp. 188)
According to reliable al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl (see June 1996-April 1997), in late 1993 he meets with a former high-ranking Sudanese government official to discuss buying enriched uranium. Is taken to an anonymous address in Khartoum, Sudan, and shown a two- to three-foot long metal cylinder with South African markings. Intermediaries demand $1.5 million to buy the cylinder which is supposed to contain uranium. Mohammed Loay Bayazid, a founding member of al-Qaeda and also president of the US-based Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) at the time, is brought in to examine the deal. Al-Fadl is then instructed to write a document for al-Qaeda leader Mamdouh Mahmud Salim detailing the offer. Salim reviews the document and approves the purchase. Al-Fadl never sees the purchase go through, but he is given $10,000 for his role and is told the uranium will be shipped to Cyprus to be tested. He later learns from second-hand sources that the deal went through and the uranium was good. If so, there has been no sign of al-Qaeda attempting to use the uranium ever since. US intelligence does not know about the deal at the time, but learns of it when al-Fadl defects in 1996 (see June 1996-April 1997). The incident will be referred to in an indictment against Salim in 1998. (Neuffer 9/16/2001; Port and Smith 10/1/2001; Lance 2006, pp. 262-263)
Ptech is founded in 1994 by Oussama Ziade, Hussein Ibrahim, and James Cerrato. Ziade came from Lebanon to study at Harvard University. As the Associated Press will describe it, Ptech’s “idea was to help complicated organizations like the military and large companies create a picture of how their assets—people and technology—work together. Then the software could show how little changes, like combining two departments, might affect the whole.” They raise $20 million to start the company. A number of Ptech employees and investors will later be suspected of having ties to groups that have been designated by the US as terrorist organizations: (CNN 12/6/2002; Guidera and Simpson 12/6/2002; Pope 1/3/2003)
Yassin al-Qadi, a Saudi multimillionaire. He will invest $5 million of Ptech’s start-up money. The US will declare him an al-Qaeda financier shortly after 9/11 (see October 12, 2001). In 1998, al-Qadi will come under investigation by FBI agent Robert Wright (see October 1998) for potential ties to the 1998 US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Al-Qadi is also a major investor in BMI Inc., an investment firm with connections to a remarkable number of suspected terrorist financiers (see 1986-October 1999). Al-Qadi later will claims that he sold his investment in Ptech in 1999, but there will be evidence he may continue to hold a financial stake after that year, and even after the US will officially declare him a terrorism financier (see 1999-After October 12, 2001). (Guidera and Simpson 12/6/2002; Mintz 12/7/2002; Pope 1/3/2003)
Gamel Ahmed, Ptech’s comptroller in the mid-1990s. One al-Qadi loan Wright will investigate also involves Ahmed. (Pope 1/3/2003)
Hussein Ibrahim, Ptech vice president and chief scientist. He also serves as vice president and then president of BMI from 1989 until 1995. He has no known direct terrorism finance connections, but it has been reported that al-Qadi brought Ibrahim into Ptech as his representative. (Guidera and Simpson 12/6/2002; WBZ 4 (Boston) 12/9/2002; Pope 1/3/2003)
Soliman Biheiri. He is the head of BMI and a member of Ptech’s board. US prosecutors will later call him the US banker for the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned Egyptian militant group. He will later be convicted for lying and immigration fraud (see June 15, 2003). (Ehrenfeld 6/17/2005)
Abdurahman Alamoudi. He is one of Ptech’s founders, as well as an investor in BMI. In 2004, the US will sentence him to 23 years in prison for illegal dealings with Libya (see October 15, 2004). (Markon 10/16/2004; Ehrenfeld 6/17/2005)
Muhammed Mubayyid and Suheil Laheir. Neither have any known direct ties to terrorism financing. However, both are longtime Ptech employees whom formerly worked for Care International, a Boston-based suspect Islamic charity (not to be confused with a large international charity having the same name). (Guidera and Simpson 12/6/2002) In 2005, Mubayyid will be charged with conspiring to defraud the US and making false statements to the FBI. Care International had previously been the Boston branch of the Al-Kifah Refugee Center (see [a0493kifahboston]]) and a recruitment office for Mektab al Khidmat (MAK), the precursor organization to al-Qaeda (see 1985-1989). Laheir, Ptech’s chief architect, wrote many articles in support of Islamic holy war. He frequently quoted Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden’s mentor. (Emery 5/13/2005; Ehrenfeld 6/17/2005)
Yaqub Mirza. He is a Ptech investor and on a Ptech advisory board. He directs SAAR, a multi-million dollar network of companies and charities in Herndon, Virginia (see July 29, 1983). In March 2002, US investigators will raid the SAAR network for suspected terrorism ties (see March 20, 2002). In late 2002, the Wall Street Journal will report, “US officials privately say Mr. Mirza and his associates also have connections to al-Qaeda and to other entities officially listed by the US as sponsors of terrorism.” (Guidera and Simpson 12/6/2002; WBZ 4 (Boston) 12/9/2002; Pope 1/3/2003)
BMI itself directly invests in Ptech. It also gives Ptech a founding loan, and leases Ptech much of its office and computer equipment. (Guidera and Simpson 12/6/2002; Pope 1/3/2003) Ptech president Ziade and other Ptech employees will claim that all of their ties to suspected terrorist financiers are coincidental. By 2002, Ptech will have annual revenues of up to $10 million. (Guidera and Simpson 12/6/2002) Ptech’s potential ties to suspected terrorist financiers will be of particular concern because of its potential access to classified government information (see 1996-1997). (Guidera and Simpson 12/6/2002; Ranalli 12/7/2002) Joe Bergantino, a CBS journalist who will be the first to report on Ptech, will say of Ptech in 2002, “The worst-case scenario is that this is a situation where this was planned for a very long time to establish a company in this country and in the computer software business that would target federal agencies and gain access to key government data to essentially help terrorists launch another attack.” (National Public Radio 12/8/2002)
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a large Philippine militant group, sets up a major training camp with al-Qaeda help. According to Philippine investigators, a sprawling complex and set of camps known as Camp Abubakar is built this year in a remote part of the southern island of Mindanao. One camp within the complex called Camp Palestine trains Arabs exclusively. Another is Camp Hodeibia, and is used by Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaeda-linked group based in Indonesia. (Ressa 2003) Al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida is said to send al-Qaeda operative Omar al-Faruq with one other al-Qaeda camp instructor to help recruit and train in these camps. Al-Faruq will remain the head of al-Qaeda’s operations in Southeast Asia until his capture in 2002 (see June 5, 2002). (Ratnesar 9/15/2002; Ressa 10/28/2002) Philipppine officials will claim that over the next few years Camp Abubakar continues to grow and over twenty other MILF camps are used and supported by al-Qaeda operatives (see February 1999). The Philippine military will raze Camp Abubakar during a brief offensive against the MILF in 2000, but the camp will be quickly rebuilt and still be used to train foreign militants. (Ressa 2003) The Philippine government has had a series of negotiations, cease fires, and peace treaties with the MILF. The MILF has generally denied ties to al-Qaeda, but in 1999 the head of the MILF will say his group had received non-military aid from bin Laden (see February 1999). In 2003, President Bush will pledge $30 million to MILF regions of the Philippines to promote a new peace treaty with the group. (Garrido 10/30/2003)
Supposedly, the FBI does not link al-Qaeda leader Hambali to the failed 1995 Bojinka plot until 1999 (see January 6, 1995 and May 23, 1999). However, in 1994, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a key figure in the Bojinka plot, is being wiretapped in the Philippines (see 1994), and Hambali is one of a handful of key figures in a front company called Konsonjaya (see June 1994). Time magazine will later report, “In the first clear indication of Hambali’s direct links to Osama bin Laden, Philippine police phone taps showed that frequent calls were made from the Konsonjaya offices in Malaysia to the Manila offices of [Khalifa], who headed a charitable organization which was allegedly a conduit for al-Qaeda funds.” (Elegant 4/1/2002) The Associated Press will later report that the Bojinka plotters “coordinated with al-Qaeda’s support networks in the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia while planning the plot to down airliners.” (Gomez 6/25/2002) The Associated Press will also report that the Philippine police investigation of Bojinka uncovered information pointing to Hambali. (Gomez and Solomon 3/5/2002) But it seems these links to Hambali and other support cells in Southeast Asia are not acted on by Philippine intelligence. It is unknown how much of this is shared with US intelligence at the time.
At some point in 1994, Mohammed Atef, one of al-Qaeda’s top leaders, refuses to let Ali Mohamed know what name and passport he is traveling under. Al-Qaeda operative L’Houssaine Kherchtou, testifying in a US trial in February 2001, will say that Atef “doesn’t want Abu Mohamed al Amriki [the American] to see his name, because he [is] afraid that maybe he is working with United States or other governments.” (Sullivan and Neff 10/21/2001)
The groundwork for al-Qaeda’s network in Europe is laid in the early 1990s by militant groups from North Africa, in particular the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) of Algeria. However, the GIA is penetrated both at home and abroad by the Algerian army and intelligence establishment and is sometimes even led by moles (see 1991, October 27, 1994-July 16, 1996 and July-October 1995). After elections are canceled in Algeria (see January 11, 1992), it begins to set up logistical support networks in border countries such as Spain and Germany, as well as in Britain and Belgium (see Mid 1994-March 2, 1995) and joins up with al-Qaeda (see 1993). A senior French investigator will say that the GIA was “part of a franchising company known as al-Qaeda.” This provides al-Qaeda with a well-established network of cells to carry out a broader jihad from its European base against Islamic countries to which al-Qaeda is hostile. (Sennott 8/4/2002) The government penetration of the GIA will be so complete by 1996 that Osama bin Laden will withdraw his support from the organization (see Mid-1996).
The FBI creates the Radical Fundamentalist Unit to investigate international radical fundamentalism, including al-Qaeda. (An FBI unit focusing on bin Laden will not be created until 1999.) (US Congress 7/24/2003 )
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; Sullivan and Neff 10/21/2001; Martin and Berens 12/11/2001; Crogan 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).
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)
A Saudi named Omar al-Bayoumi arrives in San Diego, California. He will later become well known for his suspicious connections to both some 9/11 hijackers and the Saudi government, although the 9/11 Commission will say that it received no evidence that he was involved in terrorism or the 9/11 attacks. (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004)
Saudi Government Spy - Acquaintances in San Diego long suspect al-Bayoumi is a Saudi government spy reporting on the activities of Saudi-born college students. (Thornton 9/14/2002; Isikoff 11/22/2002; Reno 9/2003) Says one witness, “He was always watching [young Saudi college students], always checking up on them, literally following them around and then apparently reporting their activities back to Saudi Arabia.” (Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002) Chairman of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) and his investigators will, in author Philip Shenon’s words, “find it obvious that the amiable al-Bayoumi was a low-ranking Saudi intelligence agent,” and “someone who had been put on the ground in San Diego by his government to keep an eye on the activities of the relatively large Saudi community in Southern California.” (Shenon 2008, pp. 52)
'Ghost Employee' - Just prior to moving to the US, al-Bayoumi worked for the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation, headed by Prince Sultan. His salary in this job was approved by Hamid al-Rashid, a Saudi government official whose son, Saud al-Rashid, is strongly suspected of al-Qaeda ties (see May 16, 2002). (US Congress 7/24/2003 ) Once in San Diego, al-Bayoumi tells people that he is a student or a pilot, and even claims to be receiving monthly payments from “family in India” (despite being Saudi). However, he is none of those things. (Bassey 10/21/2001; Simpson 8/11/2003) In fact, as he tells some people, he receives a monthly stipend from Dallah Avco, a Saudi aviation company that has extensive ties to the same Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation. (McDermott 9/1/2002; Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002) From early 1995 until 2002, al-Bayoumi is paid about $3,000 a month for a project in Saudi Arabia even though he is living in the US. According to the New York Times, Congressional officials believe he is a “ghost employee” doing no actual work. The classified section of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report will note that his payments increase significantly just after he comes into contact with two hijackers in early 2000. (Risen and Johnston 8/2/2003) The FBI investigates possible ties between Dallah Avco and al-Qaeda. (Newsweek 10/29/2001) The firm’s owner, Saudi billionaire Saleh Abdullah Kamel, will deny the accusation. (Isikoff and Klaidman 7/28/2003)
It is frequently reported that the Pakistani ISI created the Taliban. For instance, in 1996 CNN will report, “The Taliban are widely alleged to be the creation of Pakistan’s military intelligence [the ISI], which, according to experts, explains the Taliban’s swift military successes.” (Pratap 10/5/1996) And counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later claim that not only did the ISI create the Taliban, but they also facilitated connections between the Taliban and al-Qaeda to help the Taliban achieve victory. (Clarke 2004, pp. 53) The Wall Street Journal will state in November 2001, “Despite their clean chins and pressed uniforms, the ISI men are as deeply fundamentalist as any bearded fanatic; the ISI created the Taliban as their own instrument and still support it.” (Erikson 11/15/2001) Technically, the Taliban appear to have actually started out on the own, but they were soon co-opted by the ISI and effectively became their proxy force (see Spring-Autumn 1994). Benazir Bhutto, prime minister of Pakistan at the time, will later recall how ISI support grew in late 1994 and into early 1995. “I became slowly, slowly sucked into it.… Once I gave the go-ahead that they should get money, I don’t know how much money they were ultimately given.… I know it was a lot. It was just carte blanche.” Bhutto was actually at odds with her own ISI agency and will later claim she eventually discovered the ISI was giving them much more assistance than she authorized, including Pakistani military officers to lead them in fighting. (Coll 2004, pp. 293-294)
Prosecutors in the “Landmarks” bombing trial want to speak with Ali Mohamed. FBI agents, working through an intermediary, track him to an al-Qaeda safe house in Nairobi. Mohamed will later testify in US court: “In late 1994, I received a call from an FBI agent who wanted to speak to me about the upcoming trial of United States vs. Abdul Rahman. I flew back to the United States, spoke to the FBI, but didn’t disclose everything that I knew.” (Aita 5/15/2001; Waldman 11/26/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/16/2004) FBI agent Harlan Bell conducts the interview in the presence of Assistant US Attorney Andrew McCarthy, a prosecutor for the upcoming trial. Mohamed tells them that he is working in Kenya in the scuba diving business, when in fact he is helping the al-Qaeda cell there. He also says he went to Pakistan in 1991 to help Osama bin Laden move from Afghanistan to Sudan (see Summer 1991). Despite admitting this tie to bin Laden, there will apparently be no repercussions for Mohamed, aside from his name appearing on the trial’s unindicted co-consipirators list (see February 1995). (Lance 2006, pp. 173-174) He will not appear at the trial, and it will be alleged that McCarthy told him to ignore a subpoena and not testify (see December 1994-January 1995). Mohamed will recall that after the interview, “I reported on my meeting with the FBI to [al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef] and was told not to return to Nairobi.” (Aita 5/15/2001)
An Air France Airbus A300 carrying 227 passengers and crew is hijacked in Algiers, Algeria by four Algerians wearing security guard uniforms. They are members of a militant group linked to al-Qaeda. They land in Marseille, France, and demand a very large amount of jet fuel. During a prolonged standoff, the hijackers kill two passengers and release 63 others. They are heavily armed with 20 sticks of dynamite, assault rifles, hand grenades, and pistols. French authorities later determine their aim is to crash the plane into the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but French Special Forces storm the plane before it can depart from Marseille. (Sancton 1/2/1995; Wald 10/3/2001) Time magazine details the Eiffel Tower suicide plan in a cover story. A week later, Philippine investigators breaking up the Bojinka plot in Manila find a copy of the Time story in bomber Ramzi Yousef’s possessions. Author Peter Lance notes that Yousef had close ties to Algerian Islamic militants and may have been connected to or inspired by the plot. (Sancton 1/2/1995; Lance 2003, pp. 258) Even though this is the third attempt in 1994 to crash an airplane into a building, the New York Times will note after 9/11 that “aviation security officials never extrapolated any sort of pattern from those incidents.” (Wald 10/3/2001) Some doubts about who was ultimately behind the hijacking will surface later when allegations emerge that the GIA is infiltrated by Algerian intelligence. There is even evidence the top leader of the GIA at this time is a government mole (see October 27, 1994-July 16, 1996). As journalist Jonathan Randal later relates, the aircraft was originally held at the Algiers airport “in security circumstances so suspect the French government criticized what it felt was the Algerian authorities’ ambiguous behavior. Only stern French insistence finally extracted [Algerian government] authorization to let the aircraft take off.” (Randal 2005, pp. 171)
The National Security Agency (NSA) monitors telephone traffic passing through the Umm Haraz satellite ground station, which handles international traffic coming to and from Intelsat or Arabsat satellites. It identifies and monitors phones used by Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants, providing some intelligence about their organization and their activities. (Aid 2003, pp. 82-83 )
Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, one of the founders and top leaders of al-Qaeda (see August 11-20, 1988), periodically lives in the Philippines during these years. Philippine officials will later note that their country makes a good place for Islamic militants to hide out due to lax immigration and “places of refuge” in the southern Philippines where a number of Islamic groups are fighting the government. (Burgos 10/1/2001; Abuza 12/1/2002) In addition, Salim is believed to have visited Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) in 1994 while they were working on the Bojinka plot in the Philippines. It is thought that he already had close ties to KSM by that time. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 139) Salim will be arrested in Germany in late 1998 (see September 16, 1998) and charged with helping to plan the 1998 US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Between 1994 and his 1998 arrest, it is believed he traveled to more than 20 countries, including Russia and Canada. (Bonner 12/5/1998)
Beginning in 1995, evidence begins to appear in the media suggesting that a Saudi charity named the Muwafaq Foundation has ties to radical militants. The foundation is run by a Saudi multimillionaire named Yassin al-Qadi.
In 1995, media reports claim that Muwafaq is being used to fund mujaheddin fighters in Bosnia (see 1991-1995).
Also in 1995, Pakistani police raid the foundation’s Pakistan branch in the wake of the arrest of WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 7, 1995). The head of the branch is held for several months, and then the branch is closed down. (Jackson, Cohen, and Manor 10/29/2001)
A secret CIA report in January 1996 says that Muwafaq is has ties to the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya militant group and helps fund mujaheddin fighting in Bosnia and at least one training camp in Afghanistan (see January 1996).
In February 1996, bin Laden says in an interview that he supports the Muwafaq branch in Zagreb, Croatia (which is close to the fighting in neighboring Bosnia). (Pallister 10/16/2001)
A senior US official will later claim that in 1998, the National Commercial Bank, one of the largest banks in Saudi Arabia, ran an audit and determined that the Muwafaq Foundation gave $3 million to al-Qaeda. Both al-Qadi and the bank later claim that the audit never existed. Al-Qadi asserts he has no ties to any terrorist group. (Jackson, Cohen, and Manor 10/29/2001) In 2003, former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will elaborate on this allegation, saying to a Senate committee, “Al-Qadi was the head of Muwafaq, a Saudi ‘relief organization’ that reportedly transferred at least $3 million, on behalf of Khalid bin Mahfouz, to Osama bin Laden and assisted al-Qaeda fighters in Bosnia.” (US Congress 10/22/2003) (Note that bin Mahfouz, a Saudi billionaire, denies that he ever had any sort of tie to bin Laden or al-Qaeda and has not been officially charged of such ties anywhere.) (Bin Mahfouz Info 11/22/2005)
Al-Qadi will claim that he shut down Muwafaq in 1996, but it is referred to in UN and German charity documents as doing work in Sudan and Bosnia through 1998. (Pallister 10/16/2001; BBC 10/20/2001)
Shortly after 9/11, the US Treasury Department will claim that Muwafaq funded Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK)/Al-Kifah (the predecessor of al-Qaeda), al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Abu Sayyaf (a Philippines militant group with ties to al-Qaeda), and other militant Islamic groups. (Ehrenfeld 6/17/2005)
However, despite all of these alleged connections, and the fact that the US will officially label al-Qadi a terrorism financier shortly after 9/11 (see October 12, 2001), the Muwafaq Foundation has never been officially declared a terrorist supporting entity. An October 2001 New York Times article will say that the reason, “administration officials said, was the inability of United States officials to locate the charity or determine whether it is still in operation.” But the same article will also quote a news editor, who calls Muwafaq’s board of directors “the creme de la creme of Saudi society.” (Gerth and Miller 10/13/2001)
After the Taliban takes control of the area around Kandahar, Afghanistan, in September 1994, prominent Persian Gulf state officials and businessmen, including high-ranking United Arab Emirates and Saudi government ministers such as Saudi Intelligence Minister Prince Turki al-Faisal, frequently secretly fly into Kandahar on state and private jets for bird hunting expeditions. (Williams 11/18/2001) General Wayne Downing, who will later serve as one of President Bush’s counterterrorism “tsars,” says: “They would go out and see Osama, spend some time with him, talk with him, you know, live out in the tents, eat the simple food, engage in falconing, some other pursuits, ride horses.” (Mitchell 9/5/2003) One noted visitor is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, United Arab Emirates (UAE) Defense Minister and Crown Prince for the emirate of Dubai. Another is Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, ruler of the UAE. While there, some develop ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda and give them money. Both Osama bin Laden and Taliban ruler Mullah Omar sometimes participate in these hunting trips. Al Maktoum allegedly hunts with bin Laden once in 1999 (see 1999). (Williams 11/18/2001; Farah and Braun 2007, pp. 120-121) On one occasion in 1999, the US will decide not to attack bin Laden with a missile because he’s bird hunting with important members of the UAE’s royal family (see February 11, 1999). US and Afghan officials suspect that the dignitaries’ outbound jets may also have smuggle out al-Qaeda and Taliban personnel. (Williams 11/18/2001) The CIA also develops suspicions that many royals use the hunting trips as cover to fly out of Afghanistan with large amounts of heroin, but they are unable to prove it (see 1998).
A 1995 Italian intelligence report alleges the Switzerland-based Al Taqwa Bank is funding radical groups in Algeria, Tunisia, and Sudan, and is a major backer of Hamas, but Swiss authorities are slow to investigate. (Komisar 3/15/2002; Perelman 10/17/2003) The Italians are interested in Al Taqwa because of its connection to a radical Italian mosque, the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, which Al Taqwa founder and director Ahmed Idris Nasreddin helped create and finance in the early 1990s. The mosque is close to Al Taqwa’s headquarters in Lugano, a town on the border between Switzerland and Italy. It is also connected to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and extremists fighting in Bosnia (see Late 1993-1994) and European investigators increasingly suspect that the Milan mosque is an important general recruiting and supply center for al-Qaeda and other radical militant groups. (Hosenball 3/18/2002) Reportedly, the Italians tell a Swiss prosecutor that Al Taqwa “comprises the most important financial structure of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic terrorist organizations.” Italian intelligence also finds links between Al Taqwa and the Milan mosque through Nasreddin. Additionally, two other top officials in the mosque are Al Taqwa shareholders. (Komisar 3/15/2002; Perelman 10/17/2003) Italian officials get the impression that Swiss officials are loathe to look into Al Taqwa. In 1997, the Italians convince a Swiss prosecutor to start questioning Al Taqwa officials. But reportedly, an Al Taqwa lawyer is able to make phone calls to influential people and have the investigation stopped. (Komisar 3/15/2002)
A Saudi company called the Twaik Group deposits more than $250,000 in bank accounts controlled by Mamoun Darkazanli, a Syrian-born businessman suspected of belonging to the Hamburg, Germany, al-Qaeda cell that Mohamed Atta is also a part of. In 2004, the Chicago Tribune will reveal evidence that German intelligence has concluded that Twaik, a $100 million-a-year conglomerate, serves as a front for the Saudi Arabian intelligence agency. It has ties to that agency’s longtime chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal. Before 9/11, at least two of Twaik’s managers are suspected by various countries’ intelligence agencies of working for al-Qaeda. One Egyptian employee at Twaik, Reda Seyam, who is later accused of helping to finance the financing of the 2002 Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002), repeatedly flies on aircraft operated by Saudi intelligence. In roughly the same time period, hundreds of thousands of additional dollars are deposited into Darkazanli’s accounts from a variety of suspicious entities, including a Swiss bank owned by Middle Eastern interests with links to terrorism and a radical Berlin imam. Darkazanli is later accused not just of financially helping the Hamburg 9/11 hijackers, but also of helping to choose them for al-Qaeda. (Crewdson 10/12/2003; Crewdson and Gienger 3/31/2004)
The Spanish government begins monitoring an al-Qaeda cell based in Madrid and led by Barakat Yarkas. The cell members call themselves the “Soldiers of Allah.” The New York Times will later report that a document listing telephone intercepts “makes clear that Spanish intelligence has been watching Mr. Yarkas and listening to him in his interactions with other suspected al-Qaeda operatives around Europe and Asia since at least 1997.” (Dillon 11/20/2001) In fact, Spain begins monitoring the cell in 1995, if not earlier. (Irujo 2005, pp. 23-40) The cell formed in the early 1990s, and the members distributed literature at a Madrid mosque about the activities of Islamist militants, including communiqués issued by Osama bin Laden. They indoctrinate some young Muslims who were interested, and recruit several to fight in Bosnia. Yarkas and others in the cell pose as middle-class businesspeople, but they also are observed committing a variety of crimes to raise money for al-Qaeda (see Late 1995 and After). Yarkas frequently travels, going to such countries as Turkey, Belgium, Sweden, Jordan, Denmark, Indonesia, and Malaysia. He makes more than 20 trips to Britain. By 1998, he is in contact with members of the same al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg that contains participants in the 9/11 plot such as Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi. But while Spanish intelligence shares their surveillance with the CIA, they do not inform German intelligence (see August 1998-September 11, 2001). In 1998, a Saudi millionaire named Mohammed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi moves to Spain and interacts with members of the cell, and soon the Spanish begin monitoring him too. It will later be alleged that Zouaydi is a key al-Qaeda financier. In July 2001, Spanish intelligence will hear members of the cell planning for a meeting in Spain that is attended by Atta and others, but apparently they will fail to monitor the meeting itself (see Before July 8, 2001 and July 8-19, 2001). In 2003, the Spanish government will charge a number of people they claim are members of the cell. Some will be convicted for having al-Qaeda ties, and some will not. Yarkas will get a 25-year sentence (see September 26, 2005). Most of the evidence against them will actually have been collected before 9/11. (Dillon 11/20/2001; Crewdson 10/19/2003)
President Clinton issues an executive order making it a felony to raise or transfer funds to designated terrorist groups or their front organizations (see January 24, 1995). He additionally officially declares Hamas to be a terrorist organization and orders a freeze on all Hamas banking assets. It now becomes illegal in the US to donate money to Hamas or its related charities. (Sciolino 1/26/1995; Brooke and Sciolino 8/16/1995) Surprisingly, the US will not declare al-Qaeda a terrorist organization until October 1999 (see October 8, 1999).
Al-Qaeda leader Mamdouh Mahmud Salim (a.k.a. Abu Hajer) makes frequent visits to Hamburg, Germany, and sometimes attends the Hamburg mosque that is attended by a few of the future 9/11 hijackers. (Rose 1/2002) The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will later say that Salim was Osama bin Laden’s “right hand man.” (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 51 ) Starting in 1995, Salim makes frequent visits to Germany. Some of these trips are to Hamburg. Salim has links to Mamoun Darkazanli, who lives in Hamburg and has signing powers over Salim’s bank account. (Rose 1/2002) Salim first opens a bank account in Hamburg with Darkazanli in 1995. (Neuffer 10/6/2001) Darkazanli is also friends with Mohammed Haydar Zammar. Salim has links to Zammar as well. The nature of these links is unclear, but US and German intelligence will later investigate Zammar due to his links with Salim (see Shortly After September 16, 1998). (Cziesche et al. 12/12/2005) Zammar and Darkazanli both regularly attend the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg. When Salim visits Hamburg, he attends the Al-Quds mosque as well. (Rose 1/2002) Beginning in early 1996, future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and other members of his future al-Qaeda Hamburg cell begin regularly attending the Al-Quds mosque, with different members joining at different times (see Early 1996). The mosque holds about 150 people for Friday prayers. (McDermott 2005, pp. 1-5) It is not known if Salim ever meets with Atta or any other members of the Hamburg cell. But Zammar, at least, is considered part of the cell, and he or Darkazanli could have introduced Salim to some of the others. One key member of the cell, Said Bahaji, is frequently seen at the Al-Quds mosque with Zammar and Darkazanli. (McDermott 2005, pp. 72) On September 16, 1998, Salim is arrested in Munich, Germany, ending any link he might have had to the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell (see September 16, 1998). It is not known if US or German investigators ever learn of the link between Salim and the Al-Quds mosque before 9/11.
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). (Gumbel 6/6/2002; McDermott 6/24/2002; McDermott 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. (McDermott 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; Abuza 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).
As Colonel Mendoza, the Philippines investigator, continues to interrogate Operation Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad, details of a post-Bojinka “second wave” emerge. Author Peter Lance calls this phase “a virtual blueprint of the 9/11 attacks.” Murad reveals a plan to hijack commercial airliners at some point after the effect of Bojinka dies down. Murad himself had been training in the US for this plot. He names the ten or so buildings that would be targeted for attack:
An unidentified nuclear power plant.
The Transamerica Tower in San Francisco.
The Sears Tower in Chicago.
The World Trade Center.
John Hancock Tower in Boston.
The White House. (Brzezinski 12/30/2001; Lance 2003, pp. 278-280; Gunaratna 6/1/2005)
Murad continues to reveal more information about this plot until he is handed over to the FBI in April (see April-May 1995). He also mentions that ten suicide pilots have already been chosen and are training in the US (see February 1995-1996). Mendoza uses what he learns from Murad and other sources to make a flow chart connecting many key al-Qaeda figures together (see Spring 1995). Philippine authorities later claim that they provide all of this information to US authorities, but the US fails to follow up on any of it. (Lance 2003, pp. 303-4) Sam Karmilowicz, a security official at the US embassy in Manila, Philippines during this time period, will later claim that just before Murad was deported to the US in early May, he picked up an envelope containing all that the Philippine government had learned from Murad. He then sent the envelope to a US Justice Department office in New York City. He believes Mike Garcia and Dietrich Snell, assistant US attorneys who will later prosecute Murad, almost certainly had access to this evidence (see Early 1998). (Cockburn 3/9/2006)
Belgian investigators find a CD-ROM of a recently published al-Qaeda training manual and begin translating it a few months later. Versions of the manual will later circulate widely amongst radical militants. (Engelberg 1/14/2001) The Arabic manual is called the Encyclopedia of the Afghan Jihad and it is over 7,000 pages long. It explains in simple terms how to build bombs, shoot down aircraft, conduct surveillance, and so on. Much of the material is culled from US and British military manuals. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 93-94) A former CIA official will later claim the CIA did not obtain a copy of the manual until the end of 1999. “The truth is, they missed for years the largest terrorist guide ever written.” He blames CIA reluctance to scrutinize its support for the anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s. (Engelberg 1/14/2001) ABC News, which was first to report on the manual, also claims the CIA did not get a copy until December 1999 from a suspect in Jordan (see 1998-December 11, 1999 and December 11, 1999). (ABC News 9/18/2000) The CIA, however, claims that the manual is not that important, and that in any case it had copies for years. (Engelberg 1/14/2001) According to another account, the CIA first received a copy from Jordan in 1997. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 94)
In the hours after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), some believe that the bombing was the work of Islamist terrorists. Televised news reports air theories of Islamist involvement, and say that eyewitnesses have reported seeing “Middle Eastern-looking men” fleeing the scene of the crime. (Katz and Hart 4/20/1995; Fox News 4/13/2005) One eyewitness describes a man running from the scene clad in a black jogging outfit; many both in US intelligence and in the media assume that the man is likely Middle Eastern. One source tells reporters that the FBI has received claims of responsibility from at least eight groups, seven of which seem to be of Middle Eastern origin. Some officials privately fear that the bombing is the work of either Hamas or Islamic Jihad, two violently militant Islamist organizations. (Katz and Hart 4/20/1995; Serrano 1998, pp. 185) Later in the day, Abdul Hakim Murad, an al-Qaeda operative in US custody, attempts to take credit for the bombing, but his associate Ramzi Yousef, also in US custody, does not (see April 19, 1995). In another instance, Jordanian-American Abraham Ahmad, attempting to fly to Jordan to visit relatives, is detained and questioned during a layover in Chicago. Ahmad, whom some sources describe as Palestinian-American, lives in Oklahoma City. A naturalized citizen who has lived in Oklahoma City since 1982, he has a background in computer science and is making a scheduled departure this morning to Jordan. His five suitcases contain, among other items, several car radios, large amounts of electrical wires, solder, a VCR, and a tool kit. He has packed a blue jogging suit and a pair of black sweatpants. Federal magistrates rush to serve him with a material warrant, moving so quickly that they misspell his name. He is stopped and questioned in Chicago before being allowed to continue his flight. He is stopped again in London, and this time is detained, strip-searched, and paraded in handcuffs through the crowded airport. He is photographed, fingerprinted, and returned to Washington before being transported to Oklahoma City. His name is leaked to the news media as a possible bombing suspect, creating a firestorm of interest; reporters crowd around his family’s home in Oklahoma City, and angry citizens vandalize his front yard. Authorities learn that Ahmad is going to Jordan for a family emergency. He will be released on April 21, will attend a memorial service for the bombing victims, and will file a $1.9 million lawsuit against the federal government. In later days, government officials such as counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will say that the possibility of Islamist involvement on some level is difficult to disprove (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994 and November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). (Serrano 1998, pp. 185-186; Clarke 2004, pp. 127; Fox News 4/13/2005) Justice Department spokesman John Russell says of Ahmad: “He cooperated. There is no reason for him to be held.” (The Washington Post, in reporting this, does not name Ahmad, and identifies him as “Palestinian-American.”) (Walsh 4/22/1995) Shortly after the bombing, senior FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt, who had worked with the FBI at the Branch Davidian siege outside Waco, concludes that the bomber is probably a white male with militia ties and not an Islamist terrorist (see April 19, 1995).
Nabil al-Marabh returned to Canada from Afghanistan in February 1994 using a fraudulent Saudi Arabian passport. But his request for asylum was eventually denied. He then enters the US in June 1995 and applies for asylum there. That too is denied, and he is ordered deported in 1997. But the order is not enforced and he continues to live in the US and Canada illegally until 9/11. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 10/22/2001; Ashenfelter 5/23/2003) Al-Marabh moves to Boston and gets a job as a taxi driver. He had known al-Qaeda operatives Bassam Kanj, Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi, and Raed Hijazi in training camps in Afghanistan (see Late 1980s; 1989-1994), and this group of four regathers in Boston. Kanj has been there since 1995, driving taxis at the same company that hires al-Marabh. Elzahabi moves to Boston from New York City in 1997 and also gets a job at this same taxi company. There are conflicting accounts as to who brings Raed Hijazi to Boston and why he goes there, but by the beginning of 1998 he is also working for this taxi company. (Kurkjian and Rakowsky 2/5/2001; Golden and Miller 9/18/2001; Risen and Engelberg 10/14/2001; Fainaru 9/4/2002) Al-Marabh and Hijazi are roommates for at least two months. While they work together driving taxis, Hijazi is saving his earnings to spend on bomb plots and is working on an al-Qaeda plot to attack a US warship. That plot will develop into the attack on the USS Cole in 2000. (ABC News 7 (Chicago) 1/31/2002; Fainaru 9/4/2002) Around the end of 1998, Kanj and Hijazi leave Boston to work on al-Qaeda plots overseas while Elzahabi leaves in 1999 to fight as a sniper in Chechnya. Al-Marabh will also leave, moving to Florida in early 1999 (see February 1999-February 2000), but he periodically returns to his Boston residence for some time, as his wife and son continue to live there. These four men will continue to help each other in various al-Qaeda plots. (Kurkjian and Rakowsky 2/5/2001; Murphy 6/26/2004) Apparently, al-Qaeda recruiter Kamal Derwish also works at the same Boston taxi company, though the timing is not clear. He trained in Afghanistan in 1992, a time when al-Marabh was also there. He will be killed by a US missile strike in November 2002 (see November 3, 2002). (McLaughlin 5/23/2003) Even though the Boston FBI is aware long before 9/11 that at least four of the men are connected to al-Qaeda (see January 2001), the FBI will officially deny the possibility of any al-Qaeda cell in Boston until 2004 (see June 27, 2004).
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak arrives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to attend the Organization of African Unity summit. Less than an hour after his arrival, Islamist militants attack his motorcade. Gunmen shoot at his limousine, but the grenade launcher they have malfunctions. Ethiopian soldiers kill five of the assassins and capture three more, while two of Mubarak’s bodyguards are killed. A second ambush is planned further down the road, but the motorcade turns around, probably saving Mubarak’s life. Investigators determine that the Egyptian-based militant groups Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and Islamic Jihad worked with al-Qaeda on the plot. The leader of the plot was Mustafa Hamza, a leader in both al-Qaeda and Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. Ayman al-Zawahiri was also involved, and personally inspected the planned killing ground. The Sudanese intelligence agency also assisted. For instance, the weapons were smuggled into the country through the Sudanese embassy. Ethiopia and Egypt charge the government of Sudan with complicity in the attack. Bin Laden is living openly in Sudan at the time. Egyptian officials privately tell US intelligence they believe Osama bin Laden funded the attack, and the US agrees. The US contemplates attacking bin Laden in Sudan, but decides against it (see Shortly After June 26, 1995). (MSNBC 5/2005; Wright 2006, pp. 213-214) In 1998, Hamza will become overall head of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, running it while in hiding outside of Egypt. In late 2004, he will be extradited from Iran to stand trial in Egypt (see Spring 2002). (Reuters 1/9/2005)
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).
Two truck bombs kill five Americans and two Indians in the US-operated Saudi National Guard training center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaeda is blamed for the attacks. (Kugler 8/19/2002) The attack changes US investigators’ views of the role of bin Laden, from al-Qaeda financier to its leader. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 150) The Vinnell Corporation, thought by some experts to be a CIA front, owns the facility that has been attacked. (Cobain 5/14/2003)
In June 1995, al-Qaeda sponsors a failed assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (see June 26, 1995 and Shortly After June 26, 1995). Some time in 1995, al-Qaeda leader Anas al-Liby moves to Britain and applies for political asylum. Not long after he arrives, Egypt asks the British government to extradite him for his alleged role in the assassination attempt. They send a detailed file on him, including information on how he had fought with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and then moved with him to Sudan. But the extradition request is refused. British officials question whether al-Liby could get a fair trial in Egypt and fear he could face the death penalty. The next year, British intelligence hires al-Liby, a Libyan, to assassinate Libyan ruler Colonel Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi (see 1996). Al-Liby will continue to live openly in Britain until 2000 (see Late 1995-May 2000 and May 2000). (McGrory 1/16/2003)
Spanish intelligence is monitoring an al-Qaeda cell in Madrid led by Barakat Yarkas (see 1995 and After). By late 1995, Spanish authorities discover the cell members are taking part in a variety of criminal acts, including credit card theft, stealing bank account numbers, and selling stolen cars. Some of the money raised is being used to send recruits to al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. However, the authorities are content to merely watch this criminal activity and collect information. None of the cell members will be arrested until after 9/11, six years later. (Irujo 2005, pp. 23-40)
Anas al-Liby, member of a Libyan al-Qaeda affiliate group called Al-Muqatila, lives in Britain during this time. He had stayed with bin Laden in Sudan (see May 18, 1996). In late 1995, he moves to Britain and applies for political asylum, claiming to be a political enemy of the Libyan government (see (Late 1995)). He is involved in an al-Qaeda plot (see Late 1993-Late 1994) that will result in the bombing of two US embassies in Africa in 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). The British government suspects he is a high-level al-Qaeda operative, and Egypt tells Britain that he is wanted for an assassination attempt of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (see (Late 1995)). In 1996, he is involved in a plot with the British intelligence agency to assassinate Libyan leader Colonel Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi (see 1996), and presumably his ability to live in Britain is connected to cooperation with that plot. (Bright 11/10/2002; McGrory 1/16/2003) After the failed assassination attempt in 1996, the British allegedly continues to support Al-Muqatila—for instance, the group openly publishes a newsletter from a London office. (Brisard and Dasquie 2002, pp. 97-98) Whistleblower David Shayler, a British intelligence agent, gives British authorities details of this Libya plot in 1998 and again in 1999, and later will serve a short prison sentence for revealing this information to the public (see November 5, 2002). (Shayler 8/27/2000) In late 1998, al-Liby is monitored calling an al-Qaeda operative in the US and discussing their ties to one of the African embassy bombers, but this results in no action against al-Liby (see Shortly After August 12, 1998). He lives in Manchester until May of 2000. In 2002, it will be reported that he eluded a police raid on his house and fled abroad. (Bright 11/10/2002) However, in a 2011 book, FBI agent Ali Soufan will claim that al-Liby actually was arrested and then let go (see May 2000). His asylum application will still be under review at the time of his arrest. (McGrory 1/16/2003) An important al-Qaeda training manual is discovered in the raid on his Manchester residence (see May 2000). The US will later post a $25 million reward for al-Liby’s capture. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2002; Bright 11/10/2002)
The Saudi Arabian government, which allegedly initiated payments to al-Qaeda in 1991 (see Summer 1991), increases its payments in 1996, becoming al-Qaeda’s largest financial backer. It also gives money to other extremist groups throughout Asia, vastly increasing al-Qaeda’s capabilities. (Hersh 10/16/2001) Presumably, two meetings in early summer bring about the change. Says one US official, “96 is the key year.… Bin Laden hooked up to all the bad guys—it’s like the Grand Alliance—and had a capability for conducting large-scale operations.” The Saudi regime, he says, had “gone to the dark side.” Electronic intercepts by the NSA “depict a regime increasingly corrupt, alienated from the country’s religious rank and file, and so weakened and frightened that it has brokered its future by channeling hundreds of millions of dollars in what amounts to protection money to fundamentalist groups that wish to overthrow it.” US officials later privately complain “that the Bush administration, like the Clinton administration, is refusing to confront this reality, even in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks.” (Hersh 10/16/2001) Martin Indyk, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, will later write, “The Saudis had protected themselves by co-opting and accommodating the Islamist extremists in their midst, a move they felt was necessary in the uncertain aftermath of the Gulf War. Since Saddam Hussein remained in power, weakened but still capable of lashing out and intent on revenge, the Saudis could not afford to send their American protector packing. Instead, they found a way to provide the United States with the access it needed to protect Saudi Arabia while keeping the American profile as low as possible.… [O]nce Crown Prince Abdullah assumed the regency in 1996 (see Late 1995), the ruling family set about the determined business of buying off its opposition.” Saudi charities are “subverted” to help transfer money to militant causes. “[T]he Clinton administration indulged Riyadh’s penchant for buying off trouble as long as the regime also paid its huge arms bills, purchased Boeing aircraft, kept the price of oil within reasonable bounds, and allowed the United States to use Saudi air bases to enforce the southern no-fly zone over Iraq and launch occasional military strikes to contain Saddam Hussein.” (Indyk 1/1/2002)
Al-Muqatila, a cover for a Libyan al-Qaeda cell, tries to kill Libyan leader Colonel Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi. Al-Qadhafi survives, but several militants and innocent bystanders are killed. (Bright 10/30/2002) According to David Shayler, a member of the British intelligence agency MI5, and Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié, authors of the controversial book The Forbidden Truth, the British intelligence agency MI6 pays al-Qaeda the equivalent of $160,000 to help fund this assassination attempt. Shayler later goes to prison for revealing this information and the British press is banned from discussing the case (see November 5, 2002). (Lyall 8/5/1998; Bright 11/10/2002) Anas al-Liby, a member of the group, is given political asylum in Britain and lives there until May 2000 despite suspicions that he is an important al-Qaeda figure (see Late 1995-May 2000). He is later implicated in the al-Qaeda bombing of two US embassies in Africa in 1998 (see Late 1993-Late 1994; 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2002; Bright 11/10/2002)
Prior to this year, US intelligence has been uncertain whether Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is connected to al-Qaeda. But this changes when a foreign government shares information that bin Laden and KSM had traveled together to a foreign country the previous year. (US Congress 7/24/2003) The country may have been Brazil, since it has been reported that KSM and bin Laden traveled to Brazil together in 1995 (see December 1995).
Finding a business card for a US flight school in the possession of Operation Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad, the FBI investigates the US flight schools Murad attended. (Fainaru and Grimaldi 9/23/2001) He had trained at about six flight schools off and on, starting in 1990. Apparently, the FBI closes the investigation when they fail to find any other potential suspects. (Insight 5/27/2002) However, Murad had already confessed to Philippine authorities the names of about ten other associates learning to fly in the US, and the Philippine authorities had asserted that they provided this information to the US. Murad detailed how he and a Pakistani friend crisscrossed the US, attending flight schools in New York, Texas, California and North Carolina. The Associated Press reports, “He also identified to Filipino police approximately 10 other Middle Eastern men who met him at the flight schools or were getting similar training. One was a Middle Eastern flight instructor who came to the United States for more training; another a former soldier in the United Arab Emirates. Others came from Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. None of the pilots match the names of the 19 hijackers from Sept. 11.” An assistant manager at a Schenectady, New York, flight school where Murad trained later recalls, “There were several [Middle Eastern pilot students] here. At one point three or four were here. Supposedly they didn’t know each other before, they just happened to show up here at the same time. But they all obviously knew each other.” However, US investigators somehow fail to detect any of these suspects before 9/11, despite being given their names. (Gomez and Solomon 3/5/2002)
The New York Times will later report that Ali Mohamed “[runs] afoul of the bin Laden organization after 1995 because of a murky dispute involving money and [is] no longer trusted by bin Laden lieutenants.” This is according to 1999 court testimony from Khaled Abu el-Dahab, the other known member of Mohamed’s Santa Clara, California, al-Qaeda cell (see 1987-1998). (Sachs 11/21/2001) Another al-Qaeda operative in another trial will claim that in 1994 al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef refused to give Mohamed information because he suspected Mohamed was a US intelligence agent (see 1994). However, despite these accounts, it seems that Mohamed continues to be given sensitive assignments. For instance, later in 1996 he will help bin Laden move from Sudan to Afghanistan (see May 18, 1996), and he will be in contact with many of operatives in Kenya planning the US embassy bombing there until 1998, the year the bombing takes place (see Late 1994). The Associated Press will later comment that it is “unclear is how [Mohamed] was able to maintain his terror ties in the 1990s without being banished by either side, even after the Special Forces documents he had stolen turned up in [a] 1995 New York trial.”(see February 3, 1995) (Hays and Theimer 12/31/2001)
In June 2004, the Los Angeles Times will report that, according to some 9/11 Commission members and US counterterrorism officials, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia cut secret deals with the Taliban and bin Laden before 9/11. These deals date to this year, if not earlier, and will successfully shield both countries from al-Qaeda attacks until long after 9/11. “Saudi Arabia provid[es] funds and equipment to the Taliban and probably directly to bin Laden, and [doesn’t] interfere with al-Qaeda’s efforts to raise money, recruit and train operatives, and establish cells throughout the kingdom, commission and US officials [say]. Pakistan provide[s] even more direct assistance, its military and intelligence agencies often coordinating efforts with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, they [say].” The two countries will become targets of al-Qaeda attacks only after they launch comprehensive efforts to eliminate the organization’s domestic cells. In Saudi Arabia, such efforts won’t begin until late 2003. (Meyer 7/16/2004) However, such allegations go completely unmentioned in the 9/11 Commission’s final report, which only includes material unanimously agreed upon by the ten commissioners. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004)
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. (Risen 6/8/2002; Ross and Scott 2/7/2003) In 1999, the New York Times reports that bin Laden visited al-Thani “in Qatar twice in the mid-1990s.” (Risen and Weiser 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.” (Risen 6/8/2002; Ross and Scott 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.
Author Roland Jacquard will later claim that in 1996, al-Qaeda revives its militant network in Bosnia in the wake of the Bosnian war and uses the Saudi High Commission (SHC) as its main charity front to do so. (Jacquard 2002, pp. 69) This charity was founded in 1993 by Saudi Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz and is so closely linked to and funded by the Saudi government that a US judge will later render it immune to a 9/11-related lawsuit after concluding that it is an organ of the Saudi government. (Hamblett 9/28/2005)
In 1994, British aid worker Paul Goodall is killed in Bosnia execution-style by multiple shots to the back of the head. A SHC employee, Abdul Hadi al-Gahtani, is arrested for the murder and admits the gun used was his, but the Bosnian government lets him go without a trial. Al-Gahtani will later be killed fighting with al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. (Schindler 2007, pp. 143-144)
In 1995, the Bosnian Ministry of Finance raids SHC’s offices and discovers documents that show SHC is “clearly a front for radical and terrorism-related activities.” (Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 145)
In 1995, US aid worker William Jefferson is killed in Bosnia. One of the likely suspects, Ahmed Zuhair Handala, is linked to the SHC. He also is let go, despite evidence linking him to massacres of civilians in Bosnia. (Schindler 2007, pp. 263-264)
In 1997, a Croatian apartment building is bombed, and Handala and two other SHC employees are suspected of the bombing. They escape, but Handala will be captured after 9/11 and sent to Guantanamo prison. (Schindler 2007, pp. 266)
In 1997, SHC employee Saber Lahmar is arrested for plotting to blow up the US embassy in Saravejo. He is convicted, but pardoned and released by the Bosnian government two years later. He will be arrested again in 2002 for involvement in an al-Qaeda plot in Bosnia and sent to Guantanamo prison (see January 18, 2002).
By 1996, NSA wiretaps reveal that Prince Salman is funding Islamic militants using charity fronts (Between 1994 and July 1996).
A 1996 CIA report mentions, “We continue to have evidence that even high ranking members of the collecting or monitoring agencies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Pakistan - such as the Saudi High Commission - are involved in illicit activities, including support for terrorists” (see January 1996).
Jacquard claims that most of the leadership of the SHC supports bin Laden. The SHC, while participating in some legitimate charitable functions, uses its cover to ship illicit goods, drugs, and weapons in and out of Bosnia. In May 1997, a French military report concludes: ”(T)he Saudi High Commission, under cover of humanitarian aid, is helping to foster the lasting Islamization of Bosnia by acting on the youth of the country. The successful conclusion of this plan would provide Islamic fundamentalism with a perfectly positioned platform in Europe and would provide cover for members of the bin Laden organization.” (Jacquard 2002, pp. 69-71)
However, the US will take no action until shortly after 9/11, when it will lead a raid on the SHC’s Bosnia offices. Incriminating documents will be found, including information on how to counterfeit US State Department ID badges, and handwritten notes about meetings with bin Laden. Evidence of a planned attack using crop duster planes is found as well. (Schindler 2007, pp. 129, 284) Yet even after all this, the Bosnian government will still refuse to shut down SHC’s offices and they apparently remain open (see January 25, 2002).
US intelligence obtains information concerning a suicide attack on the White House planned by individuals connected with Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and a key al-Qaeda operative. The plan is to fly from Afghanistan to the US and crash into the White House. (US Congress 9/18/2002)
In late 1995, Ahmed Said Khadr is arrested in Pakistan for a suspected role in the November 1995 bombing of the Egyptian embassy in that country (see November 19, 1995). Khadr was born an Egyptian and became a Canadian citizen, and is an employee of Human Concern International (HCI), a Canadian-based charity. (Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 276-277)
Smuggling During the Afghan War - The Canadian government was already aware of Khadr’s militant ties before the bombing. In the late 1980s, a federal Canadian official was asked by a diplomat in Pakistan about Khadr. The official did not know who that was, so the diplomat explained that Khadr was involved in smuggling Saudi money into Afghanistan while using HCI as a cover. This person further said that, “For months, the Afghan scene in Islamabad buzzed with this and other information” about Khadr. This was passed on to other parts of the Canadian government, but no action was taken. (Bell 9/6/2002)
Khadr Released Due to Hunger Strike - After his late 1995 arrest, Khadr begins a hunger strike from within a Pakistani prison. In January 1996, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien visits Pakistan and, in response to popular pressure caused by the hunger strike, asks the Pakistani government to release him. Khadr is released several months later. He returns to Canada and stops working with HCI, but starts a new charity called Health and Education Project International. (Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 276-277)
HCI Linked to Al-Qaeda - A January 1996 CIA report claims that the entire Peshawar, Pakistan, HCI branch that Khadr heads is staffed by Islamist militants and that its Swedish branch is smuggling weapons to Bosnia (see January 1996). In a June 1996 interview with an Egyptian weekly, Osama bin Laden surprisingly identifies HCI as a significant supporter of al-Qaeda. (Emerson 2006, pp. 398, 423)
Monitoring Khadr's Associates - Also around 1996, the Canadian intelligence agency CSIS begins monitoring several suspected radical militants living in Canada. The CSIS will later call one of them, Mahmoud Jaballah, an “established contact” of Khadr. (Canadian Security Intelligence Service 2/22/2008 ) Another, Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub, will also be called a contact of Khadr. (Canadian Security Intelligence Service 2/22/2008 ) The CSIS has yet to reveal details of when such contacts are made, except in the case of Mohamed Harkat. It will be mentioned that in March 1997 Harkat is recorded saying that he is about to meet Khadr in Ottawa, Canada. (Canadian Security Intelligence Service 2/22/2008 )
Wanted Again in Pakistan - On September 5, 1998, the Globe and Mail will report that Khadr is wanted in Pakistan again for his role in the Egyptian embassy bombing. A Pakistani official says that Khadr is living in Afghanistan, has contacts with Osama bin Laden, and is using his charity as a cover for smuggling and banking transactions. The executive director of HCI tells the newspaper that Khadr was last seen in Ottawa, Canada, about three months earlier, and, “We do learn once in a while that he was in Pakistan or Canada or moving back and forth.” (Stackhouse 9/5/1998)
Listed by UN - In January 2001, the United Nations places Khadr on a list of those who support terrorism associated with bin Laden. (Canadian Security Intelligence Service 2/22/2008 )
But despite all this, there is no evidence the Canadian government attempts to arrest or even indict him before 9/11. (The Egyptian government does pressure the Pakistani ISI to capture him in the summer of 2001 (Summer 2001).) Khadr will be killed in Pakistan in October 2003. It will eventually emerge that he was a founding member of al-Qaeda and an important leader of that group (see October 2, 2003).
David Cohen, head of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, wants to test the idea of having a “virtual station,” which is a station based at CIA headquarters and focusing on one target. He chooses Michael Scheuer to run it. Scheuer is running the Islamic Extremist Branch of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center at the time and had suggested creating a station to focus just on bin Laden. The new unit, commonly called Alec Station, begins operations in February 1996 (see February 1996). The 9/11 Commission will later comment that Scheuer had already “noticed a recent stream of reports about bin Laden and something called al-Qaeda.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 109) It has been widely reported that US intelligence was unaware of the term al-Qaeda until after defector Jamal al-Fadl revealed it later in 1996 (see June 1996-April 1997). But Billy Waugh, an independent contractor hired by the CIA to spy on bin Laden and others in Sudan in 1991 to 1992, will later claim that the CIA was aware of the term al-Qaeda back then (see February 1991- July 1992). And double agent Ali Mohamed revealed the term to the FBI in 1993 (see May 1993). The term will first be used by the media in August 1996 (see August 14, 1996).
The CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center creates a special unit focusing specifically on bin Laden. It is informally called Alec Station. About 10 to 15 individuals are assigned to the unit initially. This grows to about 35 to 40 by 9/11. (US Congress 9/18/2002) The unit is set up “largely because of evidence linking [bin Laden] to the 1993 bombing of the WTC.” (Gellman 10/3/2001) Newsweek will comment after 9/11, “With the Cold War over, the Mafia in retreat, and the drug war unwinnable, the CIA and FBI were eager to have a new foe to fight.… Historical rivals, the spies and G-men were finally learning to work together. But they didn’t necessarily share secrets with the alphabet soup of other enforcement and intelligence agencies, like Customs and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and they remained aloof from the Pentagon. And no amount of good will or money could bridge a fundamental divide between intelligence and law enforcement. Spies prefer to watch and wait; cops want to get their man.” (Hosenball 10/1/2001) Michael Scheuer will lead the unit until 1999. He will later become a vocal critic of the US government’s efforts to combat terrorism. He later recalls that while bin Laden is mostly thought of merely as a terrorist financier at this time, “we had run across bin Laden in a lot of different places, not personally but in terms of his influence, either through rhetoric, through audiotapes, through passports, through money-he seemed to turn up everywhere. So when we [created the unit], the first responsibility was to find out if he was a threat.” (Zeman et al. 11/2004) By the start of 1997, the unit will conclude bin Laden is a serious threat (see Early 1997).
It will later be revealed in a US trial that, by this time, US intelligence agents are aware that an al-Qaeda cell exists in Kenya. (In fact, it may have been aware of this since late 1994 (see Late 1994)). (Kelly 1/1/2001) Further evidence confirming and detailing the cell is discovered in May and June of 1996 (see May 21, 1996). By August 1996, US intelligence is continually monitoring five telephone lines in Nairobi used by the cell members, such as Wadih El-Hage. The tapping reveals that the cell is providing false passports and other documents to operatives. They are sending coded telephone numbers to and from al-Qaeda headquarters in Afghanistan. The surveillance is apparently being conducted without the required approval of either President Clinton or Attorney General Janet Reno. (Associated Press 12/19/2000; Kelly 1/1/2001) Prudence Bushnell, the US ambassador to Kenya, will be briefed about the cell in early 1997, but will be told there is no evidence of a specific threat against the embassy or American interests in Kenya. (Risen and Weiser 1/9/1999) Ali Mohamed, an al-Qaeda double agent living in California, will later admit in US court that he had been in long distance contact with Wadih El-Hage, one of the leaders of the cell, since at least 1996. It will also be revealed that US intelligence had been wiretapping Mohamed’s California phone calls since at least 1994 (see Late 1994), so presumably US intelligence is recording calls between Mohamed and the Kenya cell from both ends. The Nairobi phone taps continue until at least August 1997, when Kenyan and US agents conduct a joint search of El-Hage’s Nairobi house (see August 21, 1997). (United States of America v. Ali Mohamed 10/20/2000; Associated Press 12/19/2000; Kelly 1/1/2001)
According to counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna, US intelligence monitoring al-Qaeda communications learn that al-Qaeda is canceling an attack on Western targets in Singapore. On April 18, 1996, 108 Lebanese civilians seeking refuge at a UN camp in Qana, Lebanon, are killed by mortars fired by Israeli forces. Bin Laden “was keen not to dissipate what he envisaged as widespread revulsion against Israel’s action and hence called off the strike in Southeast Asia. Al-Qaeda’s team in question was very determined to go ahead, having spent years preparing the attack, and according to the intercepts it proved difficult for Osama to convince it otherwise.” Gunaratna claims the US learned this through the NSA’s Echelon satellite network (see Before September 11, 2001) “and other technical monitoring of their communications traffic.” (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 133-134) If true, this case supports other evidence that the US was successfully monitoring bin Laden’s communications from an early date (see Early 1990s) and that al-Qaeda’s Southeast Asia operations were penetrated years before an important al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia discussing the 9/11 plot (see January 5-8, 2000).
Al-Qaeda begins using an important communications hub and operations center in Yemen. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 2-3, 16, 188) The hub is set up because al-Qaeda is headquartered in Afghanistan, but requires another location that has access to regular telephone services and major air links. It is located in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, in the neighbourhood of Madbah. Ahmed al-Hada, an associate of Osama bin Laden’s who fought in Afghanistan, runs the hub and lives there with his family. (Bamford 2008, pp. 7-8) Terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna will say that the hub is used as a switchboard to “divert and receive calls and messages from the [Middle East] region and beyond.” (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 2-3, 16, 188) FBI agent Mark Rossini will say, “That house was a focal point for operatives in the field to call in, that number would then contact bin Laden to pass along information and receive instruction back.” (PBS 2/3/2009) Author James Bamford will add: “[T]he house in Yemen became the epicenter of bin Laden’s war against America, a logistics base to coordinate attacks, a switchboard to pass on orders, and a safe house where his field commanders could meet to discuss and carry out operations.” Bin Laden himself places many calls to the house, and it is used to coordinate the attacks on US embassies in East Africa in 1998 and the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. Future 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar also lives at the house at some point in the late 1990s with his wife Hoda, al-Hada’s daughter. (Bamford 2008, pp. 8)
French intelligence secretly monitors a meeting of Saudi billionaires at the Hotel Royale Monceau in Paris this month with the financial representative of al-Qaeda. “The Saudis, including a key Saudi prince joined by Muslim and non-Muslim gun traffickers, [meet] to determine who would pay how much to Osama. This [is] not so much an act of support but of protection—a payoff to keep the mad bomber away from Saudi Arabia.” (Palast 2002, pp. 100) Participants also agree that Osama bin Laden should be rewarded for promoting Wahhabism (an austere form of Islam that requires literal interpretation of the Koran) in Chechnya, Kashmir, Bosnia, and other places. (Brisard 10/29/2003 ) This extends an alleged secret deal first made between the Saudi government and bin Laden in 1991. Later, 9/11 victims’ relatives will rely on the “nonpublished French intelligence report” of this meeting in their lawsuit against important Saudis. (Gordon 8/16/2002) According to French counterterrorism expert Jean-Charles Brisard and/or reporter Greg Palast, there are about 20 people at the meeting, including Saudi intelligence head Prince Turki al-Faisal, an unnamed brother of bin Laden, and an unnamed representative from the Saudi Defense Ministry. (Brisard 10/29/2003 ; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 10/29/2003) Palast will claim that Saudi businessman Abdullah Taha Bakhsh attends the meeting. Bakhsh saved George W. Bush’s Harken Oil from bankruptcy around 1990. Palast will claim the notorious Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi also attends the meeting. (Democracy Now! 3/4/2003; Bosse 3/20/2003) In a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner, Slate will claim that Khashoggi is a “shadowy international arms merchant” who is “connected to every scandal of the past 40 years.” Amongst other things, he was a major investor in BCCI and a key player in the Iran-Contra affair. (Noah 12/4/2000; Noah 11/14/2001; Noah 3/12/2003) Palast, noting that the French monitored the meeting, will ask, “Since US intelligence was thus likely informed, the question becomes why didn’t the government immediately move against the Saudis?” (Palast 2002, pp. 100)
After pressure from the US (see March-May 1996), the Sudanese government asks bin Laden to leave the country. He decides to go to Afghanistan. He departs along with many other al-Qaeda members, plus much money and resources. Bin Laden flies to Afghanistan in a C-130 transport plane with an entourage of about 150 men, women, and children, stopping in Doha, Qatar, to refuel, where governmental officials greet him warmly. (McDermott 9/1/2002; Coll 2004, pp. 325) The US knows in advance that bin Laden is going to Afghanistan, but does nothing to stop him. Sudan’s defense minister Elfatih Erwa later says in an interview, “We warned [the US]. In Sudan, bin Laden and his money were under our control. But we knew that if he went to Afghanistan no one could control him. The US didn’t care; they just didn’t want him in Somalia. It’s crazy.” (Gellman 10/3/2001; Gould 10/31/2001) US-al-Qaeda double agent Ali Mohamed handles security during the move. (Sullivan and Neff 10/21/2001)
While al-Qaeda operative Jamal al-Fadl gives a treasure trove of useful information on al-Qaeda to US intelligence (see June 1996-April 1997), one person he describes in detail is Wali Khan Amin Shah. Shah was one of the plotters of the Operation Bojinka plot (see February 7, 1995). Al-Fadl reveals that Shah has al-Qaeda ties. Author Peter Lance notes that US intelligence should have concluded that Shah’s fellow Operation Bojinka plotter, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), also has al-Qaeda ties. However, there is no new effort to find KSM, and he later goes on to mastermind the 9/11 attacks. (Lance 2003, pp. 330-31)
Jamal al-Fadl, an al-Qaeda operative from al-Qaeda’s first meeting in the late 1980s until 1995, tells the US everything he knows about al-Qaeda. Before al-Fadl’s debriefings, US intelligence had amassed thick files on bin Laden and his associates and contacts. However, they had had no idea how the many pieces fit together. But an official says. “After al-Fadl, everything fell into place.” (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 154-65) The New Yorker will later call al-Fadl “arguably the United States’ most valuable informant on al-Qaeda.” FBI agent Dan Coleman will later say on al-Fadl, “He’s been very, very important to us. When it comes to understanding al-Qaeda, he’s the Rosetta Stone.” FBI agent Mike Anticev will similarly say, “He spoke to us in great detail, and everything that he told us panned out.” CIA officials debrief al-Fadl for a month and a half. Then the CIA hands him, and transcripts of all their interviews with him, over to the FBI. (Mayer 9/11/2006) Coleman and US prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald interrogate al-Fadl at a US military base in Germany for months. (Lance 2006, pp. 261) Roughly between November 1996 and April 1997, al-Fadl tells the FBI about:
The historical background of al-Qaeda. Al-Fadl was one of al-Qaeda’s founding members (see August 11-20, 1988).
The structure of al-Qaeda and its leadership composition.
Al-Qaeda’s objectives and direction.
Its financial infrastructure and networks. Al-Fadl has extensive knowledge of this because he worked as an al-Qaeda financial officer (see December 1996-January 1997).
Its connections and collaboration with other terrorist groups and supporters.
Its activities against US soldiers in Somalia (see October 3-4, 1993).
Its activities in Bosnia. Al-Fadl was sent there on several missions (see Autumn 1992 and Autumn 1992).
The Al-Kifah Refugee Center, al-Qaeda’s most important charity front in the US. Al-Fadl worked there in the 1980s (see 1986-1993).
Bin Laden’s efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Al-Fadl was personally involved in an effort to buy uranium for al-Qaeda (see Late 1993). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 479)
Bin Laden’s plans to attack either inside the US or US embassies (see Late 1996).
Al-Fadl continues to help US intelligence until current day. For instance, in 2000, he will help US officials capture his brother-in-law, Mohammed Suliman al-Nalfi, who is said to be close to Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Nalfi will eventually be sentenced to ten years in prison in the US. Al-Fadl will have no knowledge of the 9/11 plot, but he will continue to identify captured al-Qaeda operatives after 9/11. (Mayer 9/11/2006) Interestingly, al-Fadl, a Sudanese citizen, will later claim that he worked with the Sudanese intelligence agency with the direct approval of bin Laden. (Day 2. United States of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al. 2/6/2001)
In 1996, al-Qaeda assumes control of Ariana Airlines, Afghanistan’s national airline, for use in its illegal trade network. Passenger flights become few and erratic, as planes are used to fly drugs, weapons, gold, and personnel, primarily between Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Pakistan. The Emirate of Sharjah, in the UAE, becomes a hub for al-Qaeda drug and arms smuggling. Typically, “large quantities of drugs” are flown from Kandahar, Afghanistan, to Sharjah, and large quantities of weapons are flown back to Afghanistan. (Williams 11/18/2001) About three to four flights run the route each day. Many weapons come from Victor Bout, a notorious Russian arms dealer based in Sharjah. (Pasternak and Braun 1/20/2002) Afghan taxes on opium production are paid in gold, and then the gold bullion is flown to Dubai, UAE, and laundered into cash. (Farah 2/17/2002) Taliban officials regularly provide militants with false papers identifying them as Ariana Airlines employees so they can move freely around the world. For instance, one flight on a Ariana small plane in 2000 lists 33 crew members. A former National Security Council official later claims the US is well aware at the time that al-Qaeda agents regularly fly on Ariana Airlines. (However, US intelligence will not learn of the widespread use of forged Ariana IDs until after 9/11.) The CIA learns of Bout’s connection to Ariana and the Taliban in 1998, but takes no action (see 1998). The US presses the UAE for tighter banking controls, but moves “delicately, not wanting to offend an ally in an already complicated relationship,” and little changes by 9/11. (Williams 11/18/2001; Farah and Braun 2007, pp. 139) Much of the money for the 9/11 hijackers flows though these Sharjah, UAE, channels. There also are reports suggesting that Ariana Airlines might have been used to train Islamic militants as pilots. The illegal use of Ariana Airlines helps convince the United Nations to impose sanctions against Afghanistan in 1999, but the sanctions lack teeth and do not stop the airline. A second round of sanctions finally stops foreign Ariana Airlines flights, but its charter flights and other charter services keep the illegal network running. (Williams 11/18/2001) About nine of the 9/11 hijackers work at the Kandahar airport in 2000, which is Ariana’s main hub (see Summer 2000).
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