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Profile: Ali Shinawy

Ali Shinawy was a participant or observer in the following events:

Fawaz Damra.Fawaz Damra. [Source: Associated Press]By the mid-1980s, Osama bin Laden and his mentor Abdullah Azzam jointly founded a charity front based in Pakistan which is called Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) (which means “services office”) and is also known as Al-Kifah (which means “struggle”) (see 1984). Branches start to open in the US; the first one apparently opens in Tucson, Arizona, where al-Qaeda has a sleeper cell (see 1986). But around 1986, Khaled Abu el-Dahab, the right hand man of double agent Ali Mohamed, informally founds the branch in Brooklyn, New York, and it soon becomes the most important US branch. (Weiser, Sachs, and Kocieniewski 10/22/1998; Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 269-270) On December 29, 1987, three men, Mustafa Shalabi, Fawaz Damra, and Ali Shinawy, formally file papers incorporating Al-Kifah, which is called the Al-Kifah Refugee Center. At first, it is located inside the Al Farouq mosque, which is led by Damra. But eventually it will get it own office space next to the mosque. Shalabi, a naturalized citizen from Egypt, runs the office with two assistants: Mahmud Abouhalima, who will later be convicted for a role in bombing the World Trade Center in 1993 (see February 26, 1993), and El Sayyid Nosair, who will assassinate a Jewish leader in New York in 1990 (see November 5, 1990). (Mitchell 4/11/1993; Hosenball 10/1/2001; Sullivan, Garrett, and Rutchick 11/4/2001) Jamal al-Fadl, a founding member of al-Qaeda and future FBI informant (see June 1996-April 1997), also works at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in its early days. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 155) The Brooklyn office recruits Arab immigrants and Arab-Americans to go fight in Afghanistan, even after the Soviets withdraw in early 1989. As many as 200 are sent there from the office. Before they go, the office arranges training in the use of rifles, assault weapons, and handguns, and then helps them with visas, plane tickets, and contacts. They are generally sent to the MAK/Al-Kifah office in Peshawar, Pakistan, and then connected to either the radical Afghan faction led by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf or the equally radical one led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. (Mitchell 4/11/1993) The CIA has some murky connection to Al-Kifah that has yet to be fully explained. Newsweek will later say the Brooklyn office “doubled as a recruiting post for the CIA seeking to steer fresh troops to the mujaheddin” fighting in Afghanistan. At the same time, the Brooklyn office is where “veterans of [the Afghan war arrived] in the United States—many with passports arranged by the CIA.” (Hosenball 10/1/2001) Robert I. Friedman, writing for New York magazine, will comment that the Brooklyn office was a refuge for ex- and future mujaheddin, “But the highlight for the center’s regulars were the inspirational jihad lecture series, featuring CIA-sponsored speakers.… One week on Atlantic Avenue, it might be a CIA-trained Afghan rebel traveling on a CIA-issued visa; the next, it might be a clean-cut Arabic-speaking Green Beret, who would lecture about the importance of being part of the mujaheddin, or ‘warriors of the Lord.’ The more popular lectures were held upstairs in the roomier Al-Farouq Mosque; such was the case in 1990 when Sheikh [Omar] Abdul-Rahman, traveling on a CIA-supported visa, came to town.” One frequent instructor is double agent Ali Mohamed, who is in the US Special Forces at the time (see 1987-1989). Bin Laden’s mentor Azzam frequently visits and lectures in the area. In 1988, he tells “a rapt crowd of several hundred in Jersey City, ‘Blood and martyrdom are the only way to create a Muslim society.… However, humanity won’t allow us to achieve this objective, because all humanity is the enemy of every Muslim.’” (Friedman 3/17/1995) Ayman Al-Zawahiri, future Al-Qaeda second in command, makes a recruiting trip to the office in 1989 (see Spring 1993). (Wright 9/9/2002) The Brooklyn office also raises a considerable amount of money for MAK/Al-Kifah back in Pakistan. The Independent will later call the office “a place of pivotal importance to Operation Cyclone, the American effort to support the mujaheddin. The Al-Kifah [Refugee Center was] raising funds and, crucially, providing recruits for the struggle, with active American assistance.” (Marshall 11/1/1998) Abdul-Rahman, better known as the “Blind Sheikh,” is closely linked to bin Laden. In 1990, he moves to New York on another CIA-supported visa (see July 1990) and soon dominates the Al-Kifah Refugee Center. Shalabi has a falling out with him over how to spend the money they raise and he is killed in mysterious circumstances in early 1991, completing Abdul-Rahman’s take over. Now, both the Brooklyn and Pakistan ends of the Al-Kifah/MAK network are firmly controlled by bin Laden and his close associates. In 1998, the US government will say that al-Qaeda’s “connection to the United States evolved from the Al-Kifah Refugee Center.” Yet there is no sign that the CIA stops its relationship with the Brooklyn office before it closes down shortly after the 1993 WTC bombing. (Weiser, Sachs, and Kocieniewski 10/22/1998)

Emad Salem.Emad Salem. [Source: National Geographic]In mid-June 1992, FBI informant Emad Salem talks to El Sayyid Nosair, who is in prison for killing Zionist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane (see November 5, 1990). Nosair and an associate of his named Ali Shinawy reveal to Salem that their group (all of whom are close to Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman) is plotting to set off bombs at twelve “Jewish locations” in New York City, including temples and banks. A few days later, Nossair’s cousin Ibrahim El-Gabrowny introduces Salem to “Dr. Rashid,” which is an alias for Clement Rodney Hampton-El, although Salem does not know that yet. “Dr. Rashid” says he is unable to get the remote bomb detonators the group wants, but he can get already assembled pipe bombs for about $1,000 apiece, and guns. Salem and Shinawy agree to find a warehouse where they can build the bombs. Salem tells all of this to his FBI handlers Louis Napoli and John Anticev, but their boss, Carson Dunbar, insists that Salem has to wear a wire so they can record conversations in order to get the evidence to make a convincing court case against the plotters. But Salem, who is only being paid $500 a week to inform for the FBI, refuses to wear a wire, saying it is too dangerous. The FBI had been able to corroborate most of Salem’s information through their own surveillance such as the monitoring of Nosair’s calls from prison. But even though Salem is easily the FBI’s best source of information on Abdul-Rahman’s group, the FBI fires Salem in early July 1991. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 70-75) The FBI had a long tradition of having pure intelligence agents who did not wear wires. One FBI source will later note that the FBI could have easily gotten what they needed to make a criminal case without Salem wearing a wire. “It would just take a little more work. We’d have to take his leads and do surveillance. Follow these guys and contain the threat. This is what the FBI does.” (Lance 2003, pp. 92) Author Peter Lance will later comment that without Salem, “Now, when it came to Nosair, the bombing plot, and Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, the [FBI] was essentially flying blind.” The FBI will be unaware as the “Jewish locations” plot morphs into a plot to bomb the World Trade Center over the next several months. (Lance 2003, pp. 92)


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