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a.k.a. Dr. Rashid, Abdul Rashid Abdullah
Bin Laden’s mentor Abdullah Azzam frequently travels all over the world with the apparent support of the CIA. Slate will later write, “Azzam trotted the globe during the 1980s to promote the Afghan jihad against the Soviets. By the time of his death in 1989, he had recruited between 16,000 and 20,000 mujaheddin from 20 countries to Afghanistan, visited 50 American cities to advance his cause, and dispatched acolytes to spread the gospel in 26 US states, not to mention across the Middle East and Europe.” Slate calls him “the Lenin of international jihad,” noting that he “didn’t invent his movement’s ideas, but he furthered them and put them into practice around the world.” (Suellentrop 4/16/2002) At the time, the US is supporting the Afghans fighting the Soviets and it will later be alleged that the CIA supported Azzam as part of this effort. Barnett Rubin, a Columbia University professor and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, will claim in 1995 that sources told him Azzam was “enlisted” by the CIA to help unite the fractious Afghan rebel groups. Rubin claims Azzam was considered a prime asset because of his “close connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi intelligence, and the Muslim World League.” But Azzam made no secret of his desire for a no compromise jihad to conquer the entire world. In 1988 in New Jersey, he says, “Blood and martyrdom are the only way to create a Muslim society” and he wants “to ignite the spark that may one day burn Western interests all over the world.” He is frequently accompanied on his US lecture tours by El-Sayyid Nosair and Clement Rodney Hampton-El, both of whom will later be convicted of al-Qaeda-linked attacks in the US. (Friedman 3/17/1995) CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) Executive Director Nihad Awad is a leader in the IAP (Islamic Association for Palestine) at this time. ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) affiliates, such as IAP and the MAYA (Muslim Arab Youth Association), host Azzam and arrange his visits to Islamic centers throughout the US. (Braude 2/27/2007)
FBI agents photograph Islamic radicals shooting weapons at the Calverton Shooting Range, on Long Island, New York. The group is secretly monitored as they shoot AK-47 assault rifles, semiautomatic handguns, and revolvers for four successive weekends. The use of weapons such as AK-47’s are illegal in the US, but this shooting range is known to be unusually permissive. Ali Mohamed is apparently not at the range but has been training the five men there: El Sayyid Nosair, Mahmud Abouhalima, Mohammed Salameh, Nidal Ayyad, and Clement Rodney Hampton-El. Nosair will assassinate Rabbi Meir Kahane one year later (see November 5, 1990), and the others except for Hampton-El will be convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), while Hampton-El will be convicted for a role in the “Landmarks” bombing plot (see June 24, 1993). Some FBI agents have been assigned to watch some Middle Eastern men who are frequenting the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn. Each weekend, Mohamed’s trainees drive from Al-Kifah to the shooting range, and a small FBI surveillance team follows them. The FBI has been given a tip that some Palestinians at Al-Kifah are planning violence targeting Atlantic City casinos. By August, the casino plot fails to materialize, and the surveillance, including that at the shooting range, comes to an end. Author Peter Lance will later say that why the FBI failed to follow up the shooting sessions is a “great unanswered question.” (Lance 2003, pp. 29-33; New York Times 10/5/2003)
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)
In mid-November 1992, Garrett Wilson, an FBI informant who sells military equipment and conducts paramilitary training, is contacted by someone named “Dr. Rashid.” Wilson had previously been contacted by Abu Ubaidah Yahya, the security chief at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, a charity front tied to both al-Qaeda and the CIA (see 1986-1993). Wilson’s FBI handlers are excited to learn about this because in June 1992, a “Dr. Rashid” had met with FBI informant Emad Salem and offered to supply bombs and guns (see Early July 1992). The FBI runs a background check and determines “Dr. Rashid” is really Clement Rodney Hampton-El, who works at a hospital in Long Island. The also learn from phone records that he has recently made calls to the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. On December 20, 1992, Wilson meets with Yahya and Hampton-El. They tell him that they want him to train eight to ten men for an international jihad battalion separate from another small group Al-Kifah wants Wilson to help train (see October 3, 1992). Hampton-El says he will provide AK-47s for the training sessions, but is looking for detonator caps, which are needed to make bombs. He also says the group will be sent to fight in Bosnia, but they are asking to be instructed in sniper firing and frontal assaults on buildings. Wilson tells FBI agent Tommy Corrigan, “It sounds to me like they either want to kidnap or kill someone.” Corrigan and other FBI agents are alarmed. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 83-84)
Clement Rodney Hampton-El will later admit that he had been smuggling money into the US for military training from the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA). (USA v. Benevolence International Foundation and Enaam M. Arnaout 4/29/2002, pp. 6-7 ) Hampton-El is linked to Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and the Al-Kifah Refugee Center and will later be given a long prison term for involvement in the “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993). He makes several trips to Europe in 1992-1993, raising over $150,000 to fund a Pennsylvania training camp (see Late 1992-Early 1993). After one trip to Vienna, Austria (where TWRA has its headquarters), he returns to the US with $20,000 hidden in his pants to avoid the scrutiny of US customs officers. (United Press International 8/2/1995) At the time, TWRA is funneling huge amounts of weapons into Bosnia in violation of a UN embargo but with the tacit approval of the US (see Mid-1991-1996). Hampton-El also travels to Bosnia around this time. (Kohlmann 2004, pp. 73-74)
Clement Rodney Hampton-El, one of the 1993 “Landmarks” bombers (see June 24, 1993), is summoned to the Saudi Embassy in Washington and told that wealthy Saudis are sponsoring fighters in Bosnia. Hampton-El has longstanding links to the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), which is closely tied to the Saudi government (see October 12, 2001). He is given $150,000 to recruit and train people in the US to fight in Bosnia. (Schindler 2007, pp. 121-122) He starts a militant training camp in Pennsylvania that same month (see December 1992-Early February 1993) and gets $150,000 overseas from a bin Laden linked charity front (it is not known if this is the same $150,000 or additional money) (see Late 1992-Early 1993). The Saudi embassy also introduces him to a radical imam named Bilal Philips. Philips, a Canadian citizen and author on Islamic topics, has been employed by the Saudi government since early 1991 to proselytize among US soldiers stationed in Saudi Arabia (see March-September 1991). Philips gives Hampton-El a list of likely candidates who are ex-US soldiers that Philips recently helped convert to Islam. (Schindler 2007, pp. 121-122) That same month, 14 ex-US soldiers go to Bosnia to fight and train there (see December 1992-June 1993). They are led by double agent Ali Mohamed, who, like Hampton-El, is closely tied to the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in New York.
Siddig Siddig Ali, Abdo Mohammed Haggag, Abu Ubaidah Yahya, Mohammed Abouhalima, and others train at a militant training camp in New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania, with weapons and ammunition provided by Yahya and Clement Rodney Hampton-El (see February 21, 1995). Abouhalima will later be convicted for a role in the 1993 WTC bombing, as will his brother (see February 26, 1993) while the others mentioned will be convicted for roles in the related “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993). (USA v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel-Rahman et al 7/13/1995, pp. 9) Yahya is the chief instructor, as he is an ex-US Marine who served two tours in Vietnam and teaches at a martial arts academy. Siddig Ali will later say of Yahya, “[H]e’s decorated and has a lot of medals… [and he was] a great trainer…” The training even includes mock nighttime assaults on a nearby electric power substation. (Kohlmann 2004, pp. 73) An FBI informant named Garrett Wilson helps lead the FBI to the camp, and the FBI monitors it for two days, January 16 and 17, but the monitoring team is mysteriously pulled away before the end of the second day (see January 16-17, 1993). In a wiretapped conversation with an FBI informant (most likely Wilson), Siddig Ali says regarding the camp, “Our goal is that these people get extensive and very, very, very good training, so that we can get started at anyplace where jihad (holy war) is needed… And after they receive their training, they go to Bosnia… And whoever survives, I mean, could come and [instruct] somewhere else, or Egypt, or any other place, etc…” (Kohlmann 2004, pp. 73) Hampton-El makes trips to Europe to pick up money from the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA) charity front to fund the camp (see Late 1992-Early 1993). TWRA is funneling huge amounts of weapons into Bosnia in violation of a UN embargo but with the tacit approval of the US (see Mid-1991-1996).
Garrett Wilson, a paramilitary trainer and gun seller working as an FBI informant, meets with Clement Rodney Hampton-El and Abu Ubaidah Yahya at a Brooklyn restaurant on January 7, 1993. Yahya is the security chief of the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, a charity front tied to both al-Qaeda and the CIA (see 1986-1993), and Hampton-El is also tied to Al-Kifah. They had already met Wilson and discussed hiring him to give weapons training to a small group (see Mid-November-December 20, 1992). They agree that, starting on January 13, Wilson will train the group for five days at a New Jersey shooting range and will get paid $5,000 for doing so. (This is not to be confused with other training going on the same month taught by Yahya in Pennsylvania (see December 1992-Early February 1993).) The FBI plans to monitor the training and follow all of the participants. But FBI superior Carson Dunbar learns of the plan just before the training is to begin and expresses concern that the FBI could be training potential terrorists. He dramatically cuts down what Wilson is allowed to teach, so much so that his FBI handlers are worried Wilson will be immediately exposed as a US agent and killed. Then, as Wilson is getting in his car to drive to the training site, Carson cancels the operation altogether. Luckily for Wilson, he has a good alibi for not attending, so his cover is not blown. But other FBI agents are furious at Dunbar’s behavior. It is not known who would have attended, but Hampton-El and Yahya are loosely connected to many of the 1993 WTC bombers. The authors of the 2002 book The Cell will later comment that the FBI “was just a whisper away from the World Trade Center plot.” (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 87-90)
Garrett Wilson, a paramilitary trainer and gun seller working as an FBI informant, had made an agreement to give weapons training to a group of radical militants, but the FBI canceled the plan at the last minute after FBI superior Carson Dunbar worried the FBI could be training future terrorists. Wilson had made the arrangement with Clement Rodney Hampton-El and Abu Ubaidah Yahya, both of whom are connected to the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, which is linked to al-Qaeda and the CIA (see 1986-1993). But while the training has been canceled, Wilson’s cover as an informant has not been blown yet and his FBI handlers realize that Wilson would still have to give Hampton-El some equipment he’d bought for him. His FBI handlers Tommy Corrigan and John Liguori proposes that Wilson meet Hampton-El so the FBI can monitor the meeting and see where the trail leads. This time, they avoid Dunbar and get permission from a different supervisor, Neil Herman. Wilson goes to meet Hampton-El at a New Jersey hotel on January 15, 1993. Hampton-El isn’t there, but Yahya is, along with two others that Wilson does not know. Wilson hands off the equipment (weapons and military manuals) and quickly leaves, and then the FBI tails the others as they leave. Yahya returns in one car to the Al-Kifah office, where he is the security chief. The others go in another car to the apartment where the Blind Shiekh, Shiekh Omar Abdul-Rahman, lives. The FBI quickly determines the other two men at the meeting are Abdo Mohammed Haggag, Abdul-Rahman’s speechwriter, and Siddig Siddig Ali, Abdul-Rahman’s Sudanese translator. Corrigan, Liguori, and other FBI agents are stunned by the connections to Abdul-Rahman, who is a well-known public figure. But they will only be allowed to follow up for several days before the surveillance operation is canceled. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 87-90)
On January 15, 1993, FBI informant Garrett Wilson had led the FBI to a meeting attended by Abu Ubaidah Yahya, Abdo Mohammed Haggag, and Siddig Siddig Ali (see January 15, 1993). Yahya is security chief for the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, a charity front tied to both al-Qaeda and the CIA (see 1986-1993), and Haggag and Siddig Ali both work with the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, who is also closely linked to Al-Kifah. Suspecting a violent plot, FBI agents have a plan to continuously monitor Yahya, Haggag, and Ali from when they leave the meeting, and for the next couple of days that is what they do. On January 16, Yahya leads the FBI to Jersey City, New Jersey, where he is holding exercises for a group of Sudanese and Middle Eastern men. Then the FBI follows Yahya and this group he is leading to a militant training camp on a farm in New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania. A squad of investigators watch them practicing martial arts, sniper firing, and rappelling. The agents think that they recognize one of the trainees as Mahmud Abouhalima, who they already strongly suspect was involved in the 1990 assassination of a Jewish leader (see November 5, 1990). (In fact, the trainee is his brother Mohammed - both of them are tall and red-headed.) However, on January 17, FBI supervisor Carson Dunbar calls the squad away from the training camp, preventing them from following the suspects as they return to their homes that evening. The FBI squad is upset, as they are sure following the suspects to their homes would lead to many new identifications and leads. Dunbar claims the surveillance is costing too much money and effectively shuts down further surveillance of everyone but Yahya and Clement Rodney Hampton-El, who has been working with Yahya, and only when they’re in close range of the FBI New York office. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 90-91) Yahya will continue to train his group at the Pennsylvania camp through early February (see December 1992-Early February 1993), but apparently without further FBI surveillance of them.
In June 1993, Abu Ubaidah Yahya will tell the New York Times that early in the year he went to Bosnia with several other Muslims from the New York region to help embattled Bosnian Muslims “with technical advice and medical aid.” (Clines 6/26/1993) Yahya is an ex-US Marine connected to numerous figures in the 1993 WTC bombing and “Landmarks” bombing plots, and US intelligence had him under surveillance since January 1993 (see January 7-13, 1993), although how intensive the surveillance was is unknown. The FBI is aware that Yahya repeatedly travels in the spring of 1993 to Vienna, Austria, to pick up money from the Bosnian-linked Third World Relief Agency charity front (see Early April 1993), so presumably he goes to nearby Bosnia on some or all of those trips. It is likely he and his group actually go to Bosnia to fight, since one of his associates told an FBI informant that Yahya and a group of about ten men he trained were going to fight in Bosnia once their training session was over, and the training ended in February 1993 (see December 1992-Early February 1993). Saudis also gave Yahya’s close associate Clement Rodney Hampton-El a considerable amount of money to train militants in the US to fight in Bosnia (see December 1992). (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 113) Yahya is the security chief of the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, a charity front linked to both al-Qaeda and the CIA (see 1986-1993). A group of US militants linked to Al-Kifah go fight in Bosnia starting in December 1992, but this must be a different group since Yahya is still training his group for another two months (see December 1992-June 1993 and December 1992-Early February 1993).
FBI investigators begin monitoring Clement Rodney Hampton-El’s house in New York as they close in on the militants involved in the “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993). They listen in on a call from Hampton-El’s right-hand man, Abu Ubaidah Yahya, as he is in Vienna, Austria, picking up money from the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA) for the militants in the US tied to the Landmarks plot. Over the next few months, Yahya is tracked as he makes several trips from the US to Vienna, picking up about $100,000. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 113) Hampton-El had also been in Vienna earlier in the year, picking up more money from TWRA for the plotters (see Late 1992-Early 1993). TWRA is funneling a huge amount of weapons to Muslim Bosnia in violation of a UN embargo but with the tacit approval of the US government (see Mid-1991-1996). It also has ties to radical militants like bin Laden and Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. The Washington Post will later report that, “Intelligence agencies say they have tapes of telephone calls by Abdul-Rahman to [TWRA’s] office.” The “Landmarks” bombers are closely associated with Abdul-Rahman and will be convicted along with him. (Pomfret 9/22/1996) A secret 1996 CIA report will state that “according to a foreign government service” Elfatih Hassanein, the head of TWRA, “supports US Muslim extremists in Bosnia.” (Central Intelligence Agency 1/1996) But apparently the US does not go after TWRA for its ties to the “Landmarks” plotters and the connection will not be publicized for years.
Eight people are arrested, foiling a plot to bomb several New York City landmarks. The targets were the United Nations building, 26 Federal Plaza, and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. This is known as the “Landmarks” or “Day of Terror” plot. The plotters are connected to Ramzi Yousef and the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. If the bombing, planned for later in the year, had been successful, thousands would have died. An FBI informant named Emad Salem had infiltrated the group, gathering information that leads to arrests of the plotters (see April 23, 1993). (US Congress 7/24/2003) Abdul-Rahman will eventually be sentenced to life in prison for a role in the plot. Nine others will be given long prison terms, including Ibrahim El-Gabrowny and Clement Rodney Hampton-El. (Fried 1/18/1996) Siddig Siddig Ali, who was possibly the main force behind the plot (see April 23, 1993), will eventually be sentenced to only 11 years in prison because he agreed to provide evidence on the other suspects (Weiser 10/16/1999)
The Boston Herald reports that an internal CIA report has concluded that the agency is “partially culpable” for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993) because it helped train and support some of the bombers. One source with knowledge of the report says, “It was determined that a significant amount of blowback appeared to have occurred.” A US intelligence source claims the CIA gave at least $1 billion to forces in Afghanistan connected to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. More than a half-dozen of the WTC bombers belonged to this faction, and some of the CIA money paid for their training. The source says, “By giving these people the funding that we did, a situation was created in which it could be safely argued that we bombed the World Trade Center.” Those connected to the bombing who went to Afghanistan include Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Clement Rodney Hampton-el, Siddig Siddig Ali, Ahmed Ajaj, and Mahmud Abouhalima. (Miner 1/24/1994) Additionally, Ramzi Yousef trained in Afghanistan near the end of the Afghan war, and there are claims he was recruited by the CIA (see Late 1980s). “Intelligence sources say the CIA used the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn—founded to support the Afghani rebels fighting Soviet occupation—to funnel aid to Hekmatyar, setting the stage for terrorists here to acquire the money, guns and training needed to later attack the Trade Center. CIA support also made it easier for alleged terrorist leaders to enter the country.” (Miner 1/24/1994) It will later be alleged that the CIA repeatedly blocked investigations relating to Al-Kifah, which was al-Qaeda’s operational base in the US (see Late 1980s and After).
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