Profile: Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari
Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari was a participant or observer in the following events:
A young Indonesian nicknamed Hambali forms a front company that ties al-Qaeda figures to the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), an early version of the 9/11 plot. Hambali had fought in Afghanistan in the late 1980’s, repeatedly met with bin Laden there, and allied himself to bin Laden’s cause. In 1994, Hambali, living in a village north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, began frequently receiving visitors. According to his landlord, “Some looked Arab and others white.” There has been no explanation who these “white” visitors may have been. Hambali had been very poor prior to this time, but he is suddenly “flush with newfound cash” brought by the visitors. In June 1994, he founds a front company called Konsonjaya with Wali Khan Amin Shah, a key Bojinka plotter, and both their names are listed on the eight-person board of directors. Shah fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan, and bin Laden will even admit knowing him and praise him in an 1998 interview (see May 28, 1998). Philippine police phone taps show that frequent calls are made from the Konsonjaya offices in Malaysia to the Philippines offices of Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law who is also believed to be part of the Bojinka plot (see 1994). [Time, 4/1/2002] A Malaysian official will later say that Hambali spends time in the Philippines with Shah and bomber Ramzi Yousef in 1994 as they plan the Bojinka plot. [Washington Post, 2/3/2002] Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari, another Konsonjaya director, makes frequent trips from Malaysia to the Philippines while planning for the Bojinka plot is under way, and he is later believed to play a key role in financing the plot. In early 1995, after the Bojinka plot is broken up, one of the arrested Bojinka plotters will confess to Konsonjaya’s role in the plot (see February-Early May 1995) and a Philippine investigator’s flow chart of the Bojinka plotters and their connections will prominently include Konsonjaya (see Spring 1995). However, neither the Philippine nor US government appears interested in capturing Hambali, al-Ghafari, or the others involved in Konsonjaya before 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 6/24/2002; Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12/1/2002] Hambali will continue to live openly in Malaysia, even throwing a party every year for hundreds of people (see April 1991-Late 2000). He will go on to plan other al-Qaeda attacks and will attend a key planning meeting for the 9/11 plot in 2000 (see January 5-8, 2000). [Time, 4/1/2002] Al-Ghafari will finally be deported in 2002 after years of police protection (see October 8-November 8, 2002).
In early 1995, the Bojinka plot, an early version of the 9/11 plot that would have killed thousands, is foiled in the Philippines (see January 6, 1995). It is quickly learned that Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, helped fund the plot while living in the Philippines as regional director of the Saudi-based charity, the Islamic International Relief Organization (IIRO). Wali Khan Amin Shah, a known bin Laden associate and Bojinka plotter, also was an employee of the IIRO in the Philippines. Yet the Philippine branch of the IIRO will remain open until 2000, apparently because of political pressure from Saudi Arabia. Even then, the IIRO is allowed to continue funding projects in the Philippines through a branch office in a neighboring country. One Philippine senior intelligence official will later complain, “We could not touch the IIRO.” [Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, 3/7/2003 ] Counterterrorism expert Zachary Abuza will note that the IIRO is a “very well connected charity, whose supporters include the Saudi royal family and the top echelon of Filipino society.” One board member of “the IIRO Philippine office was, not coincidentally, the Saudi Ambassador.” [Contemporary Southeast Asia, 8/1/2003] In 1996, a secret CIA report will conclude that the IIRO is funding radical militant groups in many countries, including the Philippines, but the US will not move against it either (see January 1996). Another Philippines-based Islamic charity, the International Relations and Information Center (IRIC), is also connected to the Bojinka plot. The IRIC’s director is Ahmad al-Hamwi (better known by his alias Omar Abu Omar), who is the brother of Khalifa’s Philippine wife. Investigators determine that most of the funding for the Bojinka plot went through a bank account controlled by al-Hamwi. As a result, the IRIC is shut down in 1995 and al-Hamwi leaves the country. However, its operations and staff is taken over by another Islamic charity headed by Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari. Al-Ghafari is also a close associate of Khalifa and is believed to have been involved in the Bojinka plot as well (see June 1994). Al-Ghafari will finally be deported in 2002 after years of police protection (see October 8-November 8, 2002). [Washington Post, 12/30/2001; Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, 3/7/2003 ; Australian, 4/8/2006] Al-Hamwi will be granted asylum in Australia in 1996 and will continue to live there even after media reports expose his presence there and his ties to Islamic militancy (see July 6, 1995-June 26, 1996). [Australian, 4/8/2006] US will finally officially declare the IIRO’s Philippine branch a terrorism funder in late 2006 (see August 3, 2006).
A classified Philippine military report claims bin Laden is funding Muslim militants in the Philippines through known charity fronts. Some of the charities include World Alliance of Muslim Youth (WAMY), the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), and the Islamic Wisdom Worldwide Mission (IWWM). WAMY has been under investigation for ties militant groups in a number of countries, including the US (see February-September 11, 1996). The other two organizations are said to be connected to Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law. All the charities are accused of passing money on to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a militant group in the southern Philippines. [New Straits Times, 2/15/1999] Between this time and 9/11, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant group will say in an interview that “the primary purpose of the IIRO is to help groups like us.” [Newsweek International, 10/22/2001] Also in February 1999, the head of the MILF admits to getting funds from bin Laden, but says they are for humanitarian purposes only (see February 1999). The charities remain open after the report. In 2002, Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari, the head of the IWWM, will be arrested and deported. It will come out that he was arrested and then let go in 1995 after being strongly suspected of involvement in the Bojinka plot (see June 1994). He also had protectors in the police and military who are IWWM directors. In 2002, one of them will admit to having helped prevent his deportation (see October 8-November 8, 2002). The US will not officially accuse the IIRO’s Philippine branch of funding al-Qaeda until 2006 (see August 3, 2006).
In 1994, several key members of the Bojinka plot, which would have killed thousands if successful (see January 6, 1995), formed a front company called Konsonjaya as part of the plot (see June 1994). Konsonjaya was a trading company that ostensibly exported Malaysian palm oil to Afghanistan and also traded in honey from Sudan and Yemen. All these countries have been important nodes in al-Qaeda’s network. The Philippine government was already wiretapping calls to the Konsonjaya offices before the Bojinka plot was foiled (see 1994), and definitively linked the company to the plot by the spring of 1995 (see Spring 1995). As late as 1998, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was using Konsonjaya as cover in his international travels (see June 1998). By 1999, the FBI had realized the importance of Konsonjaya to the Bojinka plot, and had linked al-Qaeda leader Hambali to it (see May 23, 1999). [Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, 3/7/2003 ] In February 2002, Rodolfo Mendoza, the former head of Philippine counter-terrorism who led that country’s Bojinka investigation, will say, “According to my analysis, Konsonjaya was the nerve center not only for business but also for operational supervision [of the Bojinka plot].… The most critical question now is, ‘Where are the other former directors of Konsonjaya?’” [Los Angeles Times, 2/7/2002] Konsonjaya’s eight-person board of directors was made up of:
Amein Mohammed (Managing Director). His real name is Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari. He appears to have been heavily involved in the Bojinka plot. However, he has intelligence connections in the Philippines and remains the head of another front connected to Bojinka until November 2002. Then he is implicated in an October 2002 bombing and deported (see 1995 and After, February 15, 1999, and October 8-November 8, 2002). His current whereabouts are unknown.
Amein Alsanani (also Managing Director).
Annamalai N. L. Sundrasan (Secretary).
Wali Khan Amin Shah. He is one of the main Bojinka plotters and will later be sentenced to life in prison in the US for his role in that plot (see September 5, 1996).
Medhat Abdul Salam Shabana. Company records show Shabana is from Afghanistan.
Riduan bin Isumuddin (Hambali). He is arrested in Thailand in 2003 and taken into US custody (see August 12, 2003). He is believed to have roles in the 9/11 attacks, the 2002 Bali bombings, and other attacks. [Los Angeles Times, 2/7/2002; Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, 3/7/2003 ]
Noralwizah Lee Binti Abdullah (Hambali’s wife). She is arrested with Hambali and immediately extradited to Malaysia. Two months later, the Malaysian government will place her in indefinite detention, where she apparently remains. A Malaysian official will say: “She was more than a wife to Hambali. She was a trusted aide who handled funds of the Jemaah Islamiyah [militant group].” [Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, 3/7/2003 ; Sydney Morning Herald, 8/16/2003; Associated Press, 10/16/2003]
Hemeid H. Alghamdi. He is described in company records as a thirty-year-old Saudi from Jeddah. [Los Angeles Times, 2/7/2002; Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, 3/7/2003 ]
Cosain Ramos (a.k.a. Abu Ali) is also connected to Konsonjaya, but apparently he used an alias so it is not clear which name matches his. He will be arrested in the Philippines in 2002 after being linked to the 2000 Christmas Eve bombings in Indonesia (see December 24-30, 2000 and Shortly Before December 24, 2000). But bizarrely, not only is he not charged, but he is given the job of janitor at the Philippines’s highest security prison and then helps a key al-Qaeda leader escape in 2003 (see July 14, 2003).
The Los Angeles Times reports in February 2002 that the whereabouts of most of the Konsonjaya board of directors remains unknown. [Los Angeles Times, 2/7/2002] But strangely, investigators seemingly remain uninterested in investigating Konsonjaya’s links. In October 2002, Sundrasan, the company’s secretary as well as one of the directors, will contact a Malaysian newspaper and tell them some details about the company, including that Amin Shah opened many bank accounts in the company’s name and that the company never really conducted any business. But he will also say that no investigators, journalists, or officials have ever questioned him about the company. [Malay Mail, 10/24/2002]
Entity Tags: Amein Alsanani, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Cosain Ramos, Hambali, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Annamalai N. L. Sundrasan, Noralwizah Lee Binti Abdullah, Konsonjaya, Rodolfo Mendoza, Hemeid H. Alghamdi, Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari, Medhat Abdul Salam Shabana
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Abdulmukim Edris, standing with his head bowed in the back, and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, sitting in the front in purple. [Source: Erik de Castro / Reuters / Corbis]Beginning on October 2, 2002, a series of bombings take place in and around Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. This region is a center of Islamist militancy in a majority Christian country. During the month of October, bombs explode outside a restaurant near a military camp (killing four, including a US Green Beret commando), at the entrance to a Catholic shrine, at a bus terminal (killing seven), and inside two department stores (killing seven). A total of 21 are killed and more than 200 are injured.
Arrest of Alleged Mastermind - On November 14, Abdulmukim Edris is arrested and is said to have been the bomb-maker behind all the blasts. Edris is an alleged member of the Abu Sayyaf, a militant group based in the region. Two days after his arrest, he is paraded in front of cameras and stands in handcuffs directly behind Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as she calls him “the No. 1 bomber of the Abu Sayyaf.” He admits that he and his team were already casing targets to be bombed later in the month, including the US embassy in Manila. The head of the military says that Edris was trained by two Yemeni “VIPs from al-Qaeda” in the southern Philippines in the month before the 9/11 attacks. It is later reported that another arrested Abu Sayyaf militant, Khair Mundus, received around $90,000 from al-Qaeda militants in Saudi Arabia to fund the bombings. [Associated Press, 11/14/2002; Associated Press, 5/14/2004]
Mastermind Appears to Be Mole - But in July 2003, Edris will escape from a high-security prison with two other militants (see July 14, 2003). One week after the escape, the Philippine Daily Inquirer will report that Edris has long-time links to the Philippine military and police. A police intelligence source says that he has been a government asset since 1994. [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 7/23/2003] Edris will be killed about two weeks after this report. He allegedly is killed hours after he was arrested while trying to wrestle a gun from a soldier. Some will allege that he was deliberately killed in order to prevent him from revealing what he knew (see October 12, 2003).
Another Dubious Mastermind - Another alleged mastermind of the Zamboanga bombings, Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari, is arrested on November 8, 2002, and then quickly deported, despite allegations that he helped fund the 1995 Bojinka plot and had major terrorist links. He is said to have links to Philippine intelligence and high-level government protection (see October 8-November 8, 2002).
A suspect in the 1995 Bojinka plot is arrested in the Philippines but is soon deported. Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari is believed to have played a key role in financing the Bojinka plot (see June 1994). After the Bojinka plot was foiled, he stayed in the Philppines and effectively took over a charity that is believed to have helped fund the plot (see 1995 and After). He is widely believed to be the successor to the local operations of Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law. The Philippine military arrested al-Ghafari after concluding he was a mastermind in an October 2, 2002 bombing that killed one US soldier and three civilians in the southern city of Zamboanga. [Manila Times, 10/9/2002; Manila Standard Today, 10/19/2002] Another mastermind of the bombing, Abu Sayyaf leader Abdulmukim Edris, will later be alleged to be a government mole (see October 2-November 12, 2002). One intelligence official says al-Ghafari had been “placed under surveillance after we established that he was in constant contact with members of Jemaah Islamiyah, mostly Indonesians, in the country, Abu Sayyaf bandits, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).” [Philippine Star, 10/9/2002] He is also accused of heading another group that funded two new al-Qaeda training camps in the Philippines. [Gulf News, 10/11/2002] Further, al-Ghafari’s brother belongs to the banned Palestinian militant group Hamas, and a foundation he controls was used as a gathering place for suspected Hamas sympathizers. The Manila Times will report that while some Philippine investigators had been interested in apprehending him for years, others in the government had protected him. For instance, Rex Piad, the Deputy Director-General of the national police, confirmed he helped al-Ghafari get two clearances that allowed him to stay in the country. Furthermore, Piad and retired generals Eduardo Cuadra and Percival Adiong “are directors of the Islamic Wisdom Worldwide Mission (IWWM), a foundation headed by al-Ghafari and a suspected conduit of funds for terrorist operations.” [Manila Times, 10/9/2002] In 1999, it was reported that bin Laden was funding Muslim militants through the IWWM and other charities, but these charities stayed open (see February 15, 1999). It is reported that al-Ghafari had long been in contact with Philippine intelligence agents, who tried to recruit him as a spy, supposedly unsuccessfully. He was going to meet with agents the night he was arrested. [Gulf News, 10/11/2002] On November 8, al-Ghafari is deported to Jordan. [Manila Standard Today, 11/9/2002] The Zamboanga bombing will be blamed on Abu Sayyaf, a group that has often been accused of colluding with the Philippine government. [Manila Standard Today, 4/26/2006]
Entity Tags: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Philippine National Police, Percival Adiong, Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Jemaah Islamiyah, Eduardo Cuadra, Hamas, Islamic Wisdom Worldwide Mission, Abu Sayyaf, Abdulmukim Edris, Rex Piad
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
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