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In 1954, Egyptian President Gamal Abddul Nasser’s nationalist policies in Egypt come to be viewed as completely unacceptable by Britain and the US. MI6 and the CIA jointly hatch plans for his assassination. According to Miles Copeland, a CIA operative based in Egypt, the opposition to Nasser is driven by the commercial community—the oil companies and the banks. At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood’s resentment of Nasser’s secular government also comes to a head. In one incident, Islamist militants attack pro-Nasser students at Cairo University. Following an attempt on his own life by the Brotherhood, Nasser responds immediately by outlawing the group, which he denounces as a tool of Britain. The following years see a long and complex struggle pitting Nasser against the Muslim Brotherhood, the US, and Britain. The CIA funnels support to the Muslim Brotherhood because of “the Brotherhood’s commendable capability to overthrow Nasser.” (Baer 2003, pp. 99; Dreyfuss 2005, pp. 101-108) The Islamist regime in Saudi Arabia becomes an ally of the United States in the conflict with Nasser. They offer financial backing and sanctuary to Muslim Brotherhood militants during Nasser’s crackdown. Nasser dies of natural causes in 1970. (Dreyfuss 2005, pp. 90-91, 126-131, 150)
In 1973 Hafez Assad approves a new, secular constitution for Syria, and declares that the country is a “democratic, popular, socialist state,” creating a backlash of violent Islamist demonstrations. Beginning in 1976, the Muslim Brotherhood carries out hundreds of attacks in Syria in an attempt to bring down the secular government. Israel and Jordan provide generous support for these operations, for example establishing training camps for the Muslim Brotherhood in Lebanon and Jordan near the Syrian border. In one incident in 1979, a gang of Brotherhood militants murders 83 military cadets by locking them inside a buliding and attacking it with automatic weapons and firebombs. Newsweek reports in 1981 that “over the past five years the Brotherhood has assassinated hundreds of Alawite members of Assad’s ruling Baath Parthy along with their relatives, Assad’s personal doctor, and a number of Soviet advisers.” In 1982, the Syrian army brutally suppresses the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters, massacring thousands in the city of Hama, a strong center of support for the Brotherhood. This puts an end to the wave of violence. (Dreyfuss 2005, pp. 199-205)
Founded in 1976, Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt (FIBE) is part of the banking empire built by Saudi Prince Mohammed al-Faisal. Several of the founding members are leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. The growth of Islamic banking directly funds the political growth of the Islamist movement and allows the Saudis to pressure poorer Islamic nations, like Egypt, to shift their policies to the right. The Islamic banking boom is closely associated with the neoliberal free-trade philosophy of the Chicago School of Economics, with the free-trade prescriptions of the International Monetary Fund, and with conservative think-tanks like the Virginia-based Islamic Free Market Institute. FIBE is also closely associated with the infamous Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which will be found to be deeply implicated in the illegal arms and narcotics trades, and with the funding of terrorist organizations when it collapses in 1991. Investigators will also find that BCCI held $589 million in “unrecorded deposits,” $245 million of which were placed with FIBE. (Dreyfuss 2005, pp. 164 - 175)
In November 2001, Swiss investigators will search the home of Youssef Nada, the leader of Al Taqwa Bank, a Swiss bank that had just been shut down by the US and the UN for alleged ties to al-Qaeda, Hamas, and other radical militant groups (see November 7, 2001). Nada and other Al Taqwa directors are prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Newsweek will say, “The Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928 as a religious and quasi-political counterweight to the corrupt and increasingly decadent royalist and colonial governments dominating the Islamic world, always has had two faces: one a peaceful public, proselytizing and social-welfare oriented wing; the other a clandestine, paramilitary wing.… Intelligence and law-enforcement officials say that while some branches and elements of the Brotherhood, such as the offshoots now operating in Egypt and Syria, have pledged to work for their goal of a worldwide Islamic caliphate using peaceful means and electoral politics, the Brotherhood has also spun off many—if not most—of the more violent local and international groups devoted to the cause of Islamic holy war.” Such offshoots will include al-Qaeda and Hamas. (Isikoff and Hosenball 12/24/2004) Swiss investigators discover a 14-page document from December 1982 entitled “The Project.” Nada claims not to know who wrote the document or how he came to have it, and he says he disagrees with most of the contents. The document details a strategic plan whose ultimate goal is “the establishment of the reign of God over the entire world.” The document begins, “This report presents a global vision of an international strategy of Islamic policy.” It recommends to “study of the centers of power locally and worldwide, and the possibilities of placing them under influence,” to contact and support new holy war movements anywhere in the world, to support holy war in Palestine, and “nurtur[e] the sentiment of rancor with regard to Jews.” Swiss investigators who analyze the document will later write that the strategy aims to achieve “a growing influence over the Muslim world. It is pointed out that the [Muslim Brotherhood] doesn’t have to act in the name of the Brotherhood, but can infiltrate existing entities. They can thus avoid being located and neutralized.” The document also advocates creating a network of religious, educational, and charitable institutions in Europe and the US to increase influence there. (Unknown 12/1982; Besson 10/6/2005)
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)
Ahmed Ben Bella, a former president of Algeria, reportedly holds a secret meeting at his Switzerland home attended by “major figures in some of the world’s most violent groups.” People attending the meeting include the Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (known as the “Blind Sheikh”); Youssef Nada, head of the Al Taqwa Bank and a major Muslim Brotherhood figure; and Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, a leading Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim scholar. US government sources believe Ben Bella, who is allegedly linked to violent Sudanese and Libyan groups, called the meeting to discuss ways to spread Muslim fundamentalism into the West. (Buffalo News 7/6/1993) Shortly after 9/11, a document called “The Project” written in 1982 will be found in Nada’s house. It outlines a secret Muslim Brotherhood plan to infiltrate and defeat Western countries (see December 1982).
Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, moves to the Philippines and sets up numerous financial fronts to benefit al-Qaeda. Khalifa is not only one of bin Laden’s brothers-in-law, but he also says that during the 1980s, “Osama was my best friend. More than a brother….” (Taylor 1/16/2003; Robertson and Schuster 11/25/2004) In the mid-1980s, Khalifa was already a very senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Lebanon and ran the Peshawar, Pakistan, office of the Muslim World League, where he was active in sending recruits to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan (see Late 1980s). Sent to the Philippines by bin Laden in 1987 or 1988, he soon marries two Filipino women. He sets up more than a dozen businesses and charities, all of which appear to be fronts to fund the Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) militant groups:
The Islamic Wisdom Worldwide Mission (IWWM), which will later be blamed for funneling bin Laden money to militants (see February 15, 1999 and October 8-November 8, 2002).
The International Relations and Information Center (IRIC), which is later seen as the main funding vehicle for the Bojinka plot (see Spring 1995).
The Philippine branch of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), founded in September 1991. The IIRO does some charity work, but a Philippine cabinet official will later note that it “built up the good will of the community through charity and then turned segments of the population into agents.” The IIRO is a charity suspected of funding militant activities in numerous places around the world, but the US has been reluctant to prosecute it due to its direct links to the Saudi government (see January 1996 and October 12, 2001). Khalifa is not only the first head of the IIRO’s Philippine branch, but also the IIRO’s regional director for all of Southeast Asia. The IIRO’s offices are often staffed by members of the Abu Sayyaf and MILF. For instance, one IIRO branch office director is also the Abu Sayyaf’s intelligence chief until he is killed in June 1994. (Herrera 8/9/2000; CNN 1/27/2002; Abuza 8/1/2003; Abuza 9/1/2005 )
It is estimated that as much as 70 percent of the money from these fronts are spent on militant groups. In one case, a charity that Khalifa claimed had built 30 orphanages had only built one. (Vitug 10/22/2001) The Philippines will investigate Khalifa and expel him from the country by late 1994 (see December 15, 1994 and December 1, 1994). He apparently never returns. He will no longer be directly connected to these charities, but they will all continue operating despite widely reported terrorist ties (see 1995 and After, February 15, 1999, August 9, 2000), and they will usually continue to be run by Khalifa’s close associates (see October 8-November 8, 2002 and September 25, 2003). The US will finally officially declare the Philippine branch of the IIRO a terrorism financier in 2006 (see August 3, 2006).
Leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood found the Al Taqwa Bank. This bank will later be accused of being the largest financial supporter of al-Qaeda, Hamas, the GIA in Algeria, and other organizations officially designated by the US as groups that sponsor terrorism. For instance, the Treasury Department will later claim that $60 million in funding for Hamas will pass through Al Taqwa in 1997. The bank is mostly based on both sides of the border between Swizterland and Italy, but important branches are established in Liechtenstein and the Bahamas as offshore tax havens. (US Department of the Treasury 8/29/2002) Newsweek will explain, “Al Taqwa, which means ‘Fear of God,’ was launched… by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, a secret society devoted to the creation of a worldwide Islamic government. The Brotherhood wanted to create a financial institution in which devout Muslims could invest their money. It would operate under strict Islamic law, which prohibits banks from charging interest. But investigators believe the convoluted structure of Al Taqwa made it easy to use as a money-laundering mechanism.… The [central] operation consisted of four men working at computers in a small apartment in Lugano, Switzerland. Lugano, which sits near the Italian border, is a kind of Alpine Tijuana, well known as a haven for tax evaders and money launderers.” (Hosenball 3/18/2002) Reportedly, in 1995, Italian investigators will tell a Swiss prosecutor that Al Taqwa and related entities comprise “the most important financial structure of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic terrorist organizations.” (Komisar 3/15/2002) Six members of the bin Laden family are among the original contributors to the Bahamas branch. (Simpson and Pearl 12/17/2001) A number of the bank’s leaders have ties to Nazism or fascism. For instance, when board chairman Youssef Nada was a young man, he allegedly worked with both the armed branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and Nazi Germany military intelligence. Ahmad Huber, a Swiss convert to Islam previously known as Albert Huber, is both a director of the bank and an open neo-Nazi. He proudly displays portraits of Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden next to each other in his house. (Finn 4/29/2002; Erikson 11/8/2002) According to a reporter who will interview him in 1995, Huber’s office is adorned with portraits of Hitler, Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler, and Islamic militants. (Wells 11/8/2001) Huber will spend decades attempting to forge links between the neo-Nazi movement and the radical Muslim movement, speaking to and networking with both groups. He will be quoted around 2001 saying that the al-Qaeda leaders he met in January 2001 are “very discreet, well-educated, and very intelligent people.”(see Late January 2001). (Williamson and Jaklin 11/8/2001; Reynolds 2/1/2002) The founder of Al Taqwa appears to be Francois Genoud, who will die in 1996. Genoud is a Swiss lawyer who funded the Nazis and served as a Nazi agent during World War II. After the war, he funded the secret Odessa organization, which enabled many notorious Nazi fugitives to escape to safe havens in South America and elsewhere. Authorities believe that Genoud uses Al Taqwa to fund international militants like Carlos the Jackal and bin Laden. He also paid for the legal expenses of ex-Nazis such as Klaus Barbie and Adolf Eichmann. Many Muslim radicals and neo-Nazis share a strong hatred for Jews and the United States. (Bushinsky 3/12/2002) Al Taqwa will be shut down shortly after 9/11 for its support of al-Qaeda, Hamas, and other groups officially designated as terrorist organizations (see November 7, 2001).
In 1988, the Al Taqwa Bank is founded in Switzerland, and it quickly becomes one of the major funders for radical Islamic groups, including al-Qaeda (see 1988). The Al Taqwa Bank is closely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, and one of its key founders, Said Ramadan, is one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s top leaders, and also the son-in-law of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ramadan helped Saudi Arabia found the Muslim World League in 1962; the charity will go on to fund al-Qaeda and many other radical groups. But there is strong evidence that Ramadan also was a long-time CIA asset. (Dreyfuss 2005, pp. 136) Declassified Swiss documents reveal that in the 1960s, the Swiss government considered him to be, “among other things, an intelligence agent of the British and the Americans.” The Wall Street Journal will report in 2005, “Historical evidence suggests Mr. Ramadan worked with the CIA.” For instance, he traveled on a Jordanian diplomatic passport given to him by the CIA, “his expenditures are financed by the American side,” and he worked closely with CIA supported propaganda fronts. (Dreyfuss 1/1/2006) The Egyptian government apparently also believed Ramadan worked with the US, and that he may have had a role in a plot against Egyptian President Abddul Nasser in the 1960s. Ramadan even met with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Oval Office in 1953. (Dreyfuss 2005, pp. 135-138) Ramadan will die in 1995 at the age of 69. It is not known how long his ties to the CIA and possibly other intelligence agencies lasted. Journalist Robert Dreyfuss will later comment: “It’s no exaggeration to say that Ramadan is the ideological grandfather of Osama bin Laden. But Ramadan, the Muslim Brotherhood, and their Islamist allies might never have been able to plant the seeds that sprouted into al-Qaeda had they not been treated as US allies during the Cold War and had they not received both overt and covert support from Washington.” (Dreyfuss 1/1/2006)
Al-Qaeda bomber Ramzi Yousef is said to be recruited by the CIA, though details are not known. Author Richard Labeviere reported without elaboration in a 1999 book, “A classified FBI file indicates that [Yousef] was recruited by the local branch of the CIA.” (Labeviere 1999, pp. 220-221) In 1995, Newsday will report, “FBI officials also are considering a probe of whether the CIA had any relationship with Yousef, who fought with the CIA-financed mujaheddin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.” (Kocieniewski 4/16/1995) But there appears to be no further reporting on whether such a probe was conducted. Yousef is believed to have masterminded a series of bombings in the early 1990s, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the planned Bojinka attack, before being captured in 1995 (see February 7, 1995). If Yousef was recruited by the CIA, it may have been in the late 1980s when the CIA recruited and trained thousands of people around the world to fight in Afghanistan (see 1986-1992). In the late 1980s, Yousef was studying engineering at a Wales college, but he’d also joined the Muslim Brotherhood while there. During a break from school in 1988, he went to one of bin Laden’s training camps in Afghanistan and spent several months honing his bomb-making skills. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 78)
The 1999 book Dollars for Terror will allege that in 1989, Mercy International, a “subsidiary of the Muslim Brotherhood, was able to establish its headquarters in the United States, in the state of Michigan, with the assistance of the CIA. The Agency provided significant logistical and financial support to this ‘humanitarian’ organization, enabling it to act clandestinely in the various Balkan conflicts as well as within the Muslim communities of several Russian republics.” (Labeviere 1999, pp. 364) Mercy International will later be tied to al-Qaeda in a number of ways. For instance, in the mid-1990s its Pakistan branch will be headed by Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, brother of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see 1988-Spring 1995). (McDermott 9/1/2002) Its Kenya branch will be tied to the 1998 US embassy bombing there. Its Philippine branch is tied to Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law. (Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 128, 188-189) Branches of this charity in different countries have slightly different names such as Mercy International-USA and Mercy International Relief Agency, and it has been claimed that the US branch has no connection with the terrorism-related branches. However, a 2003 article will draw links between the US branch and other branches. (Epstein and Schmidt 9/4/2003)
In 1990, after finishing his studies in architecture in Egypt, future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta joins what is called an “engineering syndicate,” a professional or trade group. Like the school that trained many of its engineers, the syndicate serves as an unofficial base for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, where the organization recruits new operatives and spreads its ideology. Other members of the 9/11 plot will also have connections to the Muslim Brotherhood at various points in their lives. (Finn 9/22/2001; Hooper 9/23/2001; Newsweek 12/31/2001)
In July 1991, the criminal BCCI bank is shut down (see July 5, 1991), and Osama bin Laden apparently loses some of his fortune held in BCCI accounts as a result (see July 1991). But while bin Laden loses money, he and his future second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri gain influence. Other Islamist militants have been heavily relying on BCCI for their finances, and in the wake of BCCI’s collapse they are forced to bank elsewhere. Author Roland Jacquard will later claim that “following [the bank’s closure], funds [are] transferred from BCCI to banks in Dubai, Jordan, and Sudan controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. Some of the money [is] handed back to organizations such as the FIS [a political party in Algeria]. Another portion [is] transferred by Ayman al-Zawahiri to Switzerland, the Netherlands, London, Antwerp, and Malaysia.” (Jacquard 2002, pp. 129) Author Adam Robinson will come to similar conclusions, noting that when BCCI collapses bin Laden has just moved to Sudan, which is ruled by Hassan al-Turabi, who has similar Islamist views to bin Laden. Robinson writes, “Without a system by which money could be transferred around the world invisibly, it would be relatively simple for terrorist funds to be traced. Dealing with this crisis fell to al-Turabi. In desperation he turned to Osama.… The future of the struggle could come to rest on Osama’s shoulders.” Over the next several months, bin Laden and a small team of financial experts work on a plan to replace the functions of BCCI. Bin Laden already knows many of the main Islamist backers from his experience in the Afghan war. “During the summer of 1991 he discreetly made contact with many of the wealthiest of these individuals, especially those with an international network of companies.… Within months, Osama unveiled before an astonished al-Turabi what he called ‘the Brotherhood Group.’” This is apparently a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. Robinson says this group is made up of 134 Arab businessmen with a collective wealth of many billions of dollars. The network will effectively replace BCCI for Islamist militants. (Robinson 2001, pp. 138-139) A French report shortly after 9/11 will confirm that bin Laden’s network largely replaces BCCI (see October 10, 2001). Right around this time, bin Laden is seen at the London estate of Khalid bin Mahfouz, one of the major investors in BCCI (see (1991)).
An Egyptian official will later detail an alleged confession of Mahmud Abouhalima made at this time. Abouhalima was captured in Egypt in March 1993 and reportedly tortured into a confession there before being handed over to US officials. He will later be convicted for a role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993). Abouhalima supposedly confessed that the bomb plot originated in Afghanistan among Arab veterans of the Afghan war. He also tells his interrogators that it was approved by men describing themselves as Iranian intelligence agents and by the “Blind Shiekh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. Abouhalima further confessed that he was a member of the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Group), a militant group headed by Abdul-Rahman, and that the group obtained its money from various sources including the German offices of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is unclear how much this account can be trusted, especially since the Egyptian government has conflicts with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood at the time. (Hedges 7/16/1993) However, two March 1993 Los Angeles Times and New York Times reports appears to confirm at least part of Abouhalima’s confession. The Times articles reports that two of the bomb plotters, Mohammed Salameh and Nidal Ayyad, had bank accounts in the US where they received a total of $10,000 sent from Germany prior to the bombing. (Fritz and Jackson 3/12/1993; Blumenthal 3/12/1993) And in 1999, journalist Simon Reeve will report, “FBI and CIA investigations traced some of the money given to the WTC conspirators back to Germany and the Muslim Brotherhood.” (Reeve 1999, pp. 245) However, nothing more about this possible Muslim Brotherhood connection has been reported since.
The Sunday Times reports that a new US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) being drafted warns that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is likely to be overthrown by Islamic militants if present trends continue. The NIE is said to roughly match a secret Israeli intelligence estimate from late 1993. The Times notes that in 1991, 96 Islamic militants and police were killed; in 1992 the number was 322; and in 1993 it was 1,116. The Egyptian government has responded with draconian measures, including mass arrests. US intelligence officials worry that these techniques are not working, and have been urging Egypt to introduce political and economic reform. (Adams 2/20/1994) While the US sometimes helps Egypt fight Islamist militants, it also sometimes supports the militants, especially the officially banned Muslim Brotherhood. Both Robert Pelletreau, US ambassador to Egypt from 1991 to 1993, and Edward Walker, US ambassador to Egypt from 1994 to 1997, secretly maintain contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood. One National Security Council member in 1995 says that Egypt’s militants are the wave of the future and, “This reality explains the rationale for the Clinton administration’s early decision to maintain a discreet dialogue with… Egyptian Islamists.” (Dreyfuss 2005, pp. 319-325) In fact, the harsh measures will work and the militant threat will greatly decrease in future years.
In a three-month trip to his hometown of Cairo, Egypt, 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta demonstrates that he is still a member of an engineering syndicate linked to the Muslim Brotherhood (see 1990). He takes the two Germans students he is traveling with, Volker Hauth and Ralph Bodenstein, to the syndicate’s eating club. According to Hauth, Atta does nothing during the trip he knows about that suggests he is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but the group’s influence on the club is obvious. (Finn 9/22/2001; Bodenstein 10/15/2001) A former CIA officer who served undercover in Damascus, Syria, will later say, “At every stage in Atta’s journey is the Muslim Brotherhood.” (Hersh 7/18/2003)
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 Syrian suspected of involvement in the al-Qaeda Bojinka plot is granted asylum in Australia even though the Australian government is aware of some of his apparent terrorism ties. Ahmad al-Hamwi, a.k.a. Omar Abu Omar, was head of the International Relations and Information Center (IRIC) from 1993 to 1995, a charity front closely tied to the failed Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). In 1995, Philippine investigators determined that most of the funding for the plot went through a bank account controlled by al-Hamwi. (Abuza 3/7/2003 ) At the same time, he was roommates with Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, and married the sister of one of Khalifa’s Philippine wives. He worked closely with Khalifa in the IRIC until Khalifa was forced to leave the country in late 1994 (see December 1, 1994). (O'Brien and Kearney 4/8/2006) Shortly after the Bojinka plot is foiled by Philippines authorities in early 1995, the IRIC is shut down and al-Hamwi is brought in for questioning. However, he is let go and travels to Australia in July 1995 then immediately applies for asylum there. The Australian asylum review board is aware of the following things:
He was interrogated by Philippines intelligence and questioned about his ties to WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef and the Bojinka plot to kill the Pope.
He tells the review board that he was interrogated by a senior officer with direct ties to the Philippine president
He came into Australia using a fake Dutch passport and has two fake Syrian passports.
He has ties to Khalifa, who had been convicted of funding a bombing in Jordan.
He is a longtime member of the militant group the Muslim Brotherhood.
But incredibly, in June 1996 he is granted him asylum on the grounds that he could be persecuted in Syria due to his ties to the Brotherhood. (Refugee Review Tribunal 6/26/1996; O'Brien and Kearney 4/8/2006) In 2006, it will be reported that he is still living openly in Australia. Further, Philippines intelligence alleges that he came to the Philippines after having been banned from Turkey for his suspected involvement in a 1986 bombing there. It is not clear how the Australian government missed information like this, or if they just ignored it. (O'Brien and Kearney 4/8/2006) In the wake of these 2006 reports, the Australian government will claim to be investigating his status. Yet there have been no reports that he has been arrested or had his residency revoked since then. (Kearney 4/10/2006; Age (Melbourne) 4/10/2006)
Talaat Fouad Qassem, 38, a known leader of the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Group), an Egyptian extremist organization, is arrested and detained in Croatia as he travels to Bosnia from Denmark, where he has been been living after being granted political asylum. He is suspected of clandestine support of terrorist operations, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993). He also allegedly led mujaheddin efforts in Bosnia since 1990 (see 1990). In a joint operation, he is arrested by Croatian intelligence agents and handed over to the CIA. Qassem is then interrogated by US officials aboard a US ship off the Croatian coast in the Adriatic Sea and sent to Egypt, which has a rendition agreement with the US (see Summer 1995). An Egyptian military tribunal has already sentenced him to death in absentia, and he is executed soon after he arrives. (Olsen 10/31/1995; Chandrasekaran and Finn 3/11/2002, pp. A01; Mahle 2005, pp. 204-205; Mayer 2/8/2005) According to the 1999 book Dollars for Terror, two weeks before his abduction, Qassem was in Switzerland negotiating against Muslim Brotherhood leaders. Some Muslim Brotherhood exiles were negotiating with the Egyptian government to be allowed to return to Egypt if they agreed not to use Muslim Brotherhood Swiss bank accounts to fund Egyptian militant groups like Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, but Qassem and other radicals oppose this deal. So the removal of Qassem helps the Muslim Brotherhood in their conflict with more militant groups. (Labeviere 1999, pp. 70-71)
Egyptian diplomat Alaa al-Din Nazmi is shot and killed as he is returning to his house in Geneva, Switzerland. While he is officially said to be negotiating with the World Trade Organization on economic matters, the Independent will later report, “Political sources suggested that Nazmi was working under diplomatic cover, and that his real job was to track down members of Egyptian Islamist armed groups in Europe who have sworn to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Nazmi’s murderers [say] as much two days later,” when they take credit for the killing, using an alias for Islamic Jihad. (Fisk 12/6/1995) Swiss authorities seem uninterested in vigorously pursuing political connections to the murder, which is never solved. However, it will later be reported, “According to various sources close to the investigation, the Egyptian diplomat had been handling several sensitive files relating precisely to the financial resources of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which $200 to $500 was managed by various financial organizations” in Switzerland. The diplomat had played a major part in an attempt to recover these funds. He was focusing on the Al Taqwa Bank on the Swiss-Italian border, known to be a major bank for the Muslim Brotherhood. (Labeviere 1999, pp. 63-68) A few months earlier, Nazmi apparently had been in secret discussions with the Egyptian militant Talaat Fouad Qassem, who was then abducted by the CIA and executed in Egypt (see September 13, 1995). So Nazmi’s assassination is seen as revenge for the death of Qassem. (Labeviere 1999, pp. 70-71)
Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson, head of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, criticizes the Clinton administration for its ties to Abdulrahman Alamoudi in a Wall Street Journal editorial. Alamoudi is a prominent Muslim activist and heads an organization called the American Muslim Council (AMC). Emerson notes that on November 9, 1995, President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore met with Alamoudi as part of a meeting with 23 Muslim and Arab leaders. And on December 8, 1995, National Security Adviser Anthony Lake, met with Alamoudi at the White House along with several other American Islamic leaders. Emerson notes that Alamoudi openly supports Hamas, even though the US government officially designated it a terrorist financier in early 1995 (see January 1995), and he has been the primary public defender of high ranking Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk, who the US declared a terrorism financier and then imprisoned in 1995 (see July 5, 1995-May 1997). He notes that Alamoudi’s AMC also has close ties to other Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, and in 1994 the AMC co-sponsored a trip to the US for Sudanese leader Hasan al-Turabi, a well-known radical militant who is hosting Osama bin Laden in Sudan at the time. Emerson concludes, “The president is right to invite Muslim groups to the White House. But by inviting the extremist element of the American Muslim community—represented by the AMC—the administration undercuts moderate Muslims and strengthens the groups committing terrorist attacks.” (Emerson 3/13/1996) It will later be reported that in 1994, US intelligence discovered that the AMC helped pass money from bin Laden to Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, but it is not known if Clinton was aware of this (see Shortly After March 1994). But Alamoudi’s political influence in the US will not diminish and he will later be courted by future President Bush (see July 2000). He will eventually be sentenced to a long prison term for illegal dealings with Libya (see October 15, 2004).
In July 1997, Islamic Jihad operative Mahmoud Jaballah receives a fax from Ahmad Salama Mabruk, a member of Islamic Jihad’s ruling council living in Azerbaijan. Canadian intelligence has been closely monitoring Jaballah since he arrived in Canada in 1996 (see May 11, 1996-August 2001) and they learn the contents of this fax while monitoring him. Mabruk’s fax gives guidance on how to recruit new operatives. Jaballah responds by telling Mabruk and Thirwat Salah Shehata, another member of Islamic Jihad’s ruling council, that he already has recruited some people affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Furthermore, they have Canadian residence papers, they have been tested, and they have proven reliable. He says it is time for them to be briefed about their duties. Mabruk replies that he is pleased and that these new recruits are very much needed. (Canadian Security Intelligence Service 2/22/2008 ) Perhaps not coincidentally, it will later be reported that also in 1997, Canadian intelligence begins a large-scale investigation of Islamic militants in Canada that will eventually be formally named Project A/O Canada. (Freeze 3/17/2007)
Now living in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa keeps in contact with charity fronts and militant groups he helped to organize. According to a Philippines police report, he maintains contact with:
Leaders of the Philippine militant groups Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Abdul Salam Zubair, who was a key employee in the IRIC (International Relations and Information Center), a charity front used in the Bojinka plot (see Spring 1995). By this time, Zubair is working with Khalifa Trading Industries in Manila with other Khalifa associates.
The staff of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) in the Philippines. Many of its staffers, including its Philippines coordinator, are also believed to be Hamas operatives. The US will designate the chapter a terrorist financier in 2006 (see August 3, 2006).
Ibrahim Mata, the head of Islamic Studies, Call and Guidance (ISCAG), in the Philippines.
- - The Philippine chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 194)
The Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). In a post-9/11 trial in the US, US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald will allege that the Illinois office of BIF calls Khalifa in Saudi Arabia as recently as November 19, 1998. (USA v. Benevolence International Foundation and Enaam M. Arnaout 4/29/2002, pp. 14, 21-22 ) The US will officially designate BIF a terrorism financier in 2002. Khalifa also still visits the Philippines periodically (see Late 1995-September 11, 2001).
In 2008, the website Intelwire.com will obtain a declassified FBI document from this date. The content is heavily redacted, including the title, but the full title appears to be, “Summary of information obtained from the United Arab Emirates with regard to Manila Air fugitive Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.” The document appears to detail a briefing by United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials from the General Department of State Security to FBI officials visiting the UAE. It mentions that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) “who was reported to be in _____ during mid-1998, is still currently living in Sharjah, UAE, with his family.” The report also mentions that “in July 1998, authorities from ______ based on information probably obtained from Qatar, located KSM living and working in ____. After questioning him about his activities with the [Muslim Brotherhood], he was deported to Bahrain.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 7/8/1999 ) The 9/11 Commission will later mention this document a single time, and reveal that one of the redacted sections discusses KSM’s links to the Abu Sayyaf militant group in the Philippines. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 488) Sharjah is a major hub of al-Qaeda activity at this time (see Mid-1996-October 2001), and one of the 9/11 hijackers, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, is from the emirate of Sharjah (see 1980s and 1990s). 9/11 plot facilitator Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi will be based in Sharjah in the months before the 9/11 attacks, and some of the 9/11 hijackers will pass through there and visit him (see Early-Late June, 2001). It is not known what action US intelligence takes in response to this briefing.
Abdelkader Belliraj, a dual Belgian and Moroccan citizen, begins working for the Belgian government as an informant in this year, if not earlier (see February 29, 2008). It appears that the Belgian government has good reason to believe he is a murderer. When he is arrested in Morocco in 2008 (see February 18, 2008), he will confess to a series of unsolved murders in Belgium and Luxembourg between 1986 and 1989. Belgian detectives suspected that three of the murders, that of a Saudi imam in Brussels, his Tunisian librarian, and a driver at the Saudi embassy in Brussels, were connected. The same gun was used in each murder, and all three victims witnessed extensive fraud by Saudi embassy personnel. Belliraj was interrogated but let go. Abu Nidal’s terrorist group took credit for some of these murders, raising the possibility that Belliraj was a hit man for Nidal. Beginning in 1992, Belliraj formed a criminal network that committed a series of hold-ups in Belgium through 2001. (Het Laatste News 3/2/2008; Renard 3/4/2008) In 2000, the same year Belliraj begins working for the Belgian internal security service, State Security, his close associate Abdellatif Bekhti is arrested shortly after robbing a warehouse owned by the Brinks security firm. $24 million is stolen in the robbery. It is believed Belliraj’s group gets $5 million of that, while the rest of the money goes to Mafia figures who also took part in the robbery. Bekhti is sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2003. But several months later, Belliraj breaks him out of prison, as a car crashes the prison wall where Bekhti is being held. Bekhti will be arrested in 2008 in Morrocco with Belliraj and confess to his role in the robbery and other crimes. (Rotella 2/27/2008; Renard 3/4/2008; BBC 3/16/2008) Also in 2000, Belliraj’s group begins working with Hezbollah, and then links with al-Qaeda one year later (see 2001). He also allegedly has links to the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is not known why Belgian State Security worked with such a criminal or how much they knew about his exploits. One article notes: “Belliraj was well-known in Belgium. He was monitored and even interrogated but always released.” (Renard 3/4/2008)
The US and other countries announce the closure of the Al Taqwa Bank and the Al Barakaat financial network. President Bush says, “Al Taqwa and Al Barakaat raise funds for al-Qaeda. They manage, invest and distribute those funds.” US officials claim that both entities skimmed a part of the fees charged on each financial transaction it conducted and paid it to al-Qaeda. This would provide al-Qaeda with tens of millions of dollars annually. Additionally, Al Taqwa would provide investment advice and transfer cash for al-Qaeda. Al Taqwa is based in Switzerland while Al Barakaat is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Over 100 nations are said to be cooperating with efforts to block the funds of these two groups. (Sanger and Eichenwald 11/8/2001) Swiss authorities raid Al Taqwa-related businesses and the homes of bank leaders Youssef Nada, Ali Himmat, and Ahmad Huber, but no arrests are made. In January 2002, Nada will announce that the Al Taqwa Bank is shutting down, due to bad publicity after the raids. He will maintain that he and his organization are completely innocent. (Hosenball 11/7/2001; Reuters 1/10/2002) Days after 9/11, Huber called the 9/11 attacks “counterterror against American-Israeli terror,” the World Trade Center a “the Twin Towers of the godless,” and the Pentagon “a symbol of Satan,” yet he will claim to have no ties to the attackers. (Reynolds 2/1/2002; Hosenball 3/18/2002) In searching Nada’s house, Swiss authorities discover a document entitled “The Project,” which is a strategic plan for the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate and defeat Western countries (see December 1982). By late 2002, both the US and UN will declare Al Taqwa Bank, Nada, and Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, another founder and director of the bank, supporters of terrorism. All of their accounts will be declared frozen worldwide. (US Department of the Treasury 8/29/2002) However, while Al Taqwa itself will be shut down, later reports will indicate that other financial entities operated by the directors will continue to operate freely (see June-October 2005).
The Holy Land Foundation is shut down and its assets are seized. Holy Land claimed to be the largest Muslim charity in the US. It claimed to raise millions for Palestinian refugees and denied any support for terrorism. In justifying the move, the US government presents evidence of ties between the Holy Land and Hamas. Much of this evidence dates back to 1993; the Associated Press titles a story on the closure, “Money Freeze A Long Time Coming.” (Associated Press 12/5/2001) Holy Land offices in San Diego, California; Paterson, New Jersey; and Bridgeview, Illinois, are also raided. (CNN 12/4/2001) The indictment says Holy Land has been “deeply involved with a network of Muslim Brotherhood organizations dedicated to furthering the Islamic fundamentalist agenda espoused by Hamas.” (Mintz and Fatah 9/11/2004) Holy Land is represented by the powerful law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. Three partners at Akin, Gump are very close to President Bush: George Salem chaired Bush’s 2000 campaign outreach to Arab-Americans; Barnett “Sandy” Kress was appointed by Bush as an “unpaid consultant” on education reform and has an office in the White House; and James Langdon is one of Bush’s closest Texas friends. (Mulvihill, Wells, and Meyers 12/11/2001; Baker and Khan 12/17/2001) The leaders of Holy Land will be charged with a variety of crimes in 2002 and 2004 (see December 18, 2002-April 2005).
By early 2002, Syria emerges as one of the CIA’s most effective intelligence sources on al-Qaeda. Syria is one of seven countries on a State Department list of sponsors of terrorism. It has been on that list since 1979, mostly because of its support for Hezbollah combating Israel. But Syria is also an opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda has many connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, especially its Syrian branch. According to journalist Seymour Hersh in New Yorker magazine, “The Syrians had compiled hundreds of files on al-Qaeda, including dossiers on the men who participated—and others who wanted to participate—in the September 11th attacks. Syria also penetrated al-Qaeda cells throughout the Middle East and in Arab exile communities throughout Europe.” It appears Syrian intelligence may even have penetrated the Hamburg cell tied to the 9/11 plot, as hijacker Mohamed Atta and other cell members, such as Mohammed Haydar Zammar, occasionally worked at a German firm called Tatex Trading, which was infiltrated by Syrian intelligence (see September 10, 2002-June 2003). For a time, the Syrians give much of what they know to the CIA and FBI. A former State Department official says, “Up through January of 2003, the cooperation was top-notch. Then we were going to do Iraq, and some people in the [Bush] administration got heavy-handed. They wanted Syria to get involved in operational stuff having nothing to do with al-Qaeda and everything to do with Iraq. It was something Washington wanted from the Syrians, and they didn’t want to do it.” Hersh reports, “The collapse of the liaison relationship has left many CIA operatives especially frustrated. ‘The guys are unbelievably pissed that we’re blowing this away,’ a former high-level intelligence official told me. ‘There was a great channel… The Syrians were a lot more willing to help us, but they’—[Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld and his colleagues—“want to go in [Syria after the Iraq war].’” (Hersh 7/18/2003)
Scores of federal agents raid 14 entities in a cluster of more than 100 homes, charities, think tanks, and businesses in Herndon, Virginia, a town just outside of Washington with a large Muslim population. No arrests are made and no organizations are shut down, but over 500 boxes of files and computer files are confiscated, filling seven trucks. This group of interlocking entities is widely known as the SAAR network (it is also sometimes called the Safa Group). SAAR stands for Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, a Saudi banker and billionaire who largely funded the group beginning in the early 1980s (see July 29, 1983). He is said to be close to the Saudi ruling family and is on the Golden Chain, a list of early al-Qaeda supporters (see 1988-1989). (Miller 3/21/2002; Farah 2004, pp. 152; Simpson 6/21/2004) The name and address of Salah al-Rajhi, Suleiman’s brother, was discovered in 1998 in the telephone book of Wadih El-Hage (see September 15, 1998). El-Hage was bin Laden’s personal secretary and was convicted of a role in the 1998 US embassy bombings. (Miller 3/25/2002) The raids are said to be primarily led by David Kane, a Customs agent working with a Customs investigation started just after 9/11 code-named Operation Greenquest. Many of the organizations are located at an office building at 555 Grove Street in Herndon. Kane writes in an affidavit for the raid that many organizations based there are “paper organizations” which “dissolve and are replaced by other organizations under the control of the same group of individuals.” (Miller 3/21/2002; Simpson 6/21/2004) Investigators appear to be primarily interested in the connections between the SAAR network and the Al Taqwa Bank, a Swiss bank closed after 9/11 on suspicions of funding al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups (see November 7, 2001). They are also interested in connections between both SAAR and Al Taqwa and the Muslim Brotherhood (see December 1982). According to author Douglas Farah, “US officials [later say] they had tracked about $20 million from [SAAR] entities flowing through Nada’s Bank al Taqwa, but said the total could be much higher. The ties between Nada and [SAAR] leaders were many and long-standing, as were their ties to other [Muslim] Brotherhood leaders.… For a time, Suleiman Abdel Aziz al-Rajhi, the SAAR Foundation founder, worked for Nada” at Al Taqwa’s Liechtenstein branch. (Miller 3/25/2002; Farah 2004, pp. 154-155) Organizations and individuals targeted by the raid include:
Yaqub Mirza. He is the director of virtually all of the organizations targeted in the raid. The Wall Street Journal claims, “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.” (Simpson 4/18/2002; Guidera and Simpson 12/6/2002)
The SAAR Foundation or the Safa Trust, an umbrella group for the SAAR network. The SAAR Foundation had recently disbanded and reformed as the Safa Trust. (Miller 3/21/2002; Simpson 3/22/2002; Farah and Mintz 10/7/2002)
Hisham Al-Talib, who served as an officer of the SAAR Foundation and Safa Trust, had previously been an officer of firms run by Youssef Nada. Nada is one of the main owners of the Al Taqwa Bank. (Simpson 3/22/2002)
Mar-Jac Poultry Inc., an Islamic chicken processor with operations in rural Georgia. (Simpson 6/21/2004)
Jamal Barzinji. An officer of Mar-Jac and other organizations targeted in the raid, he had previously been involved with Nada’s companies. (Simpson 3/22/2002)
The International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). (Miller 3/21/2002)
The Muslim World League. It is considered to be a parent organization for the IIRO. (Miller 3/21/2002)
International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIRT). The IIRT had been under investigation since at least 1998. (Miller 3/21/2002)
Tarik Hamdi, an employee at IIRT. His home is also raided. He carried a battery for a satellite phone to Afghanistan in early 1998, and the battery was used for Osama bin Laden’s phone (see May 28, 1998). (Miller 3/21/2002)
Abdurahman Alamoudi, a top Muslim lobbyist who formerly worked for one of the SAAR organizations. His nearby home is raided. The search yields a memo on large transactions involving Hamas, operations against the Israelis, and the notation “Met Mousa Abu Marzouk in Jordan.” Marzouk is a Hamas leader believed to be involved in fundraising for Hamas in the US for many years (see July 5, 1995-May 1997). Alamoudi is alleged to be a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. (Simpson 6/21/2004)
Samir Salah, an Egyptian-born president of the Piedmont Trading Corporation, which is part of the SAAR network. He is also a former director and treasurer of the Al Taqwa Bank’s important Bahamas branch. Additionally, he was a founder of a Bosnian charity reportedly connected to a plot to blow up the US embassy in Bosnia. (Miller 3/25/2002)
Ibrahim Hassabella. He is a shareholder of the SAAR Foundation and also a former secretary of the Al Taqwa Bank. (Miller 3/25/2002) Investigators will later find that much of SAAR’s money seemed to disappear into offshore bank accounts. For instance, in 1998, SAAR claimed to have moved $9 million to a charity based in the tax haven of the Isle of Man, but investigators will find no evidence the charity existed. One US official involved in the probe will say of SAAR, “Looking at their finances is like looking into a black hole.” (Farah and Mintz 10/7/2002) In 2003, it will be reported that US investigators are looking into reports that the director of the SAAR foundation for most of the 1990s stayed in the same hotel as three of the 9/11 hijackers the night before the 9/11 attacks (see September 10, 2001). Some US investigators had looked into the SAAR network in the mid-1990s, but the FBI blocked the investigation’s progress (see 1995-1998).
On September 10, 2002, German police raid the Tatex Trading company, a small textile business located just outside of Hamburg. According to Newsweek, German authorities has been “keeping a close watch on the company… for years.” Germans begin preparing a case against the company and the US prepares to freeze the company’s assets. But by June 2003, the investigation is closed and no action is taken by the US or Germany. Newsweek will claim that “Some US and German officials suggest that both countries decided not to proceed with legal action against Tatex to avoid antagonizing the government of Syria.” (Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg) 9/7/2003; Hosenball 1/18/2004) The New Yorker will claim “Tatex was infiltrated by Syrian intelligence in the eighties; one of its shareholders was Mohammed Majed Said, who ran the Syrian intelligence directorate from 1987 to 1994.” (Hersh 7/18/2003) Some believe the Syrians infiltrated the company to spy on extremist Syrian exiles in Hamburg, while others believe Syrians were using the company as a front to illegally acquire high-tech equipment from the West. It is claimed that the investigation into Tatex is dropped because Syria has been cooperative with Germany and the US in other areas. (Hosenball 1/18/2004) Abdul-Matin Tatari, the Syrian in charge of Tatex, admits that his company had employed Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mamoun Darkazanli, both of whom have been tied to the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. Further, the Chicago Tribune claims, “Investigators also say Mohamed Atta himself worked for a time at Tatex, something Tatari vehemently denies. But Tatari admits that one of his sons signed Atta’s petition to establish an Islamic ‘study group’ at Hamburg’s Technical University that served as a rendezvous for the hijackers and their supporters.” Tatari’s son took trips with Mounir El Motassadeq, who also has been tied to the Hamburg cell. Tatari, Zammar, Darkazanli, and Atta all are believed to be members of the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a secret society banned in Egypt. (Crewdson and Cohen 11/1/2002)
Soliman Biheiri, the former head of BMI Inc., a New Jersey-based investment firm with ties to many suspected terrorism financiers (see 1986-October 1999), had left the US immediately after a raid of the SAAR network in March 2002 (see March 20, 2002). On this day, he returns to the US and is immediately arrested and interviewed by Customs agent David Kane. Biheiri tells Kane that he has longstanding ties to leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Muslim group banned in Egypt. Agents are able to search his laptop computer, and discover ties with Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk. He is also connected to two principals of the banned Al Taqwa Bank (see November 7, 2001), Youssef Nada and Ghaleb Himmat, when their addresses are discovered on his computer as well. Agents say there are “other indications” of connections between Al Taqwa and Biheiri’s company BMI, including financial transactions. (Perelman 10/17/2003; Simpson 6/21/2004; Barakat 10/12/2004) An e-mail is also discovered showing Biheiri was involved in Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi’s financial dealings with Yaqub Mirza, the director of the raided SAAR network. The US froze al-Qadi’s assets in late 2001 (see October 12, 2001). (Simpson 9/15/2003) Biheiri will be convicted of immigration fraud in October 2003. He will be convicted again in 2004 for lying to Kane about his ties to Marzouk during his interview. (Simpson 6/21/2004; Barakat 10/12/2004)
Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, leader of the Britain-based Al-Muhajiroun militant group, is interviewed. He says, “I believe Britain is harboring most of the Islamic opposition leaders of the Muslim world.… Because the British elites are very clever, they are not stupid like the Americans. Remember these people used to rule half of the world.… The British are not like the French and the Germans, they don’t slap you in the face, they stab you in the back. They want to buy some of these Islamic groups.” Asked if there ever has been “a secret deal between some Islamists and British security whereby radical Muslims would be left alone as long as they did not threaten British national security,” Bakri replies: “I believe all the people referred to as ‘moderate’ Muslims have at one time or another struck deals with the British government. But the British have been unable to corrupt radical groups” like Bakri’s group. He then defines moderate Muslims as “The Muslim Brotherhood in [Britain], UK Islamic Mission, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Iranian opposition groups, [and] the so-called [Iranian] Ahlul Bait groups.” Bakri also says, “I think everything I say and do is monitored.” He admits to being questioned by British intelligence “on at least 16 occasions,” but denies helping them. He says that the authorities have attempted to penetrate his organization, “as the British are desperate to buy intelligence.” Speaking about British intelligence agencies, he says: “their understanding of Islam is poor. But I believe the really clever people are the elites in this country, as they know how to divide Muslims.” (Abedin 3/23/2004) Bakri’s comments will take on new meaning when it is later revealed that he was an active informant for British intelligence (see Spring 2005-Early 2007).
The 9/11 Commission releases a report on terrorism financing. Its conclusions generally stand in complete contrast to a great body of material reported by the mainstream media, before and after this report. For instance, while the report does mention some terrorism-supporting organizations in great detail, such as the Global Relief Foundation or Al Barakaat, many seemingly important organizations are not mentioned a single time in either this report or the 9/11 Commission Final Report. The Commission fails to ever mention: BMI, Inc., Ptech, Al Taqwa Bank, Holy Land Foundation, InfoCom, International Islamic Relief Organization, Muslim World League, Muwafaq (Blessed Relief) Foundation, Quranic Literacy Institute, and the SAAR network or any entity within it. Additionally, important efforts to track terrorist financing such as Vulgar Betrayal and Operation Greenquest are not mentioned a single time. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 61; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 134-5 ) Some select quotes from the report:
“While the drug trade was an important source of income for the Taliban before 9/11, it did not serve the same purpose for al-Qaeda. Although there is some fragmentary reporting alleging that bin Laden may have been an investor, or even had an operational role, in drug trafficking before 9/11, this intelligence cannot be substantiated and the sourcing is probably suspect.” Additionally, there is “no evidence of [al-Qaeda] drug funding after 9/11.” (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 22-23 )
“[C]ontrary to some public reports, we have not seen substantial evidence that al-Qaeda shares a fund-raising infrastructure in the United States with Hamas, Hezbollah, or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.” (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 24 )
“The United States is not, and has not been, a substantial source of al-Qaeda funding, but some funds raised in the United States may have made their way to al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups. A murky US network of jihadist (holy war) supporters has plainly provided funds to foreign mujaheddin with al-Qaeda links. Still, there is little hard evidence of substantial funds from the United States actually going to al-Qaeda. A CIA expert on al-Qaeda financing believes that any money coming out of the United States for al-Qaeda is ‘minuscule.’” (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 24 )
The notion “that bin Laden was a financier with a fortune of several hundred million dollars” is an “urban legend.” “[S]ome within the government continued to cite the $300 million figure well after 9/11, and the general public still [incorrectly] gives credence to the notion of a ‘multimillionaire bin Laden.’” (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 20, 34 ) (A few months after this report, it will be reported that in 2000 over $250 million passed through a bank account jointly controlled by bin Laden and another man (see 2000).)
“To date, the US government has not been able to determine the origin of the money used for the 9/11 attacks.… Ultimately the question of the origin of the funds is of little practical significance.” (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 144 )
“The US intelligence community has attacked the problem [of terrorist funding] with imagination and vigor” since 9/11. (Shenon 8/22/2004)
According to the New York Times, the report “largely exonerate[s] the Saudi government and its senior officials of long-standing accusations that they were involved in financing al-Qaeda terrorists.” (Shenon 8/22/2004) Author Douglas Farah comments on the Commission’s report, “The biggest hole is the complete lack of attention to the role the Muslim Brotherhood has played in the financing of al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups. While the ties are extensive on a personal level, they also pervade the financial structure of al-Qaeda.… According to sources who provided classified briefing to the Commission staff, most of the information that was provided was ignored.… [T]he Commission staff simply did not include any information that was at odds with the official line of different agencies.” (Farah 8/27/2004)
The Washington Post reports that “Some federal agents worry that the Muslim Brotherhood has dangerous links to terrorism. But some US diplomats and intelligence officials believe its influence offers an opportunity for political engagement that could help isolate violent jihadists.” The Post describes the Brotherhood as “a sprawling and secretive society with followers in more than 70 countries.… In some nations—Egypt, Algeria, Syria, Sudan—the Brotherhood has fomented Islamic revolution. In the Palestinian territories, the Brotherhood created… Hamas, which has become known for its suicide bombings of Israelis. Yet it is also a sophisticated and diverse organization that appeals to many Muslims worldwide and sometimes advocates peaceful persuasion, not violent revolt. Some of its supporters went on to help found al-Qaeda, while others launched one of the largest college student groups in the United States.” A top FBI counterterrorism official says, “We see some sort of nexus, direct or indirect, to the Brotherhood, in ongoing [terrorism] cases.” A number of people connected to al-Qaeda, such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, and Mohamed Atta, were members of the Brotherhood. Reportedly, “pockets” of US the government “have quietly advocated that the government reach out to the Brotherhood and its allies.” For instance, Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA officer working with the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, says, “Bin Laden-ism can only be gutted by fundamentalists.” But former CIA officer Graham Fuller says, “At high levels of the government, there’s no desire to go in the direction of dialogue. It’s still seen as fairly way out.” (Mintz and Fatah 9/11/2004) In 2005, it will be reported that some Muslim Brotherhood leaders created a plan in 1982 to infiltrate the West with the ultimate goal of subverting it and conquering it (see December 1982).
Israel officially honors the nine Egyptian Jews who were involved in the “Lavon Affair” bombings in Egypt (see July 1954) Israeli President Moshe Katzav, presiding over the 2005 ceremony honoring the bombers in Jerusalem, says that the Israeli government has “decided now to express our respect for these heroes.” In 1954, in an effort to damage Egypt’s relationship with the West, Israeli agents bombed sites frequented by foreigners in Cairo and Alexandria with hopes that the attacks would be blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood. But the operation unraveled when one of the bombs being planted went off prematurely. (Reuters 3/30/2005)
Egypt freezes the assets of dozens of top Muslim Brotherhood figures and then announces that 40 of them will stand trial in Egypt’s military court. The Associated Press notes this court is “known for its swift trials and no right of appeal.” Figures targeted include most of the top leaders of the Al Taqwa Bank in Switzerland, the Muslim Brotherhood bank banned by the US for its alleged ties to al-Qaeda. About five of those to be tried in absentia are tied to the bank, including bank directors Youssef Nada and Ghaleb Himmat. (Agence France-Presse 1/24/2007; Associated Press 2/6/2007; Ikhwanweb 2/8/2007) The Muslim Brotherhood has been officially banned in Egypt for decades but it has generally been tolerated by the government. Muslim Brotherhood members became the largest opposition bloc in the Egyptian parliament after winning 88 of the 454 seats in the 2005 legislative elections by running as independents. (Associated Press 2/6/2007)
Progressive media watchdog site Media Matters reports that Walid Shoebat, who claims to be a reformed terrorist and is now a favorite guest of right-wing radio hosts, tells host G. Gordon Liddy that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is “definitely a Muslim,” a patent falsehood that has been repeatedly debunked (see January 22-24, 2008). Shoebat also repeats another widely debunked falsehood, that terrorist groups such as Hamas have proclaimed their support for Obama. Shoebat briefly discusses Obama’s supposed “indoctrination” in Indonesian “madrassas” (as a child, Obama was educated in an Indonesian Catholic school for a brief period), then says: “No one is called Hussein unless he is Muslim. So it is very clear that Barack Hussein Obama is definitely a Muslim.” Anyone who leaves the Muslim faith is to be killed, Shoebat claims, so Obama is by definition a Muslim by dint of still being alive. Shoebat also says: “from al-Qaeda to the Muslim Brotherhood to Hamas, every single Muslim terrorist organization supports Barack Hussein Obama. So why would Americans want to have a president that is connected to Islam and that is proud to be Muslim?” (Media Matters 9/11/2008)
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