Profile: Nidal Ayyad
Nidal Ayyad was a participant or observer in the following events:
One of the Calverton surveillance photographs introduced as evidence in court (note that some faces have been blurred out). [Source: National Geographic]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]
Nidal Ayyad. [Source: FBI]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. [New York Times, 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. [Los Angeles Times, 3/12/1993; New York Times, 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.
Four days after the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993), a letter is received by the New York Times that takes credit for the bombings. The letter is written on behalf of Ramzi Yousef’s “Fifth Battalion Liberation Army” and is signed by an Arabic-sounding alias. “If our demands are not met, all of our functional groups in the army will continue to execute our missions against military and civilian targets in and out of the United States. For your information, our army has more than [a] hundred and fifty suicidal soldiers ready to go ahead.” It also promises attacks on “nuclear targets.” It lists a series of demands, including an end to diplomatic relations with Israel and an end to interfering “with any of the Middle East countries interior affairs.” On March 10, 1993, WTC bomber Nidal Ayyad will be arrested and a copy of the letter will be found on his computer along with a second letter listing further threats (see Shortly After March 10, 1993). [New York Times, 3/28/1993; Reeve, 1999, pp. 61] US officials downplay the threats in the letter. One top investigator says: “There’s no reason to believe that threat is real. We can try to prepare for everything, but we can’t lock up the city.” [New York Times, 3/29/1993]
On March 10, Nidal Ayyad is arrested for a role in the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993). Investigators soon discover a letter threatening future attacks in a computer file that was deleted but recovered. It makes reference to an earlier letter sent by Ayyad to the New York Times taking credit for the bombing (see March 2, 1993), and says: “We are the Liberation Army Fifth Battalion again. Unfortunately, our calculations were not very accurate this time. However, we promise you that next time it will be very precise and WTC will continue to be one our targets in the US unless our demands are met.” The letter is signed by the same long Arabic alias used in Ayyad’s previous letter. [New York Times, 12/15/1993]
Three of the men convicted for the World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993)—Mohammed Salameh, Mahmud Abouhalima, and Nidal Ayyad—are allowed to write about 90 letters from inside the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, encouraging fellow extremists around the world. Some of the letters are sent to Morocco and some to a militant cell in Spain. In one, addressed to cell leader Mohamed Achraf, who will be arrested in late 2004 for attempting to blow up the National Justice Building in Madrid (see July-October 18, 2004), Salameh writes, “Oh, God, make us live with happiness. Make us die as martyrs. May we be united on the day of judgment.” Other recipients have links to the 2004 Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). One of Salameh’s letters, in which he calls Osama bin Laden “the hero of my generation,” is published in a newspaper in July 2002, but this does not result in any new security attempts to stop other letters. The letters urge readers to “terminate the infidels” because “Muslims don’t have any option other than jihad.” Former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy wonders, “He was exhorting acts of terrorism and helping recruit would-be terrorists for the jihad from inside an American prison.” Terrorism specialist Hedieth Mirahmadi says the letters would have been especially useful for recruitment because the convicted bombers have “a power that the average person or the average imam in a mosque doesn’t have.” Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will later comment, “I was surprised. Didn’t seem to make any sense to me and I’m sure the average American would have to wonder, ‘How could this happen?’” Staff at the prison noticed the letters were unmonitored and complained in 2003, but it apparently took management several months to impose a tighter regime. [MSNBC, 3/1/2005; MSNBC, 3/9/2005]
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