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a.k.a. Wa'el Hamza Julaidan, Abu al-Hasan
In 1986, Maktab al-Khidamat (a.k.a. Al-Kifah), the precursor organization to al-Qaeda, opens its first branch in the US at the Islamic Center of Tucson, in Tucson, Arizona. Counterterrorism expert Rita Katz will later call the Islamic Center, “basically, the first cell of al-Qaeda in the United States; that is where it all started.” The organization’s journal, Al Jihad (Holy War), is initially distributed in the US from there. Other branches around the US soon follow (see 1985-1989). (Yardley and Thomas 6/19/2002)
A number of important future al-Qaeda figures are connected to the Tucson branch in the 1980s and into the early 1990s, including:
Mohammed Loay Bayazid, one of the founders of al-Qaeda two years later.
Wael Hamza Julaidan, another founder of al-Qaeda, and a Saudi multimillionaire. He was president of the Islamic Center starting in 1983 and leaves the US around 1986.
Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden’s future personal secretary, who will later be convicted for a role in the 1998 US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). El-Hage is connected to the murder of a liberal imam at the rival mosque to the Islamic Center in 1990 (see January 1990).
Mubarak al Duri, al-Qaeda’s chief agent attempting to purchase weapons of mass destruction. (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 521)
Throughout the 1980s, the mosque provides money, support, and fighters to the mujaheddin fighting in Afghanistan. Around 1991, future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour will move to Arizona for the first time (see October 3, 1991-February 1992) and he will spend much of the rest of the decade in the state. He will briefly live in Tucson, but his ties to earlier al-Qaeda connections there remain elusive. (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002)
In March 2002, authorities in Bosnia, Sarajevo, will raid the offices of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) due to suspected funding of al-Qaeda (see March 2002). The raid will uncover a handwritten list containing the name of twenty wealthy donors sympathetic to al-Qaeda. The list, referred to as “The Golden Chain,” contains both the names of the donors and the names of the recipients (but does not mention amounts given). Seven of the payments are made to Osama bin Laden. (Prothero 2/11/2003) Most accounts will be vague on what year the Golden Chain document was written; some say 1988. (Simpson 3/18/2003) But counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will say it dates from 1989. (US Congress 10/22/2003) Al-Qaeda is formed in late 1988 (see August 11-20, 1988). The Wall Street Journal will later note, “The list doesn’t show any continuing support for al-Qaeda after the organization began targeting Americans, but a number of the Saudis on it have been under scrutiny by US officials as to whether they have supported terrorism in recent years.” (Simpson 3/18/2003) The donors named include:
The “Bin Laden brothers.” Their first names are not mentioned. They give money to Osama bin Laden. UPI will later point out that “the discovery of this document in Sarajevo calls into question whether al-Qaeda has received support from one of Osama’s scores of wealthy brothers.”
Adel Batterjee, a wealthy Saudi businessman who is also the founder of both BIF and its predecessor, Lajnatt Al-Birr Al-Islamiah. He appears to be mentioned as a recipient three times. (Prothero 2/11/2003) The US will declare him as a terrorist financier in 2004 (see December 21, 2004).
Wael Hamza Julaidan, a Saudi millionaire and one of the founders of al-Qaeda. He is listed as a recipient. The US will declare him a terrorist financier in 2002 (see September 6, 2002).
Saleh Kamel, a Saudi billionaire, and the majority shareholder of the Saudi conglomerate Dallah Albaraka. In 2003, Forbes will call him one of the richest people in the world. The list has him giving money to Batterjee.
Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, another Saudi billionaire. The SAAR network, which is named after him, will be raided by the FBI in 2002 (see March 20, 2002). (Emerson 2006, pp. 400)
Khalid bin Mahfouz, another Saudi billionaire. A lawyer for bin Mahfouz will later say bin Mahfouz did contribute a small amount to fund the mujaheddin in the late 1980s, but only at the behest of the US and Saudi Arabia. (Simpson 3/18/2003)
Bin Laden conducts two meetings to discuss “the establishment of a new military group,” according to notes that are found later. Notes reveal the group is initially called al-Qaeda al-Askariya, which roughly translates to “the military base.” But the name soon shortens to just al-Qaeda, meaning “the base” or “the foundation.” (Solomon 2/19/2003; Wright 2006, pp. 131-134) With the Soviets in the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan, it is proposed to create the new group to keep military jihad, or holy war, alive after the Soviets are gone. The notes don’t specify what the group will do exactly, but it concludes, “Initial estimate, within six months of al-Qaeda (founding), 314 brothers will be trained and ready.” In fact, al-Qaeda will remain smaller than that for years to come. Fifteen people attend these two initial meetings. (Wright 2006, pp. 131-134) In addition to bin Laden, other attendees include:
Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the head of the Egyptian militant group Islamic Jihad. (Wright 9/9/2002)
Mohammed Atef, a.k.a. Abu Hafs.
Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a.k.a. Abu Hajer.
Wael Hamza Julaidan.
Mohammed Loay Bayazid, a US citizen, who is notetaker for the meetings. (Wright 2006, pp. 131-134)
Al-Fadl will reveal details about the meetings to US investigators in 1996 (see June 1996-April 1997). Notes to the meeting will be found in Bosnia in early 2002. (Wright 9/9/2002) It will take US intelligence years even to realize a group named al-Qaeda exists; the first known incidence of US intelligence being told the name will come in 1993 (see May 1993).
Senior al-Qaeda operatives establish a front company called Maram in Istanbul, Turkey, as a travel agency and import-export business. Investigators will later say they suspect that the company may be involved in efforts to obtain material for nuclear weapons and that it provides money and other assistance to radicals traveling between Europe and training camps in Afghanistan. Turkish intelligence and several foreign agencies are aware that militants transit Turkey at this time and some of them are under surveillance (see 1996, 1995-2000, and Mid-1996), but it is unclear whether Maram itself is monitored. The company, which receives a donation of US$ 1.25 million from Saudi businessman Yassin al-Qadi (see January-August 1998), is established by Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, one of al-Qaeda’s founding members (see August 11-20, 1988), who is said to have a history of moving money and shopping for weapons for the organization. A few months later he transfers shares in the company to two other men. One is Wael Hamza Julaidan, a Saudi businessman also said to be a founder of al-Qaeda; the US will officially designate Julaidan a financial supporter of al-Qaeda in 2002 (see September 6, 2002). The other transferee is Mohammed Bayazid, another founder of al-Qaeda and a US citizen who was arrested in the US in 1994 and then let go (see December 16, 1994). (Frantz 9/19/2002) For a time before November 1998, toll records for the Illinois office of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) show telephone contact with a number in Turkey associated with Bayazid. Phone records indicate Bayazid moves to Turkey around April 1998. (USA v. Benevolence International Foundation and Enaam M. Arnaout 4/29/2002, pp. 16-17 ) US intelligence has been interested in BIF’s ties to al-Qaeda since at least 1993 (see 1993 and 1998), but apparently misses its links to Maram while the company is still open. After Salim is arrested in Germany in 1998 (see September 16, 1998), the company clears out its offices. A neighbor says, “I just came one morning and saw the office was empty. Nobody knows what happen[ed].” (Frantz 9/19/2002)
Rita Katz, a researcher at The Investigative Project on Terrorism, discovers a book called The Arab Volunteers in Afghanistan. Published in Arabic in 1991, the book is very obscure. The 9/11 Commission will later say the book contains “a particularly useful insight into the evolution of al-Qaeda—written by an early bin Laden associate, Adel Batterjee, under a pseudonym.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 467) Katz discovers that Batterjee was close acquaintances with Osama bin Laden and that the book describes bin Laden’s career and that of many others during the 1980s war in Afghanistan in great detail. She will later call the book “practically the ‘Who’s Who of al-Qaeda’” because so many people described in it went on to become important al-Qaeda figures. The book discusses:
Adel Batterjee, the author of the book and a Saudi millionaire. He helped found the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). The US will declare him a terrorism financier in 2004.
Wael Hamza Julaidan, a Saudi multimillionaire. The US will designate him a terrorism financier in 2002 (see September 6, 2002).
Enaam Arnaout. He runs the US headquarters of BIF from 1993 until late 2001, when the US will shut BIF down.
Mohammed Loay Bayazid, a US citizen. He is a founding member of al-Qaeda and worked in the US for BIF until 1998.
Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law. He is tied to the Bojinka plot and numerous militant charity fronts.
Mohammed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi (the book mentions him by his alias, Abu Talha). Considered al-Qaeda’s main financier of cells in Europe, he will be arrested a few months after 9/11 (see April 23, 2002).
Wali Khan Amin Shah, one of the Bojinka plotters. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 468)
Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, an al-Qaeda leader involved in the 1998 African embassy bombings who will be arrested in Germany in 1998 (see September 16, 1998). (Devon and Mitre 10/28/2002)
Katz says that “many, many others” are mentioned. “Many others mentioned in the book decorate the FBI’s ‘most wanted’ lists.… There was nothing like [the] book to put everything in order, organize loose bits of information, and clear parts that were obscure to me (and to everyone else.)” Katz has connections in the US government, so she calls the White House and tries to convey the importance of the book’s information. She repeatedly sends them translations of important sections. However, she sees very little interest in the book. After 9/11, she will get a call from the Justice Department, finally expressing interest. Katz will later comment, “The government took interest in the book only after 9/11, two years after I’d first discovered it and offered it to them. No wonder that government agents told me I knew more about al-Qaeda than they did.”
United Nations police raid a house in Pristina, Kosovo, rented by the Saudi Joint Relief Committee (SJRC). The house was rented by Wael Hamza Julaidan, one of the founders of al-Qaeda, and is discovered to be an al-Qaeda safe house. Shortly after the raid, the BBC reports that the US sent UN police a secret document asking them to monitor those connected to the house. It states that Julaidan is an associate of Osama bin Laden, and helped him “move money and men to and from the Balkans.” The SJRC is an umbrella body for several other Saudi charities and is partly financed by the Saudi government. (Wood 4/3/2000) In a 1999 interview broadcast on the Al Jazeera television network, bin Laden referred to the origins of al-Qaeda and said, “We were all in one boat, as is known to you, including our brother, Wael Julaidan.” (Kohlmann 2004) However, despite this openly shown interest in Julaidan, the US will not freeze his assets until late 2002 (see September 6, 2002). Julaidan has just been made director general of the Rabita Trust, a charity with many prominent Pakistanis on its board of directors, including Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (see Mid-September-October 12, 2001).
As the US is preparing its first post-9/11 list of supporters of al-Qaeda in order to freeze assets, the Rabita Trust is slated to be included on the list. The Rabita Trust was founded in 1988 by Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, the secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL) in the 1980s. It is considered a popular Islamic charity in Pakistan and is linked to the MWL, which is closely tied to the Saudi government. Wael Hamza Julaidan, one of the founders of al-Qaeda, has been director general of the Rabita Trust since 2000 (see September 6, 2002), and there is evidence it has been funding Islamic militants in the disputed region of Kashmir between Pakistan and India. However, politically connected Pakistanis, including Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, are on the Rabita Trust’s board of directors. The US gives Musharraf about 48 hours to quit the board, and threatens to withdraw US aid from Pakistan if he does not. However, he refuses. The charity is kept off the first US list on September 24, 2001 (see September 24, 2001). But it is added to a second list on October 12, 2001 (see October 12, 2001), even though Musharraf apparently does not quit the board first. Julaidan will be listed a year later (see September 6, 2002). (Bruce 10/4/2001; Thomas 10/8/2001; Hilzenrath and Mintz 10/14/2001; Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 100-101) But the Rabita Trust simply changes its name to the Aid Organization of the Ulama and continues functioning. The US does not take further action against it. (Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 100-101) It is unclear what Musharraf may have known about the charity’s militant ties, if anything. However, in the early 1990s, Musharraf was behind an effort by the Pakistani army to fund militants fighting in Kashmir (see 1993-1994).
The US and United Nations designate Wael Hamza Julaidan a terrorist financier and freezes the funds of the Rabita Trust. Julaidan worked with bin Laden’s mentor Abdullah Azzam in the Muslim World League in Pakistan in the 1980s and was one of the founders of al-Qaeda in 1988 (see August 11-20, 1988). (Kaplan, Ekman, and Latif 12/15/2003) Julaidan’s name was on the “Golden Chain” list of early al-Qaeda funders (see 1988-1989), serving as an intermediary between bin Laden and Saudi multimillionaires. Beginning in 2000, he became director general of the Rabita Trust, a Pakistani charity which the UN determined has been funding al-Qaeda. The US froze the bank accounts of the Rabita Trust shortly after 9/11 due to suspected terrorist links, but the organization changed its name and continued to operate (see Mid-September-October 12, 2001). Julaidan is considered highly connected in Saudi Arabia and even though the Saudi government officially goes along with the terrorist designations of Julaidan and the Rabita Trust, some top Saudi officials publicly defend him. For instance, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz publicly suggests that Julaidan is innocent. Julaidan is not arrested and the Saudi government offers no proof that they seized any of his or Rabita’s bank accounts. In December 2003, the Washington Post will report that US and UN officials believe Julaidan continues to work with charity fronts and handles large sums of money. (Farah 12/14/2003; Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 100-101)
In the wake of news that two Saudis living in San Diego, California, may have helped two of the 9/11 hijackers, reports surface that the US has a secret, short list of wealthy individuals who are the alleged key financiers of al-Qaeda and other Islamic militant groups. The Washington Post claims there are nine names on the list: seven Saudis, plus one Egyptian, and one Pakistani. (Farah 11/26/2002) ABC News claims the list consists of 12 names, all Saudis, and says they were financing al-Qaeda through accounts in Cyprus, Switzerland, and Malaysia, among other countries. (ABC News 11/25/2002) They also claim the Saudi government has a copy of the list. US officials privately say all the people listed have close personal and business ties with the Saudi royal family. (ABC News 11/26/2002) A secret report by French investigator Jean-Charles Brisard names seven prominent Saudi financiers of terror; the number matches the seven Saudis mentioned in the Washington Post article, though it’s not known if all the names are the same. The Saudis mentioned by Brisard include Yassin al-Qadi, Adel Batterjee, and Wael Hamza Julaidan (who has had his assets frozen by the US.) (US Department of State 9/6/2002) Brisard says al-Qaeda has received between $300 million and $500 million over the last ten years from wealthy businessmen and bankers. He claims that the combined fortunes of these men equal about 20 percent of Saudi Arabia’s GDP (gross domestic product). (Brisard 12/19/2002 ; Rottela 12/24/2002) However, Brisard’s study has been mistakenly described as a United Nations report. While he submitted the study to the UN, the UN didn’t request it. (Ruehsen 10/2003) It is also reported that a National Security Council task force recommends that the US demand that Saudi Arabia crack down on al-Qaeda’s financiers within 90 days of receiving evidence of misdeeds and if they do not, the US should take unilateral action to bring the suspects to justice. However, the US government denies this report and calls Saudi Arabia a “good partner in the war on terrorism.” (Farah 11/26/2002) Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says: “I think the fact that many of the hijackers came from that nation [Saudi Arabia] cannot and should not be read as an indictment of the country.” (Tully 11/27/2002)
In the years since the US declared Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi a terrorism financier (see October 12, 2001), no criminal charges have been brought against him anywhere in the world. But on June 22, 2005, it is announced that Swiss prosecutors are pursuing a formal criminal case against him. The case focuses on a series of transactions made between February and August 1998 that were sent from one of al-Qadi’s companies to a firm owned by Saudi businessman Wael Hamza Julaidan. Julaidan reputedly associated with bin Laden in the 1980s. He was placed on US and UN terrorism financier lists in 2002. Over $1 million of the money in these transactions was sent to a Yemeni charity, but allegedly wound up funding al-Qaeda instead. Al-Qadi denies knowing that the money would go to al-Qaeda. (Isikoff and Hosenball 6/22/2005) It is claimed that some of this money goes to support the 9/11 attacks. However, in December 2005, the Swiss apparently close the case. The Swiss court issues a statement, “Nothing in the file allows one to conclude with sufficient likelihood that Yassin al-Qadi knew or was able to know that the payments he made and for which he is implicated in the Swiss proceedings, could serve to specifically finance the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” (Mirza 12/25/2005)
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