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Profile: Zahid Shaikh Mohammed

a.k.a. Zahed Shaikh Mohammed

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Zahid Shaikh Mohammed was a participant or observer in the following events:

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) fights and works in Afghanistan. KSM, a Pakistani who spent most of his childhood in Kuwait, went to college at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in the US from 1983 to 1986. Then, in 1987, he goes to Afghanistan to take part in the struggle against the Russians. Two of his brothers die in the fighting there. Another brother, Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, works for a prominent Islamic charity there and introduces KSM to Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, an Afghan warlord. KSM serves as Sayyaf’s secretary and helps recruit Arabs to fight in Afghanistan for Sayyaf’s faction. (Gunaratna 6/1/2005) At the time, the CIA and Saudi Arabia are spending billions of dollars funding warlords such as Sayyaf. The Los Angeles Times will later call Sayyaf “the favored recipient of money from the Saudi and American governments.” While in Afghanistan, KSM also gets to know bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and many other future al-Qaeda leaders. (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002)

Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, the brother of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), works as the head of the Pakistani branch of the charity Mercy International. A book published in 1999 will allege that this charity, based in the US and Switzerland, was used by the CIA to funnel money to Muslim militants fighting against US enemies in places such as Bosnia and Afghanistan (see 1989 and After). It is not known when Zahid got involved with the charity, but he is heading its Pakistani branch by 1988, when his nephew Ramzi Yousef first goes to Afghanistan (see Late 1980s). (Reeve 1999, pp. 120) In the spring of 1993, US investigators raid Zahid’s house while searching for Yousef (see Spring 1993). Documents and pictures are found suggesting close links and even a friendship between Zahid and Osama bin Laden. Photos and other evidence also show close links between Zahid, KSM, and government officials close to Nawaf Sharif, who is prime minister of Pakistan twice in the 1990s. The investigators also discover that Zahid was seen talking to Pakistani President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari during a Mercy International ceremony in February 1993. (Reeve 1999, pp. 48-49, 120) But despite the raid, Zahid apparently keeps his job until about February 1995, when Yousef is arrested in Pakistan (see February 7, 1995). Investigators learn Yousef had made a phone call to the Mercy office, and there is an entry in Yousef’s seized telephone directory for a Zahid Shaikh Mohammed. Pakistani investigators raid the Mercy office, but Zahid has already fled. (Iqbal 4/11/1995; Pallister and Wilson 9/26/2001; McDermott 2005, pp. 154, 162) It is unclear what subsequently happens to Zahid. In 1999 it will be reported that he is believed to be in Kuwait, but in 2002 the Kuwaiti government will announce he is a member of al-Qaeda, so presumably he is no longer welcome there. (Reeve 1999, pp. 48; McDermott 9/1/2002) Mercy International’s Kenya branch will later be implicated in the 1998 US embassy bombing in that country, as will KSM, Zahid’s brother (see Late August 1998).

Mercy International USA’s logo.Mercy International USA’s logo. [Source: Mercy International USA]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)

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and his nephew Ramzi Yousef have high-level protection in Pakistan around 1993, at least. This is according to Rehman Malik, who is head of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) at the time. In July 1993, KSM and Yousef are unsuccessful in an attempt to assassinate Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (see July 1993). Malik will later say, “It seemed to us [in the FIA] that the entire family were involved in this business [of terrorism]. Ramzi and Khalid were both out to make a name for themselves. They had close connections with the jihadis, but it was unclear who they were working for. They were both extremely dangerous men, and to us in the FIA, it always appeared that they had protection at a higher level. When we raided Ramzi’s house in Quetta, he had been warned. Likewise with Zahid [Shaikh Mohammed, KSM’s brother] in Peshawar.” (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 96) Also around this time, US investigators find KSM and his brother Zahid are linked to the ISI. They even find photographs of them with high-ranking Pakistani political leaders (see Spring 1993).

US agents uncover photographs showing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) has ties with the Pakistani ISI. Several weeks after the World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), US agents come to Pakistan to search for Ramzi Yousef for his part in that bombing. Searching the house of Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, Yousef’s uncle, they find photographs of Zahid and KSM, who is also one of Yousef’s uncles, with close associates of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. (Bokhari et al. 2/15/2003) According to another account, the pictures actually show Zahid with Sharif, and also with Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, president of Pakistan until his death in 1988. (Jacquard 2002, pp. 66) Pictures of Osama bin Laden are also found. US agents are unable to catch Yousef because Pakistani agents tip him off prior to the US raids. Yousef is able to live a semi-public life (for instance, he attends weddings), despite worldwide publicity naming him as a major terrorist. The Financial Times will later note that Yousef, KSM, and their allies “must have felt confident that their ties to senior Pakistani Islamists, whose power had been cemented within the country’s intelligence service [the ISI], would prove invaluable.” (Bokhari et al. 2/15/2003) Several months later, Yousef and KSM unsuccessfully attempt to assassinate Benazir Bhutto, who is prime minister of Pakistan twice in the 1990s (see July 1993). She is an opponent of Sharif and the ISI. (Bhutto 9/21/2001; Gunaratna 3/3/2003) The Los Angeles Times will later report that KSM “spent most of the 1990s in Pakistan. Pakistani leadership through the 1990s sympathized with Osama bin Laden’s fundamentalist rhetoric. This sympathy allowed [him] to operate as he pleased in Pakistan.” (McDermott 6/24/2002)

Shortly after bomber Ramzi Yousef is arrested (see February 7, 1995), investigators discover a computer file of a letter on his laptop that is signed by “Khalid Sheikh, and Bojinka.” An eyewitness account of the arrest is given to Time magazine by a “Khalid Sheikh,” who is also staying in the same building. (McDermott 2005, pp. 154, 162) Investigators also discover that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) had frequently visited Yousef’s apartment in Manila, Philippines, where the bombs for the Bojinka plot were being made. (PBS Frontline 10/3/2002) They also find Yousef has multiple fax and phone numbers for a “Khalid Doha.” Doha is the capital of Qatar. KSM has been living there openly since 1992 (see 1992-1995). Shortly after being apprehended, US authorities notice that Yousef calls one of these numbers in Qatar and asks to speak to a “Khalid.” The US already connected KSM to the 1993 WTC bombing just weeks after that attack and knew that he was living in Doha, Qatar (see March 20, 1993). (US Congress 7/24/2003) There is an entry in Yousef’s seized telephone directory for a Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, Yousef’s uncle and KSM’s brother. Not long after this discovery is made, Pakistani investigators raid Zahid’s offices in Peshawar, Pakistan, but Zahid has already fled (see 1988-Spring 1995). In 1993, US investigators already discovered the connections between Yousef, Zahid, and KSM, after raiding Zahid’s house in Pakistan and finding pictures of them (see Spring 1993). (McDermott 2005, pp. 154, 162) The FBI successfully arranges for a photograph to be taken of KSM. He is positively identified from the photo in December 1995. This results in his indictment in January 1996 for his role in the 1993 WTC bombing. US intelligence labels him a “top priority,” according the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003)


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