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Complete 911 Timeline

'Londonistan' - British Counterterrorism

Project: Complete 911 Timeline
Open-Content project managed by matt, Derek, Paul, KJF, mtuck, paxvector

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Alastair Crooke.Alastair Crooke. [Source: Conflicts Forum]Alastair Crooke, an agent for the British intelligence service MI6, helps out with the anti-Soviet jihad and gets “to know some of the militants who would become leaders of al-Qaeda.” (Grey 4/11/2005) He also spends “years during the 1980s with Osama Bin Laden’s henchmen in Afghanistan.” (Shipman 6/12/2005) Crooke, whose role is to coordinate British assistance to the mujaheddin, will later be described by CIA officer Milton Bearden as “a natural on the frontier” and “a British agent straight out of the Great Game.” Details of exactly which future al-Qaeda leaders he gets to know are not available. In the 1990s, Crooke will move to Palestine, where he will come into contact with Hamas leaders. (Grey 4/11/2005)

Abu Hamza al-Masri, a future leader of the Islamist movement in Britain (see March 1997) who will have a long relationship with Britain’s security services (see Early 1997) and will be convicted on terrorism charges (see January 11-February 7, 2006), fraudulently obtains British citizenship and swears allegiance to the Queen. However, according to authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory, “he could have been deported from Britain as an illegal immigrant and a fraudster long before he caused the trouble that he went on to stir up.” For example:
bullet When he first arrived in Britain in July 1979, he found a job in contravention of his one-month visitor’s visa. He also breached the terms of subsequent visas by working;
bullet He stopped renewing his visa and became an illegal immigrant, doing casual work for cash-in-hand;
bullet When he married Valerie Traverso, a pregnant single mother of three, in May 1980, she was still married to her first husband and the marriage to Abu Hamza was therefore bigamous;
bullet When Traverso gave birth to a child fathered by her real, but estranged, husband four months later, Abu Hamza falsely registered himself as the father.
Abu Hamza was able to obtain leave to stay in Britain based on the illegal marriage and fraudulent birth certificate, even though he was arrested in a raid on the porn cinema where he worked as a bouncer and identified as an illegal immigrant. The leave to stay is later made indefinite, and he obtains citizenship seven years after arriving in Britain. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 4-13)

By 1987, Abu Nidal is the world’s most well-known terrorist. His group has killed over 300 people. But in 1987 his attacks generally come to a halt. A French intelligence report in 1988 explains this is because Middle Eastern governments begin paying large sums of protection money in order not to be attacked. For instance, the government of Kuwait deposits $80 million into Nidal’s BCCI bank account in London in 1987. Kuwait will later deny the payments took place, but counterterrorism experts will dismiss the denials and say that such payments to Nidal were common. In 1988, the Defense Department will conclude that one third of Nidal’s money comes from his own businesses (he is an illegal arms dealer), one third from Arab governments, and one third from various blackmail schemes. Most of these transactions, including Nidal’s arms dealing transactions, are made through Nidal’s BCCI bank account in London, and US and British intelligence has been monitoring his account there since at least 1986 (see 1984 and After). But apparently they merely gather information and make little attempt to shut down Nidal or his finances. Nidal will eventually close out his London accounts in 1990. (Carley 8/9/1991; Rempel and Frantz 9/30/1991) Nidal will finally be murdered in mysterious circumstances in Iraq in August 2002. He will apparently stop his attacks around 1994. (MacAskill 8/20/2002)

The “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, visits London and gives several talks there to recruit fighters for the war in Afghanistan. The visits may be paid for by the CIA, which is said to be paying for his travel at this point and is also said to arrange US visas for him (see July 1990). The talks are attended by future extremist leader Abu Hamza al-Masri. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 17-18)

Abu Hamza al-Masri, before he was injured and lost an eye.Abu Hamza al-Masri, before he was injured and lost an eye. [Source: CIA]Many veteran mujaheddin who have been wounded in the Soviet-Afghan War receive expensive treatment for their injuries in London. The care is paid for by rich Saudis and provided at clinics in Harley Street, an area well known for the high quality and price of the treatment provided there. Local extremist Abu Hamza al-Masri acts as a translator for the wounded. He will later speak of the deep impression this makes on him, “When you see how happy they are, how anxious just to have a new limb so they can run again and fight again, not thinking of retiring, their main ambition is to get killed in the cause of Allah… you see another dimension in the verses of the Koran.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 18) Some wounded mujaheddin are also treated in Saudi Arabia, where their treatment is paid for by the Islamic Benevolence Committee, a charity and early incarnation of the Benevolence International Foundation. The treatment is provided at a hospital owned by the family of the charity’s founder, Adel Batterjee. The committee will go on to help fighters injured in the Bosnian War (see 1993). (Roe, Cohen, and Franklin 2/22/2004)

The 1999 book The New Jackals by journalist Simon Reeve will report that in the early 1990s, bin Laden “was flitting between Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, London, and Sudan.” Reeve does not say who his sources are for this statement. (Reeve 1999, pp. 156)
bullet Bin Laden had concluded an arms deal to purchase ground-to-air missiles for anti-Soviet fighters at the Dorchester Hotel in Central London in 1986 (see Mid-1986).
bullet Bin Laden allegedly visits the London mansion of Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz around 1991 (see (1991)).
bullet Bin Laden allegedly travels to London and Manchester to meet GIA militants in 1994 (see 1994).
bullet One report claims bin Laden briefly lived in London in 1994 (see Early 1994).
bullet Similarly, the 1999 book Dollars for Terror by Richard Labeviere will claim, “According to several authorized sources, Osama bin Laden traveled many times to the British capital between 1995 and 1996, on his private jet.”
bullet The book will also point out that in February 1996, bin Laden was interviewed for the Arabic weekly al-Watan al-Arabi and the interview was held in the London house of Khalid al-Fawwaz, bin Laden’s de facto press secretary at the time (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998). (Labeviere 1999, pp. 101)
bullet An interview with bin Laden will be published in the Egyptian weekly Rose Al Yusuf on June 17, 1996. The interview is said to have been conducted in London, but the exact date of the interview is not known. (Emerson 2006, pp. 423)
bullet In a book first published in 1999, journalist John Cooley will say that bin Laden “seems to have avoided even clandestine trips [to London] from 1995.” (Cooley 2002, pp. 63)
bullet Labeviere, however, will claim bin Laden was in London as late as the second half of 1996, and, “according to several Arab diplomatic sources, this trip was clearly under the protection of the British authorities.” (Labeviere 1999, pp. 108)
After 9/11, some will report that bin Laden never traveled to any Western countries in his life. On the other hand, in 2005 a British cabinet official will state that in late 1995 bin Laden actually considered moving to London (see Late 1995).

Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, a leading Islamist radical based in London, calls for the assassination of British Prime Minister John Major. Bakri says that Major is “a legitimate target; if anyone gets the opportunity to assassinate him, I don’t think they should save it. It is our Islamic duty and we will celebrate his death.” Bakri makes this call at some point after Major’s appointment to succeed Margaret Thatcher, but before the end of the Gulf War, the event that inspires Bakri’s statement. However, Bakri will later say that this did not apply in Britain and that such assassination could only be properly carried out in a Muslim country. He is interviewed by the police but not charged, one of almost a dozen such incidents when a decision not to prosecute Bakri is taken. He will later call for the assassination of Major’s successor, Tony Blair (see December 10, 2000). (Ulph 7/7/2005; O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 113) Bakri works as an informer for British intelligence at some point (see Spring 2005-Early 2007), although it is unclear whether he is doing so at this time.

Abu Hamza al-Masri (left) riding in a car with Haroon Rashid Aswat in January 1999.Abu Hamza al-Masri (left) riding in a car with Haroon Rashid Aswat in January 1999. [Source: Sunday Times]Haroon Rashid Aswat is a radical Muslim of Indian descent but born and raised in Britain. Around 1995, when he was about 21 years old, he left Britain and attended militant training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is said to have later told investigators that he once served as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. In the late 1990s, he returns to Britain and becomes a “highly public aide” to radical London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri. Reda Hassaine, an informant for the French and British intelligence services (see After March 1997 and Late January 1999), will later recall regularly seeing Aswat at the Finsbury Park mosque where Abu Hamza preaches. Hassaine frequently sees Aswat recruiting young men to join al-Qaeda. “Inside the mosque he would sit with the new recruits telling them about life after death and the obligation of every Muslim to do the jihad against the unbelievers. All the talk was about killing in order to go to paradise and get the 72 virgins.” Aswat also shows potential recruits videos of the militants fighting in Bosnia and Chechnya. Hassaine will add: “He was always wearing Afghan or combat clothes. In the evening he offered some tea to the people who would sit with him to listen to the heroic action of the mujaheddin before joining the cleric for the finishing touch of brainwashing. The British didn’t seem to understand how dangerous these people were.” Hassaine presumably tells his British handlers about Aswat, as he is regularly reporting about activities as the mosque around this time, but the British take no action. (Woods, Leppard, and Smith 7/31/2005) It will later be reported that Aswat is the mastermind of the 7/7 London bombings (see Late June-July 7, 2005). Some of the 7/7 suicide bombers regularly attended the Finsbury Park mosque, and may have been recruited by al-Qaeda there or at another mosque in Britain. Counterterrorism expert John Loftus will later claim that Aswat in fact was working with British intelligence. He will say that in the late 1990s British intelligence was trying to get Islamist militants to fight in Kosovo against the Serbians and Aswat was part of this recruitment effort (see July 29, 2005). (Fox News 7/29/2005)

Abu Hamza al-Masri, who will later become a leading Islamic radical in Britain, travels to Afghanistan and, as he is a qualified civil engineer, helps with reconstruction efforts there after the Soviet withdrawal. He later receives paramilitary training at Darunta camp and loses his hands and the sight in one eye while practicing making explosives there. He is taken to Pakistan for emergency treatment, but refuses to hand over a set of passports he has to that country’s ISI intelligence agency, and flees to Britain with his family due to fears of a reprisal. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 21-29)

In a 2005 op-ed in The Guardian, British MP and former cabinet minister Michael Meacher will claim that Islamist militants from Pakistan were sent to Bosnia in the early 1990s to fight against Serbia. Citing the Observer Research Foundation, he will claim that about 200 Pakistani Muslims living in Britain were sent to Pakistan, where they trained in camps run by the Pakistani militant group Harkat ul-Ansar (which will change its name to Harkat ul-Mujahedeen after being banned by the US a few years later). The Pakistani ISI assisted with their training. They then joined Harkat ul-Ansar forces in Bosnia “with the full knowledge and complicity of the British and American intelligence agencies.” (Meacher 9/10/2005) Interestingly, Saeed Sheikh, who will later be accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks and the murder of reporter Daniel Pearl, follows this pattern. He left Britain to go to Bosnia with Harkat ul-Ansar, and also attended training camps partly run by the ISI (see April 1993 and June 1993-October 1994). There are also allegations that he worked with British intelligence (see Before April 1993).

Saeed Sheikh may be recruited by the British intelligence service MI6, according to a claim made in a book published in 2006 by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. According to Musharraf, Saeed Sheikh, who will be involved in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl (see January 23, 2002) and will be said to wire money to the 9/11 hijackers (see Early August 2001), may be recruited by MI6 while studying in London, and when he goes to Bosnia to support the Muslim cause there, this may be at MI6’s behest (see April 1993). Musharraf will further speculate, “At some point, he probably became a rogue or double agent.” (McGrory 9/26/2006) The London Times will provide some support for this theory, suggesting that Saeed will later have dealings with British intelligence (see 1999).

Saeed Sheikh during his London School of Economics days.Saeed Sheikh during his London School of Economics days. [Source: CNN]Saeed Sheikh, a British citizen and student at the London School of Economics, goes to Bosnia on a trip sponsored by the “Convoy of Mercy” (Jehl 2/25/2002) , a front for the newly formed militant Islamic fundamentalist group, Harkat ul-Ansar. (Jane's International Security News 9/20/2001) There he joins Harkat ul-Ansar. (Jehl 2/25/2002) Aukai Collins, who will meet Saeed Sheikh in a camp in Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan some months later (see June 1993-October 1994), will later confirm that Saeed is a member of Harkat ul-Ansar. (Collins 2003, pp. 33) Harkat ul-Ansar will change its name to Harkat ul-Mujahedeen in 1997 after Harkat ul-Ansar is named a terrorist organization by the US State Department. (Raman 2/18/2002) Collins will also claim Harkat ul-Ansar was funded by bin Laden. (Raman 2/18/2002)

The London-based Advice and Reformation Committee (ARC) establishes a secure system for communications between Saudi Arabia and London for Osama bin Laden. The system is set up by Denver resident Lujain al-Imam, wife of London-based Islamic activist Mohammad al-Massari, at his request. The calls are routed from Saudi Arabia to Britain through Denver, Colorado, using toll-free lines established for US servicemen during the Gulf War, in order to stop the Saudi government from intercepting the messages. After the system is set up, bin Laden calls al-Massari to thank him. It is not known how long the phone system is used. However, in late 2001 al-Imam will say that some of the people involved in setting up the system are still in the Denver area, but she will not name them. (Kilzer 11/12/2001)
Who Else Is in Denver? - The ARC is widely considered bin Laden’s publicity office. ARC head Khalid al-Fawwaz will be indicted for his involvement in the US embassy bombings in 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998 and August 21, 2001). Denver-based radical publisher Homaidan al-Turki begins to be investigated over suspicions he is involved in terrorism in 1995, although it is unclear whether this is related to the Saudi Arabia-Britain phone lines. (Sarache 8/31/2006) Another likely suspect for this communications hub would be Ziyad Khaleel. He lives in Denver in the early 1990s until about 1994, and is vice president of the Denver Islamic Society. In 1998, he will work with al-Fawwaz to buy a satellite phone for bin Laden (see November 1996-Late August 1998). (Finley 1/27/1991; Branch-Brioso 1/22/2003) It seems likely Khaleel is in contact with Anwar al-Awlaki at this time, since al-Awlaki works as an imam for the Denver Islamic Society from 1994 to 1996. In 1999, al-Awlaki will be investigated by the FBI for his links to Khaleel (see June 1999-March 2000). He will go on to be the imam for a couple of the future 9/11 hijackers in San Diego, California, and then will become a prominent radical in Yemen. (Shane and Mekhennet 5/8/2010)

MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, disbands G7, a special unit that was established in the early 1980s to monitor Islamic militants. The order to do so comes from MI5 head Stella Rimington. It is strongly opposed by some MI5 colleagues, especially since the World Trade Center was bombed by Islamic militants in 1993 (see February 26, 1993). According to Vanity Fair, “Vital continuity and experience were lost, one senior British official says, and even after al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the 1998 American Embassy attacks in Africa from a fax machine in London, nothing was done to restore the unit.” (Zeman et al. 11/2004)

French authorities raid safe houses for activists linked with the Algerian militant organization Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA). These raids turn up telephone and fax numbers of London addresses that are then passed to the British authorities, along with the names of suspects the French want the British to investigate. These names include that of Rachid Ramda, who will later go on to mastermind a wave of bombings in France that kill 10 people (see July-October 1995). However, British authorities fail to do anything with this information. After the attacks, the French will say that if MI5 and other British authorities had acted on it, the wave of attacks could have been averted. Ramda will be arrested after the bombings, but it will take 10 years to extradite him to France (see January 5, 1996). (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 113-114)

Zacarias Moussaoui obtained a master’s degree in international business from South Bank University in London in the mid-1990s.Zacarias Moussaoui obtained a master’s degree in international business from South Bank University in London in the mid-1990s. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Three French consular officials in Algeria are assassinated. A French magistrate travels to London to investigate the case. The magistrate has information that a “Zacarias” living in London was a paymaster for the assassination. Zacarias Moussaoui, born in France and of North African ancestry, had moved to London in 1992 and become involved in radical Islam after being influenced by Abu Qatada (who has been called one of the leaders of al-Qaeda in Europe). The magistrate asks British authorities for permission to interview Moussaoui and search his apartment in Brixton. The British refuse to give permission, saying the French don’t have enough evidence on Moussaoui. But the French continue to develop more information on Moussaoui from this time on. (Burrell, Gumbel, and Sengupta 12/11/2001; Boulden 12/11/2001; Zucchino 12/13/2001)

Shortly after 9/11, unnamed FBI agents will tell a British newspaper that bin Laden stayed in London for several months in 1994. He was already wanted by the US, but “confusion at British intelligence agencies allowed him to slip away.” However, it may not simply have been confusion as British intelligence has a history of not acting on radical Muslim militants in Britain. One Israeli intelligence source will tell the same newspaper, “We know they come and go as they like in Britain. In the past our government has remonstrated with the Home Office but nothing has happened.” (Gardner 9/16/2001) A US Congressional Research Service report completed shortly before 9/11 will similarly conclude that bin Laden visited London in 1994. He lived for a few months in Wembley establishing his de facto press office called the Advice and Reformation Committee (ARC), headed by Khalid al-Fawwaz (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998). (MacAskill, Norton-Taylor, and Borger 9/14/2001) The book Bin Laden: Behind the Mask of the Terrorist by Adam Robinson will also state that bin Laden visits London for three months in early 1994, buying a house near Harrow Road in Wembley through an intermediary. The house will continued to be used by ARC long after he leaves. Bin Laden even attends a football (soccer) game at Arsenal. (Robinson 2001, pp. 167-168; BBC 11/11/2001) There are reports that bin Laden visits Britain at other times (see Early 1990s-Late 1996) and even considers applying for political asylum there in 1995 (see Late 1995). Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, is also “said to have lived in Britain for a time after fleeing Cairo, [Egypt, in the 1980s,] but [British ministers] refused Egypt’s request to arrest and extradite him.” (McGrory 9/24/2001)

Dollis Hill, the London street where Khalid al-Fawwaz runs bin Laden’s de facto press office.Dollis Hill, the London street where Khalid al-Fawwaz runs bin Laden’s de facto press office. [Source: Telegraph]Khalid al-Fawwaz moves to London and becomes bin Laden’s de facto press secretary there. Al-Fawwaz, a Saudi, had fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan and lived with him in Sudan. (Reeve 1999, pp. 180, 192) He headed the al-Qaeda cell in Kenya for about a year until early 1994 when he was arrested there. He went to London shortly after bribing his way out of Kenyan custody. (O'Neill 9/19/2001; Huband 11/29/2001) He opens a London office of the Advice and Reformation Committee (ARC), a bin Laden front. (Reeve 1999, pp. 180, 192) Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will later call this bin Laden’s “European headquarters.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 110) Al-Fawwaz also allegedly opens an account at Barclays Bank. US officials believe he uses the account to channel funds to al-Qaeda operatives around the world. He will be heavily monitored by Western intelligence agencies for most of this time. (Reeve 1999, pp. 180, 192) For instance, the NSA will record bin Laden phoning him over 200 times from 1996 to 1998 (see November 1996-Late August 1998). Bin Laden also frequently calls al-Fawwaz’s work phone, and Ibrahim Eidarous and Adel Abdel Bary, who work with al-Fawwaz at the London ARC office. (Fielding and Gadhery 3/24/2002) He works directly with some al-Qaeda cells during this time. For instance, a letter found on Wadih El-Hage’s computer in a late 1997 raid (see August 21, 1997) will repeatedly mention al-Fawwaz by his real first name. One part of the letter says that al-Fawwaz “asked me also to write periodically about the entire situation of the [al-Qaeda Nairobi] cell and the whole group here in east Africa.” (Reeve 1999, pp. 180, 192) Al-Fawwaz publishes a total of 17 fatwas issued by bin Laden between 1996 and 1998 and also arranges media interviews with him (see August 1996 and February 22, 1998). (O'Neill 9/19/2001; O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 111) But al-Fawwaz, along with Eidarous and Abdel Bary, will not be arrested until shortly after the 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998 and September 23, 1998-July 12, 1999). Many years after their arrests, the three of them will remain in a British prison without being tried while fighting extradition to the US (see December 12, 2001 and After). (O'Neill 9/19/2001; Huband 11/29/2001)

Extremist imam Abu Hamza al-Masri makes three trips to Bosnia to meet the mujaheddin there. Before leaving Britain, where he lives, he changes his name and travels on a passport in his new name, as he is worried about surveillance by the security services. He cannot actually fight, due to injuries suffered in Afghanistan (see 1991-Late 1993), but, after entering the country with a relief convoy, Abu Hamza spends time with groups of radical fighters, in particular those from Algeria. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 30-31)

Britain attempts to deport London-based Saudi dissident Mohammed al-Massari, but its efforts are unsuccessful. Al-Massari established a communications line for Osama bin Laden in the mid-1990s (see 1994). The attempt is a result of pressure from the government of Saudi Arabia, to which al-Massari is opposed. The deportation is handled by what the BBC calls an “unusually senior British official,” which is “a sign of how important it was deemed.” However, Britain cannot deport him to his home country, because of torture concerns. Britain asks friendly countries to take him in and the small Caribbean nation of Dominica accepts, but this plan fails after it comes to light that Dominica has signed, but not incorporated the UN Convention on Refugees. (Reynolds 7/27/2005) The Saudis continue to urge action be taken against al-Massari, but he carries on operating from London. The Saudi ambassador will still be complaining about him in 2005 (see August 10, 2005).

Algerian journalist Reda Hassaine, who has previously performed one mission for the Algerian security services directed against the militant Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) (see August 1994), persuades the Algerian government to hire him on a more permanent basis. Hassaine approaches the Algerians because gunmen have assassinated a close friend in Algiers and he holds the GIA responsible. He makes the approach in London, where he now lives, by contacting the Algerian embassy. His case is handled by a colonel in the Algerian intelligence service, with whom Hassaine meets in various London pubs for several years. Hassaine is tasked with attending the various extremist mosques, in particular a mosque in Finsbury Park, as well as coffee shops. His job is to keep his eyes and ears open and also to report on specific GIA operatives. Hassaine will later focus on the Finsbury Park Mosque and will say of the extremists who passed through it: “They came from all over the world, spent some time there and went somewhere else—Kashmir, Afghanistan, wherever. And many of them would come back again. The mosque was a rest place for them, they would return from jihad and start telling the younger ones about it, brainwashing another lot of recruits.” Hassaine will be hired by French intelligence in 1997 (see Early 1997), after which he appears to do less for the Algerians. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 130-134)

Said Chedadi.Said Chedadi. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Beginning in 1995, Barakat Yarkas, head of an al-Qaeda cell in Madrid, Spain, begins traveling frequently to Britain. Yarkas is being constantly monitored by Spanish intelligence (see 1995 and After) and they learn that his cell is raising money for the Islamist militants in Chechnya who are fighting the Russian army there. Yarkas and fellow cell member Said Chedadi solicit funds from Arab business owners in Madrid and then take the cash to radical imam Abu Qatada in London. Abu Qatada is coordinating fundraising efforts, and from June 1996 onwards, he is also working as an informant for British intelligence, although just how long and how closely he works for them is unclear (see June 1996-February 1997). (Irujo 2005, pp. 64-65) According to a later Spanish government indictment, Yarkas makes over 20 trips from Spain to Britain roughly between 1995 and 2000. He mostly meets with Qatada and Abu Walid, who an indictment will later call Abu Qatada’s right-hand man. From 1998 onwards, Spanish militant Jamal Zougam also travels occasionally to London to meet with Qatada. Investigators later suspect he travels with Yarkas on at least one of these trips. (Burrell 11/21/2001; Lazaro 7/8/2005) From 1996 to 1998, an informant named Omar Nasiri informs on Abu Qatada and Walid for British intelligence (see Summer 1996-August 1998). Nasiri sometimes passes phones messages between the both of them and al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida, and also reveals that Walid has been to al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. (Nasiri 2006, pp. 265-282) Waild, a Saudi, apparently will be killed in Chechnya in 2004. (Cobain and O'Murchu 10/3/2006) In February 2001, British police will raid Abu Qatada’s house and find $250,000, including some marked “for the Mujaheddin in Chechnya” (see February 2001). However, he will not be arrested, and it is not clear if he and/or Yarkas continue raising money for Chechnya after the raid. Chedadi will later be sentenced to eight years and Zougam will get life in prison for roles in the 2004 Madrid train bombings (see October 31, 2007). (Agence France-Presse 1/26/2006)

Reda Hassaine, an informer for the Algerian (see Early 1995), French (see Early 1997), and British (see (November 11, 1998)) security services in London, witnesses a “multitude of illegal activities” at the radical Finsbury Park mosque. However, at this time the British authorities take no action against the mosque, which is run by Abu Hamza al-Masri, himself an informer for British intelligence (see Early 1997).
Skimming, Credit Cards - Hassaine will later say of illegal activities at the mosque: “It was going on all around you in the evenings and the afternoons. People were selling passports, stolen credit cards, and cloned credit cards. There were black boxes of the kind they used for skimming the numbers. They would recruit people who were working in petrol stations, hotels, restaurants, and give them the black boxes to collect the details from customers’ cards. Then they would use these cloned cards to buy trainers [running shoes], Levi’s 501s, [and] designer clothes which would be sold inside the mosque for cash.… If you wanted, you could buy a credit card for your own use, but it was always a gamble.… even if they were caught they were usually carrying a false identity. The police were never too bothered.”
Identity Fraud - The identity documents on sale were key: “The passport was useful because they could use it as proof of identity and then they could set up electricity, gas, or telephone accounts using a temporary address. British Telecom bills were the most useful. Then they would have proof of identity and proof of address, all that was needed to open a bank account. Using several identities they would open several bank accounts, manage them carefully for six months, keep maybe £1,000 in there, and the bank would offer them a credit card. So they would take the legitimate credit card and use it carefully for six months and the bank would offer them a loan. That’s when they strike.… [The banks] must have lost millions to people who were operating scams like that out of Finsbury Park.”
Benefit Fraud - Hassaine will add: “Those same people were all claiming income support and sub-letting rooms for which they were receiving housing benefit while living for free in the mosque itself. They had also lodged asylum claims; there were guys who set themselves up as translators and would sit in the mosque coaching people in stories of how they had been persecuted in Algeria or faced torture if they returned home. Once they got their story right they would be taken along to a friendly solicitor who would take on their asylum claim.”
'One Foot in the Mafia' - However: “And don’t believe for one minute that all this money went to the jihad. There are men who were into all these rackets at the mosque during the 1990s, who claimed to be mujaheddin but are now living happily back in Algiers in big houses and driving around in brand new Mercedes cars. The truth is that a lot of them had one foot in the mujaheddin and one foot in the mafia.”
Abu Hamza Confessed to Intelligence Handlers - Abu Hamza is never questioned about the the illegal activities, even after some of the people directly involved in it are later jailed. Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will comment, “The British authorities were clearly aware that he was involved in fundraising for terrorism—not least because he confessed it to his contacts in the intelligence services.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 71-73, 290)
Britain a Fundraising Base - O’Neill and McGrory will also later highlight the importance of the funds raised in Britain for the global Islamist struggle (see March 2000-September 22, 2001): “The mujaheddin groups and terrorist cells around the world that allied themselves to the al-Qaeda ideology were largely autonomous and self-financing. Britain was a key source of that finance.”

The CIA begins a program to track Islamist militants in Europe. The program is operated by local stations in Europe and CIA manager Michael Scheuer, who will go on to found the agency’s bin Laden unit in early 1996 (see February 1996). The program is primarily focused on militants who oppose the Egyptian government. It traces the support network that supplies money and recruits to them and that organizes their propaganda. US Ambassador to Egypt Edward Walker will later say that the operation involves intercepting telephone calls and opening mail. Suspects are identified in Egypt and in European cities such as Milan (see 1993 and After), Oslo, and London (see (Late 1995)). (Grey 2007, pp. 125) The intelligence gathered as a part of this operation will be used for the CIA’s nascent rendition program (see Summer 1995).

Michael Howard.Michael Howard. [Source: BBC]Osama bin Laden is said to be unhappy with his exile in Sudan, where authorities are making noises about expelling him. Consequently, he requests asylum in Britain. Several of his brothers and other relatives, who are members of the bin Laden construction empire, own properties in London. He has already transferred some of his personal fortune to London, to help his followers set up terror cells in Britain and across Europe. Bin Laden employs Khalid al-Fawwaz, a Saudi businessman described as his “de facto ambassador” in Britain (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998), to assess his chances of moving there. British Home Secretary Michael Howard later says, “In truth, I knew little about him, but we picked up information that bin Laden was very interested in coming to Britain. It was apparently a serious request.” After Home Office officials investigate bin Laden, Howard issues an immediate order banning him under Britain’s immigration laws. (McGrory 9/29/2005) Bin Laden ends up going to Afghanistan instead in 1996 (see May 18, 1996). There are also later press reports that bin Laden travels frequently to London around this time (see Early 1990s-Late 1996), and even briefly lived there in 1994 (see Early 1994).

In June 1995, al-Qaeda sponsors a failed assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (see June 26, 1995 and Shortly After June 26, 1995). Some time in 1995, al-Qaeda leader Anas al-Liby moves to Britain and applies for political asylum. Not long after he arrives, Egypt asks the British government to extradite him for his alleged role in the assassination attempt. They send a detailed file on him, including information on how he had fought with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and then moved with him to Sudan. But the extradition request is refused. British officials question whether al-Liby could get a fair trial in Egypt and fear he could face the death penalty. The next year, British intelligence hires al-Liby, a Libyan, to assassinate Libyan ruler Colonel Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi (see 1996). Al-Liby will continue to live openly in Britain until 2000 (see Late 1995-May 2000 and May 2000). (McGrory 1/16/2003)

Anas al-Liby.Anas al-Liby. [Source: FBI]Anas al-Liby, member of a Libyan al-Qaeda affiliate group called Al-Muqatila, lives in Britain during this time. He had stayed with bin Laden in Sudan (see May 18, 1996). In late 1995, he moves to Britain and applies for political asylum, claiming to be a political enemy of the Libyan government (see (Late 1995)). He is involved in an al-Qaeda plot (see Late 1993-Late 1994) that will result in the bombing of two US embassies in Africa in 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). The British government suspects he is a high-level al-Qaeda operative, and Egypt tells Britain that he is wanted for an assassination attempt of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (see (Late 1995)). In 1996, he is involved in a plot with the British intelligence agency to assassinate Libyan leader Colonel Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi (see 1996), and presumably his ability to live in Britain is connected to cooperation with that plot. (Bright 11/10/2002; McGrory 1/16/2003) After the failed assassination attempt in 1996, the British allegedly continues to support Al-Muqatila—for instance, the group openly publishes a newsletter from a London office. (Brisard and Dasquie 2002, pp. 97-98) Whistleblower David Shayler, a British intelligence agent, gives British authorities details of this Libya plot in 1998 and again in 1999, and later will serve a short prison sentence for revealing this information to the public (see November 5, 2002). (Shayler 8/27/2000) In late 1998, al-Liby is monitored calling an al-Qaeda operative in the US and discussing their ties to one of the African embassy bombers, but this results in no action against al-Liby (see Shortly After August 12, 1998). He lives in Manchester until May of 2000. In 2002, it will be reported that he eluded a police raid on his house and fled abroad. (Bright 11/10/2002) However, in a 2011 book, FBI agent Ali Soufan will claim that al-Liby actually was arrested and then let go (see May 2000). His asylum application will still be under review at the time of his arrest. (McGrory 1/16/2003) An important al-Qaeda training manual is discovered in the raid on his Manchester residence (see May 2000). The US will later post a $25 million reward for al-Liby’s capture. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2002; Bright 11/10/2002)

Al-Muqatila, a cover for a Libyan al-Qaeda cell, tries to kill Libyan leader Colonel Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi. Al-Qadhafi survives, but several militants and innocent bystanders are killed. (Bright 10/30/2002) According to David Shayler, a member of the British intelligence agency MI5, and Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié, authors of the controversial book The Forbidden Truth, the British intelligence agency MI6 pays al-Qaeda the equivalent of $160,000 to help fund this assassination attempt. Shayler later goes to prison for revealing this information and the British press is banned from discussing the case (see November 5, 2002). (Lyall 8/5/1998; Bright 11/10/2002) Anas al-Liby, a member of the group, is given political asylum in Britain and lives there until May 2000 despite suspicions that he is an important al-Qaeda figure (see Late 1995-May 2000). He is later implicated in the al-Qaeda bombing of two US embassies in Africa in 1998 (see Late 1993-Late 1994; 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2002; Bright 11/10/2002)

London imam Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed establishes the radical Islamist organization Al-Muhajiroun, which will go on to be linked to several terror attacks (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004 and April 30, 2003). Bakri, who works as an informer for British intelligence at some point (see Spring 2005-Early 2007), had fled Syria in 1982 after taking part in a failed Muslim Brotherhood rising against the government and had been expelled from Saudi Arabia as an Islamist dissident in 1985. He had previously headed the British branch of the international movement Hizb ut Tahrir, but had split with its international leaders. Al-Muhajiroun becomes known for touring university campuses and shopping precincts to look for recruits and also for holding marches and rallies across Britain. In addition, Bakri establishes Britain’s first Shariah court, which has no legal standing, but which enables him to settle disputes for a fee. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 105-107)

Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was present in both Afghanistan and Bosnia during the wars there (see 1991-Late 1993 and 1995), is given his first regular preaching slot in Luton, a town to the north of London. Authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory will comment: “Luton gave him a base, and he launched himself like a hurricane on the Islamic circuit. Young men flocked to hear him and his reputation grew, drawing students from the Islamic societies of London universities to his Friday sermons.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 32-33)

In 1996, Zacarias Moussaoui begins recruiting other young Muslims to fight for Islamic militant causes in Chechnya and Kosovo. (Cloud 9/24/2001) He recruits for Chechen warlord Ibn Khattab, the Chechen leader most closely linked to al-Qaeda (see August 24, 2001). Details on his Kosovo links are still unknown. For most of this time, he is living in London and is often seen at the Finsbury Park mosque run by Abu Hamza al-Masri. For a time, Moussaoui has two French Caucasian roommates, Jerome and David Courtailler. The family of these brothers later believes that Moussaoui recruits them to become radical militants. The brothers will later be arrested for suspected roles in plotting attacks on the US embassy in Paris and NATO’s headquarters in Brussels. (Woodcock 10/1/2001) David Courtailler will later confess that at the Finsbury Park mosque he was given cash, a fake passport, and the number of a contact in Pakistan who would take him to an al-Qaeda camp. (McGrory 1/5/2002) French intelligence later learns that one friend he recruits, Masooud Al-Benin, dies in Chechnya in 2000 (see Late 1999-Late 2000). Shortly before 9/11, Moussaoui will try to recruit his US roommate at the time, Hussein al-Attas, to fight in Chechnya. Al-Attas will also see Moussaoui frequently looking at websites about the Chechnya conflict. (Casteel 3/22/2006) Moussaoui also goes to Chechnya himself in 1996-1997 (see 1996-Early 1997).

At some point in the mid-to-late 1990s, French authorities ask their counterparts in Britain to ban the militant newsletter Al Ansar, which is published in Britain by supporters of the radical Algerian organization Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA). Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will describe the newsletter: “This was handed out at mosques, youth clubs, and restaurants popular with young Arabs. It eulogized atrocities carried out by mujaheddin in Algeria, recounting graphic details of their operations, and described in deliberately provocative language an attack on a packed passenger train and the hijacking of a French airliner in December 1994 which was intended to be flown into the Eiffel Tower.” They add that its past editors “read like a who’s who of Islamist extremists,” including Abu Hamza al-Masri, an informer for the British authorities (see Early 1997 and Before October 1997), Abu Qatada, another British informer (see June 1996-February 1997), and Rachid Ramda, the mastermind of a series of attacks in France who operated from Britain (see 1994 and July-October 1995). The newsletter is also linked to Osama bin Laden (see 1994 and January 5, 1996). However, British authorities say that the newsletter cannot be banned. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 112-113)

Rachid Ramda.Rachid Ramda. [Source: Public domain]The London Times publishes one of the first Western newspaper articles about Osama bin Laden. The article says, “A Saudi Arabian millionaire is suspected of channeling thousands of pounds to Islamic militants in London which may have bankrolled French terrorist bombings.” Bin Laden is referred to as “Oussama ibn-Laden.” It says that he sent money to Rachid Ramda, editor in chief of Al Ansar, the London-based newsletter for the radical Algerian militant group the GIA. However, government sources say that the money ostensibly for the newsletter was really used to fund a wave of militant attacks in France in 1995 (see July-October 1995). Ramda was arrested in London on November 4, 1995 at the request of the French government. (Macintyre and Tendler 1/5/1996) Two other people working as editors on the Al Ansar newsletter in 1995, Abu Qatada and Mustafa Setmarian Nasar, will later be found to be important al-Qaeda leaders (see June 1996-1997 and October 31, 2005). It will take ten years for Britain to extradite Ramda to France. He will be tried in France in 2005 and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 1995 French attacks. (BBC 10/26/2007) Bin Laden may have met with Ramda while visiting Britain in 1994 (see 1994). It will later be revealed that the 1995 attacks in France were led by an Algerian government mole (see July-October 1995), and the GIA as a whole was run by a government mole (see October 27, 1994-July 16, 1996).

Finsbury Park mosque.Finsbury Park mosque. [Source: Salim Fadhley / Public Domain]Omar Nasiri, an agent of the British intelligence services MI5 and MI6, and the French service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE), penetrates radical Islamic circles in London, getting close to leading imams Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza (see Mid 1996-October 1997), learning about the Algerian Groupe Isamique Armé (GIA) (see November 1996), and dealing with al-Qaeda manager Abu Zubaida in Pakistan (see (Mid-1996) and (Mid-1996 and After)). Nasiri’s main task is to attend the main locations where radicals gather, Abu Qatada’s Four Feathers center and Abu Hamza’s Finsbury Park mosque, get close to senior operatives there to obtain information, and identify militants, even though the mosques, as Nasiri will later put it, are already “crawling with spies.” The British services are mostly interested in whether the radicals intend to attack in Britain, but, although they come close to inciting such attacks, they never cross the line. Nasiri will later comment: “[Abu Hamza] was inciting his followers to attack just about everywhere else, but never within England. He came very close to this line many times. He incited his followers to attack anyone who tried to claim Muslim land. He said many times that British soldiers and colonizers were fair game.” Nasiri, who previously received explosives training at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan (see Mid 1995-Spring 1996), also gets his associates in Afghanistan to send him his notebook from an explosives course and passes this on to his handlers, who are impressed at how sophisticated the formulae are. However, after a couple of years the radicals realize he is an informer. In addition, on the day of the African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998) he is so upset that he switches his mobile phone off for the first time since he received it, so MI5 stops trusting him. He will later write: “They must have worried that I was, in fact, a sleeper and that I had disappeared to pursue some mission. I couldn’t blame them of course. I was a trained killer. From the very beginning they hadn’t trusted me; I knew that.” He has to leave Britain and his career as an informer is practically over. (Nasiri 2006, pp. 259-303)

Abu Qatada.Abu Qatada. [Source: AFP/Getty Images]From June 1996 into 1997, highly reliable al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl is debriefed by US intelligence (see June 1996-April 1997), and presumably he reveals what he knows about British imam Abu Qatada. As al-Fadl will later reveal in early 2001 court testimony, in the early 1990s bin Laden grew concerned about the perception of religious legitimacy of al-Qaeda action. In 1992 and 1993, he formed a fatwa committee, made up of al-Qaeda’s more religious leaders, to provide a fatwa (religious sanction) for al-Qaeda’s methods. The committee issues a secret fatwa allowing al-Qaeda to work to evict the US military from the Arabian peninsula. Al-Fadl claims that one of the key members of this fatwa committee is Abu Qatada. In the early 1990s, Abu Qatada is little known, but he moved to Britain in 1994, gained asylum there, and began to gain a public reputation as a radical Islamist preacher. (Corbin 2003, pp. 37) Interestingly around the same time the US learns this information from al-Fadl, British intelligence begins using Qatada as an informant (see June 1996-February 1997).

MI5 headquarters in London.MI5 headquarters in London. [Source: Cryptome]In June and December 1996, and again in February 1997, a British MI5 agent meets with radical Muslim imam Abu Qatada, hoping he will inform on his fellow extremists. Qatada is a Jordanian national who entered Britain in September 1993 using a forged United Arab Emirates passport, and was granted asylum in 1994.
Qatada Promises to Look after British Interests - In his meetings with the MI5 agent he claims to “wield powerful, spiritual influence over the Algerian community in London.” He says he does not want London to become a center for settling Islamic scores, and that he will report anyone damaging British interests. He says the individuals he has influence over pose no threat to British security, and promises that “he would not bite the hand that fed him.” He also promises to “report anyone damaging the interests of [Britain].” The MI5 agent records that “surprisingly enough—[Abu Qatada] revealed little love of the methodology and policies pursued by Osama bin Laden. He certainly left me with the impression that he had nothing but contempt for bin Laden’s distant financing of the jihad.” (Special Immigration Appeals Commission 1/2004 pdf file; Israel 3/23/2004; Norton-Taylor 3/24/2004; McGrory and Ford 3/25/2004)
Links to Al-Qaeda - Yet Qatada is later described as being a “key [British] figure” in al-Qaeda related terror activity. Around 1996, a highly reliable informer told US intelligence that Qatada is on al-Qaeda’s fatwa (religious) committee (see June 1996-1997). Videos of his sermons are later discovered in the Hamburg flat used by Mohamed Atta. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, and Zacarias Moussaoui, who is later convicted in connection with the 9/11 attacks, are alleged to have sought religious advice from him. (BBC 8/11/2005; Jeffery 8/11/2005)
Meetings Apparently Continue - Reportedly, after Qatada’s February 1997 meeting with the British agent, no further such meetings occur. (Special Immigration Appeals Commission 1/2004 pdf file) However, some French officials later allege that Qatada continues to be an MI5 agent, and this is what allows him to avoid arrest after 9/11 (see Early December 2001). (Burke 2/24/2002) It will later emerge that Bisher al-Rawi, a friend of Qatada, served as an informant and a go-between MI5 and Qatada in numerous meetings between late 2001 and 2002, when Qatada is finally arrested (see Late September 2001-Summer 2002). Furthermore, al-Rawi says he served as a translator between MI5 and Qatada before 9/11, suggesting that Qatada never stopped being an informant. (Rose 7/29/2007)

Zacarias Moussaoui meets future shoe bomber Richard Reid at a south London mosque. Moussaoui, who will be arrested in the US shortly before 9/11 for raising suspicions at flight school, is the leader of the radical faction at the mosque and, according to authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory, Reid “hero-worship[s]” him. Moussaoui also “dominate[s] discussion groups…, shouting down those who dare[…] to criticize his stand that violent jihad [is] the only way to support Islamic communities around the world.” When the moderates at the mosque get together to criticize him, he moves to a more radical mosque, Finsbury Park, where he falls under surveillance by the British authorities (see March 1997-April 2000). Reid goes with him, and by this time he is “mouthing the same radical expressions and insults about America and Tony Blair as his shaven-headed hero.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 219)

Omar Nasiri, who informs on al-Qaeda for the British intelligence service MI6 and the French service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DSGE), makes contact with al-Qaeda logistics manager Abu Zubaida using a telephone bugged by MI6. Nasiri met Abu Zubaida in Pakistan (see Mid 1995-Spring 1996). Usually, when Nasiri calls the number, he talks to one of Abu Zubaida’s associates, but sometimes he talks to Abu Zubaida himself. The phone is used to relay messages between Abu Zubaida in Pakistan and al-Qaeda representatives in London, in particular leading imam Abu Qatada. The French will apparently make great use of this information (see October 1998 and After). (Nasiri 2006, pp. 270-1, 273, 281)

Leading London-based imam Abu Qatada denounces the Algerian GIA (Groupe Islamique Armé) over massacres of civilians the group has apparently conducted in Algeria, and severs ties with it. Fellow imam Abu Hamza al-Masri follows suit the next year. Abu Qatada says that support should no longer be provided to the GIA because they are declaring other Muslims infidels and killing them, although they are not learned men and do not have the authority to do this. This is highly controversial in the radical Islamic community in London, as some believe it is the government, not the GIA, that is carrying out the massacres, and Abu Qatada’s popularity declines. Abu Hamza initially defends the GIA, but, as the massacres get worse, support for the GIA in London ebbs. Eventually, Abu Hamza calls a GIA commander and asks for an explanation for a massacre. The commander says that the villagers were killed because they supported the moderate Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) and Abu Hamza withdraws his support from the GIA a few weeks later. Omar Nasiri, who informs on Abu Hamza for French and British intelligence and listens in on the call to the commander, will later comment: “More than anything else, this episode proved to me that Abu Hamza was a sham. His objectives shifted with the wind. He needed the GIA to seduce followers away from Abu Qatada. Now, he saw that he might lose more than he gained by continuing to support it. For Abu Hamza, it was all about the zakat, the money he collected every week after the al-Jum’a prayers. The more people attended, the more cash there would be.” (Nasiri 2006, pp. 271-2, 275, 295-6) Bin Laden denounces the GIA around the same time (see Mid-1996).

The British intelligence service MI6 and the French service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) send al-Qaeda $3,000 though one of their assets, Omar Nasiri, who has penetrated al-Qaeda’s camps in Afghanistan and its network in London (see Mid 1995-Spring 1996 and Summer 1996-August 1998). The money is sent to al-Qaeda logistics manager Abu Zubaida, whose phone calls they are listening to with Nasiri’s help (see (Mid-1996)). The money is wired to a Pakistani bank account whose number Abu Zubaida has given to Nasiri in three instalments of $1,000. At first, the British and French do not want to send the money, but Nasiri tells them it is essential for his cover and that Zubaida expects it, so they provide it. (Nasiri 2006, pp. 271-3)

Bin Laden issuing his 1996 fatwa.Bin Laden issuing his 1996 fatwa. [Source: PBS]Secure in his new base in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden issues a public fatwa, or religious decree, authorizing attacks on Western military targets in the Arabian Peninsula. This eliminates any doubts that bin Laden is merely a financier of attacks, rather than an active militant. (US Congress 9/18/2002) He made a similar call to attack US troops in Saudi Arabia in an open letter to the Saudi king the year before (see August 1995), which was followed by an actual attack (see November 13, 1995). The fatwa is published by Khalid al-Fawwaz, who runs bin Laden’s European headquarters in London. However, British authorities do not appear concerned. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 111) He will issue a new fatwa in 1998 authorizing attacks against the US and its allies all over the world (see February 22, 1998).

Omar Nasiri, an operative who informs on groups related to al-Qaeda for the British intelligence service MI6 and the French service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE), sees Ali Touchent, a key member of the Algerian militant Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) in London. British intelligence officers follow Touchent, but lose track of him. Touchent, who is suspected of being an Algerian government agent who has penetrated the GIA, is thought to be responsible for bombings in France, one of which occurs shortly after this sighting. Nasiri sees Touchent at the Four Feathers club during a talk by a radical cleric. Although Nasiri does not initially realize the man is Touchent, he recognizes he is important and immediately informs MI6 after the talk. MI6 identifies Touchent from photographs taken of the attendees. When Nasiri asks his MI6 handler how they could have lost such an important militant leader, the handler replies: “He was at a café. Our guys were watching him. And then he somehow disappeared.” (Nasiri 2006, pp. 277-278) The Guardian will later report, “Despite being publicly identified by the Algerian authorities as the European ringleader of the GIA and by French investigators as the key organizer” of the 1995 Paris metro bombings (see July-October 1995), “Touchent evaded capture, returned to Algeria, and settled in a secure police quarter of Algiers.” Mohammed Samraoui, a former colonel in Algerian intelligence, will later say, “French intelligence knew that Ali Touchent was [an Algerian government] operative charged with infiltrating pro-Islamist cells in foreign countries.” (Bouteldja 9/8/2005) He will be sentence in absentia to ten years in prison in France in 1998, even though the Algerian government claims he was killed in 1997. (Nasiri 2006, pp. 346-347)

An Inmarsat Compact M satellite phone, the type used by bin Laden.An Inmarsat Compact M satellite phone, the type used by bin Laden. [Source: Inmarsat]During this period, Osama bin Laden uses a satellite phone to direct al-Qaeda’s operations. The phone—a Compact M satellite phone, about the size of a laptop computer—was purchased by a student in Virginia named Ziyad Khaleel for $7,500 using the credit card of a British man named Saad al-Fagih. After purchasing the phone, Khaleel sent it to Khalid al-Fawwaz, al-Qaeda’s unofficial press secretary in London (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998). Al-Fawwaz then shipped it to bin Laden in Afghanistan. (Hirschkorn 4/16/2001) It appears US intelligence actually tracks the purchase as it occurs (see November 1996-Late December 1999), probably because an older model satellite phone bin Laden has is already being monitored (see Early 1990s). Bin Laden’s phone (873682505331) is believed to be used by other top al-Qaeda leaders as well, including Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammad Atef. Al-Fawwaz also buys satellite phones for other top al-Qaeda leaders around the same time. Though the calls made on these phones are encrypted, the NSA is able to intercept and decrypt them. As one US official will put it in early 2001, “codes were broken.” (Sale 2/13/2001; Hosenball and Klaidman 2/18/2002) The Los Angeles Times will report that the monitoring of these phones “produced tens of thousands of pages of transcripts over two years.” (Braun et al. 10/14/2001) Bin Laden’s satellite phone replaces an older model he used in Sudan that apparently was also monitored by the NSA (see Early 1990s). Billing records for his new phone are eventually released to the media in early 2002. Newsweek will note, “A country-by-country analysis of the bills provided US authorities with a virtual road map to important al-Qaeda cells around the world.” (Fielding and Gadhery 3/24/2002) The countries called are:
bullet Britain (238 or 260). Twenty-seven different phone numbers are called in Britain. Accounts differ on the exact number of calls. Khalid al-Fawwaz, who helps publish statements by bin Laden, receives 143 of the calls, including the very first one bin Laden makes with this phone. Apparently most of the remaining calls are made to pay phones near him or to his associates. He also frequently calls Ibrahim Eidarous, who works with al-Fawwaz and lives near him. (Hirschkorn 4/16/2001; Hosenball and Klaidman 2/18/2002; Fielding and Gadhery 3/24/2002; O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 111)
bullet Yemen (221). Dozens of calls go to an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, which is run by the father-in-law of 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar (see Late August 1998). (Hosenball and Klaidman 2/18/2002; McDermott 9/1/2002; Bamford 2008, pp. 8)
bullet Sudan (131). Bin Laden lived in Sudan until 1996 (see May 18, 1996), and some important al-Qaeda operatives remained there after he left (see February 5, 1998). (Fielding and Gadhery 3/24/2002)
bullet Iran (106). Newsweek will later report: “US officials had little explanation for the calls to Iran. A Bush administration official said that US intelligence has believed for years that hard-line anti-American factions inside Iran helped bin Laden’s organization operate an ‘underground railroad’ smuggling Islamic militants to al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.” (Hosenball and Klaidman 2/18/2002; Fielding and Gadhery 3/24/2002)
bullet Azerbaijan (67). An important al-Qaeda operative appears to be based in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Loeb 5/2/2001) This is most likely Ahmad Salama Mabruk, who is very close to al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri and is said to be the head of the al-Qaeda cell there. He kidnapped by the CIA in Baku in late August 1998 (see Late August 1998).
bullet Kenya (at least 56). In the embassy bombings trial, prosecutors introduce evidence showing 16 calls are made on this phone to some of the embassy bombers in Kenya (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), apparently all before a raid in August 1997 (see August 21, 1997). The defense introduces evidence showing at least 40 more calls are made after that time (see Late 1996-August 1998). (Hirschkorn 4/16/2001)
bullet Pakistan (59).
bullet Saudi Arabia (57).
bullet A ship in the Indian Ocean (13).
bullet The US (6).
bullet Italy (6).
bullet Malaysia (4).
bullet Senegal (2). (Fielding and Gadhery 3/24/2002)
bullet Egypt (unknown). Newsweek reports that calls are made to Egypt but doesn’t say how many. (Hosenball and Klaidman 2/18/2002)
bullet Iraq (0). Press reports note that the records indicate zero calls were made to Iraq. (Hosenball and Klaidman 2/18/2002; Fielding and Gadhery 3/24/2002) 1,100 total calls are made on this phone. Adding up the above numbers means that the destination of over 100 calls is still unaccounted for. (Hosenball and Klaidman 2/18/2002) The use of this phone stops two months after the August 1998 embassy bombings in Africa. However, it appears bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders continue to use other satellite phones occasionally after this time. Shortly after 9/11, James Bamford, an expert authority on the agency, says “About a year or so ago the NSA lost all track of him.… He may still use [satellite phones] occasionally to talk about something mundane, but he discovered that the transmitters can be used for honing.” (Sieberg 9/21/2001) According to a different account, bin Laden will attempt to use a different phone communication method, but US intelligence will soon discover it and continue monitoring his calls (see Late 1998 and After).

Beginning in early 1996, the Sudanese government started offering the US its extensive files on bin Laden and al-Qaeda (see March 8, 1996-April 1996). The US will repeatedly reject the files as part of its policy of isolating the Sudanese government (see April 5, 1997; February 5, 1998; May 2000). Around this time, MI6, the British intelligence agency, is also offered access to the files. Sudan reportedly makes a standing offer: “If someone from MI6 comes to us and declares himself, the next day he can be in [the capital city] Khartoum.” A Sudanese government source later adds, “We have been saying this for years.” However, the offer is not taken. Even weeks after 9/11, it will be reported that while the US has finally accepted the offer of the files, Britain has not. (Rose 9/30/2001)

French authorities question leading Islamist radical Abu Hamza al-Masri, who is an informer for the British authorities (see Early 1997), in London. However, the interview is frustrated by a Scotland Yard detective, who, according to authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory, acts “almost as Abu Hamza’s protector.” The French want to question Abu Hamza about the extremist Christopher Caze, who is said to have met Abu Hamza in Bosnia, and who was shot by police in Roubaix, France, in 1996. The French investigation thwarted a plan to attack a G7 summit, and a huge cache of arms and explosives was found, but one of Caze’s accomplices, Lionel Dumont, escaped. The British police politely tell Abu Hamza the French would like to ask him some questions, but stress that this has nothing to do with them, and that he is free to refuse to talk to the French. Abu Hamza will later say, “They told me I was a British citizen and I didn’t have to answer if I didn’t want to.” However, Abu Hamza comes to the interview, but says he does not know any of Caze’s associates and, when asked about Al Ansar, a propaganda magazine he publishes for the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), an Algerian militant group, he says it is not against the law in Britain. One of the French investigators is “really upset and angry,” but Abu Hamza will later say the British detective “was very easy about it all, he said I didn’t have to answer.” In addition, “At the end of the meeting he walked with me back to my car, he was smiling and chatting and everything.” For this reason and others, French authorities come to believe that Britain is sympathetic to Islamic militancy. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 127-8)

Djamel Beghal, who authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory will call “al-Qaeda’s man in Paris,” leaves France and moves to London. He makes the move due to his dissatisfaction with life in France, because of the anti-Islamist climate in Paris and because of poor personal circumstances. On arrival in Britain, he rents properties in Leicester, in central England, and in London, where he begins to frequent Finsbury Park mosque. In early 1997 the mosque becomes a hotbed of Islamist radicalism when it is taken over by Abu Hamza al-Masri, an informer for British intelligence (see Early 1997 and March 1997). Beghal becomes one of the key figures at the mosque, which he uses to recruit potential al-Qaeda operatives, including shoe bomber Richard Reid (see Spring 1998). One of his recruiting techniques is to constantly lecture impressionable young men and, according to O’Niell and McGrory, “A recurrent theme of [his] nightly lectures [is] to tell the young men sitting at his feet that there [is] no higher duty than to offer themselves for suicide missions.” Beghal also travels the world, going to Afghanistan at least once to meet senior al-Qaeda leaders, possibly even Osama bin Laden, who Beghal claims gives him a set of prayer beads as thanks for his work. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 86-87, 89-90)

The French intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) spies on a leading Islamist extremist, known as Abu Walid, in London. According to Pierre Martinet, one of the DGSE operatives that conducts the surveillance, Walid is wanted in connection with the 1995 Paris metro bombings (see July-October 1995) and is linked to the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), an Algerian militant organization. He is also a top lieutenant for leading imam Abu Qatada (see 1995-February 2001). The DGSE finds that he is a frequent visitor to the radical Finsbury Park mosque, where he is highly regarded by other jihadis as a “fighting scholar.” A team from the DGSE’s Draco unit is on standby to assassinate senior terrorists at this time, and Walid is one target considered, but he is not killed by the DGSE. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 126) Abu Walid will be reported to be in Afghanistan in November 2001. (Tremlett 11/20/2001) He will apparently die in Chechnya in 2004. (Cobain and O'Murchu 10/3/2006)

A special team from the French intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) monitors Islamic radicals centered on the Finsbury Park mosque. This is one of several DGSE operations in London (see 1997-1998 and Spring 1998), which the French are aware is a hotbed of Islamist extremism. Around this time the French are worried that the radicals who gather there may be plotting an attack on the 1998 World Cup, but the surveillance may well continue after the World Cup ends. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 126)

Abu Hamza.Abu Hamza. [Source: Ian Waldie / Reuters / Corbis]London-based imam Abu Hamza al-Masri starts working with two branches of the British security services, the police’s Special Branch and MI5, the domestic counterintelligence service. The relationships continue for several years and there are at least seven meetings between Abu Hamza and MI5 between 1997 and 2000 (see October 1, 1997, November 20, 1997, and September 1998). Based on records of the meetings, authors Daniel O’Neill and Sean McGrory will describe the relationship as “respectful, polite, and often cooperative.”
Rhetoric - One theme in the meetings, which take place at Abu Hamza’s home and a mosque he runs in Finsbury Park, is that the security services tell Abu Hamza that they do not want any trouble and ask him to tone down some of his more inflammatory comments. Abu Hamza listens politely, but always replies he is committed to jihad. However, over this period Abu Hamza’s rhetoric changes subtly, and he begins attacking “Zionists,” rather than simply “Jews.” Abu Hamza will later say that he asks security officers if his sermons are inappropriate, and they reply, “No, freedom of speech, you don’t have to worry unless we see blood on the streets.”
Information - Abu Hamza provides the security services with information about the ideology of various extremist factions, as well as “tidbits” of information about others, although in one case he provides specific intelligence that leads to the detention of two terrorist suspects. He also likes to “tell tales” about one of his rival preachers, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, and his Al-Muhajiroun organization.
Favors - Sometimes Abu Hamza asks for favors from his handlers. For example, on one occasion he requests the release of some associates after promising that they are not a threat in Britain.
Beyond the Reach of British Law - Abu Hamza will tell his aides that he is “beyond the reach of British law,” and will neglect to pay the mosque’s electricity and water bills. Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will later comment: “Increasingly, Abu Hamza acted as if Finsbury Park had divorced itself from Britain and was operating as an independent Muslim state. He contacted extremist groups, offering his services as an ambassador for them in [Britain] and presenting the mosque as a place of guaranteed asylum.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 96-97, 143-5)

Reda Hassaine, who had previously informed for an Algerian intelligence service in London (see Early 1995), begins working for the French service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE). The co-operation is initiated by Hassaine, who goes to the French embassy in London and says he has information about the 1995 Paris metro bombings (see July-October 1995). Hassaine’s French handler, known only as “Jerome,” wants to know the names of everybody at the mosque in Finsbury Park, a hotbed of extremism where Abu Hamza al-Masri is the imam. Hassaine is shown “hundreds and hundreds of photographs,” and the French appear to have photographed “everyone with a beard in London—even if you were an Irishman with a red beard they took your photograph.” Hassaine’s busiest day of the week is Friday, when he has to hear Abu Hamza pray at Finsbury Park mosque, as well as making a mental note of any announcements and collecting a copy of the Algerian militant newsletter Al Ansar. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 124, 133-134)

Ronson’s footage of Omar Bakri Mohammed, left, leading followers in prayer inside the Scout hut.Ronson’s footage of Omar Bakri Mohammed, left, leading followers in prayer inside the Scout hut. [Source: Jon Ronson]Reporter Jon Ronson is making a documentary about Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, a radical London imam and leader of the militant group Al-Muhajiroun, and is allowed to attend a training camp meeting led by Bakri. Ronson is taken to a well-stocked gym in a Scout hut in a forestry center near Crawley, Britain. There are punchbags, treadmills, and a TV that is showing videos promoting militant action. Ronson watches as Bakri gives a lecture in front of about 30 young men. Bakri tells his audience: “There is a time when a military struggle must take place in [Britain]. Jihad. It’s called conquering. One day, without question, [Britain] is going to be governed by Islam.… You must be ready to defend yourselves militarily.” Ronson, who has a humorous edge to his reporting, calls the place Bakri’s “secret jihad training camp,” not believing that “Bakri’s people were violent or motivated enough to actually initiate a jihad or commit acts of terrorism.” But he will later find he is incorrect. For instance, Omar Khyam will get interested in radical Islam in late 1998, and soon join Al-Muhajiroun. He and other members of the group will be sentenced to life in prison after attempting to build a large fertilizer bomb in 2004 (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). (Ronson 4/30/2007) In late 2000, Bakri will say he has recruited 600 to 700 volunteers for jihad in the last few years (see December 10, 2000).

Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading radical and informer for Britain’s security services (see Early 1997), is given the prestigious Friday sermon spot at the large Finsbury Park mosque in London. He is suggested thanks to his work at a mosque in nearby Luton (see 1996) and at his interviews he manages to charm the mosque’s management committee, which is also pleased by his low financial demands.
Abu Qatada Rejected - The committee had also interviewed radical imam Abu Qatada, a well known scholar and author, for the position—Abu Qatada has militant links, but the committee is apparently not aware of them at this time. However, Abu Qatada told the committee that they should be grateful he was willing to take the job, demanding to see the mosque’s accounts and to receive 50 percent of all monies collected there. It is not known what Abu Qatada, an informer for British intelligence (see June 1996-February 1997), wanted to do with the money, but he is apparently a member of al-Qaeda’s fatwa committee (see June 1996-1997) and is linked to terrorism finance (see 1995-February 2001). Due to the mosque’s financial position, the committee does not offer the job to Abu Qatada.
Mosque Already Infiltrated by GIA - A group of Algerian radicals, many of whom are veterans of the Algerian Civil War and are members of the Algerian militant group the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), had already infiltrated the mosque, and the Algerians assist Abu Hamza after his appointment. One leading Algerian radical seen at the mosque is Ali Touchent, a suspected mole for the Algerian intelligence service (see November 1996).
Takeover - However, Abu Hamza soon begins to take the mosque away from the moderate trustees and turn it into a hotbed of radicalism. Initially, he claims that money has gone missing from a set of flats the mosque rents to tenants, then says that one of the flats is being used as a brothel and that one of the mosque’s old management team is taking a cut. Thanks to Abu Hamza’s exciting sermons, many more people attend the mosque, and there is not enough room to accommodate all of them in the main prayer hall. Abu Hamza makes money by selling tapes of his sermons, as well as videos of radicals fighting in Chechnya, Algeria, and Bosnia, in a shop he opens at the mosque. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 36-43)

Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell with three of the 9/11 hijackers, is monitored as he gets help in meeting al-Qaeda spiritual leader Abu Qatada in Britain. In March 1997, Zammar in Germany calls Barakat Yarkas in Spain. Yarkas is widely seen as the top leader of al-Qaeda in Spain, and Spanish intelligence is monitoring his calls. Telephone intercepts show that Zammar tells Yarkas, “I want to meet with brother Abu Qatada,” Zammar said, according to a transcript of the conversation. Yarkas replies, “Yes, I’ll talk to him and I’ll ask him.” Yarkas gives Qatada’s phone number to Zammar two days later. Zammar goes on to meet Qatada, but details of that meeting are unknown. (Laabs 1/30/2003) Yarkas has been traveling to Britain for years, meeting with Qatada and giving him money (see 1995-February 2001). In 1996 or 1997, US intelligence learns that Qatada is a key spiritual adviser for al-Qaeda (see June 1996-1997). Shortly before Zammar’s call to Yarkas, British intelligence recruited Qatada as an informant, although he may not be a fully honest one (see June 1996-February 1997). It is unknown if Zammar’s visit with Qatada becomes known to US or German intelligence. Zammar may introduce Hamburg cell member Said Bahaji to Qatada, because Qatada’s phone number will be found in Bahaji’s address book shortly after 9/11 (see Shortly After September 11, 2001).

Reda Hassaine.Reda Hassaine. [Source: CBC]Reda Hassaine, an Algerian journalist who informs for a number of intelligence services, including an Algerian service, the French Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE), and the British Special Branch and MI5, helps intelligence agencies track Zacarias Moussaoui and shoe-bomber Richard Reid. One place Hassaine sees Moussaoui and Reid is the Four Feathers club, where leading Islamist cleric Abu Qatada preaches. (Dovkants 1/28/2005; O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 133) Hassaine also sees Moussaoui, Reid, and Spanish al-Qaeda leader Barakat Yarkas at the Finsbury Park mosque in London. The mosque, a hotbed of Islamic extremism headed by Abu Hamza al-Masri, is the center of attention for many intelligence agencies. Hassaine does not realize how important these people will later become at this time, but recognizes their faces when they become famous after 9/11. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 133) British intelligence also monitor phone calls between Moussaoui and Reid in 2000 (see Mid-2000-December 9, 2000).

Reda Hassaine, an informer for French and then British intelligence (see Early 1997, (November 11, 1998), and (May 1999)), watches leading radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri at work in Finsbury Park mosque, where he recruits numerous extremist Muslims to take up arms. Abu Hamza is an informer for the British himself (see Early 1997).
Schoolboys - Hassaine will later describe the techniques Abu Hamza used on schoolboys: “They would come to the mosque after they finished school, from 11 years old and upwards, and he would sit them down and first tell them a few funny stories. This was his little madrassa [Islamic boarding school]. Parents were sending their kids to learn about Islam, they didn’t realize they were sending them to be brainwashed. Abu Hamza would talk very slowly to them, telling them about the teachings of the Koran, and the need for violence.”
Young Men - Hassaine will say that recruitment proper began with the older novices, who Abu Hamza met in the first-floor prayer room: “This was the heart of the action. It was how the recruitment began. Many of these kids were British Asian boys, and he would talk to them in English. He would talk about Kashmir. His message was always the same: ‘Islam is all about jihad and at the end the reward is paradise. Paradise is held by two swords and you must use one of those to kill in the name of Allah to get to paradise.’”
Algeria - Hassaine will add: “When the people were Algerians he would sit with them with coffee and dates and show them the GIA videos, and he would say, ‘Look at your brothers, look what they are doing, they are heroes, most of them are now in paradise and if you go there with them you will have 72 wives. All of this will be for ever, for eternity. This life is very short, you have to think about the big journey.’”
Osama bin Laden - Hassaine will also comment: “He used to talk about Yemen and Egypt, but after 1998 all the talk changed, it became all about Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden was there, the Taliban were building the Islamic state. This was the beginning of the recruitment of a second generation of people to go to Afghanistan, not to fight this time but to learn how to fight, to train and then go elsewhere to do damage. It all began in the summer of 1998.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 84-85)
Under Surveillance - Authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory will also point out: “Foreign intelligence services knew this selection process was happening within months of Abu Hamza taking over in north London in March 1997. They had their own informants inside.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 79)

After Abu Hamza al-Masri takes over as the Friday preacher at Finsbury Park Mosque, a mole working for the Algerian government is told to find out everything he can about Abu Hamza. The mole, Reda Hassaine, has been working for the Algerians against the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) in London for some time (see Early 1995). The Algerians know that Abu Hamza met with Algerian fighters in Bosnia (see 1995), and is at the top of the GIA’s network of foreign supporters. Hassaine goes to the mosque every day and, as he and Abu Hamza have two mutual acquaintances, he is sometimes able to sit with him and listen to him speak. He does not get to know Abu Hamza well, but hears him constantly talking about jihad, killing, and life after death. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 132)

Leading Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, an informer for the British security services (see Early 1997), gives a lecture entitled “Holding Fast to Allah in the Land of Disbelief” explaining to his followers that they can steal from non-Muslims. The date of the lecture is not known precisely, but it is presumably after Abu Hamza takes over Finsbury Park mosque in early 1997 (see March 1997). Abu Hamza’s basic reasoning is that “the unbelievers cheated us and took it [Muslim wealth] away, but we come to take some of it back.” He says that the lives and wealth of Muslims are more valuable that that of unbelievers, and so are protected. Unbelievers’ wealth is not protected, and so can be taken. “If you can claim it [Muslim wealth] back, then do so,” he says, adding: “It is theft but it is theft from non-protected persons. It is like killing a non-protected person, there is nothing in it; it is not protected blood… We have no concern; the nation has no concern with your acts in these things. The nation of Mohammed has no concern…” In the question and answer session afterwards, Abu Hamza is asked about repayment of a student loan, and replies, “Any debts, you just take it, you just take them all and go.” Shoplifting is also permitted: “You break by force and you take it, this is OK.” However, this does not apply to Muslims who have come to Britain seeking protection, for example from religious persecution, as such people owe the country a debt of gratitude. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 70)

Omar Nasiri, who informs on al-Qaeda for the British intelligence service MI5 and the French service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE), lends his phone to an operative of the Algerian militant Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) his handlers are interested in. The operative, known only as “Khaled,” uses the phone to make a call to Algeria that is recorded by MI5. Khaled later borrows the phone several times, and MI5 records calls he makes all over Europe. (Nasiri 2006, pp. 291-2)

Leading radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, an informer for Britain’s security services (see Early 1997), begins to establish a series of training camps in Britain in order to toughen up recruits he wishes to send to fight for Islam abroad. He knows that not all the training can be performed in Britain, but thinks that British teenagers may not be able to cope with the rigors of foreign camps straightaway; the British camps are simply meant as an introduction to the training regime. His first step is to establish a group to examine the laws about firing guns on private property and consider acquiring a country retreat for his militia. Initially, Abu Hamza takes advantage of venues used by companies for team bonding exercises, but he later hires an old monastery in Kent and a farm in Scotland for the groups to use. There, recruits learn to strip down AK-47 machine guns and decommissioned grenades, as well as working with mock rocket launchers. Another site he uses is the Brecon Beacons in Wales, and he hires two ex-soldiers who claim to have been in Special Forces to train his recruits. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 83-84) Abu Hamza will later attempt to start a similar camp in the US (see November 1999-Early 2000).

According to a November 2001 Spanish government indictment, in August 1997, a Syrian Islamist militant named Abu Bashir is arrested in Yemen and accused of plotting to assassinate the Yemeni deputy prime minister. He is soon deported to Malaysia. London imam Abu Qatada then contacts Osama bin Laden and asks him for his help to get settled with a job and house in Malaysia. Then, in June 1998, Spanish al-Qaeda leader Barakat Yarkas and Qatada arrange for Bashir to move to London. The Observer will report in March 2004 that Bashir apparently is still living in public housing in London. (Townsend et al. 3/21/2004) Presumably the Spanish government knows this because Spanish intelligence is heavily monitoring Yarkas at the time, and he is frequently meeting with Qatada in London (see 1995-February 2001). Qatada is working as a British government informant around this time (see June 1996-February 1997). The exact identity of Abu Bashir is not known as there are several al-Qaeda-linked figures with a similar name.

The British domestic counterintelligence service MI5 meets with Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading British imam and informer (see Early 1997). After the exchange of “pleasantries,” Abu Hamza and his handler discuss his recent breach with the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), an Algerian militant group, which has been indiscriminately killing civilians (see Mid 1996-October 1997). The handler notes that “[Abu] Hamza is bowed but not broken,” and adds, “For him the jihad goes on, if not in Algeria then somewhere else.” Abu Hamza tells the MI5 officer that Britain “is seen as a place to fundraise and to propagate Islam.” Authors Daniel O’Neill and Sean McGrory will later comment, “The admission that Abu Hamza and his followers were using [Britain] to raise funds to finance terrorism overseas did not seem to cause a blip on the MI5 agent’s radar.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 145)

French authorities worry about a possible attack by militant Islamists during the 1998 World Cup in France. This “huge security headache” is primarily related to Algerian militants who previously bombed the Paris metro in 1995 (see July-October 1995) and are now “living untroubled lives in London.” Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will write: “France was on edge. Such was her anxiety about the World Cup that she demanded cooperation from her European neighbours. Where she deemed that collaboration was lacking, or less than enthusiastic, she was sending her own teams of agents abroad to carry out the task of gathering intelligence on Islamist militants.” In this context the French authorities are most concerned about London-based radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri, a spiritual leader for the Algerians (see Spring 1998). One of the people plotting attacks at the World Cup, an Algerian, is arrested in Belgium in March 1998, and this leads to further arrests across Europe, although the actual nature of the plot is not known definitively. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 123-4, 128)

The British domestic counterintelligence service MI5 meets with Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading British imam and informer (see Early 1997). In view of Egyptian-born Abu Hamza’s recent condemnation of the Algerian Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) over massacres of civilians (see Mid 1996-October 1997 and October 1, 1997), MI5 asks Abu Hamza to condemn a massacre of sixty people in Luxor, Egypt (see November 18, 1997), as it thinks this might calm tensions in Britain and elsewhere. However, he declines to do so, telling MI5 that Egypt is controlled by a “corrupt, Satanic tyranny,” and adds that British tourists should not travel to Egypt. In fact, in public sermons at this time he actually condones the attacks, saying that the tourism industry in Egypt is impure and should be Islamicized. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 145-6)

The term “Londonistan” is invented by French intelligence officials at some time before 1998, according to authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory. The term’s invention is provoked by an arrangement between the British authorities and Islamist militants sometimes known as the “covenant of security” (see August 22, 1998), whereby Britain provides a safe haven from which London-based Islamists can support violence in other countries, such as Bosnia and Chechnya (see 1995 and February 2001), but also France. O’Neill and McGrory will comment: “The prominent French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere was so appalled by Britain’s attitude that he talked of ‘Londonistan’ as being the city of choice as a safe haven for Islamic terrorists and a place ‘full of hatred.‘… Bruguiere wondered whether Britain was just being selfish, and whether because these radical groups had not struck in [Britain] the security agencies simply did not care what they were doing. The French investigators also protested that Britain was also ignoring the systematic fraud and corruption carried out by these groups.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 104, 109)

Radical London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri helps recruit Saajid Badat, who will later go on to be involved in a shoe bombing plot. Unlike many of Abu Hamza’s recruits, Badat is middle-class, but has argued with his father and moved to London. There Badat attends mosques around the capital and is moved by the plight of Muslims in the former Yugoslavia. Badat is impressed by Abu Hamza’s rhetoric and the fact that he actually went to Bosnia, and goes to Sarajevo himself in 1998. He then goes to study Islam in madrassas (Islamic boarding schools) in the Middle East and Pakistan. His travel to training camps in Afghanistan at the start of 1999 is reportedly arranged by the same people that perform the same service for fellow shoe bomber Richard Reid (see December 22, 2001), whom Badat will link up with in Pakistan in November 2001 (see November 20, 2001). (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 229-230)

Following a talk in Burnley by radical London cleric and informer Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997), seven young men from the northern English town go to Afghanistan, where two of them die. At the talk, one of Abu Hamza’s aides, a man from Birmingham in central England who had fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia, had given a warm-up speech demanding violence and “blood sacrifice” in Britain. He told the audience: “Get training. There must be some martial arts brothers amongst yourselves. You have to pump into the brothers what you are training for. It’s so you can get the kuffar and crush his head in your arms, so you can wring his throat, so you can whip his intestines out. That’s why you do the training, so you can rip the people to pieces. Forget wasting a bullet on them, cut them in half.” The seven local men leave shortly after, saying they are going to Pakistan to study in religious schools. A few months later, news arrives that two of the men, one a university student, the other an accountancy graduate, have been killed in shelling by the Northern Alliance in Kabul. It comes to light that they had been approached to help the Taliban. Local community leader Rafique Malik will say: “Nobody knew, not even their parents, that they were going to Afghanistan. They went to Pakistan and the next thing their parents heard is that they are dead.” Abu Hamza will subsequently be banned from preaching in the Burnley mosque. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 59-60)

Informers for the British authorities monitoring the radical Finsbury Park mosque in London identify a key extremist named Rabah Kadre. One of the informers, Reda Hassaine, mentions him in a number of reports and British authorities realise that he is an important figure in Islamist operations in Britain. In fact, Kadre is the second in command to radical leader Abu Doha, who heads a Europe-wide network of extremists. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 240)

Nizar Trabelsi, who will later be found guilty of planning to bomb a NATO base (see September 30, 2003), attends the radical Islamist Finsbury Park mosque in London. The mosque is run by extremist imam Abu Hamza al-Masri, an informer for the British intelligence services (see Early 1997). Trabelsi is a former professional sportsman, but had drifted into drug dealing before being radicalized. Trabelsi will later go to Afghanistan, meeting Osama bin Laden there. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 226)

Jordan requests the extradition from Britain of Abu Qatada, a cleric who sits on al-Qaeda’s fatwa committee (see June 1996-1997) and who is wanted in connection with a series of car bombings in Jordan. However, Britain, where Abu Qatada lives, declines the request and grants him asylum. Authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory will comment: “Britain had given shelter to one of the fiercest advocates of the global jihad. Abu Qatada lived and breathed the al-Qaeda ideology, issued religious decrees… allowing Algerian terrorists to commit mass murder in the name of God, and raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for Islamists to carry on the war against Russia in Chechnya.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 29) Abu Qatada is working as an informant with Britain’s security services at this time (see June 1996-February 1997).

Reda Hassaine, a mole for the French intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) who has penetrated militant Islamist circles in London (see Early 1997), launches an extremist newsletter to boost his standing. The project is expressly approved by his DGSE handler, who gives Hassaine £1,500 (about US$ 2,250) to fund the launch. The primary aim of the project is to bring Hassaine closer to Abu Qatada, a key militant leader in London. In addition to this, the newsletter enhances Hassaine’s position at the Finsbury Park mosque, a hotbed of Islamist radicalism, and he now has “free run” of it, enabling him to gather more information. He sees false documents being ordered and traded, stolen goods offered for sale, widespread benefit frauds organized, and credit card cloning taking place “on a cottage-industry scale.” Much of the money generated goes to various mujaheddin groups. He is also able to get access to militant communiqués before they are published, and he passes them to his French handler. The first edition of the newsletter, called Journal du Francophone, is entitled Djihad contre les Etats-unis (Jihad against the United States) and is accompanied by a photo of Osama bin Laden. The content is anti-American, anti-Israeli, and it is “full of florid praise for the mujaheddin.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 134-135)

The Charity Commission, which regulates the affairs of British charities, launches an investigation into the handling of Finsbury Park mosque by radical London cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri. The commission has power over the mosque because it is a registered charity, and launches the inquiry due to complaints from the mosque’s former trustees, who were usurped by British intelligence informer Abu Hamza in 1997 (see Early 1997 and March 1997). However, nothing much happens for several years. Authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory will comment: “Since taking over the mosque, Abu Hamza had amassed a string of unpaid bills. Yet it was not until after 9/11 that the commission took a serious look at his abuse of the mosque’s charitable status.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 286) The commission will attempt to suspend Abu Hamza in 2002 (see April 2002).

At a Friday sermon, radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri curses King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and praises suicide bombers who recently attacked a rush-hour bus in Jerusalem. The sermon is delivered at the Finsbury Park mosque in London, which was actually paid for in part by King Fahd. A moderate Muslim who attends the sermon is angry at the praise for suicide bombings and goes to see Abu Hamza, an informer for the British security services (see Early 1997), asking, “How dare you celebrate other people’s misery?” However, he is intimidated by Abu Hamza’s minders and receives no reply. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 46-47)

Police stop a car carrying supporters of Abu Hamza al-Masri on their way back from a paramilitary training camp in Wales. The supporters include Mohsin Ghalain, Abu Hamza’s stepson, and Mohammed Kamel Mostafa, his son. Abu Hamza, an informer for the British security services (see Early 1997), began setting up training camps and courses in Britain the previous year to prepare his supporters to fight for Muslim causes abroad (see (Mid-1997)). Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will point out that the police followed the men’s car for some time before it was stopped and, “The authorities clearly had this group on a watch-list.” The police search the car, making remarks indicating they expect to find firearms. However, none are found, as the weapons were given to the men’s trainers, ex-soldiers in the British army, after the end of the course. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 84) Ghalain and Mostafa will later attempt to carry out terrorist attacks in Yemen, but will be thwarted (see December 23, 1998).

Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading London radical and informer for the security services (see Early 1997), tells his inner circle of his plans for the future. According to authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory, he “confide[s] to his inner circle at a meeting in his office in January 1998 that he [is] convinced it [is] his destiny to inspire a generation of jihadis [holy warriors]. It [does] not matter how young they [are]; he [is] convinced that the sooner he [has] the chance to influence juvenile minds, the better.” The authors will attribute this to the fact that he “yearn[s] to run [al-Qaeda’s] British franchise.” Numerous intelligence services have informers inside the mosque, and may learn of Abu Hamza’s intentions. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 79, 84)

Osama bin Laden (right), Mohammed Atef (center), and an unidentified militant at the press conference publicizing the expanded fatwa in May 1998. Ayman al-Zawahiri is out of the picture, sitting on the other side of bin Laden.Osama bin Laden (right), Mohammed Atef (center), and an unidentified militant at the press conference publicizing the expanded fatwa in May 1998. Ayman al-Zawahiri is out of the picture, sitting on the other side of bin Laden. [Source: BBC]Osama bin Laden issues a fatwa (religious edict), declaring it the religious duty of all Muslims “to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military… in any country in which it is possible.” (Al-Quds al-Arabi (London) 2/23/1998; PBS Frontline 2001; Mackay 9/16/2001) This is an expansion of an earlier fatwa issued in August 1996, which called for attacks in the Arabian Peninsula only (see August 1996). Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of the Egyptian militant group Islamic Jihad, is one of many militant leaders who sign the fatwa. This reveals to the public an alliance between al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad that has long been in effect. According to journalist Lawrence Wright, the fatwa was actually mostly written by al-Zawahiri the month before, even though it is released in bin Laden’s name only. (Some members of Islamic Jihad are upset by it and quit the group.) (Wright 2006, pp. 259-261) Also signing the fatwa are representatives from militant groups in Afghanistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Pakistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Tajikistan, Chechnya, Bangladesh, Kashmir, Azerbaijan, and Palestine. All these representatives call themselves allied to the “International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders” (the name al-Qaeda has not been widely popularized yet). New York magazine will note, “The [fatwa gives] the West its first glimpse of the worldwide conspiracy that [is] beginning to form.” (Wright 9/9/2002) The fatwa is published by Khalid al-Fawwaz, who runs bin Laden’s European headquarters in London, and its publication is preceded by what authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory term a “barrage of calls” from bin Laden’s monitored satellite phone to al-Fawwaz. However, this does not motivate British authorities to take any action against al-Fawwaz. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 111) In March 1998, 40 Afghan clerics issue a fatwa calling for a jihad against the US. A group of Pakistani clerics issues a similar fatwa in April. These fatwas give much more religious authority to bin Laden’s fatwa. It is suspected that bin Laden “discreetly prompted these two bodies to issue the ordinances.” (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 62-63) Bin Laden then will hold a press conference in May 1998 to publicize the fatwa (see May 26, 1998).

The French intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) considers kidnapping Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading radical imam who is an informer for two British security services in London (see Early 1997). The plan, which is never implemented, is communicated to a French informer named Reda Hassaine by a handling agent known only as “Jerome.”
Concern about World Cup - Jerome tells Hassaine: “Something has to be done. [French Interior Minister Jean Pierre] Chevenement says he cannot sleep on Thursday nights wondering what threat is going to emerge from London Algerians the next morning or what Abu Hamza is going to say in his Friday sermon. Paris is very anxious that they will threaten France again.” The French are particularly worried that there will be an attack during the 1998 World Cup in France (see Late 1997-Early 1998).
Kidnap Plan - The plan is essentially to kidnap Abu Hamza in front of his home while he is only protected by his sons, bundle him into a van, and then race for a French ferry docked at one of the Channel ports. Hassaine’s role in the plan is not well-defined; he may be required as a lookout or to create a distraction.
Assistance from British Authorities - Jerome says that the British intelligence services MI5 and MI6 might be prepared to turn a blind eye to the operation, but the regular British police will not help with it: “In short, if anything went wrong, all hell would break lose.” Authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory will comment: “The scandal could be bigger than the blowing up of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in 1985 in New Zealand. But such was the level of French frustration—from the minister of the interior downwards—with the British that all options were being counternanced.”
Many Other Intelligence Services Share Concerns - The French are not the only non-British intelligence service to be concerned about Abu Hamza’s activities. Agencies from Spain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands all tell their British counterparts that Abu Hamza is a terror leader, but the British take no action. Egypt even offers to swap a British prisoner for Abu Hamza, but to no avail. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 123, 125-126, 288)

While at the radical Finsbury Park mosque in London, future shoe bomber Richard Reid, at this time an angry young Muslim, meets an Algerian named Djamel Beghal, known as a top militant Islamist. Beghal’s task at Finsbury Park, run by British intelligence informer Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997), is that of a “talent spotter”—he tells impressionable young men about jihad in places like Algeria and gets them to talk about their frustrations. If Beghal thinks a person has the potential to do more than just talk, he can arrange for the person to travel to a training camp in Afghanistan. Reid travels to Afghanistan after being selected by Beghal, although he will later fail to carry out his suicide mission (see December 22, 2001). (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 225)

Bin Laden sends a fax from Afghanistan to Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, a London-based Muslim imam who dubs himself the “mouth, eyes, and ears of Osama bin Laden.” Bakri publicly releases what he calls bin Laden’s four specific objectives for a holy war against the US. The instruction reads, “Bring down their airliners. Prevent the safe passage of their ships. Occupy their embassies. Force the closure of their companies and banks.” Noting this, the Los Angeles Times will wryly comment that “Bin Laden hasn’t been shy about sharing his game plan.” (Braun et al. 10/14/2001) In 2001, FBI agent Ken Williams will grow concerned about some Middle Eastern students training in Arizona flight schools. He will link several of them to Al-Muhajiroun, an extremist group founded by Bakri. Williams will quote several fatwas (calls to action) from Bakri in his later-famous July 2001 memo (see July 10, 2001). However, he apparently will not be aware of this particular call to action. These students linked to Bakri’s group apparently have no connection to any of the 9/11 hijackers. In another interview before 9/11, Bakri will boast of recruiting “kamikaze bombers ready to die for Palestine.” (see Early September 2001) (Solomon 5/23/2002)

The radical Finsbury Park mosque becomes what one informer will call “an al-Qaeda guest house in London.” The informer, Reda Hassaine, works for two British intelligence services (see (November 11, 1998) and (May 1999)), and one of his tasks is to monitor the mosque’s leader Abu Hamza al-Masri, himself an informer for the British (see Early 1997).
Experienced Fighters - Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will later write: “For some visitors, the mosque was a secure retreat for rest and recreation after a tour of duty in the holy war. Such was Finsbury Park’s reputation that an international brigade of Islamic militants used it as a safe haven for a spot of leave before they returned to the jihad front line and undertook terror operations.”
Raw Recruits - Hassaine will say the mosque was especially important to al-Qaeda because the experienced fighters on leave could mix with potential recruits: “The mosque was secure. It offered money, tickets, and names of people to meet in Pakistan. It was an al-Qaeda guest house in London. The boys could come back from the jihad and find a place to stay, to talk about war, to be with their own kind of people, to make plans and to recruit other people. These people, if they thought you were willing to do the jihad, they paid special attention to you. If they thought you were willing, that is when Abu Hamza would step in to do the brainwashing. Once he started, you wouldn’t recover. You would become a ‘special guest’ of the mosque until they could measure your level of commitment and they could organize your trip to Afghanistan.”
Numbers - O’Neill and McGrory will say that the exact number of recruits who pass through Finsbury Park and the Afghan camps is unclear, although “hundreds and hundreds of suspects” from around the world are linked to the mosque. London Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens will say two thousand recruits from the mosque undergo terror training, whereas one of his successors, Sir Ian Blair, will say it was closer to a tenth of that number. O’Neill and McGrory will add: “MI5 has never revealed its tally. However many it was, not a single recruit who attended these camps was ever arrested when he got home.” The CIA will later be surprised by the “sizable number” of al-Qaeda recruits who both train in the camps in Afghanistan and attend Finsbury Park. After the invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, the FBI will find questionnaires completed by the recruits, and some of these will specify Abu Hamza as the person who referred them to the camps, also giving “jihad” as their ambition after completing their training. O’Neill and McGrory will point out, “Such was Abu Hamza’s stature that having his name as a reference would guarantee his nominees acceptance at Khaldan,” an al-Qaeda camp.
'The World Capital of Political Islam' - O’Neill and McGrory will conclude, “The result of Abu Hamza’s recruitment regime—and that pursued by the other fundamentalist groups which had made London the world capital of political Islam—was that more young men from Britain embarked on suicide missions than from all the other countries of Europe combined.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 86, 97-98, 101-102)

Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading British imam and an informer for the British security services (see Early 1997), concludes an agreement with Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar, leader of the Yemen-based Islamic Army of Aden, who he had met in Afghanistan in the early 1990s. Abu Hamza sends followers for low-key militant training in Britain (see (Mid-1997) and (1998)), but this training consists of little more than survival courses and he needs a location where firearms can be used more freely. Therefore, Almihdhar agrees to provide training in Yemen, at a cost of £1,200 (about $1,800) per group of trainees. In return, Abu Hamza agrees to act as his press spokesman, and gives him a satellite phone costing £2,000 (about $3,200). Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will later describe the training: “The climate was brutal, the food inedible, and most of [the British recruits] complained that they missed their computer games and creature comforts. They got to ride horses, fire off several rounds of ammunition from an automatic rifle, and were instructed how to rig explosive devices by men who had fought in Afghanistan. They were also taught what else they would need to do to kill hundreds of innocents in an attack planned for Christmas day.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 157-158, 162, 164-165) A group of Abu Hamza’s supporters who travel to Yemen for militant training with Almihdhar will later be arrested by police (see December 23, 1998) and Abu Hamza and Almihdhar will talk on the satellite phone during a kidnapping organized to engineer their release (see December 28-29, 1998).

Aukai Collins, who has one leg, fighting with Muslim militants overseas.Aukai Collins, who has one leg, fighting with Muslim militants overseas. [Source: Publicity photo]In 1996, an American Caucasian Muslim named Aukai Collins, who has been fighting with the mujaheddin in Chechnya, successfully volunteered to become a CIA informant. (Collins 2003, pp. 147-159) At this time, Collins goes to London and meets with Abdul Malik, a politically well connected Islamist. Malik offers to set up a meeting between Collins and bin Laden in Afghanistan. Collins reports the offer to his CIA and FBI handlers. He is willing and even eager to accept the invitation, but his offer to go undercover into bin Laden’s camp, even on his own responsibility and at his own expense, is flatly refused by his handlers. (Collins 2003, pp. 175-176) Collins also claims that he reports to the FBI on hijacker Hani Hanjour for six months this year as part of an assignment monitoring the Islamic and Arab communities in Phoenix between 1996 and 1999 (see 1998) .

London’s Finsbury Park mosque hosts a lecture by a young radical who has trained in South Asia and fought in Kashmir, a region claimed by both India and Pakistan. The mosque is run by Abu Hamza al-Masri, an informer for British intelligence (see Early 1997), and he intends the talk to be part of the process of enticing radical Muslims to go and actually fight abroad. One of the group of about 40 listeners, Salman Abdullah, will later tell reporters about the evening. Following an introduction by Abu Hamza, the fighter—referred to only as Mohammed and himself a former attendee at the mosque—tells the listeners about his travel to South Asia, his training there, and then how he saw action in held Kashmir. He is praised highly by Abu Hamza for taking this final step and not just getting training.
'The Gullible and Confused' - Authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory will describe what Abu Hamza was doing: “Abdullah and the others were entranced, and Abu Hamza looked on contentedly. This is what he did best—open the door to jihadi groups around the world. Recruitment is a gradual process, and it begins crucially with manipulators like Abu Hamza. He takes the raw material, the gullible and confused, and decides whether these young minds and bodies can be shaped at training camps abroad, then sent on terror missions or employed to do other chores for the cause of Islamist extremism.”
'A Stepping Stone to Holy War' - O’Niell and McGrory will add: “Abu Hamza’s role at Finsbury Park was to instil self-belief among these boys, inflame them with his rhetoric and make them feel they had a purpose in life, namely to pursue the tested course he and other militants mapped out for them. Teenagers like Abdullah [were]… steered… to academies like Finsbury Park, which was fast earning a reputation as a magnet for radicals. Abu Hamza regarded his mosque as a stepping stone to holy war. Waiting inside Finsbury Park for the new arrivals were talent-spotters, men who had trained in Afghanistan or other war zones and whose job now was to weed out the poseurs and exhibitionists from the boys who might be some use.”
Under Surveillance - O’Niell and McGrory will also point out: “Foreign intelligence services knew this selection process was happening within months of Abu Hamza taking over in north London in March 1997. They had their own informants inside.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 76-79)

A spy working for Algerian intelligence is caught at the radical Finsbury Park mosque in London. The Algerians have been monitoring the mosque, run by British intelligence informer Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997), for some time (see Early 1995) because of its connections to militants in Algeria (see Mid 1996-October 1997). The spy is caught recording Abu Hamza’s sermons, but details such as the spy’s identity and what happens to him are unknown. Abu Hamza will later laugh off the incident: “Not just them [the Algerians], but the Saudis, Egyptians, Iraqis, the Jordanians and Yemenis all have their secret services here. We have even caught them filming in the toilets, but these people cannot defeat us.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 80)

Following al-Qaeda’s bombing of two US embassies in East Africa, the CIA notices that the Islamic Army of Aden (IAA), an al-Qaeda affiliate, has praised the attack on its website. Also noting Yemeni links to the bombing itself, the CIA turns its attention to the IAA and its leader Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar. The CIA is assisted in this by the local Yemeni authorities. Officials in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a begin to compile a dossier on Almihdhar and his links to the West, including his fundraisers and supporters in Britain. They identify Finsbury Park mosque, run by British intelligence informer Abu Hamza al-Masri, as “crucial” to the IAA’s operations. Almihdhar has a co-operation agreement with Abu Hamza (see (June 1998)) that provides him with money and recruits, and an IAA emissary will allegedly visit London in September (see September 1998). (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 163-164)

Zacarias Moussaoui’s flat in Brixton, London, is raided after the bombing of two US embassies in East Africa (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), according to a statement made by Moussaoui in a pre-trial motion. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/2/2002 pdf file) There are no other reports of this and it is unclear why his flat would be raided, although there were raids in London following the embassy bombings, as bin Laden faxed a claim of responsibility to associates in the British capital (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998 and July 29-August 7, 1998). In addition, Moussaoui may be linked to a man named David Courtailler, who trained at radical camps in Afghanistan and is questioned in France in the wake of the embassy bombings. Courtailler lived in London and frequented the same mosques as Moussaoui, and intelligence agencies believe Courtailler lived with Moussaoui at one point. However, Courtailler will deny ever having met him. French authorities requested a raid of Moussaoui’s previous flat in 1994, but the raid was not carried out at that time (see 1994). (Rotella and Zucchino 10/20/2001) Note: the actual text of the handwritten motion by Moussaoui is, “It is not the case that my address 23 A Lambert Road was raided after the Embassy bombing in Africa.” However, this appears to be a frequent grammatical error by Moussaoui, who is not a native speaker of English. For example, he may have been intending to ask a rhetorical question, but got the words “it” and “is” in the wrong places. Moussaoui uses the same formulation—“it is not the case that”—for events which did occur and which he seems to believe occurred, for example, “It is not the case that Mohammad Atta flew out of Miami to Madrid Spain for a week,” and, “It is not the case that Coleen Rowley, an FBI Agent in Minneapolis, sent a letter to the Congress,” so presumably he also alleges his flat was raided after the embassy bombings. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/2/2002 pdf file)

When asked why militant Islamic groups based in London never attack in Britain, leading imam Omar Bakri Mohammed says that he has a deal with the British government: “I work here in accordance with the covenant of peace which I made with the British government when I got [political] asylum.… We respect the terms of this bond as Allah orders us to do.” (Ulph 7/7/2005) Bakri will confirm this in a later interview: “The British government knows who we are. MI5 has interrogated us many times. I think now we have something called public immunity.” (Feldner 10/24/2001) Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will point out that other London imams, such as Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997) and Abu Qatada (see June 1996-February 1997), had a similar arrangement: “The [imams] all claimed that Islamist radicals felt safe in London as they were protected by what they called the ‘covenant of security.’ This, they explained, was a deal whereby if extremist groups pledged not to stage attacks or cause disruption in [Britain], the police and intelligence agencies left them alone. British government ministers were appalled at the suggestion that they had entered into such a pact. But other countries were left to wonder aloud why [the British government] continued to ignore warnings that radical organizations were using London as a safe haven, and allowing these extremists to behave as if they were immune from prosecution.… To European eyes, these men seemed to do as they pleased.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 108)

A group of recruits at the radical Finsbury Park mosque in London, which is run by British intelligence informer and radical London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997), starts to be groomed as suicide bombers. The group includes shoe bomber Richard Reid (see December 22, 2001) and Saajid Badat, one of his accomplices (see (December 14, 2001)). Some of the suicide squad live in Brixton, south London, with Zacarias Moussaoui. Salam Abdullah, a radical who attends the mosque at this time, will later say, “You could tell from the way they were treated by Abu Hamza and his aides that they were marked for something special, but we didn’t know it was for suicide attacks.” Other mosque-goers do not discuss the group, and the men do not talk about their mission, but periodically disappear, presumably to go abroad for training. Some of them are foreigners, who are known only by their nicknames, and are sent to Finsbury Park from other militant centers around Britain and Europe. Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will later comment: “It was in north London that the suicide bombers were provided with money, documents, and the names of the contacts who would steer them to the intended targets in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kashmir, and the cities of Europe.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 89-93) In addition to being an informer for the British, Abu Hamza is himself under surveillance by numerous intelligence services, including the same British ones he works for (see Summer 1996-August 1998, (November 11, 1998), and February 1999). What the British authorities know of this squad, and whether they attempt to do anything about it is unknown.

The British domestic counterintelligence service MI5 meets with Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading British imam and informer (see Early 1997). They discuss “training camps” Abu Hamza’s mosque is organizing for Islamist radicals, although it is unclear if these camps are in Britain or overseas. One of his MI5 handlers informs him he is “walking a dangerous tightrope.” Another agent later notes, “I informed him that incitement even to commit terrorism and violence overseas was fraught with peril.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 146)

An emissary of the Islamic Army of Aden (IAA), a Yemeni-based al-Qaeda affiliate, visits Finsbury Park mosque in London, according to an unnamed intelligence service. The mosque is run by Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading radical and informer for the British security services (see Early 1997). According to authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory, the emissary is “greeted like a hero” by Abu Hamza, addresses worshippers at the mosque, distributes leaflets, and collects money, presumably for jihad in Yemen. Abu Hamza and the IAA are co-operating closely at this time (see (June 1998)). The intelligence service, possibly the CIA or a local Yemeni service working with it, learns of this visit around the time it is made, and the visit is one reason it finds the London connection is “crucial” to the IAA (see After August 7, 1998). (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 164)

A person or persons at the radical Finsbury Park mosque in London tells a recruit about to travel to Pakistan to beware of some radical groups there, because they are controlled by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. The recruit, Salman Abdullah, is told not to hand over his identity documents to militants who may try to persuade him to leave the group he is being sent to and join a different group. The reason given is that these other groups are closely monitored and sometimes run by elements in the ISI. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 82)

After being recruited to fight for radical Muslim causes by British intelligence informer and radical London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997, August 1998, and August 1998 or Shortly After), Salman Abdullah leaves London and travels to Pakistan. One of Abu Hamza’s aides gives him an airline ticket, £700 in cash (about US$1,100), and a phone number in Islamabad to call when he arrives. He is taken by a contact for a month’s hard training, and then brought back to central Pakistan. Finally, he goes to the disputed region of Kashmir for three months and spends his time there “engaged in sporadic firefights” against Indian forces. Authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory will comment: “Abdullah’s tour of duty guaranteed him a hero’s welcome on his return to north London. His stature as a ‘jihadi’ meant that Abu Hamza could employ him in a new role, as a propagandist, inciting others to follow his path.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 81-82)

Khalid al-Fawwaz, Osama bin Laden’s de facto press secretary, is arrested in London on September 23, 1998. He is arrested with six other suspects, presumably including Ibrahim Eidarous and Adel Abdel Bary. The three of them effectively run the Advice and Reformation Committee (ARC), a bin Laden front in London. Al-Fawwaz is arrested again on September 27 at the request of the US, which issues an extradition warrant for him the same day. On July 12, 1999, Eidarous and Bary are arrested again, as the US issues extradition warrants for them as well. All three are charged in the US for roles in the 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Apparently, none of them are released before being arrested on the new charges (see July 12, 1999). Presumably, the other three who were originally arrested are released. (Weiser 9/29/1998; Rohde 7/13/1999) It is not clear why the three were not arrested earlier, or why they were not charged in Britain. They had been monitored in London for years. Bin Laden called them over 200 hundred times from 1996 to 1998, and they are alleged to have been involved in many plots (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998). For instance, the three received a fax from al-Qaeda operatives taking credit for the embassy bombings hours before the bombings actually took place and passed it on to media outlets (see July 29-August 7, 1998). In 1996, the US requested that Britain should arrest al-Fawwaz, Eidarous, and Bary, but the British decided there wasn’t enough evidence. (Soufan 2011, pp. 98)

Supporters of Shariah, a radical organization run by leading British imam Abu Hamza al-Masri, issue a threat of attacks in Yemen. The threat, described by authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory as a “blustering communiqué,” is published in the group’s October 1998 newsletter. In language that is “juvenile and insulting,” the US military and other “unbelievers” are warned to leave Yemen or suffer the consequences. Abu Hamza, an informer for the British security services (see Early 1997), has recently started working with the Islamic Army of Aden (IAA—see (June 1998)), a Yemen-based militant organization. The IAA will be near to implementing a massive plot in December involving close associates of Abu Hamza (see Before December 23, 1998 and December 23, 1998), but it is unclear if Abu Hamza is aware of this plot at the time the communiqué is published. Abu Hamza will follow up in the next month’s newsletter with more of the same, accusing a country he refers to as the “United Snakes of America” of plotting “a secret operation to target Muslim fundamentalists in the region.” He adds: “We see this as a powerful detonator for Muslims to explode in the faces of the Snakes of America. This will hopefully trigger a domino effect in the Peninsula. As observers have seen the more frequent explosions in the land of Yemen in the last four months, especially in the crude oil pipeline which is the blood for the American vampires.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 164)

A group of moderate Muslim community leaders tries to serve a court order instructing radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri and his followers to vacate Finsbury Park mosque. The community leaders and Abu Hamza, an informer for British intelligence against other Islamist extremists (see Early 1997), have been battling over the mosque for some time. On the first attempt to serve the order, one of Abu Hamza’s sons snatches the court papers and throws them away.
Second Attempt - On a second attempt a day later, the community leaders are ambushed on the stairs inside the mosque by a mob of Abu Hamza’s supporters, and two of them are physically thrown down the stairs. One of the ambushed men runs to the police standing outside the mosque’s gates and, according to authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory: “The officers heard the commotion, and could see these elderly men limping out of the door cut and bruised, but said that the court injunction gave them no power to arrest any of the mob inside.” The police, who had also refused to help earlier in the year, tell the startled community leaders that they have been aware for some time that Abu Hamza was the subject of previous injunctions from other mosques. They say the solution is to get an eviction order, although this will be costly and time-consuming, and they will do nothing against Abu Hamza in the meantime.
Trustees Give Up - The legal battles will continue for several months, after which Abu Hamza offers the community leaders a truce. However, he immediately breaks the truce and the leaders, exhausted, give up. Kadir Barkatullah, one of the management committee ousted by Abu Hamza, will say that he and others make a total of seven complaints to the police about Abu Hamza, but nothing is ever done. Although British Prime Minister Tony Blair will tell Muslim leaders to act against extremists in their local communities, according to Barkatullah, “When we did do precisely that with Abu Hamza, we were ignored.”
Incidents Continue - Despite the supposed truce, attacks on moderate Muslims associated with the mosque will continue; one of the community leaders is attacked in his shop with a baseball bat, and an imam is beaten unconscious inside the mosque. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 34-35, 46-47, 288)

Radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri takes over a second mosque in London, at Stockwell in the city’s south. He already controls the large Finsbury Park mosque in north London (see March 1997) and is working with British intelligence at this time (see Early 1997). Abu Hamza also expands his operations by preaching in other towns and cities in Britain. Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will later comment: “Like a medieval monarch, Abu Hamza wasn’t satisfied with just Finsbury Park, and wanted to expand his fiefdom. His first step was to take his roadshow around the country, poisoning other mosques with his hateful creed then leaving it to hand-picked locals and some his Supporters of Shariah hard men to complete the takeover at mosques such as that in Stockwell, south London. He roamed the country with a convoy of cars, always with an entourage of minders in tow to whip up the crowd.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 48-49)

The French intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) fires Reda Hassaine, a mole who has penetrated radical Islamist circles in London (see Early 1997 and 1998). Hassaine is fired despite his detailed reports and great access to top militant leaders, because the French see him as a “maverick” who also works with the British press, and suspect he is still also working for the Algerian government (see Early 1995). In particular, a new Algerian intelligence officer has arrived in London and DGSE managers are suspicious of this officer for some reason. Hassaine’s French handler, “Jerome,” says his bosses are making a mistake by firing Hassaine because he thinks that radical Islam is becoming more dangerous, but complains that the decision is not his to make. Hassaine is given severance pay of £2,000 (about US$ 3,000), and in return signs a statement saying he will not talk about his work for the DGSE. Hassaine will later be hired as an informer for British intelligence. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 133-136)

Reda Hassaine, an Algerian mole who has penetrated radical Islamist circles in London, goes to Scotland Yard and tells the British police that he has vital information for the anti-terrorist branch. Hassaine had previously informed on Islamist extremists in London for Algerian and French services, but has just been fired by the French (see Early 1995 and November 4, 1998). He speaks to two officers with the Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch about his work for the French, whom he had helped monitor leading extremist Abu Hamza al-Masri and Algerian terrorists living in London. Although most of Special Branch’s officers focus on Irish terrorism, they decide to hire Hassaine. The work is “frequently frustrating,” and only lasts for six months, after which control of Hassaine is passed to Britain’s domestic intelligence service, MI5 (see (May 1999)). After it is decided that Hassaine will leave the service of Special Branch and be transferred to MI5, Special Branch asks him to sign a letter saying that he is aware he will go to jail if he talks to anyone about his relationship with them, and if he is arrested by police, he will not be protected by immunity from prosecution. However, Hassaine is angry at this and refuses to sign. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 137-8)

The Islamic Army of Aden (IAA), a local militant group linked to al-Qaeda (see Early 2000 and October 12, 2000), plots a series of strikes against Western-related targets in Aden, Yemen. According to the Yemeni authorities, the plot encompasses:
bullet An attack on the Movenpick hotel, which is used by Western tourists and had already been bombed in 1992 (see December 29, 1992);
bullet Firing rockets into a clinic in the grounds of Aden’s only Christian church;
bullet Murdering British diplomats at the British consulate;
bullet Attacks on the Al Shadhrawan nightclub;
bullet Hitting the UN office in Aden; and
bullet Attacking a hotel used by US troops.
However, the plot, headed by IAA leader Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar, will be broken up on December 23, when six of the plotters linked to leading British imam Abu Hamza al-Masri are arrested by police in Aden (see December 23, 1998). (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 159-160)

Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar, leader of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Army of Aden (see Early 2000 and October 12, 2000), telephones Abu Hamza al-Masri, a London-based imam and informer for the British security services (see Early 1997). Six operatives sent by Abu Hamza to Yemen for training had become involved in a bomb plot, but were arrested four days ago (see December 23, 1998). Almihdhar makes two calls to Abu Hamza, and tells him of the capture of the operatives, who include Abu Hamza’s stepson and former bodyguard. The two men apparently come up with a plan to capture some Western tourists, and Abu Hamza purchases more airtime worth £500 (about $800) for Almihdhar’s satellite phone. After the tourists are captured the next day (see December 28-29, 1998), Almihdhar will immediately telephone Abu Hamza and, according to one of the tourists’ drivers, say, “We’ve got the goods that were ordered, 16 cartons marked Britain and America.” This is not the only telephone contact between the two men, and authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will add, “What was apparent from the first hours of the hostage crisis was that the short-tempered [Almihdhar] needed the advice and reassurance of his spokesman in North London.” The calls are intercepted by the Government Communications Headquarters, Britain’s wiretapping agency, using a base in Cyprus. Although the communications cannot be used in court under British law, they are useful to the intelligence services in determining what is going on between Almihdhar and Abu Hamza. However, the intercepts are also shared with the FBI, which will later indicate it may use them in a US prosecution of Abu Hamza stemming from the fact that two of the kidnap victims are American nationals. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 156-157, 161, 180)

A group of 20 people, including 16 western tourists, are kidnapped in southern Yemen by the Islamic Army of Aden (IAA), an al-Qaeda affiliate. In return for releasing the hostages, IAA leader Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar demands the release of six IAA operatives arrested a few days earlier (see December 23, 1998). Almihdhar also makes further demands, including the release of more prisoners, an end to the US-led bombing of Iraq, and a change of government in Yemen. Knowing that it will be unable to meet all these demands and worried Almihdhar will carry out his threat to start executing the hostages, the day after the kidnapping the Yemen government sends in the army to rescue them, but four hostages die during the fighting. (Quin 2005, pp. 31-62, 83, 126-7, 155-6, 200-1) Three of the militants are killed, and seven, including Almihdhar, are captured. However, some escape. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 168)
Motive - Hostage Mary Quin, who will write a book about the kidnapping, will later conclude that fear for the hostages’ safety is not the only motive for the attack by the army and that it is also a product of the government’s policy of attacking the IAA where possible. Yemen’s deputy foreign minister will comment: “We are not tolerating these groups. What happened in Abyan [where the hostages were held] was a reaction to a crackdown on these people.”
Link to Abu Hamza - Before and during the kidnapping, Almihdhar is in contact with the IAA’s spokesman, Abu Hamza al-Masri, in London, using a satellite phone Abu Hamza provided him with. One of the six operatives Almihdhar wants the government to release is Abu Hamza’s stepson. Almihdhar will be sentenced to death for his role, and most of the other kidnappers are also caught and punished (see October 17, 1999). The Yemen government later asks for the extradition of Abu Hamza, who has a relationship with British intelligence (see Early 1997), but the British government refuses (see January 1999). (Quin 2005, pp. 31-62, 83, 126-7, 155-6, 200-1)
Relative of 9/11 Hijacker? - It will later be suggested that Almihdhar is a distant relative of 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar. (Risen and Bonner 12/7/2001)

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