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Complete 911 Timeline

Other Al-Qaeda-Linked Figures

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

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Osama Bin Laden visits the US, Britain or both around this time. Author Peter Bergen will later say, “Undoubtedly, bin Laden took his son for medical treatment to a western country and it’s either the United States or the [Britain]. There’s some kind of controversy about that.” Khaled Batarfi, a close childhood friend to bin Laden, will later recall more specifically, “In Washington airport, Dulles Airport, people were surprised at the way he dressed, his wife dressed. Some of them were even taking photos and he was kind of joking about it. We were like in a zoo.” (Coll 12/5/2005; CNN 8/23/2006) According to author Lawrence Wright, bin Laden visits London to seek medical advice for his young son, Abdul Rahman. Abdul Rahman was born with hydrocephalus and bin Laden considers the condition so bad that he goes abroad to seek medical advice. However, he does not like what he hears in London and returns home with his son to Saudi Arabia without letting the doctors operate. Bin Laden then treats Abdul Rahman with folk remedy, but the child becomes mildly retarded and requires special attention. (Wright 2006, pp. 81) Bin Laden is also said to visit London later (see Early 1990s-Late 1996).

Juhayman al-Otaibi.Juhayman al-Otaibi. [Source: Public domain]One or two of the bin Laden brothers are arrested over the attempted takeover of the Grand Mosque in Medina. One of the brothers is Mahrous, the other is, according to author Steve Coll, “probably Osama.”
Inside Job? - The mosque had been seized by about five hundred rebels opposed to the Saudi royal family, led by a militant named Juhayman al-Otaibi. The rebels had apparently used Bin Laden company vehicles to stock ammunition and food in the mosque prior to its seizure, indicating some people at the company were sympathetic to them. According to one account, the two brothers are not held for long; a bin Laden company employee will say the arrest is a mistake as the arresting policemen wrongly think the two brothers are conspirators just because they are monitoring police radio traffic. (Coll 2008, pp. 225-228)
Mahrous bin Laden - Other accounts say that Mahrous, who joined a rebel group opposed to the Saudi government in the 1960s, is held for longer and only eventually released from prison because of the close ties between the bin Ladens and the Saudi royal family. Mahrous will abandon the rebel cause and join the family business, eventually being made a head of the Medina branch and a member of the board. He will still hold these positions on 9/11, although a newspaper will report that “his past [is] not forgiven and most important decisions in the [bin Laden family business] are made without Mahrous’ input.” (MacKay 10/7/2001; Mayer and Szechenyi 11/5/2001; Leibovich-Dar 12/18/2002)
Later Comment by Osama - Osama’s position on the seizure of the mosque at this time is not known, although he will later criticize the Saudi king for not negotiating a surrender. Coll will suggest that, although he is one of the most devout members of the bin Laden family at this time, he is not in league with the rebels as he is more concerned with his own material wellbeing. (Coll 2008, pp. 229)
Older Bin Ladens Assist Besiegers - In contrast to Osama, several other family members, including Salem, Mustafa, Yahya, and Yeslam, work extremely hard to take back the mosque. As the bin Ladens actually renovated the mosque, they are able to provide the Saudi government with detailed plans to help their assault. After the rebels retreat underground, the family brings in equipment to drill holes in the floor, so that government troops can drop grenades down on holdouts. (Coll 2008, pp. 225-226)

Fearing a diplomatic incident, CIA and other US agents rarely venture into Afghanistan. Generally speaking, soldiers from the British elite Special Air Service (SAS) work with and train the mujaheddin instead. The SAS provides weapons training in Afghanistan until 1982 when Russian soldiers find the passports of two British instructors in a training camp. After that, mujaheddin are trained in secret camps in remote parts of Scotland. When the US decides to supply Stinger missiles to the mujaheddin in 1986, it is the SAS who provide the training in how to use them (see September 1986). But the SAS is taking orders from the CIA. The CIA also indirectly gives weapons to Osama bin Laden and other mujaheddin leaders. One former US intelligence official will say in 1999, “[US agents] armed [bin Laden’s] men by letting him pay rock-bottom prices for basic weapons.” But this person notes the relationship will later prove to be embarrassing to bin Laden and the CIA. “Of course it’s not something they want to talk about.” (Reeve 1999, pp. 168)

Bin Laden, dressed in combat fatigues, in Afghanistan during the 1980’s. (Note the image has been digitally altered to brighten the shadow on his face.)Bin Laden, dressed in combat fatigues, in Afghanistan during the 1980’s. (Note the image has been digitally altered to brighten the shadow on his face.) [Source: CNN]Osama bin Laden begins providing financial, organizational, and engineering aid for the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, with the advice and support of the Saudi royal family. (Mayer and Szechenyi 11/5/2001) Some, including Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, believe he was handpicked for the job by Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi intelligence (see Early 1980 and After). (Mayer and Szechenyi 11/5/2001; Fielding 8/25/2002) The Pakistani ISI want a Saudi prince as a public demonstration of the commitment of the Saudi royal family and as a way to ensure royal funds for the anti-Soviet forces. The agency fails to get royalty, but bin Laden, with his family’s influential ties, is good enough for the ISI. (Rosenberg 9/24/2001) (Clarke will argue later that the Saudis and other Muslim governments used the Afghan war in an attempt to get rid of their own misfits and troublemakers.) This multinational force later coalesces into al-Qaeda. (Clarke 2004, pp. 52)

Abdul Rasul Sayyaf.Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. [Source: BBC]As Osama bin Laden gets involved with the mujaheddin resistance in Afghanistan, he also develops close ties to the Saudi intelligence agency, the GIP. Some believe that Saudi Intelligence Minister Prince Turki al-Faisal plays a middleman role between Saudi intelligence and mujaheddin groups (see Early 1980). Turki’s chief of staff is Ahmed Badeeb, and Badeeb had been one of bin Laden’s teachers when bin Laden was in high school. Badeeb will later say, “I loved Osama and considered him a good citizen of Saudi Arabia.” Journalist Steve Coll will later comment that while the Saudi government denies bin Laden is ever a Saudi intelligence agent, and the exact nature of his connections with the GIP remains murky, “it seems clear that bin Laden did have a substantial relationship with Saudi intelligence.” (Coll 2004, pp. 72, 86-87) The GIP’s favorite Afghan warlord is Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, while Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is the Pakistani ISI’s favorite warlord. Bin Laden quickly becomes close to both Sayyaf and Hekmatyar, even though the two warlords are not allies with each other. (Dreyfuss 2005, pp. 268) Some CIA officers will later say that bin Laden serves as a semi-official liaison between the GIP and warlords like Sayyaf. Bin Laden meets regularly with Prince Turki and Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif. Badeeb will later say bin Laden developed “strong relations with the Saudi intelligence and with our embassy in Pakistan.… We were happy with him. He was our man. He was doing all what we ask him.” Bin Laden also develops good relations with the ISI. (Coll 2004, pp. 72, 87-88) Bin Laden will begin clashing with the Saudi government in the early 1990s (see August 2, 1990-March 1991).

Yassin Kadi, a Saudi working for a Chicago architectural firm, will say in 2008 that he first met Osama bin Laden in Chicago in 1981. He will further state that the purpose of bin Laden’s visit is to recruit American-trained engineers for his family’s construction business. Kadi says that he puts bin Laden in touch with a group of engineers, several of whom are eventually hired. (Thomas 12/12/2008)

The October 1983 bombing of US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.The October 1983 bombing of US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. [Source: US Marine Corps.]In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon, and US Marines were sent to Lebanon as a peacekeeping force in September 1982. On April 18, 1983, the US embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, is bombed by a suicide truck attack, killing 63 people. On October 23, 1983, a Marine barracks in Beirut is bombed by another suicide truck attack, killing 241 Marines. In February 1984, the US military will depart Lebanon. The radical militant group Islamic Jihad will take credit for both attacks (note that this not the group led by Ayman al-Zawahiri). The group is believed to be linked to Hezbollah. Prior to this year, attacks of this type were rare. But the perceived success of these attacks in getting the US to leave Lebanon will usher in a new era of suicide attacks around the world. The next two years in particular will see a wave of such attacks in the Middle East, many of them committed by the radical militant group Hezbollah. (US Congress 7/24/2003; US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file) The Beirut bombings will also inspire bin Laden to believe that the US can be defeated by suicide attacks. For instance, he will say in a 1998 interview, “We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier who is ready to wage Cold Wars and unprepared to fight long wars. This was proven in Beirut when the Marines fled after two explosions.” (Laden 5/28/1998) In 1994, bin Laden will hold a meeting with a top Hezbollah leader (see Shortly After February 1994), and arrange for some of his operatives to be trained in the truck bombing techniques that had been used in Beirut. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 48)

Osama bin Laden, his mentor Abdullah Azzam, and Afghan warlord Abdul Rasul Sayyaf meet two unnamed men in Peshawar, Pakistan. The two men are “supposed to be from somewhere in Europe” and cannot speak Arabic. As a result, Essam al Ridi, an Egyptian who has lived in the US, attends the meeting as a translator. Al Ridi will later say that the two men speak English “with an accent” and that he was invited to the meeting to translate between the men on the one hand and Sayyaf and Azzam on the other, indicating that bin Laden did not need a translator and could speak English. This is the first of several meetings between bin Laden and al Ridi, who purchases equipment for anti-Soviet fighters (see Early 1983-Late 1984 and Early 1989). (United States District Court for the Southern District of New York 1/14/2001)

Journalist Simon Reeve will claim in the 1999 book The New Jackals that US officials directly met with bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He will write, “American emissaries are understood to have traveled to Pakistan for meetings with mujaheddin leaders… [A former CIA official] even suggests the US emissaries met directly with bin Laden, and that it was bin Laden, acting on advice from his friends in Saudi intelligence, who first suggested the mujaheddin should be given Stingers.” (Reeve 1999, pp. 167, 176) The CIA begins supplying Stinger missiles to the mujaheddin in 1986 (see September 1986). After 9/11, the CIA will state, “Numerous comments in the media recently have reiterated a widely circulated but incorrect notion that the CIA once had a relationship with Osama bin Laden. For the record, you should know that the CIA never employed, paid, or maintained any relationship whatsoever with bin Laden.” (US State Department 1/14/2005)

Salem bin Laden tells one of his employees, George Harrington, that his brother Osama, is, according to a later account by Harrington, “the liaison between the US, the Saudi government, and the Afghan rebels.” Salem, head of the bin Laden family, also says that he must visit Osama in Peshawar, a base inside Pakistan for the anti-Soviet mujaheddin, to check on what equipment the Saudi government is funneling to him. The two men fly up together with another employee, Bengt Johansson, and meet Osama that day. Osama also gives his brother and the two employees a tour of some facilities in Peshawar, including refugee camps, a hospital and an orphanage, and Salem films them to publicize his brother’s charitable work. (Coll 2008, pp. 7-9)

Ahmed Ben Bella, a former president of Algeria, reportedly holds a secret meeting at his Switzerland home attended by “major figures in some of the world’s most violent groups.” People attending the meeting include the Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (known as the “Blind Sheikh”); Youssef Nada, head of the Al Taqwa Bank and a major Muslim Brotherhood figure; and Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, a leading Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim scholar. US government sources believe Ben Bella, who is allegedly linked to violent Sudanese and Libyan groups, called the meeting to discuss ways to spread Muslim fundamentalism into the West. (Buffalo News 7/6/1993) Shortly after 9/11, a document called “The Project” written in 1982 will be found in Nada’s house. It outlines a secret Muslim Brotherhood plan to infiltrate and defeat Western countries (see December 1982).

Islamic Center of Tucson.Islamic Center of Tucson. [Source: Jacob Rader]In 1986, Maktab al-Khidamat (a.k.a. Al-Kifah), the precursor organization to al-Qaeda, opens its first branch in the US at the Islamic Center of Tucson, in Tucson, Arizona. Counterterrorism expert Rita Katz will later call the Islamic Center, “basically, the first cell of al-Qaeda in the United States; that is where it all started.” The organization’s journal, Al Jihad (Holy War), is initially distributed in the US from there. Other branches around the US soon follow (see 1985-1989). (Yardley and Thomas 6/19/2002)
bullet A number of important future al-Qaeda figures are connected to the Tucson branch in the 1980s and into the early 1990s, including:
bullet Mohammed Loay Bayazid, one of the founders of al-Qaeda two years later.
bullet Wael Hamza Julaidan, another founder of al-Qaeda, and a Saudi multimillionaire. He was president of the Islamic Center starting in 1983 and leaves the US around 1986.
bullet Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden’s future personal secretary, who will later be convicted for a role in the 1998 US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). El-Hage is connected to the murder of a liberal imam at the rival mosque to the Islamic Center in 1990 (see January 1990).
bullet Mubarak al Duri, al-Qaeda’s chief agent attempting to purchase weapons of mass destruction. (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 521)
Throughout the 1980s, the mosque provides money, support, and fighters to the mujaheddin fighting in Afghanistan. Around 1991, future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour will move to Arizona for the first time (see October 3, 1991-February 1992) and he will spend much of the rest of the decade in the state. He will briefly live in Tucson, but his ties to earlier al-Qaeda connections there remain elusive. (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002)

Fawaz Damra.Fawaz Damra. [Source: Associated Press]By the mid-1980s, Osama bin Laden and his mentor Abdullah Azzam jointly founded a charity front based in Pakistan which is called Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) (which means “services office”) and is also known as Al-Kifah (which means “struggle”) (see 1984). Branches start to open in the US; the first one apparently opens in Tucson, Arizona, where al-Qaeda has a sleeper cell (see 1986). But around 1986, Khaled Abu el-Dahab, the right hand man of double agent Ali Mohamed, informally founds the branch in Brooklyn, New York, and it soon becomes the most important US branch. (Weiser, Sachs, and Kocieniewski 10/22/1998; Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 269-270) On December 29, 1987, three men, Mustafa Shalabi, Fawaz Damra, and Ali Shinawy, formally file papers incorporating Al-Kifah, which is called the Al-Kifah Refugee Center. At first, it is located inside the Al Farouq mosque, which is led by Damra. But eventually it will get it own office space next to the mosque. Shalabi, a naturalized citizen from Egypt, runs the office with two assistants: Mahmud Abouhalima, who will later be convicted for a role in bombing the World Trade Center in 1993 (see February 26, 1993), and El Sayyid Nosair, who will assassinate a Jewish leader in New York in 1990 (see November 5, 1990). (Mitchell 4/11/1993; Hosenball 10/1/2001; Sullivan, Garrett, and Rutchick 11/4/2001) Jamal al-Fadl, a founding member of al-Qaeda and future FBI informant (see June 1996-April 1997), also works at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in its early days. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 155) The Brooklyn office recruits Arab immigrants and Arab-Americans to go fight in Afghanistan, even after the Soviets withdraw in early 1989. As many as 200 are sent there from the office. Before they go, the office arranges training in the use of rifles, assault weapons, and handguns, and then helps them with visas, plane tickets, and contacts. They are generally sent to the MAK/Al-Kifah office in Peshawar, Pakistan, and then connected to either the radical Afghan faction led by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf or the equally radical one led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. (Mitchell 4/11/1993) The CIA has some murky connection to Al-Kifah that has yet to be fully explained. Newsweek will later say the Brooklyn office “doubled as a recruiting post for the CIA seeking to steer fresh troops to the mujaheddin” fighting in Afghanistan. At the same time, the Brooklyn office is where “veterans of [the Afghan war arrived] in the United States—many with passports arranged by the CIA.” (Hosenball 10/1/2001) Robert I. Friedman, writing for New York magazine, will comment that the Brooklyn office was a refuge for ex- and future mujaheddin, “But the highlight for the center’s regulars were the inspirational jihad lecture series, featuring CIA-sponsored speakers.… One week on Atlantic Avenue, it might be a CIA-trained Afghan rebel traveling on a CIA-issued visa; the next, it might be a clean-cut Arabic-speaking Green Beret, who would lecture about the importance of being part of the mujaheddin, or ‘warriors of the Lord.’ The more popular lectures were held upstairs in the roomier Al-Farouq Mosque; such was the case in 1990 when Sheikh [Omar] Abdul-Rahman, traveling on a CIA-supported visa, came to town.” One frequent instructor is double agent Ali Mohamed, who is in the US Special Forces at the time (see 1987-1989). Bin Laden’s mentor Azzam frequently visits and lectures in the area. In 1988, he tells “a rapt crowd of several hundred in Jersey City, ‘Blood and martyrdom are the only way to create a Muslim society.… However, humanity won’t allow us to achieve this objective, because all humanity is the enemy of every Muslim.’” (Friedman 3/17/1995) Ayman Al-Zawahiri, future Al-Qaeda second in command, makes a recruiting trip to the office in 1989 (see Spring 1993). (Wright 9/9/2002) The Brooklyn office also raises a considerable amount of money for MAK/Al-Kifah back in Pakistan. The Independent will later call the office “a place of pivotal importance to Operation Cyclone, the American effort to support the mujaheddin. The Al-Kifah [Refugee Center was] raising funds and, crucially, providing recruits for the struggle, with active American assistance.” (Marshall 11/1/1998) Abdul-Rahman, better known as the “Blind Sheikh,” is closely linked to bin Laden. In 1990, he moves to New York on another CIA-supported visa (see July 1990) and soon dominates the Al-Kifah Refugee Center. Shalabi has a falling out with him over how to spend the money they raise and he is killed in mysterious circumstances in early 1991, completing Abdul-Rahman’s take over. Now, both the Brooklyn and Pakistan ends of the Al-Kifah/MAK network are firmly controlled by bin Laden and his close associates. In 1998, the US government will say that al-Qaeda’s “connection to the United States evolved from the Al-Kifah Refugee Center.” Yet there is no sign that the CIA stops its relationship with the Brooklyn office before it closes down shortly after the 1993 WTC bombing. (Weiser, Sachs, and Kocieniewski 10/22/1998)

Ayman al-Zawahiri (left) and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 1980s.Ayman al-Zawahiri (left) and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 1980s. [Source: History Channel]Islamic Jihad, headed by future al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri from around 1987, receives some of the money the CIA spends on helping radical Islamist fighters against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It is unclear whether the money is paid to the group directly or through an intermediary, or how much money the group receives from the CIA. (Burke 1/17/1999)

The CIA is aware of Osama bin Laden’s operations in Afghanistan by this point, at the latest. The CIA learns that bin Laden has stepped up his support for the anti-Soviet mujaheddin by helping to establish a network of guesthouses along the Afghan frontier, not for local fighters, but for Arabs arriving to help out the Afghans. The network is centered in the border city of Peshawar, where bin Laden is “spreading large sums of money around.” According to author Steve Coll, the CIA also knows that bin Laden is “tapping into” camps run by Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency and funded by the CIA to train anti-Soviet fighters. Reports of this activity are passed to the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. Stanley Bedington, a senior analyst at the center, will later say, “When a man starts throwing around money like that, he comes to your notice.” He will also say that at this time bin Laden was “not a warrior,” and that he was “not engaged in any fighting.” (Coll 2004, pp. 146)

Chechen rebel leader Ibn KhattabChechen rebel leader Ibn Khattab [Source: Associated Press]Osama bin Laden and Chechen rebel leader Ibn Khattab are, as a CIA officer puts it, “intricately tied together” in a number of ways. Their relationship apparently begins in the mid-1980s, when Ibn Khattab goes to fight in Afghanistan and reportedly meets bin Laden there. It ends in March 2002 with Khattab’s death (see March 19, 2002). (BBC 4/26/2002; De Waal 5/1/2002; LaFraniere 4/26/2003; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file)
bullet They share fundraising and recruiting networks. For example, a Florida cell of radical Sunnis that is monitored by the FBI starting in 1993 is involved with both organizations (see (October 1993-November 2001)). Radical London imam Abu Qatada raises money for jihad in Chechnya (see 1995-February 2001 and February 2001) and is a key figure in al-Qaeda-related terrorism who is in communication with al-Qaeda logistics manager Abu Zubaida. (BBC 3/23/2004; Nasiri 2006, pp. 273) The Finsbury Park mosque of fellow London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri is used as a conduit for funds for both jihad in Chechnya and bin Laden’s Darunta camp in Afghanistan (see March 1999 and March 2000-February 2001);
bullet Bin Laden sends hundreds of fighters to help the Chechen cause, and this is publicly revealed no later than August 2000 (see May 2000);
bullet The two leaders debate strategy; (Tumelty 1/26/2006) and
bullet Ibn Khattab establishes camps for trainees sent to him by bin Laden, and the US is aware of this no later than October 1998 (see October 16, 1998).
Despite bin Laden’s contribution to the Chechen effort, he does not have control of operations there. (Tumelty 1/26/2006) Zacarias Moussaoui will later be linked to Khattab (see August 22, 2001).

Salem and Osama bin Laden hold a series of meetings with South African arms dealers to discuss supplies for the anti-Soviet mujaheddin in Afghanistan. One meeting is held at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, Pakistan, and a person who attends this meeting will later discuss it with a lawyer acting for victims of the 9/11 attacks. The person’s name is not known. The meeting is attended by Osama bin Laden, Afghan commander Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, and two South African officers. The attendees discuss weapons and training. There are other meetings in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, between South African suppliers and Salem bin Laden, Osama’s older brother. Arms purchases are also discussed there. Reportedly, some of the financing for the weapons comes from the Saudi government. (Coll 2008, pp. 287)

Osama bin Laden leads a small force of Arab anti-Soviet fighters into Afghanistan to join local forces near the village of Jaji, a few miles from the Pakistan border. The territory where the group sets up is controlled by Afghan warlord Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, an associate of bin Laden’s. One night, the Arabs’ tents are pelted by what appears to be debris from a distant explosion, and in the morning the men find that they are surrounded by mines. As they are withdrawing, they are hit by a missile, which lands a few meters from bin Laden, and there is a huge explosion on a nearby mountain. Three men are wounded and one dies. Finally, the local Afghan forces ask them to withdraw, because, in the words of author Lawrence Wright, “they were so useless.” This appears to be the first time bin Laden fires a weapon or is fired upon during the war. (Wright 2006, pp. 111)

Osama and Salem bin Laden purchase anti-aircraft missiles for Arab volunteers fighting in Afghanistan in a deal concluded at the Dorchester Hotel in London. The transaction results from a request by Osama that Salem help him with two purchases, of the anti-aircraft missiles and of equipment to refill ammunition shells for AK-47 assault rifles.
Middleman - Salem attempted to obtain the missiles from the Pentagon, but was rebuffed (see (Early-Mid 1986)), and brought a German acquaintance named Thomas Dietrich in to help him complete the deal. It is difficult to arrange as, even though the bin Ladens are backed by the Saudi government, they do not have clearance to buy the missiles from Western authorities. Dietrich has contacts at the arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch and also gets an arms salesman to meet Salem and Osama in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. However, the salesman tells Osama that refilling the ammunition makes no sense and it would be simpler to just purchase it on the international market. For the missiles, Osama, Salem, Dietrich and Dietrich’s contacts meet two or three times at the Dorchester Hotel over a period of six to eight weeks. Dietrich will later learn that his contacts help arrange the purchase of Soviet SA-7 missiles in South America, as well as the ammunition.
Paid in Oil - However, there is a problem with the deal because the bin Ladens want to pay for the weapons not with cash, but with oil, “just a tanker offshore,” according to Dietrich. This causes trouble as “a company like Heckler & Koch, they don’t want oil, they want money.” Dietrich is not aware of the source of funding for the purchases, but author Steve Coll will note, “The best available evidence suggests it probably came at least in part from the Saudi government,” because the bin Ladens are “working in concert with official Saudi policy” and “seem to fit inside a larger pattern.” This is a reference to the Al Yamamah arms deal (see Late 1985). (Coll 2008, pp. 284-288)

Osama bin Laden establishes the first training camp, known as Maasada—the Lion’s Den—especially for Arabs fighting in the Soviet-Afghan War. The camp is near the village of Jaji, close to the Pakistani border in eastern Afghanistan. Previously, the Arabs had been integrated with local Afghan forces, although there have been problems with the language barrier and the Arabs’ readiness for battle, which sometimes meant they were used as cannon fodder. A later account by author Lawrence Wright will say that Bin Laden sees the camp as the “first step toward the creation of an Arab legion that could wage war anywhere.”
The Camp - The equipment at the camp includes a bulldozer, Kalashnikov machine guns, mortars, some small anti-aircraft guns, and Chinese rockets (although there are no rocket launchers for them). Most of the people at the camp are Egyptians associated with Ayman al-Zawahiri, or young Saudis. The camp is only three kilometers from a Soviet base, meaning there is a serious danger it could be attacked and fall.
Opposition from Azzam - However, the camp is opposed by bin Laden’s mentor, Abdullah Azzam, because he wants all the Muslims—both Arabs and Afghans—to work together, not a separate camp for Arabic speakers. In addition, Azzam thinks the camp is expensive and, given the guerrilla style of warfare in Afghanistan, impractical.
Construction Work - Bin Laden soon brings in construction vehicles to make the camp more easily defensible. Using equipment from his family firm, he builds seven hidden man-made caverns overlooking an important supply route from Pakistan. Some of the caves are a hundred yards long and twenty feet high, and serve as shelters, dormitories, hospitals, and arms dumps. (Wright 2006, pp. 111-114)

Radical Muslim leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman obtains his first US visa via the CIA. A State Department official will later discover this was the first of six US visas given to him between 1986 and 1990. All are approved by CIA agents acting as consular officers at US embassies in Sudan and Egypt. “The CIA officers claimed they didn’t know the sheikh was one of the most notorious political figures in the Middle East and a militant on the State Department’s list of undesirables.” But one top New York investigator will later say, “Left with the choice between pleading stupidity or else admitting deceit, the CIA went with stupidity.” (Quinn-Judge and Sennott 2/3/1995; Friedman 3/17/1995) Abdul-Rahman uses the visas to attend conferences of Islamic students in the US. Then he visits Pakistan, where he preaches at Peshawar, visits the Saudi embassy in Islamabad, and is “lionized at receptions heavily attended by Americans.” He plays a prominent role in recruiting mujaheddin fighters to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. (Kepel 2002, pp. 300) In 1989, Abdul-Rahman is arrested in Egypt and held under very closely guarded house arrest, but he manages to escape one year later, possibly by being smuggled out of his house in a washing machine. The CIA gives him another US visa and he moves to the US (see July 1990). (Bernstein 1/8/1995) Journalist Simon Reeve will claim in his 1999 book The New Jackals that, “The CIA, it is now clear, arranged the visa[s] to try and befriend the Sheikh in advance of a possible armed fundamentalist revolution in Egypt.” According to a retired CIA official, the CIA recalled mistakes made with the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and were trying to win Abdul-Rahman’s trust. (Reeve 1999, pp. 60)

The core of the future Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf fights with bin Laden in Afghanistan and its training there is paid for by the CIA and Pakistani ISI. In 1986, the CIA agreed to support an ISI program of recruiting radical Muslims from other countries, including the Philippines, to fight in the Afghan war (see 1985-1986). By one estimate, initially between 300 and 500 radical Muslims from the southern Philippines go to Afghanistan to fight. (Abuza 9/1/2005 pdf file) In 1987 or 1988, bin Laden dispatches his brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa to the Philippines to find more recruits willing to go to Afghanistan. It is estimated he finds about 1,000 recruits. One of them is Abdurajak Janjalani, who emerges as the leader of these recruits in Afghanistan. When the Afghan war ends in 1989 most of them will return to the Philippines and form the Abu Sayyaf group, still led by Janjalani (see Early 1991). (Abuza 12/1/2002; Manila Times 2/1/2007) Journalist John Cooley will write in a book first published in 1999 that Abu Sayyaf will become “the most violent and radical Islamist group in the Far East, using its CIA and ISI training to harass, attack, and murder Christian priests, wealthy non-Muslim plantation-owners, and merchants and local government in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.” (Cooley 2002, pp. 63) After having read Cooley’s book and gathering information from other sources, Senator Aquilino Pimentel, President of the Philippine Senate, will say in a 2000 speech that the “CIA has sired a monster” because it helped train this core of the Abu Sayyaf. (Pimentel 7/31/2000)

Shortly after 1986, mujahedeen leader Jalaluddin Haqqani becomes a direct asset of the CIA, according to author Steve Coll. The CIA is already supporting other mujahedeen leaders by paying cash to the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, which in turn gives money to the leaders. But Haqqani is a rare case of the CIA working with an Afghan leader without going through the ISI. But at the same time, the ISI also heavily supports and funds Haqqani. At this time, Osama bin Laden and other Arabs fighting in Afghanistan are based in territory controlled by Haqqani, so the CIA support for Haqqani also benefits bin Laden and other radical Islamists fighting with him. Bin Laden will later call Haqqani a “hero” and “one of the foremost leaders of the jihad against the Soviets.” Coll will later write: “Haqqani traveled frequently to Peshawar to meet with a Pakistani and, separately, with an American intelligence officer, and to pick up supplies. Osama would have no reason to know about Haqqani’s opportunistic work with the CIA, but he and his Arab volunteers benefited from it. They stood apart from the CIA’s cash-laden tradecraft—but just barely.” It is not known how long the relationship between the CIA and Haqqani lasts. (Coll 2008, pp. 285, 294) However, he is so liked by the US that at one point he visits the White House during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. (Toosi 12/29/2009) Haqqani will later join the Taliban, and then he will start his own militant group linked to the Taliban known as the Haqqani network. In 2008, the New York Times will report: “Today [Haqqani] has turned his expertise on American and NATO forces. From his base in northwestern Pakistan, [he] has maintained a decades-old association with Osama bin Laden and other Arabs. Together with his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, 34, he and these allies now share a common mission to again drive foreign forces from Afghanistan.” (Gall 6/17/2008) Haqqani also will maintain his link to the ISI. In 2008, US intelligence will overhear the head of Pakistan’s military calling Haqqani a “strategic asset” (see May 2008).

Mohammed Jamal Khalifa. Apparently this photo was taken in the Philippines.Mohammed Jamal Khalifa. Apparently this photo was taken in the Philippines. [Source: Asharq al-Awsat]Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, moves to the Philippines and sets up numerous financial fronts to benefit al-Qaeda. Khalifa is not only one of bin Laden’s brothers-in-law, but he also says that during the 1980s, “Osama was my best friend. More than a brother….” (Taylor 1/16/2003; Robertson and Schuster 11/25/2004) In the mid-1980s, Khalifa was already a very senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Lebanon and ran the Peshawar, Pakistan, office of the Muslim World League, where he was active in sending recruits to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan (see Late 1980s). Sent to the Philippines by bin Laden in 1987 or 1988, he soon marries two Filipino women. He sets up more than a dozen businesses and charities, all of which appear to be fronts to fund the Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) militant groups:
bullet The Islamic Wisdom Worldwide Mission (IWWM), which will later be blamed for funneling bin Laden money to militants (see February 15, 1999 and October 8-November 8, 2002).
bullet The International Relations and Information Center (IRIC), which is later seen as the main funding vehicle for the Bojinka plot (see Spring 1995).
bullet The Philippine branch of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), founded in September 1991. The IIRO does some charity work, but a Philippine cabinet official will later note that it “built up the good will of the community through charity and then turned segments of the population into agents.” The IIRO is a charity suspected of funding militant activities in numerous places around the world, but the US has been reluctant to prosecute it due to its direct links to the Saudi government (see January 1996 and October 12, 2001). Khalifa is not only the first head of the IIRO’s Philippine branch, but also the IIRO’s regional director for all of Southeast Asia. The IIRO’s offices are often staffed by members of the Abu Sayyaf and MILF. For instance, one IIRO branch office director is also the Abu Sayyaf’s intelligence chief until he is killed in June 1994. (Herrera 8/9/2000; CNN 1/27/2002; Abuza 8/1/2003; Abuza 9/1/2005 pdf file)
It is estimated that as much as 70 percent of the money from these fronts are spent on militant groups. In one case, a charity that Khalifa claimed had built 30 orphanages had only built one. (Vitug 10/22/2001) The Philippines will investigate Khalifa and expel him from the country by late 1994 (see December 15, 1994 and December 1, 1994). He apparently never returns. He will no longer be directly connected to these charities, but they will all continue operating despite widely reported terrorist ties (see 1995 and After, February 15, 1999, August 9, 2000), and they will usually continue to be run by Khalifa’s close associates (see October 8-November 8, 2002 and September 25, 2003). The US will finally officially declare the Philippine branch of the IIRO a terrorism financier in 2006 (see August 3, 2006).

Khaled Abu el-Dahab.Khaled Abu el-Dahab. [Source: Egyptian government]In the mid-1980’s, Khaled Abu el-Dahab, an Egyptian medical student, joins the militant group Islamic Jihad, and also meets Ali Mohamed. Mohamed convinces el-Dahab to move to the US and become a sleeper cell agent. El-Dahab does so in 1987, moving to Santa Clara, California, where Mohamed has a residence. El-Dahab marries an American woman, becomes a US citizen, and gets a job at a computer company. In 1987, a female acquaintance of el-Dahab enters his apartment unannounced and finds several men there cleaning rifles. She decides it is something she does not want to know about, and breaks off contact with him. In 1990, Mohamed and el-Dahab travel together to Afghanistan. They are financially supported by a network of US sympathizers, including two Egyptian-American doctors. Beginning in 1990, El-Dahab’s apartment becomes an important communications hub for al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad cells all over the world. For much of the 1990’s, the Egyptian government cut direct phone links to countries like Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan or Pakistan in an effort to disrupt communications between radical militants. So Dahab acts as a telephone operator for the Islamic Jihad network, using a three-way calling feature to connect operatives in far-flung countries. He communicates with bin Laden’s base in Sudan (where bin Laden lives until 1996). He receives phone calls from the likes of Islamic Jihad leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who also visits California twice (see Spring 1993; Late 1994 or 1995). He distributes forged documents and makes money transfers. He is trained to make booby-trapped letters, enrolls in a US flight school to learn how to fly gliders and helicopters, and recruits additional US sleeper agents (see Mid-1990s). He helps translate US army manuals and topographical maps into Arabic for al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad training. El-Dahab will move to Egypt in 1998 and get arrested in October of that year. He will confess his role in all of this in an Egyptian trial in 1999. The Egyptian government will sentence him to 15 years in prison (see 1999). (Sachs and Kifner 10/23/2001; London Times 11/11/2001; Williams 11/21/2001; Martin and Berens 12/11/2001)

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

The al-Kifah Refugee Center shared the same building as the Al-Farooq Mosque.The al-Kifah Refugee Center shared the same building as the Al-Farooq Mosque. [Source: National Geographic] (click image to enlarge)Ali Mohamed, while still an instructor at Fort Bragg, North Carolina (see 1986), frequently spends his weekends traveling to meet with Islamic activists at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 143-144) This center is the Brooklyn branch office of Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK)/Al-Kifah, which is a charity front in Pakistan closely tied to bin Laden and his mentor Abdullah Azzam. It also has ties to the CIA (see 1986-1993). Mohamed teaches the Islamic activists survival techniques, map reading and how to recognize tanks and other Soviet weapons. He frequently stays at the home of El-Sayyid Nosair (see November 5, 1990). In July 1989, the FBI monitors him teaching Nosair and some of the future members of the 1993 World Trade Center bomb plot how to shoot weapons (see July 1989). Towards the end of this period he informs his superiors that he has renewed his association with Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. (Weiser and Risen 12/1/1998; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 143-144) Mohamed will move to Brooklyn in May 1990 while also keeping a residence in Santa Clara, California. His connections to the Islamist network develop rapidly from this point on. (Weiser and Risen 12/1/1998; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 144)

Afghan Arab Essam al Ridi purchases more equipment in the US for the mujaheddin fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan. He had previously worked as a buyer for the mujaheddin, traveling the world to acquire items for the anti-Soviet jihad (see Early 1983-Late 1984). However, in 1985 he fell out with the others over Osama bin Laden’s influence in the movement, which he thought was excessive, and returned to the US to work as a flight instructor. Al Ridi buys eleven pairs of night vision goggles and gives them to Wadih El-Hage, who will later become Osama bin Laden’s personal secretary (see October 1995). El-Hage takes them to Pakistan for use in his passenger luggage. (United States District Court for the Southern District of New York 1/14/2001) Al Ridi will later purchase assassination rifles for the fighters linked to bin Laden, apparently with the CIA’s knowledge, but it is unclear whether the CIA knows about this transaction (see Early 1989).

Yassin Kadi, a Saudi architect and businessman (see 1981), meets with Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Both are backers of the Afghan rebels in their war with the Soviet Union. Kadi, who will become a millionaire and a suspected terror supporter, will reveal his contacts with bin Laden in a 2008 interview. (Thomas 12/12/2008)

Osama bin Laden commands his first company-sized attack in the Soviet-Afghan War, but the assault is an abject failure. Bin Laden has planned for the attack for months in advance and assembled a force of 120 fighters, including ones not usually based at his Maasada camp and jihad leader Abdullah Azzam (see Late 1986). The Arabs are to attack an Afghan government base just before darkness under covering artillery fire provided by two Afghan rebel commanders, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Following a quick strike, the Arabs will then withdraw, using the night to hide from Soviet aircraft. However, the logistics are badly handled: ammunition is not supplied to forward positions, the Arabs forget electrical wire to connect rockets to detonators, and they run out of food. In addition, an Afghan government soldier overhears their preparations and opens fire with a machine gun, pinning them down. The Arabs are forced to withdraw without even having begun their attack, suffering three casualties, including one killed. This incident is a serious blow to their pride, and Pakistani authorities even begin shutting down Arab guest houses at the mujaheddin staging centers in Pakistan. (Wright 2006, pp. 115-116)

Bin Laden in Afghanistan, around 1988.Bin Laden in Afghanistan, around 1988. [Source: Getty Images]Soviet forces assault a position held by forces commanded by Osama bin Laden, but are repelled. This is the best-known battle in which bin Laden is involved in Afghanistan, and takes place at Jaji, around bin Laden’s Lion’s Den camp (see Late 1986). The attack may be the result of a small skirmish shortly before in which bin Laden’s Arabs attacked a group of Soviet troops, forcing them to withdraw.
Attack - In the initial assault, the Soviets are repulsed by mortar fire, and the defenders are also successful against the second wave, killing and wounding several enemy soldiers. The Soviets then shell bin Laden’s positions for weeks, but the mujaheddin cannot be dislodged. (Wright 2006, pp. 115-116) Estimates of the number of troops vary. According to author Steve Coll, there are about 50 Arabs facing 200 Soviet troops, including some from an elite Spetsnaz unit. (Coll 2004, pp. 162)
Withdrawal - However, bin Laden begins to worry that his men will all be killed if they stay longer. As a result, he forces his men to retreat, although some of them protest and have to be cajoled into doing so. Before pulling out, the camp is destroyed so that the Soviets cannot use it; the canons are pushed into a ravine, the automatic weapons buried, and the pantry grenaded.
Ordered to Return - Bin Laden’s men fall back on a camp run by a leading Afghan commander, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, one of the key mujahidden leaders in the area. However, Sayyaf has come to recognize the Lion’s Den’s strategic value, and is angry they pulled back without his approval. Sayyaf orders the Arabs back and sends about twenty of his own men to make sure they hold their position.
Attacked Again, Victorious - After he returns, bin Laden, who has been ill, is too distraught at the camp’s poor condition and lack of food to give orders, and one of his senior assistants, Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri, takes over. Bin Laden is sent to guard one of the camp’s flanks, but his small group of men encounters a Soviet advance and comes under heavy mortar fire. Bin Laden will later comment, “It was a terrible battle, which ended up with me half sunk in the ground, firing at anything I could see.” Many accounts will say that at this point bin Laden falls asleep under enemy fire, although, according to author Lawrence Wright, he may actually faint due to low blood pressure. In any event, late in the day al-Banshiri is able to outflank the Soviets and force them to withdraw, securing a great victory for the Arabs.
Significance of Battle - The Lion’s Den is only a small part of a larger engagement mostly fought by the Soviets against Sayyaf’s Afghans, but it is a hugely important propaganda victory for the Arabs. Bin Laden, who is given a Soviet AK-47 by al-Banshiri after the battle, will later comment, “The morale of the mujaheddin soared, not only in our area, but in the whole of Afghanistan.” Wright will later comment that it gives the Arabs “a reputation for courage and recklessness that established their legend, at least among themselves,” and becomes “the foundation of the myth that they defeated the superpower.” (Wright 2006, pp. 118-120) Coll will add: “Chronicled daily at the time by several Arab journalists who observed the fighting from a mile or two away, the battle of Jaji marked the birth of Osama bin Laden’s public reputation as a warrior among Arab jihadists… After Jaji he began a media campaign designed to publicize the brave fight waged by Arab volunteers who stood their ground against a superpower. In interviews and speeches around Peshawar and back home in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden sought to recruit new fighters to his cause and to chronicle his own role as a military leader.” (Coll 2004, pp. 163)

Abdullah Azzam in Afghanistan.Abdullah Azzam in Afghanistan. [Source: Al Jazeera]The Boston Globe will later say that throughout the 1980s, the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, “was a spiritual leader of the CIA-backed mujaheddin.” (Sennott 6/21/1995) The Atlantic Monthly will later report that in the late 1980s in Peshawar, Pakistan, Abdul-Rahman “became involved with the US and Pakistani intelligence officials who were orchestrating the [Afghan] war. The sixty or so CIA and Special Forces officers based there considered him a ‘valuable asset,’ according to one of them, and overlooked his anti-Western message and incitement to holy war because they wanted him to help unify the mujaheddin groups.” He is unable to unify the groups, but he helps coordinate some of their activities. He tends to favor the two most radically anti-Western factions led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. He also has close links to Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden’s mentor. (Weaver 5/1996) According to Barnett Rubin, a Columbia University professor and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Azzam was also working with the CIA to help recruit for and unite the mujaheddin groups (see 1985-1989), and when he is assassinated in 1989, the CIA relies even more heavily on Abdul-Rahman. Rubin claims the CIA pays to send him back to Peshawar “to preach to the Afghans about the necessity of unity to overthrow the Kabul regime.” As a reward for his help, the CIA gives him a visa to the US, even though he is on a terrorism watch list (see July 1990). (Friedman 3/17/1995) One source who worked with the CIA supply operation at this time will later say that Abdul-Rahman’s ties to Hekmatyar, the CIA’s most favored Afghan warlord, “put Sheikh Omar in the [CIA’s] good books. And believe me, later on when the Sheikh wanted to come to the States, he cashed in those chips.” (Lance 2006, pp. 20)

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

The notes from al-Qaeda’s formation meeting. The short lines on the right side are the list of attendees.The notes from al-Qaeda’s formation meeting. The short lines on the right side are the list of attendees. [Source: CNN]Bin Laden conducts two meetings to discuss “the establishment of a new military group,” according to notes that are found later. Notes reveal the group is initially called al-Qaeda al-Askariya, which roughly translates to “the military base.” But the name soon shortens to just al-Qaeda, meaning “the base” or “the foundation.” (Solomon 2/19/2003; Wright 2006, pp. 131-134) With the Soviets in the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan, it is proposed to create the new group to keep military jihad, or holy war, alive after the Soviets are gone. The notes don’t specify what the group will do exactly, but it concludes, “Initial estimate, within six months of al-Qaeda (founding), 314 brothers will be trained and ready.” In fact, al-Qaeda will remain smaller than that for years to come. Fifteen people attend these two initial meetings. (Wright 2006, pp. 131-134) In addition to bin Laden, other attendees include:
bullet Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the head of the Egyptian militant group Islamic Jihad. (Wright 9/9/2002)
bullet Mohammed Atef, a.k.a. Abu Hafs.
bullet Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a.k.a. Abu Hajer.
bullet Jamal al-Fadl.
bullet Wael Hamza Julaidan.
bullet Mohammed Loay Bayazid, a US citizen, who is notetaker for the meetings. (Wright 2006, pp. 131-134)
Al-Fadl will reveal details about the meetings to US investigators in 1996 (see June 1996-April 1997). Notes to the meeting will be found in Bosnia in early 2002. (Wright 9/9/2002) It will take US intelligence years even to realize a group named al-Qaeda exists; the first known incidence of US intelligence being told the name will come in 1993 (see May 1993).

Ramzi Yousef.Ramzi Yousef. [Source: Associated Press]Al-Qaeda bomber Ramzi Yousef is said to be recruited by the CIA, though details are not known. Author Richard Labeviere reported without elaboration in a 1999 book, “A classified FBI file indicates that [Yousef] was recruited by the local branch of the CIA.” (Labeviere 1999, pp. 220-221) In 1995, Newsday will report, “FBI officials also are considering a probe of whether the CIA had any relationship with Yousef, who fought with the CIA-financed mujaheddin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.” (Kocieniewski 4/16/1995) But there appears to be no further reporting on whether such a probe was conducted. Yousef is believed to have masterminded a series of bombings in the early 1990s, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the planned Bojinka attack, before being captured in 1995 (see February 7, 1995). If Yousef was recruited by the CIA, it may have been in the late 1980s when the CIA recruited and trained thousands of people around the world to fight in Afghanistan (see 1986-1992). In the late 1980s, Yousef was studying engineering at a Wales college, but he’d also joined the Muslim Brotherhood while there. During a break from school in 1988, he went to one of bin Laden’s training camps in Afghanistan and spent several months honing his bomb-making skills. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 78)

Khalil Deek.Khalil Deek. [Source: Ali Jarekji / Reuters]In 2007, the New Yorker magazine will note, “American intelligence officials had been investigating [Khalil] Deek and [Abu] Zubaida’s activities since at least the late eighties,” but it will not explain why. Deek is a Palestinian and naturalized US citizen living in California for most of the 1990s who will later reportedly mastermind several al-Qaeda bomb plots. (Khatchadourian 1/22/2007) Abu Zubaida, the nom de guerre of Saudi-born Palestinian Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein (also spelled Zein al-Abideen Muhammad Hassan) (Warrick and Finn 4/22/2009) , joins the Palestinian uprising in 1987, when he is only sixteen years old. He then goes to Afghanistan, presumably joins with bin Laden, and fights there before the war ends in 1989. (Suskind 2006, pp. 95) Between 1988 and 1996, Deek is apparently involved with the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), a US-based charity which the US government will later call a “front group” for the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The IAP is closely tied to the Holy Land Foundation, established near Dallas, Texas, in 1989 (see 1989), and it appears the foundation was investigated from very early on. Deek is living in Dallas that year. (Schou 5/31/2001) Palestinian militant activity through organizations like the IAP may explain why these two are investigated at this time, and/or the two may have engaged in other activities. Counterterrorism expert Rita Katz will later claim that the Jordanian government “knew about Deek since the early 1990s. They had a lot of interest in him. They really considered him a major terrorist figure.” (Schou 6/17/2004) Deek and Zubaida will later work together on a number of operations, for instance using the honey trade to ship drugs and weapons (see May 2000), and masterminding a millennium bomb plot in Jordan. (Khatchadourian 1/22/2007)

Four men, Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi, Nabil al-Marabh, Raed Hijazi, and Bassam Kanj, meet each other in an Afghanistan training camp. All four of them take part in fighting against the Soviets. This is according to testimony by Elzahabi in 2004 (see April 16, 2004-June 25, 2004). Elzahabi will claim that while there, he met Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, later famous for allegedly attacking US soldiers in Iraq, and al-Qaeda leaders Abu Zubaida and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. This appears to be the genesis of a Boston al-Qaeda sleeper cell that will play vital roles in 9/11 and other al-Qaeda plots. The four men go their separate ways in subsequent years, but by 1998 all of them will be working as taxi drivers in Boston (see June 1995-Early 1999). (Kurkjian and DeMarco 6/27/2004)

Robert Morgenthau.Robert Morgenthau. [Source: Robert Maass / Corbis]In the late 1980s, Osama bin Laden and his mentor Abdullah Azzam are running a charity front called Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK)/Al-Kifah in Peshawar, Pakistan, and it has an important branch in Brooklyn, New York, called the Al-Kifah Refugee Center that is sending money and recruits to fight in Afghanistan. The CIA apparently helps the Al-Kifah Brooklyn office send up to 200 people from the US to fight in Afghanistan (see 1986-1993). Many of them are US citizens. Zalmay Khalilzad, a State Department Afghan specialist who will go on to become a prominent neoconservative, will later deny knowing of any Arab-Americans fighting with the mujaheddin. But one anonymous Congressional aide will recall occasional mentions of Al-Kifah Refugee Center or its head Mustafa Shalabi by some of the most radical mujaheddin. He will say: “Among that cabal, the extreme militant fringes, Shalabi was known.… [T]hey were asking to talk to him so he could organize some particular assistance.” The Neutrality Act prevents US citizens from fighting against countries not at war with the US, but the New York Times will note, “Yet there is no sign that a criminal investigation ever took place even though federal agents had come across broad hints about the center’s activities when they investigated the [Meir] Kahane assassination [in 1990] (see November 5, 1990) and the slaying of Mr. Shalabi [in 1991]” (see (February 28, 1991)). Kahane’s assassin, El Sayyid Nosair, was one of Shalabi’s assistants. (Mitchell 4/11/1993) Apparently the CIA’s ties to the Al-Kifah Refugee Center prevent other US agencies from investigating it, even after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, when all of the bombers are found to have been tied to the center. While Al-Kifah closes itself down shortly after the WTC bombing, it immediately reopens in Boston under a different name and continues to publish the same newsletter and post from the same website (see April 1993-Mid-2003). Robert I. Friedman, writing for New York magazine, will comment, “[W]hen the fanatical fervor [the CIA] whipped up leads to unintended consequences—the assassination of a Jewish militant leader in Manhattan, the bombing of the World Trade Center, a terror conspiracy to blow up the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels and other Manhattan landmarks—[the CIA tried] to discourage local law enforcement agencies and the FBI from looking into the matter too deeply.” After Nosair assassinates Kahane, the FBI tells District Attorney Robert Morgenthau that Nosair was a lone gunman, not part of a broader conspiracy. However, the FBI had truckloads of evidence connecting to Al-Kifah strongly suggesting otherwise that it does not closely investigate. The FBI also blocks him from tying Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman to the WTC bombing (see After February 26, 1993). Morgenthau will later speculate the CIA may have encouraged the FBI not to pursue any other leads. “The FBI lied to me,” he will say. “They’re supposed to untangle terrorist connections, but they can’t be trusted to do the job.” (Friedman 3/17/1995) Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will call Al-Kifah “al-Qaeda’s operational headquarters in the United States.” (Emerson 2006, pp. 436) In 1994, a secret internal CIA report will conclude that the agency is “partially culpable” for the WTC bombing because of its support for radicals connected to Al-Kifah. One CIA source will say, “By giving these people the funding that we did, a situation was created in which it could be safely argued that we bombed the World Trade Center” (see January 24, 1994). But even after 1994 there is little evidence that the links from Al-Kifah were carefully explored by any US government agency. For instance, the government will not freeze Al-Kifah’s funds until shortly after 9/11, long after it ceased to exist (see September 24, 2001).

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)

Although the Soviets withdraw from Afghanistan in February 1989 (see February 15, 1989), the CIA continues to support the mujaheddin because the Soviet-allied Communist government stays in power in Kabul. Apparently, the CIA and the Saudi government continue to fund the mujaheddin at least until December 1990, although it could be longer because the Communist government remains in power in Kabul until 1992. The “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, reportedly has been working with the CIA in the 1980s to help unite the mujaheddin factions fighting each other (see Late 1980s). The Village Voice will later report that according to a “very high-ranking Egyptian official,” Abdul-Rahman continues to work with the CIA after moving to Brooklyn in July 1990 (see July 1990). He “work[s] closely with the CIA, helping to channel a steady flow of money, men, and guns to mujaheddin bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” But despite working with the CIA, Abdul-Rahman still considers the US the “Great Satan” and does not try to hide this. In one radio broadcast, he says that “Americans are descendants of apes and pigs who have been feeding from the dining tables of the Zionists, Communism, and colonialism.” Matti Steinberg, an expert on Islamic fundamentalism, says that Abdul-Rahman’s “long-term goal is to weaken US society and to show Arab rulers that the US is not an invulnerable superpower.” The Egyptian official will later complain, “We begged America not to coddle the sheikh.” (Friedman 3/30/1993)

Hamid Gul, Nawaz Sharif, and Osama bin Laden conspire to assassinate Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Husein Haqqani, a Pakistani journalist who claims to have been involved in the plot, will later say that ISI Director Hamid Gul contacted Osama bin Laden, who was then known to provide financial support to Afghan mujaheddin, to pay for a coup/assassination of Bhutto. Gul also brings Nawaz Sharif, then the governor of Punjab province and a rival of Bhutto, into the plot. Bin Laden agrees to provide $10 million on the condition that Sharif transforms Pakistan into a strict Islamic state, which Sharif accepts. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 193-194) Bhutto is not assassinated at this time, but bin Laden allegedly helps Sharif replace Bhutto one year later (see October 1990).

Members of Egyptian militant group Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, whose spiritual head is the ‘Blind Sheikh,’ Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, hold a series of secret meetings with US officials at the American embassy in Cairo. The meetings are initiated by Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, which wants to co-operate with the US, because it thinks the US is co-operating with and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. At the meetings, representatives of the group tell the US:
bullet Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya has between 150,000 and 200,000 members;
bullet One of the representatives at the meetings sat on Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya’s shura, or leadership council, between 1981 and 1988. The 11 members of the group’s shura are named at the meetings, as is its operational commander;
bullet Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya thinks highly of Saudi Arabian King Fahd, but believes he should take a stronger line against Iran. However, Abdul-Rahman met an Iranian delegation in Pakistan in autumn 1988;
bullet The group will not attack US diplomats;
bullet Abdul-Rahman travels to the US yearly, and also travels to Britain;
bullet The group is not as secret and violent as represented by the Egyptian government and has undergone a “change in thinking,” becoming concerned about its radical and violent image.
Embassy officials are skeptical about some of the claims, as the group’s representatives reveal more than the officials think is prudent. One year after the meetings, Abdul-Rahman will be issued a US visa by a CIA officer and move to the US (see July 1990). (US Embassy in Cairo 4/25/1989 pdf file; US Embassy in Cairo 5/3/1989 pdf file)

A Philippine government undercover operative later says that bomber Ramzi Yousef comes to the Philippines at this time to set up a new base for bin Laden. The operative, Edwin Angeles, is posing as a member of the militant group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Angeles will later claim that Yousef approaches him as the “personal envoy” of bin Laden and is looking to set up a new base of operations on the rebellious Muslim island of Mindanao. Bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa is already in the Philippines setting up charity fronts. These early contacts will contribute to the creation of the Abu Sayyaf, an offshoot of the MILF that Angeles will join. (Philippine Daily Inquirer 7/10/2001) Yousef had been studying electrical engineering in Wales until 1989. He first went to Afghanistan in 1988 to learn bomb making at a bin Laden camp (see Late 1980s). After graduating, he moved to Afghanistan, where his father, two of his brothers, and his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed are already fighting with bin Laden. (Bone and Road 10/18/1997) Yousef will frequently return to the Philippines to train and plot attacks (see December 1991-May 1992).

Sheikh Abdullah Azzam.Sheikh Abdullah Azzam. [Source: CNN]Bin Laden’s mentor Sheikh Abdullah Azzam is killed by a car bomb in Afghanistan. The killing is never solved. Azzam has no shortage of enemies. Suspects include the Mossad, CIA, Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the ISI, and bin Laden. The reason bin Laden is suspected is because he and Azzam were increasingly at odds over what approach to take since the Soviet Union had been driven from Afghanistan earlier in the year (see February 15, 1989). (Suellentrop 4/16/2002; Coll 2004, pp. 204) In 1998, Mohammed Saddiq Odeh will be arrested and later convicted for a role in the 1998 African embassy bombings. He reportedly will tell US interrogators that bin Laden “personally ordered the killing of Azzam because he suspected his former mentor had ties with the CIA.” However, it is not known if Odeh was just passing on a rumor. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 32) Regardless, in the wake of Azzam’s death, bin Laden takes control of Azzam’s recruiting and support network, Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK)/Al-Kifah, and merges it with al-Qaeda, which was formed the year before (see August 11-20, 1988). (Suellentrop 4/16/2002; Coll 2004, pp. 204)

Osama bin Laden and Hassan al-Turabi in Sudan in the early 1990s.Osama bin Laden and Hassan al-Turabi in Sudan in the early 1990s. [Source: PBS]Hassan al-Turabi comes to power in Sudan in 1989, and his beliefs are ideologically compatible with bin Laden’s. With the Afghan war ending and the Afghans beginning to fight amongst themselves, al-Turabi sends a delegation and a letter to bin Laden, inviting him to collaborate and move to Sudan. Bin Laden agrees to the offer, but moves slowly. He sends advance teams to buy businesses and houses. He also visits Sudan himself to establish a relationship with al-Turabi. Gradually, about 1,000 bin Laden supporters move to Sudan. But bin Laden also keeps offices and guest houses in Pakistan, as well as training camps in Afghanistan, including the Darunta, Jihad Wal, Khaldan, Sadeek, Al Farooq, and Khalid ibn Walid camps. US-al-Qaeda double agent Ali Mohamed plays an important role in the move (see Summer 1991). (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 39-41)

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).

Dr. Rashad Khalifa in 1989.Dr. Rashad Khalifa in 1989. [Source: Public domain]Al-Qaeda operative Wadih el-Hage is linked to the killing of a liberal imam in Tucson, Arizona. Dr. Rashad Khalifa preaches at the Masjid Tucson. There is another mosque in Tucson, the Islamic Center, that is favored by radical Islamists, including al-Qaeda figures like el-Hage (see 1986). Many at the Islamic Center complain about Khalifa and his liberal views, such as allowing men and women to pray together. At some unknown later time, el-Hage will tell US investigators that in January 1990, he is visited by an unnamed, tall, bearded, Egyptian man who says that he has come from New York. This man says he has come to Tucson to investigate Khalifa. El-Hage serves the man lunch at his house while the man continues to angrily complain about Khalifa. El-Hage will tell investigators the man then leaves and he never sees him again. Later this month, on January 31, Khalifa is found murdered in the kitchen of his mosque. Investigators suspect the unnamed man was sent from New York by radical Islamists there. Osama bin Laden has a base of support at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in New York, and another base of support in Tucson. El-Hage will later tell investigators that he thought Khalifa’s murder was justified. Starting in 1991, the FBI will begin investigating El-Hage, and he will be implicated in the murder of Khalifa, but there is not enough evidence to charge him. (Soufan 2011, pp. 45-46) However, he will be indicted for lying about his knowledge of the murder. He also says that the murder is a “good thing.” (CBS News 10/21/2001) Later, seven people will be indicted in Colorado on charges of conspiracy to kill Khalifa. All seven are believed to be members of al-Fuqra, a Muslim extremist group based in Pakistan that has been tied to terrorist activities. Six will be convicted and the seventh will flee the country. However, none of the seven are thought to have committed the murder. In 2009, the prime suspect, Glen Cusford Francis, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, will be arrested in Canada and charged with the murder. (Sagara 4/29/2009)

Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman.Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. [Source: FBI]Despite being on a US terrorist watch list for three years, radical Muslim leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman enters the US on a “much-disputed” tourist visa issued by an undercover CIA agent. (Friedman 3/30/1993; Weaver 5/1996; Lance 2003, pp. 42) Abdul-Rahman was heavily involved with the CIA and Pakistani ISI efforts to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan, and became famous traveling all over the world for five years recruiting new fighters for the Afghan war. The CIA gave him visas to come to the US starting in 1986 (see December 15, 1986-1989) . However, he never hid his prime goals to overthrow the governments of the US and Egypt. (Weaver 5/1996) FBI agent Tommy Corrigan will later say that prior to Abdul-Rahman’s arrival, “terrorism for all intents and purposes didn’t exist in the United States. But [his] arrival in 1990 really stoke the flames of terrorism in this country. This was a major-league ballplayer in what at the time was a minor-league ballpark. He was… looked up to worldwide. A mentor to bin Laden, he was involved with the MAK over in Pakistan.” The charity front Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) is also known as Al-Kifah, and it has a branch in Brooklyn known as the Al-Kifah Refugee Center. The head of that branch, Mustafa Shalabi, picks up Abdul-Rahman at the airport when he first arrives and finds an apartment for him. Abdul-Rahman soon begins preaching at Al Farouq mosque, which is in the same building as the Al-Kifah office, plus two other locals mosques, Abu Bakr and Al Salaam. (Lance 2006, pp. 53) He quickly turns Al-Kifah into his “de facto headquarters.” (Weaver 5/1996) He is “infamous throughout the Arab world for his alleged role in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.” Abdul-Rahman immediately begins setting up a militant Islamic network in the US. (Friedman 3/30/1993) He is believed to have befriended bin Laden while in Afghanistan, and bin Laden secretly pays Abdul-Rahman’s US living expenses. (Weaver 5/1996; ABC News 8/16/2002) For the next two years, Abdul-Rahman will continue to exit and reenter the US without being stopped or deported, even though he is still on the watch list (see Late October 1990-October 1992).

After Iraq invades Kuwait (see November 8, 1990), bin Laden, newly returned to Saudi Arabia, offers the Saudi government the use of his thousands of veteran fighters from the Afghan war to defend the country in case Iraq attacks it. The Saudi government turns him down, allowing 300,000 US soldiers on Saudi soil instead. Bin Laden is incensed, and immediately goes from ally to enemy of the Saudis. (Coll 2004, pp. 221-24, 270-71) After a slow buildup, the US invades Iraq in March 1991 and reestablishes Kuwait. (Posner 2003, pp. 40-41) Bin Laden soon leaves Saudi Arabia and soon forms al-Qaeda ((see Summer 1991)).

In October 1990, Nawaz Sharif is running for election to replace Benazir Bhutto as the prime minister of Pakistan. According to a senior Pakistani intelligence source, bin Laden passes a considerable amount of money to Sharif and his party, since Sharif promises to introduce a hard-line Islamic government. Bin Laden has been supporting Sharif for several years. There is said to be a photograph of Sharif chatting with bin Laden. Sharif wins the election and while he does not introduce a hard-line Islamic government, his rule is more amenable to bin Laden’s interests than Bhutto’s had been. Sharif will stay in power until 1993, then will take over from Bhutto again in 1996 and rule for three more years. (Reeve 1999, pp. 170-171) Former ISI official Khalid Khawaja, a self-proclaimed close friend of bin Laden, will later claim that Sharif and bin Laden had a relationship going back to when they first met face to face in the late 1980s. (Sauer 11/30/2007) There are also accounts of additional links between Sharif and bin Laden (see Spring 1989, Late 1996, and Between Late 1996 and Late 1998).

In July 1990, the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, was mysteriously able to enter the US and remain there despite being a well known public figure and being on a watch list for three years (see July 1990).
bullet In late October 1990, he travels to London, so he is out of the US when one of his followers assassinates the Zionist rabbi Meir Kahane on November 5, 1990 (see November 5, 1990). He returns to the US in mid-November under the name “Omar Ahmed Rahman” and again has no trouble getting back in despite still being on the watch list. (Duke 7/13/1993)
bullet The State Department revokes his US visa on November 17 after the FBI informs it that he is in the US. (McKinley 12/16/1990)
bullet In December 1990, Abdul-Rahman leaves the US again to attend an Islamic conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. He returns nine days later and again has no trouble reentering, despite not even having a US visa at this point. (Duke 7/13/1993)
bullet On December 16, 1990, the New York Times publishes an article titled, “Islamic Leader on US Terrorist List Is in Brooklyn,” which makes his presence in the US publicly known. The Immigration and Nationalization Service (INS) is said to be investigating why he has not been deported already. (McKinley 12/16/1990)
bullet Yet in April 1991, the INS approves his application for permanent residence.
bullet He then leaves the US again in June 1991 to go on the religious hajj to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and returns on July 31, 1991. INS officials identify him coming in, but let him in anyway. (Mitchell 4/24/1993; Duke 7/13/1993)
bullet In June 1992, his application for political asylum will be turned down and his permanent residence visa revoked. But INS hearings on his asylum bid are repeatedly delayed and still have not taken place when the WTC is bombed in February 1993 (see February 26, 1993). (Lance 2003, pp. 105-106)
bullet Abdul-Rahman then goes to Canada around October 1992 and returns to the US yet again. The US and Canada claim to have no documentation on his travel there, but numerous witnesses in Canada see him pray and lecture there. Representative Charles Schumer (D-NY) says, “Here they spent all this time trying to get him out. He goes to Canada and gives them the perfect reason to exclude him and they don’t.”
bullet After the WTC bombing, the US could detain him pending his deportation hearing but chooses not to, saying it would be too costly to pay for his medical bills. (Mitchell 4/24/1993)
Abdul-Rahman will be involved in the follow up “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993) before finally being arrested later in 1993. It will later be alleged that he was protected by the CIA. In 1995, the New York Times will comment that the link between Abdul-Rahman and the CIA “is a tie that remains muddy.” (MacFarquhar 10/2/1995)

Invesigators remove boxes of evidence from El Sayyid Nosair’s residence hours after the assassination.Invesigators remove boxes of evidence from El Sayyid Nosair’s residence hours after the assassination. [Source: National Geographic]US government agencies cover up evidence of a conspiracy in the wake of El Sayyid Nosair’s assassination of controversial right-wing Zionist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane (see November 5, 1990). Nosair is captured a few blocks from the murder site after a police shoot-out. An FBI informant says he saw Nosair meeting with Muslim leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman a few days before the attack, and evidence indicating a wider plot with additional targets is quickly found. (Friedman 3/30/1993) Later that night, police arrive at Nosair’s house and find a pair of Middle Eastern men named Mahmud Abouhalima and Mohammed Salameh there. They are taken in for questioning. Additionally, police collect a total of 47 boxes of evidence from Nosair’s house, including: (Lance 2003, pp. 34-35)
bullet Thousands of rounds of ammunition.
bullet Maps and drawings of New York City landmarks, including the World Trade Center.
bullet Documents in Arabic containing bomb making formulas, details of an Islamic militant cell, and mentions of the term “al-Qaeda.”
bullet Recorded sermons by Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman in which he encourages his followers to “destroy the edifices of capitalism” and destroy “the enemies of Allah” by “destroying their… high world buildings.”
bullet Tape-recorded phone conversations of Nosair reporting to Abdul-Rahman about paramilitary training, and even discussing bomb-making manuals.
bullet Videotaped talks that Ali Mohamed delivered at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
bullet Top secret manuals also from Fort Bragg. There are even classified documents belonging to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commander in Chief of the Army’s Central Command. These manuals and documents had clearly come from Mohamed, who completed military service at Fort Bragg the year before and frequently stayed in Nosair’s house.
bullet A detailed and top secret plan for Operation Bright Star, a special operations training exercise simulating an attack on Baluchistan, a part of Pakistan between Afghanistan and the Arabian Sea. (Sullivan and Neff 10/21/2001; Sullivan and Neff 11/13/2001; Waldman 11/26/2001; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 8/16/2002; Lance 2003, pp. 34-35)
bullet Also within hours, two investigators will connect Nosair with surveillance photographs of Mohamed giving weapons training to Nosair, Abouhalima, Salameh, and others at a shooting range the year before (see July 1989). (Lance 2003, pp. 34-35) But, ignoring all of this evidence, still later that evening, Joseph Borelli, the New York police department’s chief detective, will publicly declare the assassination the work of a “lone deranged gunman.” He will further state, “I’m strongly convinced that he acted alone.… He didn’t seem to be part of a conspiracy or any terrorist organization.” The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will later conclude, “The [New York Police Department] and the District Attorney’s office… reportedly wanted the appearance of speedy justice and a quick resolution to a volatile situation. By arresting Nosair, they felt they had accomplished both.” (Friedman 3/30/1993; Lance 2003, pp. 34-36) Abouhalima and Salameh are released, only to be later convicted for participating in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Investigators will later find in Nosair’s possessions a formula for a bomb almost identical to one used in the WTC bombing. (Friedman 3/17/1995) As one FBI agent will later put it, “The fact is that in 1990, myself and my detectives, we had in our office in handcuffs, the people who blew up the World Trade Center in ‘93. We were told to release them.” The 47 boxes of evidence collected at Nosair’s house that evening are stored away, inaccessible to prosecutors and investigators. The documents found will not be translated until after the World Trade Center bombing. Nosair will later be acquitted of Kahane’s murder (though he will be convicted of lesser charges), as investigators will continue to ignore all evidence that could suggest Nosair did not act alone (see December 7, 1991). (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 8/16/2002; Lance 2003, pp. 34-37) District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who prosecuted the case, will later speculate the CIA may have encouraged the FBI not to pursue any other leads. Nosair worked at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center which was closely tied to covert CIA operations in Afghanistan (see Late 1980s and After). (Friedman 3/17/1995)

The FBI is apparently under pressure to back off from investigating Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. One week after the murder of Zionist rabbi Meir Kahane, a long-time FBI counterterrorism expert meets with one of his top undercover operatives. According to the FBI agent, the undercover operative asks, “Why aren’t we going after the Sheikh [Abdul-Rahman]?” The FBI agent replies, “It’s hands-off.” He further explains, “It was no accident that the Sheikh got a visa and that he’s still in the country. He’s here under the banner of national security, the State Department, the NSA, and the CIA.” The agent concludes that Abdul-Rahman is untouchable. Noting how the government is already firmly suggesting that El Sayyid Nosair was the only one involved in Kahane’s murder, he says, “I haven’t seen the lone-gunman theory advocated [so forcefully] since John F. Kennedy.” (Friedman 3/30/1993) The FBI will also fail to look at a wealth of evidence suggesting others were involved in the assassination (see November 5, 1990 and After).

Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will later write that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) first “earned his spurs” in al-Qaeda by serving as one of Osama bin Laden’s first bodyguards. Then, in 1991, bin Laden sends KSM to the Philippines where he trains members of the militant groups Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in bomb making and assassination. He works with bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa to establish an operational base there and also in Malaysia. Presumably he also works with his nephew Ramzi Yousef, who trains Abu Sayyaf militants the same year (see December 1991-May 1992). Gunaratna says that “After proving himself an outstanding organizer, [KSM] was given substantial operational authority and autonomy by bin Laden.” However, KSM’s work with the Abu Sayyaf and MILF is soon discovered and he “has been on the run since 1991.” KSM will return with Yousef to the Philippines in 1994 to exploit the network they built and develop the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). (Gunaratna 2003, pp. xxiv-xxix)

Khalid bin Mahfouz.Khalid bin Mahfouz. [Source: CBC]Shortly after 9/11, the London Times will report that Osama bin Laden stayed at the London estate of Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz. “Sources close to the bin Mahfouz family say that about 10 years ago, when bin Laden was widely regarded as a religious visionary and defender of the Muslim faith, he visited the property and spent ‘two or three days’ on the estate, relaxing in its open-air swimming pool, walking in the grounds and talking to bin Mahfouz. What the men discussed remains a mystery.” Bin Mahfouz was a major investor in the criminal Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which is closed down around this time (see July 5, 1991). (Leppard 9/23/2001) Bin Laden was also heavily invested in BCCI at the time (see July 1991). There are other reports of bin Laden visiting London around this time (see Early 1990s-Late 1996), and even briefly living there (see Early 1994). The name “bin Mahfouz” appears on the “Golden Chain,” a list of early al-Qaeda financial supporters (see 1988-1989). Bin Mahfouz denies any terrorist link to bin Laden.

CIA contractor Billy Waugh, who is conducting surveillance against Osama bin Laden in Khartoum, Sudan (see February 1991- July 1992), drafts a plan to assassinate bin Laden. Waugh will later say that the plan, one of “hundreds” of such proposals he prepares for the CIA, is drafted as a natural part of the surveillance and “isn’t anything special,” but is just written “in case someone decided that was the necessary course of action.” The plan is to kill bin Laden while he is traveling, because that is when his security is worst. One CIA car would follow bin Laden on one of his regular trips out of town, another would approach bin Laden’s car from the opposite direction and ram into it. The driver of the trailing car would then get out and shoot bin Laden. Given the poor quality of the Sudanese security services, Waugh thinks it would be simple to evade capture after the shooting. However, the plan is not approved because of restrictions on assassinations at the CIA and because of a lack of specific intelligence tying bin Laden to terrorism at this point. Waugh then considers killing bin Laden himself from one of his surveillance positions without permission, but decides not to do so. (Waugh and Keown 2004, pp. 207-210)

The CIA, which is conducting a surveillance operation against Osama bin Laden in Sudan (see February 1991- July 1992), penetrates a bank he uses. Billy Waugh, one of the CIA contractors performing the surveillance, will say: “[Bin Laden] went to the bank every day, and you might figure that if the [CIA] knew which bank he used, it would recruit someone within that bank to provide information. Well, by God they did.” Waugh will also say that the CIA “knew about [bin Laden’s] personal bank account.” However, details of what the CIA knew about bin Laden based on this penetration are not known. Although the bank most closely associated with bin Laden at this time is the Al-Shamal Islamic Bank (see August 14, 1996), in his autobiography Waugh calls the bank the “Arab Bank.” (Waugh and Keown 2004, pp. 203) It is unclear exactly what bank Waugh is referring to. There is a bank called the Arab Bank that is alleged to be involved in terrorism finance. (Ciralsky and Popkin 4/19/2005) However, the bank’s website states that its Sudan branch was nationalized in 1970. (Arab Bank 3/23/2008) The Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa is also based in Khartoum at this time. (International Monetary Fund 3/23/2008) However, there are no known connections between this bank and bin Laden.

Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who will later be the chief recruiter for and a key member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, travels widely and joins al-Qaeda. Zammar was born in Syria but his family moved to Hamburg, Germany, in 1971. He became a German citizen and renounced his Syrian citizenship about a decade later. By his late teens, he developed a friendship with Mamoun Darkazanli, a fellow Syrian, and both of them joined the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Muslim group banned in Egypt. Zammar worked as an auto mechanic until about 1991, when he decides to become a full time militant, and he mostly lives on government benefits after that.
Training and Fighting in Afghanistan - In 1991, Zammar goes to Afghanistan and trains at an elite camp linked to Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. He fights with Hekmatyar’s forces against the Communist Afghan government before returning to Hamburg by the end of 1991.
Active in Many Countries - Over the next five years, he makes about 40 trips out of Germany, often to countries where Islamist militants are fighting. In 1995, he fights in Bosnia with other Arabs against the Serbians. In 1996, he goes to Afghanistan again and formally pledges allegiance to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, according to an unnamed Arab intelligence agency.
His Travels Cause Attention - All of Zammar’s traveling brings him to the attention of Turkish intelligence, and it notifies German intelligence about his radical militant links in 1996 (see 1996). Knowing that his militant activity is not illegal in Germany as long as he is not involved in a plot targeting Germany, Zammar speaks openly about his travels and exploits, and he becomes very well known within the Islamist extremist community in Hamburg. He begins recruiting others to become active militants and attend Afghan training camps. (Finn 9/11/2002; New York Times 1/18/2003)

Abdurajak Janjalani.Abdurajak Janjalani. [Source: Public domain]Abu Sayyaf, a militant Islamic group, is formed in the Philippines, and is led mainly by returned mujaheddin fighters from Afghanistan. Abdurajak Janjalani, who had fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan, is considered the founder of the group. (Struck et al. 9/23/2001; May 10/15/2001 pdf file; Bengwayan 4/2005) Janjalani had befriended bin Laden while fighting in Afghanistan in the late 1980s. He and many others from the Philippines had their training paid for by the CIA and Pakistani ISI (see Late 1980s). “Osama bin Laden wanted to expand his al-Qaeda network, established in 1988, so he turned to Janjalani to establish a cell in Southeast Asia.” Many militants break from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a much larger rebel group, to join Abu Sayyaf. It will later be reported that, “Philippine intelligence officials believe [Abu Sayyaf’s] primary goal at the time was to sabotage the ongoing peace process between the MNLF and the [Philippine government] and to discredit the MNLF’s leaders.” (Abuza 9/1/2005 pdf file) This comment takes on added meaning in light of evidence that the group was penetrated from the very beginning by the Philippine government, as a deep undercover operative became the group’s second in command and operational leader (see 1991-Early February 1995). The group begins a series of attacks by killing two American evangelists in April 1991. (Struck et al. 9/23/2001) The group engages primarily in kidnapping and extortion. It also receives early funding from Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law of bin Laden, and Ramzi Yousef, the 1993 WTC bomber (see December 1991-May 1992). (May 10/15/2001 pdf file; Elegant 8/23/2004)

Billy Waugh.Billy Waugh. [Source: Billy Waugh]The CIA monitors bin Laden in Khartoum, Sudan, where he has just moved (see Summer 1991). Billy Waugh, an independent contractor working for the CIA, moves to Khartoum and is given the task of spying on him. Waugh is a legendary fighter already in his sixties who has performed special operations for the US Army and CIA for many years and will continue to do so until he is in his seventies. The Associated Press will later report that Waugh “played a typecast role as an aging American fitness enthusiast and would regularly jog past bin Laden’s home. He said he often came face-to-face with bin Laden, who undoubtedly knew the CIA was tailing him. Neither said anything, but Waugh recalled exchanging pleasantries with bin Laden’s Afghan guards.” (Waugh and Keown 2004, pp. 121; Kaczor 6/4/2005) Waugh will later recall, “I was on a tracking team in Sudan keeping track of [bin Laden] in his early days as a possible terrorist network leader. Our CIA Chief of Station there told me upon arrival that [he] was one of our targets, that he was a wealthy Saudi financier and possible supporter of the terrorist outfit called al-Qaeda. He ran companies there and even owned an entire street block in the al-Riyadh section of the city.… At the time of our surveillance operations against him in 1991-92, [he] was not a particularly high priority, though evidence was gathering about him. At the time, it would have been very easy to take him out.” Waugh also claims that he saw bin Laden “in the mountains of the Pakistan/Afghanistan border in the late 1980’s when we were training the [mujaheddin] resistance.” (Peterson 6/2005)

Around February 28, 1991, Mustafa Shalabi, head of the Al-Kifah Refugee Center’s main US office in Brooklyn, is murdered. Al-Kifah is a charity front with ties to both the CIA and al-Qaeda (see 1986-1993). Shalabi’s body is found in his house on March 1. He had been shot and stabbed multiple times and $100,000 was stolen. Shalabi is found with two red hairs in his hand, and the FBI soon suspects Mahmud Abouhalima, who is red-headed, for the murder. Abouhalima identified Shalabi’s body for the police, falsely claiming to be Shalabi’s brother. He will later be one of the 1993 WTC bombers. Shalabi had been having a growing public dispute with the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, over where to send the roughly one million dollars Al-Kifah was raising annually. Abdul-Rahman wanted some of the money to be used to overthrow the Egyptian government while Shalabi wanted to send all of it to Afghanistan. Shalabi had given up the fight and had already booked a flight to leave the US when he was killed. The murder is never solved. (Lance 2003, pp. 49-52; Lance 2006, pp. 65-66) Abdul Wali Zindani takes over as head of Al-Kifah and apparently will run the office until it closes shortly after the 1993 WTC bombing. He is nephew of Sheikh Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, a radical imam in Yemen with ties to bin Laden. Abdul-Rahman, also linked to bin Laden, increases his effective control over Al-Kifah and its money. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 82) Al-Kifah’s links to al-Qaeda were already strong before Shalabi’s death. But author Peter Lance will later comment that after his death, “Osama bin Laden had an effective al-Qaeda cell right in the middle of Brooklyn, New York. A tough look at the Shalabi murder might have ripped the lid off al-Qaeda years before the FBI ever heard of the network.” (Lance 2003, pp. 52)

US troops in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s.US troops in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s. [Source: PBS]As the Gulf War against Iraq ends, the US stations some 15,000-20,000 soldiers in Saudi Arabia permanently. (Hiro 2/15/1999) President George H. W. Bush falsely claims that all US troops have withdrawn. (Prins 12/21/2001) The US troop’s presence is not admitted until 1995, and there has never been an official explanation as to why they remained. The Nation postulates that they are stationed there to prevent a coup. Saudi Arabia has an incredible array of high-tech weaponry, but lacks the expertise to use it and it is feared that Saudi soldiers may have conflicting loyalties. In 1998, bin Laden will say in a fatwa: “For more than seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples” (see February 22, 1998). (Hiro 2/15/1999) US troops will finally leave in 2003, shortly after the start of the Iraq war and the construction of new military bases in other Persian Gulf countries (see April 30-August 26, 2003).

Wadih El-Hage’s US passport. His face is overly dark due to a poor photocopy.Wadih El-Hage’s US passport. His face is overly dark due to a poor photocopy. [Source: US Justice Department] (click image to enlarge)The FBI begins to investigate Wadih El-Hage, who will soon work as bin Laden’s personal secretary. The FBI is investigating the February 1991 murder of Mustafa Shalabi (see (February 28, 1991)), the head of the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, a charity with ties to both bin Laden and the CIA. El-Hage, a US citizen living in Texas, came to New York to briefly run Al-Kifah so Shalabi could take a trip overseas, and happened to arrive the same day that Shalabi was murdered. Investigators find a message from El-Hage on Shalabi’s answer machine. They learn El-Hage had been connected to the 1990 murder of a liberal imam in Tucson, Arizona (see January 1990). (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 148-149; Lance 2006, pp. 67-68) Further, he visited El Sayyid Nosair, who assassinated Meir Kahane the year before (see November 5, 1990), in prison, and left his name in the visitor’s log. (Lance 2003, pp. 50-51) However, the FBI decides there is not enough evidence to charge El-Hage with any crime. They lose track of him in early 1992, when he moves to Sudan and begins working there as bin Laden’s primary personal secretary. He will help bin Laden run many of his businesses, and will frequently take international trips on bin Laden’s behalf. (Zill 4/1999; Weiser 1/22/2000)

Hambali, an important future al-Qaeda leader, moves to the village of Sungai Manggis, Malaysia, about an hour north of the capital of Kuala Lumpur. Hambali is from nearby Indonesia and fought in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden in the late 1980s. He starts off poor, working at odd jobs, but soon is frequently traveling and has many overseas visitors. Intriguingly, Hambali’s landlord will later say of Hambali’s visitors, “Some looked Arab and others white.” Hambali plays a major role in the 1995 Bojinka plot in the Philippines (see January 6, 1995), and after that plot is foiled he continues to live in his simple Sungai Manggis house. (Elegant 4/1/2002; McDermott 9/1/2002) Living near Hambali in this village are other regional Islamist militant leaders such as Abdullah Sungkar, Imam Samudra (allegedly a key figure in the 2000 Christmas bombings (see December 24-30, 2000) and the 2002 Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002)), Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of the al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah, and Abu Jibril. So many militants live in this village that it becomes known as “Terror HQ” to intelligence agencies. Sungkar and Bashir are considered the two most well-known militant leaders in Southeast Asia at the time (Sungkar dies of old age in 1999). Hambali’s house is directly across from Bashir’s and they are considered friends. (Widjajanto and Fibri 10/29/2002; Ressa 2003) Interestingly, Fauzi Hasbi, an Indonesian government mole posing as a militant leader, lives next door to Bashir as well. (SBS Dateline 10/12/2005) Despite his role in the Bojinka plot, Hambali continues to live there very openly. Beginning in March 1995, just two months after the plot was foiled, Hambali throws his first feast for several hundred guests to mark a Muslim holiday. This becomes an annual party. He also sometimes travels to Indonesia. (Elegant 4/1/2002) By May 1999, if not earlier, the FBI connects Hambali to the Bojinka plot (see May 23, 1999). In January 2000, he attends a key al-Qaeda summit in nearby Kuala Lumpur. The CIA gets pictures and video footage of him at the meeting and already has pictures of him from a computer linked to the Bojinka plot (see January 5-8, 2000 and January 5, 2000). However, there is no apparent effort to apprehend him, extradite him, or even put him on a public wanted list. He continues to live in Sungai Manggis until at least late 2000. (Conboy 2003)

Prince Turki al-Faisal.Prince Turki al-Faisal. [Source: Publicity photo]Bin Laden, recently returned to Saudi Arabia, has been placed under house arrest for his opposition to the continued presence of US soldiers on Saudi soil. (PBS Frontline 2001) Controversial author Gerald Posner claims that a classified US intelligence report describes a secret deal between bin Laden and Saudi Intelligence Minister Prince Turki al-Faisal at this time. Although bin Laden has become an enemy of the Saudi state, he is nonetheless too popular for his role with the mujaheddin in Afghanistan to be easily imprisoned or killed. According to Posner, bin Laden is allowed to leave Saudi Arabia with his money and supporters, but the Saudi government will publicly disown him. Privately, the Saudis will continue to fund his supporters with the understanding that they will never be used against Saudi Arabia. The wrath of the fundamentalist movement is thus directed away from the vulnerable Saudis. (Posner 2003, pp. 40-42) Posner alleges the Saudis “effectively had [bin Laden] on their payroll since the start of the decade.” (Zabriskie 8/31/2003) This deal is reaffirmed in 1996 and 1998. Bin Laden leaves Saudi Arabia in the summer of 1991, returning first to Afghanistan. (Coll 2004, pp. 229-31, 601-02) After staying there a few months, he moves again, settling into Sudan with hundreds of ex-mujaheddin supporters (see 1992-1996). (PBS Frontline 2001)

Elfatih Hassanein (center).Elfatih Hassanein (center). [Source: Magyar Iszlam]In 1987, a Sudanese man named Elfatih Hassanein found the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA). By mid-1991, Bosnian President Izetbegovic contacts Hassanein, who he has known since the 1970s. The two men agree to turn TWRA from an obscure charity into what the Washington Post will later call “the chief broker of black-market weapons deals by Bosnia’s Muslim-led government and the agent of money and influence in Bosnia for Islamic movements and governments around the world.” A banker in Vienna will later call Hassanein the “bagman” for Izetbegovic. “If the Bosnian government said we need flour, he ran after flour. If they said we need weapons, he ran after weapons.” (Pomfret 9/22/1996; Schindler 2007, pp. 148) The TWRA is controlled by a committee composed of Hassanein and:
bullet Hasan Cengic. He is in charge of arming a Bosnian militia run by the SDA party (see June 1991).
bullet Irfan Ljevakovic.
bullet Husein Zivalj.
bullet Dervis Djurdjevic.
All of them are important members of Izetbegovic’s SDA party, and all but Ljevakovic were codefendants with Izetbegovic in a 1983 trial. Most payments require the approval of three of the five, except for amounts greater than $500,000, in which case Izetbegovic has to give approval. The corruption from these higher-ups is said to be incredible, with up to half of all money passing through the TWRA going into their pockets. (Schindler 2007, pp. 148-152) The TWRA is based in Vienna, Austria, and Izetbegovic personally guarantees Hassanein’s credentials with banks there. Soon, machine guns, missiles and other weapons are being shipped into Bosnia in containers marked as humanitarian aid. Hassanein is a member of Sudan’s government party and a follower of top Sudanese leader Hassan al-Turabi. Just like al-Turabi, he works with bin Laden and the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. He becomes the main agent in Europe for marketing and selling video and audio tapes of Abdul-Rahman’s sermons. In March 1992, the Sudanese government gives him a diplomatic passport and he uses it to illegally transport large amounts of cash from Austria into Bosnia without being searched. (Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 140-141) The Saudi Arabian government is the biggest contributor to TWRA, but many other governments give money to it too, such as Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Brunei, Turkey, and Malaysia. Bin Laden is also a major contributor. (Pomfret 9/22/1996) Author John Schindler will later note, “Relations between bin Laden and TWRA were close, not least because during the Bosnian war the al-Qaeda leadership was based in Khartoum, Sudan, under the protection of the Sudanese Islamist regime that was the ultimate backer of Hassanein and his firm.” TWRA also works closely with the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) and most other charity fronts in Bosnia. (Schindler 2007, pp. 151-152) A later study by the Bosnian government with help from Western intelligence agencies will determine that at least $2.5 billion passed through the TWRA to Bosnia between 1992 and 1995. The study will call the TWRA “a group of Bosnian Muslim wartime leaders who formed an illegal, isolated ruling oligarchy, comprising three to four hundred ‘reliable’ people in the military commands, the diplomatic service, and a number of religious dignitaries.… It was this organization, not the Government [of Bosnia], that controlled all aid that Islamic countries donated to the Bosnian Muslims throughout the war.” (Schindler 2007, pp. 149-150)

BCCI logo.BCCI logo. [Source: BCCI]In early 2001, anonymous US officials will say that when the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) is shut down in July 1991 (see July 5, 1991), Osama bin Laden suffers a heavy blow because he has put much of his money in the bank and he loses everything he invested there. As a result, he begins to launder money from the drug trade to make up for the lost revenue. He cooperates with Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is already diverting profits from the Afghan drug trade to help finance Islamic terrorist movements. Others claim bin Laden begins his involvement with the drug trade several years later. (Sale 3/1/2001) It also seems that bin Laden’s financial network eventually grows to at least partly replace the role of BCCI for Islamist militant financing (see After July 1991).

In July 1991, the criminal BCCI bank is shut down (see July 5, 1991), and Osama bin Laden apparently loses some of his fortune held in BCCI accounts as a result (see July 1991). But while bin Laden loses money, he and his future second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri gain influence. Other Islamist militants have been heavily relying on BCCI for their finances, and in the wake of BCCI’s collapse they are forced to bank elsewhere. Author Roland Jacquard will later claim that “following [the bank’s closure], funds [are] transferred from BCCI to banks in Dubai, Jordan, and Sudan controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. Some of the money [is] handed back to organizations such as the FIS [a political party in Algeria]. Another portion [is] transferred by Ayman al-Zawahiri to Switzerland, the Netherlands, London, Antwerp, and Malaysia.” (Jacquard 2002, pp. 129) Author Adam Robinson will come to similar conclusions, noting that when BCCI collapses bin Laden has just moved to Sudan, which is ruled by Hassan al-Turabi, who has similar Islamist views to bin Laden. Robinson writes, “Without a system by which money could be transferred around the world invisibly, it would be relatively simple for terrorist funds to be traced. Dealing with this crisis fell to al-Turabi. In desperation he turned to Osama.… The future of the struggle could come to rest on Osama’s shoulders.” Over the next several months, bin Laden and a small team of financial experts work on a plan to replace the functions of BCCI. Bin Laden already knows many of the main Islamist backers from his experience in the Afghan war. “During the summer of 1991 he discreetly made contact with many of the wealthiest of these individuals, especially those with an international network of companies.… Within months, Osama unveiled before an astonished al-Turabi what he called ‘the Brotherhood Group.’” This is apparently a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. Robinson says this group is made up of 134 Arab businessmen with a collective wealth of many billions of dollars. The network will effectively replace BCCI for Islamist militants. (Robinson 2001, pp. 138-139) A French report shortly after 9/11 will confirm that bin Laden’s network largely replaces BCCI (see October 10, 2001). Right around this time, bin Laden is seen at the London estate of Khalid bin Mahfouz, one of the major investors in BCCI (see (1991)).

Ramzi Yousef, the future bomber of the WTC in 1993, stays in the Philippines and trains militants there in bomb-making. According to Philippine intelligence documents, Yousef had developed expertise in bomb-making and worked at a training camp at Khost, Afghanistan, teaching bomb-making for militants connected to bin Laden. But bin Laden dispatches him to the Philippines, where he trains about 20 militants belonging to the Abu Sayyaf group. Abu Sayyaf is heavily penetrated by Philippine undercover operatives at this time, especially Edwin Angeles, an operative who is the second in command of the group. Angeles will later recall that Yousef is introduced to him at this time as an “emissary from bin Laden.” (Abuza 9/1/2005 pdf file) Angeles also claims Yousef decided to use the Philippines as a “launching pad” for terrorist acts around the world. (Kocieniewski 9/6/1996) One of Abu Sayyaf’s top leaders will later recall that Yousef also brings a significant amount of money to help fund the group. (Dinampo 1/22/2007; CNN 1/31/2007) A flow chart of Yousef’s associates prepared in early 1995 by Angeles’ Philippines handler Rodolfo Mendoza shows a box connected to Abu Sayyaf labeled “20 trainees/recruits.” So presumably the Philippine government is aware of this information by then, but it is not known when they warned the US about it (see Spring 1995). Yousef will also later admit to planning the 1993 WTC bombing at an Abu Sayyaf base, which most likely takes place at this time (see Early 1992). The ties between Yousef and Abu Sayyaf will grow stronger, culminating in the 1995 Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), an early version of the 9/11 plot.

Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, apparently directly assists the Abu Sayyaf militant group with a number of attacks during this time. According to a 1996 Philippine intelligence report, in December 1991, Khalifa meets with Abu Sayyaf leaders and gives them $1000 in local currency to bomb a church in the town of Jolo. In January 1992, Khalifa and future Bojinka bombers Wali Khan Amin Shah and Ramzi Yousef meet with Abdurajak Janjalani, the head of the Abu Sayyaf. This time, Khalifa gives $6,000 for two ultimately successful operations—to assassinate an Italian missionary and to bomb a local public market to disrupt provincial elections. Khalifa continues to liaison with Abu Sayyaf leaders, providing food, medicines, ammunition, and sometimes targets to attack. The last known attack with such help from Khalifa takes place in April 1993. (Ressa 2003, pp. 27, 227)

Fauzi Hasbi.Fauzi Hasbi. [Source: SBS Dateline]In 1992, the Southeast Asian Islamist militant group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) is founded. It will eventually become known as al-Qaeda’s main affiliate in the region. Actually, many of its alleged founders, such as Abu Bakar Bashir, have been pressing Islamist militant causes for several decades, but with the creation of JI their efforts become more violent. Also in contrast to previous Islamist groups in the region, JI is deliberately set up as a military organization. One of the founding members of JI is Fauzi Hasbi, who has been an Indonesian government mole posing as a militant leader since the late 1970s (see 1979-February 22, 2003). Hasbi actually facilitates JI’s first major meeting, held in Bogor, Indonesia. For many years, he also lives in the same small Malaysian village as the top JI leaders, such as Bashir and Hambali (see April 1991-Late 2000). The Australian television program SBS Dateline will later comment: “The extraordinary story of Fauzi Hasbi raises many important questions about JI and the Indonesian authorities. Why didn’t they smash the terror group in its infancy?” Umar Abduh, an Indonesian Islamist convicted of terrorism and jailed for ten years, works with Hasbi. In 2005, he will claim that in retrospect he realizes that he and other militants were completely manipulated by the government. “[T]here is not a single Islamic group, either in the movement or the political groups that is not controlled by [Indonesian intelligence]. Everyone does what they say.” (Bonner 8/27/2003; SBS Dateline 10/12/2005)

Al-Qaeda operative Khalil Deek runs military training camps in Southern California in the early 1990s. Those trained in the camps include followers of the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, and some of the people involved in the 1993 “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993). Deek is a member of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell based in Orange County and has reportedly been under investigation by US intelligence since the late 1980s (see Late 1980s). Rita Katz, a private counterterrorism expert who sometimes works with US officials, will learn of these camps when speaking to an FBI agent in early 2002. According to Katz, she is told that the FBI had known about the camps for “years” but had not acted because of the “wall” between criminal and intelligence investigations. The FBI agent will tell Katz that the information about the camps was “Intel information. Unusable.” (Katz 2003, pp. 186-187) Deek also attracts attention for his suspected involvement with Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, the militant group led by Abdul-Rahman, because of the group’s plans “to bomb a Masonic temple in Los Angeles.” (Anderson 9/15/2005) Katz will conclude that “the FBI had learned that Deek was running military training camps for al-Qaeda in California and was planning to blow up various American targets. And the agency let these people go about their business undisturbed.” (Katz 2003, pp. 186-187) Around the same time, Deek also works in Bosnia for a charity suspected of funneling weapons and new recruits to the mujaheddin fighting there (see Early 1990s). In late 1999, Deek will be captured overseas for participation in a planned millennium bombing (see December 11, 1999). It will later be alleged that he was a mole for the Jordanian government (see Shortly After December 11, 1999).

Bin Laden’s house in Khartoum, Sudan.Bin Laden’s house in Khartoum, Sudan. [Source: PBS]It has not been revealed when US intelligence begins monitoring bin Laden exactly, though the CIA was tailing him in Sudan by the end of 1991 (see February 1991- July 1992). But in late 1995 the FBI is given forty thick files on bin Laden from the CIA and NSA, mostly communications intercepts (see October 1995). The sheer amount of material suggests the surveillance had been going on for several years. Dan Coleman, an FBI agent working with the CIA’s bin Laden unit, will begin examining these files and finds that many of them are transcripts from wiretapped phones tied to bin Laden’s businesses in Khartoum, Sudan, where bin Laden lives from 1991 to 1996. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 148-149; Wright 2006, pp. 242-244) CIA Director George Tenet will later comment, “The then-obscure name ‘Osama bin Laden’ kept cropping up in the intelligence traffic.… [The CIA] spotted bin Laden’s tracts in the early 1990s in connection with funding other terrorist movements. They didn’t know exactly what this Saudi exile living in Sudan was up to, but they knew it was not good.” (Tenet 2007, pp. 100) The London Times will later report that in Sudan, “bin Laden used an $80,000 satellite phone and al-Qaeda members used radios to avoid being bugged…” (Callinan 10/7/2001) Bin Laden is mistaken in his belief that satellite phones cannot be monitored; a satellite phone he buys in 1996 will be monitored as well (see November 1996-Late August 1998).

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) fights and fundraises in Bosnia. The 9/11 Commission will later state, “In 1992, KSM spent some time fighting alongside the mujaheddin in Bosnia and supporting that effort with financial donations.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 147) He reportedly fights with the elite El Mujahid battalion, and gains Bosnian citizenship. (Schindler 2007, pp. 281) He also works for Egypitska Pomoc, an Egyptian aid group in Zenica, Bosnia, and in 1995 becomes one of its directors. (Gunaratna 6/1/2005) KSM mostly lives in Qatar for the next three years (see 1992-1996), but in 1995 he is back fighting in Bosnia as the violence escalates that year. Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, Qatar’s Minister of Religious Affairs, underwrites the costs of the trip. (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 147, 488) This second trip to Bosnia means that KSM fights there at the same time as 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, though it is not known if they meet (see 1993-1999). The FBI will later suspect that KSM helped build a bomb used to blow up a police station in neighboring Croatia while KSM was in the area (see October 20, 1995).

A map of where BIF operates. Taken from the BIF website, the date of the map is unknown.A map of where BIF operates. Taken from the BIF website, the date of the map is unknown. [Source: BIF] (click image to enlarge)In 1987, Saudi millionaire Adel Batterjee founds the Islamic Benevolence Committee, a charity front supporting the mujaheddin in Afghanistan. In 1998, bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa founds the Benevolence International Corporation export-import company in the Philippines to support militant groups there. In 1992, the two groups merge and create a new Saudi charity called the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). BIF funds charity projects, but its 1999 mission statement says its purpose is to make “Islam supreme on this earth,” and it funds radical militants as well. In 1992, it moves its headquarters to Florida in the US. Then, in 1993, it moves its headquarters again to Chicago. Battargee is replaced as head of the organization by Enaam Arnaout, but Battargee maintains a behind the scenes role. Arnaout fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 1980s and in fact in 1988 the Arab News published a picture of Arnaout and bin Laden together at a mujaheddin camp in Afghanistan. Mohammed Loay Bayazid, a US citizen and one of the founder members of al-Qaeda, is made president of BIF. BIF mostly funds regions where Islamist militants are fighting, especially Bosnia and Chechnya. (Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 45-46) In 1993, bin Laden will privately name BIF as one of al-Qaeda’s three most important charity fronts (see 1993). The US will designate BIF a terrorism financier in 2002 (see March 2002) and will similarly designate Batterjee in 2004 (see December 21, 2004).

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) lives in Qatar during these years. He is invited there by Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, Qatar’s Minister of Religious Affairs at the time. He works on a farm owned by al-Thani and lives in the open, not even bothering to use an alias. He works as a project engineer for the government. One US official will later recall that al-Thani “has this farm and he always had a lot of people around, the house was always overstaffed, a lot of unemployed Afghan Arabs…. There were always these guys hanging around and maybe a couple of Kalashnikovs [machine guns] in the corner.” (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002) KSM continues to plot and travel extensively, including a 1995 trip to fight in Bosnia with the trip’s expenses paid for by al-Thani. Apparently the CIA becomes aware that KSM is living there in 1995 and is also already aware of his role in the 1993 WTC bombing and the Bojinka plot (see October 1995). KSM will finally have to leave his Qatar base after his presence becomes too well known in early 1996 (see January-May 1996). (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 147, 488) KSM will return to Qatar occasionally, even staying there with the knowledge of some Qatari royals for two weeks after 9/11 (see Late 2001).

Al-Qaeda bomber Ramzi Yousef plans the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993) at an Abu Sayyaf base in the Philippines. Yousef will admit this during his trial for the bombing after his 1995 arrest. He says he plotted there with “Afghans”—other veterans of the war in Afghanistan during the 1980s. (Labeviere 1999, pp. 220-221) It isn’t known when he did this exactly, but reports place him in the Philippines with the Abu Sayyaf for much of early 1992 (see December 1991-May 1992) before his trip to the US in September 1992 (see September 1, 1992), so it most likely took place then. It will later come to light that the Abu Sayyaf militant group is deeply penetrated by the Philippine government at this time, as even the second in command of the group is an undercover operative (see 1991-Early February 1995). It is not known if the Philippine government gave the US any warning about Yousef’s activities.

In January 1992, Wadih El-Hage is briefly arrested and detained by police in Arlington, Texas, for a traffic violation. Police records show the driver of the car is Marwan Salama. From late 1992 until about a month before the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993 (see February 26, 1993), more than two dozen calls were placed from phones used by the bombers to an Arlington number used by Salama. Salama is never charged with any crime and continues to live in the US at least through late 1998. (Reaves and McGonigle 10/28/1998) Several months later, El-Hage moves to Sudan to work as bin Laden’s personal secretary. He registers his presence there with the US consulate. (Jacquard 2002, pp. 80) US intelligence began investigating El-Hage in 1991 for links to both a murder and an assassination in the US (see March 1991), and in the summer of 1993 one of the WTC bombers reveals his links to El-Hage (see Summer 1993). Presumably, links can be drawn between the bombers and El-Hage working for bin Laden in Sudan, but it is unknown if that link is made.

Apparently the bin Laden guest house where Yousef lived.Apparently the bin Laden guest house where Yousef lived. [Source: National Geographic]According to Pakistani investigators, Ramzi Yousef spends most of this time at the Beit Ashuhada guesthouse (translated as House of Martyrs) in Peshawar, Pakistan, which is funded by Osama bin Laden. Pakistani investigators reveal this bin Laden-Yousef connection to US intelligence in March 1995. The CIA will publicly reveal this in 1996. (Central Intelligence Agency 1996 pdf file; Tenet 2007, pp. 100) While living there, Yousef receives help and financing from two unnamed senior al-Qaeda representatives. (Reeve 1999, pp. 47) Yousef will be arrested at another nearby bin Laden safe house in February 1995 (see February 7, 1995) with bin Laden’s address found in his pocket. (Bone and Road 10/18/1997) During these years, Yousef takes long trips to the US in preparation of the WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993) and the Philippines, where several plots are developed (see January 6, 1995). He also uses an al-Qaeda influenced mosque in Milan, Italy, as a logistical base (see 1995-1997).

On April 24, 1992, Houston pizza deliveryman Ahmad Ajaj and San Antonio cabdriver Ibrahim Ahmad Suleiman fly together from Texas to Pakistan. Suleiman is a Texas contact of the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, the Brooklyn-based Islamist militant organization linked to both the CIA and al-Qaeda (see 1986-1993). Suleiman had begun raising funds for the Afghan war in Texas in the late 1980s, and acquaintances said he traveled to Pakistan several times, carrying a briefcase full of cash to fund the mujaheddin fighting in Afghanistan. When they arrive in Pakistan, they stay at a hostel in Peshawar, near the Afghanistan border, known as the Abdullah Azzam House. Named after Osama bin Laden’s mentor Abdullah Azzam, this hostel is owned by Al-Kifah and also houses its Pakistan headquarters. Ajaj and Suleiman stay there off and on over the next several months. Al-Qaeda bomber Ramzi Yousef also sometimes stays there during the same months. Ajaj also allegedly receives explosives training at an Afghanistan training camp with Yousef. His letter of introduction to the camp is signed by an Azzam House official. On September 1, 1992, Ajaj and Yousef arrive together in New York City on a flight from Pakistan. Ajaj is carrying some bomb manuals; investigators will later find the fingerprints of Ajaj, Yousef, and Suleiman on them. Both men are carrying identification cards that give the PO box number in Tucson, Arizona, that matches an al-Kifah branch there. Ajaj is briefly detained at the airport, but Yousef is allowed to go. (McGonigle and Reaves 6/8/1997) He gets into a taxi and tells the taxi driver to drive him to the building that houses the al-Qaeda headquarters in Brooklyn as well as the closely associated Al Farooq mosque, led at the time by the “Blind Shiekh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. (Lance 2003) Ajaj and Yousef will later be sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993). Suleiman will only be sentenced to 10 months in prison for lying to a grand jury about his travels with Ajaj. (New York Times 11/25/1998) A CIA internal report will conclude the agency is “partly culpable” for the WTC bombing, mainly due to its support for Al-Kifah (see January 24, 1994).

Ramzi Yousef’s passport photo.Ramzi Yousef’s passport photo. [Source: National Geographic]Ramzi Yousef gets considerable help from the Pakistani ISI. When Yousef returns to Pakistan on May 15, 1992, he uses an Iraqi passport bearing a visa issued by the Pakistani embassy in Baghdad. However, the seal on the visa is not the official one and the signature of the visa officer is faked. A senior US intelligence official will later say, “Yousef was developing high-level contacts in Pakistani intelligence through his links with bin Laden, mainly in the ISI. It’s a dirty mess. They facilitated much of his travel. Getting airport officials to turn a blind eye to his travel would have been nothing. (Reeve 1999, pp. 136-137) Then, on August 31, 1992, Yousef and Ahmed Ajaj are able to fly from Pakistan to the US despite lacking the proper papers to leave Pakistan. US intelligence officials will later claim senior ISI officials helped Yousef enter the US. (Reeve 1999, pp. 139) When Ramzi Yousef’s Pakistani immigration records are checked after the WTC bombing, it is discovered his embarkation card and other documents had mysterious disappeared. ISI agents had access to the room where the records were stored. The FBI later gives the Pakistani government the names of Pakistani officials they suspect were colluding with terrorists, but apparently it is never discovered for sure who helped Yousef. One US investigator will later say, “Bin Laden had friends in the ISI who had funded him during the war in Afghanistan. The same contacts were cultivated by Yousef and members of his family.” (Reeve 1999, pp. 48-49)

Emad Salem.Emad Salem. [Source: National Geographic]In mid-June 1992, FBI informant Emad Salem talks to El Sayyid Nosair, who is in prison for killing Zionist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane (see November 5, 1990). Nosair and an associate of his named Ali Shinawy reveal to Salem that their group (all of whom are close to Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman) is plotting to set off bombs at twelve “Jewish locations” in New York City, including temples and banks. A few days later, Nossair’s cousin Ibrahim El-Gabrowny introduces Salem to “Dr. Rashid,” which is an alias for Clement Rodney Hampton-El, although Salem does not know that yet. “Dr. Rashid” says he is unable to get the remote bomb detonators the group wants, but he can get already assembled pipe bombs for about $1,000 apiece, and guns. Salem and Shinawy agree to find a warehouse where they can build the bombs. Salem tells all of this to his FBI handlers Louis Napoli and John Anticev, but their boss, Carson Dunbar, insists that Salem has to wear a wire so they can record conversations in order to get the evidence to make a convincing court case against the plotters. But Salem, who is only being paid $500 a week to inform for the FBI, refuses to wear a wire, saying it is too dangerous. The FBI had been able to corroborate most of Salem’s information through their own surveillance such as the monitoring of Nosair’s calls from prison. But even though Salem is easily the FBI’s best source of information on Abdul-Rahman’s group, the FBI fires Salem in early July 1991. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 70-75) The FBI had a long tradition of having pure intelligence agents who did not wear wires. One FBI source will later note that the FBI could have easily gotten what they needed to make a criminal case without Salem wearing a wire. “It would just take a little more work. We’d have to take his leads and do surveillance. Follow these guys and contain the threat. This is what the FBI does.” (Lance 2003, pp. 92) Author Peter Lance will later comment that without Salem, “Now, when it came to Nosair, the bombing plot, and Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, the [FBI] was essentially flying blind.” The FBI will be unaware as the “Jewish locations” plot morphs into a plot to bomb the World Trade Center over the next several months. (Lance 2003, pp. 92)

Osama bin Laden sends about $250,000 to an associate named Essam al Ridi in the US. The money is moved in more than one transfer from the Al-Shamal Islamic Bank in Sudan and is for the purchase of a plane by al Ridi for bin Laden (see Early 1993). The CIA has been monitoring bin Laden’s banking operations for some time (see 1991-1992). Al Ridi will be asked about this transfer at the US trial of al-Qaeda operatives involved in the 1998 embassy bombings, where he is a witness for the prosecution. Under cross examination, he will say that he was not concerned about such large transfers from Sudan to Texas because receiving such monies was not a problem for him in the US, although it might have been a problem for him if he was still in Egypt. (United States District Court for the Southern District of New York 1/14/2001) Al Ridi previously purchased assassination rifles for the anti-Soviet Afghan Arabs, apparently with the CIA’s knowledge (see Early 1989).

The airplane that will be bought for bin Laden.The airplane that will be bought for bin Laden. [Source: Fox News]High-ranking al-Qaeda operative Wadih El-Hage contacts Essam al Ridi, a militant who had previously helped the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan (see Early 1983-Late 1984), to discuss buying a jet plane for Osama bin Laden. El Hage is at bin Laden’s base in Sudan, and al Ridi is in Texas, where he works as a flight instructor. The two men know each other from the 1980s, when they shipped equipment from the US to the mujaheddin in Afghanistan (see 1987 or 1988). The FBI has been aware of El-Hage’s terrorist connections for some time (see March 1991), and the CIA is monitoring bin Laden in Sudan (see February 1991- July 1992). There are “quite a few” communications, in which the two men discuss the price of the aircraft, the fact that the plane is for bin Laden, and the plane’s range. El-Hage says that the plane has to be able to fly 2,000 miles, as he and bin Laden want to use it to ship Stinger missiles from Peshawar, Pakistan, to Khartoum, Sudan, and al Ridi and El-Hage discuss the technicalities of shipping the missiles. (United States District Court for the Southern District of New York 1/14/2001) Bin Laden sends money for the plane to al Ridi in the US (see Between August 1992 and 1993), and al Ridi then buys the plane and flies it to Sudan (see Early 1993). It is unclear if these calls are monitored, although bin Laden is under surveillance by the US at this time (see Early 1990s and Early 1990s).

Jamal al-Fadl travels to Vienna and has meetings with the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA), which has its headquarters in Vienna. He opens up a Vienna bank account and al-Qaeda operative Wadih El-Hage also opens up a Vienna bank account around this time. Presumably these accounts are used by al-Qaeda to send money to TWRA for operations in Bosnia. Around the same time, al-Qaeda leader Mamdouh Mahmud Salim tells al-Fadl that al-Qaeda’s goal is to make Bosnia a base for European operations. (United States of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., Day 21 3/22/2001; USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout 10/6/2003, pp. 24-25 pdf file) TWRA will funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into Bosnia for illegal weapons purchases over the next several years while the US watches but fails to act. In 1996, al-Fadl will defect from al-Qaeda and tell all he knows to US investigators (see June 1996-April 1997).

A secret weapons pipeline into Bosnia in violation of a UN arms embargo is exposed. Large transport planes have been arriving once a week for four weeks from Sudan to Maribor, Slovenia. The cargo is marked as humanitarian aid but in fact the planes are carrying tons of weapons, mostly from surplus stocks of old Soviet weapons. The planes are run by a company belonging to Victor Bout, a notorious illegal arms dealer who will later work closely with the Taliban in Afghanistan (see October 1996-Late 2001). (Farah and Braun 2007, pp. 50-51, 268-269) Such planes have been bringing weapons through Croatia bound for Muslim Bosnia, but due to deteriorating relations between Croatia and Muslim Bosnia, the Croatian government stops the flights and impounds 120 tons of weapons. At the same time, chartered Russian helicopters fly more weapons directly into Muslim Bosnia. Austrian government agents learn that the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA) is financing all of these shipments. They are working with Hasan Cengic, a radical imam who is also a Bosnian government official. The TWRA and Cengic switch to other routes. The next year, the German government will stumbled across an illegal weapons deal being negotiated in Germany by Bosnian Muslims and Turkish arms dealers and arrest around 30. TWRA was the financial broker of the deal. But despite the exposure of TWRA as a charity front, no government takes any action against it and it will continue to be the main vehicle by which Muslim Bosnia gets illegal weapons. (Pomfret 9/22/1996; Farah and Braun 2007, pp. 50-51, 268-269) Bout and Cengic will apparently continue working together. A 2004 Bosnian intelligence report will say that “Victor Bout in collaboration with Hasan Cengic is transporting weapons to Chechnya” via a Bout front company. (Farah and Braun 2007, pp. 50-51, 268-269)

The Chechen delegation on the terrace at the House of Commons in London.
From the left: Eduard Khachilaev, Sir Gerrard Neale, Berkan Yashar, Dzhokhar Dudaev, Den Dover, and Yusef Shamsuddin.
The Chechen delegation on the terrace at the House of Commons in London. From the left: Eduard Khachilaev, Sir Gerrard Neale, Berkan Yashar, Dzhokhar Dudaev, Den Dover, and Yusef Shamsuddin. [Source: Pan Books]Osama bin Laden visits the city of Grozny, Chechnya, according to a claim made 19 years later by Berkan Yashar, who will be identified in the media as “a Turkish politician and a former US intelligence agent.” Bin Laden resides downtown, on the first floor of a two-story building, with the second floor being occupied by the deposed president of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, and his family. Yashar, whose operational name is “Abubakar,” will claim that in the early 1990s he is employed by the CIA for subversive operations against Russia in the Northern Caucasus. He is currently the deputy minister of foreign affairs under Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. (Channel One (Russia) 4/22/2008; Pravda 5/19/2011)

Ayman al-Zawahiri in disguise.Ayman al-Zawahiri in disguise. [Source: Interpol]Al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri is said to visit Bosnia many times from around this date. A prominent Muslim Bosnian politician later claims that al-Zawahiri visited mujaheddin camps in central Bosnia as early as September 1992. The Egyptian government, which considers al-Zawahiri an important enemy, claims al-Zawahiri is running several mujaheddin operations in Bosnia through charity fronts. They also claim he meets regularly with Bosnian Muslim politicians in Sarajevo. He is further said to occasionally meet with Iranian government representatives to discuss the war in Bosnia, as Iran is supplying weapons to the Bosnian Muslims. (Schindler 2007, pp. 123, 141) Anwar Shaaban, a radical imam leading the Bosnian mujaheddin effort from Milan, Italy (see Late 1993-1994), remains in regular contact with al-Zawahiri, according to Italian intelligence. (Schindler 2007, pp. 164) In 1993, bin Laden reportedly puts al-Zawahiri in charge of the organization’s operations in the Balkans. (Taylor 12/15/2001) By 1994, al-Zawahiri will settle in Bulgaria to manage operations in Bosnia and the rest of the Balkan region (see September 1994-1996).

Ahmad Ajaj.Ahmad Ajaj. [Source: FBI]Al-Qaeda operatives Ahmad Ajaj and Ramzi Yousef enter the US together. Ajaj is arrested at Kennedy Airport in New York City. Yousef is not arrested and will later mastermind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. “The US government was pretty sure Ajaj was a terrorist from the moment he stepped foot on US soil,” because his “suitcases were stuffed with fake passports, fake IDs, and a cheat sheet on how to lie to US immigration inspectors,” plus “two handwritten notebooks filled with bomb recipes, six bomb-making manuals, four how-to videotapes concerning weaponry, and an advanced guide to surveillance training.” However, Ajaj is charged only with passport fraud and serves a six-month sentence. From prison, Ajaj frequently calls Yousef and others involved in the 1993 WTC bombing plot, but no one will translate the calls until long after the bombing. (Braun et al. 10/14/2001) Ajaj will be released from prison three days after the WTC bombing, but is later rearrested and sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. (Braun et al. 10/14/2001) One of the manuals seized from Ajaj will be horribly mistranslated for the trial. For instance, the title page is said to say “The Basic Rule,” published in Jordan in 1982, when in fact the title says “al-Qaeda” (which means “the base” in English), published in Afghanistan in 1989. Investigators will subsequently complain that a proper translation could have shown an early connection between al-Qaeda and the WTC bombing. (Engelberg 1/14/2001) An Israeli newsweekly will report that the Palestinian Ajaj may have been a mole for the Israeli Mossad. The Village Voice will suggest that Ajaj may have had “advance knowledge of the World Trade Center bombing, which he shared with Mossad, and that Mossad, for whatever reason, kept the secret to itself.” Ajaj is not just knowledgeable, but is involved in the planning of the bombing from his prison cell. (Friedman 8/3/1993)

Osama Basnan, who will later be accused of assisting two 9/11 hijackers in San Diego (see December 4, 1999), throws a party for the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. The party is held at Basnan’s house in Washington, DC. In 1993, the FBI will receive reports about Basnan hosting this party. In 1992, the FBI was told that Basnan had a link to the Eritrean Islamic Jihad, a militant group later linked to al-Qaeda (see May-December 1992). Furthermore, records indicate Basnan entered the US in 1980 on a guest visa and has been in the country illegally ever since. But the FBI fails to investigate Basnan and no effort is made to deport him. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/3/2001 pdf file; US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file) A post-9/11 FBI report will indicate that in 1992 Basnan is working for the Saudi government in some capacity, but details of his job will remain classified (see October 3, 2001).

Beginning in November 1992, Egyptian intelligence repeatedly warns US intelligence that Sheikh Abdul-Rahman’s principal mosques in the US, the Al Salaam and Al Farouq mosques in Brooklyn, are “hotbeds of terrorist activity,” and that Abdul-Rahman is plotting a new round of terrorist attacks in Egypt. The Al-Kifah Refugee Center charity front is based inside the Al Farouq mosque (see 1986-1993). One Egyptian official later says, “There were many, many contacts between Cairo and Washington.” On November 12, 1992, members of the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya militant group led by Abdul-Rahman machine-guns a bus-load of Western tourists in Egypt, injuring five Germans. (Friedman 3/30/1993) Between February 6 and 11, 1993, some FBI agents travel to Cairo, Egypt, to discuss Egyptian concerns with officials there. The Egyptians are said to warn about certain terrorist cells in the US connected to Abdul-Rahman but do not specifically warn about the WTC bombing. (Jehl 4/6/1993) Perhaps as a result of these concerns, on February 13, the FBI obtains a FISA warrant and begins tapping Abdul-Rahman’s phone calls. (Lance 2003, pp. 103) Shortly after the WTC bombing two weeks later (see February 26, 1993), Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will say that the bombing could have been prevented if Egypt’s warnings had been heeded. (Jehl 4/6/1993)

In mid-November 1992, Garrett Wilson, an FBI informant who sells military equipment and conducts paramilitary training, is contacted by someone named “Dr. Rashid.” Wilson had previously been contacted by Abu Ubaidah Yahya, the security chief at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, a charity front tied to both al-Qaeda and the CIA (see 1986-1993). Wilson’s FBI handlers are excited to learn about this because in June 1992, a “Dr. Rashid” had met with FBI informant Emad Salem and offered to supply bombs and guns (see Early July 1992). The FBI runs a background check and determines “Dr. Rashid” is really Clement Rodney Hampton-El, who works at a hospital in Long Island. The also learn from phone records that he has recently made calls to the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. On December 20, 1992, Wilson meets with Yahya and Hampton-El. They tell him that they want him to train eight to ten men for an international jihad battalion separate from another small group Al-Kifah wants Wilson to help train (see October 3, 1992). Hampton-El says he will provide AK-47s for the training sessions, but is looking for detonator caps, which are needed to make bombs. He also says the group will be sent to fight in Bosnia, but they are asking to be instructed in sniper firing and frontal assaults on buildings. Wilson tells FBI agent Tommy Corrigan, “It sounds to me like they either want to kidnap or kill someone.” Corrigan and other FBI agents are alarmed. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 83-84)

Terry Nichols.Terry Nichols. [Source: Oklahoma City Police Department]White separatist Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 22 or 23, 1988, April 2, 1992 and After, and October 12, 1993 - January 1994) makes a number of trips to the Phillippines, apparently to meet with al-Qaeda bomber Ramzi Yousef and other radical Islamists. Nichols will later help plan and execute the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Nichols’s wife is a mail-order bride from Cebu City; Nichols spends an extensive amount of time on the island of Mindanao, where many Islamist terror cells operate. This information comes from a Philippine undercover operative, Edwin Angeles, and one of his wives. Angeles is the second in command in the militant group Abu Sayyaf from 1991 to 1995 while secretly working for Philippine intelligence at the same time (see 1991-Early February 1995). After the Oklahoma City bombing, Angeles will claim in a videotaped interrogation that in late 1992 and early 1993 Nichols meets with Yousef and a second would-be American terrorist, John Lepney. In 1994, Nichols meets with Yousef, Lepney, and others. For about a week, Angeles, Yousef, Nichols, and Lepney are joined by Abdurajak Janjalani, the leader of Abu Sayyaf; two members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF); Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan Amin Shah, both of whom are working with Yousef on the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995); and a half-brother of Yousef known only by the alias Ahmad Hassim (this is a probable reference to Yousef’s brother Abd al-Karim Yousef, who is living in the Philippines at this time). Elmina Abdul, Angeles’s third wife, will add additional details about these 1994 meetings in a taped 2002 hospital confession to a Philippines reporter days before her death. She only remembers Nichols as “Terry” or “The Farmer,” and doesn’t remember the name of the other American. She says: “They talked about bombings. They mentioned bombing government buildings in San Francisco, St. Louis, and in Oklahoma. The Americans wanted instructions on how to make and to explode bombs. [Angeles] told me that Janjalani was very interested in paying them much money to explode the buildings. The money was coming from Yousef and the other Arab.” (Dacanay 4/3/2002; Insight 4/19/2002; Zumel-Sicat 4/26/2002; Timmerman 6/22/2002; Nicole Nichols 2003) (“The other Arab” may be a reference to the Arab Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law, because Janjalani’s younger brother later claims Abu Sayyaf was funded in its early years by Yousef and Khalifa.) (CNN 1/31/2007) Abdul claims Nichols and Lepney are sent to an unnamed place for more instructions on bomb-making to destroy a building in the US. She also says that Angeles and others in Abu Sayyaf believe Yousef works for the Iraqi government. (Timmerman 6/22/2002) The Manila Times later reports that “Lepney did indeed reside and do business in Davao City [in the Southern Philippines] during 1990 to 1996.” One bar owner recalls that when Lepney got drunk he liked to brag about his adventures with local rebel groups. (Zumel-Sicat 4/26/2002) In 2003, Nicole Nichols (no relation to Terry Nichols), the director of the watchdog organization Citizens against Hate, will explain why an American white supremacist would make common cause with Islamist terrorists. Two unifying factors exist, she writes: an overarching hatred of Jews and Israel, and a similarly deep-seated hatred of the US government. (Nicole Nichols 2003) After Nichols takes part in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), Wali Khan Amin Shah will attempt to take the credit for plotting the bombing for himself and Yousef, a claim federal authorities will not accept (see April 19, 1995 and 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After).

Mahmud Abouhalima, one of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing plotters, calls Emad Salem. Salem had been an FBI informant on a group close to the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, including Abouhalima, but was fired by the FBI some months ago (see Early July 1992). Salem is mad at the FBI about being fired and doesn’t bother to tell it about the phone call, and doesn’t call Abouhalima back. It will later be discovered that on this same day other plotters begin calling chemical companies in search of bomb parts, and the next day another FBI informant will be contacted and asked to help get bomb parts (see Mid-November-December 20, 1992). Salem has bomb-making expertise so it is likely Abouhalima calls him to get help in making the bomb to blow up the WTC. The authors of the 2002 book The Cell will note that had Salem still been working as an informant for the FBI at the time of this call, the WTC bombing plot “might well have been cracked before Salem had hung up the phone.” (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 84-85)

Following attacks on two hotels near where US troops stayed (see December 29, 1992), the US announces it will no longer use Yemen as a base to support operations in Somalia. (Bergen 2001, pp. 176) Although no US troops are killed, the attacks are regarded as a success by militant Islamists. In 1998, Osama bin Laden will say, “The United States wanted to set up a military base for US soldiers in Yemen, so that it could send fresh troops to Somalia… The Arab mujaheddin related to the Afghan jihad carried out two bomb explosions in Yemen to warn the United States, causing damage to some Americans staying in those hotels. The United States received our warning and gave up the idea of setting up its military bases in Yemen. This was the first al-Qaeda victory scored against the Crusaders.” (Scheuer 2006, pp. 147)

Mohammed Fazazi.Mohammed Fazazi. [Source: Heise.de]Radical Moroccan imam Mohammed Fazazi gives weekly sermons at the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg, Germany, which is attended by key members of the 9/11 plot, including Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see Early 1996 and (April 1, 1999)). The mosque first opens in 1993. Fazazi, who also makes videotapes that are watched by Islamist radicals throughout Europe, strongly believes that democracy and Western values must be rejected by Muslims living in the West, who should respect only their own Koranic laws. He often preaches that European countries are conducting a war against Islam and that “smiting the head of the infidels” is the duty of all Muslims, mandated by God. (Vidino 2006, pp. 225-6) In one videotaped sermon, he says, “The Jews and crusaders must have their throats slit.” (Finn 9/11/2002) In another sermon in early 2001, he will suggest that all non-Muslims in the world should be killed (see Early 2001). In the late 1990s, Fazazi, a Moroccan citizen, also starts preaching at a mosque in Morocco near where his family lives. But he will continue to preach at Al-Quds until late 2001 (see Mid-September-Late 2001). He is believed to be the spiritual leader of the Moroccan violent militant group Salafia Jihadia, and he will later be convicted in Morocco for his part in bombings in Casablanca (see May 16, 2003). (Vidino 2006, pp. 225-6)

In 1993, the membership director for Islamic Jihad is arrested in Egypt. At the time, Islamic Jihad is a mostly Egyptian-based militant group led by Ayman al-Zawahiri and loosely working with al-Qaeda. It has a blind cell structure so members in one cell do not know members in another. But the membership director has a computer file with the names, addresses, and potential hideouts of every member. As a result, about 800 members are arrested and jailed in Egypt, effectively decimating the group there. Most of the remaining members are in scattered cells in other countries. The group is nearly broke as well, and most members go on the al-Qaeda payroll at this time, since Osama bin Laden has lots of money. Al-Zawahiri will later confide to a friend that joining with bin Laden had been “the only solution to keeping the [Islamic] Jihad organization alive.” In November 1993, while the trials against the 800 arrested members in Egypt are going on, the group attempts to strike back by assassinating Egyptian Prime Minister Atef Sidqi. A car bomb explodes as he drives past a girls’ school in Cairo. Sidqi is unhurt, but a young girl is killed and 21 other people are injured. The girl’s death outrages the Egyptian public to a surprising degree, strongly damaging the group’s reputation in Egypt. This drives Islamic Jihad even closer to al-Qaeda, which has an international focus instead of an Egyptian focus. (Wright 2006, pp. 184-186)

In 2007, former CIA Director George Tenet will write, “As early as 1993, [the CIA] had declared bin Laden to be a significant financier backer of Islamic terrorist movements. We knew he was funding paramilitary training of Arab religious militants in such far-flung places as Bosnia, Egypt, Kashmir, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, and Yemen” (see July-August 1993). (Tenet 2007, pp. 100)

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

Richard Chichakli.Richard Chichakli. [Source: Public domain]In the spring of 1993, Victor Bout moves to Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and begins to use it as the central hub of expanding business empire. Bout is an ex-Russian military officer and is rapidly developing an international network to buy, sell, and transport illegal goods, mostly weapons. The UAE is centrally located for his needs, and it has no money laundering laws, low taxes, and very lax banking regulations. Sharjah International Airport has almost no air passenger traffic at the time, being overshadowed by the popular airport in Dubai a short distance away. So the airport establishes a niche as an air cargo hub by offering tax incentives for cargo companies. In 1993, Richard Chichakli becomes friends and business partners with Bout. In 1995, Sharjah airport hires Chichakli to be the commercial manager of a new free trade zone now being heavily used by Bout. Chichakli, a Syrian by birth, has an interesting background. He claims to have been friends with Osama bin Laden while studying in Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s. He will later claim that he used to “sit around and eat sandwiches and sing songs” with bin Laden and his siblings, back when “Osama was OK.” In 1986, he moved to Texas, became a US citizen, and served in the US army until 1993, specializing in aviation, interrogation, and intelligence. He will later claim that he not only served in the US military, but also spent about 18 years working in intelligence (which, if true, would mean he was an intelligence agent when he was friends with bin Laden). Chichakli’s free trade zone is wildly successful. (Verloy 11/20/2002; Farah and Braun 2007, pp. 53-56) In 2000, US investigators will learn that Chichakli is living in Texas again and is still working closely with Bout. (Farah and Braun 2007, pp. 53) However, no action will be taken against him until April 26, 2005, when US Treasury and FBI agents raid his home and business in Texas. They will seize his computer, documents, and over $1 million in assets as part of an investigation into Bout’s financial empire, but they will not arrest him. Chichakli will not be stopped when he leaves the US several days later. He will move to Syria, where it is later suspected that he and Bout supply Hezbollah with weapons (see July 2006). (Farah and Braun 2007, pp. 247-248) Meanwhile, Sharjah and its airport will become a hub for al-Qaeda and the 9/11 plot. By 1996, there are daily flights between Afghanistan and Sharjah, and al-Qaeda uses Sharjah for drug and arms smuggling (see Mid-1996-October 2001). 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed will live in Sharjah in 1998 (see July 8, 1999), and 9/11 plot facilitator Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi will be based in Sharjah in the months before the 9/11 attacks. Some of the 9/11 hijackers will pass through there and visit him (see Early-Late June, 2001).

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