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Context of 'May 2, 2005: Al-Qaeda’s Alleged Number Three Leader Al-Libbi Is Captured; Some Suggest His Importance Is Overhyped'

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A photo taken during KSM’s alleged arrest in Pakistan.A photo taken during KSM’s alleged arrest in Pakistan. [Source: Associated Press]Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is reportedly arrested in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. [Associated Press, 3/1/2003] Officials claim that he is arrested in a late-night joint Pakistani and FBI raid, in which they also arrest Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, the purported main financer of the 9/11 attacks. [MSNBC, 3/3/2003] An insider informant allegedly tips off authorities to KSM’s location, and is given the $25 million reward money for his capture (see Shortly Before February 29 or March 1, 2003). However, some journalists immediately cast serious doubts about this arrest. For instance, MSNBC reports, “Some analysts questioned whether Mohammed was actually arrested Saturday, speculating that he may have been held for some time and that the news was made public when it was in the interests of the United States and Pakistan.” [MSNBC, 3/3/2003] There are numerous problems surrounding the US-alleged arrest of KSM:
bullet Witnesses say KSM is not present when the raid occurs. [Associated Press, 3/2/2003; Associated Press, 3/2/2003; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/2/2003; Guardian, 3/3/2003; New York Times, 3/3/2003]
bullet There are differing accounts about which house he is arrested in. [Associated Press, 3/1/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/2/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/3/2003]
bullet There are differing accounts about where he was before the arrest and how authorities found him. [Time, 3/1/2003; Washington Post, 3/2/2003; Washington Post, 3/2/2003; New York Times, 3/3/2003; New York Times, 3/4/2003]
bullet Some accounts have him sleeping when the arrest occurs and some don’t. [Los Angeles Times, 3/2/2003; Reuters, 3/2/2003; New York Times, 3/3/2003; Daily Telegraph, 3/4/2003]
bullet Accounts differ on who arrests him—Pakistanis, Americans, or both. [CNN, 3/2/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/2/2003; New York Times, 3/2/2003; Daily Telegraph, 3/3/2003; London Times, 3/3/2003; Associated Press, 3/3/2003]
bullet There are previously published accounts that KSM may have been killed in September 2002 (see September 11, 2002).
bullet There are accounts that he was captured in June 2002 (see June 16, 2002).
These are just some of the difficulties with the arrest story. There are so many problems with it that one Guardian reporter says, “The story appears to be almost entirely fictional.” [Guardian, 3/6/2003]
Account by 9/11 Commissioners Conflicts - In addition, 9/11 Commission chairman Tom Kean and vice chairman Lee Hamilton will write in a 2006 book that the arrest is made in an apartment in Karachi and carried out by a joint CIA, FBI, and Pakistani team (see Early 2003).
Account by Musharraf Also Conflicts - Also in 2006, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will publish a memoir in which he claims that KSM was arrested on February 29, 2003 (instead of the widely cited March 1, 2003), and held by Pakistani forces for three days, “during which time we interrogated him fully. Once we were done with him and had all the information we wanted, we handed him over to the United States government.” [Musharraf, 2006, pp. 193]

Entity Tags: Thomas Kean, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Lee Hamilton, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, Pervez Musharraf

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Musharraf’s car damaged in one of the  assassination attempts.President Musharraf’s car damaged in one of the assassination attempts. [Source: Mian Khursheed / Reuters]On December 14, 2003, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf survives an assassination attempt when a powerful bomb goes off 30 seconds after his highly-guarded convoy crosses a bridge in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The heavily guarded bridge is just a mile from Musharraf’s house, yet militants were able to spend severals days tying explosives to the pylons below it. His life is saved by a jamming device in his car given to him by the FBI, which temporarily jams all telephone signals and thus delays the explosion. On December 25, 2003, two suicide bombers launch another attempt to assassinate Musharraf, driving car bombs into his convoy a short distance from the location of the previous attack. Their car bombs fail to kill him and he escapes with only a cracked windscreen on his car, but 16 others nearby are killed.
Investigation - The identities of the two suicide bombers are soon discovered. One is Mohammed Jamil, a member of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) militant group who fought with the Taliban. The other is Hazir Sultan, who also fought with the Taliban. The memory chip from Jamil’s phone is found in the debris, and it is discovered he talked to a policeman who told him the timing of Musharraf’s convoy. Only a handful of military officers knew the route and timing of Musharraf’s travels and which of several identical cars he would be using at any given time, suggesting that elements within the military were involved in the attacks. Investigators also discover that the explosives used in the attacks came from an al-Qaeda camp in the Pakistani tribal area of South Waziristan. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 230-232]
Militant Leaders against Musharraf - Osama bin Laden apparently called for Musharraf’s overthrow in October 2002 (see October 9, 2002), and Ayman al-Zawahiri apparently did the same in September 2003 (see September 28, 2003). In the months prior to the assassination attempts, Maulana Masood Azhar, head of JEM, gave a speech at a prominent mosque calling for Musharraf’s assassination. [BBC, 7/27/2007]
Limited Crackdown - Musharraf responds by reshuffling positions in the military high command. More than 150 military and security personnel will eventually be arrested and interrogated. Twelve suspects are eventually found guilty and sentenced to death for roles in the attacks; at least six are military officers. It is believed the suicide bombers and these officers were recruited and trained by Amjad Farooqi, a JEM leader also closely linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi, said to be Farooqi’s superior, is also allegedly involved. A massive manhunt for Farooqi and al-Libbi will ensue. Farooqi will eventually be killed in September 2004 (see September 27, 2004) and al-Libbi captured in May 2005 and taken into US custody (see May 2, 2005). However, Musharraf’s response is relatively restrained. He avoids calls to launch a crackdown on the entire Islamist militant movement in Pakistan. He does not ban any militant groups, nor does he arrest militant leaders, not even Azhar, the head of JEM who had publicly called for his assassination. (JEM had been banned in Pakistan for a second time the month before (see November 2003).) He does allow the Pakistani Army to attack the safe haven of South Waziristan several months later, but only after the US gives him an ultimatum, essentially forcing him to do so (see March 18- April 24, 2004). [BBC, 9/27/2004; Rashid, 2008, pp. 230-232]

Entity Tags: Mohammed Jamil, Maulana Masood Azhar, Pervez Musharraf, Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Hazir Sultan, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Al-Qaeda, Amjad Farooqi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The CIA and ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency) conduct a joint raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, attempting to find Abu Faraj al-Libbi. He is al-Qaeda’s operational head since Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured in 2003 (see February 29 or March 1, 2003). Al-Libbi is not captured in the raid. However, he will be captured a year later in Mardan, near Abbottabad (see May 2, 2005). [Washington Post, 5/11/2011] Abbottabad is the town where Osama bin Laden will eventually be killed in 2011 (see May 2, 2011). Pakistani forces conduct a raid in April 2004 attempting to get al-Libbi in Abbottabad (see April 2004) and another raid in 2004 where they unwittingly almost capture al-Libbi (see After April 2004). It is not known the US raid is the same as either of these. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will describe both raids in a 2006 book and will not mention US participation, even though he does with other raids in the book. [Musharraf, 2006, pp. 210-211]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

An attempted raid is made on al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi in Abbottabad, Pakistan, as Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will describe in a 2006 memoir. Pakistani forces have arrested one of al-Libbi’s couriers, and found out from him that al-Libbi has just rented a house in Abbottabad. Pakistani forces raid the house, but al-Libbi is not there. They will later determine he was using three houses in Abbottabad and they raided the wrong one. [Musharraf, 2006, pp. 210-211] Al-Libbi will be captured in Pakistan a year later (see May 2, 2005). Osama bin Laden begins living in Abbottabad around late 2005 (see Late 2005-Early 2006). His trusted courier Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed already lives there in 2004 (see January 22, 2004-2005). (Note that US forces also attempt to catch al-Libbi in Abbottabad in 2004, but it is unclear if that raid is this one or a different one (see 2004).)

Entity Tags: Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Pervez Musharraf

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A second attempted raid is made on al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will describe in a 2006 memoir. In April 2004, Pakistani intelligence discovered al-Libbi was living in Abbottabad, but it raided only one of his three houses there and missed him (see April 2004). Later in 2004, Pakistani intelligence is tipped off that some important al-Qaeda figure is living in a certain Abbottabad house, and someone else important is supposed to meet him there. Al-Libbi is the visitor, but he sends a decoy to check out the situation first. The decoy is shot and killed, al-Libbi doesn’t show, and the al-Qaeda figure living at the house apparently gets away. Musharraf will not mention if it is ever determined who this person is. [Musharraf, 2006, pp. 211] Al-Libbi will be captured in Pakistan a year later (see May 2, 2005). Osama bin Laden begins living in Abbottabad around late 2005 (see Late 2005-Early 2006). His trusted courier Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed already lives there in 2004 (see January 22, 2004-2005).

Entity Tags: Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Al-Qaeda, Pervez Musharraf

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Osama bin Laden sends a letter to al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi, and US intelligence will learn about this a year or so later. This is one of the very few pieces of evidence known by US intelligence that suggests bin Laden is alive, after bin Laden escaped from Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in late 2001. Al-Libbi has been al-Qaeda’s operational commander since early 2003.
Guantanamo File Account - In April 2011, the non-profit whistleblower group Wikileaks will release the Guantanamo prison assessment file of al-Libbi, dated September 2008. According to this assessment, which is likely based on al-Libbi’s interrogations, al-Libbi receives a letter from bin Laden in October 2004 asking about al-Qaeda’s financial situation in Pakistan and especially Waziristan (part of Pakistan’s tribal region). Al-Libbi also gets a videotape of bin Laden’s speeches. (Note that the first video footage of bin Laden is publicly released in late October 2004 (see October 29, 2004).) Al-Libbi gets the letter and videotape from bin Laden’s courier, who first met up with al-Libbi in July 2003 (see July 2003-Mid-2004). [US Department of Defense, 9/10/2008]
Musharraf's 2006 Book - In a 2006 book, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will similarly mention that al-Libbi “was in contact with Osama through a courier and the last letter he had received from Osama was sometime in December 2004. We have been looking for the couriers intensely.” [Musharraf, 2006, pp. 172] Al-Libbi will be captured in May 2005, and apparently he is interrogated by Pakistan for a few days, and then turned over and interrogated much more by the US (see May 2, 2005). So different interrogations may explain the slightly different months mentioned in each account. Bin Laden’s courier will later be revealed to be Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed, and the US effort to track him will eventually lead to bin Laden (see May 2, 2011).

Entity Tags: Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Pervez Musharraf, Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Abu Faraj al-Libbi.Abu Faraj al-Libbi. [Source: Pakistani Interior Ministry]Al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi is arrested in Mardan, Pakistan, near the town of Peshawar. He is captured by Pakistani forces with US assistance. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will later claim that he doesn’t even tell the US about al-Libbi’s capture until a few days after it happened (and the first media account comes out three days later), so apparently Pakistan interrogates him on their own for a few days. Al-Libbi is that turned over to the US and detained in a secret CIA prison (see September 2-3, 2006). [New York Times, 5/5/2005; Musharraf, 2006, pp. 209]
Some Call Al-Libbi High-Ranking Leader - In 2004, the Daily Telegraph claimed al-Libbi was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s “right hand man” and helped him plan the 9/11 attacks. After Mohammed was arrested in early 2003 (see February 29 or March 1, 2003), Al-Libbi allegedly took his place and became the third in command of al-Qaeda and the group’s operational leader. Furthermore, the Telegraph claims he was once Osama bin Laden’s personal assistant, helped plan two assassination attempts against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (see December 14 and 25, 2003), and has been in contact with sleeper cells in the US and Britain. [Daily Telegraph, 9/19/2004] The same month, MSNBC made the same claims. They also called him al-Qaeda’s number three leader and operational commander. [MSNBC, 9/7/2004] President Bush hails al-Libbi’s capture as a “critical victory in the war on terror.” Bush also calls him a “top general” and “a major facilitator and chief planner for the al-Qaeda network.”
Al-Libbi Little Known to Media and Experts - But al-Libbi is little known at the time of his arrest and some experts and insiders question if he really is as important as the US claims. The London Times will report several days after his arrest, “[T]he backslapping in Washington and Islamabad has astonished European terrorism experts, who point out that the Libyan was neither on the FBI’s most wanted list, nor on that of the State Department ‘Rewards for Justice’ program.” One former close associate of Osama bin Laden now living in London laughs at al-Libbi’s supposed importance, saying, “What I remember of him is he used to make the coffee and do the photocopying.” Even a senior FBI official admits that his “influence and position have been overstated.” The Times comments, “Some believe [his] significance has been cynically hyped by two countries [the US and Pakistan] that want to distract attention from their lack of progress in capturing bin Laden, who has now been on the run for almost four years.” [London Times, 5/8/2005] However, later revelations, such as details on al-Libbi’s interrogation (see Shortly After May 2, 2005 and Late 2005), will provide more evidence that al-Libbi in fact was al-Qaeda’s operational leader. It is not known why the FBI did not have him on their most wanted list, if MSNBC and the Telegraph newspaper and other sources were already aware of his importance in 2004.

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Faraj al-Libbi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

Some time after he is captured in May 2005 (see May 2, 2005), al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi tells his CIA interrogators that he has never heard of Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed. CIA analysts already strongly suspect that Ahmed is a trusted courier working for Osama bin Laden, but they only know him by his main alias Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.
Al-Libbi's False Claims - Al-Libbi tells his interrogators that he does not know who “al-Kuwaiti” is. Instead, he admits that when 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) was captured in 2003 and al-Libbi was chosen to replace him as al-Qaeda’s operational chief, he was told the news of his selection by a courier. But he says the courier was someone named Maulawi Abd al-Kahliq Jan. CIA analysts never find anyone using this name, and eventually they will conclude that al-Libbi made it up to protect Ahmed (see Late 2005). Later, the CIA will learn Ahmed’s real name, and this fact will eventually lead to bin Laden’s location (see Summer 2009 and July 2010).
False Claims Made While Tortured? - The interrogation techniques used on al-Libbi are unknown. However, days after his capture, the CIA pressures the Justice Department for new legal memorandums approving the use of very brutal methods. [Associated Press, 5/2/2011; New York Times, 5/3/2011]

Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

US intelligence analysts decide conflicting prisoner accounts about courier Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed must mean Ahmed is someone very important in al-Qaeda, and they increase their efforts to find out who he really is. At the time, analysts only know Ahmed by his alias Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, and they have a good idea that he is a courier between al-Qaeda leaders. The most important question is if Ahmed could lead to someone like Osama bin Laden.
bullet 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) told his US interrogators that Ahmed was not important (see Autumn 2003).
bullet Al-Qaeda operations chief Abu Faraj al-Libbi also told interrogators Ahmed was not important (see Shortly After May 2, 2005).
bullet But al-Qaeda leader Hassan Ghul said Ahmed was an important courier who was close to bin Laden, and that he was close to both KSM and al-Libbi also (see Shortly After January 23, 2004).
bullet Other important prisoners also gave wildly conflicting accounts on who Ahmed is.
The CIA concludes that KSM and al-Libbi are deliberately trying to deflect attention from Ahmed to keep some important secret, most likely bin Laden’s secret location. A US official aware of the CIA’s analysis will later say: “Think about circles of information—there’s an inner circle they would protect with their lives. The crown jewels of al-Qaeda were the whereabouts of bin Laden and his operational security.” [MSNBC, 5/4/2011]

Entity Tags: Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Hassan Ghul, US intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mohamad Farik Amin.Mohamad Farik Amin. [Source: FBI]The US temporarily closes a network of secret CIA prisons around the world and transfers the most valuable prisoners to the US prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, for eventual military tribunals. The prison network will be reopened a short time later (see Autumn 2006-Late April 2007). There were reportedly fewer than 100 suspects in the CIA prisons; most of them are apparently sent back to their home countries while fourteen are sent to Guantanamo. All fourteen have some connection to al-Qaeda. Seven of them reportedly had some connection to the 9/11 attacks. Here are their names, nationalities, and the allegations against them.
bullet Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) (Pakistani, raised in Kuwait). He is the suspected mastermind of 9/11 attacks and many other al-Qaeda attacks. A CIA biography of KSM calls him “one of history’s most infamous terrorists.”
bullet Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi (Saudi). He allegedly helped finance the 9/11 attacks.
bullet Hambali (Indonesian). He attended a key planning meeting for the 9/11 attacks in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000) and is accused of involvement in many other plots, including the 2002 Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002).
bullet Khallad bin Attash (a.k.a. Tawfiq bin Attash) (Yemeni). He also attended a key planning meeting for the 9/11 attacks in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000) and had a role in other plots such as the 2000 USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000).
bullet Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (Pakistani, raised in Kuwait). He allegedly helped finance the 9/11 attacks and arranged transportation for some hijackers. His uncle is KSM.
bullet Ramzi bin al-Shibh (Yemeni). A member of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell with Mohamed Atta and other 9/11 hijackers. The CIA calls him the “primary communications intermediary” between the hijackers and KSM. He also attended a key planning meeting for the 9/11 attacks in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000).
bullet Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (Saudi). He is said to have been one of the masterminds of the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000). He also attended a key planning meeting for the 9/11 attacks in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000).
The remaining seven suspects are alleged to have been involved in other al-Qaeda plots:
bullet Abu Zubaida (Palestinian, raised in Saudi Arabia). He is said to be a facilitator who helped make travel arrangements for al-Qaeda operatives. He is also alleged to have organized a series of planned millennium attacks.
bullet Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (Tanzanian). He was indicted for a role in the 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). He is also said to be an expert document forger.
bullet Majid Khan (Pakistani). He lived in the US since 1996 and is said to have worked with KSM on some US bomb plots (see March 5, 2003).
bullet Abu Faraj al-Libbi (a.k.a. Mustafa al-‘Uzayti) (Libyan). He allegedly became al-Qaeda’s top operations officer after KSM was captured.
bullet Mohamad Farik Amin (a.k.a. Zubair) (Malaysian). He is a key Hambali associate and was allegedly tapped for a suicide mission targeting Los Angeles.
bullet Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep (a.k.a. Lillie) (Malaysian). He is a key Hambali associate. He is accused of providing funds for the 2003 bombing of the Marriott hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia (see August 5, 2003). He was allegedly tapped for a suicide mission targeting Los Angeles.
bullet Gouled Hassan Dourad (Somali). He allegedly scouted a US military base in Djibouti for a planned terrorist attack.
The fourteen are expected to go on trial in 2007. [Knight Ridder, 9/6/2006; Central Intelligence Agency, 9/6/2006; USA Today, 9/7/2006]

Entity Tags: Majid Khan, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, Mohamad Farik Amin, Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Hambali, Gouled Hassan Dourad, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Khallad bin Attash, Abu Zubaida, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Central Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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