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Context of 'October 20, 2000: Ali Mohamed Pleads Guilty of Involvement in 1998 Embassy Bombings'

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During Osama bin Laden’s one and only press conference, which takes place in Khost, Afghanistan (see May 26, 1998), Mohamed al-Owhali is photographed. Presumably his picture is taken by one of the journalists in attendance there. Al-Owhali will go on to be directly involved in the African embassy bombings several months later (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), and will be convicted in the US for a role in those bombings (see October 21, 2001). It is not known who takes al-Owhali’s picture or if US intelligence has access to the picture before the embassy bombings. (Jacquard 2002, pp. 283)

Bombings of the Nairobi, Kenya, US embassy (left), and the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, US embassy (right).Bombings of the Nairobi, Kenya, US embassy (left), and the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, US embassy (right). [Source: Associated Press]Two US embassies in Africa are bombed within minutes of each other. At 10:35 a.m., local time, a suicide car bomb attack in Nairobi, Kenya, kills 213 people, including 12 US nationals, and injures more than 4,500. Mohamed al-Owhali and someone known only as Azzam are the suicide bombers, but al-Owhali runs away at the last minute and survives. Four minutes later, a suicide car bomb attack in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, kills 11 and injures 85. Hamden Khalif Allah Awad is the suicide bomber there. The attacks will be blamed on al-Qaeda. (PBS Frontline 2001; United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 38 5/2/2001) The Tanzania death toll is low because, remarkably, the attack takes place on a national holiday so the US embassy there is closed. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 195) The attack shows al-Qaeda has a capability for simultaneous attacks. The Tanzania bombing appears to have been a late addition, as one of the arrested bombers will allegedly tell US agents that it was added to the plot only about 10 days in advance. (United State of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., Day 14 3/7/2001) A third attack against the US embassy in Uganda does not take place due to a last-minute delay (see August 7, 1998). (Associated Press 9/25/1998) August 7, 1998, is the eighth anniversary of the arrival of US troops in Saudi Arabia and some people will speculate that this is the reason for the date of the bombings. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 46) In the 2002 book The Cell, reporters John Miller, Michael Stone, and Chris Mitchell will write: “What has become clear with time is that facets of the East Africa plot had been known beforehand to the FBI, the CIA, the State Department, and to Israeli and Kenyan intelligence services.… [N]o one can seriously argue that the horrors of August 7, 1998, couldn’t have been prevented.” They will also comment, “Inexplicable as the intelligence failure was, more baffling still was that al-Qaeda correctly presumed that a major attack could be carried out by a cell that US agents had already uncovered.” (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 195, 206) After 9/11, it will come to light that three of the alleged hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi, had some involvement in the bombings (see October 4, 2001, Late 1999, and 1993-1999) and that the US intelligence community was aware of this involvement by late 1999 (see December 15-31, 1999), if not before.

Mohamed al-Owhali, one of the bombers of the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), is rendered from Kenya to the US. Al-Owhali was arrested in Nairobi after the bombing and gave up information to local authorities and the FBI about it (see August 4-25, 1998 and August 22-25 1998). He will be tried in the US and sentenced to life in prison (see October 21, 2001). (Grey 2007, pp. 129, 246)

Ali Mohamed’s booking photo.Ali Mohamed’s booking photo. [Source: Peter Lance]It is reported that after eight months of secret negotiations between US prosecutors and Ali Mohamed, talks have broken down. Prosecutors had been attempting to get Mohamed to cooperate and tell all that he knows about al-Qaeda in return for a lighter sentence. (Weiser 5/18/1999) Mohamed will later plead guilty to five counts of conspiracy (see October 20, 2000), but will never be publicly sentenced. There will be speculation that he eventually does agree to some secret deal (see July 2001-December 2001).

Ali Mohamed pleads guilty to five counts of conspiracy to kill nationals of the US in connection with the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The charges include plotting to kill US soldiers in Somalia and Saudi Arabia, plotting to murder US ambassadors and other embassy officials, and plotting to kill “United States civilians anywhere in the world.” The nature of the plea agreement is secret. (United States of America v. Ali Mohamed 10/20/2000; Aita 5/15/2001) One newspaper will note, “Mohamed’s relationship with the FBI and intelligence services remains wrapped in secrecy. His plea agreement is sealed, as are many of the court documents and much of the testimony. Mohamed was expected to testify—but did not—at the trial at which the four others were convicted. Mohamed and his lawyer have declined all interview requests.” (Sullivan and Neff 10/21/2001)

Ali Mohamed, from a late 1980s US Army video.Ali Mohamed, from a late 1980s US Army video. [Source: US Army]The State Department reported in May 2001, “[Ali Mohamed’s] sentencing date has been tentatively set for July 2001.” (Aita 5/15/2001) But in fact, his sentencing date never comes, or least is never publicly revealed. The Raleigh News and Observer notes in October 2001, “Defense lawyers and many other observers believe that Mohamed, who has not yet been sentenced, is now cooperating with the United States, though the government has never confirmed this. When he is sentenced, he could receive as little as 25 years under his plea agreement.” (Sullivan and Neff 10/21/2001) The San Francisco Chronicle similarly notes shortly after 9/11 that Mohamed “has never been sentenced, and defense lawyers and security experts believe he had begun giving evidence about bin Laden to the government in hopes of winning his release from prison.” (Williams and McCormick 9/21/2001) At the end of December 2001, the Associated Press reports that Mohamed’s sentencing “has been postponed indefinitely.” (Hays and Theimer 12/31/2001) Larry Johnson, a former CIA agent and the State Department’s director of counterterrorism during the elder Bush’s administration, speculates, “He was an active source for the FBI, a double agent.” Further, Johnson believes that “The reason he didn’t testify was so they wouldn’t have to face uncomfortable statements on the FBI. They are more interested in covering their ass.” (Sullivan and Neff 10/21/2001) There are a flurry of articles about Mohamed in the months after 9/11, but then his story will fade. The 9/11 Commission will mention him only twice in their 2004 final report, and don’t bring up the possibility of him being a double agent, or even his collaboration with the CIA and FBI. They merely note his role in the 1998 embassy bombings and his training of some of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers. He will be described as “a former Egyptian army officer who had moved to the United States in the mid-1980s, enlisted in the US Army, and became an instructor at Fort Bragg.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 67, 472) In 2006, his wife will reveal that he is still imprisoned and still has not been sentenced (see March 2006).

Khalfan Khamis Mohamed.Khalfan Khamis Mohamed. [Source: FBI]Four men are sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). The four are:
bullet Wadih El-Hage.
bullet Khalfan Khamis Mohamed.
bullet Mohamed al-Owhali.
bullet Mohammed Saddiq Odeh. (Hirschkorn 10/21/2001)
Another man in custody for the embassy bombings, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, attempted to stab a prison guard and was removed from the trail and eventually given 32 years in prison for the stabbing instead. (Hirschkorn 5/4/2004) Double agent Ali Mohamed is also in custody and pleads guilty for a role in the bombings, but he is never sentenced and his fate remains murky (see July 2001-December 2001). A New York jury considered the death penalty for some of them, but deadlocked on that and opted for life in prison without parole instead. Over a dozen people remain wanted for their alleged roles in the embassy bombings, including all of the suspected masterminds. (Hirschkorn 10/21/2001)

Ali Mohamed, the double agent caught in 1998, still has not been sentenced. In 2000, he pled guilty to involvement in the 1998 African embassy bombings (see October 20, 2000) and his sentencing date had originally been set for July 2001 (see July 2001-December 2001). Linda Sanchez, Mohamed’s wife, says in an interview at this time, “He’s still not sentenced yet, and without him being sentenced I really can’t say much. He can’t talk to anybody. Nobody can get to him.” The US government has “got Ali pretty secretive.… It’s like he just kind of vanished [into] thin air.” (Lance 2006, pp. 23-24) There is no evidence he has been sentenced since.


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