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Context of 'June 22, 2003: Malawi Authorities Arrest Five Suspects with CIA Help'

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The International Herald Tribune publishes an op-ed piece written by Youssef M. Ibrahim, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. In it, Ibrahim warns: “Al-Qaeda, according to the CIA and the Pentagon, is reconstituting itself. In fact every Middle East and Muslim affairs expert is saying that Al-Qaeda’s ranks will be fattened by new recruits right now and will have more of them when the United States attacks Iraq.” [International Herald Tribune, 11/1/2002]

Entity Tags: Youssef M. Ibrahim

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

In the city of Blantyre in Malawi, the local National Intelligence Bureau, together with US officials who are reportedly CIA agents, move to arrest five foreigners on suspicion of belonging to al-Qaeda. They are Ibrahim Habaci and Arif Ulusam, both Turkish; Saudi citizen Faha al Bahli; Mahmud Sardar Issa from Sudan; and Kenyan national Khalifa Abdi. They are held incommunicado in an undisclosed location somewhere in Malawi, and defense attorneys take immediate action on their behalf. That evening, the High Court of Blantyre orders that the detainees be brought before it within 48 hours. [Amnesty International, 8/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Faha al Bahli, Arif Ulusam, Ibrahim Habaci, Khalifa Abdi, Mahmud Sardar Issa

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The June 24 deadline, set by the Malawi High Court (see June 22, 2003), to release five foreigners from detention or bring them to court, expires without the court’s order being honored. Instead, the five men are secretly flown out of the country reportedly in the custody of US agents and aboard a US chartered airplane. Their destination is at first unknown, even apparently to the Malawi government. A Malawi official tells Amnesty International on June 26: “From the time the arrests were made, the welfare of the detainees, their abode and itinerary for departure were no longer in the hands of the Malawian authorities. Thus as a country we did not have the means to stop or delay the operation. The issue of terrorism has regrettably spurred worldwide erosion of fundamental principles of human rights not only in the world but also in the USA itself…. Malawi has had to cooperate with the USA on this request as we are under obligations internationally to assist. In Malawi we do not know where these people are but they are in hands of the Americans who took them out of the country using a chartered aircraft. They should now be going through investigations at a location only known by the USA.” It is later found that the five were flown to Zimbabwe, where they were held for a month, and then Sudan, where they were subsequently released. [Amnesty International, 8/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Ibrahim Habaci, Arif Ulusam, Khalifa Abdi, Faha al Bahli, Mahmud Sardar Issa

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

An official of the Malawian government writes to Amnesty International about the transfer of five men in US custody (see June 24, 2003), explaining: “From the time the arrests were made, the welfare of the detainees, their abode and itinerary for departure were no longer in the hands of the Malawian authorities. Thus as a country we did not have the means to stop or delay the operation. The issue of terrorism has regrettably spurred worldwide erosion of fundamental principles of human rights not only in the world but also in the USA itself…. Malawi has had to cooperate with the USA on this request as we are under obligations internationally to assist. In Malawi we do not know where these people are but they are in hands of the Americans who took them out of the country using a chartered aircraft. They should now be going through investigations at a location only known by the USA.” It is later learned that the five men were sent to Zimbabwe and then to Sudan, where they were finally released in late July 2003 after investigators could find no evidence linking the men to terrorism. [Amnesty International, 8/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Ibrahim Habaci, Amnesty International, Faha al Bahli, Khalifa Abdi, Mahmud Sardar Issa, Arif Ulusam

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Top: training camp surveillance photo of Hussain Osman, one of the ‘copycat’ bombers. Bottom: training camp attendee practicing with a stick for a rifle.Top: training camp surveillance photo of Hussain Osman, one of the ‘copycat’ bombers. Bottom: training camp attendee practicing with a stick for a rifle. [Source: Metropolitan Police, Telegraph]On May 2, 2004, an off-duty British policeman named Paul Burke accidentally discovers a militant training camp in the Lake District region of Britain while jogging through the countryside. He sees a man shouting orders to a group of about 20 men as they line up and put backpacks on. The man leading the group is an Islamic preacher named Mohammed Hamid. A surveillance team is brought in and the training is observed and videotaped. Burke sees a similar group of men training at the same spot on May 29, and a surveillance team monitors several more days of weekend training. Muktar Ibrahim, Yassin Omar, Ramzi Mohammed, and Hussain Osman—the four men who will later go on to stage the failed 21/7 London bombings (see July 21, 2005), the attempt to copycat the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005)—are among the trainees who are monitored. They are seen conducting military type maneuvers, including training with mock rifles. MI5 records another weekend of training at the same spot in August. Muktar Ibrahim, the lead 21/7 bomber, is again monitored there. Atilla Ahmet, an imam who took over from Abu Hamza al-Masri as leader of the Finsbury Park mosque after Abu Hamza was jailed for incitement to murder, also sometimes attends the training camp. All four of the 21/7 bombers attend the Finsbury Park mosque, and two of them are photographed there—Ramzi Mohammed in January 2004 and Ibrahim in August 2004. All four are also photographed with Ahmet at some point. Hamid and Ahmet hold meetings together every Friday at Hamid’s house where they encourage new recruits to attend weekend training camps in the New Forest, the Lake District, or Scotland, and paintballing sessions in Berkshire and Kent. Head trainer Hamid and head 21/7 bomber Ibrahim are close to each other and jointly operate a stall selling Islamic literature in Oxford Street in London. In October 2004, both of them are arrested following a disturbance at their stall. Ibrahim is caught after trying to run from police. Hamid resists arrest and reportedly tells police, “I’ve got a bomb and I’m going to blow you all up.” At the police station, Hamid only identifies himself as “Osama bin London,” but a fingerprint check reveals his real name and an extensive criminal record for theft and burglary. However, Ibrahim and Hamid are merely charged and then released. Ibrahim will be stopped in December at a London airport while attempting to fly to Pakistan, and he will be recognized from the training camp surveillance photos, but he will be allowed to take his flight anyway (see December 2004). He will fail to turn up for his court hearing because he is in Pakistan, where he will study bomb making at a training camp. Authorities will not come in contact with him again until after the 21/7 bombings. Hamid will remain free after the 7/7 and 21/7 bombings and will brazenly continue leading the occasional weekend training camps. A bug will finally be placed in his house in September 2005. An undercover agent will pose as a new recruit and attend the training camp in 2006. Hamid will finally be arrested later that year. Hamid, Ahmet, and a number of their associates will be convicted of criminal activity relating to the training camp in 2008. The Telegraph will later comment, “Mohammed Hamid groomed the would-be [21/7] suicide bombers under the noses of watching police [and] security services.” [Daily Telegraph, 10/17/2007; Daily Telegraph, 2/27/2008; Daily Telegraph, 2/27/2008; Guardian, 3/8/2008]

Entity Tags: UK Security Service (MI5), Ramzi Mohammed, Yassin Omar, Paul Burke, Muktar Ibrahim, Mohammed Hamid, Atilla Ahmet, Abu Hamza al-Masri, Hussain Osman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

June 2004: New Iraqi Oil Minister Appointed

Thamir al-Ghadban is appointed as Iraq’s minister of oil. Al-Ghadban is a British-trained petroleum engineer and former senior adviser to Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, Iraq’s previous oil minister under the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. [Muttitt, 2005]

Entity Tags: Thamir al-Ghadban

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

The predominantly Shiite Arab administration of Ibrahim al-Jaafari is sworn into office with several posts unfilled. It was originally planned that a Sunni Arab would hold the position of defense minister, but the appointment was blocked by the Shiite officials who said that he had close ties to the deposed Baathist regime. [New York Times, 5/4/2005]

Entity Tags: Ibrahim al-Jaafari

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

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