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a.k.a. Mubarak Douri
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)
A number of important future al-Qaeda figures are connected to the Tucson branch in the 1980s and into the early 1990s, including:
Mohammed Loay Bayazid, one of the founders of al-Qaeda two years later.
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.
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).
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)
On June 16, 1993, Islamic militant Essam Marzouk arrives in Vancouver, Canada, and immediately arouses suspicion. He is arrested after immigration officials discover his suitcase is full of fake passports. Furthermore, he admits he had spent five years as an “Arab volunteer” in Pakistan and Afghanistan. (Bell 10/14/2005) Al-Qaeda double agent Ali Mohamed is there to pick him up at the airport, and ends up getting questioned. He is asked if Marzouk fought in Afghanistan or knows how to use explosives. But Mohamed claims to be an FBI asset and the FBI vouches for him, so he is let go. Marzouk is detained for nearly a year, but is also let go after another visit by Mohamed (see June 16, 1993). (Ha and Freeze 9/7/2002) Marzouk applies for and receives political refugee status, but Canadian intelligence are suspicious about him and put him under surveillance. They also repeatedly interview him. However, they do not find anything incriminating. Canadian intelligence is aware that Ali Mohamed is making repeated visits to Vancouver to meet Marzouk. But the Canadians still only know Mohamed as an FBI asset and the FBI fails to tell them more about Mohamed, despite growing evidence against him. Marzouk starts a business with a friend named Amer Hamed. But Canadian intelligence remains suspicious and does not give Marzouk the security clearance to become a permanent resident. In 1997 and 1998, there are several calls between Marzouk and the home number of Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub, an Islamic Jihad operative living in Toronto. Mahjoub is under heavy surveillance, including being physically trailed, so presumably Canadian intelligence is aware of these calls. (Shephard 7/17/2004) Additionally, a Canadian judge will later say that Mubarak Al Duri was “reported to be Osama bin Laden’s principal procurement agent for weapons of mass destruction,” and had lived in the Vancouver area at some point, probably the late 1990s. (Bell 11/26/2005) In 2000, Canadian intelligence will discover that Al Duri also has been in contact with Mahjoub. (Canadian Security Intelligence Service 2/22/2008 ) In 1997, the FBI discovers Marzouk’s Vancouver address in the address book of Wadih El-Hage, Osama bin Laden’s former personal secretary. But it is unknown if this information is ever shared with Canadian intelligence (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). (Bell 3/19/2002) In February 1998, Marzouk sells his assets and leaves Canada with Hamed. But on the way out of the country he stops at a house near Toronto, Canada, where Ahmed Said Khadr, a suspected high-ranking al-Qaeda member, lives. He meets with Mahjoub at Khadr’s house. Marzouk soon flies to Afghanistan. He had been a training camp instructor there in the early 1990s, and now he is assigned to train the men who are to attack US embassies in Africa. In July, Marzouk travels to Nairobi to help with the final preparations for the bombings. Hamed, Marzouk’s partner in Vancouver, is killed by a US missile in August in retaliation for the embassy bombings earlier that month. After further travel, Marzouk is arrested in Azerbaijan. (Bell 10/14/2005)
FBI agent Jack Cloonan arrives in Sudan with several other FBI agents and is given permission by the Sudanese government to interview some al-Qaeda operatives living there. The interviews were conducted at safe houses arranged by Sudanese intelligence. Cloonan interviews Mubarak al Duri, an Iraqi. He lived in Tuscon, Arizona, in the late 1980s and early 1990s and was al-Qaeda’s chief agent attempting to purchase weapons of mass destruction (see 1986). Cloonan will later claim that al Duri and a second Iraqi al-Qaeda operative laughed when asked about possible bin Laden ties to Saddam Hussein’s government. “They said bin Laden hated Saddam.” Bin Laden considered Hussein “a Scotch-drinking, woman-chasing apostate.” Cloonan also interviews Mohammed Loay Bayazid, an American citizen and founding member of al-Qaeda (see August 11-20, 1988), who ran an al-Qaeda charity front in the US (see December 16, 1994). (Silverstein 4/29/2005) The CIA will interview them in 2002, but they apparently remain free in Sudan (see Mid-2002).
In November 2001, the Sudanese allowed the FBI to interview two al-Qaeda operatives living in Sudan, Mohammed Loay Bayazid, and Mubarak al Duri (see November 2001). Even though both men had links to al-Qaeda dating back to the 1980s (Bayazid even was one of al-Qaeda’s founding members), CIA Director George Tenet will later claim that the FBI agents “reported back that, although their suspicions were great, they were unable to develop sufficient grounds for a case against either man that would justify an extradition request.” But the CIA continues to find more intelligence that appears to tie both of them to al-Qaeda efforts to get weapons of mass destruction. For instance, a trusted informant claims Bayazid helped in an effort to buy uranium for bin Laden (see Late 1993). Tenet claims that “Both men had developed business connections to Sudanese WMD-related entities, and both had established businesses that could have served as dual-use front companies for developing nuclear and biological weapons.” In mid-2002, the CIA tries to get the two men to change sides. CIA officer Rolf Mowatt-Larssen goes to Sudan and is allowed to speak with them in a neutral location. But both men are unrepentant. After an appeal to help uncover al-Qaeda’s WMD program to potentially save millions of lives, one of them replies, “No… I think it is legitimate to kill millions of you because of how many of us you killed.” (Tenet 2007, pp. 270-271) There have been no reports since of the US capturing or killing either man or putting them on any public wanted lists.
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