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Profile: Mustafa Abu al-Yazid

a.k.a. Sheik Said, Saeed al-Masri, Sheik Saiid al-Masri, Mustafa al-Yazid

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Mustafa Abu al-Yazid was a participant or observer in the following events:

Mustafa Ahmed Alhawsawi.Mustafa Ahmed Alhawsawi. [Source: FBI]In 2000, the 9/11 hijackers receive money from a man using “Mustafa Ahmed al-Hisawi” and other aliases. On September 8-11, 2001, the hijackers send money to a man in the United Arab Emirates who uses the aliases “Mustafa Ahmed,” “Mustafa Ahmad,” and “Ahamad Mustafa.” Soon the media begins reporting on who this 9/11 “paymaster” is, but his reported names and identities will continually change. The media has sometimes made the obvious connection that the paymaster is Saeed Sheikh—a British financial expert who studied at the London School of Economics, undisputedly sent hijacker Mohamed Atta money the month before the attacks, made frequent trips to Dubai (where the money is sent), and is known to have trained the hijackers. However, the FBI consistently deflects attention to other possible explanations, with a highly confusing series of names vaguely similar to Mustafa Ahmed or Saeed Sheikh:
bullet September 24, 2001: Newsweek reports that the paymaster for the 9/11 attacks is someone named “Mustafa Ahmed.” [Newsweek, 10/1/2001] This refers to Mustafa Mahmoud Said Ahmed, an Egyptian al-Qaeda banker who was captured in Tanzania in 1998 then later released. [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/28/2001; Newsday, 10/3/2001]
bullet October 1, 2001: The Guardian reports that the real name of “Mustafa Mohamed Ahmad” is “Sheikh Saeed.” [Guardian, 10/1/2001] A few days later, CNN confirms from a “senior-level US government source” that this “Sheik Syed” is the British man Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh rescued from an Indian prison in 1999. [CNN, 10/6/2001; CNN, 10/8/2001] However, starting on October 8, the story that ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed ordered Saeed to give Mohamed Atta $100,000 begins to break. References to the 9/11 paymaster being the British Saeed Sheikh (and the connections to the ISI Director) suddenly disappear from the Western media (with one exception [CNN, 10/28/2001] ).
bullet October 2001: Other articles continue to use “Mustafa Mohammed Ahmad” or “Shaykh Saiid” with no details of his identity, except for suggestions that he is Egyptian. There are numerous spelling variations and conflicting accounts over which name is the alias. There is an Egyptian al-Qaeda financier leader named Mustafa Abu al-Yazid who uses some variant of Saeed Sheikh as an alias. [Evening Standard, 10/1/2001; BBC, 10/1/2001; Newsday, 10/3/2001; Associated Press, 10/6/2001; Washington Post, 10/7/2001; Sunday Times (London), 10/7/2001; Knight Ridder, 10/9/2001; New York Times, 10/15/2001; Los Angeles Times, 10/20/2001]
bullet October 16, 2001: CNN reports that the 9/11 paymaster “Sheik Sayid” is mentioned in a May 2001 trial of al-Qaeda members. However, this turns out to be a Kenyan named Sheik Sayyid el Masry. [Day 7. United States of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., 2/20/2001; United States of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., Day 8, 2/21/2001; CNN, 10/16/2001]
bullet November 11, 2001: The identity of 9/11 paymaster “Mustafa Ahmed” is suddenly no longer Egyptian, but is now a Saudi named Sa’d Al-Sharif, who is said to be bin Laden’s brother-in-law. [United Nations, 3/8/2001; Newsweek, 11/11/2001; Associated Press, 12/18/2001]
bullet December 11, 2001: The federal indictment of Zacarias Moussaoui calls the 9/11 paymaster “Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi a/k/a ‘Mustafa Ahmed,’” and gives him Sa’d’s nationality and birth date. [MSNBC, 12/11/2001] Many articles begin adding “al-Hawsawi” to the Mustafa Ahmed name. [Washington Post, 12/13/2001; Washington Post, 1/7/2002; Los Angeles Times, 1/20/2002]
bullet January 23, 2002: As new information is reported in India, the media returns to the British Saeed Sheikh as the 9/11 paymaster. [Los Angeles Times, 1/23/2002; Daily Telegraph, 1/24/2002; Independent, 1/24/2002; Daily Telegraph, 1/27/2002] While his role in the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl is revealed on February 6, many articles connect him to 9/11, but many more do not. Coverage of Saeed’s 9/11 connections generally dies out by the time of his trial in July 2002.
bullet June 4, 2002: Without explanation, the name “Shaikh Saiid al-Sharif” begins to be used for the 9/11 paymaster, presumably a combination of Saeed Sheikh and S’ad al-Sharif. [Associated Press, 6/5/2002; Independent, 9/15/2002; Associated Press, 9/26/2002; San Francisco Chronicle, 11/15/2002] Many of the old names continue to be used, however. [New York Times, 7/10/2002; Time, 8/4/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; Chicago Tribune, 9/5/2002; Knight Ridder, 9/8/2002; Knight Ridder, 9/9/2002; Washington Post, 9/11/2002; Los Angeles Times, 12/24/2002]
bullet June 18, 2002: FBI Director Mueller testifies that the money sent in 2000 is sent by someone named “Ali Abdul Aziz Ali” but the money in 2001 is sent by “Shaikh Saiid al-Sharif.” The 9/11 Commission will later identify Aziz Ali as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s nephew and agree with Mueller that he sent the money in 2000. [US Congress, 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 1]
bullet September 4, 2002: Newsweek says “Mustafa Ahmad Adin al-Husawi,” presumably Saudi, is a deputy to the Egyptian “Sayyid Shaikh Al-Sharif.” However, it adds he “remains almost a total mystery,” and they are unsure of his name. [Newsweek, 9/4/2002]
bullet December 26, 2002: US officials now say there is no such person as Shaikh Saiid al-Sharif. Instead, he is probably a composite of three different people: “[Mustafa Ahmed] Al-Hisawi, Shaikh Saiid al-Masri, al-Qaeda’s finance chief, and Saad al-Sharif, bin Laden’s brother-in-law and a midlevel al-Qaeda financier.” [Associated Press, 12/27/2002] Shaikh Saiid al-Masri is likely a reference the Kenyan Sheik Sayyid el Masry. Note that, now, al-Hisawi is the assistant to Shaikh Saiid, a flip from a few months before. Saiid and/or al-Hisawi still haven’t been added to the FBI’s official most wanted lists. [London Times, 12/1/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2002; Wall Street Journal, 6/17/2002] Despite the confusion, the FBI isn’t even seeking information about them. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2/14/2002] Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi is said to be arrested with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Pakistan in 2003, but no photos of him are released, and witnesses of the supposed arrest did not see al-Hawsawi or Mohammed there (see February 29 or March 1, 2003). [Reuters, 3/3/2003] A few weeks later, it will be reported that “the man US intelligence officials suspected of being al-Qaeda’s financial mastermind, Sheik Said al-Masri, remains at large.” [Business Week, 3/17/2003]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Daniel Pearl, Mohamed Atta, Al-Qaeda, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Khalid el-Masri, Ahamad Mustafa, Mustafa, Mahmood Ahmed, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, Sayyid Shaikh Al-Sharif, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, Mustafa Ahmad Adin al-Husawi, Sa’d Al-Sharif, Saeed Sheikh, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hisawi, Osama bin Laden, Robert S. Mueller III

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Saad bin Laden.Saad bin Laden. [Source: NBC]In the spring on 2002, as the Taliban is collapsing in Afghanistan, many al-Qaeda operatives flee into neighboring Iran. About 20 to 25 operatives composing much of al-Qaeda’s management council are said to wind up in the custody of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Prior to this point, the Iranian government has been turning over most al-Qaeda captives to other countries, but after President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech criticizing Iran (see January 29, 2002), Iran decides to keep this group. [Washington Post, 7/9/2004] Iran does not officially admit to holding them, and their status is unclear, but they all seem to be living in a village near the Caspian Sea. One senior US intelligence official says, “They are under virtual house arrest,” and not able to do much. Those said to be in Iranian custody include:
bullet Saif al-Adel, one of al-Qaeda’s top military commanders.
bullet Suliman abu Ghaith, al-Qaeda spokesman.
bullet Saad and Hamza bin Laden, two of Osama bin Laden’s young sons.
bullet Abu Dahak, who served as al-Qaeda’s liaison to the rebels in Chechnya.
bullet Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, a financial expert.
bullet Two unnamed top aides to Ayman al-Zawahiri. [MSNBC, 6/24/205]
bullet Thirwat Salah Shehata, a member of Islamic Jihad’s ruling council, who is probably one of the al-Zawahiri aides mentioned above. [MSNBC, 5/2005]
bullet Mustafa Hamza, head of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, an Egyptian militant group, and an al-Qaeda leader as well (see June 26, 1995). In late 2004, he will be extradited from Iran to stand trial in Egypt. [Reuters, 1/9/2005]
At first, these operatives appear to be capable of communicating with operatives outside of Iran. Saad bin Laden is said to play a major role planning the attack of a synagogue in Tunisia in April 2002 (see April 11, 2002). But the Saudi government will suspect that some of the operatives in Iran are involved in a 2003 attack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (see May 12, 2003), and they will successfully press Iran to tighten the house arrest of the operatives in Iran. Iran will propose an exchange of these prisoners around the time of the Riyadh bombing, but the US will reject the offer (see Mid-May 2003). Since that time, these leaders apparently remain in a state of limbo. CIA Director Porter Goss will say in 2005, “I think [the] understanding that there is a group of leadership of al-Qaeda under some type of detention—I don’t know exactly what type, necessarily—in Iran is probably accurate.” [MSNBC, 6/24/205] Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, will later ask, “The question is, what does house arrest mean in the Iranian context?” He suggests that Iran could release the group or loosen their restrictions depending on how relations evolve between the US and Iran. “They’re a guarantee against bad behavior.” [Washington Post, 9/9/2007] In 2006, it will be reported that Saad bin Laden has been freed. [Reuters, 8/2/2006] Also in 2006, al-Yazid will emerge as a leader of al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan and may never have been in Iran. [Washington Post, 9/9/2007] In 2007, the still teenaged Hamza bin Laden will reportedly appear in Afghanistan. [Associated Press, 9/11/2007] In 2008, it will be reported that the US still knows little about the al-Qaeda figures detained in Iran, but US officials say they believe Iran has largely kept them under control since 2003, limiting their ability to travel and communicate. One US official will say, “It’s been a status quo that leaves these people, some of whom are quite important, essentially on ice.” [ABC News, 5/29/2008]

Entity Tags: Thirwat Salah Shehata, Saad bin Laden, Saif al-Adel, Mustafa Hamza, Porter J. Goss, Hamza bin Laden, Michael Scheuer, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, Suliman abu Ghaith, Abu Dahak

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran, Complete 911 Timeline

Mustafa Abu al-Yazid.Mustafa Abu al-Yazid. [Source: Al Jazeera]A US patrol allegedly nearly accidentally stumbles upon bin Laden. High-ranking al-Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu al-Yazid will tell the following story to Omar Farooqi, a Taliban officer who later tells it to a Newsweek reporter. Bin Laden and his entourage is holed up somewhere in the mountains along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. A sentry spots of a patrol of US soldiers who seem headed straight for the hideout. The sentry radios an alert to bin Laden’s 40 or so bodyguards to remove him to a fallback position and supposedly there is even talk of killing bin Laden to prevent him from being taken alive. But the sentry watches the patrol move in a different direction without realizing how close they accidentally came to bin Laden. A former US intelligence officer later tells Newsweek that he is aware of official reporting on this incident. [Newsweek, 8/28/2007]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

For “much of 2006,” US intelligence has been tracking high-ranking al-Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu al-Yazid (a.k.a. Sheik Saiid al-Masri) in the mountains of Pakistan. US commanders have been pressing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for an operation to capture al-Yazid. However, Rumsfeld is reluctant to approve the mission. He is reportedly worried about US military casualties and a popular backlash in Pakistan. Finally, in early November 2006, Rumsfeld approves a plan for Navy Seals and Delta Force commandos to capture al-Yazid in Pakistan. But several days later, on November 8, Rumsfeld resigns one day after Republican losses in the US congressional mid-term elections (see November 6-December 18, 2006). The operation is put on hold again. The New York Times will reveal this in 2008 but will not explain why the operation was not tried later, or why the US did not at least attempt to fire a missile from a Predator drone at al-Yazid. It is also not explained if, when, and/or how US intelligence ever loses track of him. [New York Times, 6/30/2008] Al-Yazid has been a member of al-Qaeda’s shura (ruling council) since the group was formed in 1988. In May 2007, al-Qaeda will release a video naming him as the group’s commander of operations in Afghanistan. He allegedly has played a major role in managing al-Qaeda’s finances since at least the early 1990s, and continues to do so. [Washington Post, 9/9/2007]

Entity Tags: 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment--Delta, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, Donald Rumsfeld, Navy Seals

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Al-Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu al-Yazid allegedly claims responsibility for the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto earlier in the day. Syed Saleem Shahzad, a journalist for both the Adnkronos International (AKI) news service and the Asia Times, claims to have gotten a call from al-Yazid. Speaking in faltering English, al-Yazid reportedly says, “We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujaheddin.” It is further alleged that the assassination was planned by al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. US officials say they cannot confirm the claim. [AKI, 12/27/2007; ABC News, 12/27/2007]

Entity Tags: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Benazir Bhutto, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A US drone strike kills al-Qaeda leader Midhat Mursi (a.k.a. Abu Khabab al-Masri). He is one of six people killed in the strike on a compound in South Waziristan, in Pakistan’s tribal region. Mursi, an Egyptian, was considered a poisons and explosives expert, and was accused of training the suicide bombers in the 2000 USS Cole bombing. He also is believed to have run the Darunta training camp in eastern Afghanistan until it was abandoned during the US invasion in late 2001. The US had put a $5 million bounty on him. A statement by al-Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu al-Yazid posted on the Internet about a week later will confirm his death. [Associated Press, 8/3/2008]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, US Military, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, Midhat Mursi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Al-Qaeda’s latest alleged number three leader, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, is apparently killed in a CIA drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal region. Media reports say nine others are killed in the village of Boya near Miran Shah, North Waziristan. A statement posted on an al-Qaeda website will later confirm al-Yazid’s death along with that of his wife, three daughters, and others. Al-Yazid, an Egyptian also often called Sheik Saiid al-Masri, was one of the founding members of al-Qaeda, and a member of the group’s Shura Council ever since then. He was al-Qaeda’s chief financial officer while living with Osama bin Laden in Sudan and then Afghanistan in the 1990s. In 2007, he emerged after years of hiding and revealed in a released video that he was in charge of al-Qaeda’s operations in Afghanistan. A US official says he was “the group’s chief operating officer, with a hand in everything from finances to operational planning. He was also the organization’s prime conduit to Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. He was key to al-Qaeda’s command and control.” Former National Security Council counterterrorism official Roger Cressey even says: “In some respects, [his] death is more important for al-Qaeda operations than if bin Laden or al-Zawahiri was killed. Any al-Qaeda operation of any consequence would run through him.” [MSNBC, 6/1/2010]

Entity Tags: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda, Roger Cressey, Osama bin Laden, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

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