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Profile: Ramzi Yousef
Ramzi Yousef was a participant or observer in the following events:
Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, the brother of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), works as the head of the Pakistani branch of the charity Mercy International. A book published in 1999 will allege that this charity, based in the US and Switzerland, was used by the CIA to funnel money to Muslim militants fighting against US enemies in places such as Bosnia and Afghanistan (see 1989 and After). It is not known when Zahid got involved with the charity, but he is heading its Pakistani branch by 1988, when his nephew Ramzi Yousef first goes to Afghanistan (see Late 1980s). [Reeve, 1999, pp. 120] In the spring of 1993, US investigators raid Zahid’s house while searching for Yousef (see Spring 1993). Documents and pictures are found suggesting close links and even a friendship between Zahid and Osama bin Laden. Photos and other evidence also show close links between Zahid, KSM, and government officials close to Nawaf Sharif, who is prime minister of Pakistan twice in the 1990s. The investigators also discover that Zahid was seen talking to Pakistani President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari during a Mercy International ceremony in February 1993. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 48-49, 120] But despite the raid, Zahid apparently keeps his job until about February 1995, when Yousef is arrested in Pakistan (see February 7, 1995). Investigators learn Yousef had made a phone call to the Mercy office, and there is an entry in Yousef’s seized telephone directory for a Zahid Shaikh Mohammed. Pakistani investigators raid the Mercy office, but Zahid has already fled. [United Press International, 4/11/1995; Guardian, 9/26/2001; McDermott, 2005, pp. 154, 162] It is unclear what subsequently happens to Zahid. In 1999 it will be reported that he is believed to be in Kuwait, but in 2002 the Kuwaiti government will announce he is a member of al-Qaeda, so presumably he is no longer welcome there. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 48; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Mercy International’s Kenya branch will later be implicated in the 1998 US embassy bombing in that country, as will KSM, Zahid’s brother (see Late August 1998).
Ramzi Yousef. [Source: Associated Press]Al-Qaeda bomber Ramzi Yousef is said to be recruited by the CIA, though details are not known. Author Richard Labeviere reported without elaboration in a 1999 book, “A classified FBI file indicates that [Yousef] was recruited by the local branch of the CIA.” [Labeviere, 1999, pp. 220-221] In 1995, Newsday will report, “FBI officials also are considering a probe of whether the CIA had any relationship with Yousef, who fought with the CIA-financed mujaheddin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.” [Newsday, 4/16/1995] But there appears to be no further reporting on whether such a probe was conducted. Yousef is believed to have masterminded a series of bombings in the early 1990s, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the planned Bojinka attack, before being captured in 1995 (see February 7, 1995). If Yousef was recruited by the CIA, it may have been in the late 1980s when the CIA recruited and trained thousands of people around the world to fight in Afghanistan (see 1986-1992). In the late 1980s, Yousef was studying engineering at a Wales college, but he’d also joined the Muslim Brotherhood while there. During a break from school in 1988, he went to one of bin Laden’s training camps in Afghanistan and spent several months honing his bomb-making skills. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 78]
A Philippine government undercover operative later says that bomber Ramzi Yousef comes to the Philippines at this time to set up a new base for bin Laden. The operative, Edwin Angeles, is posing as a member of the militant group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Angeles will later claim that Yousef approaches him as the “personal envoy” of bin Laden and is looking to set up a new base of operations on the rebellious Muslim island of Mindanao. Bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa is already in the Philippines setting up charity fronts. These early contacts will contribute to the creation of the Abu Sayyaf, an offshoot of the MILF that Angeles will join. [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 7/10/2001] Yousef had been studying electrical engineering in Wales until 1989. He first went to Afghanistan in 1988 to learn bomb making at a bin Laden camp (see Late 1980s). After graduating, he moved to Afghanistan, where his father, two of his brothers, and his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed are already fighting with bin Laden. [London Times, 10/18/1997] Yousef will frequently return to the Philippines to train and plot attacks (see December 1991-May 1992).
Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will later write that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) first “earned his spurs” in al-Qaeda by serving as one of Osama bin Laden’s first bodyguards. Then, in 1991, bin Laden sends KSM to the Philippines where he trains members of the militant groups Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in bomb making and assassination. He works with bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa to establish an operational base there and also in Malaysia. Presumably he also works with his nephew Ramzi Yousef, who trains Abu Sayyaf militants the same year (see December 1991-May 1992). Gunaratna says that “After proving himself an outstanding organizer, [KSM] was given substantial operational authority and autonomy by bin Laden.” However, KSM’s work with the Abu Sayyaf and MILF is soon discovered and he “has been on the run since 1991.” KSM will return with Yousef to the Philippines in 1994 to exploit the network they built and develop the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. xxiv-xxix]
Abdurajak Janjalani. [Source: Public domain]Abu Sayyaf, a militant Islamic group, is formed in the Philippines, and is led mainly by returned mujaheddin fighters from Afghanistan. Abdurajak Janjalani, who had fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan, is considered the founder of the group. [Washington Post, 9/23/2001; Strategic Update, 10/15/2001 ; Bayani Magazine, 4/2005] Janjalani had befriended bin Laden while fighting in Afghanistan in the late 1980s. He and many others from the Philippines had their training paid for by the CIA and Pakistani ISI (see Late 1980s). “Osama bin Laden wanted to expand his al-Qaeda network, established in 1988, so he turned to Janjalani to establish a cell in Southeast Asia.” Many militants break from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a much larger rebel group, to join Abu Sayyaf. It will later be reported that, “Philippine intelligence officials believe [Abu Sayyaf’s] primary goal at the time was to sabotage the ongoing peace process between the MNLF and the [Philippine government] and to discredit the MNLF’s leaders.” [Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College, 9/1/2005 ] This comment takes on added meaning in light of evidence that the group was penetrated from the very beginning by the Philippine government, as a deep undercover operative became the group’s second in command and operational leader (see 1991-Early February 1995). The group begins a series of attacks by killing two American evangelists in April 1991. [Washington Post, 9/23/2001] The group engages primarily in kidnapping and extortion. It also receives early funding from Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law of bin Laden, and Ramzi Yousef, the 1993 WTC bomber (see December 1991-May 1992). [Strategic Update, 10/15/2001 ; Time, 8/23/2004]
Ramzi Yousef, the future bomber of the WTC in 1993, stays in the Philippines and trains militants there in bomb-making. According to Philippine intelligence documents, Yousef had developed expertise in bomb-making and worked at a training camp at Khost, Afghanistan, teaching bomb-making for militants connected to bin Laden. But bin Laden dispatches him to the Philippines, where he trains about 20 militants belonging to the Abu Sayyaf group. Abu Sayyaf is heavily penetrated by Philippine undercover operatives at this time, especially Edwin Angeles, an operative who is the second in command of the group. Angeles will later recall that Yousef is introduced to him at this time as an “emissary from bin Laden.” [Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College, 9/1/2005 ] Angeles also claims Yousef decided to use the Philippines as a “launching pad” for terrorist acts around the world. [New York Times, 9/6/1996] One of Abu Sayyaf’s top leaders will later recall that Yousef also brings a significant amount of money to help fund the group. [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1/22/2007; CNN, 1/31/2007] A flow chart of Yousef’s associates prepared in early 1995 by Angeles’ Philippines handler Rodolfo Mendoza shows a box connected to Abu Sayyaf labeled “20 trainees/recruits.” So presumably the Philippine government is aware of this information by then, but it is not known when they warned the US about it (see Spring 1995). Yousef will also later admit to planning the 1993 WTC bombing at an Abu Sayyaf base, which most likely takes place at this time (see Early 1992). The ties between Yousef and Abu Sayyaf will grow stronger, culminating in the 1995 Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), an early version of the 9/11 plot.
Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, apparently directly assists the Abu Sayyaf militant group with a number of attacks during this time. According to a 1996 Philippine intelligence report, in December 1991, Khalifa meets with Abu Sayyaf leaders and gives them $1000 in local currency to bomb a church in the town of Jolo. In January 1992, Khalifa and future Bojinka bombers Wali Khan Amin Shah and Ramzi Yousef meet with Abdurajak Janjalani, the head of the Abu Sayyaf. This time, Khalifa gives $6,000 for two ultimately successful operations—to assassinate an Italian missionary and to bomb a local public market to disrupt provincial elections. Khalifa continues to liaison with Abu Sayyaf leaders, providing food, medicines, ammunition, and sometimes targets to attack. The last known attack with such help from Khalifa takes place in April 1993. [Ressa, 2003, pp. 27, 227]
Al-Qaeda bomber Ramzi Yousef plans the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993) at an Abu Sayyaf base in the Philippines. Yousef will admit this during his trial for the bombing after his 1995 arrest. He says he plotted there with “Afghans”—other veterans of the war in Afghanistan during the 1980s. [Labeviere, 1999, pp. 220-221] It isn’t known when he did this exactly, but reports place him in the Philippines with the Abu Sayyaf for much of early 1992 (see December 1991-May 1992) before his trip to the US in September 1992 (see September 1, 1992), so it most likely took place then. It will later come to light that the Abu Sayyaf militant group is deeply penetrated by the Philippine government at this time, as even the second in command of the group is an undercover operative (see 1991-Early February 1995). It is not known if the Philippine government gave the US any warning about Yousef’s activities.
Apparently the bin Laden guest house where Yousef lived. [Source: National Geographic]According to Pakistani investigators, Ramzi Yousef spends most of this time at the Beit Ashuhada guesthouse (translated as House of Martyrs) in Peshawar, Pakistan, which is funded by Osama bin Laden. Pakistani investigators reveal this bin Laden-Yousef connection to US intelligence in March 1995. The CIA will publicly reveal this in 1996. [Central Intelligence Agency, 1996 ; Tenet, 2007, pp. 100] While living there, Yousef receives help and financing from two unnamed senior al-Qaeda representatives. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 47] Yousef will be arrested at another nearby bin Laden safe house in February 1995 (see February 7, 1995) with bin Laden’s address found in his pocket. [London Times, 10/18/1997] During these years, Yousef takes long trips to the US in preparation of the WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993) and the Philippines, where several plots are developed (see January 6, 1995). He also uses an al-Qaeda influenced mosque in Milan, Italy, as a logistical base (see 1995-1997).
On April 24, 1992, Houston pizza deliveryman Ahmad Ajaj and San Antonio cabdriver Ibrahim Ahmad Suleiman fly together from Texas to Pakistan. Suleiman is a Texas contact of the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, the Brooklyn-based Islamist militant organization linked to both the CIA and al-Qaeda (see 1986-1993). Suleiman had begun raising funds for the Afghan war in Texas in the late 1980s, and acquaintances said he traveled to Pakistan several times, carrying a briefcase full of cash to fund the mujaheddin fighting in Afghanistan. When they arrive in Pakistan, they stay at a hostel in Peshawar, near the Afghanistan border, known as the Abdullah Azzam House. Named after Osama bin Laden’s mentor Abdullah Azzam, this hostel is owned by Al-Kifah and also houses its Pakistan headquarters. Ajaj and Suleiman stay there off and on over the next several months. Al-Qaeda bomber Ramzi Yousef also sometimes stays there during the same months. Ajaj also allegedly receives explosives training at an Afghanistan training camp with Yousef. His letter of introduction to the camp is signed by an Azzam House official. On September 1, 1992, Ajaj and Yousef arrive together in New York City on a flight from Pakistan. Ajaj is carrying some bomb manuals; investigators will later find the fingerprints of Ajaj, Yousef, and Suleiman on them. Both men are carrying identification cards that give the PO box number in Tucson, Arizona, that matches an al-Kifah branch there. Ajaj is briefly detained at the airport, but Yousef is allowed to go. [Dallas Morning News, 6/8/1997] He gets into a taxi and tells the taxi driver to drive him to the building that houses the al-Qaeda headquarters in Brooklyn as well as the closely associated Al Farooq mosque, led at the time by the “Blind Shiekh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. [Lance, 2003] Ajaj and Yousef will later be sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993). Suleiman will only be sentenced to 10 months in prison for lying to a grand jury about his travels with Ajaj. [New York Times, 11/25/1998] A CIA internal report will conclude the agency is “partly culpable” for the WTC bombing, mainly due to its support for Al-Kifah (see January 24, 1994).
Ramzi Yousef’s passport photo. [Source: National Geographic]Ramzi Yousef gets considerable help from the Pakistani ISI. When Yousef returns to Pakistan on May 15, 1992, he uses an Iraqi passport bearing a visa issued by the Pakistani embassy in Baghdad. However, the seal on the visa is not the official one and the signature of the visa officer is faked. A senior US intelligence official will later say, “Yousef was developing high-level contacts in Pakistani intelligence through his links with bin Laden, mainly in the ISI. It’s a dirty mess. They facilitated much of his travel. Getting airport officials to turn a blind eye to his travel would have been nothing. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 136-137] Then, on August 31, 1992, Yousef and Ahmed Ajaj are able to fly from Pakistan to the US despite lacking the proper papers to leave Pakistan. US intelligence officials will later claim senior ISI officials helped Yousef enter the US. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 139] When Ramzi Yousef’s Pakistani immigration records are checked after the WTC bombing, it is discovered his embarkation card and other documents had mysterious disappeared. ISI agents had access to the room where the records were stored. The FBI later gives the Pakistani government the names of Pakistani officials they suspect were colluding with terrorists, but apparently it is never discovered for sure who helped Yousef. One US investigator will later say, “Bin Laden had friends in the ISI who had funded him during the war in Afghanistan. The same contacts were cultivated by Yousef and members of his family.” [Reeve, 1999, pp. 48-49]
Ahmad Ajaj. [Source: FBI]Al-Qaeda operatives Ahmad Ajaj and Ramzi Yousef enter the US together. Ajaj is arrested at Kennedy Airport in New York City. Yousef is not arrested and will later mastermind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. “The US government was pretty sure Ajaj was a terrorist from the moment he stepped foot on US soil,” because his “suitcases were stuffed with fake passports, fake IDs, and a cheat sheet on how to lie to US immigration inspectors,” plus “two handwritten notebooks filled with bomb recipes, six bomb-making manuals, four how-to videotapes concerning weaponry, and an advanced guide to surveillance training.” However, Ajaj is charged only with passport fraud and serves a six-month sentence. From prison, Ajaj frequently calls Yousef and others involved in the 1993 WTC bombing plot, but no one will translate the calls until long after the bombing. [Los Angeles Times, 10/14/2001] Ajaj will be released from prison three days after the WTC bombing, but is later rearrested and sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. [Los Angeles Times, 10/14/2001] One of the manuals seized from Ajaj will be horribly mistranslated for the trial. For instance, the title page is said to say “The Basic Rule,” published in Jordan in 1982, when in fact the title says “al-Qaeda” (which means “the base” in English), published in Afghanistan in 1989. Investigators will subsequently complain that a proper translation could have shown an early connection between al-Qaeda and the WTC bombing. [New York Times, 1/14/2001] An Israeli newsweekly will report that the Palestinian Ajaj may have been a mole for the Israeli Mossad. The Village Voice will suggest that Ajaj may have had “advance knowledge of the World Trade Center bombing, which he shared with Mossad, and that Mossad, for whatever reason, kept the secret to itself.” Ajaj is not just knowledgeable, but is involved in the planning of the bombing from his prison cell. [Village Voice, 8/3/1993]
Terry Nichols. [Source: Oklahoma City Police Department]White separatist Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 22 or 23, 1988, April 2, 1992 and After, and October 12, 1993 - January 1994) makes a number of trips to the Phillippines, apparently to meet with al-Qaeda bomber Ramzi Yousef and other radical Islamists. Nichols will later help plan and execute the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Nichols’s wife is a mail-order bride from Cebu City; Nichols spends an extensive amount of time on the island of Mindanao, where many Islamist terror cells operate. This information comes from a Philippine undercover operative, Edwin Angeles, and one of his wives. Angeles is the second in command in the militant group Abu Sayyaf from 1991 to 1995 while secretly working for Philippine intelligence at the same time (see 1991-Early February 1995). After the Oklahoma City bombing, Angeles will claim in a videotaped interrogation that in late 1992 and early 1993 Nichols meets with Yousef and a second would-be American terrorist, John Lepney. In 1994, Nichols meets with Yousef, Lepney, and others. For about a week, Angeles, Yousef, Nichols, and Lepney are joined by Abdurajak Janjalani, the leader of Abu Sayyaf; two members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF); Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan Amin Shah, both of whom are working with Yousef on the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995); and a half-brother of Yousef known only by the alias Ahmad Hassim (this is a probable reference to Yousef’s brother Abd al-Karim Yousef, who is living in the Philippines at this time). Elmina Abdul, Angeles’s third wife, will add additional details about these 1994 meetings in a taped 2002 hospital confession to a Philippines reporter days before her death. She only remembers Nichols as “Terry” or “The Farmer,” and doesn’t remember the name of the other American. She says: “They talked about bombings. They mentioned bombing government buildings in San Francisco, St. Louis, and in Oklahoma. The Americans wanted instructions on how to make and to explode bombs. [Angeles] told me that Janjalani was very interested in paying them much money to explode the buildings. The money was coming from Yousef and the other Arab.” [Gulf News, 4/3/2002; Insight, 4/19/2002; Manila Times, 4/26/2002; Insight, 6/22/2002; Nicole Nichols, 2003] (“The other Arab” may be a reference to the Arab Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law, because Janjalani’s younger brother later claims Abu Sayyaf was funded in its early years by Yousef and Khalifa.) [CNN, 1/31/2007] Abdul claims Nichols and Lepney are sent to an unnamed place for more instructions on bomb-making to destroy a building in the US. She also says that Angeles and others in Abu Sayyaf believe Yousef works for the Iraqi government. [Insight, 6/22/2002] The Manila Times later reports that “Lepney did indeed reside and do business in Davao City [in the Southern Philippines] during 1990 to 1996.” One bar owner recalls that when Lepney got drunk he liked to brag about his adventures with local rebel groups. [Manila Times, 4/26/2002] In 2003, Nicole Nichols (no relation to Terry Nichols), the director of the watchdog organization Citizens against Hate, will explain why an American white supremacist would make common cause with Islamist terrorists. Two unifying factors exist, she writes: an overarching hatred of Jews and Israel, and a similarly deep-seated hatred of the US government. [Nicole Nichols, 2003] After Nichols takes part in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), Wali Khan Amin Shah will attempt to take the credit for plotting the bombing for himself and Yousef, a claim federal authorities will not accept (see April 19, 1995 and 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After).
Entity Tags: Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Ramzi Yousef, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Nicole Nichols, Elmina Abdul, Terry Lynn Nichols, Abu Sayyaf, Edwin Angeles, Abd al-Karim Yousef, John Lepney, Abdul Hakim Murad, Abdurajak Janjalani
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, US Domestic Terrorism
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and his nephew Ramzi Yousef have high-level protection in Pakistan around 1993, at least. This is according to Rehman Malik, who is head of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) at the time. In July 1993, KSM and Yousef are unsuccessful in an attempt to assassinate Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (see July 1993). Malik will later say, “It seemed to us [in the FIA] that the entire family were involved in this business [of terrorism]. Ramzi and Khalid were both out to make a name for themselves. They had close connections with the jihadis, but it was unclear who they were working for. They were both extremely dangerous men, and to us in the FIA, it always appeared that they had protection at a higher level. When we raided Ramzi’s house in Quetta, he had been warned. Likewise with Zahid [Shaikh Mohammed, KSM’s brother] in Peshawar.” [Fouda and Fielding, 2003, pp. 96] Also around this time, US investigators find KSM and his brother Zahid are linked to the ISI. They even find photographs of them with high-ranking Pakistani political leaders (see Spring 1993).
Bomb damage in underground levels of the WTC in 1993. [Source: Najlah Feanny/ Corbis]An attempt to topple the World Trade Center in New York City fails, but six people are killed and over 1,000 injured in the misfired blast. The explosion is caused by the detonation of a truck bomb in the underground parking garage. An FBI explosives expert will later state, “If they had found the exact architectural Achilles’ heel or if the bomb had been a little bit bigger, not much more, 500 pounds more, I think it would have brought her down.” Ramzi Yousef, who has close ties to Osama bin Laden, organizes the attempt. [Village Voice, 3/30/1993; US Congress, 2/24/1998] The New York Times will report on Emad Salem, an undercover agent who will be the key government witness in the trial against Yousef. Salem will testify that the FBI knew about the attack beforehand and told him it would thwart the attack by substituting a harmless powder for the explosives. However, an FBI supervisor called off this plan and the bombing was not stopped. [New York Times, 10/28/1993] Other suspects were ineptly investigated before the bombing as early as 1990. Several of the bombers were trained by the CIA to fight in the Afghan war and the CIA will conclude, in internal documents, that it was “partly culpable” for this bombing (see January 24, 1994). [Independent, 11/1/1998] 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is an uncle of Yousef and also has a role in the bombing (see March 20, 1993). [Independent, 6/6/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] One of the bombers even leaves a message, which will be found by investigators, stating, “Next time, it will be very precise.” [Associated Press, 9/30/2001]
US intelligence learns of ties between Ramzi Yousef and bin Laden. FBI official Neil Herman, head of the WTC bombing investigation, will later say, “The first connection with bin Laden came in connection with some phone records overseas, connecting either Yousef or possibly one of his family members.” But Herman adds that bin Laden was just “one of thousands of leads that we were trying to run out.” Bin Laden will later praise Yousef but say, “Unfortunately, I did not know him before the incident.” [Reeve, 1999, pp. 47-48]
US agents uncover photographs showing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) has ties with the Pakistani ISI. Several weeks after the World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), US agents come to Pakistan to search for Ramzi Yousef for his part in that bombing. Searching the house of Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, Yousef’s uncle, they find photographs of Zahid and KSM, who is also one of Yousef’s uncles, with close associates of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. [Financial Times, 2/15/2003] According to another account, the pictures actually show Zahid with Sharif, and also with Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, president of Pakistan until his death in 1988. [Jacquard, 2002, pp. 66] Pictures of Osama bin Laden are also found. US agents are unable to catch Yousef because Pakistani agents tip him off prior to the US raids. Yousef is able to live a semi-public life (for instance, he attends weddings), despite worldwide publicity naming him as a major terrorist. The Financial Times will later note that Yousef, KSM, and their allies “must have felt confident that their ties to senior Pakistani Islamists, whose power had been cemented within the country’s intelligence service [the ISI], would prove invaluable.” [Financial Times, 2/15/2003] Several months later, Yousef and KSM unsuccessfully attempt to assassinate Benazir Bhutto, who is prime minister of Pakistan twice in the 1990s (see July 1993). She is an opponent of Sharif and the ISI. [Slate, 9/21/2001; Guardian, 3/3/2003] The Los Angeles Times will later report that KSM “spent most of the 1990s in Pakistan. Pakistani leadership through the 1990s sympathized with Osama bin Laden’s fundamentalist rhetoric. This sympathy allowed [him] to operate as he pleased in Pakistan.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/24/2002]
Abdul Rahman Yasin. [Source: CBS News]A week after the WTC bombing, an Iraqi-American is questioned by the FBI and then allowed to leave the country, despite evidence tying him to the bombing. Abdul Rahman Yasin is a US citizen but spent most of his life in Iraq until 1992, when he returned to the US. Two of the major WTC bomb plotters, Ramzi Yousef and Mohammed Salameh, lived in the apartment directly above Yasin’s. Several days after Salameh is arrested, the FBI searches Yasin’s apartment. They find traces of bomb explosives on a scale, a tool box, and a shirt. In the trash, they find jeans with an acid hole burned in them, and torn pieces of a map showing the route to Yousef’s other apartment. Yasin is taken to an FBI office and interrogated by Neil Herman, head of the FBI’s WTC bombing investigation, and others. Yasin gives information about Salameh, Yousef, and other participants in the bomb plot. Agents observe a chemical burn on his right thigh, making them suspect that he was involved in mixing the chemicals used in the bombing. The next day, he drives FBI agents to the apartment where the bomb was made. Yet Yasin will later be interviewed and claims that the FBI never asked him if he was involved in the bomb plot. Later that evening, he flies to Iraq. Herman will later say, “There was not enough information to hold him and detain him. And the decision was made, and he was allowed to leave.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/12/2001] In 2002, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz will recall, “I have to tell you that we fear[ed] that sending Yasin back to Iraq… was a sting operation [for the US to] tell people later on, look, this man who participated in that event now is in Iraq, etc., and use it as they are doing now, using many false pretexts, you see, to hurt Iraq in their own way.” [60 Minutes, 6/2/2002] Yasin will be indicted in August 1993 for his role in the WTC bombing and the US later puts a $2 million bounty on his head. In October 2001, that will be increased to $25 million. In 2002, Yasin will be interviewed by CBS News in Iraq and will confess to involvement in the WTC bombing but says he was not an Iraqi government agent. Iraqi authorities will tell CBS that Yasin is still imprisoned without charge and has been in prison since 1994, but this has not been independently confirmed. Some continue to point to Yasin as evidence that Iraq was behind the WTC bombing. [Los Angeles Times, 10/12/2001; 60 Minutes, 6/2/2002]
Mohammmed Salameh. [Source: Sygma / Corbis]An internal FBI report finds that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) played a role in the bombing of the World Trade Center. According to the report, KSM wired $660 from Qatar to a bank account of Mohammed Salameh, one of the key bombers, on November 3, 1992. This is apparently the first time KSM has come to the attention of US law enforcement. Transaction records show the money was sent from “Khaled Shaykh” in Doha, Qatar, which is where KSM is living openly and without an alias at the time (see 1992-1995). [US Congress, 7/24/2003] KSM also frequently talked to his nephew Ramzi Yousef on the phone about the bombing and sent him a passport to escape the country, but apparently these details are not discovered until much later. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 147, 488]
Matchboxes with the photographs and reward information of suspects like Ramzi Yousef. [Source: Jeffrey Markowitz / Corbis]The FBI places Ramzi Yousef on its “Ten Most Wanted” list, after determining his prominent role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993). An international manhunt ensues. The FBI works with a State Department program that publicly offers generous rewards and a new identity for informants giving information about wanted terrorists. A $2 million reward is announced for information on Yousef and a large publicity campaign about the reward is launched, with a focus on Pakistan, India, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Huge numbers of matchboxes are distributed with Yousef’s photograph and reward information on them. In early 1995, one of Yousef’s associates will learn of the program and turn Yousef in for the reward money (see February 3-7, 1995). The matchbox program will be used for other wanted suspects, such as Abdul Rahman Yasin and Mir Kansi. However, Yousef’s uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) will never be placed on the most wanted list before 9/11, and while there eventually will be a $2 million reward for him, no similar massive manhunt or large publicity campaign will take place for him, even after he is identified as a mastermind in the WTC bombing, Bojinka plot, African embassy bombings, and many other attacks. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 42-43, 56-57]
Double agent Ali Mohamed is interviewed by the US military about al-Qaeda, but what exactly is said is uncertain because the interview files are supposedly lost. When Mohamed’s FBI handler John Zent interviewed him in May 1993 (see May 1993), he mentioned al-Qaeda training camps. FBI agent Jack Cloonan, who will later investigate Mohamed, will recall, “John realizes that Ali is talking about all these training camps in Afghanistan. And starts talking about this guy named bin Laden. So John calls the local rep from army intelligence” and arranges for them to interview him. A special team of army investigators shows up from Fort Meade, Virginia, which is the home of the NSA. “They bring maps with them and they bring evidence.… And so they debrief Ali, and he lays out all these training camps.” What else he may reveal is not known. Cloonan is not sure why Mohamed volunteered all this vital al-Qaeda information. Earlier in the year, FBI investigators discovered that Mohamed stole many top secret US military documents and gave them to Islamic militants (see Spring 1993). However, Mohamed faces no trouble from the Defense Department about that. FBI agent Joseph O’Brien will later ask, “Who in the government was running this show? Why didn’t the Bureau bring the hammer down on this guy Mohamed then and there?” Whatever Mohamed says in this interview is not shared with US intelligence agencies, even though it would have obvious relevance for the worldwide manhunt for Ramzi Yousef going on at the time since Yousef trained in some of the camps Mohamed is describing. Several years later, Cloonan will attempt to find the report of Mohamed’s interview with army intelligence but “we were never able to find it. We were told that the report was probably destroyed in a reorganization of intelligence components” in the Defense Department. [Lance, 2006, pp. 130-131]
Informant Emad Salem, pictured bent over in a green shirt, enables the FBI to take surveillance footage like this of the plotters making a bomb. [Source: National Geographic]Eight people are arrested, foiling a plot to bomb several New York City landmarks. The targets were the United Nations building, 26 Federal Plaza, and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. This is known as the “Landmarks” or “Day of Terror” plot. The plotters are connected to Ramzi Yousef and the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. If the bombing, planned for later in the year, had been successful, thousands would have died. An FBI informant named Emad Salem had infiltrated the group, gathering information that leads to arrests of the plotters (see April 23, 1993). [US Congress, 7/24/2003] Abdul-Rahman will eventually be sentenced to life in prison for a role in the plot. Nine others will be given long prison terms, including Ibrahim El-Gabrowny and Clement Rodney Hampton-El. [New York Times, 1/18/1996] Siddig Siddig Ali, who was possibly the main force behind the plot (see April 23, 1993), will eventually be sentenced to only 11 years in prison because he agreed to provide evidence on the other suspects [New York Times, 10/16/1999]
Ramzi Yousef and his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) unsuccessfully try to assassinate Behazir Bhutto, the leader of the opposition in Pakistan at the time. Yousef, with his friend Abdul Hakim Murad, plan to detonate a bomb near Bhutto’s home as she is leaving it. However, they are stopped by a police patrol. Yousef had hidden the bomb when the police approached, and after they left the bomb is accidentally set off, severely injuring him. [Ressa, 2003, pp. 25] KSM is in Pakistan at the time and will visit Yousef in the hospital, but his role in the bombing appears to be limited to funding it. [Ressa, 2003, pp. 25; Guardian, 3/3/2003] Bhutto had been prime minister in Pakistan before and will return to power later in 1993 until 1996. She will later claim, “As a moderate, progressive, democratically elected woman prime minister of Pakistan, I was a threat to the fundamentalist zealots on multiple levels…” She claims they had “the support of sympathetic elements within Pakistan’s security apparatus,” a reference to the ISI intelligence agency. [Slate, 9/21/2001] This same year, US agents uncover photographs showing KSM with close associates of previous Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Bhutto’s main political enemy at the time. Presumably, this failed assassination will later give KSM and Yousef some political connection and cover with the political factions opposed to Bhutto (see Spring 1993). Sharif will serve as prime minister again from 1997 to 1999. [Financial Times, 2/15/2003]
Anwar Shaaban. [Source: Evan Kohlmann]The Islamic Cultural Institute mosque in Milan, Italy is dominated by Al-Gama’a al-Islamiya, the Egyptian militant group led by Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. The imam of the mosque, Anwar Shaaban, is a leader of that group and also a leader of the mujaheddin efforts in Bosnia. The Islamic Cultural Institute serves as a transit and logistical base for mujaheddin coming or going to Bosnia (see Late 1993-December 14, 1995). After the 1993 WTC bombing, US investigators will discover heavy phone traffic between the Milan mosque and the Jersey City mosque run by Abdul-Rahman. Furthermore, they learn that bomber mastermind Ramzi Yousef used the Milan mosque as a logistical base as well. [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001] Yousef also prayed at the Milan mosque prior to the WTC bombing. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 171] Shaaban is a close friend of Talaat Fouad Qassem, another leader of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiya and one of the highest ranking leaders of the mujaheddin fighting in Bosnia. Qassem is directing the flow of volunteers to Bosnia while living in political asylum in Denmark (see 1990). [Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 25] In April 1994, seven Arab men living in Denmark, including Qassem, are arrested. US prosecutors will later claim that fingerprints on documents and videotapes seized from the men match fingerprints on bomb manuals that Ahmad Ajaj was carrying when he entered the US with Yousef (see September 1, 1992). A raid on one apartment in Denmark uncovers bomb formulas, bomb making chemical, sketches of attack targets, some videotapes of Abdul-Rahman’s sermons, and a pamphlet claiming responsibility for the WTC bombing and promising more attacks. Also, phone records and documents found in Abdul-Rahman’s Jersey City apartment show the men in Denmark were communicating regularly with Abdul-Rahman. [New York Times, 4/15/1995] But no one in either Milan or Denmark will be charged with a role in the WTC bombing. Danish police will later say that none of the seized documents indicated that the Arab men personally took part in the bombing. The men all are released and ironically, two of them are granted political asylum in Denmark because they are members of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiya, which the Danish consider to be a persecuted group. [Associated Press, 6/28/1995] In 1995, an Italian magistrate will issue arrest warrants for Shaaban and 60 other extremists (see Late 1993-December 14, 1995), but Shaaban will flee to Bosnia, where he will die of bullet wounds in unexplained circumstances (see December 14, 1995). [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001] The US government will later call the Islamic Cultural Institute al-Qaeda’s main logistical base in Europe and some evidence will link figures connected to it to the 9/11 plot (see Late 1998-September 11, 2001).
Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, is monitored while living in the Philippines. The former head of Philippine military intelligence chief will later say that Khalifa was monitored starting in the late 1980s. [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 9/20/2001] The surveillance intensifies when investigator Rodolfo Mendoza begins an invetigation into foreign terrorist connections in the Philippines in 1994. He will later say that the report is based on “hundreds of wiretaps and countless man-hours of surveillance… In 1994 up to 1995, my unit [tracked] Khalifa [with] tight investigation and surveillance.” Mendoza believes Khalifa is running a front to fund the training of fighters for the Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and submits a secret report about this on December 15, 1994 (see December 15, 1994). [CNN, 11/24/2004] Philippine and US officials will later assert that there is evidence of contact in the mid-1990s between Khalifa and WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef. [Atlantic Monthly, 5/1996] Phone taps from Khalifa’s offices will lead to Konsonjaya, a front company financing the Bojinka plot, which could kill thousands (see June 1994). By December, Tariq Javed Rana, another apparent Bojinka plotter, is also being monitored (see December 1994-April 1995), as are other Bojinka plotters such as Yousef (see Before January 6, 1995). The Bojinka plot will be foiled days before it is to be implemented, apparently after police deliberately set a fire in Ramzi Yousef’s apartment to provide an excuse to look around (see January 6, 1995).
The Boston Herald reports that an internal CIA report has concluded that the agency is “partially culpable” for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993) because it helped train and support some of the bombers. One source with knowledge of the report says, “It was determined that a significant amount of blowback appeared to have occurred.” A US intelligence source claims the CIA gave at least $1 billion to forces in Afghanistan connected to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. More than a half-dozen of the WTC bombers belonged to this faction, and some of the CIA money paid for their training. The source says, “By giving these people the funding that we did, a situation was created in which it could be safely argued that we bombed the World Trade Center.” Those connected to the bombing who went to Afghanistan include Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Clement Rodney Hampton-el, Siddig Siddig Ali, Ahmed Ajaj, and Mahmud Abouhalima. [Boston Herald, 1/24/1994] Additionally, Ramzi Yousef trained in Afghanistan near the end of the Afghan war, and there are claims he was recruited by the CIA (see Late 1980s). “Intelligence sources say the CIA used the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn—founded to support the Afghani rebels fighting Soviet occupation—to funnel aid to Hekmatyar, setting the stage for terrorists here to acquire the money, guns and training needed to later attack the Trade Center. CIA support also made it easier for alleged terrorist leaders to enter the country.” [Boston Herald, 1/24/1994] It will later be alleged that the CIA repeatedly blocked investigations relating to Al-Kifah, which was al-Qaeda’s operational base in the US (see Late 1980s and After).
Despite being the most wanted man in the world after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Ramzi Yousef plots a new attack. He works with a group of militants in Bangkok, Thailand, to bomb the Israeli embassy there on March 11, 1994. Yousef builds a bomb that literally weighs a ton. His associates steal a truck, kill the driver, and throw his body into the back of the truck. They fill the truck with enough explosives to destroy a whole city block. One of Yousef’s associates drives the bomb to the embassy, but the truck gets hit by a motorcycle taxi on the way there and the driver flees as the police start to arrive. The police impound the truck, but take a week before they search it and find the bomb. By that time, Yousef will have fled Thailand. Seventeen Iranians will later be arrested but then released. [Lance, 2003, pp. 191-192, 473]
A young Indonesian nicknamed Hambali forms a front company that ties al-Qaeda figures to the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), an early version of the 9/11 plot. Hambali had fought in Afghanistan in the late 1980’s, repeatedly met with bin Laden there, and allied himself to bin Laden’s cause. In 1994, Hambali, living in a village north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, began frequently receiving visitors. According to his landlord, “Some looked Arab and others white.” There has been no explanation who these “white” visitors may have been. Hambali had been very poor prior to this time, but he is suddenly “flush with newfound cash” brought by the visitors. In June 1994, he founds a front company called Konsonjaya with Wali Khan Amin Shah, a key Bojinka plotter, and both their names are listed on the eight-person board of directors. Shah fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan, and bin Laden will even admit knowing him and praise him in an 1998 interview (see May 28, 1998). Philippine police phone taps show that frequent calls are made from the Konsonjaya offices in Malaysia to the Philippines offices of Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law who is also believed to be part of the Bojinka plot (see 1994). [Time, 4/1/2002] A Malaysian official will later say that Hambali spends time in the Philippines with Shah and bomber Ramzi Yousef in 1994 as they plan the Bojinka plot. [Washington Post, 2/3/2002] Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari, another Konsonjaya director, makes frequent trips from Malaysia to the Philippines while planning for the Bojinka plot is under way, and he is later believed to play a key role in financing the plot. In early 1995, after the Bojinka plot is broken up, one of the arrested Bojinka plotters will confess to Konsonjaya’s role in the plot (see February-Early May 1995) and a Philippine investigator’s flow chart of the Bojinka plotters and their connections will prominently include Konsonjaya (see Spring 1995). However, neither the Philippine nor US government appears interested in capturing Hambali, al-Ghafari, or the others involved in Konsonjaya before 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 6/24/2002; Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12/1/2002] Hambali will continue to live openly in Malaysia, even throwing a party every year for hundreds of people (see April 1991-Late 2000). He will go on to plan other al-Qaeda attacks and will attend a key planning meeting for the 9/11 plot in 2000 (see January 5-8, 2000). [Time, 4/1/2002] Al-Ghafari will finally be deported in 2002 after years of police protection (see October 8-November 8, 2002).
Imam Reza shrine. [Source: Public domain]After failing to bomb the Israeli embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, Razmi Yousef moves back to Pakistan and plots a bombing inside Iran. Yousef, a Sunni Muslim, has a deep hatred of Shiite Muslims, and most Iranians are Shiites. On June 20, 1994, Yousef bombs a mosque in the Iranian town of Mashhad, killing 26 people and injuring over 200 more. The mosque is an important shrine and one of the holiest Shiite sites in Iran, and the attack also takes place on a Shiite holy day. The group Yousef works with this time includes his younger brother, Abdul Muneem, and his father, who is arrested and detained in Iran. While Yousef generally works in concert with or by orders from bin Laden, the Mashhad bombing runs counter to bin Laden’s efforts to work with the Iranian-influenced Hezbollah militant group this same year (see Shortly After February 1994). [Reeve, 1999, pp. 63-67]
While Ramzi Yousef occasionally plots attacks not in line with Osama bin Laden’s goals (see June 20, 1994), there is considerable evidence that he usually works in concert with bin Laden. Pakistani investigators will later determine that in the middle of 1994 a group of militant Saudi businessmen visit Pakistan and meet with al-Qaeda operatives to discuss setting up a series of secret radio transmitters to broadcast propaganda into Saudi Arabia. Yousef is present at several of the meetings with two senior al-Qaeda leaders when wider plots to overthrow the Saudi government are discussed. Yousef also spends parts of 1994 in the Philippines, responding to bin Laden’s request to further train the Abu Sayyaf militant group there (see August-September 1994). [Reeve, 1999, pp. 71-72] The 9/11 Commission will not mention evidence such as this, and instead it will conclude that Yousef’s ties to bin Laden were tenuous, saying that in the early 1990s Yousef and his uncle, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, were “rootless but experienced operatives… who—though not necessarily formal members of someone else’s organization—were traveling around the world and joining in projects that were supported by or linked to bin Laden, the Blind Sheikh, or their associates.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 59]
Bomber Ramzi Yousef trains with members of the Abu Sayyaf, a Philippine militant group. He sneaks into the Philippines by boat to the southern island of Basilan, where Abu Sayyaf influence is strong. He tries to teach about 20 Abu Sayyaf operatives about explosives, but is frustrated by their inability to learn. After a few weeks, he goes to Manila to make the bombs needed for the planned Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995) himself. However, some Abu Sayyaf militants are involved in the Bojinka plot, though details of their exact roles are scarce (see Late 1994-January 1995). There will be additional training in December 1994, involving five Filipinos and more foreigners (see January 3, 1995). [Reeve, 1999, pp. 72; Ressa, 2003, pp. 25-28] Trusted al-Qaeda operative and fellow Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah also trains the Abu Sayyaf. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 139]
Sam Karmilowicz, a security officer at the US embassy in Manila, Philippines, will later claim that on September 18, 1994 the embassy receives a call from an anonymous person speaking with a Middle Eastern accent that there is a plot to assassinate President Clinton, who is scheduled to visit Manila from November 12 through 14, 1994. The caller says that a Pakistani businessman named Tariq Javed Rana is one of the leaders of the plot. Further, Rana is using counterfeit US money to help pay for the plot. An interagency US security team is immediately notified and begins investigating the threat. A few weeks later, Karmilowicz is told by members of this team that the plot was a hoax. Clinton comes to the Philippines as scheduled and no attack takes place. [CounterPunch, 3/9/2006] However, bomber Ramzi Yousef moved to the Philippines in early 1994, along with his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and associate Wali Khan Amin Shah. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Yousef will later confess to FBI agents that he planned to assassinate Clinton by blowing up his motorcade with a missile or explosives, but gave up because the security was so tight. Shah will also confess to this plot and add that the order to kill Clinton came from bin Laden. [Guardian, 8/26/1998] CNN will report in 1998, “The United States was aware of the planned attempt before the president left for the Philippines and as a result, security around the president was intensified.” [CNN, 8/25/1998] Secret Service sources will later report that large sums of counterfeit US currency were entering the Philippines during the time of the plot. Karmilowicz will conclude that the warning about the assassination was accurate and that Tariq Rana was involved in the plot. CNN reporter Maria Ressa will later tell Karmilowicz that her sources in the Philippine intelligence and police believe that Rana is a close associate of Yousef and KSM. Additionally, her sources believe Rana is connected to the Pakistani ISI. [CounterPunch, 3/9/2006] Rana will be monitored by Philippines police and eventually arrested in April 1995 (see December 1994-April 1995).
Entity Tags: Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Osama bin Laden, Ramzi Yousef, US intelligence, Tariq Javed Rana, Sam Karmilowicz, Maria Ressa, Wali Khan Amin Shah, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Avelino “Sonny” Razon. [Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corp.]In December 1994, Philippine police reportedly begin monitoring a Pakistani businessman by the name of Tariq Javed Rana. According to Avelino Razon, a Philippine security official, the decision to put Rana under surveillance is prompted by a report that “Middle Eastern personalities” are planning to assassinate Pope John Paul II during his upcoming January 1995 visit to Manila. “[We] had one man in particular under surveillance—Tariq Javed Rana, a Pakistani suspected of supporting international terrorists with drug money. He was a close associate of Ramzi Yousef,” Razon later recalls. But it is possible that police began monitoring Rana before this date. In September, the Philippine press reported that he was a suspect in an illegal drug manufacturing ring, and the US embassy in Manila received a tip that Rana was linked to the ISI and was part of a plot to assassinate President Clinton during his November 1994 visit to Manila (see September 18-November 14, 1994). [CounterPunch, 3/9/2006] While under surveillance in December, Rana’s house burns down. Authorities determine that the fire was caused by nitroglycerin which can be used to improvise bombs. One month later, a fire caused by the same chemical is started in Ramzi Yousef’s Manila apartment (see January 6, 1995), leading to the exposure of the Bojinka plot to assassinate the Pope and crash a dozen airplanes. [Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12/1/2002; CounterPunch, 3/9/2006] Rana is arrested by Philippine police in early April 1995. It is announced in the press that he is connected to Yousef and that he will be charged with investment fraud. He is said to have supported the militant group Abu Sayyaf and to have helped Yousef escape the Philippines after the fire in Yousef’s apartment. A search of the Lexis Nexus database shows there have been no media reports about Rana since his arrest. Around the same time as his arrest, six other suspected Bojinka plotters are arrested, but then eventually let go (see April 1, 1995-Early 1996). [Associated Press, 4/2/1995]
Damage inside the Philippine Airlines flight. [Source: CNN]Ramzi Yousef attempts a trial run of Operation Bojinka, planting a small bomb on a Philippine Airlines flight to Tokyo and disembarking on a stopover before the bomb is detonated. The bomb explodes, killing one man and injuring several others. It would have successfully caused the plane to crash if not for the heroic efforts of the pilot. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; US Congress, 9/18/2002] A man telephones the Associated Press and claims the attack was the work of the Abu Sayyaf, a Philippine militant group. One Bojinka plotter will later confess that the caller was Yousef. Yousef makes the call as part of a long term cooperation arrangement with the Abu Sayyaf. [Los Angeles Times, 5/28/1995] Yousef has been working with the Abu Sayyaf for several years and members of the group are deeply involved in the Bojinka plot (see December 1991-May 1992 and Late 1994-January 1995).
When bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohamed Jamal Khalifa is arrested in San Francisco, his phonebook and electronic organizer are found. They contain phone numbers to Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah, associates of Bojinka plotter Ramzi Yousef, and Osama bin Laden’s phone number. When the Manila apartment used by these two plotters is raided, Yousef’s computer contains Khalifa’s phone number. Shah is arrested several days later, and his phone book and phone bills contain five phone numbers for Khalifa, plus Khalifa’s business card. Phone bills also show frequent telephone traffic between Khalifa and Shah’s apartment in Manila in November 1994. When Yousef is arrested in February 1995 (see February 7, 1995), he has Khalifa’s phone number and address, and more information on him in an encrypted computer file. Not surprisingly given all these links, Yousef is questioned about his ties to Khalifa within hours of being taken into US custody. He admits that he knew the name bin Laden, and knew him to be a relative of Khalifa’s. [San Francisco Chronicle, 4/18/1995; Associated Press, 4/26/1995; US Congress, 4/29/2002] Khalifa has already been tied to two others convicted of the 1993 WTC bombing. Yet despite these ties to Islamic militancy, and others, he will be deported from the US (see December 16, 1994-May 1995).
Mohammed Jamal Khalifa. [Source: CBS News]Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law to bin Laden, is arrested in the US. He is held for visa fraud, but he is believed to be a major terrorist. His arrest takes place at a Holiday Inn in Morgan Hill, California. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001] That is only about 20 miles from Santa Clara, where double agent Ali Mohamed is running an al-Qaeda cell (see 1987-1998). Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will later say of Khalifa and Mohamed, “It seems to me that they were probably in contact. I’m basing that only intuitively on the fact that they were in the same area, they were close to bin Laden, and they would’ve had an incentive to stay together.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 167] According to one account, Khalifa is arrested on behalf of the government of Jordan, because he is on trial there. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001] Another account claims that Philippine authorities “tipped off Federal authorities on Khalifa’s movements.” [Filipino Reporter, 4/27/1995] He is traveling on a Saudi passport. He’d flown into the US from London on December 1 and has papers indicating he would be heading back to the Philippines. [Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159] It has been claimed that the CIA helped him get his US visa (see December 1, 1994). There are many reasons for US authorities to suspect Khalifa is a major terrorist figure:
He is arrested with Mohammed Loay Bayazid, one of the dozen or so original members of al-Qaeda. Bayazid had attempted to purchase nuclear material for bin Laden the year before (see December 16, 1994).
Philippine investigators had recently completed a secret report on terrorist funding. The report focuses on Khalifa, and says his activities in the Philippines strongly link with Muslim extremist movements in Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Russia, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Romania, Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, Albania, the Netherlands, and Morocco. It calls a charity which Khalifa runs a “pipeline through which funding for the local extremists is being coursed.” Perhaps not coincidentally, the report was released just one day before Khalifa’s arrest in the US (see December 15, 1994).
His possessions, which are quickly examined and translated, include a handwritten manual in Arabic detailing how to set up a terrorist curriculum at a school in the Philippines, giving lessons in bomb-making and assassination. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001]
Khalifa’s business card was discovered in a search of the New York City residence of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman in 1993 (see August 1993).
He is an unindicted coconspirator in the “Landmarks” bombings plot, which would have killed thousands in New York City. The trial is getting underway at this time. Abdul-Rahman will be convicted and sentenced to over 300 years in prison (see June 24, 1993).
A State Department cable from days after his arrest states Khalifa is a “known financier of terrorist operations and an officer of an Islamic NGO in the Philippines that is a known Hamas front.”
An alias is found in his personal organizer that was also used in a bomb-making manual brought into the US by Ahmad Ajaj, Ramzi Yousef’s travel partner, when the two of them came to the US to implement the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see September 1, 1992).
Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah’s phone number is found in Khalifa’s possessions. The Bojinka plot, if successful, also would have killed thousands (see January 6, 1995). [Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159]
A number in Pakistan that Ramzi Yousef had used to call the Philippines is found as well. Author Peter Lance will later note that such numbers “should have led the FBI directly to Ramzi Yousef, the world’s most wanted man” at the time. [Lance, 2006, pp. 160]
However, despite this wealth of highly incriminating material, within weeks of his arrest the US will decide to deport him to Jordan (see January 5, 1995). Over the next four months, even more of his links to terrorist activity will be discovered (see Late December 1994-April 1995). But Khalifa will be deported anyway (see April 26-May 3, 1995), and then soon freed in Jordan (see July 19, 1995).
Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Steven Emerson, US Department of State, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Philippines, Ahmad Ajaj, Peter Lance, Mohammed Loay Bayazid, Ali Mohamed, Osama bin Laden, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Jordan, Omar Abdul-Rahman
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
French special forces storming the hijacked Air France plane. [Source: French channel 3]An Air France Airbus A300 carrying 227 passengers and crew is hijacked in Algiers, Algeria by four Algerians wearing security guard uniforms. They are members of a militant group linked to al-Qaeda. They land in Marseille, France, and demand a very large amount of jet fuel. During a prolonged standoff, the hijackers kill two passengers and release 63 others. They are heavily armed with 20 sticks of dynamite, assault rifles, hand grenades, and pistols. French authorities later determine their aim is to crash the plane into the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but French Special Forces storm the plane before it can depart from Marseille. [Time, 1/2/1995; New York Times, 10/3/2001] Time magazine details the Eiffel Tower suicide plan in a cover story. A week later, Philippine investigators breaking up the Bojinka plot in Manila find a copy of the Time story in bomber Ramzi Yousef’s possessions. Author Peter Lance notes that Yousef had close ties to Algerian Islamic militants and may have been connected to or inspired by the plot. [Time, 1/2/1995; Lance, 2003, pp. 258] Even though this is the third attempt in 1994 to crash an airplane into a building, the New York Times will note after 9/11 that “aviation security officials never extrapolated any sort of pattern from those incidents.” [New York Times, 10/3/2001] Some doubts about who was ultimately behind the hijacking will surface later when allegations emerge that the GIA is infiltrated by Algerian intelligence. There is even evidence the top leader of the GIA at this time is a government mole (see October 27, 1994-July 16, 1996). As journalist Jonathan Randal later relates, the aircraft was originally held at the Algiers airport “in security circumstances so suspect the French government criticized what it felt was the Algerian authorities’ ambiguous behavior. Only stern French insistence finally extracted [Algerian government] authorization to let the aircraft take off.” [Randal, 2005, pp. 171]
News reports will later reveal that a Philippine government undercover operative working with the Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf was deeply involved in the Bojinka plot, an early version of the 9/11 plot. Edwin Angeles, an uncover operative so deeply imbedded in Abu Sayyaf that he was actually the group’s second in command, gave up his cover in February 1995 (see Early February 1995), weeks after the Bojinka plot was foiled (see January 6, 1995). In 1996, the New York Times will report that according to US investigators, “Angeles said he worked alongside [Ramzi] Yousef as he planned the details of the [Bojinka] plot.” [New York Times, 8/30/1996] The Advertiser, an Australian newspaper, reports that after giving up his cover, Angeles reveals that Abdurajak Janjalani, the leader of Abu Sayyaf, and Abu Sayyaf generally, had a “far greater role in the plot to assassinate the Pope and blow up the US airliners than foreign intelligence agencies had previously thought. He said he had met Yousef several times in the Manila flat…” Unlike the New York Times, which only reported that Angeles switched sides in February 1995, the Advertiser notes that “many people believe” Angeles “was a military-planted spy” all along. [Advertiser, 6/3/1995] This will be confirmed in later news reports, and in fact Angeles secretly had worked for Philippine intelligence since the formation of Abu Sayyaf in 1991 (see 1991-Early February 1995). It is not clear what Angeles may have told his government handlers while the Bojinka plot was in motion, if anything.
Bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa was arrested in the US in mid-December 1994 (see December 16, 1994-May 1995), and as he is held the evidence tying him to terrorism continues to grow:
One week after his arrest, the State Department tells the immigration judge handling Khalifa’s case that he had “engaged in serious terrorist offenses” and that his release “would endanger US national security.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159]
In early January, police in the Philippines uncover the Bojinka plot, involving associates of Khalifa. A Philippine investigator makes a chart connecting the Bojinka figures and places Khalifa in the middle of it (see Spring 1995). The plot, if successful, would have killed thousands while also assassinating the Pope (see January 6, 1995). Meanwhile, The FBI translates literature in Khalifa’s luggage advocating training in assassination, explosives, and weapons, including discussions of the “wisdom of bombing churches and murdering Catholic priests.” [New York Times, 5/2/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 233-35]
Phone numbers to Khalifa’s Philippine charity fronts are found on bomber Ramzi Yousef’s laptop seized in early January 1995 as the Bojinka plot is exposed. Khalifa’s business card is found in the apartment Yousef was staying in as well. [Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159, 203]
Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah is arrested in early January 1995. He is found with multiple phone numbers for Khalifa. [Stephen Handelman, 7/31/1996; Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159]
When Yousef is arrested in February 1995 (see February 7, 1995), he will be asked about Khalifa’s business card found in his apartment. According to an FBI report issued at the time, Yousef claims that he did not personally know Khalifa, but had been given the card by fellow Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah as a contact in case he needed help. He also says that he is aware that Khalifa is a relative of Osama bin Laden. [Lance, 2006, pp. 203]
In February and March, Philippine interrogation of one Bojinka plotter uncovers a planned second wave of attacks that would involve flying airplanes into US buildings, including the World Trade Center, CIA headquarters, and the Pentagon (see February-Early May 1995). This will eventually evolve into the 9/11 attacks. US investigators are notified about this sometime in the spring of 1995 (see Spring 1995).
On April 1, Philippine authorities arrest six men and announce they are connected to Khalifa and Bojinka plotters such as Ramzi Yousef (see April 1, 1995-Early 1996). The Philippine Interior Secretary calls Khalifa a key figure in Islamic extremist efforts. [Associated Press, 4/16/1995]
The Associated Press reports that Khalifa is believed to be “a key figure in efforts to recruit new members of the Abu Sayyaf group.” On April 4, the Abu Sayyaf raid a Christian town called Ipil and kill over fifty people in what is the group’s largest and most brutal terrorist attack (see April 4, 1995). This increases the importance of Khalifa’s ties with them. [Associated Press, 4/16/1995]
Khalifa is accused by Yemen, Egypt, and Algeria of financing subversion in those countries. [Associated Press, 4/16/1995]
Despite all this evidence, Khalifa will soon be deported to Jordan for retrial there (see May 3, 1995-August 31, 1995), even though the key witness against him has already recanted. He will be found innocent and set free (see July 19, 1995).
Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, one of the founders and top leaders of al-Qaeda (see August 11-20, 1988), periodically lives in the Philippines during these years. Philippine officials will later note that their country makes a good place for Islamic militants to hide out due to lax immigration and “places of refuge” in the southern Philippines where a number of Islamic groups are fighting the government. [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10/1/2001; Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12/1/2002] In addition, Salim is believed to have visited Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) in 1994 while they were working on the Bojinka plot in the Philippines. It is thought that he already had close ties to KSM by that time. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 139] Salim will be arrested in Germany in late 1998 (see September 16, 1998) and charged with helping to plan the 1998 US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Between 1994 and his 1998 arrest, it is believed he traveled to more than 20 countries, including Russia and Canada. [New York Times, 12/5/1998]
Two businessmen inform Philippine police that they heard explosions and saw Middle Eastern men engaged in what appeared to be military-type training on a remote beach two hours from Manila. Police quickly investigate and discover a partially burned Bible and pamphlets preaching a radical version of Islam. As a result, police go on red alert and several days later will foil the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). An investigation conducted the following month will conclude that there were 20 people taking part in military-styled training on the beach from the last week of December until January 2. Fifteen of them were foreign nationals, from Egypt, Palestine, and Pakistan. [Vitug and Gloria, 2000, pp. 222-223; Ressa, 2003, pp. 33] Ramzi Yousef is likely elsewhere at the time, but a beach house at this training location was rented by him. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 86] Despite the suggestion that large numbers of people are involved in the Bojinka plot, the US will apparently lose interest in the case after detaining just three of the plotters. Later in 1995, the Philippine government will arrest several dozen suspected foreign terrorists and then let them go (see April 1, 1995-Early 1996). [Vitug and Gloria, 2000, pp. 222-223; Ressa, 2003, pp. 33]
The Josefa apartment, where the fire that foiled the Bojinka plot took place. [Source: CBC]It has widely been reported that the Bojinka plot was stopped by pure accident, days before plots to kill the Pope and thousands of airline passengers were to go forward (see January 6, 1995). Philippine policewoman Aida Fariscal is said to have made the first arrest by responding to a routine report of a fire in the Manila apartment where some of the plotters were staying. She chases Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad down the street and arrests him when he trips on a tree stump. [Washington Post, 12/30/2001] However, shortly after 9/11, the Philippine press will report that while the initial arrest may have been coincidental, Philippine intelligence was already monitoring Ramzi Yousef and the apartment where the fire took place. Rolando San Juan was reportedly an undercover agent monitoring Yousef and his apartment mate Murad. He was passing what he learned to his brother Erick San Juan, a special intelligence officer. One article concludes, “The role of the San Juan brothers is not known publicly and it is time the Philippine and US governments give them due credit for the unmasking of the activities of Murad and Yousef leading to their capture.” [Filipino Reporter, 10/11/2001] In 2002, the Los Angeles Times will discount the widely reported accidental fire story and say, “The truth about that night and the fire, officials say now, is a bit more complicated.… Government officials now say police, worried about the pope’s imminent arrival, started the fire that set off the alarm at the Josefa. When it sounded, the occupants ran out, the cops walked in and looked around. They then left and hunted down a search warrant.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] It will also be later revealed that an undercover operative named Edwin Angeles actually worked with Yousef on the Bojinka plot while reporting to the Philippine government (see Late 1994-January 1995)), and other key Bojinka plotters such as Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, and Tariq Javid Rana were under intensive surveillance before the fire as well (see December 1, 1994 and December 1994-April 1995). It is not known what US intelligence may have been told about this surveillance, if anything. Despite all this surveillance, all the Bojinka plotters except Murad manage to escape, although many, such as Yousef, are arrested later (see February 7, 1995).
One of Ramzi Yousef’s timers seized by Philippines police in January 1995. [Source: Peter Lance]Responding to an apartment fire, Philippine investigators uncover an al-Qaeda plot to assassinate the Pope that is scheduled to take place when he visits the Philippines one week later. While investigating that scheme, they also uncover Operation Bojinka, planned by the same people: 1993 WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). [Independent, 6/6/2002; Los Angeles Times, 6/24/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Many initial reports after 9/11 will claim the fire was accidental and the police discovery of it was a lucky break, but in 2002 the Los Angeles Times will report that the police started the fire on purpose as an excuse to look around the apartment. In the course of investigating the fire, one of the main plotters, Abdul Hakim Murad, is arrested. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] The plot has two main components. On January 12, Pope John Paul II is scheduled to visit Manila and stay for five days. A series of bombs along his parade route would be detonated by remote control, killing thousands, including the Pope. Yousef’s apartment is only 500 feet from the residence where the Pope will be staying. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 78; Lance, 2006, pp. 138] Then, starting January 21, a series of bombs would be placed on airplanes. [Insight, 5/27/2002] Five men, Yousef, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Abdul Hakim Murad, Abd al-Karim Yousef (a.k.a., Adel Anon, Yousef’s twin brother), and Khalid Al-Shaikh (thought to be an alias for KSM) would depart to different Asian cities and place a timed bomb on board during the first leg of passenger planes traveling to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, and New York. They would then transfer to another flight and place a second bomb on board that flight. In all, 11 to 12 planes would blow up in a two day period over the Pacific. If successful, some 4,000 people would have been killed. [Agence France-Presse, 12/8/2001; Insight, 5/27/2002; Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12/1/2002] According to another account, some of the bombs would be timed to go off weeks or even months later. Presumably worldwide air travel could be interrupted for months. [Lance, 2003, pp. 260-61] A second wave of attacks involving crashing airplanes into buildings in the US would go forward later, once the pilots are trained for it (see February-Early May 1995).
After the Bojinka plot is exposed in the Philippines on January 6, 1995 (see January 6, 1995), most of the plotters are either arrested or flee the country. An exception is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). According to Philippine police reports, he stays in the country until September 1995. He is most likely under the protection of Abu Sayyaf, a local al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group. When he leaves, he goes to the Persian Gulf, where he already has protection in Qatar (see 1992-1996 and January-May 1996). [Fouda and Fielding, 2003, pp. 100] KSM trained Abu Sayyaf militants in the Philippines in 1991 (see 1991), his nephew Ramzi Yousef had done the same in 1994 (see August-September 1994), and some Abu Sayyaf figures were involved in the Bojinka plot (see Late 1994-January 1995). Abu Sayyaf has been deeply penetrated by informants at this time. In fact, a Philippine informant named Edwin Angeles is so deeply embedded in Abu Sayyaf that he actually is the group’s second in command (see Late 1994-January 1995). Angeles gives up his cover in February 1995, he was closely involved in the Bojinka plot, and he is debriefed for weeks and helps get a number of Abu Sayyaf leaders arrested. But it is unknown if he attempts to help find KSM (see Early February 1995).
Bomb making materials found in Yousef’s Manila apartment. [Source: CNN]After a late night raid of the Manila, Philippines, apartment central to the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), investigators find what the Los Angeles Times will call “an intelligence gold mine.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Very quickly, a team of US intelligence agents joins Philippine investigators to sort through the evidence, which fills three police vans. Investigators are able to match fingerprints in the apartment with fingerprints on record for Ramzi Yousef, already believed to be the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993). There are priests’ robes, pipe bombs, a dozen passports, chemicals, maps of the Pope’s planned route through Manila, and more. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] “The most damning information was gleaned from Yousef’s notebook computer, and four accompanying diskettes.” The data is encrypted and in Arabic, but technicians are quickly able to decipher and translate it. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001] Computer data includes “the names of dozens of associates, and photos of some; a record of five-star hotels; and dealings with a trading corporation in London, a meat market owner in Malaysia, and an Islamic center in Tucson, Ariz.… They describe how money moved through an Abu Dhabi banking firm.” [Washington Post, 9/23/2001] Photographs of all five operatives who would place bombs on airplanes are recovered from a deleted computer file. [Los Angeles Times, 5/28/1995] Wali Khan Amin Shah is identified from one of these five photos, plus a list of cell phone numbers found on the hard drive. He is traced to another Manila apartment and arrested on January 11. Under interrogation, Shah, who soon escapes from custody in unexplained circumstances (see January 13, 1995), confesses that most of the funds for the Bojinka plot were channeled to Yousef through a bank account belonging to Ahmad al-Hamwi, a Syrian working at the International Relations and Information Center (IRIC), a charity front run by Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001] But despite these leads, Ramzi Yousef is the only other person successfully arrested based on all this data (and Yousef’s arrest will largely be due to an informant responding to an existing tip off program (see February 7, 1995)). The Philippine government will arrest other Bojinka plotters later in the year, including another one of the five operatives assigned to place bombs on the planes, but they will all be released (see April 1, 1995-Early 1996). Al-Hamwi is never arrested, while Khalifa is actually in US custody at the time of the Bojinka raid but is soon let go (see April 26-May 3, 1995). The IRIC will be closed down, but its operations are immediately taken over by another close associate of Khalifa (see 1995 and After).
As the Bojinka plot is foiled (see January 6, 1995), a document found on Ramzi Yousef’s computer spells out the Bojinka plotters’ broad objectives. “All people who support the US government are our targets in our future plans and that is because all those people are responsible for their government’s actions and they support the US foreign policy and are satisfied with it.… We will hit all US nuclear targets. If the US government keeps supporting Israel, then we will continue to carry out operations inside and outside the United States to include…” At this point, the document comes to a halt in mid-sentence. [Washington Post, 9/23/2001] Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, much more than Ramzi Yousef, is the mastermind of the Bojinka plot. He will continue to work on the plot until it eventually morphs into the 9/11 attack. [Associated Press, 6/25/2002] Philippine Gen. Renado De Villa will later state, “They didn’t give up the objective.” Captured Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad “clearly indicated it was a large-scale operation. They were targeting the US. And they had a worldwide network. It was very clear they continued to work on that plan until someone gave the signal to go.” [Washington Post, 9/23/2001]
One of the Bojinka plotters, Abdul Hakim Murad, confesses the importance of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) in a number of plots. Murad was arrested on January 6, 1995 (see January 6, 1995), and within days he begins freely confessing a wealth of valuable information to Philippine interrogator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza. Murad does not know KSM’s real name, but uses an alias known to investigators. Mendoza will write in a January 1995 report given to US officials that KSM was one of the main Bojinka plotters attempting to blow up US-bound airliners over the Pacific Ocean. In addition, he says KSM worked with Ramzi Yousef to “plan the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993” (see February 26, 1993). He also says that KSM “supervised the plan to assassinate Pope John Paul II with a pipe bomb during a visit to the Philippines,” which was part of the Bojinka plot. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. xxvii] Over the next few months, Murad will give up more information about KSM in further interrogation, for instance revealing that KSM has been in the US and is planning to come back to the US for flight training (see April-May 1995). Yet despite all these revelations, US intelligence will remain curiously uninterested in KSM despite knowing that he is also Yousef’s uncle. Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will later comment that Murad’s confessions about KSM “were not taken seriously” by US intelligence. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. xxvii]
Abdul Hakim Murad.
[Source: Justice Department]Philippine and US investigators learn that Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and their fellow plotters were actually planning three different attacks when they were foiled in early January. In addition to the planned assassination of the Pope, and the first phase of Operation Bojinka previously discovered, they also planned to crash about a dozen passenger planes into prominent US buildings. It is often mistakenly believed that there is one Bojinka plan to blow up some planes and crash others into buildings, but in fact these different forms of attack are to take place in two separate phases. [Lance, 2003, pp. 259] Philippine investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza learns about this second phase through the examination of recently captured Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad. On January 20, Mendoza writes a memo about Murad’s latest confession, saying, “With regards to their plan to dive-crash a commercial aircraft at the CIA headquarters, subject alleged that the idea of doing same came out during his casual conversation with [Yousef ] and there is no specific plan yet for its execution. What the subject [has] in his mind is that he will board any American commercial aircraft pretending to be an ordinary passenger. Then he will hijack said aircraft, control its cockpit, and dive it at the CIA headquarters. He will use no bomb or explosives. It is simply a suicidal mission that he is very much willing to execute.”
[Insight, 5/27/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 277-78]
Ramzi Yousef attempts to bomb two US airliners over the US. On January 31, 1995, Yousef flies from Pakistan to Thailand, despite an international manhunt, and meets his associate Istaique Parker there. Yousef has Parker check two suitcases filled with bombs and put one on a Delta Airlines flight and another on a United Airlines flight. Both are timed to blow up over populated areas of the US. Parker spends much of the day at the airport, but is too scared to approach the airlines with the suitcases. Finally he returns to Yousef at a hotel and lies that the airline cargo sections were asking for passports and fingerprints so he could not go through with it. Yousef comes up with another plan. He calls a friend in Qatar who is willing to take the suitcases to London and then fly them to the US where they will explode and destroy the plane. The name of this friend has not been revealed but his father is said to be a very senior politician and leading member of the establishment in Qatar. Yousef plans to use the friend’s diplomatic immunity to make sure the suitcases are not checked. (At this time, Yousef’s uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is living in Qatar as the guest of a Qatari cabinet official (see 1992-1996).) However, a problem develops and the plot cannot be carried out. On February 2, Yousef and Parker return to Pakistan. Parker turns Yousef in for reward money a few days later. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 98-100]
Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza. [Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation]As Colonel Mendoza, the Philippines investigator, continues to interrogate Operation Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad, details of a post-Bojinka “second wave” emerge. Author Peter Lance calls this phase “a virtual blueprint of the 9/11 attacks.” Murad reveals a plan to hijack commercial airliners at some point after the effect of Bojinka dies down. Murad himself had been training in the US for this plot. He names the ten or so buildings that would be targeted for attack:
An unidentified nuclear power plant.
The Transamerica Tower in San Francisco.
The Sears Tower in Chicago.
The World Trade Center.
John Hancock Tower in Boston.
The White House. [Washington Post, 12/30/2001; Lance, 2003, pp. 278-280; Playboy, 6/1/2005]
Murad continues to reveal more information about this plot until he is handed over to the FBI in April (see April-May 1995). He also mentions that ten suicide pilots have already been chosen and are training in the US (see February 1995-1996). Mendoza uses what he learns from Murad and other sources to make a flow chart connecting many key al-Qaeda figures together (see Spring 1995). Philippine authorities later claim that they provide all of this information to US authorities, but the US fails to follow up on any of it. [Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4] Sam Karmilowicz, a security official at the US embassy in Manila, Philippines during this time period, will later claim that just before Murad was deported to the US in early May, he picked up an envelope containing all that the Philippine government had learned from Murad. He then sent the envelope to a US Justice Department office in New York City. He believes Mike Garcia and Dietrich Snell, assistant US attorneys who will later prosecute Murad, almost certainly had access to this evidence (see Early 1998). [CounterPunch, 3/9/2006]
Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Ramzi Yousef, Rodolfo Mendoza, Hambali, Peter Lance, Dietrich Snell, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Mike Garcia, Abdul Hakim Murad
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
One day after returning to Pakistan with Ramzi Yousef from a failed attempt to blow up US airliners (see January 31-February 2, 1995), his accomplice Istaique Parker calls the US embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan and tells them he wants to turn in Yousef for reward money. Yousef had just told Parker that Parker’s name was on Yousef’s laptop that he left behind in the Philippines after the foiled Bojinka plot (see January 7-11, 1995). Parker realizes that it is just a matter of time before he is caught and he also had recently purchased a Newsweek magazine that had an article mentioning a $2 million reward for information leading to Yousef’s capture. Parker works with FBI and Pakistani agents and leads them to Yousef on February 7 (see February 7, 1995). Parker gets the reward money and a new identity in the US. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 105-106]
Ramzi Yousef apprehended. [Source: Public domain]Ramzi Yousef is arrested in Pakistan, in a safe house owned by Osama bin Laden (see February 1992-February 7, 1995). At the time, Yousef’s uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is staying in the same building and brazenly gives an interview to Time magazine as “Khalid Sheikh,” describing Yousef’s capture. [Lance, 2003, pp. 328] Yousef had recruited Istaique Parker to implement a limited version of Operation Bojinka, but Parker got cold feet and instead turned in Yousef (see February 3-7, 1995). [Lance, 2003, pp. 284-85] Robert I. Friedman, writing for New York magazine, will later report that at this time the CIA “fought with the FBI over arresting Yousef in Pakistan—the CIA reportedly wanted to continue tracking him—and President Clinton was forced to intervene.” [New York Magazine, 3/17/1995] Yousef is rendered to the US the next day and makes a partial confession while flying there (see February 8, 1995).
Shortly after bomber Ramzi Yousef is arrested (see February 7, 1995), investigators discover a computer file of a letter on his laptop that is signed by “Khalid Sheikh, and Bojinka.” An eyewitness account of the arrest is given to Time magazine by a “Khalid Sheikh,” who is also staying in the same building. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 154, 162] Investigators also discover that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) had frequently visited Yousef’s apartment in Manila, Philippines, where the bombs for the Bojinka plot were being made. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002] They also find Yousef has multiple fax and phone numbers for a “Khalid Doha.” Doha is the capital of Qatar. KSM has been living there openly since 1992 (see 1992-1995). Shortly after being apprehended, US authorities notice that Yousef calls one of these numbers in Qatar and asks to speak to a “Khalid.” The US already connected KSM to the 1993 WTC bombing just weeks after that attack and knew that he was living in Doha, Qatar (see March 20, 1993). [US Congress, 7/24/2003] There is an entry in Yousef’s seized telephone directory for a Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, Yousef’s uncle and KSM’s brother. Not long after this discovery is made, Pakistani investigators raid Zahid’s offices in Peshawar, Pakistan, but Zahid has already fled (see 1988-Spring 1995). In 1993, US investigators already discovered the connections between Yousef, Zahid, and KSM, after raiding Zahid’s house in Pakistan and finding pictures of them (see Spring 1993). [McDermott, 2005, pp. 154, 162] The FBI successfully arranges for a photograph to be taken of KSM. He is positively identified from the photo in December 1995. This results in his indictment in January 1996 for his role in the 1993 WTC bombing. US intelligence labels him a “top priority,” according the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003]
After Ramzi Yousef is arrested in Pakistan (see February 7, 1995), he is rendered to the US. He is read his rights before he boards the rendition flight and, as author Peter Lance will later comment, “at that time, in February 1995, the Justice Department was still quite scrupulous about the due process issues, so much so that after Yousef was led onto the plane [US agents] read him his Miranda warnings a second time.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 203] The aircraft used for the rendition belongs to the US Air Force and the operation is run by FBI manager Neil Herman. The plane is moved to a “quiet area” of Islamabad airport and, according to author Simon Reeve, Yousef is then “bundled on to the jet.” [Reeve, 1999, pp. 107] National Security Council official Daniel Benjamin will explain why Yousef and Mir Aimal Kasi (see January 25, 1993) are not extradited in the normal manner, but rendered: “Both were apprehended in Pakistan, whose leaders decided that the nation would rather not have those two—folk heroes to some—sitting in jail, awaiting extradition. Pakistan’s leaders feared that cooperating with the United States would be dangerously unpopular, so they wanted the suspects out of the country quickly.” [Washington Post, 10/21/2007] Yousef makes a partial confession while being flown to the US (see February 8, 1995).
One day after Ramzi Yousef is arrested in Pakistan (see February 7, 1995), he makes a partial confession while being flown to the US. Due to the speed of events, only two US officials, FBI agent Chuck Stern and Secret Service agent Brian Parr, sit with Yousef during the flight. Both officials had been part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) operation to catch him, and they have many questions for him.
Confession - Yousef, under the mistaken impression that anything he says to them is not admissible in court if no notes or recordings are taken, talks to them for six hours. He confesses to bombing the WTC (see February 26, 1993). He says he tried to shear the support columns holding up one tower so it could fall into the other and kill up to 250,000 people. When asked who funded him, he says he had been given money by friends and family, but refuses to elaborate. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 107-109] In fact, the agents secretly take notes and they will be used as evidence in Yousef’s trial.
Comment on WTC - As Yousef is flying over New York City on his way to a prison cell, an FBI agent asks him, “You see the Trade Centers down there, they’re still standing, aren’t they?” Yousef responds, “They wouldn’t be if I had enough money and enough explosives.” [MSNBC, 9/23/2001; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 135]
Some Information Forthcoming, Other Information Withheld - Yousef also soon admits to ties with Wali Khan Amin Shah, who fought with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, and Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, one of bin Laden’s brothers-in-law, who is being held by the US at this time (see December 16, 1994-May 1995). But although Yousef talks freely, he makes no direct mention of bin Laden, or the planned second wave of Operation Bojinka that closely parallels the later 9/11 plot (see Spring 1995). [Lance, 2003, pp. 297-98] He also fails to mention his uncle, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), who is still at large and was a co-mastermind in most of Yousef’s plots. When talking about his preparations to assassinate President Clinton in Manila (see September 18-November 14, 1994), Yousef makes a vague mention of an “intermediary” who is actually KSM, but refuses to discuss him any further. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. xxiv-xxv] However, Yousef’s arrest will soon lead investigators to KSM in other ways (see After February 7, 1995-January 1996).
Rafael Garcia. [Source: Newsbreak Weekly]Rafael Garcia, Chairman and CEO of the Mega Group of Computer Companies in the Philippines, often works with the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to decode computer files. He is assigned the task of decoding encrypted files on Ramzi Yousef’s computer. Garcia will later comment to a popular Philippine newsweekly, “This was how we found out about the various plots being hatched by the cell of Ramzi Yousef. First, there was the plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II. Then, we discovered a second, even more sinister plot: Project Bojinka… This was a plot to blow up 11 airlines over the Pacific Ocean, all in a 48-hour period… Then we found another document that discussed a second alternative to crash the 11 planes into selected targets in the United States instead of just blowing them up in the air. These included the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia; the World Trade Center in New York; the Sears Tower in Chicago; the Transamerica Tower in San Francisco; and the White House in Washington, DC… I submitted my findings to NBI officials, who most certainly turned over the report (and the computer) either to then Senior Superintendent Avelino Razon of the [Philippine National Police] or to Bob Heafner of the FBI… I have since had meetings with certain US authorities and they have confirmed to me that indeed, many things were done in response to my report.” [Newsbreak Weekly, 11/15/2001] Around the same time, Philippine interrogators were learning the same information from captured Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad (see February-Early May 1995). There has been some question whether Murad’s complete description of Bojinka’s second wave plot reached US authorities (see May 11, 1995), but if it did not, the US appears to have learned the information from Garcia’s report. In fact, after 9/11, Garcia will claim to have spoken to a retired FBI agent who will recall being aware of the Bojinka second wave plot, and says of it, “This was ignored in the preparation of evidence for the trial [of the Bojinka plotters] because there was no actual attempt to crash any plane into a US target.… So there was no crime to complain about.” [Village Voice, 9/26/2001]
The flow chart made by Colonel Mendoza. [Source: Peter Lance] (click image to enlarge)Philippines investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza makes a remarkably accurate flow chart connecting many key operators in the Bojinka plot, and sends it to US investigators. The chart is based on what he is learning from interrogating Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad (see February-Early May 1995), while also drawing on a terrorism report he recently finished (see December 15, 1994) and debriefings of a key undercover operative (see Early February 1995). The chart identifies the following key organizations as being involved in the plot:
Al-Harakat al-Islamiya. Meaning “Islamic Movement,” this is an apparently meaningless group name used by Ramzi Yousef and others to disguise their connections to al-Qaeda. Yousef also sometimes uses the equally meaningless name “The Liberation Army.”
The Abu Sayyaf. This Philippine Muslim militant group is believed to help with the Bojinka plot that is also penetrated by Philippine intelligence (see Late 1994-January 1995). The chart mentions 20 Abu Sayyaf operatives trained by Yousef in 1992 (see December 1991-May 1992). [Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4]
IRIC (International Research and Information Center). Most of the money for Bojinka is believed to flow through this charity front. The chart names the only three employees: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa (bin Laden’s brother-in-law), Abu Omar (whose real name is Ahmad al-Hamwi (see 1995 and After), and Dr. Zubair. Mendoza’s 1994 report names Abdul Salam Zubair as an Iraqi working as Khalifa’s assistant in running a number of charity fronts. [Japan Economic Newswire, 4/24/1995; Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4]
Konsonjaya. Money for the Bojinka plot also flows through this Malaysian business front (see June 1994). Amien Mohammed (real name: Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari) is named and is one of the company directors. There is a link to Wali Khan Amin Shah, another company director. Hambali, a major al-Qaeda figure, is also a company director but is not included in the chart.
The chart also mentions many other key figures in the plot:
Osama bin Laden, who is connected to the IRIC and Yousef’s group.
“Usama Asmorai / Wali K” is Wali Khan Amin Shah.
“Yousef / Adam Ali / A Basit” is Ramzi Yousef.
“Salem Ali / Mohmad” is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM).
Abdul Hakin Murad. [Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4]
“Ibrahim Muneer / Munir.” Ibrahim Munir, a rich Saudi Arabian businessman, has close ties to bin Laden. He came to the Philippines in November and witnesses say he was Yousef’s constant companion. In 2003, it will be reported he is still wanted by authorities. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 139; Ressa, 2003, pp. 20]
The names in hexagonal boxes are the girlfriends of the plotters. Some Bojinka money is transferred in their names.
However, despite the accurate information in this chart, only Shah, Yousef, and Murad will be caught before 9/11. Khalifa is actually in US custody at the time the US is given this chart (see December 16, 1994-May 1995), but he is allowed to be deported a short time later (see April 26-May 3, 1995). The US also learns about a connection between Konsonjaya and bin Laden by searching Yousef’s apartment. But the other Konsonjaya directors, including Hambali, will not be apprehended, and the IRIC will be allowed to continue functioning with the same staff after being taken over by another charity front connected to Khalifa (see 1995 and After). [Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4]
Entity Tags: Rodolfo Mendoza, Ramzi Yousef, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ahmad al-Hamwi, Abu Sayyaf, Abdul Salam Zubair, Konsonjaya, Hambali, Abdul Hakim Murad, International Relations and Information Center, Ibrahim Munir
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Many of the Bojinka plotters are arrested in the Philippines and then let go. On April 1, the Philippines police arrest six foreigners, who are from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. They seize a cache of weapons and explosives in their apartments. It is announced the men have ties to Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and Ramzi Yousef and that they are being charged with stockpiling illegal firearms. [New York Times, 4/3/1995; New York Times, 4/8/1995; South China Morning Post, 12/19/1995] On December 30, 15 more suspects are arrested. This group is made up of Iraqi, Sudanese, Saudi, and Pakistani nationals. They are found with guns and explosives. One of them is identified as Ramzi Yousef’s twin brother Abd al-Karim Yousef, who had been using the alias Adel Anon. [New York Times, 12/31/1995] Philippine authorities claim that not only were these men involved in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), but they were also planning to assassinate President Fidel Ramos and commanders of the Philippines army and national police. [CNN, 1/3/1996] Edwin Angeles had been an undercover operative posing as a top leader in the Abu Sayyaf militant group (see Late 1994-January 1995 and Early February 1995), and now he leads the investigation to capture these men based on what he knew about them when he was in Abu Sayyaf. However, he later claims that not all of them were guilty and that some of them were framed by the planting of weapons and other evidence. He goes public with this complaint in early 1996. All of the men are released on bail and then all of them jump bail. Some flee the Philippines while others stay and go into hiding. [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 7/10/2001; Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12/1/2002] It is not known what happens to most of these men after their release. But one of the men arrested in March 1995, Hadi Yousef Alghoul, will be arrested in the Philippines again in late 2001. He will be found with nearly 300 sticks of dynamite and accused of involvement in other plots as well (see December 26, 2001). In 2003, it will be reported that Abd al-Karim Yousef was recently traveling with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), and in the wake of KSM’s 2003 arrest he is capable of taking over as al-Qaeda’s operational commander. [Washington Post, 3/4/2003; Time, 3/8/2003] It has not been explained why the Philippines did not turn him over to the US, since the US had put out an alert for him in March 1995, shortly after his brother Ramzi Yousef was arrested. [New York Times, 3/20/1995]
Thomas Donlon. [Source: Thomas Donlon]Abdul Hakim Murad, a conspirator in the aborted Bojinka plot, gives FBI agents details of Bojinka and other terrorist plots against the United States while he is being flown to America from the Philippines, and one possible future attack he mentions is a second bombing of the World Trade Center. [New York Times, 8/6/1996; Lance, 2003, pp. 280; Graff, 2011, pp. 182] Philippine authorities hand Murad over to the FBI at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila on April 12. During the long flight to the US, he is interviewed by Special Agents Frank Pellegrino and Thomas Donlon for about five hours. He is read his Miranda rights twice. He then agrees to talk to Pellegrino and Thomas on the plane in English, without an interpreter. He says he wants to cooperate with the US government and agrees to give a statement. [United States v. Yousef, 5/29/1996; United States v. Yousef et al., 5/3/2002 ; Graff, 2011, pp. 182] He then provides the two FBI agents with minute details of the Bojinka plot and describes other plots against the US. [Lance, 2003, pp. 280; Graff, 2011, pp. 182]
Murad Describes His Role in Bojinka - Murad says his planned role in Bojinka was to board a flight in Singapore and plant a bomb on it before it made its first stop, in Hong Kong. After the plane landed in Hong Kong, he was to take a different flight back to Singapore and plant a bomb on this plane too. He says he’d expected the explosion when the bomb went off would tear a hole in the aircraft and cause it to crash in the Pacific Ocean. He says he believes other conspirators were going to bomb other flights. He says Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 WTC bombing, told him the bombing of a Philippine Airlines flight in December 1994 was a test run to ensure that the chemicals and timing devices in the bombs the Bojinka perpetrators would use worked properly (see December 12, 1994). [New York Times, 8/6/1996; United States v. Yousef et al., 5/3/2002 ]
Murad Describes Possible Future Attacks - Murad also describes some plans for future terrorist attacks. He says he discussed with Yousef the possibility of blowing up a nuclear plant in the US and the two men talked about conducting additional attacks on American airline carriers, such as United Airlines and Northwest Airlines. He says the aim of these attacks would be “to make the American people and the American government suffer for their support of Israel.” [New York Times, 8/6/1996; Lance, 2003, pp. 510] One chilling piece of information he provides is that Yousef intends to return to the US to bomb the WTC a second time. This is because Yousef “felt that he should have been able to bring it down the first time, but lack of money had left him unable to build a bomb of sufficient size,” journalist and author Garrett Graff will later write. [Lance, 2003, pp. 280; Graff, 2011, pp. 182] During the interview, Murad is “cooperative” and “a gentleman,” Pellegrino will state. He “answered all the questions without hesitation,” Pellegrino will say. [New York Times, 8/6/1996] The flight with Murad on board arrives in New York on April 13. [United States v. Yousef, 5/29/1996]
Newsday reports, “Some crucial computer evidence against notorious terrorist suspect Ramzi Yousef has been destroyed, and the FBI has begun an investigation into whether the CIA is responsible…” After the Bojinka plot was foiled in the Philippines (see January 6, 1995), a computer hard drive and several floppy discs were discovered in Yousef’s Manila apartment and found to contain a great deal of useful evidence. Pictures and phone numbers recovered from the hard drive led to the arrest of another Bojinka plotter just days later (see January 7-11, 1995). The computer files were copied by Philippine authorities and then turned over to the CIA. The CIA then “provided the FBI with a summary of the files, indicating they contained detailed information about Yousef’s coconspirators in the United States and overseas, including their names, addresses and in some cases, even phone numbers.… But when the CIA turned over the actual computer and disks, Justice Department experts determined that at least three separate computer deletion programs had been used to erase some of the data, law-enforcement sources said.” One US law-enforcement official complains, “We had teams of investigators frothing at the mouth to get at Yousef’s network. And we get handed an empty computer. It’s as if we’d been tracking a serial killer and someone intentionally shredded the investigative file.” Officials believe it is not likely the files will ever be recovered. Newsday reports that “The FBI is investigating whether CIA agents or their operatives intentionally destroyed the evidence.” Since Philippine authorities made copies of the files, the FBI has tried to get copies directly from them, but without success. [Newsday, 4/16/1995] A search of the Lexis Nexus database shows no follow up to this story. But only three Bojinka plotters—Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad, and Wali Khan Amin Shah—are arrested in the years before 9/11, and the rest of the network goes free.
In the hours after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), some believe that the bombing was the work of Islamist terrorists. Televised news reports air theories of Islamist involvement, and say that eyewitnesses have reported seeing “Middle Eastern-looking men” fleeing the scene of the crime. [Los Angeles Times, 4/20/1995; Fox News, 4/13/2005] One eyewitness describes a man running from the scene clad in a black jogging outfit; many both in US intelligence and in the media assume that the man is likely Middle Eastern. One source tells reporters that the FBI has received claims of responsibility from at least eight groups, seven of which seem to be of Middle Eastern origin. Some officials privately fear that the bombing is the work of either Hamas or Islamic Jihad, two violently militant Islamist organizations. [Los Angeles Times, 4/20/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 185] Later in the day, Abdul Hakim Murad, an al-Qaeda operative in US custody, attempts to take credit for the bombing, but his associate Ramzi Yousef, also in US custody, does not (see April 19, 1995). In another instance, Jordanian-American Abraham Ahmad, attempting to fly to Jordan to visit relatives, is detained and questioned during a layover in Chicago. Ahmad, whom some sources describe as Palestinian-American, lives in Oklahoma City. A naturalized citizen who has lived in Oklahoma City since 1982, he has a background in computer science and is making a scheduled departure this morning to Jordan. His five suitcases contain, among other items, several car radios, large amounts of electrical wires, solder, a VCR, and a tool kit. He has packed a blue jogging suit and a pair of black sweatpants. Federal magistrates rush to serve him with a material warrant, moving so quickly that they misspell his name. He is stopped and questioned in Chicago before being allowed to continue his flight. He is stopped again in London, and this time is detained, strip-searched, and paraded in handcuffs through the crowded airport. He is photographed, fingerprinted, and returned to Washington before being transported to Oklahoma City. His name is leaked to the news media as a possible bombing suspect, creating a firestorm of interest; reporters crowd around his family’s home in Oklahoma City, and angry citizens vandalize his front yard. Authorities learn that Ahmad is going to Jordan for a family emergency. He will be released on April 21, will attend a memorial service for the bombing victims, and will file a $1.9 million lawsuit against the federal government. In later days, government officials such as counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will say that the possibility of Islamist involvement on some level is difficult to disprove (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994 and November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). [Serrano, 1998, pp. 185-186; Clarke, 2004, pp. 127; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Justice Department spokesman John Russell says of Ahmad: “He cooperated. There is no reason for him to be held.” (The Washington Post, in reporting this, does not name Ahmad, and identifies him as “Palestinian-American.”) [Washington Post, 4/22/1995] Shortly after the bombing, senior FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt, who had worked with the FBI at the Branch Davidian siege outside Waco, concludes that the bomber is probably a white male with militia ties and not an Islamist terrorist (see April 19, 1995).
Abdul Hakim Murad is in a US prison awaiting trial for his alleged role in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). Told about the Oklahoma City bombing that took place earlier in the day (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), he immediately takes credit for the bombing on behalf of his associate Ramzi Yousef. However, Yousef, also in US custody at the time, makes no such claim (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). An FBI report detailing Murad’s claim will be submitted to FBI headquarters the next day. [Lance, 2006, pp. 163-164] A Philippine undercover operative will later claim that Terry Nichols, who will be convicted for a major role in the Oklahoma City bombing, met with Murad, Yousef, and others in the Philippines in 1994, and discussed blowing up a building in Oklahoma and several other locations (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994). Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later comment: “Could [Yousef] have been introduced to [Nichols]? We do not know, despite some FBI investigation. We do know that Nichols’s bombs did not work before his Philippine stay and were deadly when he returned.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 127] Mike Johnston, a lawyer representing the Oklahoma City bombing victims’ families, will later comment: “Why should Murad be believed? For one thing, Murad made his ‘confession’ voluntarily and spontaneously. Most important, Murad tied Ramzi Yousef to the Oklahoma City bombing long before Terry Nichols was publicly identified as a suspect.” [Insight, 6/22/2002] Also on this day, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, an associate of Yousef and Murad who is being held in the US, is moved from a low security prison to a maximum security prison. [Lance, 2006, pp. 164] But despite these potential links to Muslim militants, only five days after the Oklahoma City bombing the New York Times will report, “Federal officials said today that there was no evidence linking people of the Muslim faith or of Arab descent to the bombing here.” [New York Times, 4/24/1995] Murad’s claim apparently will not be reported in any newspaper until two years later [Rocky Mountain News, 6/17/1995] , when lawyers for Nichols’s bombing partner, Timothy McVeigh, tell reporters that their defense strategy will be to claim that the bombing was the work of “foreign terrorists” led by “a Middle Eastern bombing engineer.” The lawyers will claim that the bombing was “contracted out” through an Iraqi intelligence base in the Philippines, and it is “possible that those who carried out the bombing were unaware of the true sponsor.” The lawyers also say it is possible, though less likely, that the bombing was carried out by right-wing white supremacists, perhaps from the Elohim City compound (see 1973 and After, 1983, 1992 - 1995, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, August 1994 - March 1995, September 12, 1994 and After, November 1994, February 1995, and April 5, 1995). [New York Times, 3/26/1997] The claims of foreign involvement will be discredited (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After).
FBI agents, having held Operation Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad for about a month, write a memo containing what they have learned from interrogating him. The memo contains many interesting revelations, including that Ramzi Yousef, a mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, “wanted to return to the United States in the future to bomb the World Trade Center a second time.” However, this memo does not contain a word about the second wave of Operation Bojinka—to fly about 12 hijacked airplanes into prominent US buildings—even though Murad had recently fully confessed this plot to Philippines investigators, who claim they turned over tapes, transcripts, and reports with Murad’s confessions of the plot to the US when they handed over Murad. It has not been explained why this plot is not mentioned in the FBI’s summary of Murad’s interrogation. [Lance, 2003, pp. 280-82] If the US does not learn of the second wave plot from Murad’s interrogation, it appears the US get the same information from a different source at about the same time (see Spring 1995). After 9/11, a Philippine investigator will refer to this third plot when he says of the 9/11 attacks, “It’s Bojinka. We told the Americans everything about Bojinka. Why didn’t they pay attention?” [Washington Post, 9/23/2001] In an interview after 9/11, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed will claim that the 9/11 attacks were a refinement and resurrection of this plot. [Australian, 9/9/2002]
Melissa Boyle Mahle. [Source: Publicity photo]According to a later account by CIA agent Melissa Boyle Mahle, “a tidbit received late in the year revealed the location” Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) in Qatar (see 1992-1996). [Mahle, 2005, pp. 247-248] This presumably is information the FBI learned in Sudan that KSM was traveling to Qatar (see Shortly Before October 1995). However, US intelligence should also have been aware that KSM’s nephew Ramzi Yousef attempted to call him in Qatar in February 1995 while Yousef was in US custody (see After February 7, 1995-January 1996). Mahle is assigned to verify KSM’s identity. She claims that at the time the CIA is aware of KSM’s involvement in the Bojinka plot in the Philippines (see January 6, 1995) and in the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993) She is able to match his fingerprints with a set of fingerprints the CIA already has in their files. [Guardian, 3/31/2005] By October 1995, the FBI tracks KSM to a certain apartment building in Qatar.
Then, using high-technology surveillance, his presence in the building is confirmed. [Miniter, 2003, pp. 85-86] Mahle argues that KSM should be rendered out of the country in secret. The US began rendering terrorist suspects in 1993 (see 1993), and a prominent Egyptian extremist is rendered by the CIA in September 1995 (see September 13, 1995). She argues her case to CIA headquarters and to the highest reaches of the NSA, but is overruled. [Guardian, 3/31/2005] Instead, the decision is made to wait until KSM can be indicted in a US court and ask Qatar to extradite him to the US. Despite the surveillance on KSM, he apparently is able to leave Qatar and travel to Brazil with bin Laden and then back to Qatar at the end of 1995 (see December 1995). KSM will be indicted in early 1996, but he will escape from Qatar a few months later (see January-May 1996).
A suicide bombing destroys the police station in the town of Rijeka, Croatia, wounding 29 people. The Egyptian militant group Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya takes credit for the bombing, saying it is revenge for the abduction of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya leader Talaat Fouad Qassem in Croatia the month before (see September 13, 1995). The Croatians will later determine that the mastermind, Hassan al-Sharif Mahmud Saad, and the suicide bomber were both tied to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. They also were tied to the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy, which in turn has ties to many militant attacks, some committed Ramzi Yousef (see 1995-1997). CIA soon discovers that the suicide bomber also worked for the Third World Refugee Center charity front (see January 1996). [Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 153-155] In 1999, the FBI’s Bojinka investigation will notice that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) was believed to be in neighboring Bosnia at the time and that the timing device of the bomb (a modified Casio watch) closely resembled those used by KSM and his nephew Yousef in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). Presumably, this would have increased the importance of catching KSM. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 489]
Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani. [Source: Fethi Belaid/ Agence France-Presse]Since Operation Bojinka was uncovered in the Philippines (see January 6, 1995), many of the plot’s major planners, including Ramzi Yousef, are found and arrested. One major exception is 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). He flees to Qatar in the Persian Gulf, where he has been living openly using his real name, enjoying the patronage of Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, Qatar’s Interior Minister and a member of the royal family (see 1992-1996). [ABC News, 2/7/2003] He had accepted al-Thani’s invitation to live on his farm around 1992 (see 1992-1995). The CIA learned KSM was living in Qatar in 1995 after his nephew Ramzi Yousef attempted to call him there while in US custody (see After February 7, 1995-January 1996). The Sudanese government also tipped off the FBI that KSM was traveling to Qatar. Some CIA agents strongly urged action against KSM after his exact location in Qatar was determined, but no action was taken (see October 1995). In January 1996, KSM is indicted in the US for his role in the 1993 WTC bombing, and apparently this leads to an effort to apprehend him in Qatar that same month. FBI Director Louis Freeh sends a letter to the Qatari government asking for permission to send a team after him. [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/2002] One of Freeh’s diplomatic notes states that KSM was involved in a conspiracy to “bomb US airliners” and is believed to be “in the process of manufacturing an explosive device.” [New Yorker, 5/27/2002] Qatar confirms that KSM is there and is making explosives, but they delay handing him over. After waiting several months, a high-level meeting takes place in Washington to consider a commando raid to seize him. However, the raid is deemed too risky, and another letter is sent to the Qatari government instead. One person at the meeting later states, “If we had gone in and nabbed this guy, or just cut his head off, the Qatari government would not have complained a bit. Everyone around the table for their own reasons refused to go after someone who fundamentally threatened American interests….” [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/2002] Around May 1996, Mohammed’s patron al-Thani makes sure that Mohammed and four others are given blank passports and a chance to escape. A former Qatari police chief later says the other men include Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atef, al-Qaeda’s number two and number three leaders, respectively (see Early 1998). [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; ABC News, 2/7/2003] In 1999, the New York Times will report that “Although American officials said they had no conclusive proof, current and former officials said they believed that the Foreign Minister [Sheik Hamed bin Jasim al-Thani] was involved, directly or indirectly” in tipping off KSM. [New York Times, 7/8/1999] KSM will continue to occasionally use Qatar as a safe haven, even staying there for two weeks after 9/11 (see Late 2001).
Bandido’s bar in Manila. This may be the restaurant frequented by KSM. [Source: Public domain]In January 1995 the Bojinka plot is foiled in the Philippines and on February 7, 1995, Ramzi Yousef is arrested in Pakistan (see February 7, 1995), but Yousef’s uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) continues to live in the Philippines much of the time. KSM remains confident that he will not be arrested, and eats at a particular restaurant in Manila at roughly the same time almost every night. In early 1996, the FBI and Philippine authorities attempt to arrest KSM at Bandido’s restaurant. But counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will later claim the “operation failed apparently due to the visibility of the FBI and other agents working on the case.” KSM flees to Qatar, where he was been living off and on since 1992 (see 1992-1996). But Gunaratna claims KSM continues to live part of the time in the Philippines as well until about September 1996. [Gunaratna, 2003]
Gregory Scarpa Jr. [Source: Publicity photo (mafiason.com]Ramzi Yousef, mastermind along with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the Operation Bojinka plots, is in a maximum-security prison, sentenced to hundreds of years of prison time for his plots. However, he can communicate with Gregory Scarpa Jr., a mob figure in the cell next to him. The FBI sets up a sting operation with Scarpa’s cooperation to learn more of what and whom Yousef knows. Scarpa is given a telephone, and he allows Yousef to use it. However, Yousef uses the sting operation for his own ends, communicating with operatives on the outside in code language without giving away their identities. He attempts to find passports to get co-conspirators into the US, and there is some discussion about imminent attacks on US passenger jets. Realizing the scheme has backfired, the FBI terminates the telephone sting in late 1996, but Yousef manages to keep communicating with the outside world for several more months. [New York Daily News, 9/24/2000; New York Daily News, 1/21/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 280-82; Harmon, 2009, pp. 187-188,199-201]
Ramzi Yousef and two other defendants, Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan Amin Shah, are convicted of crimes relating to Operation Bojinka (see January 6, 1995). [CNN, 9/5/1996] In the nearly 6,000-page transcript of the three-month Bojinka trial, there is not a single mention of the “second wave” of Bojinka that closely paralleled the 9/11 plot. Interrogations by Philippine investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza had exposed the details of this plot quite clearly (see January 20, 1995 and February-Early May 1995). However, not only does the FBI not call Mendoza to testify, but his name is not even mentioned in the trial, not even by his assistant, who does testify. “The FBI seemed to be going out of its way to avoid even a hint of the plot that was ultimately carried out on 9/11,” author Peter Lance will later note. [Lance, 2003, pp. 350-51] Murad was extensively tortured during his imprisonment in the Philippines (see After January 6, 1995), and some observers such as law professor Alan Dershowitz will assert that Murad’s case proves the reliability of torture, claiming that Murad’s torture prevented a major disaster. However, others disagree. Law professor Stephanie Athey, in her examination of the case, will write in 2007 that Murad’s torture actually produced little useful information. A computer found in Murad’s apartment held key details of the plot (see January 7-11, 1995 and Spring 1995). CIA agent Michael Scheuer will later say that the information collected from Murad’s apartment, not the information gleaned from Murad’s torture, provided actual useful intelligence. [Vanity Fair, 12/16/2008]
Harry Ellen. [Source: Associated Press]Harry Ellen, a businessman who converted to Islam, has high credibility with Muslims in Arizona because of his work on behalf of the Palestinian cause. He has had important meetings with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. In 1994, he began working as an FBI informant. Ken Williams, the Phoenix FBI agent who will later write the July 2001 “Phoenix memo”(see July 10, 2001), is his handler. In October 1996, Ellen tells Williams that he has suspicions about an Algerian pilot who is training other Middle Eastern men to fly. He later recalls, “My comment to Williams was that it would be pitiful if the bad guys were able to gain this kind of access to airplanes, flight training and crop dusters. I said, ‘You really ought to look at this, it’s an interesting mix of people.’” Ellen had previously begun spying on a man known as Abu Sief, which apparently is his alias. Sief had come to Arizona from New Jersey in 1993, and bragged about having close ties with al-Qaeda figures Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and Ramzi Yousef (when Yousef’s computer is seized in the Philippines in 1995, there is a mention of a contact in Tucson, Arizona, but it is unknown if this is a reference to Sief or someone else (see January 7-11, 1995)). Sief attended a New Jersey mosque that many of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers also attended. Ellen soon sees the unnamed Algerian pilot meeting with Abu Sief. He tells this to Williams and later will claim, “I told him to be very concerned about air schools.” However, Ellen will claim that Williams responds by telling him to “leave it alone.” So he does. Ellen later believes that Williams should have sent the gist of his Phoenix memo at this time, instead of four and a half years later. Hani Hanjour is living in Phoenix by this time and taking flight training nearby (see October 1996-Late April 1999). Ellen later will say he did not know Hanjour directly, but he knew some of his friends and relatives. Ellen and Williams will have a falling out in late 1998 on an unrelated manner, and Ellen’s flow of information will stop. [Washington Post, 5/24/2002; New York Times, 5/24/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 211, 352-355, inset 21]
Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer. [Source: Associated Press]Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, and Lafi Khalil, two Palestinian men who had recently immigrated from the West Bank to the US, are arrested in New York City. They are found with a number of hand made bombs, and officials claim they were mere hours away from using them on a busy Atlantic Avenue subway station and on a commuter bus. Police were tipped off to them by a roommate. [New York Times, 8/1/1997; CNN, 8/2/1997] In the days immediately after the arrests, numerous media reports claim that the FBI has tied the two men to Hamas. For instance, the Associated Press reports, “The FBI has linked two suspects in a Brooklyn suicide-bombing plot to the militant Mideast group Hamas… One man was linked to Hamas by intelligence sources, the other through an immigration document he had filled out in which he said he had been accused in Israel of having been in a terrorist organization. The organization, the source said, was Hamas.” Reports say both suspects “are working for Mousa Abu Marzouk, the Hamas political leader who lived in Virginia for 15 years before being arrested in 1995, imprisoned as a terrorism suspect, and then deported earlier [in 1997].”(see July 5, 1995-May 1997) [Associated Press, 8/1/1997; CNN, 8/2/1997] According to another account, “law enforcement authorities say these suspects made frequent phone calls from local neighborhood stores to various Hamas organization offices in the Middle East.” [PBS, 8/1/1997] Just days earlier, there had been a Hamas suicide bombing in Israel that killed fifteen people. Mezer or Khalil reportedly called the suicide bombers “heroes” and added, “We wish to join them.” [New York Times, 8/2/1997] A note is found in their apartment that threatens a series of attacks unless several jailed militants were released, including Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Ramzi Yousef, and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the top leader of Hamas. A copy of the letter was sent to the State Department two days before their arrest. A portrait of Abdul-Rahman is also found on the wall of their apartment. [CNN, 8/2/1997; New York Times, 8/6/1997] However, on August 4, US officials announce that the two had no ties to Hamas or any other organization. In his trial, Mezer will say he planned to use the bombs to kill as many Jews as possible, though not in a subway. He will describe himself as a supporter of Hamas but not a member. He will be convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Khalil will be acquitted of the terrorism charge, but convicted of having a fake immigration card. He will be sentenced to three years in prison and then ordered deported. [CNN, 8/4/1997; New York Times, 7/21/1998; National Journal, 9/19/2001]
Dietrich Snell. [Source: Morris Mac Matzen/ Associated Press]Abdul Hakim Murad, a conspirator in the 1995 Bojinka plot with Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), and others, was convicted in 1996 of his role in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). He is about to be sentenced for that crime. He offers to cooperate with federal prosecutors in return for a reduction in his sentence, but prosecutors turn down his offer. Dietrich Snell, the prosecutor who convicted Murad, will say after 9/11 that he does not remember any such offer. But court papers and others familiar with the case later confirm that Murad does offer to cooperate at this time. Snell will claim he only remembers hearing that Murad had described an intention to hijack a plane and fly it into CIA headquarters. However, in 1995 Murad had confessed to Philippine investigators that this would have been only one part of a larger plot to crash a number of airplanes into prominent US buildings, including the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a plot that KSM later will adjust and turn into the 9/11 plot (see January 20, 1995)
(see February-Early May 1995). While Philippine investigators claim this information was passed on to US intelligence, it’s not clear just which US officials may have learned this information and what they did with it, if anything. [New York Daily News, 9/25/2001] Murad is sentenced in May 1998 and given life in prison plus 60 years. [Albany Times-Union, 9/22/2002] After 9/11, Snell will go on to become Senior Counsel and a team leader for the 9/11 Commission. Author Peter Lance later calls Snell “one of the fixers, hired early on to sanitize the Commission’s final report.” Lance says Snell ignored evidence presented to the Commission that shows direct ties between the Bojinka plot and 9/11, and in so doing covers up Snell’s own role in the failure to make more use of evidence learned from Murad and other Bojinka plotters. [FrontPage Magazine, 1/27/2005]
Robert Baer. [Source: Publicity photo]In December 1997, former CIA agent Robert Baer, newly retired from the CIA and working as a terrorism consultant, meets Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, who was Qatar’s minister of the economy and chief of police until he was deposed and exiled the year before, and whom he calls the “black prince.” Al Thani tells Baer that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) was being sheltered by then Qatari Interior Minister Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani in 1996 (see January-May 1996). However, the black prince knows other details, based on what Qatari police and intelligence learned when KSM was in the country. He says that KSM is chief of al-Qaeda’s terrorist operations (see Early 1998). KSM was leading an al-Qaeda cell in Qatar together with Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, the brother of the Egyptian who had killed Anwar Sadat. They also were linked to bomber Ramzi Yousef. But what worries the black prince is that KSM and Islambouli are experts in hijacking commercial planes. He tells Baer that KSM “is going to hijack some planes.” Further, he says that KSM has moved to the Czech Republic, and has also traveled to Germany to meet bin Laden associates there. In early 1998 Baer sends this information to a friend in the CIA Counterterrorist Center, who forwards the information to his superiors. Baer doesn’t hear back from the CIA. He says, “There was no interest.” [Baer, 2002, pp. 270-71; Vanity Fair, 2/2002; United Press International, 9/30/2002; Baer, 2003, pp. 190-198] Later in 1998, President Clinton will be briefed about a hijacking threat in the US involving Islambouli, but it is unclear if Islambouli was actually involved in the 9/11 plot or any other hijacking plots targeting the US (see December 4, 1998). He will not have been captured by March 2008. Baer tries to interest reporter Daniel Pearl in a story about KSM before 9/11, but Pearl will still be working on it when he is kidnapped and later murdered in early 2002. [United Press International, 4/9/2004] Baer also tries to interest New York Times reporter James Risen in the information about KSM. But just before Risen can come to the Middle East to meet the black prince, the black prince is kidnapped in Lebanon and sent to prison in Qatar. There will be speculation that the CIA turned on the source to protect its relationship with the Qatari government. Risen will publish an article in July 1999 about KSM, but it will not include most of the information from the black prince, since Risen will not be able to confirm it. [New York Times, 7/8/1999; BBC, 7/25/1999; Gertz, 2002, pp. 55-58; Baer, 2003, pp. 190-198] Al-Thani will continue to support al-Qaeda, even hosting visits by bin Laden between 1996 and 2000 (see 1996-2000). [ABC News, 2/7/2003] Yet the US will not have frozen al-Thani’s assets or taken other action by March 2008.
Entity Tags: James Risen, Robert Baer, Ramzi Yousef, Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, Daniel Pearl, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Al-Qaeda, Counterterrorist Center, Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
FBI reward notice for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. [Source: FBI]Islamic militant Ramzi Yousef is sentenced to 240 years for his role in the 1993 WTC bombing. At the same time, prosecutors unseal an indictment against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) for participating with Yousef in the 1995 Operation Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). In unsealing this, US Attorney Mary Jo White calls KSM a “major player” and says he is believed to be a relative of Yousef. [Washington Post, 1/9/1998] The US announces a $2 million reward for his capture in 1998 and wanted posters with his picture are distributed. [New York Times, 6/5/2002] This contradicts the FBI’s claim after 9/11 that they did not realize he was a major terrorist before 9/11. [US Congress, 12/11/2002] For instance, a senior FBI official later says, “He was under everybody’s radar. We don’t know how he did it. We wish we knew.… He’s the guy nobody ever heard of.” [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/2002] However, another official says, “We have been after him for years, and to say that we weren’t is just wrong. We had identified him as a major al-Qaeda operative before September 11.” [New York Times, 9/22/2002] Yet strangely, despite knowing KSM is a major al-Qaeda operations planner and putting out a large reward for his capture at this time, there is no worldwide public manhunt for him as there successfully was for his nephew Ramzi Yousef. KSM’s name remains obscure and he isn’t even put on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list until one month after 9/11. [Lance, 2003, pp. 327-30]
Theodore ‘Ted’ Kaczynski, convicted of charges stemming from the ‘Unabomber’ serial bombing spree, is escorted into the courtroom to hear his sentence. [Source: Associated Press]An unrepentant Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996), is sentenced to four life terms in prison with no possibility of release (see January 22, 1998). [Washington Post, 1998] Representatives of some of his victims’ families speak out during the sentencing hearing. “Lock him so far down that when he dies he will be closer to hell,” says Susan Mosser, whose husband Thomas Mosser was killed by one of Kaczynski’s bombs (see December 10, 1994). “May your own eventual death occur as you have lived, in a solitary manner, without compassion or love,” says Lois Epstein, whose husband Charles Epstein suffered a crippling injury to his hand due to another Kaczynski bomb (see June 22, 1993). In handing down his sentence, Judge Garland Burrell Jr. says, “The defendant committed unspeakable and monstrous crimes for which he shows utterly no remorse.” Kaczynski still poses a grave danger to society and would mail his bombs again if he could, Burrell says. Kaczynski delivers a statement to the court; he expresses no remorse whatsoever for his actions, and instead accuses the government of distorting the meaning of his crimes. “Two days ago, the government filed a sentencing memorandum, the purpose of which was clearly political,” containing “false statements, misleading statements,” he says. Kaczynski is referring to excerpts from his journals which prosecutors used to portray him, not as a principled citizen out to save society and the environment from the ravages of technology, but, in the words of the Washington Post, as “a petulant, almost childish murderer who killed to extract ‘personal revenge’ on people who crossed him—from women who did not respond to his overtures to campers who wandered by his Montana cabin to planes filled with ‘a lot of businesspeople.’” Kaczynski tells the court: “By discrediting me personally, they hope to discredit my political ideas.… At a later time I expect to respond at length to the sentencing memorandum. Meanwhile, I hope the public will reserve judgment against me and all the facts about the Unabomb case until another time.” After Kaczynski speaks, Susan Mosser walks to the prosecutors’ table and speaks. “Nails,” she says. “Razor blades. Wire. Pipe and batteries. The recipe for what causes pain. Hold it in your hand, as my husband Tom did, and you feel unbearable pain.” She tells how Kaczynski’s bomb, made with wires and pipes and filled with nails, tore her husband’s torso apart, spilling his entrails over the kitchen floor. Other victims tell the court that they would have supported a death sentence. Nicklaus Suino, injured by one of Kaczynski’s bombs (see November 15, 1985), says, “I wouldn’t have shed a tear if he was executed.” David Gelernter, another man crippled by one of Kaczynski’s bombs (see June 24, 1993), says he argued for a death sentence but says that Kaczynski will live on as “a symbol of cowardice.” Kaczynski’s brother David Kaczynski speaks briefly outside the courthouse, telling reporters: “There are no words to express the sorrow of today’s proceedings. To all of these people, the Kaczynski family offers its deepest apologies. We’re very, very sorry.” [Washington Post, 5/5/1998] Kaczynski will live out his sentence at the Florence, Colorado, “Supermax” federal prison, in a small cell equipped with a shower, toilet, electric lamp, concrete desk and stool, and a small television. He will have access to books from a well-stocked library, and will eat three meals a day in his cell. The Florence facility is considered the most secure prison in the nation; it is designed to house “the folks who simply cannot function in open institutions,” according to research analyst Tom Werlich. Kaczynski will not be alone at the “Supermax” facility: others such as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) and World Trade Center bombing mastermind Ramzi Yousef (see February 7, 1995) are in the same facility. Like the other inmates, Kaczynski will have no contact with other inmates, and for the two hours a day he spends outside his cell, he will be constantly escorted by at least two guards. [Associated Press, 7/4/1998]
Entity Tags: Nicklaus Suino, David Kaczynski, David Gelernter, Charles Epstein, Lois Epstein, Washington Post, Thomas J. Mosser, Susan Mosser, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Tom Werlich, Garland E. Burrell Jr., Timothy James McVeigh, Ramzi Yousef
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Michael Fortier, a co-conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, March 1993, May-September 1993, February - July 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, and December 16, 1994 and After) who cooperated with authorities in testifying against bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (see May 19, 1995, August 8, 1995, April 29-30, 1997, May 12-13, 1997, and November 12-13, 1997), is sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in the bomb plot, fined $200,000, and ordered to pay $4,300 in restitution. Judge G. Thomas Van Bebber’s decision seeks a middle ground between the relatives of bombing victims, who have demanded a harsh sentence for Fortier, and federal prosecutors, who recommend leniency for Fortier’s cooperation. Fortier’s lawyer Michael McGuire tells Van Bebber: “Michael Fortier did not believe Timothy McVeigh was going to carry out the bombing. For his negligence, he will always be the unforgiven man.” Fortier also receives credit for the 34 months he has already served in detention. In the sentencing hearing, Fortier apologizes to the victims for not turning in McVeigh and Nichols ahead of the bombing. “I deeply regret not taking the information I had to the police,” he says through tears. “I sometimes daydream that I did do this and became a hero, but [the] reality is that I am not.… I have paid close attention to the testimony given by the bombing survivors. The stories are so horrifying, so heartbreaking, and so full of human suffering that I cannot bear them. I am too weak to contemplate them for long. I feel as if my mind will break and I’ll cry and cry and never stop. Dear people, please, I offer my apology and I ask you to forgive me.… Please, please don’t let thoughts of me continue to hurt you.” Many survivors and victims’ relatives testify at the sentencing, telling of the grief and despair they and their families have suffered. Constance Favorite, who lost a daughter in the bombing, tells the judge: “All he needed to do was take responsibility and call. One phone call would have done it.” Marsha Kight, who also lost a daughter in the bombing, says Fortier’s sentence is too light. “Life in prison is what I would have considered enough,” she says. “I think he conspired. I think he helped buy components for the bomb. What do you call that?” Prosecutors call the sentence “appropriate” and say they are unmoved by Fortier’s declarations of remorse. “I think everyone in the courtroom had to think that it’s a little too late and a little too little,” says US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan. Van Bebber, chief judge of the US District Court for Kansas, was appointed to handle the sentencing because an appeals court ruled in 1995 that Oklahoma City federal judges had a potential conflict of interest in the case. The Oklahoma City federal courthouse sits across the street from where the Murrah building once stood, and itself was damaged by the bombing. [Washington Post, 5/28/1998; New York Times, 5/28/1998; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; The Oklahoman, 4/2009] Van Bebber rejected pleas for leniency from Fortier’s lawyers, who asked that Fortier be sentenced to serve the 33 months he has already been incarcerated—essentially setting him free immediately. He followed prosecutors’ recommendations that Fortier serve between 11 and 14 years, after saying that he was considering sentencing Fortier to over 17 years in prison. [New York Times, 5/13/1998] Fortier’s lawyers say they will appeal the sentence, and accuse prosecutors of misrepresenting the amount of jail time they would seek if Fortier cooperated with the investigation and testified in the McVeigh and Nichols trials. [Indianapolis Star, 2003] Fortier will win an appeal of his sentencing; the appellate court will find that Van Bebber used sentencing guidelines that were too strict. Fortier’s jail sentence will remain the same, but his fine will be reduced to $75,000. [The Oklahoman, 4/2009] He serves his sentence in the “supermax” federal facility in Florence, Colorado, that houses Theodore Kaczysnki, the “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), and convicted World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 26, 1993 and February 7, 1995). He will be released in January 2006, after serving 10 years and six months of his sentence. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
During his interview with John Miller, bin Laden is positioned in front of East Africa on a map, and US embassies will be bombed in East Africa several months later. Bin Laden has considered it his religious duty to give warning before attacks and thus has left clues like this. [Source: CNN]In an interview with ABC News reporter John Miller, Osama bin Laden indicates he may attack a US military passenger aircraft using antiaircraft missiles. Bin Laden says: “We are sure of our victory. Our battle with the Americans is larger than our battle with the Russians.… We predict a black day for America and the end of the United States as United States, and will be separate states, and will retreat from our land and collect the bodies of its sons back to America.” In the subsequent media coverage, Miller will repeatedly refer to bin Laden as “the world’s most dangerous terrorist,” and “the most dangerous man in the world.” [ABC News, 5/28/1998; ABC News, 6/12/1998; Esquire, 2/1999; US Congress, 7/24/2003] The book The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright will later note, “Looming behind his head was a large map of Africa, an unremarked clue.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 264] Bin Laden admits to knowing Wali Khan Amin Shah, one of the Bojinka plotters (see June 1996), but denies having met Bojinka plotter Ramzi Yousef or knowing about the plot itself. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002] A Virginia man named Tarik Hamdi (see March 20, 2002) helped set up Miller’s interview. He goes with Miller to Afghanistan and gives bin Laden a new battery for his satellite phone (see November 1996-Late August 1998). Vincent Cannistraro, former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, will later claim that this battery was somehow bugged to help the US monitor bin Laden. [Newsweek, 8/10/2005] In 2005, Miller will become the FBI’s assistant director of the Office of Public Affairs. [All Headline News, 8/24/2005]
Judge Richard P. Matsch sentences convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997) to life in prison without the possibility of parole after his jury cannot decide whether to sentence him to death (see January 7, 1998). He is also sentenced to eight concurrent six-year terms for the deaths of eight federal agents. Matsch orders Nichols to pay $14.5 million in restitution to the General Services Administration (GSA) for the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building. Nichols swears he has only $40,000 in assets; Matsch says that any future proceeds he might receive for selling his story would be given over to the government. Nichols’s defense team tried in vain to assert that Nichols was a “dupe” of fellow defendant Timothy McVeigh (see June 11-13, 1997) and should be given a lighter sentence. Nichols, who refused to provide information about the bombing plot, gave Matsch a written apology (see March 10, 1998). Matsch says Nichols committed an act of treason that demands the most severe punishment: “The only inference that can be drawn from the evidence is that the purpose of the plan was to change the course of government through fear and intimidation.… The evidence shows to my satisfaction that the intention was to disrupt, to disorganize, to intimidate the operations of these agencies and United States government. Apparently, the intention was that the response would be fear and terror and intimidation and that these people would not be able to perform their work and that the response throughout the nation would be hysteria.… But you know, it didn’t work out that way. There was no anarchy. There was no reign of terror.… What occurred was that a community became even more united, and I think perhaps the country as well. We proceeded with the orderly processes of recovery and of restoration.… What he did was participate with others in a conspiracy that would seek to destroy all of the things that the Constitution protects. My obligation as a judge is to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Terry Nichols has proven to be an enemy of the Constitution, and accordingly the sentence I am going to impose will be for the duration of his life. Anyone, no matter who that person might be or what his background might be, who participates in a crime of this magnitude has forfeited the freedoms that this government is designed to protect.” Prosecutors say they are pleased with the sentence, while Nichols’s defense lawyers continue to assert that Nichols did not intend to kill anyone in the bombing. Nichols’s lead attorney, Michael Tigar, files papers calling for a new trial; Matsch says he will schedule a hearing. Marsha Kight, whose daughter Frankie Ann Merrell was killed in the bombing, says: “I’m proud of what happened in the judicial system. I felt like singing ‘God Bless America.’ He got what he deserved.” [Chicago Tribune, 6/5/1998; Washington Post, 6/5/1998; New York Times, 6/5/1998; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Nichols will serve his term in the “supermax” federal facility in Florence, Colorado, that houses Theodore Kaczysnki, the “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), and convicted World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 26, 1993 and February 7, 1995). [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Nichols refused an offer of leniency in return for his cooperation in further investigation of the bombing (see April 21, 1998).
Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli. [Source: Public domain]On December 4, 1998, an item in President Clinton’s Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) is titled, “Bin Laden Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft and Other Attacks.” The PDB says “Bin Laden and is allies are preparing for attacks in the US, including an aircraft hijacking to obtain the release of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Ramzi Yousef, and Muhammad Sadiq ‘Awda. One source quoted a senior member of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (IG) saying that, as of late October, the IG had completed planning for an operation in the US on behalf of bin Laden, but that the operation was on hold. A senior bin Laden operative from Saudi Arabia was to visit IG counterparts in the US soon thereafter to discuss options-perhaps including an aircraft hijacking.” The same source says bin Laden may implement plans to hijack US aircraft before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on December 20 and that two members of the operational team had evaded security checks in a recent trial run at a New York airport. A possible different source says that in late September, Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, brother of the assassin of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and described in the PDB as an IG leader, was planning to hijack a US airliner during the “next couple of weeks” to free Abdul-Rahman and other prisoners. The PDB also says that “some members of the bin Laden network have received hijack training, according to various sources, but no group directly tied to bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization has ever carried out an aircraft hijacking. Bin Laden could be weighing other types of operations against US aircraft.” The PDB mentions other bin Laden related threats, including recent reports that the IG has obtained surface-to-air missiles and intends to move them from Yemen to Saudi Arabia to shoot down aircraft. [Washington Post, 7/18/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 128-130] The private intelligence group Stratfor will later say that, in addition to his ties with IG, Islambouli worked with bin Laden in the Maktab al-Khidamat charity front in Pakistan and is believed to have lived in Afghanistan in the 1990s as “part of the group of key Egyptian advisers surrounding bin Laden.” Islambouli will formally join with al-Qaeda in 2006. [Stratfor, 8/10/2006] In early 1998, the CIA ignored information from a recently retired CIA agent that claimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was in a terrorist cell with Islambouli, both were experts on plane hijackings, and were planning to hijack planes (see Early 1998). Perhaps not coincidentally, on this same day, CIA Director George Tenet issues a “declaration of war” against al-Qaeda in a memo to the US intelligence community (see December 4, 1998). Also on this day, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke holds a meeting of his interagency Counterterrorism and Security Group (CSG) to discuss the threat. The group agrees that New York City airports should go on a maximum security alert that weekend and security should be boosted at other East Coast airports. The FBI, FAA, and New York City Police Department get versions of the PDB report. Later in December and again in January 1999 the source says the hijacking has been postponed because two operatives have been arrested in Washington or New York. But the FBI is unable to find any information to support the threat nor is it able to verify any arrests similar to what the source described, and the source remains mysterious. The high alert in New York airports is canceled by the end of January. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 128-130] This PDB will be mentioned in President Bush’s famous August 6, 2001 PDB, but mentions that US officials “have not been able to corroborate” the plot (see August 6, 2001).
Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Federal Aviation Administration, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Richard A. Clarke, Counterterrorism and Security Group, Ramzi Yousef, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, Muhammad Sadiq ‘Awda, Osama bin Laden, New York City Police Department, Maktab al-Khidamat
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
It has been widely assumed in media reports that US intelligence did not connect al-Qaeda leader Hambali to the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995) before 9/11. However, the 9/11 Commission will mention in a footnote, “Hambali also was one of the founders of Konsonjaya, a Malaysian company run by close associate of Wali Khan [Amin Shah]. FBI report, Manila air investigation, May 23, 1999.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 489] The Christian Science Monitor will later note, “Konsonjaya was not just supplying money. It also coordinating the Bojinka plotters” (see June 1994). [Christian Science Monitor, 2/14/2002] In the spring of 1995, Philippine Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza gave the US a chart he made of the Bojinka plotters, and Konsonjaya was centrally featured in it (see Spring 1995). He later said, “It was sort of their nerve center.” [Christian Science Monitor, 2/14/2002] Shortly after Ramzi Yousef’s Manila apartment was broken into, documents found there connected Konsonjaya with the “Ladin International” company in Sudan, an obvious bin Laden front. An FBI memo at the time noted the connection. [Lance, 2003, pp. 303] Hambali’s photograph was also found on Yousef’s computer. [New Straits Times, 2/2/2002] In 1996, the company’s records were introduced as evidence in a public trial of some Bojinka plotters, and in 1998, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was nearly caught in Brazil while using Konsonjaya as his business cover (see June 1998). So it’s not clear why it took the FBI four years to learn about Hambali, but that still means they were aware of who he was prior to the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia attended by Hambali and two 9/11 hijackers (see January 5-8, 2000). But apparently the connection will not be made.
The US knows that Hambali has ties to the 1995 Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995) but apparently fails to share this information with Malaysian authorities, who therefore miss a chance to arrest him. By 1999, the US determined that Hambali was one of the founders of Konsonjaya, a front company central to funding the Bojinka plot (see May 23, 1999). US investigators also found a photograph of him on Ramzi Yousef’s computer in 1995, further tying him to the Bojinka plot. [New Straits Times, 2/2/2002] In January 2000, Malaysian intelligence monitors an al-Qaeda summit meeting at the request of the CIA (see January 5-8, 2000). Malaysian intelligence recognize Hambali and Yazid Sufaat from photos of the meeting; both are long-time residents in Malaysia. However, because the US does not share the information about Hambali, the Malaysians decide not to arrest or question Hambali and Sufaat since they are not aware either man has any criminal ties. [New Straits Times, 2/10/2002] As a result, Malaysian authorities fail to learn more about this summit meeting, which was attended by two 9/11 hijackers. The US also fails to follow up with Hambali, despite their knowledge of him.
Four Arabs allegedly visit the headquarters of the Abu Sayyaf Islamist militant group, deep in the jungles of the southern Philippines. One of them goes by the name Ibnu bin Laden and appears to be a close relative of Osama bin Laden. They give equipment and money. Just days later, Abu Sayyaf militants seize about 50 students and teachers and demand the release of Ramzi Yousef and Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman from US prisons in exchange for their hostages. (They are ultimately unsuccessful in winning their demands.) Osama bin Laden’s ties to Abu Sayyaf go back at least to 1988, when it is believed he personally visited the Philippines. [South China Morning Post, 10/11/2001 Sources: Wahab Akbar]
TIPOFF is a US no-fly list of individuals who should be detained if they attempt to leave or enter the US. There are about 60,000 names on this list by 9/11 (see December 11, 1999). Apparently there had been no prohibition of travel inside the US, but on this day an FAA security directive puts six names on a newly created domestic no-fly list. All six are said to be associates of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, including his uncle, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). On August 28, 2001, six more names will be added to this list. Apparently all 12 names are associated with al-Qaeda or other Islamic extremist groups. 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey will later note the discrepancy of the 60,000-name list with the 12-name list and comment, “seems to me, particularly with what was going on at the time, that some effort would have been made to make—to produce a larger list than [only 12 names].” [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] The FAA’s chief of security in 2001, Cathal Flynn, will later say that he was “unaware of the TIPOFF list” until after the September 11 attacks. 9/11 Commissioner Slade Gorton will say that this admission is “stunning, just unbeleivable,” and an “example of absolute incompetence” at the FAA. Other FAA officials will say they are aware of the larger list, but do not make much use of it. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 115] On the day of 9/11, two of the 9/11 hijackers will be on the 60,000-name TIPOFF list but not the 12-name domestic list, so airport security does not know to stop them from boarding the planes they hijack that day (see August 23, 2001).
Former CIA director James Woolsey visits Britain to look for evidence tying Saddam Hussein to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. He is looking to support the theory (see Late July or Early August 2001) that Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 WTC bombing, was actually an Iraqi agent who had assumed the identity of a Pakistani student named Abdul Basit. This theory was proposed in a 2000 book praised by Woolsey (see October 2000). He will also make a visit for the same purpose in the weeks after 9/11 (see Late September 2001). On at least one of the trips, Woolsey visits the Swansea Institute, where Basit studied, to see if Basit’s fingerprints match those of Yousef, who is now serving a life sentence in a Colorado prison. Matching fingerprints would discredit the theory. According to Knight Ridder, “Several of those with knowledge of the trips said they failed to produce any new evidence that Iraq was behind the attacks.” [Knight Ridder, 10/11/2001] But despite a lack of evidence, politicians in Washington interested in the theory will manage to reopen the files into Yousef around August 2001 anyway (see Late July or Early August 2001). An article by Woolsey pushing the theory about Yousef will be published just two days after 9/11 (see September 13, 2001).
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz asks the CIA to look over the 2000 book, Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War Against America by Laurie Mylroie, which argued that Iraq was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center (see October 2000). Wolfowitz will mention shortly after 9/11 how he asked the CIA to do this, but it is unknown what their response is. Presumably it is not one Wolfowitz liked. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 559] Wolfowitz also asks Thomas Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), to have his analysts look at the book. The DIA is unable to find any evidence that support the theory. [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 76] Around late July, the US reopens the files on WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef, presumably in response to these requests (see Late July or Early August 2001). But no evidence will be found to support Mylroie’s theory that Yousef was an Iraqi agent. The 9/11 Commission will conclude in 2004, “We have found no credible evidence to support theories of Iraqi government involvement in the 1993 WTC bombing.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 559]
Laurie Mylroie. [Source: Publicity photo]US authorities re-open the files on Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the WTC bombing in 1993, and begin looking into the theory that Yousef may have actually been an Iraqi agent. Presumably this is in response to requests by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz the month before to look into the matter (see June 2001). Yousef was convicted in 1996 (see September 5, 1996) and has been in custody since 1995 (see February 7, 1995). According to the official version of events, Yousef’s real name is Abdul Basit, a 27-year-old Pakistani who until 1989 was a computer student studying in South Wales. In late 2000, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) published Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War Against America arguing in support of the theory that Yousef was actually an Iraqi agent (see October 2000). The book, written by AEI scholar Laurie Mylroie, says that Basit was living with his parents in Kuwait in 1990 when Iraq invaded the country (see November 8, 1990). During the occupation, Iraqis presumably murdered him and his family and then altered police files so Iraqi intelligence could use his identity. [New Republic, 9/13/2001; London Times, 9/22/2001] In February 2001, former CIA Director James Woolsey traveled to Britain in an attempt to find evidence to support this theory (see February 2001). But Mylroie’s theory is debunked by authorities who match the fingerprints of Yousef to those of Basit. [Washington Monthly, 12/2003; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 81]
President Bush at his Crawford, Texas, ranch on August 6, 2001. Advisors wait with classified briefings. [Source: White House]President Bush receives a classified presidential daily briefing (PDB) at his Crawford, Texas ranch indicating that Osama bin Laden might be planning to hijack commercial airliners. The PDB provided to him is entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” The entire briefing focuses on the possibility of terrorist attacks inside the US. [New York Times, 5/15/2002; Newsweek, 5/27/2002] The analysts who drafted the briefing will say that they drafted it on the CIA’s initiative (see July 13, 2004), whereas in 2004 Bush will state that he requested a briefing on the topic due to threats relating to a conference in Genoa, Italy, in July 2001, where Western intelligence agencies believed Osama bin Laden was involved in a plot to crash an airplane into a building to kill Bush and other leaders (see April 13, 2004). The analysts will later explain that they saw it as an opportunity to convey that the threat of an al-Qaeda attack in the US was both current and serious. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 260] The existence of this briefing is kept secret, until it is leaked in May 2002, causing a storm of controversy (see May 15, 2002). While National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will claim the memo is only one and a half pages long, other accounts state it is 11 1/2 pages instead of the usual two or three. [New York Times, 5/15/2002; Newsweek, 5/27/2002; Die Zeit (Hamburg), 10/1/2002] A page and a half of the contents will be released on April 10, 2004; this reportedly is the full content of the briefing. [Washington Post, 4/10/2004] The briefing, as released, states as follows (note that the spelling of certain words are corrected and links have been added):
Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US (see December 1, 1998). Bin Laden implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and “bring the fighting to America” (see May 26, 1998).
After US missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, bin Laden told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a -REDACTED-service (see December 21, 1998).
An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told -REDACTED- service at the same time that bin Laden was planning to exploit the operative’s access to the US to mount a terrorist strike.
The millennium plotting in Canada in 1999 may have been part of bin Laden’s first serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the US. Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived the idea to attack Los Angeles International Airport himself (see December 14, 1999), but that bin Laden lieutenant Abu Zubaida encouraged him and helped facilitate the operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaida was planning his own US attack (see Late March-Early April 2001 and May 30, 2001).
Ressam says bin Laden was aware of the Los Angeles operation.
Although bin Laden has not succeeded, his attacks against the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998) demonstrate that he prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Laden associates surveyed our embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early as 1993 (see Late 1993-Late 1994), and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.
Al-Qaeda members—including some who are US citizens—have resided in or traveled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks (see January 25, 2001). Two al-Qaeda members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our embassies in East Africa were US citizens (see September 15, 1998), and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990s (see November 1989 and September 10, 1998).
A clandestine source said in 1998 that a bin Laden cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks (see October-November 1998).
“We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [REDACTED] service in 1998 saying that bin Laden wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of ‘Blind Sheikh’ Omar Abdul-Rahman and other US-held extremists” (see 1998, December 4, 1998, and May 23, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 223] According to the Washington Post, this information came from a British service. [Washington Post, 5/18/2002]
Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York (see May 30, 2001).
The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full-field investigations throughout the US that it considers bin Laden-related (see August 6, 2001). CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group or bin Laden supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives (see May 16-17, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 223]
In retrospect, the briefing is remarkable for the many warnings that apparently are not included (see for instance, from the summer of 2001 prior to August alone: May 2001, June 2001, June 12, 2001, June 19, 2001, Late Summer 2001, July 2001, July 16, 2001, Late July 2001, Late July 2001, Summer 2001, June 30-July 1, 2001, July 10, 2001, and Early August 2001). According to one account, after the PDB has been given to him, Bush tells the CIA briefer, “You’ve covered your ass now” (see August 6, 2001).
Incredibly, the New York Times later reports that after being given the briefing, Bush “[breaks] off from work early and [spends] most of the day fishing.” [New York Times, 5/25/2002] In 2002 and again in 2004, National Security Adviser Rice will incorrectly claim under oath that the briefing only contained historical information from 1998 and before (see May 16, 2002 and April 8, 2004).
Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Islamic Jihad, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Los Angeles International Airport, Condoleezza Rice, Abu Zubaida, Al-Qaeda, World Trade Center, Central Intelligence Agency, 9/11 Commission, Ahmed Ressam, Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
In April 2001, the CIA analyzed some “intriguing information associated with a person known as ‘Mukhtar.’” The CIA didn’t know who this was at the time, only that he was associated with top al-Qaeda deputy Abu Zubaida and that he seemed to be involved in planning al-Qaeda activities. On August 28, 2001, the CIA receives a cable reporting that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) has the nickname of Mukhtar (which means “brain” in Arabic). However, apparently no one at the CIA’s bin Laden unit makes the connection between this new information and the April 2001 information. The 9/11 Commission writes, “Only after 9/11 would it be discovered that Muhktar/KSM had communicated with a phone that was used by [Ramzi] bin al-Shibh, and that bin al-Shibh had used the same phone to communicate with [Zacarias] Moussaoui [who is in US custody by this time.]” [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 322; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 277]
In an op-ed piece published in the New Republic, former CIA director James Woolsey calls on the Bush administration to re-examine evidence that could potentially tie Iraq to the 1993 bombing of the WTC. He cites a theory (see Late July or Early August 2001) that Iraqi intelligence helped bomber Ramzi Yousef steal the identity of a Kuwaiti student studying at a college in Wales. If this theory is correct, he says, “then it was Iraq that went after the World Trade Center last time. Which makes it much more plausible that Iraq has done so again.” In light of this, he argues, US authorities should consider the possibility that Saddam Hussein had a hand in the 9/11 attacks. “[I]ntelligence and law enforcement officials investigating the case would do well to at least consider another possibility: that the attacks—whether perpetrated by bin Laden and his associates or by others—were sponsored, supported, and perhaps even ordered by Saddam Hussein,” he writes. “As yet, there is no evidence of explicit state sponsorship of the September 11 attacks. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” [New Republic, 9/13/2001] Woolsey went to Britain in February 2001 and failed to find evidence to support this theory (see February 2001). But a few days later, the US Defense Department will send Woolsey to Britain again (see Late September 2001) to investigate the alleged Iraq link to the 1993 bombing.
At the behest of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, former CIA Director James Woolsey and a team of Justice and Defense Department officials fly to London on a US government plane to look for evidence tying Saddam Hussein to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Woolsey’s trip is in part the idea of neoconservative author Laurie Mylroie (see Late July or Early August 2001). It is the second such mission undertaken by Woolsey this year, as he made a similar trip in February (see February 2001). Woolsey is looking for evidence to support the theory (see Late July or Early August 2001 and Mid-September-October 2001) that Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 WTC bombing, was actually an Iraqi agent who had assumed the identity of a Pakistani student named Abdul Basit. Woolsey visits the Swansea Institute, where Basit studied, to see if Basit’s fingerprints match those of Yousef, who is now serving a life sentence in a Colorado prison. Matching fingerprints would discredit the theory. [Knight Ridder, 10/11/2001; Observer, 10/14/2001; Daily Telegraph, 10/26/2001; Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004] While in Europe, Woolsey also attempts to link the Iraqi government to 9/11 and the October 2001 anthrax attacks (see Mid-September-October 2001). But according to Knight Ridder, “Several of those with knowledge of the trips said they failed to produce any new evidence that Iraq was behind the attacks.” [Knight Ridder, 10/11/2001] Newsweek will similarly report in 2004 that “the results of the Woolsey mission were exactly what the FBI had predicted: that the fingerprints were in fact identical.” [Newsweek, 4/21/2004] The local police in Swansea are curious about Woolsey’s visit and they call the US embassy in London to clarify if Woolsey is visiting in an official capacity. This alerts the State Department and CIA of Woolsey’s trip for the first time, and apparently both agencies are upset. One intelligence consultant familiar with the trip will say, “It was a stupid, stupid, and just plain wrong thing to do.” [Knight Ridder, 10/11/2001; Village Voice, 11/21/2001] It is through this contact that Secretary of State Colin Powell and CIA Director George Tenet learn of Woolsey’s mission (see September 19-20, 2001). [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, George J. Tenet, James Woolsey, Abdul Basit, Colin Powell, Saddam Hussein, Paul Wolfowitz, Ramzi Yousef
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Neoconservative Influence, 2001 Anthrax Attacks
A Jordanian suspected of involvement in the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993) and 1995 Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995) is arrested but apparently only charged with minor offenses. Hadi Yousef Alghoul had been arrested in the Philippines in March 1995 and accused of involvement in the Bojinka plot there. (see April 1, 1995-Early 1996). He apparently is the cousin of bomber Ramzi Yousef. [Ressa, 2003, pp. 25] On December 26, 2001, he is arrested in the Philippines again. He is found with nearly 300 sticks of dynamite and other bomb making materials. A police colonel says Alghoul had been under surveillance for years. [CNN, 12/28/2001; Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12/1/2002] Police say he is one of the United States’ 25 most wanted terrorists with a $25 million reward for his arrest in connection with the 1993 WTC bombing. His “fingerprints perfectly matched those of a terrorist tagged in the World Trade Center bombing.” He is also wanted for plotting the assassination of Americans. [Manila Bulletin, 1/6/2002] Yet despite all these accusations, he is not extradited to the US as other Bojinka suspects were, and he is merely charged in 2002 with the illegal possession of explosive devices. There have been no further news accounts about him. [Manila Sun-Star, 11/16/2002]
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz proposes that President Bush should declare Ramzi Yousef an “enemy combatant.” Yousef is already in the “Supermax” prison, the most secure prison in the US, after being sentenced to life in prison for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing years before. But Wolfowitz contends that as an enemy combatant, heavy interrogation could get Yousef to admit he bombed the WTC on behalf of the Iraqi government. However, Wolfowitz’s proposal is strongly opposed by the FBI, which asserts that theories tying Yousef to the Iraqi government had been repeatedly investigated and debunked. Further, Yousef doesn’t meet any of the criteria the White House had laid out for designating enemy combatants. “At one point, the high-level discussions apparently prompted a top Bureau of Prisons official to make an unauthorized entry to Yousef’s [Supermax cell] to sound out his willingness to talk—a move that prompted strong protests to the Justice Department from the bomber’s lawyer…” The issue is debated until the start of the Iraq war, at which point apparently Wolfowitz loses interest. One lawyer involved in the discussions will later recall, “We talked it to death.” [Newsweek, 4/21/2004]
The photo of Mohammed on the right has been flipped to better compare it. [Source: FBI]Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is publicly identified as the “mastermind” behind the 9/11 attacks. He is believed to have arranged the logistics while on the run in Germany, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In 1996, he had been secretly indicted in the US for his role in Operation Bojinka (see January 6, 1995), and the US began offering a $2 million reward for his capture in 1998 (see January 8, 1998), which increased to $25 million in December 2001. An international warrant for his arrest was issued in November 2000 (see November 17, 2000). [Associated Press, 6/4/2002; New York Times, 6/5/2002] According to the New York Times, “In recent months, American counterintelligence officials have identified a small group of other al-Qaeda lieutenants as the crucial figures behind the Sept. 11 attacks” aside from KSM. They include Mohammed Atef (who is already deceased), Abu Zubaida, and Ayman al-Zawahiri. [New York Times, 6/5/2002] There are conflicting accounts of how much US investigators knew about KSM before 9/11. He is Pakistani, although he was born and raised in Kuwait. [CBS News, 6/5/2002] He is an uncle of Ramzi Yousef, the bomber of the World Trade Center in 1993. [New York Times, 6/5/2002] In April 2002, captured al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida confessed that KSM was the 9/11 mastermind (see April 2002). It is not known how much US intelligence knew about KSM’s link to the 9/11 attacks prior that, although at least some was known (see (December 2001)).
The 9/11 Commission holds its first set of public hearings on al-Qaeda and its connections to other nations and terrorist groups. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 130-134]
'Political Theater' - The first person to testify is Laurie Mylroie, of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Mylroie’s testimony is, in the words of author Philip Shenon, “a bizarre bit of political theater.” Mylroie, considered by some to be “one of the most influential political academics of her generation, whose research was cited by the United States government to justify a war,” sits in front of the Commission, “spouting what would later be shown to be—and what many experts in the field already knew to be—nonsense.” Mylroie says that both the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993) and 9/11 were planned and carried out by Iraqi intelligence agents, and the planner of the 1993 attacks, Ramzi Yousef (see December 1991-May 1992 and Late July or Early August 2001), and the chief 9/11 planner, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see 1987-1991), were both Iraqi spies. Iraq had planted phony identification documents—“legends”—in Kuwaiti government offices during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait in 1990, she says. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 130-134] “The odds are high that these people are not whom they claim to be, and demonstrating that would constitute a clear link between Iraq and the 9/11 attack, as reasonably only Iraq could have created these legends while it occupied Kuwait,” she states. Al-Qaeda was a front group for Iraq in the same way that Hezbollah is a front group for Syria, she claims, and tells the Commission, “We went to war because senior administration officials believe Iraq was involved in 9/11” (see July 31, 2002). [Shenon, 2008, pp. 130-134]
Discrediting Mylroie - Several members of the Commission and its staff are dubious about Mylroie’s claims (see July 9, 2003). Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste, one of those who believes her appearance is part of the Bush administration’s efforts to justify the war with Iraq, forces her to admit that “95 percent” of Middle East experts do not accept her theories about a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda. Testimony later the same day by CIA expert Judith Yaphe further discredits Mylroie’s theories (see July 9, 2003). Both Yaphe and Ben-Veniste feel that Mylroie’s theories are shown to be little more than wild speculations with no evidence to bolster them, but the media coverage of her testimony is far different. She is given great credence by almost all of the mainstream media reports of her appearance before the Commission. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 130-134] Additionally, many of those who lost family members in the attacks are angered by Mylroie’s testimony (see July 9, 2003). Shortly after her testimony, Mylroie’s new book Bush vs. the Beltway will be published, expounding further on her theories. [Washington Monthly, 12/2003]
Anti-abortion activist Eric Rudolph, who has pled guilty to bombing abortion clinics (see January 16, 1997 and January 29, 1998), a gay and lesbian nightclub (see February 21, 1997), and the 1996 Olympics (see July 27, 1996 and After and October 14, 1998) in a series of court proceedings, releases an 11-page “manifesto” that explains the rationale behind his bombing spree. In the document, which the Associated Press terms “[a] sometimes-rambling, sometimes-reflective” statement, Rudolph writes that he considers himself a “warrior” against abortion, which he calls murder, and the US government, which he charges with permitting the “slaughter” of “innocent babies.” Rudolph will receive four life sentences without parole in return for the prosecution removing the death penalty from consideration (see July 18, 2005). He has also alerted authorities to a large stash of explosives he created while hiding in the mountains of western North Carolina.
Abortion Providers, Lawmakers 'Legitimate Targets' in 'War' - The “holocaust” of abortion is his driving impulse, Rudolph writes in his statement. Anyone who supports or allows abortion, he writes, is an enemy deserving of death. “Because I believe that abortion is murder, I also believe that force is justified… in an attempt to stop it,” he writes, “whether these agents of the government are armed or otherwise they are legitimate targets in the war to end this holocaust.… Abortion is murder. And when the regime in Washington legalized, sanctioned, and legitimized this practice, they forfeited their legitimacy and moral authority to govern.”
Rationale for Bombing Olympics - Rudolph also writes that the Olympic bombing was envisioned as the first in a weeklong campaign of bombings designed to shut down the Olympics, held in Atlanta, and embarrass the US government as a result. He had hoped to use high-grade explosives to shut down the Atlanta power grid and force the termination of the Olympics, but was unable to procure the explosives, and calls the results of his bombing a “disaster.” He writes: “In the summer of 1996, the world converged upon Atlanta for the Olympic Games. Under the protection and auspices of the regime in Washington, millions of people came to celebrate the ideals of global socialism. Multinational corporations spent billions of dollars, and Washington organized an army of security to protect these best of all games. Even though the conception and purpose of the so-called Olympic movement is to promote the values of global socialism, as perfectly expressed in the song Imagine by John Lennon, which was the theme of the 1996 Games even though the purpose of the Olympics is to promote these despicable ideals, the purpose of the attack on July 27 was to confound, anger, and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand.”
Racist, Homophobic Views - In the document, Rudolph attacks homosexuality as an “aberrant” lifestyle, and blames the government for condoning it. He denies holding racist or anti-Semitic views [Associated Press, 4/13/2005; Associated Press, 4/14/2005; CNN, 4/19/2005] , though his ex-sister-in-law Deborah Rudolph told reporters that Rudolph believed abortion was part of a plot to undermine the white race; she said, “He felt like if woman continued to abort their white babies, that eventually the white race would become a minority instead of a majority.” Others have said that Rudolph told them he believed the Holocaust never occurred. [CNN, 6/15/2002]
'Worse to Him than Death' - After Rudolph’s guilty plea, Deborah Rudolph says of the prospects of his life in jail, “Knowing that he’s living under government control for the rest of his life, I think that’s worse to him than death.” [Associated Press, 4/13/2005] Rudolph, Prisoner No. 18282-058, will be incarcerated in a tiny cell in the Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colorado, colloquially known as the “Supermax” facility. Rudolph lives on “bomber’s row” along with Ted Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), Islamist terrorist Ramzi Yousef (see February 7, 1995), “shoe bomber” Richard Reid (see December 22, 2001), and Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). After his imprisonment, he releases a statement that reads in part, “The talking heads on the news [will] opine that I am ‘finished,’ that I will ‘languish broken and unloved in the bowels of some supermax,’ but I say to you people that by the grace of God I am still here—a little bloodied, but emphatically unbowed.” [Orlando Weekly, 8/24/2006]
The Defense Department announces that it is bringing death penalty charges against six high-value enemy detainees currently being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The six, all charged with involvement in the 9/11 attacks, will be tried under the much-criticized military tribunal system (see October 17, 2006) implemented by the Bush administration. They are:
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a Pakistani who claims responsibility for 31 terrorist attacks and plots, is believed to have masterminded the 9/11 attacks, and claims he beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (see January 31, 2002). Mohammed was subjected to harsh interrogation tactics by the CIA, including waterboarding.
Ali Adbul Aziz Ali, Mohammed’s nephew and cousin of jailed Islamist terrorist Ramzi Yousef. He is accused of facilitating the attacks by sending $120,000 to US-based terrorists, and helping nine of the hijackers enter the US.
Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, accused of being a link between al-Qaeda and the 9/11 hijackers. Bin al-Shibh is accused of helping some of the hijackers obtain flight training.
Khallad bin Attash, who has admitted planning the attack on the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000) and is accused of running an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. He claims to have helped in the bombing of the US embassy in Kenya (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998).
Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, accused of being a financier of the 9/11 attacks, providing the hijackers with cash, clothing, credit cards, and traveller’s checks.
Mohamed al-Khatani, another man accused of being a “20th hijacker;” al-Khatani was stopped by immigration officials at Orlando Airport while trying to enter the US. He was captured in Afghanistan.
Many experts see the trials as part of an election-year effort by the Bush administration to demonstrate its commitment to fighting terrorism, and many predict a surge of anti-American sentiment in the Middle East and throughout the Islamic world. Some believe that the Bush administration is using the trials to enhance the political fortunes of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who has made the US battle against al-Qaeda a centerpiece of his campaign. “What we are looking at is a series of show trials by the Bush administration that are really devoid of any due process considerations,” says Vincent Warren, the executive director head of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents many Guantanamo detainees. “Rather than playing politics the Bush administration should be seeking speedy and fair trials. These are trials that are going to be based on torture as confessions as well as secret evidence. There is no way that this can be said to be fair especially as the death penalty could be an outcome.”
Treatment of Detainees an Issue - While the involvement of the six detainees in the 9/11 attacks is hardly disputed, many questions surround their treatment at Guantanamo and various secret “black sites” used to house and interrogate terror suspects out of the public eye. Questions are being raised about the decision to try the six men concurrently instead of separately, about the decision to seek the death penalty, and, most controversially, the admissibility of information and evidence against the six that may have been gathered by the use of torture.
Details of Forthcoming Tribunals - While the charges are being announced now, Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann, the Pentagon official supervising the case, acknowledges that it could be months before the cases actually begin, and years before any possible executions would be carried out. Hartmann promises the trials will be “as completely open as possible,” with lawyers and journalists present in the courtroom unless classified information is being presented. Additionally, the six defendants will be considered innocent until proven guilty, and the defendants’ lawyers will be given “every stitch of evidence” against their clients.
'Kangaroo Court' - British lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, who has worked with “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo, believes nothing of what Hartmann says. The procedures are little more than a “kangaroo court,” Stafford Smith says, and adds, “Anyone can see the hypocrisy of espousing human rights, then trampling on them.” Despite Hartmann’s assurances, it is anything but clear just what rights the six defendants will actually have. [Independent, 2/12/2008] The charges against al-Khahtani are dropped several months later (see May 13, 2008).
Entity Tags: Vincent Warren, US Department of Defense, Khallad bin Attash, Daniel Pearl, Clive Stafford Smith, John McCain, Mohamed al-Khatani, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Thomas Hartmann, Center for Constitutional Rights, Ramzi Yousef, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Bush administration (43), Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Al-Qaeda
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
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