The Hull Thread
Chronology of Events From October 1998 - December 1998
October 4, 1998 Electronic Telegraph
Osama bin Laden, the world's most wanted terrorist, is building a vast complex of mud-walled, turreted fortresses for his army of Arab terrorists in Afghanistan to replace the bases destroyed by American missiles. One new base has already been completed in Kandahar and is inhabited by bin Laden's recruits. He is said to have 3,000 on his payroll. Another is almost complete and, according to local officials, teams of surveyors have been charting the area for further fortresses. They say that at night numerous vehicles bring the latest Arab recruits. Bin Laden's activities in the Kandahar area seem to refute suggestions that he was curtailing his terrorist activities after the US missile attacks on his Afghan bases, which were launched in August in retaliation for the bombings of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks it was reported that the Taliban had placed bin Laden under house arrest, and publicly ordered him to cease terrorist activities on Afghan soil. But now it seems the terrorist leader is expanding his operations. Apart from the training camps on the city outskirts, bin Laden has safe houses in the city. He also has an extensive compound inside the main airport, which is being expanded. ....... Bin Laden himself, however, moves only at night, speeding through the city in a heavily-armed convoy of 20 vehicles with darkened windows. Since reports of his house arrest, even these sightings have become rare and the convoy has been glimpsed only infrequently, near the desert fortress. A recent report that bin Laden had offered to leave Afghanistan for another terrorist-friendly country such as Libya has been denied by the Taliban. It is almost impossible to move in Kandahar without coming across some trace of bin Laden. Locals point out the house he first built in Kandahar, which is still occupied by his men: a stone building with a tower, set behind a wall in a side-street opposite the Taliban "Foreign Ministry". Then there is the airport complex, 20 miles from the city, containing 300 houses, hidden behind walls and trees and heavily secured by armed guards, who turn away outsiders. .... It is easy to see why bin Laden feels at home in Kandahar. This conservative city is the one most completely under the Taliban heel. From here, one of the world's most secretive and centralised governments rules by a system of Shuras, or religious councils, dominated by a one-eyed cleric, aged 39, who refuses to meet women or "infidels". It is here that the notorious Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the feared religious police, has its headquarters. ...... The Taliban's war has so far cost an estimated $300,000 (£187,500) a year. As long as the movement remains largely without friends, it is likely that the terrorist leader and Taliban financier will quietly continue expanding his Afghan-based empire.
October 4, 1998 New York Times
The United States has obtained new evidence to link the owner of a Sudanese factory destroyed in a U.S. cruise missile strike last month to a terrorist group backed by Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, according to U.S. intelligence officials. The evidence, the officials said last week, shows that Salih Idris, the owner of Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, has had financial dealings with members of Islamic Jihad, an Egypt-based group responsible for the assassination there of President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Islamic Jihad, in turn, receives money and sponsorship from bin Laden and has been absorbed into his terror network, the officials added. .... U.S. officials say they have also received new reports of an increase in the Iraqi presence in Sudan since the missile attack. Officials said they were not certain what the Iraqis were now doing in Khartoum. But intelligence agents previously obtained evidence that the manager of the Shifa plant made frequent trips to Iraq, where he visited the head of the chemical weapons program. In addition, a soil sample that the CIA clandestinely took at the Shifa plant showed the presence of a chemical used in the production of VX nerve gas, a process used only by Iraq. .... (A)fter the missile strike, when Idris was publicly identified as the owner, U.S. intelligence began to investigate his possible connections to chemical weapons and terrorism. A Sudanese expatriate who now lives in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, Idris, 46, was previously a senior manager of the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia. He bought the Shifa plant in March. Officials say U.S. intelligence has received reports that Idris launders money for international Islamic groups, and that he also has a stake in a company in Sudan that is 40 percent owned by the Military Industrial Corporation, a government entity that the United States says controls Sudanese chemical weapons development. Bin Laden has helped finance the Military Industrial Corp. in his effort to use Sudan as a base for chemical weapons production, and talked to Sudanese leaders about testing poisonous gases against U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, according to U.S. intelligence. .... U.S. intelligence officials declined to provide details about the reports of Idris' financial dealings with members of Islamic Jihad. But they said that Islamic Jihad had now been consolidated into bin Laden's terrorist campaign.
October 8, 1998 The New York Times
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Wednesday that one of the men accused of conspiring to bomb the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August had met earlier with Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the attacks, and "asked him for a mission." The reported meeting between bin Laden and the accused man, Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al'Owhali, which had not previously been described, is the strongest allegation offered so far to link bin Laden to the attacks, in which more than 250 people died. The meeting, which prosecutors said took place in 1996, is reported in a new 48-page indictment of Al-'Owhali and three others that a federal grand jury in Manhattan returned Wednesday. ..... Nonetheless, in issuing the new charges against men suspected of being bin Laden's associates, the government also declared more concretely than previously that bin Laden has been a major backer of terrorism groups worldwide. Its list of terrorist groups includes Al Jihad in Egypt and the Islamic Group, which is led by Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted in 1996 in the plot to blow up landmarks in New York City. The indictment asserted that bin Laden's organization, Al Qaeda, worked on its own and through Al Jihad, Islamic Group and others, which "operated under its umbrella."
October 8, 1998 The New York Times
The Taliban movement in Afghanistan might consider putting Osama bin Laden on trial for a 1996 bomb attack that killed 19 American airmen in Saudi Arabia, a leading Saudi-owned newspaper reported Wednesday. Bin Laden, the Saudi-born Islamic militant who lives in Afghanistan, has long been suspected of involvement in that and other attacks on Americans, including the Aug. 7 bombings of two U.S. Embassies in Africa. He has been indicted in the United States, charged with terrorist acts committed before the embassy bombings. .... (T)he London-based newspaper Al Hayat .... generally a reliable source on matters involving the Saudi government .... reported that the Taliban had communicated the offer to Saudi Arabia as a good-will gesture. .... Saudi Arabia has never charged bin Laden or anyone else in the 1996 bombing, and any specific American accusations linking bin Laden to that attack have been spelled out only in a sealed indictment. But U.S. officials have said they have learned enough about the bombing, of an American military compound in the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran, to regard bin Laden as a prime suspect. Saudi Arabia, which stripped bin Laden of his citizenship in 1994 because of his militant activities, has turned up pressure against Afghanistan in a clear show of protest at the sanctuary provided there to him. Last month, it expelled the Afghan charge d'affaires and recalled its own top envoy from Kabul, the Afghan capital, saying that the moves were "in keeping with national interest."
October 14, 1998 New York Times
An admitted Mafia member testified at his murder trial Tuesday that while in jail he spied for the government on four other inmates -- the mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing and three others eventually convicted of terrorist acts -- and reported their plans for further acts to the authorities. The defendant, Gregory Scarpa Jr., testified in federal District Court in Brooklyn that, using a tiny "spy camera" that a jail official had given him, he worked undercover for the FBI for about a year in 1996 and 1997 after gaining the confidence of the others while all of them were being held in a high-security area of a federal jail in Manhattan. At the time, Scarpa was awaiting his current trial on charges that include participation in five gangland murders, racketeering and other charges. The four other inmates, including Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who was convicted in November 1997 as the chief plotter of the World Trade Center bombing, which killed six people, were either being tried or were awaiting trial. The three others were convicted with Yousef, one in the 1993 Trade Center bombing and two in an aborted plot to blow up American airliners in the Far East. Scarpa said he told the FBI that associates of the four men planned to kill a prosecutor in one of Yousef's trials, attack a federal judge whom Scarpa did not identify, and attack "government installations" that he did not specify. Among the things he photographed, he said, were notes he received from Yousef, who Scarpa said wanted the notes returned, and "timing devices." He did not explain what those devices were or how the inmates managed to obtain them in the jail, the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan. The U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, which prosecuted Yousef and the others, the U.S. Attorney's office in Brooklyn, which is prosecuting Scarpa, and the FBI all declined to comment on his testimony. .... Scarpa, 47, also told the jury that he had passed on information from the inmates that other terrorists "were on their way" to the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta to check out the security for a possible bomb attack there, but his testimony did not indicate that they were responsible for the bomb that did explode there, killing one person. Federal authorities have most recently linked that bombing to a fugitive they are seeking, Eric Robert Rudolph.
October 19, 1998 Newsweek
The theory that TWA Flight 800 was brought down by a missile may be widely discredited, but it won't die. The latest conspiracy crank to delve into the mysterious crash is none other than film director Oliver Stone. His production company is preparing a one-hour, prime-time "reality" special called "Oliver Stone's Declassified" for ABC's entertainment division, including a segment on the missile theory. But not everyone at ABC is thrilled about the project. Like most mainstream media, ABC News has reported federal investigators' conclusion that the crash was caused by a mechanical malfunction. Says an ABC News spokeswoman: "We are confident that this program will be clearly identified as Oliver Stone's point of view."
October 18, 1998 New York Times
A group of Retired Aviation Professionals including Admiral Thomas H. Moorer USN (Ret.) - Former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of staff, R. Admiral Mark Hill USN (Ret.) - Former Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Independence and accident investigator, Brig Gen. Ben Partin, USAF, (Ret.) - Designer of Continuous-rod warhead for the BOMARC missile, Cmdr. William S. Donaldson USN (Ret.) - Former Officer in Charge of Carrier Battlegroup's Air Traffic Control Center, pilot and military accident investigator, Captain Howard Mann, Retired TWA captain and accident investigator, Major Fred Meyer - Decorated Vietnam pilot and Air National Guard pilot who witnessed TWA 800 shootdown from his helicopter, Captain Al Mundo - Retired TWA pilot who was the flight engineer on TWA 800 for the incoming flight from Athens publish an ad in the NY Times supporting the position that two missiles brought down TWA Flight 800. http://members.aol.com/FL800/news.gif
October 22, 1998 New York Times
Several months after the bombing of the World Trade Center in February 1993, one of the suspects tried to bargain with federal prosecutors in New York, offering inside information about the bomb plot in exchange for a lighter sentence. The deal never materialized, and the defendant was eventually found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. But the details he offered in that secret meeting about his Brooklyn-based circle of Arab militants are resonating today in another terrorism case. The accused bomber told prosecutors that he had twice turned to a Texas acquaintance named Wadih el Hage to buy weapons for his Brooklyn associates. Last month, el Hage was arrested on charges of being part of the Osama bin Laden terror network that is suspected of the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on Aug. 7. It is not clear how federal investigators followed up the tip about el Hage that they received in 1993. But after the embassy bombings, it is evident that they are ascribing new significance to el Hage's contacts with the Brooklyn militants who figured not only in the World Trade Center case, but also in the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1990 and a conspiracy to blow up the United Nations and other New York landmarks in 1993. Indeed, the government recently asserted for the first time that the roots of bin Laden's organization could be traced, in part, to a sparsely furnished office on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn that was called Alkifah Refugee Center and had for many years been a gathering place for that same fringe group of terrorists. .... But in the government's version so far, bin Laden's far-flung network is presented as a tapestry of personal relationships between men of different nationalities and backgrounds who share his determination to rid the Islamic world of American influence. In the United States, prosecutors now suggest, such relationships evolved from Alkifah Refugee Center. ..... The center's stated purpose was to raise money and recruit fighters to help the U.S.-backed Afghan mujahedeen, who rebelled against the Communist government in Afghanistan after an invasion by the Soviet Union in 1979. .... It was this ramshackle office that the government says evolved into the American outpost of bin Laden's international terrorist organization. The center was set up by Mustafa Shalabi, an Egyptian immigrant. As his former neighbors recall him, Shalabi was infused with the same religious fervor for the Afghan cause that galvanized many young Muslims who regarded it as a holy war to liberate a Muslim country from Communist domination. One of those who answered the call to fight in Afghanistan was Mahmud Abouhalima, who was active in militant Islamic movements in his native Egypt before moving to West Germany in 1981 and to New York four years later. Abouhalima would later become a well-known figure in New York as one of the men accused in the World Trade Center bombing. Shortly after his arrest in that case, he met with government investigators without his lawyer and provided a detailed account of Alkifah Refugee Center and its internecine rivalries. He recounted his brief stint with the mujahedeen in Afghanistan and told of traveling with a Palestinian man he knew as Mohammed Odeh to Peshawar, in northern Pakistan, the staging area for the Afghan rebels. Abouhalima said they had spent two and a half months in separate training camps, learning how to use AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Later, they joined a militia unit and fought against Soviet forces with the American-financed mujahedeen. For reasons that remain unclear, prosecutors rebuffed Abouhalima's offer of cooperation. But his mention of Odeh is intriguing in light of more recent events. A Palestinian man with a similar name and background, Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, has been charged with driving the truck that delivered the bomb in the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. He has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial in New York. Federal officials declined to say whether the Odeh charged in the embassy attack this year is the same Palestinian whose name surfaced five years ago. In his 1993 statement to investigators, Abouhalima made no mention of bin Laden, although bin Laden is known to have worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the war years distributing official Saudi aid money for the mujahedeen. Not long after Abouhalima returned to New York in late 1988, the Afghan war began to wind down. The Soviet Union withdrew the last of its troops in 1989. Two years later, the United States agreed to stop supplying arms to fractious Afghan warlords, and Afghanistan descended into civil war. Many of the Arab men who had gone to fight, including bin Laden, stayed on but turned their religious fury against secular Arab governments and, ultimately, the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf and in Africa. The turmoil in postwar Afghanistan echoed in Brooklyn, where Shalabi kept Alkifah Center open. With the arrival in Brooklyn in 1990 of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric who was later convicted of conspiring to blow up New York landmarks, Abouhalima said, the regulars at Alkifah began to quarrel over money, political direction and leadership. It was around that time that Abouhalima said he had first met el Hage, a Lebanese-born naturalized American citizen, at an Islamic conference in Oklahoma City. .... A federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, said in court last month, for example, that el Hage had a relationship with El Sayyid A. Nosair, the Egyptian immigrant convicted on federal charges in slaying of Kahane. He did not elaborate. Abouhalima, who told investigators that he had been in charge of protecting Sheik Abdel Rahman during the cleric's stay in the United States, told investigators that he had gone at least twice to el Hage to buy guns. Abouhalima said he obtained a 9-millimeter handgun from el Hage in 1990 for use by the cleric's bodyguards. Abouhalima also told investigators that he later gave el Hage $4,000 to buy handguns and AK-47s to defend his associates from the Jewish Defense League in New York, an organization founded by Kahane. Abouhalima said el Hage had been unable to obtain the weapons and returned most of the money. .....The government cited the weapons transaction in a court hearing last month to persuade a federal magistrate to deny bail to el Hage. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, said el Hage had acknowledged dealings with Abouhalima. ....Abouhalima told investigators of other contacts with el Hage. He said that el Hage called him from Texas in early 1991 and said Shalabi wanted him to come to New York to help resolve a conflict within Alkifah Center. At the time, Shalabi's leadership was under fire from dissidents within his circle, including Abouhalima. El Hage did come to New York. A short time later, Shalabi was found slain in his Brooklyn apartment. No one has been charged, and the crime remains unsolved. Abouhalima said he and el Hage had met one more time in Al Farooq Mosque on Atlantic Avenue, a few doors from Alkifah Center. The topic of discussion, he said, was Shalabi's troubles and his recent killing. Prosecutors say that by 1994, el Hage moved his wife and children to Sudan, where neighbors said they knew him as the director of Africa Help, a private aid organization. But the government said he was the private secretary to bin Laden, who by then had relocated from Afghanistan to Sudan. Later that year, the government said, el Hage moved to Kenya, where he shared a house for a time with a man named Haroun Fazil and helped bin Laden set up some of his front companies in Africa. Fazil is accused of playing a role in the August embassy bombings in Africa. The government appears to have been tracking el Hage for at least a year before the embassy bombings. In September of last year, he was pointedly questioned by federal agents investigating bin Laden's group. ....
October 23, 1998 NY Times
Nine months before the attack on the American Embassy here, United States intelligence officials received a detailed warning that Islamic radicals were plotting to blow up the building, according to Kenyan and American officials. The warning forecast the Aug. 7 bombing in several particulars, the officials said. It came from an Egyptian man who American officials now believe was involved in the simultaneous terrorist assaults on the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The Egyptian, Mustafa Mahmoud Said Ahmed, is now in jail in Tanzania, charged by local prosecutors with bombing the embassy there. Since the bombings, the State Department has maintained that it received no specific warnings about threats to its embassies in East Africa. But late Thursday, a spokesman acknowledged that the C.I.A. had sent the State Department two reports about Ahmed which prompted the embassy in Kenya to step up security for several weeks. .... Disclosure of the warning raises new questions about the State Department's protection of the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which did not meet its own minimum security standards. .... In the days after the bombings, the Administration acknowledged that it had spurned requests from the American Ambassador in Kenya, Prudence Bushnell, to move the entire embassy to a safer location. The State Department would not say whether her cables mentioned Ahmed's warning.
According to American officials, Ahmed walked into the Nairobi embassy last November and told American intelligence officials that he knew of a group that was planning to detonate a bomb-laden truck inside the diplomats' underground parking garage. .... Analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency were unable to link Ahmed to any terrorist group but they nonetheless sent two reports last November about his statements to various Government agencies. .... After Ahmed appeared at the embassy, American officials alerted their Kenyan counterparts, who questioned the Egyptian and then deported him. Soon after, Ahmed made his way to Tanzania where, American officials now believe, he participated in the Aug. 7 bombing of the embassy that left 11 people dead. .... A Clinton Administration official acknowledged that the embassy in Kenya had received a specific warning about an attack. "It is embarrassing," this official said, quickly adding: "It is tragic." Asked why the embassy took few steps to improve its security after the warning, he said: "That's the 64-million-dollar question." ..... Thus far, Tanzanian authorities have not allowed Ahmed to be interviewed, and it was unclear what motivated him to alert authorities about a plot in which he appears to have played a role. He told the Kenyans that in the past he had provided authorities with information about Islamic radicals because he wanted to see them arrested and rehabilitated rather than caught committing a crime for which they would be executed. .... Tanzanian investigators suspect he was a central figure in the plot. They are now examining whether Ahmed drove one of the vehicles used in the Dar es Salaam bombing and whether the 400 pounds of explosives used in both blasts came into Tanzania in a shipment of rice imported by one of his companies. The Clinton Administration has not sought to extradite Ahmed from Tanzania event though Federal law permits the United States to bring charges against anyone who attempts or conspires to murder Americans anywhere in the world. American prosecutors have already brought to the United States several other people accused of complicity in the bombings or of having ties to Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile who American investigators have identified as the mastermind of the attacks. The American Embassy in Dar es Salaam declined to answer any questions about Ahmed and why Washington was not seeking his extradition. American diplomats in Tanzania, speaking on the condition of anonymity, suggested the prosecution was being left to the Tanzanians because there were no American victims. .... Several non-American diplomats in the region speculated that the United States is allowing the Tanzanians to try Ahmed because they fear his trial in America might bring to light his dealings with American authorities and other Western intelligence services. At a court appearance earlier this month, Ahmed said that he had contacted the British Embassy in Dar es Salaam the day after the bombings and offered investigators his help. Ahmed said he returned to the British Embassy twice to meet with F.B.I. agents. A British diplomat confirmed that Ahmed had come to his country's embassy, but declined to comment further. "I told them everything I knew," Ahmed blurted out in court. In halting English, he added that it was "not the first time" he had cooperated with Western officials, and that he been doing so "since last year." Mwengela, his lawyer, said that his client had approached the British Embassy after the bombing "as a good Samaritan" and that he wanted to see the information passed on to the Americans. ..... Ahmed's past remains something of a mystery. He told Kenyan intelligence officials he is an Egyptian who grew up in Zaire, attended university in Cairo, worked for the Kuwait Ministry of Defense in the years before the war in the Persian Gulf, and came to Kenya as a gem dealer. Almost none of these details have been independently confirmed. His Tanzanian friends knew him as an Iraqi and when he was arrested in Aug. in Dar es Salaam, he had passports from Egypt, Yemen and Zaire, and a thick pile of passport photos, some showing him him with a beard, others depicting him as clean shaven. In his interview with Kenyan intelligence officials, Ahmed asserted that he had met Osama bin Laden .... in the mid-1980's. American prosecutors have identified bin Laden as the mastermind of the embassy bombings. When he lived in Sudan, bin Laden directed some of his worldwide business dealings through a company known as Taba Investments, prosecutors have said. In Kenya, Ahmed worked as a gem dealer at Taba International, a company he set up, according to Kenyan officials. Kenyan officials said he arrived in their country around 1994. One of the men charged in the United States with bombing the Nairobi embassy has told Pakistani investigators that he moved to Kenya that same year at the invitation of "Mustapha," a soldier who had fought with the United States-financed Afghan rebels. The suspect, Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, said the bombing in Dar es Salaam was organized by "Mustafa," described in a Pakistani summary of the interrogation as an "Egyptian Leader." A senior Tanzanian law enforcement official said these were believed to be references to Ahmed. Kenyan authorities deported Ahmed late last year and he appears to have arrived in Tanzanian soon after. In Dar es Salaam, he became a regular at the al Rawdah mosque in the heart of the capital's bustling Kisutu market. With a few Arabic friends, he often had juice and sweets at the New Kisutu, a small stand adjacent to the mosque's entrance, a young man at the stand recalled last week. This 22 year-old worker, who asked not be named because of fear for his safety, said he believed that the circle of Ahmed's associates included Odeh, one of the defendants in the Nairobi bombing. Odeh's picture has appeared in newspapers in Tanzania.
About a week before the bombing, Ahmed and his friends stopped coming, the man said, adding that he has not seen them since. Ahmed did not maintain a low profile in Tanzania. In the days before the bombings, he called a reporter at a local newspaper, The Express, peddling a story that his business partner was selling Iraqis false documents. ..... The reporter, Steven Kyomo, said he spoke three times with Ahmed on his mobile phone on Aug. 6, the day before the bombings. Three times, they set a time and place for a meeting. But Ahmed did not show up. Ahmed has said he was in the Tanzanian city of Arusha on Aug. 7, which is 300 miles north of Dar es Salaam on the border with Kenya. On Aug. 8, Ahmed has said he returned to Dar es Salaam, where he immediately contacted the British Embassy to relate what he knew about the plot. The next night, he checked into the Palm Beach Hotel in Dar es Salaam. He started signing the register with his real name, Mustafa, but crossed it out, and wrote his name as Muhamed Mustakeem. He checked out the next morning, but came back that night, telling the hotel staff not to let anyone know he was there. On Aug. 11, he returned to Arusha and he paid $13 for a night at the Meru Guest House. He registered as a businessman and presented a Zairian passport, according to hotel records. The following morning, the hotel's owner, Robert Mbise, recalled in a recent interview, Ahmed hurriedly departed again for Dar es Salaam, taking with him $3,500, in United States currency that he had put in the safe deposit box. He asked the hotel to store a plastic bag filled with documents. About a week later, the F.B.I. came to the hotel, with Ahmed in tow to retrieve the cache. He was not hand-cuffed. He did not appear upset and he joked with F.B.I. agents, said Abdul Baba, the manager of the hotel restaurant. "Why are you asking so many stupid questions?" Baba recalled Ahmed saying to the agents. "Ask clever questions." Baba heard one of the agents ask Ahmed why he had used different names when registering at various hotels. Ahmed replied that it was because people were always pestering him for money, Baba said. The F.B.I. took the bag Ahmed had left behind and dumped the contents on a table. There was a Koran, and more than 200 passport-size photographs of various people, and of Ahmed himself, in various guises. One theory the investigators are chasing is that the 400 pounds of explosives used in the bombings came by ship secreted in a shipment of rice consigned to one of the Islamic relief organizations. Off-loaded at Dar es Salaam, some of the explosives may then have been hauled by road north to Nairobi.
October 23, 1998 Letter from M. Hull to
In your interview with Cmdr. Donaldson on the downing of TWA 800 you asked why no one had claimed responsibility. Cmdr. Donaldson gave a clue as to who was behind this event when he mentioned the failed attack three weeks earlier which occurred within hours of the Khobar Towers bombing. The Khobar Towers bombing was financed by Osama bin Laden.
October 8, 1998 The New York Times
The Taliban movement in Afghanistan might consider putting Osama bin Laden on trial for a 1996 bomb attack that killed 19 American airmen in Saudi Arabia, a leading Saudi-owned newspaper reported Wednesday. ... (T)he London-based newspaper Al Hayat .... generally a reliable source on matters involving the Saudi government .... reported that the Taliban had communicated the offer to Saudi Arabia as a good-will gesture. .... Saudi Arabia has never charged bin Laden or anyone else in the 1996 bombing, and any specific American accusations linking bin Laden to that attack have been spelled out only in a sealed indictment. But U.S. officials have said they have learned enough about the bombing, of an American military compound in the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran, to regard bin Laden as a prime suspect.
Osama bin Laden's organization also funded the activities of Ramsey Yousef who was convicted of the World Trade Center bombing.
August 2, 1997 Electronic Telegraph Issue
Exiled from Saudi Arabia, bin Laden, 44, who has an inherited fortune estimated at £154 million, is zealously committed to striking at American interests. He is a towering figure in Islamic circles, where he gained heroic status in the Eighties, fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Reporters who have interviewed him say he is a tall and elegant figure in a gold-trimmed white robe and red-and-white keffiyeh. He lives with his three wives at Hadda in Afghanistan, beyond the reach of the West and under the protection of the Taliban, who captured Kabul almost a year ago. He is especially feared because of his ability to fund many diverse operations. Britain has a special interest in him because he has been linked to the transfer of funds two years ago to a London-based Algerian group suspected of seven bombings in France. He has also been connected to the London-based Saudi opposition group, the Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights. Egypt wants to question him for allegedly funding a plot to assassinate President Mubarak in December 1995. Cairo believes that in association with the blind sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, he was behind some of the murders of Western tourists in Egypt. America believes that bin Laden was the patron of Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the 28 year-old Pakistani on trial in Manhattan for allegedly masterminding the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing for which the sheikh is serving a prison term. . The CIA believes that bin Laden had advance knowledge of two Saudi bombings that killed 24 US servicemen. He is thought to have provided the money, with Iran supplying the muscle through Hizbollah.
And would you be surprised to learn that Ramsey Yousef admitted that the organization of which he was a part brought down TWA 800?
September 1997 The American Spectator - Letter from John B. Roberts II in reply to an earlier one from James Hall - Chairman of the NTSB - "Hall states that the U.S. lacks intelligence leads, but one terrorist has claimed credit for the TWA 800 bombing. World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Ahmed Yousef told authorities his group is responsible. Yousef's claim has not been made public, but it is in the FBI file".
Further, two individuals of Osama bin Laden's organization, arrested while attempting to bomb a Brooklyn subway, also admitted that the organization to which they belonged brought down TWA 800.
August 4, 1997 TIME.com
The FBI has linked two suspects in a Brooklyn suicide-bombing plot to the militant Mideast group Hamas. Palestinian security officials think the two suspects could be members of a new group, financed by Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, which takes its orders from Hamas or another Islamist group.
July 12, 1998, NY Times
Abu Maizar and Khalil, 23, were arrested last July when the police raided an apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and found what they described as a pipe bomb "fully rigged and ready to be detonated," along with a rambling note that threatened attacks against Jewish and American interests if various demands were not met. The demands included the release of imprisoned Islamic militants including Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who was convicted of masterminding the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The note -- it was typed on lined yellow paper and rife with grammatical and spelling and punctuation errors -- not only warned that Islamic militants were "ready to hit everywhere" with suicide bombs, but also claimed responsibility for the crash of Trans World Airlines Flight 800 in July 1996, in which 230 people died.
Now it was indicated above that Osama bin Laden is linked to a London-based Saudi extremist group. Is it surprising that this group had also given a warning about attempts to bring down a US airliner?
July 19, 1996 New York Times
A specific warning about the flight had been sent by an extremist Saudi organization called the Movement of Islamic Change, the organization that claimed responsibility for blowing up US military personnel in Saudi Arabia last November. "Late this morning we got a copy of a letter in Arabic that we then had translated, and got it to the FBI" said a State Department spokesman ... "It's a statement that seems aimed at the Saudi regime or the American presence in Saudi Arabia".
July 21, 1996 New York Times.
Officials of Al Hayat, a prominent Arabic-language newspaper, said they had received faxes in London and Washington early on Wednesday, warning of a planned attack on an American target. The letter was signed by a group identifying itself as the Movement of Islamic Change, the Jihad wing.
So I think it is quite clear who claimed responsibility - Osama bin Laden. The question that you should have asked is why the U.S. government denies that it knows who claimed responsibility. But maybe this should not surprise anyone given that our government (and our press) chose to ignore Osama bin Laden until he blew up two embassies in Africa. Again, as with TWA 800, the government denied it had any warning about the event!
October 23, 1998 NY Times
Nine months before the attack on the American Embassy here, United States intelligence officials received a detailed warning that Islamic radicals were plotting to blow up the building, according to Kenyan and American officials. The warning forecast the Aug. 7 bombing in several particulars, the officials said. It came from an Egyptian man who American officials now believe was involved in the simultaneous terrorist assaults on the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The Egyptian, Mustafa Mahmoud Said Ahmed, is now in jail in Tanzania, charged by local prosecutors with bombing the embassy there. Since the bombings, the State Department has maintained that it received no specific warnings about threats to its embassies in East Africa.
Incidentally the firing of three "flares", three weeks before the TWA 800 downing, took place at the time that TWA flight 884 from New York to Tel Aviv was scheduled to be passing over the spot where the "flares" were launched. TWA Flight 848 (New York to Rome) blocked out at exactly 10:00 pm on June 26, 1996 and assuming normal handling, Flight 848 would have passed about 11 NM South of Shinnecock Inlet at 10:29 p.m. EDT. TWA Flight 884 (New York to Tel Aviv) was scheduled to depart before FL 848 but blocked out late at 10:19 p.m. EDT. The same flight, TWA 884, was diverted on November 16, 1996, four months after the TWA 800 downing, when a Pakistani flight in front of it observed a "rocket" passing through its altitude. Audio files of the pilot's conversations during this "rocket" incident (PIA and TWA) may be found in the article "The Tale of the Tapes" which may be found at tapes.htm. I suggest that you explore these matters in-depth by inviting Cmdr. Donaldson back for more than a "soundbite" interview. Cordially, Mike Hull
October 26, 1998 NY Times Editorial: Premonitions of
Since the deadly bombing of two American embassies in Africa in August, there has been a troubling accumulation of evidence that the State Department inexplicably ignored warnings of possible terrorist attacks against the installations. The latest and most disturbing account suggests that nine months before the truck bombing in Kenya, the department received a detailed description of the planned attack but did little to strengthen security at the embassy. The pattern of negligence demands examination by the Clinton Administration and Congress. Shortly after the bombing, the department acknowledged that the American Ambassador in Kenya, Prudence Bushnell, had earlier recommended that the embassy be moved to a safer location. Her advice was rejected. On Friday, Raymond Bonner and James Risen of The Times reported that an Egyptian now believed to have been directly involved in the bombings outlined the Kenya plot to American intelligence officials last November. Mustafa Mahmoud Said Ahmed's account was so specific -- he said terrorists were planning to detonate a truck bomb in the embassy's underground garage -- that it called for more than a temporary increase in security. Unhappily, it was discounted, even thought to be a ruse to lure the embassy into new security measures that terrorists could monitor and defeat. The logic of this is hard to fathom, and harder still to explain to relatives of the Americans and Kenyans killed in an attack nearly identical to the plan Mr. Ahmed described. Since the bombings, the department has been quick to close embassies temporarily if attacks seem imminent. It would be interesting to know if the intelligence behind those decisions was any more credible than Mr. Ahmed's warning. No one at the State Department is happy with the department's handling of security matters, but the tendency to blame limited funding and bureaucratic inertia is disheartening. Of course, additional money would have made it possible to harden defenses at more embassies, and Congress has now added to the security budget. But more decisive leadership in the department could have assured preventive steps were taken in East Africa.
October 27, 1998 The New York Times
Federal prison officials have cut off virtually all communications for two men being held in Manhattan in the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. A federal prison official said Monday that the government moved under a rarely used federal rule that allows prison officials to limit an inmate's contacts to prevent future "acts of violence and terrorism." A spokesman for the federal prosecutor's office declined to say whether the authorities foresaw further threats of terrorism. But the law allows officials to impose restrictions where they believe there is "a substantial risk" that an inmate's communications "could result in death or serious bodily injury." Under the provision, approved by the Justice Department, prison officials may segregate prisoners from other inmates, and cut off their correspondence, visits, interviews with the news media and use of the telephone. It was not clear yesterday which of these restrictions would be applied to the two bombing suspects, Mohamed Saddiq Odeh and Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali. The rule does permit communications with their lawyers. A Bureau of Prisons official in Washington confirmed that the two men are joining a group of about six inmates throughout the country being held under the restrictions. .... Others similarly restricted include Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the Egyptian cleric convicted in the conspiracy to blow up landmarks in New York, and Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, convicted of masterminding the World Trade Center bombings in 1993.
October 30, 1998 The New York Times
Federal prosecutors have filed secret charges against a former sergeant in the U.S. Special Forces who is suspected of switching sides in the war against terrorism and joining the global campaign to attack Americans mounted by the Saudi exile Osama bin Laden. ...... They draw new ties between bin Laden and a circle of Islamic militants in Brooklyn, who were implicated in the World Trade Center bombing and a plot to blow up the United Nations and other New York landmarks. The former Special Forces sergeant, Ali Mohamed, was charged in September in a closed court hearing in Manhattan, and remains in custody at the Metropolitan Correctional Center .... In what appears to be a related development, prosecutors investigating bin Laden are negotiating a possible plea agreement with another man, a former associate of Mohamed's who was arrested this year in suburban Washington, according to court records. Such a deal could be intended to secure testimony about Mohamed or his circle. ..... Mohamed, 46, served for three years at the Army's Special Forces base in Fort Bragg, N.C., and was honorably discharged from the service in 1989, according to military records and interviews. His records show that his duties ranged from clerical work to instructing soldiers headed for the Middle East about Islamic culture. A witness at the 1995 trial of the Islamic militants accused of plotting to blow up New York landmarks testified that Mohamed traveled to New York while on active duty and provided military training to local Muslims preparing to fight the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. The witness said the students included El Sayyid Nosair, the Egyptian immigrant convicted of killing Rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of the Jewish Defense League, in 1990. .... At some point in the 1990s, the secret charges against Mohamed suggest, he became enmeshed in bin Laden's group, which is known as al Qaeda. A federal magistrate in New York has refused to make the charges against him publicly available. .... Federal prosecutors in New York have been building a case against bin Laden's organization since at least 1995. Their efforts intensified in August after bombers believed to be linked to the wealthy Saudi attacked the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. In the months that followed, agents from the FBI fanned out around the world, seeking to arrest anyone with financial or operational ties to bin Laden or his network. Prosecutors have asserted in court papers that bin Laden's organization grew in part from the Alkifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, where prosecutors say a cadre of Islamic militants gathered to plot a series of terrorist attacks. ..... Bin Laden himself has been secretly indicted in the terrorism investigation, law enforcement officials have said. The war in Afghanistan is a common thread for bin Laden, and nearly all of those charged with the embassy bombings fought in the jihad, or holy war, against the Soviet forces occupying the country. Mohamed's military record and other documents describe an unusual career. He was born in Kafr El Sheik, Egypt, and attended a military academy before serving as an officer in Egypt from 1971 to 1984. The records say he is fluent in Arabic, Hebrew, English and French, and worked for 18 months as a security adviser to Egyptair after leaving the Egyptian army. Mohamed entered the United States in September 1985 and became a permanent resident soon after. He enlisted in the Army in August of the following year. A powerfully built dark-haired man, Mohamed received a commendation his first year for "exceptional performance" on the Army's physical training test. He spent his three years in the Army with the Special Forces units at Fort Bragg, which include both military trainers and elite commando units, such as the Army Rangers or Delta Force. Mohamed, the records say, was involved in training and lectured soldiers being deployed to the Middle East on the region's culture and politics. He also helped make and appeared in some training videotapes about the Middle East. In one tape, he is dressed in civilian clothes, and fluently answers a series of questions from several higher-ranking officers about Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Mohamed asserts that the world has no true Islamic nation, that "Islam cannot survive without political domination" and that devout Muslims are widely misunderstood. "The term of fundamentalism scares people in the West," he declares at one point. "Everybody when he hears fundamentalist, he thinks about armed struggle. He thinks about radicals. He thinks about groups that are carrying weapons." He continued: "The word fundamentalism does not mean extremism. It means just that ordinary Muslims accept everything -- that this is my way." One of his supervisors at Fort Bragg, Norvell De Atkine, said in an interview that Mohamed was a man of strong views. "I don't think he was anti-American," recalled De Atkine, a retired colonel. "He was what I would call a Muslim fundamentalist, which isn't a bomb thrower," he added. "I would not put him in that category." ...
Nosair mounted an unusual defense. His lawyer asserted that his activities were part of an American-sponsored covert operation to train and arm the Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet Union. The link between Nosair and the American government, his lawyer said, was Mohamed, who came to the New York area and trained several Islamic militants at an apartment in Jersey City, N.J. Nosair's lawyer called as a witness an Egyptian electrical engineer who said he had been among a group of men trained by Mohamed in the spring and fall of 1989. The witness, Khalid Ibrahim, testified at the 1995 trial that Mohamed went by the name of Abu Omar and gave the group military training in survival techniques, map reading and how to recognize tanks and other Soviet weapons. Ibrahim indicated that Mohamed gave the group several Army manuals that described how to throw grenades while kneeling and make booby traps with explosives. In 1991, Ibrahim said, he traveled to Pakistan to join the Afghan rebels, moving his family and children to the border city of Peshawar. A year later, in the fall of 1992, Ibrahim said he encountered Mohamed at one of the rebels' mountain training camps in Afghanistan, near Khost.
"It looked like he had come from someplace else," Ibrahim testified. "I mean like overseas maybe, and he was there to train some of their people, some of their commanders." The camps at Khost were built with U.S. assistance. They were constructed in the 1980s by Afghan rebels, who received about $3 billion from the CIA, which funneled the aid to the rebels through Pakistan throughout the 1980s In 1995, after his name surfaced at the landmarks trial, The Boston Globe reported that Mohamed had been admitted to the United States under a special visa program controlled by the CIA's clandestine service. It said he had also made claims of having worked for the agency. A connection to the CIA could not be independently verified, and an agency spokesman declined comment. The camps at Khost have been used in recent years by bin Laden's associates and other radical Islamic organizations, and were attacked last August with cruise missiles to retaliate for the embassy bombings. Bin Laden, a scion of a wealthy Saudi family, left his native land to help the rebels in Afghanistan in 1980 and for the next 10 years often traveled to Peshawar, the staging area for the war. From 1989 to 1991, prosecutors have asserted in a recent indictment in the embassy bombing case, bin Laden's al Qaeda group operated from Peshawar and Afghanistan. It could not be learned whether the paths of bin Laden and Mohamed crossed in Afghanistan or in Peshawar. From about 1991 to 1996 bin Laden lived in Sudan, where he trained and supported several hundred Arabs from various countries who fought in Afghanistan and, prosecutors assert, carried out a series of attacks against Americans. The Saudi exile's activities quickly attracted the attention of federal investigators, who by the late 1990s were scouring the world for witnesses and associates. One of those they appear to have begun pressuring several months before the embassy bombings was Ibrahim, of Herndon, Va. He was arrested on May 11 and charged in Manhattan with one count of making false statements in 1990 on the immigration papers of Mohammad Salameh, one of those later convicted in the 1993 bombing of the Trade Center. ..... One of the prosecutors spearheading the investigation of the embassy attacks, Kenneth Karas, said in a recent hearing in federal district court in Manhattan that the government was involved in "extensive discussions" about a plea bargain, and that "we were prepared to offer Ibrahim a disposition that would be termed mutually beneficial."
October 31, 1998 The NY Times
A former sergeant in the U.S. Army who is now being held in connection with the terrorist campaign of Osama bin Laden was rejected in the 1980s when he offered himself to the CIA as a spy, officials said Friday. Ali A. Mohamed, who was born in Egypt, was an officer in the Egyptian military when he walked into the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and volunteered his services as a spy for the Central Intelligence Agency, officials said. CIA officers at the embassy remained in contact with him for nearly a month before deciding that he was too unreliable to be a useful agent inside Egypt, officials said. ..... The CIA cut off contact with Mohamed, and did not have a relationship with him later when he came to the United States and joined the army...... The possibility that Mohamed had some ties to the CIA was first raised in 1995, when his name surfaced in the trial of a group of defendants charged with plotting to blow up the New York landmarks. The Boston Globe reported that year that Mohamed had originally been admitted to the United States under a special visa program controlled by the CIA. The Globe also reported that Mohamed had claimed to have worked for the CIA. ..... Yet while Mohamed's entry into the United States came soon after he was evaluated as a spy by the CIA's Cairo station, American officials said Friday that there was no evidence that the agency arranged for Mohamed's visa. Officials could not, however, rule out the possibility that some other federal agency helped Mohamed. In 1989, the same year he was honorably discharged from the Army, Mohamed began to provide military training to members of the terrorist group later charged in the New York landmarks case, according to testimony in the group's 1995 trial. And, by 1992, an eyewitness in the landmarks case saw Mohamed at a training camp near Khost, Afghanistan.
November 5, 1998 The Associated
Before Swissair Flight 111 crashed, the temperature rose to 572 degrees in the front part of the plane, the airline's in-house publication said Thursday. Swissair's ``News'' also said there are no traces of fire despite the high temperature and the source of the heat still is not known. According to the newsletter, investigators were surprised that the heat was in the upper part of the plane and not below the cockpit floor, where most of the wiring is located. The publication said a theory that the fire was caused by an electrical short that ignited insulation is "pure speculation.'' ..... Investigators have found that the high heat melted plastic in the first 33 feet of the plane, about six feet past the first row of the first class. Previous reports have said the heat was high enough to damage plastic, but the newsletter gave the first indication of just how much heat there was. The newsletter, published for the staff by the airline's parent SAirGroup, said the findings by Canadian investigators were disclosed by Hans Ulrich Beyeler, Swissair head of technology, in a speech to the Technical Society of Zurich.
November 5, 1998 The New York
A federal grand jury in Manhattan returned a 238-count indictment Wednesday charging the Saudi exile Osama bin Laden with conspiring to bomb U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August and with committing acts of terrorism against Americans abroad. Government officials immediately announced that they were offering two rewards of $5 million each for information leading to the arrest or conviction of bin Laden and another man charged Wednesday, Muhammad Atef, who was described as bin Laden's chief military commander. ..... Prosecutors also unsealed an earlier indictment, issued in June, that included similar but less detailed charges against bin Laden. That indictment was returned before the embassy bombings and was the result of a two-year investigation into his activities in Somalia and Saudi Arabia, as well as reports that he had connections to a circle of Islamic militants in Brooklyn. The new indictment, which supersedes the June action, accused bin Laden of leading a vast terrorist conspiracy from 1989 to the present, in which he was said to be working in concert with governments, including those of Sudan, Iraq and Iran, and terrorist groups, to build weapons and attack American military installations. ...... Both indictments offer new information about bin Laden's operations, including one deal he is said to have struck with Iraq to cooperate in the development of weapons in return for bin Laden's agreeing not to work against that country. No details were given about whether the alleged deal with Iraq led to the development of actual weapons for bin Laden's group, which is called Al Qaeda. The government said Wednesday that bin Laden's group had used private relief groups "as conduits for transmitting funds" for Al Qaeda. The groups were not identified. Prosecutors also said bin Laden's group had conducted internal investigations of its members and their associates, trying to detect who might be acting as informants, and had killed those who had been suspected of collaborating with "enemies of the organization." ...... Ms. White said bin Laden was charged with "plotting and carrying out the most heinous acts of international terrorism and murder."
November 5, 1998 The New York
Following is an excerpt from the indictment returned Wednesday in a Federal District Court in Manhattan against the Saudi exile, Osama bin-Laden:
At all relevant times from, in or about 1989 until the date of the filing of this indictment, an international terrorist group existed which was dedicated to opposing non-Islamic governments with force and violence. This organization grew out of the "mekhtab al khidemat" (the "Services Office") organization which had maintained offices in various parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Pakistan (particularly in Peshawar) and the United States, particularly at the Alkifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The group was founded by defendants Osama bin Laden and Muhammad Atef, a.k.a "Abu Hafs al-Masry," together with "Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri" and others. From in or about 1989 until the present, the group called itself "Al Qaeda"' ("the Base"). From 1989 until in or about 1991, the group (hereafter referred to as "Al Qaeda") was headquartered in Afghanistan and Peshawar, Pakistan. In or about 1991, the leadership of Al Qaeda, including its "emir" (or prince) defendant Osama bin Laden, relocated to Sudan. Al Qaeda was headquartered in the Sudan from approximately 1991 until approximately 1996 but still maintained offices in various parts of the world. In 1996, defendants Osama bin Laden and Muhammad Atef and other members of Al Qaeda relocated to Afghanistan. At all relevant times, Al Qaeda was led by its emir, defendant Osama bin Laden. Members of Al Qaeda pledged an oath of allegiance (called a "bayat") to defendant Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda opposed the United States for several reasons. First, the United States was regarded as an 'infidel" because it was not governed in a manner consistent with the group's extremist interpretation of Islam. Second, the United States was viewed as providing essential support for other "infidel" governments and institutions, particularly the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the nation of Israel and the United Nations organization, which were regarded as enemies of the group. Third, Al Qaeda opposed the involvement of the United States armed forces in the [Persian] gulf war in 1991 and in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1992 and 1993, which were viewed by Al Qaeda as pretextual preparations for an American occupation of Islamic countries. In particular, Al Qaeda opposes the continued presence of American military forces in Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere on the Saudi Arabian peninsula) following the gulf war. Fourth, Al Qaeda opposed the United States Government because of the arrest, conviction and imprisonment of persons belonging to Al Qaeda or its affiliated terrorist groups or with whom it worked, including Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman.
One of the principal goals of Al Qaeda was to drive the United States armed forces out of Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere on the Saudi Arabian peninsula) and Somalia by violence. Members of Al Qaeda issued fatwahs (rulings of Islamic law) indicating that such attacks were both proper and necessary.
Al Qaeda functioned both on its own and through some of the terrorist organizations that operated under its umbrella, including: the Al Jihad group based in Egypt, led by, among others, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, named as a co-conspirator but not as a defendant herein; the Islamic Group (also known as "El Gamaa Islamia" or simply "Gamaa't"), led by Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and later by Ahmed Refai Taha, a.k.a. "Abu Yasser al-Masri," named as co-conspirators but not as defendants herein; and a number of jihad groups.
Osama bin Laden, the defendant, and Al Qaeda also forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in the Sudan and with representatives of the Government of Iran, and its associated terrorist group Hezbollah, for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States. .
On Oct. 3 and 4, 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia, persons who had been trained by Al Qaeda (and by trainers trained by Al Qaeda) participated in an attack on United States military personnel serving in Somalia as part of Operation Restore Hope, which resulted in the killing of 18 United States Army personnel. . . .
On at least two occasions in the period from, in or about 1992 until in or about 1995, members of Al Qaeda transported weapons and explosives from Khartoum in the Sudan to the coastal city of Port Sudan for transshipment to the Saudi Arabian peninsula. .
At various times from at least as early as 1993, Osama bin Laden, the defendant, and others known and unknown, made efforts to obtain the components of nuclear weapons. . . .
At various times from at least as early as 1993, Osama bin Laden, the defendant, and others know and unknown, made efforts to obtain the components of chemical weapons. . . .
On or about Aug. 7, 1998, in Nairobi, Kenya, and outside the jurisdiction of any particular state of district, Osama bin Laden . . . and others known and unknown . . . together with other members of Al Qaeda . . . detonated an explosive device that damaged and destroyed the United States Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and as a result of such conduct directly and proximately caused the deaths of at least 213 persons. . . .
On or about Aug. 7, 1998, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and outside the jurisdiction of any particular state of district, Osama bin Laden . . . and others known and unknown . . . together with other members of Al Qaeda . . . detonated an explosive device that damaged and destroyed the United States Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and as a result of such conduct directly and proximately caused the deaths of at least 11 persons.
November 06, 1998 The Seattle Times Company
Citing potential damage to its news division's credibility, ABC late yesterday pulled the plug on a prime-time television entertainment special by Oliver Stone that was to examine the widely discredited theory that a missile was responsible for the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800. Ironically, ABC's decision might affirm the belief of some that a government and media conspiracy has quashed the truth about the disaster, which killed 230 people. After all, government officials were among those who last week expressed displeasure with the show, fearing it would lend credence to a friendly-fire or terrorist scenario. .... In an unattributed written statement, ABC said: "We became increasingly uncomfortable with the confusion that could exist between fact-based entertainment and hard news. We came to believe that television viewers could find it difficult to distinguish between the two forms. . . . "On reflection, we believe this genre may not be appropriate for a television network with a strong news record and identity," ABC said of Stone's dramatic style..... "I applaud ABC's decision," said Frank Carven of Bel Air, Md., a leader of the Families of Flight 800 Association. He lost his sister and nephew in the crash. "I certainly think Oliver Stone's a very gifted individual, but I think this would have been too much to bear for the families after what they had already been through," Carven said. Added William Rogers Jr. of Montoursville, Pa., who lost his 17-year-old daughter in the crash: "Obviously a lot of feelings were involved in this, and a lot of acrimony was building, and so it's a relief." The families had just sent a letter to Jamie Tarses, ABC entertainment president, urging her to end the project. Network officials apparently had not received the letter yet. .... Outside the company, perhaps the most scathing criticism came from James Kallstrom, who led the FBI's crash probe that found no evidence of a crime. Last week, Kallstrom excoriated Stone, saying he spent his life "bottom-feeding in those small, dark crevices of doubt and hypocrisy." .... "After 28 months of investigation, there is absolutely no evidence to support any missile theory," NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said yesterday.
But conspiracy theories surrounding TWA Flight 800 persist, promoted by a handful of former military officers and retired aviators. Most prominent among them is retired Navy Adm. Thomas Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A few weeks ago, his group bought a full-page ad in the Sunday edition of The New York Times, asking for money to purchase more ads to expose the missile theory. Fundamental to their claims, and not disputed, is the fact that a military sea and air exercise was under way near where Flight 800 exploded. Last summer, Moorer and the others, who call themselves the Associated Retired Aviation Professionals, held a press conference to make their case, much of which rests simply on a different interpretation of widely reported facts of the crash and taking at face value the accounts of hundreds of witnesses - one a National Guard helicopter pilot, the rest mostly civilians on the Long Island shore - who say they saw streaks of light in the sky. The NTSB, with the help of the FBI and the CIA, concluded that what those witnesses really saw was the continuing climb of the 747's fuselage after the fuel tank exploded. But the skeptics don't buy it. Participation by the nation's spy agency probably didn't comfort those who are suspicious of the government. The fact the FBI has forbidden the release of reports on the eyewitness interviews hasn't, either. Nor has the fact that most journalists have dismissed evidence offered by the advocates of a sinister scenario. Some reporters snort at the very notion such a secret could be kept by numerous employees of notoriously leaky government agencies, or even by the military personnel who would have known. .... "There is no room for speculation, a la Oliver Stone," Rogers wrote ABC in his own letter, "and there is absolutely no basis upon which a missile, bomb, meteorite, electromagnetic field, laser, alien saucer or any other otherworldly source can be blamed for this human disaster .... Which leads to another conspiracy theory, this one held by some of those who have faith in the government: Boeing is behind, or at least not willing to publicly discredit, the missile theory because its existence obfuscates the company's role. "Is Boeing behind all this or not?" asked Carven, a lawyer. "Is disinformation being forwarded by the defendants in this (wrongful-death) case to taint the potential jury pool? "I don't know," Carven said. "There are a lot crazier things that have happened. Who's promoting this conspiracy theory, this missile theory? That's what Mr. Stone should be investigating." Through a spokeswoman, Stone declined to comment yesterday. And with the investigation still under way, Boeing says it can't comment on the implausibility of one theory or another. The missile theory is "something the investigation as a whole has been looking at, and we've certainly been trying to support the NTSB in every way, with every theory," said Boeing spokesman John Dern. "We've spent months and months of looking at everything, including fuel systems and wiring," Dern said. "We just don't know, and it's been frustrating for everybody. It has to be extremely frustrating for the family members."
November 7, 1998 The New York Times
Citing the potential for confusion among viewers between "fact-based entertainment and hard news," executives of the ABC television network said Friday that the network had dropped plans to broadcast a prime-time special, produced by the film maker Oliver Stone, about the theory that long-range missiles caused the crash of Trans World Airlines Flight 800 off Long Island. The decision came after several ABC journalists had expressed dismay to their superiors about the proposed program, called "Oliver Stone's Declassified," fearing that viewers would perceive it as an ABC News report, ABC News has reported that the missile theories are groundless. "Clearly, Oliver Stone is a gifted writer-director with a strong record of producing compelling dramatic movies," a statement issued by ABC said. "On reflection, we believe this genre may not be appropriate for a television network with a strong news record and identity." .... Assorted theories about bombs and missiles have been widely discredited since the crash of T.W.A. Flight 800, on July 17, 1996, in which 230 people died. Most aviation experts believe a spark of unknown origin in the center fuel tank caused the plane to explode over Long Island Sound. The National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency have all said there is no evidence to support the theory that the crash was caused by a missile or missiles. But several former military officers, citing witnesses' accounts of streaks of light in the sky before the plane exploded, insist that the missile hypothesis has never been adequately examined. Some people have accused the F.B.I. of suppressing evidence. The Seattle Times first reported ABC's decision yesterday, after the newspaper's aviation industry reporter, Chuck Taylor, telephoned the relatives of many of the victims to ask how they felt about the Oliver Stone television program. According to his report, most of the people he spoke to agree with the conclusions of the safety board and the F.B.I. ....November 8, 1998 CNN
November 8, 1998 CNN
Two sons of an Egyptian cleric convicted of plotting terrorist attacks in New York City have joined the terrorist organization of Osama bin Laden, which is suspected of carrying out deadly bombings against two U.S. embassies in east Africa, CNN has learned. Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, serving a life sentence in a federal prison, also has written a will calling on his sons to seek revenge against the United States, according to sources who have seen it. .... Abdel-Rahman's two sons, Omar and Asim, both in their late 20s, were among those present when bin Laden held a press conference near Khost, Afghanistan, in May. It was at that press conference that bin Laden publicly unveiled his International Islamic Front and talked about an edict he issued in February, calling for a jihad, or holy war, against American civilians anywhere in the world. A person who spoke to one of Abdel-Rahman's sons told "NewsStand" that "he said that he would follow into the footprints of his father and he would continue the jihad."
November 22, 1998 The New York Times
Four years after the car-bombing of a Jewish community center (See"As Time Goes By") Argentine officials say they are hopeful that the detention of a potentially crucial witness in Brazil this week will finally lead to a breakthrough in the case. The investigations into the bombing of the Israeli Embassy here in 1992, which left 28 dead, and the bombing of the community center, the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association, two years later have sputtered for years despite many tantalizing leads. Two Argentine prosecutors flew to Brazil on Thursday to interview Wilson Dos Santos, a 40-year-old resident of Sao Paulo, who had walked into the Argentine, Israeli and Brazilian consulates in Milan, Italy, two weeks before the bombing to warn officials of an impending terrorist attack in Buenos Aires. Officials paid no attention to the warning at the time. Dos Santos added new details to his account in interviews with the Argentine federal police four months after the attack, only to recant everything before a federal judge the following week. Then he disappeared, until the police in Sao Paulo detained him for possible extradition to Argentina.
November 26, 1998 Washington
In September 1996, two months after TWA Flight 800 exploded off the Long Island shore, an FBI agent led a woman in cutoff jeans into the high-security hangar where the wreckage was stored. She surveyed the debris, then announced her conclusion: A bomb hidden in a suitcase near the left wing had destroyed the plane. She was wrong: A two-year investigation ultimately concluded that mechanical failure, not sabotage, downed TWA 800. But her error, according to Senate investigators reviewing the FBI's $20 million probe, was not surprising, considering her area of expertise. She was a self-described psychic. The decision to call in a soothsayer was apparently a one-time mistake by a low-level agent, but according to several National Transportation Safety Board officials and a former high-ranking FBI scientist, it was not the bureau's only error. The critics have told Senate investigators that the FBI mishandled evidence and mistreated the safety board during the TWA probe. They will testify at a Judiciary subcommittee hearing this winter, the first public airing of the tensions that simmered between the two agencies. An even larger problem, according to witnesses cooperating with the inquiry by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), was that FBI officials made a near-rush to judgment, setting out to find evidence of a bomb or missile instead of setting out to find the truth. FBI officials angrily reject the allegations. They see the massive TWA investigation as a model for the future, noting that even though they suspected at the outset that terrorists brought down Flight 800, they conducted a thorough and open-minded probe that eventually reached the right conclusion. James K. Kallstrom, the former head of the FBI's New York office, said conspiracy theorists have accused the FBI of suppressing, not promoting, evidence that a bomb or missile killed all 230 people aboard the Boeing 747. "We never went off half-cocked -- it was the absolute opposite of that," said Kallstrom, who led the TWA 800 investigation and is now director of security for a national credit card firm. "What a crazy notion. Let me tell you something: I'm looking forward to this hearing." "Oh, it's easy to criticize us now," Kallstrom added. "Just remember: We got it right." ..... The federal officials have criticized the FBI on many issues, from a barrage of early media leaks suggesting sabotage to its refusal to let NTSB investigators photograph evidence to a supervisor's destruction of a piece of evidence. Some argue that the problems with the investigation reflected broader problems at the bureau: a dismissive attitude toward science, a preoccupation with turf, a reluctance to cooperate. "When the premier federal law enforcement agency fights the truth, innocent people can get hurt," said Grassley, a longtime FBI critic who chairs the Judiciary subcommittee on administrative oversight and the courts. "This is the ugly side of the FBI that people don't see." Memories of the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings were still fresh when Flight 800 exploded on July 17, 1996, and investigators from the FBI and the NTSB initially assumed someone had attacked the New York-to-Paris flight. In the days after the explosion, Kallstrom publicly vowed to bring those responsible to justice. But while dozens of subsequent news media reports quoted unnamed sources suggesting the FBI had evidence of sabotage, citing discoveries of "explosive residue" and "blast damage in the forward landing gear," there was never an official declaration of a criminal act. ..... The culture clash between the two agencies was an open secret during the investigation, even though NTSB officials never complained about it publicly. Now, though, NTSB metallurgists Frank Zakar and Michael Marx and supervisor Hank Hughes are cooperating with Grassley's investigators. Zakar, Marx and Hughes will not comment publicly until the hearing, but NTSB managing director Peter Goelz acknowledged in an interview that the safety board had problems with the FBI. ...... The skirmishing over turf began almost as soon as the plane exploded. That night, amid widespread fears that terrorists might strike again, the FBI dispatched 400 agents all over Long Island. NTSB investigators did not arrive until dawn and it quickly became evident that their staff levels, resources and equipment were paltry compared with the FBI's. So the FBI took control of the crash site, even though legally the safety board was supposed to be in charge until it was clear a crime had been committed. NTSB officials have told Grassley's investigators they felt intimidated by the phalanx of FBI agents with guns, but Kallstrom called those complaints ludicrous. ... For months, the bureau controlled access to witnesses, specimens and the crash scene, and did not allow NTSB investigators to photograph evidence or copy reports of FBI interviews. In many cases, the board's investigators said they had to reinterview witnesses about air safety issues after they realized that FBI agents had asked them only criminal investigative questions. .... In a series of memos to his FBI supervisors reviewed by The Washington Post, Tobin complained about an internal atmosphere of intimidation, "a bias toward sabotage" and "the tendency to try to fit the evidence or data to a particular theory." Tobin, who also criticized the FBI during the highly publicized investigation of its crime laboratory and recently retired as chief FBI metallurgist, wrote that he "felt like a salmon swimming upstream" on Long Island, surrounded by FBI explosives experts unwilling to consider the possibility of an accident. "In the near hysteria that existed, my continual urgings of prudence and caution in interpretation of events were not well received in some quarters in light of what was considered obvious and overwhelming 'forensic evidence,' " Tobin wrote on Sept. 15, 1996. "My repeated judgments that the material damage and deformity was not consistent with blast damage was considered heresy in the law enforcement community. . . . The last time I brought the subject up, it was brusquely indicated to me that mechanical failure was not possible." Kallstrom denied those allegations, saying that in fact it was Tobin who jumped to conclusions, pressuring Kallstrom to announce that mechanical failure caused the disaster far earlier than he should have. Tobin and the NTSB scientists also have alleged several FBI procedural foul-ups, all of which Kallstrom either denied or said he could not recall. Some were goofy but inconsequential, like the psychic who was summoned to the high-security hangar, or the "military officer" who helped oversee helicopter landings near the hangar until he was exposed as a fraud in a costume. Other allegations were more serious, from poor documentation of forensic evidence such as seat covers and poor training of FBI technicians to a failure to use global satellite positioning for victim recovery and the expertise of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for explosives analysis. In one misstep, according to NTSB witnesses, the FBI tried to store bloodstained clothing and other physical evidence in a refrigerated truck. But the refrigeration unit ran out of fuel over a hot September weekend, and the evidence baked for more than two days in 90-degree heat. By the time the problem was fixed, mold had grown all over it. The witnesses also reported that an FBI agent hammered two pieces of wreckage together in the hangar, and an FBI supervisor ripped metal fragments out of a seat cushion during an argument about their trajectory. The two FBI employees in question were both transferred out of the explosives unit last year after they were accused of mistakes in earlier cases by the Justice Department's inspector general. Tobin argues in his memos that the explosives unit was part of the problem on Long Island. In one, Tobin complained of bomb team specialists saying things like "only a bomb could have caused this damage" without offering scientific proof, often "in an intimidating tone." "The cowboys were in control, not the scientists," said attorney David K. Colapinto, who represents Tobin as well as former FBI chemist Frederic Whitehurst, whose allegations of misconduct launched the lab investigation. "That's been the big problem at the FBI." Grassley's hearing could revive fading memories of Inspector General Michael R. Bromwich's stinging 1997 report on the bureau's crime lab. The lab has a new director and recently passed muster with the national accreditation body for the first time.
November 29, 1998 Reuters
The first anniversary of Singapore's worst air disaster, in which 104 people perished when a SilkAir jet plunged from the sky, will pass with accident investigators still no nearer any answers to why it happened. .... Families of the 97 passengers and seven crew on board the 10-month-old Boeing 737-300 have anxiously awaited an explanation of why it plummeted into Indonesia's Musi river from a stable altitude of 35,000 feet on a routine Jakarta to Singapore flight. .... Diran said he had made progress on ruling some things out with certainty. "We have closed off the investigations into the weather and we have closed off terrorism. There is no evidence of any foreign body explosion. We are looking at aircraft structure and engineering factors and the human factor,'' he said. The theory of pilot suicide has become prevalent in the absence of hard facts to explain the crash, made more mysterious by the unexplained failure of both "black box'' flight data recorders in the crucial minutes before the crash. .... Diran -- who heads the investigation in line with international convention that gives jurisdiction to the country in which the accident occurs -- said he still did not know why the tail section of the nearly new plane was separated from the main debris by about two and a half miles (four km). "We don't know for sure whether the tail section was the cause or a result of the accident,'' he said. ..."Things go on as before but a little bit slower. We have to plan it very carefully because our financial resources are nearly depleted,'' he said.
November 30, 1998 The New York Post
The people of Long Island - especially the 150 witnesses who saw a "missile" streaking up toward TWA 800 before it exploded - aren't buying the federal government's explanation of an accidental spark in a fuel tank. While the mainstream media have accepted the government's findings - and applauded the decision of television networks to kill Oliver Stone's investigation into the possible coverup of evidence which doesn't fit the accident scenario - there is far more skepticism on the island. The Suffolk Life weekly newspapers are running a three-part series on the July 17, 1996 crash of TWA 800 which took the lives of all 235 on board. Dan's Papers published a story this week in which Donald Nibert, of Montoursville, Pa., whose daughter Cheryl died in the mysterious fireball, expresses his disappointment Stone's project was cancelled. "I was willing to be subjected to a program in which something of the truth might come out," Nibert said. "I am upset they cancelled it. I think it needs to come out. My wife and I are convinced a coverup is involved. I am upset at the major news media's acceptance of what the government says." The Suffolk Life series ignores the silencing of Stone and focuses on a 109-page report sponsored by a group of retired military personnel experienced in aviation disasters. Retired Navy Commander William S. Donaldson, who wrote the report, asserted TWA 800 was destroyed by one or more anti-aircraft missiles. Donaldson said it was probably an American-made heat-seeking Stinger missile, because a Stinger has the range to reach an altitude of 13,800 feet. which is how high the jetliner was as it passed over Moriches Inlet en route to Paris. The Stinger could have come from Afghanistan, where the U.S. provided rebels with plenty of arms in their fight against Soviet troops. The report noted that some Stingers were stolen by an "Iran-connected group" and smuggled across "the U.S.-Canadian border." ....
December 1, 1998 The New York Times
In mid-1984, a former Egyptian Army officer with an engaging manner and a gift for languages approached the C.I.A. in Egypt with what seemed an intriguing offer: He volunteered to be a spy. The agency tried him out, but the Egyptian flunked. He had made contact in Germany with a branch of Hezbollah, the Middle Eastern terrorist group, and told its members that he was working with the CIA, a betrayal the agency quickly discovered. Soon after, C.I.A. officials branded him untrustworthy and cut off further dealings with him, suspecting that he wanted to help the terrorists spy on Americans, United States officials said. The agency discovered the next year that the former officer, Ali A. Mohamed, was trying to enter the United States, and officials put his name on a State Department "watch list" intended to prevent terrorists and other security threats from getting visas, an American official said. When Mohamed evaded this precaution and persuaded an American Embassy official to give him a visa, the C.I.A. issued a second warning to other federal agencies that a suspect person might be traveling to the United States. The warnings were not heeded. Mohamed emigrated to the United States and in the next decade cultivated a range of useful relationships with the American government. He enlisted in the army and served with one of its most elite units. Then, in the early 1990's, he became an informant for the F.B.I.
Today, he is imprisoned in a high-security cell in New York City on suspicion of conspiring with Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile suspected of masterminding the August bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. Prosecutors filed the charges against him in secret, and law enforcement officials have declined to discuss the case even after its existence was made public last month. ..... United States officials said Mohamed forged ties with bin Laden as early as 1991. He was adept at obtaining false documents for bin Laden's organization, the officials said, and assisted with logistical tasks, like bin Laden's 1991 move from Afghanistan to the Sudan. The State Department granted Mohamed's visa to enter the United States in 1985, only a year after the C.I.A. severed ties with him. ....While serving in the army as a supply sergeant assigned to Special Forces, his aggressive support for Islamic causes and open curiosity about intelligence matters raised eyebrows among colleagues. .... he told friends that he planned to join the mujahedeen rebel forces in Afghanistan and "kill Russians." After returning, he boasted of his combat exploits to colleagues at the army's Special Warfare School, prompting two of his supervisors to file reports with Army officials at Fort Bragg and with Army intelligence. .... A year later, shortly before he was honorably discharged from the army, Mohamed began traveling to the New York City area and training a circle of Islamic militants in basic military techniques. Members of the group, which was centered in Brooklyn, were later convicted of plotting a series of terrorist attacks in New York, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. By the early 1990s, Mohamed was fully enmeshed in a dual life. He was simultaneously collaborating with bin Laden's organization and talking regularly with federal agents about bin Laden and other issues.
His story, American officials say, is a modern espionage parable in which Mohamed was trying to manipulate American investigators even as they were using him to gain a window into the activities of bin Laden. Mohamed's arrest surprised some, but not all those who have known him in the United States. "He told me on several occasions that he would never betray the United States, as far as breaking United States law or trying to undermine the government," said Lt. Col. Steven Neely, former director of Middle East studies at the special warfare school. "He was in many, many ways as loyal a soldier as you'd find coming off the farm in the Carolinas or out of New York City." Another United States official familiar with his career disagreed, saying his identity as an American was always less important than his devotion to Islamic fundamentalism. "You could sit and have lunch with him, and he'd be as nice as pie. But if the call came in to blow you up, there is no question in my mind that Ali would blow you up."
Mohamed was born in Egypt in 1952. After graduating from high school in 1971, he enrolled in a Cairo military academy and then joined Egypt's army. Ten years later, he made his first visit to the United States when he was sent to Fort Bragg to be trained by American soldiers. U.S. intelligence officers often use such programs to spot possible recruits, but administration officials say the C.I.A. did not approach Mohamed. American officials say his duties with the Egyptian army included recruiting informants for his country's intelligence service. His later years in the military coincided with a time of great turmoil in his native land. radicals in the Egyptian military was followed by brutal crackdowns on local extremists and their followers. Among the targets were Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind cleric who eventually emigrated to Brooklyn, where he was convicted of conspiring to blow up the United Nations and other New York landmarks. Mohamed later confided to friends in the U.S. Army that he was deeply upset by the Egyptian government's hard line, and that he felt aligned with the Islamic radicals who carried out the assassination of Sadat. One of his supervisors, Lt. Col. Robert Anderson, recalled a disagreement he had with Mohamed about the legacy of Sadat, an ally of the United States who had signed a historic peace agreement with Israel. "I said to him, 'Anwar Sadat was a true patriot, and he gave his life,"' Anderson recalled. "And he said, 'Anwar Sadat was a traitor and had to go."' The Egyptian army, Mohamed would later tell his American friends, was hostile to devout Muslims. In March of 1984, having attained the rank of major, he left the military, according to his American military records. According to government officials, it was roughly about this time that Mohamed made his first overture to the C.I.A. in Egypt. The offer was tentatively accepted by the agency, which was gearing up for a global fight against terrorism. The bombings of the American Embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 put pressure on the agency to recruit more agents in the Middle East. Those demands were stepped up in March 1984, when terrorists linked to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah kidnapped William Buckley, the C.I.A. station chief in Beirut. After the C.I.A. agreed that he could work with the agency, Mohamed made contact with a group of Hezbollah adherents in Germany, according to American officials. Within weeks, the agency learned that Mohamed had taken that opportunity to reveal to the terrorists that he was working for the CIA. It is not known whether Mohamed set out to be a double agent on his own, or whether he was at this point acting under the influence or instructions of an Islamic group. The C.I.A., however, decided to have nothing more to do with him. ....
After leaving the Egyptian army, Mohamed went to work briefly for EgyptAir as a security adviser. Then, for reasons that remain somewhat unclear, he decided to emigrate to the United States. Explaining the decision later at Fort Bragg, he told other soldiers that he had come to this country for religious freedom. In 1985, the C.I.A. learned that he was trying to obtain a visa, and it put his name on the State Department list of people who should be kept out of the country. American officials overseas have extensive authority to reject visa applications, particularly if security concerns are raised. Mohamed got his visa, and when the C.I.A. found out, it sent a second warning to federal agencies about the possible security threat, American officials said. Mohamed arrived in New York on Sept. 6, 1985, and eventually settled in California. A year later, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, and was assigned to the Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, where the Army trains its Special Forces. The base is also home to the elite anti-terrorist commando unit known as the Delta Force. ..... Although Mohamed was not a member of the Special Forces, he worked as a company supply sergeant, trained as a paratrooper, and received high marks for his abilities.....Fellow soldiers recall the powerfully built Mohamed as a rigorous and dedicated soldier who seemed eager to learn and who joked about having gone from being a major in the Egyptian Army to a "lowly sergeant" at Fort Bragg. Fluent in Hebrew, French and English, as well as Arabic, he would assist other soldiers in translations, friends there said. He went for long runs and listened to the Koran on his Walkman. He enjoyed cooking, and had his meat butchered in accordance with Islamic practice, one friend said. There were signs that Mohamed was no ordinary immigrant soldier. In 1988, he told his colleagues of his plans to take several weeks of leave and fight in Afghanistan against the Soviet forces. It was an audacious proposal for an active-duty soldier. American intelligence agencies were in the midst of a multibillion-dollar program to aid the Afghan rebels, and the C.I.A. had taken considerable pains to conceal the American role. The capture or death of an American serviceman in Afghanistan would have been a major international embarrassment to the United States. Anderson, Mohamed's supervisor, said he told him not to make the trip. But Mohamed replied that he planned to circumvent the Army's restrictions by flying to Paris on his American passport and then using other documents to travel from the Middle East to Afghanistan. Anderson said he and another officer had written a detailed intelligence report to their military superiors, but heard nothing. About a month later, Mohamed returned, bringing with him what he said was war booty. Anderson said he had shown him two belts purportedly taken from Soviet special forces soldiers he had killed in an ambush. Although American officials are convinced that Mohamed fought with the rebels, there is no specific evidence that he killed Russian soldiers. Such belts were widely available in local bazaars. Anderson and his colleague were deeply troubled by his statements, and they wrote another intelligence report that provided further details about what Mohamed had told them about his time in Afghanistan. The other officer said he had no doubt Mohamed had fought with the rebels. "He had probably lost 20, 25 pounds," the officer said, "which indicated to me that he had done something fairly strenuous." .... Mohamed made no secret of his trip, and even boasted of his dealings with Afghan rebel leaders. He thanked another officer, Capt. Michael Asimos, for providing him with some unclassified maps of Afghanistan before he left. "I remember Ali coming back at some point in 1988," Captain Asimos recalled, "and telling me how much Ahmad Shah Massoud was pleased that I took him some maps." Massoud led one of the mujahedeen groups fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. It is not known whether Mohamed had a relationship with any terrorist organization while he was in the army. In retrospect, some of his colleagues say, he had an unusual interest in classified matters. Asimos ran a classified war game at Fort Bragg in 1988 that involved military and intelligence officers from all over the country. He said he had told participants to be careful of what they said in front of Mohamed, who did not hold a security clearance. "I can specifically remember Ali coming down and saying I want to be involved in this, I want to help, I have a great deal of knowledge here," Asimos recalled.
Toward the end of his service in the Army, Mohamed asked to be introduced to the C.I.A.'s representative at Fort Bragg, a former army officer said. The officer, unaware that Mohamed already had a history with the agency, recalls telling the C.I.A. official that Mohamed "has this burning desire to be utilized as an intelligence operative, and you're the logical guy to look at him." The meeting lasted about an hour, the Army officer recalled. Afterward, he said, the C.I.A. official joked that Mohamed might already be a "spook," using the slang term for a foreign espionage agent. "I just kind of laughed," the officer said. "How ridiculous that this guy could possibly be a spook matriculating in this sort of bastion of special operations activity."
In 1989, officers at Fort Bragg cast Mohamed as the star of a series of training videotapes intended to give soldiers a taste of how Islamic radicals view the world. On one tape, he says of Israel, "From the Islamic perspective, nobody can recognize Israel has the right to live, because Israel stole an Islamic territory." "We do not accept no peace," he adds. "No international conference. Nothing. No compromise." That same year, Mohamed apparently began working more closely with Islamic extremists in the United States. He disappeared from Fort Bragg on weekends, traveled to the New York area and offered military training to several militants associated with a refugee center in Brooklyn. He often stayed with El Sayyid A. Nosair, the Egyptian immigrant convicted of killing Rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of the Jewish Defense League, in 1990. Prosecutors now assert that the refugee center was the principal base in the United States for bin Laden's group, Al Qaeda. Mohamed met the local Muslims at an apartment in Jersey City, and taught them survival techniques, map reading and how to recognize tanks and other Soviet weapons, according to testimony by one of his students at Nosair's 1995 federal trial.
Mohamed left the army in November 1989, obtained his U.S. citizenship, and spent the next few years shuttling between New York, California, Afghanistan and the Middle East. It is not known when he first met bin Laden. According to American officials, however, at some point in 1991 the Saudi exile asked him to help with a crucial task: moving his base of operations from Afghanistan to the Sudan. American officials said this was a complex operation, involving the transfer through several countries of bin Laden and at least two dozen associates. At the same time, Mohamed frequented mosques in the United States, and American officials now suspect that he was recruiting operatives for bin Laden.
In the fall of 1992, Mohamed returned to fight in Afghanistan, training rebel commanders in military tactics, U.S. officials said. At the same time, the officials said, a series of bizarre incidents brought him to the attention of the F.B.I. In 1992, Mohamed was detained by the authorities at the Rome airport when suspicions were piqued by his luggage, which had false compartments. He assured interrogators that he was on their side in the war on terrorism, and claimed he was involved in security for the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, officials said. The next year, he was stopped by the border authorities in Canada while traveling in the company of a suspected associate of bin Laden's who was trying to enter the United States using false documents. Soon after, Mohamed was questioned by the F.B.I., which had learned of his ties to bin Laden. Apparently in an attempt to fend off the investigators, Mohamed offered information about a ring in California that was selling counterfeit documents to smugglers of illegal aliens. In the next few years, U.S. officials say, Mohamed provided some information about his movements and about bin Laden, who was becoming a focus of a New York-based inquiry touched off by the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and other plots. The government tracked his movements and phone calls, officials said, as they assembled evidence that suggested that bin Laden was a far more important figure in international terrorism than had previously been understood. Shortly after bombs exploded outside the American Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, last August, killing more than 200 people and wounding more than 1,000, Federal prosecutors in Manhattan subpoenaed Mohamed to testify before a grand jury. He flew to New York in September, made his appearance, and was arrested. Officials believe he was on his way to the Middle East.
December 3, 1998 Global Intelligence Update
According to a Philippine army report released Wednesday, rebels belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) attacked government troops guarding a highway in central Mindanao on Tuesday, wounding at least 15 soldiers. ..... Additionally, the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, linked to Saudi terrorist Osama Bin Laden, has increased its activities in the southern Philippines, and a new Bin Laden linked group, the Salafiya Fighters, has reportedly surfaced near Zamboanga on Mindanao.
December 6, 1998 Reuters
Afghanistan's Taleban movement kept silent at the weekend on media reports that its fighters killed four men hired to assassinate its "guest,'' alleged terrorism mastermind Osama bin Laden. The reports said that the four "hired agents'' were intercepted two kilometres (one mile) from bin Laden's hideout in southern Afghanistan two weeks ago and were killed. "The Taleban are convinced that the effort was masterminded and financed by Washington, which has been trying to get bin Laden since he was implicated in the (1995/96) Khobar bombing case in Saudi Arabia,'' the English-language Friday Times reported. .... The radical Islamic militia was also silent on a report in the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper which said bin Laden was ready to leave Afghanistan for refuge in Chechnya, the breakaway Russian region. By its account, a Chechen foreign ministry official, Abdul Wahid Ibrahim, arrived in the Taleban stronghold of Kandahar several days ago to discuss opening diplomatic relations and the status of the man the Taleban calls a guest. Other reports said a delegation from Yemen, where bin Laden had lived before, was in Afghanistan for talks on bin Laden. .....The Friday Times named the "hired agents'' as Humayun Taqi, a former commander of the Hezb-i-Islami anti-Taleban group, Ali Gul Paiwand, Khawar Malyar and Engineer Zaman. "The plan was detected by KHAD, the Afghan secret service, which informed the Taleban leadership. The road leading to the residence of Osama was secretly cordoned off and all the four assassins were ambushed in an armed encounter,'' it said.
December 31, 1998 The New York Times
A state grand jury created largely through the efforts of a grieving grandfather and a suspicious legislator ended 18 months of investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing Wednesday, saying it found no evidence of a broader conspiracy or a government coverup. After hearing 117 witnesses and weathering criticism that its work gave legitimacy to wild conspiracy theories surrounding the blast, the grand jury reported: "We cannot affirmatively state that absolutely no one else was involved in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. However, we have not been presented with or uncovered information sufficient to indict any additional conspirators." The grand jury did return one sealed indictment. Prosecutors would not say what was in it, but in an interim report in October, the grand jury criticized, without going into specifics, "improper and perhaps illegal attempts to exert influence on the outcome of our investigation." The grand jury was convened in June 1997, after a petition drive organized by Charles Key, then a Republican state legislator from Oklahoma City, and Glenn Wilburn, whose grandsons, Chase Smith, 3, and Colton Smith, 2, were killed in the day care center at the federal building. Wilburn, who died of cancer in July 1997, was not satisfied with the prosecution of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols and had sought out witnesses on his own and pressed for more investigation, even as law enforcement officials and some relatives of other victims said he should let the government do its work. .... Wilburn, who suspected a broader conspiracy, did not believe official denials that no one in federal law enforcement had any warning of the April 19, 1995, attack that killed 168 people. Key, who helped collect more than 10,000 signatures on the petition to form the grand jury, criticized its conclusions. "It was a ditto of what the federal government presented in the McVeigh trial," he said Wednesday. "It had huge, gaping holes." ...... The grand jury said it found no credible evidence that the bombing ... was linked to foreign terrorists. It concluded that it was an act "perpetrated by Americans on Americans." It also reported: "We can state with assurance that we do not believe that the federal government had prior knowledge that this horrible terrorist attack was going to happen." The witnesses called before the grand jury ranged from Dennis Mahon, a Tulsa, Okla., leader of White Aryan Resistance, an extremist group, to Arlene Blanchard, an Army sergeant at a recruiting office in the building who survived the bombing. The grand jurors also reviewed hundreds of exhibits and thousands of pages of documents. Key .... set up and won nonprofit status for a private group, the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, which also gathered information about possible witnesses and submitted their names to the grand jury and urged Congress not to let the federal investigation drop. He said Wednesday his committee would present its own final report, and "it will read quite differently than this report today." Among other things, the grand jury investigated the identity of John Doe No. 2, the mystery suspect depicted in FBI sketches shortly after the attack. It reported that 26 witnesses offered such conflicting descriptions that he could have been anywhere from 5-foot-3 to 6-foot-3, with a skinny build or perhaps a stocky physique.