sitemap Database of Events from January 2001 - March 2001

The Hull Thread

Chronology of Events From January 2001 - March 2001

(Articles from news sources have been placed within for educational, research, and discussion purposes
only, in compliance with "Fair Use" criteria established in Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976.)


January 1, 2001
Private Pilot sees 30 Knot Boat Leaving TWA 800 Crash Site


Times in brackets are elapsed times from end of TWA 800 flight data recorder.
Time Identity Transcript

January 6, 2001  Ha'aretz Service
Oslo police have provided safe houses to six former members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine after their lives were threatened by the organization, Israel Radio reported. The men defected from the Front and provided information to Norwegian and Scottish investigators about the group's involvement in the 1988 Pan-Am plane crash over the city of Lockerbie in Scotland. An Oslo newspaper said that according to the defectors, Libyan President Moammar Ghadafi provided the explosive materials that were transferred onto the plane during a stopover in Malta.

January 9, 2001  The London Times
The two Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing will not give evidence at their trial after the Syrian Government refused to hand over important documents relating to the case. The surprise decision not to call the men accused of blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 was announced by their lawyers yesterday. It came after the court at Camp Zeist in The Netherlands had heard that the Syrians had declined to co-operate with British officials when they had been asked to pass on evidence that is understood to be crucial to the defence. Yesterday, however, Colin Boyd, QC, the Lord Advocate, told the court that a series of meetings between the Syrians and British officials in Damascus had failed to persuade them to co-operate. Mr Boyd said that the Syrians had not only declined to help but also made clear that they resented being asked. The defence claimed that this evidence would implicate a Palestinian terrorist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — General Command (PFLP-GC), in the 1988 bombing. The Syrian-based organisation is one of two Palestinian groups defence counsel plan to blame for causing Britain’s worst peacetime atrocity. Mr Boyd said: “I understand that the message that the Syrian authorities wish to convey to the court is that they consider they should not have been asked the question in the first place and would prefer not to have to send a formal response. The Syrians are keen to emphasise that the Syrian Government is not the PFLP-GC. Nothing gives rise to any expectation that this court will ever see the sight of this document, if it still exists.” The document was thought to include information about police raids on an alleged secret PFLP-GC base in Neuss, Germany, where officers are said to have found an explosive device similiar to the one that triggered the bomb on Pan Am Flight 103.

January 11, 2001  The London Times
The world’s most-wanted terrorist has made his first public appearance for two years — as the proud father of the groom at a wedding in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden came out of hiding as Islamic leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan vowed to launch a holy war against the West to defend him. Bin Laden attended the wedding of his son, Mohammed, in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. The event was filmed by the al-Jazeera television station and broadcast around the world yesterday. Bin Laden was shown sitting on a carpeted floor in a tent with his son and a man believed to be the bride’s father. The bride is the daughter of Abu Hafas al-Masri, an Egyptian aide to bin Laden. Bin Laden shook hands with other unidentified men and, with a slightly bashful smile, looked directly at the camera. Two masked bodyguards could be seen in the background, but, smiling and relaxed, he looked remarkably chipper for a fugitive supposedly quaking in a mountainous lair at the prospect of American military strikes. American officials were calm about bin Laden’s appearance. One envoy in the region said: “His son is not an indicted criminal and we have no problems with people smiling and looking relaxed at a wedding party.”

January 13, 2001 The NY Times
By the late spring of 1996, American intelligence learned that a group of Muslim extremists bent on Holy War against the United States had established a base in Nairobi, Kenya, the government says. The authorities believed that the operatives were tied to Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile in Afghanistan suspected of terrorism against Americans abroad. Moving quickly, and with considerable success, American intelligence officials say, they began to monitor what they considered to be Mr. bin Laden's cell in Nairobi. They say they intercepted conversations on five telephones the men used, including one cellular phone that the group reserved for conversations with Mr. bin Laden himself. American agents searched a house and office the group used in Nairobi, examining computer files and retrieving one computer file that they say implicated a bin Laden group from Kenya in the ambush killings of American troops in Somalia in 1993.The agents interrogated the suspected leader of the Nairobi cell, an Arab-American, debriefing him three times to try to learn about Mr. bin Laden and the cell's activities. But on Aug. 7, 1998, prosecutors say, the same group in Kenya that American officials had been so engaged in tracking for two years nonetheless pulled off a brazen attack — bombing the American Embassy in Nairobi — which, along with a nearly simultaneous attack on the American Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killed 224 people and wounded more than 4,000.

The trial of four men charged in the bombing conspiracy is now under way in Federal District Court in Manhattan, with jury selection about to enter its third week. Two of the men, a Saudi and a Tanzanian, face the death penalty if they are convicted of carrying out the attacks in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Two others, a Jordanian and an American citizen born in Lebanon, are charged with participating in a terrorism conspiracy led by Mr. bin Laden. As the government's case against the four men unfolds over the coming months, the trial will, in certain key respects, provide two narratives. Prosecutors, drawing on what they believe is overwhelming evidence, will present the American government's most exhaustive portrait of what they contend is Mr. bin Laden's terrorist operation. As newly available court filings show, they will also, inevitably, end up revealing how what they regarded as years of hard-won investigative breakthroughs — they say they had enough evidence three months before the bombings to indict Mr. bin Laden in the Somali attacks — was not enough to prevent the men in Africa from carrying out the deadly assault on the American Embassies.

The court record now shows, for example, that American intelligence was intercepting phone conversations and faxes of the Kenya cell right up to the Aug. 7, 1998, date of the embassy attacks, and for several weeks after. Prosecutors have made clear in court papers that Mr. bin Laden's operatives took elusive action in the face of surveillance, speaking in code on the phone and lying in interviews. Mr. El-Hage, a naturalized American citizen born in Lebanon, returned to the United States about a year before the Nairobi attack, and wiretaps on his phones in Arlington, Tex., where he lived with his family, also turned up nothing incriminating, his lawyers say. The records indicate that American officials had learned from a close confidant of Mr. bin Laden's, Ali A. Mohamed, that Mr. bin Laden ran an organization called Al Qaeda, was operating camps in Sudan and was building an army "which may be used to overthrow the Saudi government." It is not certain what pointed the authorities toward Kenya, but by the end of 1996, American intelligence officials were able to identify what they believed were five Nairobi phone lines used by Al Qaeda members, the new court records show. Among them was one line that went into a house at 1523 Fedha Estates in Nairobi, where Mr. El-Hage was living.

Mr. El-Hage has been described by prosecutors as the personal secretary to Mr. bin Laden, who went to Kenya and helped to set up Mr. bin Laden's operations there, including establishing front companies and producing false identifications and travel papers. Prosecutors say Mr. El-Hage's Nairobi address was used as a safehouse for Al Qaeda members when they were passing through. Prosecutors say that Mr. El-Hage and his family used the phone line, but so did other Al Qaeda members. And one, Haroun Fazil, was overheard in July 1997 describing the designated cellular phone used for conversations between the group and Mr. bin Laden, who was based in Afghanistan, the government says. Mr. Fazil has been accused of having a pivotal role in the bombing of the embassy in Nairobi, including renting a villa where the bomb was assembled and, on the day of the attack, driving a pickup truck to the embassy, leading the way for the vehicle carrying the bomb. The government also intercepted calls on two lines belonging to Mercy International Relief Agency, an organization that prosecutors say was used as a front for Al Qaeda activity in Nairobi. The government has never made public the specific contents of the overheard conversations.

But on Aug. 21, 1997, American and Kenyan agents raided Mr. El-Hage's house, seizing his papers, books and a laptop computer. It was in this raid that the authorities recovered from the computer a letter from Mr. Fazil to another Al Qaeda member that implicated the Nairobi cell in the Somalia attacks. In the letter, the government says, Mr. Fazil said he was very worried about the security of the "East Africa network," citing "intelligence activity" in Nairobi by the American, Kenyan, and Egyptian governments. Mr. El-Hage was not home on the day his house was searched, records show. But the government's next attempt to learn about Mr. bin Laden and the Kenya cell came that night when American and Kenyan agents intercepted Mr. El-Hage at the airport in Nairobi. This would be the first of several interrogations of Mr. El-Hage by American officials in the year before the bombings, F.B.I. and other documents show. The new court records show that in those interviews, conducted in Kenya, New York and Arlington, American officials and Mr. El-Hage appear to have exchanged information, but the government now believes he was being evasive, even toying with the federal agents. Mr. El-Hage admitted he was working for Mr. bin Laden, but said that his work had to do only with Mr. bin Laden's legitimate businesses and that he had not seen him since 1994. He also admitted knowing members of a circle of militant Muslims in New York in the early 1990's, some of whom were later convicted in the bombing of the World Trade Center and other terrorism in New York. Ultimately, the government came to believe that Mr. El-Hage was lying to them during the series of interviews, interviews they had hoped would further their ability to monitor Mr. bin Laden's aims.

But if Mr. El-Hage proved not to be terribly useful, the government was continuing to pursue other investigative routes, including listening in on the Nairobi group's phone lines, according to the new court filings. The phone intercepts on the Kenya cell lasted through October 1997 and then, after a break, began again in May 1998, just months before the bombing and precisely during the time the government now asserts the attack was being planned. While the specifics of the conversations have not yet been revealed, it is clear now that there were limits to the usefulness of the surveillance. For on Aug. 7, 1998, with the intercepts still in place in Nairobi, a court record shows, the bombs went off. Two days later, an F.B.I. agent was on the telephone with Ali Mohamed, one of Mr. bin Laden's associates who was living in California. Mr. Mohamed pointed the finger of blame at Mr. bin Laden's group in both attacks. The court record shows that on that same day, Mr. El-Hage and his wife were overheard on their telephone in Texas. Mrs. El-Hage expressed sympathy for a woman killed in the Nairobi bombing, whom she recognized as someone who had worked at the embassy and had assisted her in the past. "No more work for her," Mr. El- Hage replied, the record shows. On Aug. 27, Mr. Mohamed was on the phone again with the F.B.I., saying that he knew who had carried out the attacks but would not mention the names. Within weeks, both Mr. Mohamed and Mr. El-Hage were arrested.  (Note from website author:  The US Government apparently also knew that an attack on an airliner flying out of JFK was planned (TWA 800) and had naval assets in the area in a failed attack to prevent the attack. See Summary of Findings on TWA 800 Downing.   The reader might also be interested in reading about Ali Mohamed's links to the downing of EgyptAir 990)

January 14, 2001 NY Times (This item is part of the first of a series of three articles published in the NY Times. For the complete article please contact the NYT)
In 1987, several years after he began training Arab volunteers to oust Soviet forces from Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden had a vision. The time had come, he told friends, to start a global jihad, or Islamic holy war, against the corrupt secular governments of the Muslim Middle East and the Western powers that supported them. Mr. bin Laden, the Saudi millionaire, would use his camps in Afghanistan to take holy warriors from around the world — who had always pursued local goals — and shape them into an international network that would fight to bring all Muslims under a militant version of Islamic law. "I talked to Osama one day and asked him what was he doing," recalled Abdullah Anas, an Algerian who was fighting in Afghanistan at the time and provided a rare personal narrative of the formation of Mr. bin Laden's organization. 'Imagine after five years a guy from Malaysia goes back to his country. How can he remember you are his leader? He will get married, have children, engage in work in his country. How can you establish one camp for jihad in the world?' "

What began as a holy war against the Soviet Union took on a new dimension, Mr. Anas said, when Mr. bin Laden broke away and established a new corps of militant Muslims whose ambitions reached far beyond the borders of Afghanistan. From his Afghan camps, Mr. bin Laden created a kind of clearinghouse for Islamic terrorism, which American officials say not only conducts its own operations but trains and underwrites local militants, connecting home-grown plots to a global crusade. His strategy is aptly captured by one of his many code names: The Contractor. The group he founded 13 years ago, Al Qaeda, Arabic for The Base, is led by masterful opportunists who tailor their roles to the moment, sometimes teaching the fine points of explosives, sometimes sending in their own operatives, sometimes simply supplying inspiration.

The group has become a beacon for Muslim Malaysians, Algerians, Filipinos, Palestinians, Egyptians, even Americans who have come to view the United States as their enemy  (Note from website author: To understand the significance of this statement see From Dublin to Oklahoma City), an imperial power propping up corrupt and godless governments. Mr. bin Laden has tried to bridge divisions in a movement long plagued by doctrinal, ethnic and geographic differences. "Local politics drives what they're doing, but it's much more visionary," said Robert Blitzer, a former F.B.I. counterterrorism official. "This is worldwide. This is, `We want to be somewhere in a hundred years.' "

According to a recent Central Intelligence Agency analysis, Al Qaeda operates about a dozen Afghan camps that have trained as many as 5,000 militants, who in turn have created cells in 50 countries. Intelligence officials say the group is experimenting with chemical weapons, including nerve gas, at one of its camps. Mr. bin Laden and his supporters use centuries-old interpretations of the Koran to justify violence in the name of God against fellow Muslims or bystanders — a vision on the farthest extremes of one of the world's largest religions. But their operations are thoroughly modern — encrypted e-mail, bomb-making recipes stored on CD-ROM's, cell phones and satellite communications. The group plans attacks months or years in advance, investigators say. A former United States Army sergeant, Ali A. Mohamed — who worked for Mr. bin Laden and is now a government witness — has told prosecutors that Al Qaeda trains "sleeper" agents, or "submarines," to live undetected among local populations. (Note from website author: See this link for the connections between Ali Mohamed and the downing of EgyptAir 990.  Mohamed was in an elite US military unit and appears to have been playing a double agent role.  To refer to him as a government witness seems strange since he was at the date of this article under indictment in Manhattan.)

Mr. bin Laden has not achieved his more ambitious goals. He has not brought more Muslims under the rule of Islamic law, toppled any of the Arab governments he took aim at, or driven the United States out of the Middle East. His violence has repulsed many believers and prompted severe crackdowns in Arab states that already have limited political freedoms. Nonetheless, he and his small inner circle have preoccupied American officials, paralyzing embassies, thwarting military exercises and making Americans abroad feel anxious and vulnerable. Earlier this month, the United States closed its Rome embassy for nearly two days after intelligence officials warned of a possible attack. American officials have charged Mr. bin Laden with masterminding the 1998 bombings of two embassies in Africa that killed more than 200 people, and suspect him of involvement in the October bombing of the destroyer Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 sailors. Four men went on trial this month in lower Manhattan in the African bombings. American authorities are also examining Al Qaeda's role in three plots timed to millennium celebrations in 1999 — attacks directed at another American ship, a so-far unknown target in the United States, and tourist sites and a hotel in Jordan.

Mr. bin Laden's group has recently attempted operations against Israel — a significant departure, American and Middle Eastern officials say. They acknowledge that he has ensured his organization's survival, in the event of his capture or death, by designating a successor: his longtime aide, Abdulaziz abu Sitta, an Egyptian known as Muhammad Atef or Abu Hoffs al-Masri. Last week, according to Al Jazeera, an Arab satellite channel, his son married Mr. Masri's daughter in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda grew out of the jihad inspired by Muslim scholars to combat the Soviet Union's 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. They issued religious rulings, known as fatwas, which exhorted Muslims everywhere to defend the Islamic land of Afghanistan from infidels. Over the next few years, several thousand young Arab men joined the Afghan resistance. One of the first to answer the call was a young Algerian named Boujema Bounouar, who went by the nom de guerre Abdullah Anas. In recent interviews in London, where he now lives (Note from website author: For links between London, Islamic Jihad, and TWA 800 see London Bridge is Falling Down), Mr. Anas recounted how Mr. bin Laden went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets and was drawn to a group of Egyptians who wanted to start a global jihad. Mr. Anas, who is now a leader of an Algerian Islamic political party, is not a dispassionate observer. He acknowledges that he opposed Mr. bin Laden, whose program of terrorism, he says, has tarred the reputations of thousands of Arabs who fought honorably for the Afghan cause. But his firsthand account, which conforms with Western intelligence analysis, provides one of few portraits of Mr. bin Laden's evolution as a militant leader.

The two men were defined by many of the same forces. Mr. Anas said his journey from teacher of the Koran to holy warrior began in 1984, when he was 25 and living with his family in Western Algeria. Visiting the local library, he read in a news weekly about a religious ruling that waging war against the Soviets was every Muslim's duty. That year, Mr. Anas was among the million Muslims who participated in the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. He was standing in the marble expanse of the Great Mosque with 50,000 others when, he said, a friend pointed out a radical Palestinian scholar who was organizing the Arab support for the Afghans. His name was Abdullah Azzam, and his writings, which would help spur the revival of the jihad movement in the 20th century, were just becoming widely known. A week later, Mr. Anas was on a flight from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan. Mr. bin Laden seemed no different from the other Arab volunteers who were starting to arrive in Pakistan, Mr. Anas recalled. The conversation turned to how the volunteers could help the Afghans win their jihad, and teach them more about Islam.

Mr. Anas became a top aide to Commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, whose troops controlled northern Afghanistan and are now fighting the Taliban rulers — who support Mr. bin Laden. "He was one of the guys who came to jihad in Afghanistan," Mr. Anas said. "But unlike the others, what he had was a lot of money. He's not very sophisticated politically or organizationally. But he's an activist with great imagination. He ate very little. He slept very little. Very generous. He'd give you his clothes. He'd give you his money." At about this time, in 1984, Mr. Azzam set up the organization that would play a pivotal role in the global jihad over the next decade. It was called the Makhtab al Khadimat, the Office of Services, and its goal was to recruit and train Muslim volunteers for the Afghan fronts. Mr. Azzam raised money for the organization in countries overseas including the United States and gave impassioned speeches promoting the Afghan cause. Mr. bin Laden embraced the idea from its inception and became Mr. Azzam's partner, providing financial support and handling military affairs. A main goal of the Office of Services, Mr. Anas said, was to prevent the increasing number of outside volunteers from taking sides in the rebels' factional struggles. "We are in Afghanistan to help the jihad and all the Afghan people," Mr. Azzam told him. But there was increasing frustration from many of the disaffected young Muslims over Mr. Azzam's insistence that the Office of Services support only the Afghan cause — when many were agitated about the plight of their own homelands. Some approached Mr. bin Laden.

Among those most ardently courting Mr. bin Laden was a group of Egyptian radicals called the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which helped assassinate President Anwar el-Sadat in 1981. (Note from website author:  Of the numerous claims of responsibility for the downing of TWA 800 those from the Egyptian wing of Islamic Jihad are particularly strong. See No Claims?)  The Egyptian group advocated the overthrow of governments by terrorism and violence, and one of its key figures, Ayman al- Zawahiri, had taken shelter in Afghanistan. Mr. Anas said — and Western intelligence agencies agree — that Dr. Zawahiri was a commanding early influence on Mr. bin Laden. Today he is part of Al Qaeda's leadership, according to intelligence officials.

But Mr. Azzam quarreled bitterly with the Egyptians. Mr. Anas said he once witnessed a heated argument between Mr. Azzam and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a radical religious scholar, who argued that the flouting of Islamic law had turned Presidents Mohammed Zia ul-Haq of Pakistan and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt into infidels who could therefore be killed. Sheik Abdel Rahman later moved to Brooklyn, where he was associated with an Office of Services branch. In 1995 he was convicted of plotting to blow up New York landmarks.

In 1986, according to Mr. Anas and Middle Eastern intelligence officials, Mr. bin Laden began to chart a separate course. He established his own training camp for Persian Gulf Arabs, a group of about 50 who lived in tents set apart from the other Afghan fighters. He called the camp Al Masadah — The Lion's Den. Within little more than a year the movement divided, as Mr. bin Laden and the Egyptians founded Al Qaeda — the "base" for what they hoped would be a global crusade. Mr. Anas said Mr. Azzam confided to him that Egyptian ideologues had wooed Mr. bin Laden away, gaining access to his money. "He told me one time: `I'm very upset about Osama. This heaven-sent man, like an angel. I am worried about his future if he stays with these people.' "

The Afghan rebels' war continued, first against the Soviet-backed government and then within their own ranks. On Nov. 24, 1989, Mr. Azzam and two sons were killed by a car bomb in Peshawar as they drove to Friday Prayers. The murders were never solved.

Fired by their triumph over the Soviets, the Arabs who had fought in Afghanistan returned home, eager to apply the principles of jihad to their native lands. The Koran sets strict limits on when and how holy war is to be undertaken. But Gilles Kepel, a leading French scholar of contemporary Islam, said the Afghan veterans were guided by their own radical interpretation of sacred Muslim texts. "Intoxicated by the Muslim victory in Afghanistan," he said, "they believed that it could be replicated elsewhere — that the whole world was ripe for jihad, which is contrary to Islamic tradition." They called themselves the Arab Afghans.

In Jordan some founded a group, Jaish Muhammad, that officials say took aim at King Hussein, whose family claims descent from the Prophet Muhammad. In Algeria, the Arab Afghans were among the founders of the Armed Islamic Group, the most radical to emerge after the military government canceled the 1991 elections. Known by its French initials, G.I.A, it began by blowing up military targets and escalated to wholesale massacres of Algerians who did not believe in the jihad. The early 1990's proved difficult for Mr. bin Laden. He was enraged by King Fahd's decision to let American troops wage the Persian Gulf war from Saudi Arabia, site of the two holiest shrines in Islam. He began to focus his wrath on the United States and the Saudi government. After the conflict ended, he moved to Afghanistan. But his stay was brief. Within months he fled, telling associates that Saudi Arabia had hired the Pakistani intelligence service to kill him. There is no confirmation that such a plot existed. Nonetheless, in 1991, Mr. bin Laden moved to Sudan, where a militantly Islamic government had taken power.

Al Qaeda began training its own operatives. Ali Mohamed, the government witness, who has said he arranged Mr. bin Laden's move to Sudan, told investigators that he taught group members about weapons, explosives, kidnapping, urban fighting, counterintelligence and other tactics at camps in Afghanistan and Sudan. He said he showed some of the trainees how to set up cells "that could be used in operations." The dispatch of American troops to Somalia in late 1992 and 1993 as part of a United Nations mission was another affront to Mr. bin Laden. The Bush administration presented it as a relief operation. American officials say a defector from Al Qaeda told them it viewed the deployment as a dangerous expansion of American influence in the region and a step toward undermining the Islamic government of Sudan. Federal prosecutors say at least five group members crossed the border to Somalia, where they trained some of the fighters involved in an Oct. 3, 1993, battle with United States special forces that left 18 Americans and several hundred Somalis dead. The battle, one of the most widely publicized setbacks for American forces in recent memory, cast a shadow over every subsequent Clinton administration debate on the possible uses of ground troops. American intelligence did not learn of Al Qaeda's role in the ambush until several years later.

Prosecutors say the group also considered attacking Americans in Kenya to retaliate for the Somalia mission. Mr. Mohamed testified that Mr. bin Laden sent him to Nairobi in late 1993 to look over possible American, French, British and Israeli targets for a bomb attack, including the American Embassy. He said he took photos, drew diagrams and wrote a report, which he delivered to his boss in Khartoum. "Bin Laden looked at the picture of the American Embassy and pointed to where a truck could go as a suicide bomber," he said. American prosecutors say Al Qaeda had more grandiose plans: a leading member, an Iraqi who Mr. Anas said had first gravitated to Mr. bin Laden in Afghanistan, tried to buy enriched uranium in Europe. The Iraqi, Mahdouh Mahmud Salim, forged links between Mr. bin Laden's group and others supported by Iran. Mr. Salim met with an Iranian religious official in Khartoum, and soon afterward, the prosecutors say, Al Qaeda members got training from Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite group in Lebanon skilled in making car bombs. American officials said this alliance was notable because it marked the first time radicals from the minority Shiite branch of Islam collaborated with extremists from the dominant Sunni branch.

American investigators stumbled across the first signs of the new global phenomenon in 1993, when they began to examine the bombing at the World Trade Center. They discovered that the four men who carried out the attack, which killed 6 and wounded more than 1,000, had ties to Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, whom they charged with leading a worldwide "jihad organization" that had begun plotting to kill Americans as early as 1989. Mr. Abdel Rahman was later convicted of conspiring to blow up New York landmarks, including the United Nations. But in the years since, American intelligence officials have come to believe that he and the World Trade Center bombers had ties to Al Qaeda. (Note from website author: The reader might also be interested in links to the downing of  TWA 800 and Sheik Rahman.   See Threads from the Hull Thread and Strange Links )    

The evidence is suggestive, but not conclusive. Several of those convicted in the World Trade Center case were associated with the Brooklyn refugee center that was a branch of the Office of Services, the Pakistan-based organization that Mr. bin Laden helped finance and lead. The Brooklyn center was headed for a time by Mustafa Shalabi, an Egyptian murdered in 1991 in a case that remains unsolved. Federal prosecutors recently disclosed that it was Mr. Shalabi whom Mr. bin Laden called in 1991 when he needed help moving to Sudan, according to Mr. Mohamed, the federal witness. One of the men convicted of bombing the World Trade Center, Ahmad M. Ajaj, spent four months in Pakistan in 1992, returning to the United States with a bomb manual later seized by the United States government. An English translation of the document, entered into evidence in the World Trade Center trial, said that the manual was dated 1982, that it had been published in Amman, Jordan, and that it carried a heading on the front and succeeding pages: The Basic Rule. Those appear to be errors. Two separate translations of the document, one done at the request of The New York Times, show that the heading said Al Qaeda — which translates as The Base, the name of Mr. bin Laden's group. In addition, the document lists a publication date of 1989, a year after Mr. bin Laden founded his organization. And the place of publication is Afghanistan, not Jordan. Steven Emerson, a terrorism expert who first pointed out the errors, said they deprived investigators of a subtle early clue to the existence of Mr. bin Laden's group. While the trade center trial ended in 1994, federal prosecutors did not open their grand jury investigation of Mr. bin Laden and Al Qaeda until 1996. "Had the government correctly translated the material," Mr. Emerson said, "it might have understood that the men who blew up the World Trade Center and Mr. bin Laden's group were linked."

The jihad movement also took root in Europe. In August 1994, three young French Muslims of North African descent, wearing hoods and brandishing machine pistols, opened fire on tourists in a hotel lobby in Marrakesh, Morocco, killing two Spaniards and wounding a third. The French police investigating the attack learned that it had been planned by two Moroccan veterans of the Afghan war, who had recruited commandos for the attack in Paris and Orléans and sent more than a dozen of them to Afghanistan for training. The indoctrination of the young Muslims began with religion, according to French court papers and testimony. An Orléans mathematics professor and interpreter of the Koran, Mohamed Zinédine, gathered around him a group of men from the slums of Orléans who wanted to learn how to pray. Later, French court papers say, he instructed them in the concept of waging jihad against corrupt governments, saying it was a higher stage of Islamic observance.

European investigators tracing the Afghan network in France, Belgium and Germany found records of phone calls between local extremists and the Office of Services in Pakistan. In March 1995, Belgian investigators came across another clue: A CD-ROM in the car of another Algerian, who had been trained in Afghanistan in 1992 and was part of the G.I.A. cell in Brussels. The CD was initially ignored, Belgian officials say. Months later, the Belgians began translating its contents and discovered several different versions of a manual for terrorism that had begun circulating among Islamic militants in the early 1990's. The voluminous manual covered diverse subjects, from "psychological war in Islam" to "the organizational structure of Israeli intelligence" to "recruiting according to the American method." The manual also offered detailed recipes for making bombs, including instructions on when to shake the chemicals and how to use a wristwatch as a detonator. In addition there were instructions on how to kill with toxins, gases and drugs. The preface included a dedication to the new hero of the holy war: Osama bin Laden. Versions of the manual circulated widely and were seized by the police all over Europe.

American officials pressed Sudan to eject Mr. bin Laden, and in 1996 they succeeded, forcing him into exile. It was a diplomatic triumph, but one that many American officials would come to rue. Mr. bin Laden made his way back to Afghanistan, where a new group of young Islamic militants, the Taliban, was taking control. Two years after he arrived in Afghanistan, in February 1998, Mr. bin Laden publicly announced his intentions. At a camp in Khost, in eastern Afghanistan, he and several other leaders of militant groups declared that they had founded the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, an umbrella entity that included Al Qaeda and groups from Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh, among others. On Aug. 7, 1998, eight years to the day after the first American troops set foot in Saudi Arabia, Mr. bin Laden delivered on the threat, American prosecutors say. (Note from website author:  This was not the first time that a major terrorist incident occured on an anniversary date.  For example the date of the TWA 800 downing, July 17, 1996 is 1 Raby` al-awal 1417 A.H. in the Hijri calender. The Hijri date is the date on which the "Six Day War" ended with the Israeli occupation of arab lands.  For further information please see As Time Goes By ).  Bombs exploded hours apart at the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The plot, as described by federal prosecutors, was truly international. Prosecutors assert that the attacks were carried out by Muslims from Tanzania, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, most of whom were trained in Afghanistan. The Kenyan plotters, they say, spoke directly with Mr. bin Laden by satellite telephone as they developed their plans.

Almost every month, authorities detain or question people with ties to Al Qaeda. Late last year, in what American officials described as one of the more alarming cases, the Kuwaiti police arrested a local man, an Afghan veteran, who said he was associated with Mr. bin Laden's group and planning to bomb American and Kuwaiti targets. American officials say he ultimately led the police to a weapons cache of almost 300 pounds of explosives and more than 1,400 detonators. And in addition to the two-day closure of the American Embassy in Rome, officials say, recent warnings of a possible Al Qaeda attack prompted the United States to divert an entire carrier battle group scheduled to dock in Naples.

American and Middle Eastern officials say Al Qaeda has now expanded its jihad to include Israel, which until recently had regarded Mr. bin Laden as an American problem. The officials say Al Qaeda has financed and trained an anti-Israel group, Asbat al Ansar, that operates from a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. Last June, Israel charged in a sealed indictment that a Hamas member who was plotting to attack targets within Israel, including settlers and the army, had been trained in one of Mr. bin Laden's Afghan camps. "Al Qaeda wants in on the action — the new intifada against Israel," said one American official.

January 26, 2001   NY Times
Egypt Air will accept liability for the crash of Flight 990 off the coast of Massachusetts 15 months ago, the airline's lawyers told a court in New York today, opening the way for the families of about 100 of the passengers to collect damages. But the airline, noting that the investigation into the crash of the Boeing 767 is still under way, said it that was reserving the right to sue other parties, presumably Boeing, to share the costs and that it was not accepting blame. A lawyer for the airline, Christopher Carlsen, said EgyptAir acknowledged liability because it believed that eventually either it would pay the families or Boeing would, and that there was no reason to make the families wait. "They were sitting on our plane, and we want to take care of them," Mr. Carlsen said. The (NTSB) board has said it will not hold hearings on the crash. Board officials say that it may not even hold a public session to approve its report, but simply have its members sign it.  "This is definitely not in any way to be construed as admission of fault for the accident," Mr. Carlsen said of the airline's acceptance of liability. "From Day 1 we've said the suicide theory is nonsense."

January 31, 2001 CNN Web posted at: 12:19 PM EST (1719 GMT)
A Libyan intelligence agent has been sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of the mass murder of 270 people in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. The trial judges recommended Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, who is expected to appeal, should serve at least 20 years before he is eligible for parole. Megrahi was one of two Libyans accused of planting a device on Pan Am Flight 103 which blew up over the Scottish town on December 21, 1988, killing all 259 passengers and crew, and 11 people on the ground. His co-defendant, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44, was found not guilty of murder. He will not face any further legal action in British, U.S. or other courts. Just after 1800 GMT -- eight hours after he was acquitted -- Fhimah left the Netherlands where he had been held since last April and began his journey home. The father-of-five waved to photographers as he was whisked away in one of two black BMW saloons, escorted by a police car, which left Camp Zeist. His immediate destination was unclear, but he was expected to be transferred to a Dutch airport to board a flight to Libya. The verdicts, on Wednesday, were the culmination of a 12-year investigation that involved an international manhunt led by Scottish police and CIA investigators. Libya has said that Megrahi, 48, who could serve his sentence in the tough Barlinnie prison in Glasgow, will appeal against the ruling -- a process that could take a year. The three judges said the sentence recognised "the horrendous nature of this crime."  However, presiding judge Lord Sutherland said the 20 year period was "substantially less" than the court would have recommended were it not for Megrahi's age, and the fact that he will be serving his sentence in a foreign country. In Washington, President George W. Bush said he hoped the victims' families would take some solace from the guilty verdict.  "I appreciate very much the Scottish court...decision to convict a member of the Libyan intelligence service," he said.  "I want to assure the families and victims the United States Government continues to press Libya to accept responsibility for this act and to compensate the families."  U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the verdicts show "justice has taken its course" and asked that the legitimacy of authority of the legal process must be respected. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was "glad that justice has been done."  Following the end of the £60 million ($90m) trial, U.S. Acting Deputy Attorney General Bob Mueller told CNN that investigations would continue. "The investigation continues to determine who else may have been involved in this act of terrorism and to bring that individual or those individuals to justice," he said. "This case is not closed. The investigation continues, it has continued since the plane went down and it will continue until every individual who we can identify who played a role in this tragedy is brought to justice."  Britain now expects Libya to take responsibility for the actions of its official and pay at least the £470 million ($700 million) compensation already awarded by the courts. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the House of Commons, in London: "In the light of the guilty verdict… we require Libya to accept responsibility for the acts of their official, who has been convicted. "We also require Libya to pay compensation to the relatives of the victims." Libya's ambassador to the U.N. said Libya will "respect and implement" the verdicts. But Abduzed Dorda denied Libya was involved in the bombing, even though the trial judges accepted that Megrahi was a member of the Libyan Intelligence Services (JSO) -- "occupying posts of fairly high rank."  The ambassador told CNN: "Libya was never accused in that court and has never been tried. The prosecutors themselves said that Libya as a state had nothing at all to do with this case, at all."  During the 84-day trial, held at a special Scottish court built on a disused air base near Utrecht, in the Netherlands, prosecutors claimed that the bomb was loaded at Malta's Luqa airport on to an Air Malta flight for Frankfurt, West Germany. From there, the prosecution said it was transferred to a feeder flight to London's Heathrow Airport, where it joined Pan Am 103 bound for New York. In their ruling, the judges ruling said: "We are aware that in relation to certain aspects of the case there are a number of uncertainties and qualifications. "We are also aware that there is a danger that by selecting parts of the evidence which seem to fit together and ignoring parts which might not fit, it is possible to read into a mass of conflicting evidence, a pattern or conclusion which is not really justified."  But, they continued: "There is nothing in the evidence which leaves us with any reasonable doubt as to the guilt of (Megrahi)."  The court and the prosecution must be notified of Megrahi's intention to appeal by February 14.  A spokeswoman for the Law Society of Scotland said the most likely basis for an appeal would be for the defence to claim that the verdict represented a miscarriage of justice.  This would possibly revolve around the theory that a vital piece of evidence in the prosecution's case was "inadmissible" and should not have been put before the three judges.  If an appeal is granted it will be heard in the High Court of Justiciary -- sitting as a Court of Criminal Appeal -- by five judges at Camp Zeist, where Megrahi would continue to be held until that hearing finishes.

February 15, NY Times
An Egyptian-born flight instructor who worked freelance as Osama bin Laden's pilot said yesterday that he once helped the bin Laden organization buy a $200,000 decommissioned military jet in order to ship Stinger antiaircraft missiles from Pakistan to Sudan.
The flight instructor, Essam al Ridi, was testifying at the trial of four men accused of joining with Mr. bin Laden in an international terrorism plot that eventually led to the bombings of the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on Aug. 7, 1998. Mr. al Ridi told the jury that one of the defendants, Wadih El-Hage, had acted as Mr. bin Laden's representative in the airplane deal and that Mr. El-Hage had explicitly said that the plane would be used to transport the Stingers, which are shoulder-mounted American missiles. It was 1993, Mr. al Ridi said, when Mr. El-Hage called him from Khartoum, Sudan, where Al Qaeda was based, and told him that Mr. bin Laden wanted to buy a jet. Mr. El-Hage, he said, gave him certain specifications: the plane could cost no more than $250,000 and needed a flight range of at least 2,000 miles. After weeks of browsing, Mr. al Ridi said, he found an old T-39 aircraft in a boneyard, or a lot for decommissioned planes, in Tucson, Ariz. He said he bought it, refurbished it and flew it himself to Khartoum, where he handed over the keys to Mr. bin Laden at a heavily armed dinner party that Mr. El-Hage also attended.

February 21, 2001 NY Times
Spurred by growing international alarm about Osama bin Laden's militant networks, the police in Britain and Germany have recently arrested more than a dozen Islamic radicals. American officials say some of those arrested were plotting terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere. American and foreign officials said the arrests were part of an intensified effort to crack down on a network with ties to Mr. bin Laden. Last week British police officers raided several houses in London and arrested 10 men, six of whom have been charged with preparing to engage in "acts of terrorism." Among the four arrested but not charged was Omar Mahmood Abu Omar, an Islamic religious leader who American and Jordanian officials say is a key agent for Mr. bin Laden in Europe. Jordanian courts have twice convicted Mr. Omar, who is known as Abu Qatada, on terrorism charges in absentia, in 1998 for his role in bombings and last year for conspiring to blow up tourist sites during millennium celebrations. Britain has rebuffed Jordan's requests for his extradition, Jordanian officials say. The British police said that among those charged is Mustafa Labsi, 31, an Algerian with links to Islamic militants whom American officials have accused of trying to smuggle explosives into the United States from British Columbia in late December 1999. Canadian court documents show that Mr. Labsi rented an apartment in Montreal where Ahmed Ressam, one of the men charged in that case, is believed to have stayed. American officials said the United States has been urging Britain for years to crack down on Abu Qatada, who has political asylum, and on other militant Muslims. The United States and several of its Arab allies have complained that Britain offers a haven to groups plotting violence in their countries. American officials said the investigations of such militants gained momentum on Dec. 26 when the German police arrested four men in Frankfurt on terrorism charges. American officials say they believe the Germans also found a videotape of tourist sites in Strasbourg, France, across the Rhine from Germany. American officials said German investigators had told Britain and France that the group had contacts with associates in London and might be plotting attacks in France. Abu Qatada is a Palestinian who took Jordanian nationality and got political-refugee status in Britain in the early 1990's. American and Jordanian officials describe him as a senior bin Laden agent who has coordinated the movement of men, money and arms to Islamic wars, including the rebellion against Russian rule in Chechnya. Jordanian officials accuse him of issuing fatwas, or religious rulings, to the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria that blessed the killing of women and children. In the bombing trial in New York, the renegade from Al Qaeda, Mr. Al- Fadl, identified a man named Abu Qatada as an early member of Al Qaeda's fatwa committee, the group that drafted such religious rulings, including a command to kill Americans throughout the world. In an interview last year with the Arabic newspaper Al Hayat, Abu Qatada denied that he was a member of Al Qaeda group or that he had signed or helped draft the fatwa that sanctioned the killing of Americans. He did not deny supporting Muslims in their struggle in Chechnya or in other Islamic wars. "Britain is increasingly becoming aware of the threats that are posed by terrorist support networks, and is taking action," he said. "The U.S. has shown the way. Britain's taking action will mean that many other countries in the European Union and the Commonwealth will follow along."

February 21, 2001 NY Times
A former close aide to the Saudi exile Osama bin Laden testified yesterday that he offered officials of the Saudi government a plan to assassinate Mr. bin Laden, and later discussed his proposal with American officials. Mr. Al-Fadl, a crucial government witness in the trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan of four men charged with conspiring to bomb two United States embassies in East Africa in 1998, disclosed the plan under a vigorous cross-examination by Sam A. Schmidt, a defense lawyer. Mr. Al-Fadl also acknowledged that he told American investigators that he had trained in Afghanistan with Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who was later convicted of carrying out the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. It had been known that Mr. Yousef lived in Pakistan in a guest house paid for by Mr. bin Laden, and that he was trained in explosives in a camp in Afghanistan, but there have always been questions about whether Mr. bin Laden had a role in supporting Mr. Yousef in the World Trade Center bombing. Mr. Al-Fadl also testified that there was a significant fissure in Mr. bin Laden's group, called Al Qaeda, over whether to retaliate with a terrorist attack after the 1993 arrest of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was later convicted in the plot to blow up the United Nations and other landmarks in New York City. Egyptian members of Al Qaeda proposed an attack, but one was not carried out because other Al Qaeda members objected that innocent people would be killed, Mr. Al-Fadl said. As a result of the decision not to carry out an attack, Mr. Al-Fadl said, 13 to 20 Egyptian members of Al Qaeda quit the organization in protest.

February 23, 2001 Reuters
U.S. investigators have identified a senior Iranian official as one of some two dozen suspects responsible for the 1996 bombing at the Khobar Towers military complex in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen, CBS News reported on Friday. Citing unnamed sources, CBS said federal investigators had identified Ahmad Sherifi, a senior member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, as one of those responsible for planning and carrying out the attack in Dhahran. CBS said several of the suspects linked to the attack were believed to be in Iran. The White House and Pentagon have been briefed on the case and when the final elements of the investigation are complete, Attorney General John Ashcroft is expected to present the findings to President George W. Bush, CBS reported. In January, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said "a handful" of Saudi nationals had been detained for links to the bombing but that the main suspects were still at large. "There will come a day not far away when we will say who is behind Khobar," Nayef told a Saudi newspaper. "For the interests of the case and the investigation there is a delay due to the presence of some strong and important elements abroad. But we cannot specify or say who is the person or the side behind the incident until we have all the information," he said. The prince confirmed suspected links between Saudi dissident Hani al-Sayegh -- extradited from the United States -- and the bombing. "He is detained and if he was not involved he would not have been detained," Nayef said.

March 15, 2001  Communication from Glen Schulze (For further details on this item see Missing Seconds)
Further evidence that four seconds of the FDR tape have not been released was found by Glen Schulze who writes that when FL 800 was stopped at the end of the runway awaiting to start it's take-off roll the FDR recorded altitude reading was alternating between 17 and 22 ft. This is in close agreement with JFK's runway altitude of 27 ft and the resolution of the Fine Altitude sensor of 5 ft. per bit. During the take off, according to the CVR transcript as released by the NTSB, the pilot in the left seat called for "gear up" at 2109:43. But, at 2019:43 Data Table No. 1, Latest Revision Dec. 22, 1999, showed the plane's wheels were still in contact with the runway, i.e. the altitude was 12 feet. One second later the altitude still showed 12 feet then increased to 27 feet in the next fraction of a second. Another second later the altitude had increased to 57 feet. Another second later the altitude had increased to 72 feet and then a fraction of a second later to 97 feet. At 2019:47, four seconds after the pilot had issued the command for "gear up", the altitude had risen to127 ft.
The analysis of these findings is that the NTSB times assigned to the FDR Data Table are offset from true agreement to the aircraft's motion and altitude by 3 to 4 seconds. Specifically, the FDR NTSB inferred and assigned times are inflated in time, i.e. at true time 2019:43 the altitude was at 97 or 127 feet ---not at the later and erroneous FDR inferred times of 2019:46 and 2019:47. Thus 3 to 4 seconds were added to the FDR time line in an attempt to conceal the fact that the last 3 to 4 seconds of data from the FDR tape had been deleted from the FDR Data Tables.

March 21, 2001 WorldNet Daily
A former investigative reporter for the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City last night told Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly she has gathered massive evidence of a foreign conspiracy involving Saudi terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in the 1995 bombing of the federal building that killed 168 people.  Jayna Davis, former reporter for KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, says she took her evidence -- including hundreds of court records, 24 sworn witness statements and reports from law enforcement, intelligence and terror experts -- to the FBI, which refused even to accept the material. Two men were convicted of murder and conspiracy charges in the bombing -- Timothy McVeigh, who faces execution May 16, and Terry Nichols, who yesterday asked that Oklahoma charges against him be dismissed as he has already been convicted in federal court.  Nichols, 45, is serving a life prison sentence for his federal conviction on eight involuntary manslaughter counts and conspiracy for the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. State prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Nichols. But defense attorneys said yesterday constitutional protection against double jeopardy bars the state from seeking the death penalty.  Davis said federal authorities investigating the bombing decided early on in the probe that the blast was the result of a domestic conspiracy, not a foreign one, ignoring all evidence to the contrary.  She said a Middle East terrorist cell was in operation only blocks from the federal building, and that an Iraqi national who formerly served in Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard was in contact with McVeigh the day of the bombing. She said this suspect arrived at the crime scene in a Ryder truck moments before the blast and sped away in a brown Chevrolet pickup truck immediately after. An all-points bulletin was issued for this suspect, but was later withdrawn inexplicably.  Davis said her evidence indicates a conspiracy involving McVeigh, Nichols and at least seven men of Middle Eastern ethnic background. She called bin Laden the mastermind of the conspiracy.  "The evidence we have gathered definitely implicates McVeigh and Nichols," she said. "I want to make that very clear. They were in it up to their eyeballs."  Davis also points to court records offered in the Nichols defense that suggest he had contacts with a member of bin Laden's terrorist organization in the Philippines prior to the bombing.  When she took her hundreds of pages of documentation of conspiracy in the bombing to the FBI, Davis said agents "turned me away and refused to take my statements."  "I was flabbergasted," she told O'Reilly. "I am unable to imagine any reason they would not accept it." (For complete details on the Oklahoma City bombing see From Dublin to Oklahoma City )

March 25, 2001  Associated Press
The man who represented Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh at his federal trial said he may testify against his co-conspirator if McVeigh tries to take sole responsibility for the attack. Stephen Jones spoke to The Sunday Oklahoman about his concerns over the content of an upcoming book chronicling McVeigh's life from childhood to the 1995 explosion at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people. Jones said that he was speaking up because the book, which is scheduled for release April 3, may downplay Nichols' role in the bombing. "If McVeigh is saying he acted alone, that is inconsistent with what he told me,'' said Jones, who no longer represents McVeigh, 32. Jones said if he is subpoenaed, he would answer prosecutors' questions about what McVeigh told him. The book "American Terrorist'' is written by two reporters who spent 75 hours with McVeigh.  Jones said that based on the interviews with McVeigh, the new book will claim "that no one else was criminally involved, specifically Michael Fortier and Terry Nichols, and that if they did anything to assist it was only because they were duped or manipulated ... or they didn't know what they were doing.'' Jones said that claim would be contrary to statements McVeigh made to him while he was McVeigh's attorney, and ``would be nothing more than an effort to obstruct justice in pending judicial proceedings.''