CASE CLOSED … what really happened in the 2001 anthrax attacks?

* Excerpt on Ayman Zawahiri from 2012 Georgetown thesis

Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 26, 2012

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7 Responses to “* Excerpt on Ayman Zawahiri from 2012 Georgetown thesis”

  1. DXer said

    Zawahiri’s Booklet On “Covert Operations”

    Mark A. Gabriel, PhD, once taught at Al-Azhar in Egypt. He wrote a very lucid book Journey Into The Mind Of An Islamist Terrorist. He discusses a booklet Zawahiri wrote titled COVERT OPERATIONS which is available online in Arabic. The Nigerian underpants bomber Abdulmutallab wrote his father asking “when is lying allowed to deceive the enemy?”

    If you want to know how Zawahiri views deceit on such issues as battle plans and spying, read his own words online.

    Gabriel explains:

    “Ayman al-Zawahiri leads a busy terrorist organization, and he must solve practical problems. For example, he may want some Al-Qaeda members to blend in and live in the United States. If these men wore full beards and went to ultraconservative mosques to pray, they they would arouse suspicion and get put on a watch list. Instead, al-Zawahiri would want these operatives to go undercover and blend into society. However, these devout Muslims will not go undercover unless they believe they have permission to do so from the teachings of Islam. As a result, al-Zawahiri wrote a booklet titled COVERT OPERATIONS, which goes deep into Islamic teaching and history to describe how deceit can be a tool in Muslim life.”

    The entire book by al-Zawahiri is posted in the Arabic language website for al-Tawheed Jihad (The Pulpit of Monotheism and Jihad). Zawahiri concluded that “hiding one’s faith and being secretive was allowed especially in time of fear from prosecution of the infidels.” Indeed, his student group in Cairo in the 1970s was known as the “shaven beards.” The founder of one of the cells merged with Ayman’s to form the Egyptian Islamic Jihad then wrote for Al-Timimi’s charity IANA.

    Al-Zawahiri discussed two specific ways Muhammad used deceit in battle: (1) keeping battle plans secret, and (2) spying. The author writes: “Al-Zawahiri specifically gave radicals permission not to pray in the mosque or attend Friday sermons if it would compromise their position.” He noted that Al-Zawahiri sealed his argument with a very important quote from Ibn Taymiyyah (who was quoted by Al-Timimi upon his his indictment). Ever the practical man, Muhammad approved lying in three circumstances (1) during war, (2) to reconcile between two feuding parties, and (3) to a spouse in order to please her.

    Ali Al-Timimi’s former fellow Falls Church imam Anwar al-Aulaqi in “44 Ways To Support Jihad” similarly urges that a lot of jihad work by its nature is secret and clandestine in nature. He advises that everything should be on a need-to-know basis (in other words, don’t tell your wife). Secrecy and cell compartmentalization was a key organizing principle of how the anthrax mailings were accomplished.

    • DXer said

      WMD And The Hunt For Moles

      Raymond Zilinskas, who was researching a history of the Soviet bioweapons program, told The Baltimore Sun a couple years ago that “his sources now say that Soviet intelligence routinely obtained details of work at USAMRIID that went beyond the descriptions in scientific journals.” The Sun quoted him saying: “It was clear there was somebody at Fort Detrick” who worked for Soviet intelligence. Alexander Kouzminov, a biophysicist who says he once worked for the KGB, had first made the claim in a book, Biological Espionage: Special Operations of the Soviet and Russian Foreign Intelligence Services in the West. Initially, Dr. Zilinskas had dismissed the memoir because the Russian had made separate fanciful inferences about the US program being offensive and some specific claims unrelated to infiltration of the US program.

      The Baltimore Sun article explained that then “another former Soviet scientist said that his lab routinely received dangerous pathogens and other materials from Western labs through a clandestine channel like the one Kouzminov described.” A second unnamed “U.S. arms control specialist” told the Sun he had independent evidence of a Soviet spy at Fort Detrick.”

      Serguei Popov, who was “a scientist once based in a Soviet bioweapons lab in Obolensk, south of Moscow.” Dr. Popov “said that by the early 1980s his colleagues had obtained at least two strains of anthrax commonly studied in Detrick and affiliated labs. They included the Ames strain, first identified at Detrick in the early 1980s.” Ames was used for testing U.S. military vaccines and was the strain used in the 2001 anthrax letters that killed five people and infected 23 in the U.S. Dr. Popov is now at George Mason University’s National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Disease in Fairfax, Va.

      “If you wanted ’special materials,’ you had to fill out a request,” he said. “And, essentially, those materials were provided. How and by whom, I can’t say.” One colleague, Popov told the Sun, used this “special materials” program to obtain a strain of Yersinia pestis, a plague bacterium being studied in a Western lab. But he didn’t know whether that particular germ came from Ft. Detrick. Former KGB operative and author Kouzminov says the KGB wanted specific items from Western labs — including Detrick — that were closely held and were willing to pay for the privilege. The Soviets also wanted the aerosol powders U.S. scientists developed for testing during vaccine tests.

      Raymond Zilinskas, the bioweapons expert with the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and two colleagues had written a scathing review of Biological Espionage in Nature, a British scientific journal, but he later told The Sun “that his sources now say that Soviet intelligence routinely obtained details of work at USAMRIID that went beyond the descriptions in scientific journals.”

      Expert William C. Patrick III, a retired Ft Detrick bioweapons expert, and famed Russian bioweaponeer Ken Alibek agree. Patrick’s suspicions arose when he debriefed defector Alibek in the early 1990s. Alibek emigrated to the U.S. upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991. Patrick and Alibek both recognized that the Soviet and American programs had moved in a curious lock step during the 1950s and ’60s. “Anything we discovered of any import, they would have discovered and would have in their program in six months,” Patrick told the Sun. After his talks with Alibek ended: “For the next two weeks I tried to think, ‘Who the hell are the spies at Detrick?’”

      Both former Russian bioweaponeers Ken Alibek and Serge Popov worked with Ali Al-Timimi at George Mason University. Dr. Al-Timimi has been convicted of sedition and sentenced to life plus 70 years. Popov and Alibek worked at the Center for Biodefense funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (”DARPA”). At one point, Al-Timimi worked not much more than 15 feet from both Dr. Alibek and Dr, Bailey.

    • DXer said

      Target Acquired: Al Qaeda’s Spymaster on Amerithrax

      As explained by author Peter Lance in Triple Cross, after the 1998 embassy bombings, a ten-member federal team secretly entered the California residence of Ali Mohamed, Zawahiri’s former head of intelligence. They copied Mohamed’s hard drives and removed a series of CD-ROM and floppy disks. A memo titled “Cocktail” appeared to be a draft manual on sleeper cell structure.
      The file on cell structure read in part:

      “Every member knows how to do everything.
      Every member has a legal job as a cover (Student, worker, trade).
      Safety is the main concern, so the contingency plan is very important. Before working on the target you have (to) specify a rally point to meet in case of separation for any reason.
      The communications between the different groups are conducted through the dead drop only.
      Each group does not know anything about the other group, even Majmouat (the word means “the collected” or “the collection”). Al-qeyada does not know how many group(s) under its leadership. Only the group know each other because the members of one group only working with each other.”

      Mohammad Hasan Khalil al-Hakim took on Ali Mohammed’s role. His alias is easier to remember — Abu Jihad al-Masri. Al Masri means the Egyptian. Also known as Al-Hukaymah, he was the author of the description of the Amerithrax investigation in 2002. Born in 1961, Abu Jihad al-Masri joined the Egyptian Islamic Group in 1979. He was arrested in 1981 after Sadat’s assassination. He once was arrested alongside the blind sheik Abdel-Rahman. Hukaymah is reportedly connected to the blind sheikh’s successor Taha, the Islamic Group head who was in close touch in 1999 and 2000 with the NY-based US postal employee Sattar, the blind sheik’s “surrogate.” Al-Hukaymah dedicated the treatise “[t]o the pious and the hidden who are not known when they come and who are not missed when they disappear — To those whom their God will answer when they pray to Him. To all the eyes that are vigilant late at night to bring victory to this religion.”

      The introduction of the 152-page book starts:
      “The Manhattan raid led to a radical change in the perception of American Security. After the northern half of the continent had been isolated from the rest of the world and its threats by two oceans, it now came from inside. The surprise hit the symbols of American power in its economic and security dimensions.”

      Published at al-Maqreze Center for Historical Studies website (www.almaqreze.com) by the one-time EIJ shura member al-Sibai, the section on the anthrax investigation appears to have been written in 2002.

      “The Anthrax Scandal:
      Over many months, there was an excited search for the person responsible for the worst biological terror attack on American soil. Six letters sent by mail to Leahy, Daschle, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, The New York Post and the offices of the National Enquirer in Florida, led to the sickening of 18 people and five deaths. The crime was especially scary because anthrax, which is a complex powder that scatters in the atmosphere, had spilled from the envelopes and spread through parts of the mail system and contaminated a Senate building. One year later, the main post office in Washington had not yet opened.
      The FBI is under great pressure to close this case, and the anthrax criminal is supposed to be alive and free. Two members of the Senate have asked to receive regular reports about this investigation from the FBI, and they have become increasingly impatient.”

      After a lengthy discussion of the focus on Hatfill, the author explains,
      “Until the investigators find material evidence that connects a person to the crime, they are forced to speculate about the motives and methods of the criminal. They are still casting a wide net. Law enforcement sources say they have issued hundreds of subpoenas and they are analyzing thousands of documents in search of new evidence.

      The evidence may be small and unseen — sweat or an odor on an envelope — but that is all that they need in order to attract the dogs.”

      Al-Hukaymah pointed to the Aldrich Ames incident and the FBI’s inability to find the perpetrator of the anthrax mailings as evidence that U.S intelligence can be defeated. Aldrich Ames, head of counterintelligence relating to the Russians, had a different rolex for different days of the week. He drove a new jaguar to work. Aldrich told the CIA that his money came from his wife’s foreign inheritance, and the CIA never required meaningful corroboration. So we should not be that surprised when an “Islamic hardliner” (to borrow Dr. Alibek’s description to me) is given access to Center for Biodefense and ATCC facilities, to include a DARPA program funded by DARPA involving virulent Ames. Perhaps the focus should not be on more money for biodefense but on doing a better job at maintaining security. Perhaps focus should be on avoiding proliferation of know-how.

      Al-Hukaymah reportedly was Ayman’s connection to Mamdouh Ismail, an Egyptian defense attorney and a former member of “the Jihad group” who since the 1980’s has represented various Egyptians accused of terrorism offenses in Egypt. Mamdouh Ismail represented al-Nashar, the biochemist who was an expert on polymerization and had a key to the 7/7 bomber’s flat. Ismail was one of several hundred rounded up following the assassination of Anwar al-Sadat in 1981. He served three years. He represented Ayman Zawahiri’s family in connection with the rendition and detention of Ayman’s brother Muhammad in the Spring of 1999. Ismail was arrested on March 29, 2007.

      In 1999, Ismail was refused permission to establish an Islamist political party with the help of fellow lawyer attorney al-Zayat. After the blind sheik said in March 1999 that an attempt through a political party should not be attempted, Al-Zayat and Mamdouh Ismail deferred the blind sheik’s decision. Attorney Ismail publicly objected to a reconciliation between Cairo and Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

      The two had worked with EIJ shura member al-Sibai before he took refuge in the UK. Mamdouh Ismail then was accused by the Mubarak regime of complicity in an “Egyptian project” of al-Qaeda, taking his orders from Ayman al-Zawahiri via al-Qaeda propaganda chief al-Hukaymah and the UK-based EIJ publicist Hani al-Sibai. Both al-Hukaymah and Al-Sibai denied the charge. Al Sibai considers himself historian of the movement and published his diaries in Al Hayat in 2004. He is at al-Maqreze Center for Historical Studies website that published the treatise that included the discussion of Amerithrax.

      Al-Hukaymah was apparently killed in a missile strike in late October 2008. Cairo-based IANA writer Kamal Habib says that the man was a member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad that had assassinated Sadat but was part of a second generation, not part of the first generation responsible for the assassination. Al-Hukaymah (also known as Abu Jihad al-Masri) was said by US authorities to operate in Iran as the head of media and propaganda for al-Qaeda, and to also maybe “be the Chief of External Operations for al Qaeda”.

      Al-Hukaymah appeared in an August 2006 as-Sahab (al-Qaeda) video to announce the merger of al-Qaeda with part of the Egyptian Islamic Group. Ayman al-Zawahiri introduced him. The video claimed that al-Hukaymah joined al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya in 1979 and was arrested in connection with the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Al Sadat in 1981. He subsequently rearrested several times in various countries. Zawahiri claimed in that video that Muhammad al-Islambouli (brother of assassin Khalid al-Islambouli) had joined al-Qaeda with al-Hukaymah.

      In addition to the analysis of the American intelligence community, the next month al-Hukaymah wrote a short piece entitled Towards A New Strategy in Resisting the Occupier that appeared on a jihadist website. Abu Jihad Al-Masri emphasized the need to consider public opinion in planning operations.

      Amerithrax represents the great failure in intelligence analysis in the history of the United States.

  2. DXer said

    Zawahiri’s April/May 1999 Memos To Al Qaeda’s Military Commander Atef and Interest In Anthrax and Pesticides

    George Tenet, in At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA, summarized:

    “The most startling revelation from this intelligence success story was that the anthrax program had been developed in parallel to 9/11 planning. As best as we could determine, al-Zawahiri’s project had been wrapped up in the summer of 2001, when the al-Qaida deputy, along with Hambali, were briefed over a week by Sufaat on the progress he had made to isolate anthrax. The entire operation had been managed at the top of al-Qai’da with strict compartmentalization. Having completed this phase of his work, Sufaat fled Afghanistan in December 2001 and was captured by authorities trying to sneak back into Malaysia. Rauf Ahmad was detained by Pakistani authorities in December 2001. Our hope was that these and our many other actions had neutralized the anthrax threat, at least temporarily.”

    In an April 1999 memorandum, Zawahiri wrote that “the destructive power of these [biological] weapons is no less than that of nuclear weapons. ***[D]espite their extreme danger, we only became aware of them when the enemy drew our attention to them by repeatedly expressing concern that they can be produced simply.” Demonstrating that
    Al Qaeda’s knowledge and expertise was still at a very early stage despite the grand statements and threats the earlier year, the memorandum read:

    “To: Muhammed Atef
    From: Ayman al-Zawahir
    Folder: Outgoing Mail
    Date: April 15, 1999
    I have read the majority of the book [an unnamed volume, probably on biological and chemical weapons] [It] is undoubtedly useful. It emphasizes a number of important facts, such as:
    1) The enemy started thinking about these weapons before WWI. Despite their extreme danger, we only became aware of them when the enemy drew our attention to them by repeatedly expressing concerns that they can be produced simply with easily available materials.
    b) The destructive power of these weapons is no less than that of nuclear weapon
    c) A germ attack is often detected days after it occurs, which raises the number of victims.
    d) Defense against such weapons is very our many other actions had neutralized the anthrax threat, at least temporarily.”
    In an April 1999 memorandum, Zawahiri wrote that “the destructive power of these [biological] weapons is no less than that of nuclear weapons. ***[D]espite their extreme danger, we only became aware of them when the enemy drew our attention to them by repeatedly expressing concern that they can be produced simply.” Demonstrating that
    Al Qaeda’s knowledge and expertise was still at a very early stage despite the grand statements and threats the earlier year, the memorandum read:
    “To: Muhammed Atef
    From: Ayman al-Zawahir

    Folder: Outgoing Mail
    Date: April 15, 1999
    I have read the majority of the book [an unnamed volume, probably on biological and chemical weapons] [It] is undoubtedly useful. It emphasizes a number of important facts, such as:
    1) The enemy started thinking about these weapons before WWI. Despite their extreme danger, we only became aware of them when the enemy drew our attention to them by repeatedly expressing concerns that they can be produced simply with easily available materials.
    b) The destructive power of these weapons is no less than that of nuclear weapon
    c) A germ attack is often detected days after it occurs, which raises the number of victims.
    d) Defense against such weapons is very the weapons used by their enemies.

    In Afghanistan, Zawahiri was assisted by Midhat Mursi (alias Abu Khabab). In his late 1940s, Mursi had graduated from the University of Alexandria in 1975. An Egyptian chemical engineer, he ran the camp named Abu Khabab. Intelligence reportedly indicates that Midhat Mursi had for some time been linked to the Kashmir-based Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba. According to a May 7, 1999 email, the modest amount of $2,000 to $4,000 had been marked for “startup” costs of the program. A letter dated May 23, 1999 written by one of Zawahiri’s aliases mentions some “very useful ideas” that had been discussed during a visit to the training camp Abu Khabab. “It just needs some experiments to develop its practical use.” Especially promising was a home-brew nerve gas made from insecticides and a chemical additive that would help speed up penetration into the skin. Midhat Mursi was widely reported and believed to have been killed in a January 2006 bombing raid in Pakistan — at a high-level terror summit at which Zawahiri’s son-in-law was also killed. But a year-and-a-half later, the Washington Post matter-of-factly announced:
    “U.S. and Pakistani officials now say that none of those al-Qaeda leaders perished in the strike and that only local villagers were killed.” Midhat Mursi later was killed in a missile strike in the summer of 2008.

    Al Qaeda’s experimentation with its chemical weapons has been featured on the nightly television news picturing a dog being put to death. Director of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies and former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, Jonathan Tucker, an expert retained by the government to determine the chemical used in the video, opined that it was hydrogen cyanide. As journalist John Berger explained of the tapes: “US intelligence said al-Qaida’s chemical weapons programme was centered in Darunta camp. The mastermind behind experiments was allegedly Egyptian Midhat Mursi, who ran a section of the camp known as Khabab, and who worked mainly with Egyptians. Experts said that all but one of the voices on the tapes shown yesterday by CNN spoke in Egyptian accents. KSM had non-pilot hijackers practice how to slit passengers’ throats by making the hijackers practice killing sheep, goats, and camels in connection with the planned “Planes Operation.” Did the Amerithrax perpetrators similarly practice killing animals?

    Ahmed Ressam testified at his trial in New York that he participated in experiments using cyanide gas pumped into an office building ventilation system at a training camp run by bin Laden in Afghanistan. Abu Khabab camp was within the Darunta Camp, which also included the Assadalah Abdul Rahman camp, operated by the son of blind cleric Omar Abdel Rahman. Ayman liked the idea to make a home-brew nerve gas from insecticides and a chemical additive that would help speed penetration into the skin. In a June 1999 memo, however, he talked about building labs (with one being closed every three months so it can be moved and replaced by another), and planned to have them covered with oil paint so they might be cleaned with insecticides. It was not something that needed to be classified and yet was not disclosed to the NAS committee.

    Amerithrax represents the greatest failure in the history of intelligence analysis — and that failure was led by the FBI and CIA scientists whose job it was to integrate the scientific and investigative information.

    • DXer said

      Zawahiri’s View of the “Lies” of the Secular Media

      Zawahiri explained in the Fall of 2001:

      “The killing of Anwar al-Sadat [on October 6, 1981] .. was a strong blow to the US-Israeli plan for the region:

      “This proves the lies that are reiterated by Arab secularism that several jihad movements, especially those in the Afghan jihad, are the creation of the United States. One is surprised by the capacity of secular writers to lie. Seeing the overwhelming support in the Muslim world for the Islamic Jihad movements, which dealt painful blows to the United States, they invented this lie, forgetting that Anwar al-Sadat was killed at the hands of fundamentalists in 1981, i.e., at the beginning of the Afghan jihad. These mujahidin participated in the Afghan jihad afterward.”

      Zawahiri summarizes in Knights Under The Banner of the Prophet: “If we add to the foregoing the media siege imposed on the message of the jihad movement as well as the campaign of deception mounted by the government media we should realize the extent of the gap in understanding between the jihad movement and the common people.”

      In his book first published October 7, 2001, Zawahiri says of the media:

      “The Western media and the Arab media are both responsible for demeaning and distorting the image of the Arab Afghans. They portrayed them as half insane maniacs who revolted against America, who trained and financed them before. This was repeated over and over after the comeback of the Arab Afghans in the second half of the 90’s. . . . The aim of the American campaign to defame the Arab Afghans is clear. America is trying to deprive the Arab nation of claiming the championship. It’s as if the Americans are saying to us, ”Those who you think of as heroes are made by me and they are mercenaries who revolted against me when I stopped financing them.”

      Even dating back to the summer of 1993, CBS’ Dan Rather was just one of many who carried reports of the blind sheik being let in the country, with interviewees taking the position that they believed the sheik was being deliberately rewarded by the CIA for his help in the Afghanistan war.

      The best publicly evidence available online of Dr. Al-Timimi’s own views on the subject are his online speeches, “The Negative Portrayal Of Islam In the Media” and “Crusader Complex: Western Perceptions of Islam.” In 1994, Al-Timimi spoke alongside Commander Abu Abdel Aziz ‘Barbaros’ (Bosnia) at the annual IANA conference. Barbaros was the Al Qaeda recruiter who met at BIF offices in Zagreb, Croatia in 1992 to plan strategy relating to jihad directed against the US. Jihadist fighter “Barbaros” speaks pretty directly to the issue in a 1994 interview “Understanding Jihad” in the arab language Assirat, for which Al-Timimi served on the advisory board.

      “THE MEDIA CAMPAIGN (AGAINST JIHAD)
      The main purpose of the International media campaign against Jihad is to paint it with the trait of terrorism and things of that sort. (This is done) to push people away from it. They know that Muslims, if they hold tight to Jihad, will achieve the intended thrust which will make them reach whatever Allah wills. They know quite well that the Muslim zeal to Jihad stems from the belief that Allah is the sole source of victory, He will send His help from the sky and that if the Mujahid dies, his abode shall be the highest Firdaws (Peak of Paradise)…”

      Why did the sender target the New York Post rather than the New York Times? One would expect the New York Times to be targeted if a conservative biodefense insider was responsible. Was the mailer from the New York City region? The New York Post is one of the most pro-Israel papers around. The Post letter was addressed to the “Editor.”

      In an audiotape received by al-Jazeera and published in October 2002, Zawahiri repeated his view of the secular lies being told: “America is clearly lying concerning any news related to Afghanistan.” Bin Laden himself in January 2004 noted “This is in addition to the crusader media campaigns against the Islamic nation.”

    • DXer said

      Know Not Just Your Enemy, But Who He Knew (And Who They Knew)

      Given that the documentary evidence establishes Ayman Zawahiri’s central and key role in anthrax planning, the individuals with the closest connection to him are the strongest candidates for co-conspirators in the anthrax mailing. Analysis of who Ayman Zawahiri might have recruited can start with these known associates that Zawahiri had known for a quarter century. Through the 1990s, there was an ongoing debate among these associates over tactics.

      As a general matter, Ayman commanded the loyalty of members of the Vanguards of Conquest, which was an offshoot of Egyptian Islamic Jihad once led by Agiza. Agiza, one of the main EIJ intellectuals, was extradited from Sweden after 9/11. He broke away from Zawahiri due to disagreements in 1993 but Bin Laden helped the Egyptian islamists reconcile their differences in the mid-1990s. Al Zayat argued in his book that the Vanguards of Conquest was not a separate group, and that Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Vanguards of Conquest were “two names for the same group led by Zawahiri.” Attorney Al Zayat says in his book: “This was clear from the fact that the four accused in the Vanguards of Conquest cases that were tried by a military court were shouting their allegiance to Zawahiri from behind bars.”

      The August 6, 2001 PDB to President Bush explained: “Al-Qaida members — including some who are US citizens — have resided in or traveled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks. Two al-Qa’ida members found guilty in the plot to bomb our Embassies in East Africa were US citizens, and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990s.” (The reference was to Ali Mohamed with no mention that he trained US Special Forces on matters relating to jihad at Ft. Bragg and had been Ayman Zawahiri’s head of intelligence).

      In a study of 400 terrorists, University of Pennsylvania professor Marc Sageman concluded that 70 percent of terrorists were recruited outside their native country, having traveled abroad in the hope of improving their livelihood through jobs or education. Separation from their families and a feeling of alienation from their host countries prompted many to seek companionship at mosques. Friendship constituted 70 percent of recruitment, kinship 20 percent and discipleship only 10 percent. Social networking continues to be relied upon by the Muslim Brotherhood as a means of recruitment. Who did Ali Mohammed and Ayman Zawahiri meet in their travels? Just as interesting as the question who Ayman Zawahiri knew is who Ali Mohammed, Ayman’s head of intelligence and cell recruitment, knew. He recruited Dahab from Cairo Medical in the early 1980s.

      Zawahiri traveled to Malaysia, Singapore, Yemen, Iraq, Russia, Great Britain and United States. In March 1995, Zawahiri reportedly met with Taha (who at the time was based in Peshawar, Pakistan), Egyptian Islamic Group leader Mustafa Hamza (who at the time was based in Sudan), and Sudanese leader Turabi. Zawahiri traveled to Sudan and Ethiopia in mid-June. According to his former friend and EIJ’s spiritual advisor, Al-Sharif, Zawahiri was paid $100,000 by Sudanese intelligence to attempt to kill the Egyptian prime minister on a visit he made to Ethiopia. Mohammed Islambouli reportedly was involved in the attack. Al-Sharif writes that Zawahiri promised Sudanese intelligence to carry out 10 operations against Egypt.

      Zawahiri went to Russia in 1996 where he was imprisoned for 6 months. (Zawahiri was arrested in Dagestan after he tried to enter Chechnya; the Russians apparently never learned his real identity.) Two men joined the local islamists in urging the release of the three. One was Shehata, who would later serve briefly as head of al Jihad. Shehata was in charge of “special operations” and was in regular contact with Jaballah in Canada.

      As in life, it’s who you know that is important. What mosques did Zawahiri visit when he came to the United States in 1995? Who did he know from his days recruiting students to jihad at Cairo Medical in the early 1980s?

      In an article that reconstructed his travels of his travels between April 1995 until December 1996, Andrew Higgins and Alan Cullison of the Wall Street Journal described some of the contents of his computer: “visa application for Taiwan; details of a bank account in Guangdong, China; a receipt for a computer modem bought in Dubai; a copy of a Malaysian company’s registration that listed Dr. Zawahiri, under an alias, as a director; and details of an account in a bank in St. Louis, Mo.” The St. Louis bank account related to reimbursement of expenses of the satellite phone used in planning the 1998 embassy attacks. Purchase was made by a charity worker in Columbia, Missouri. (The Saudi dissident in London who was a friend of Bin Laden and the Egyptian London cell members were complicitous in the purchase). The father of Al-Timimi’s friend Royer rented a room to Khalil Ziyad in his St. Louis-area home in 2000.

      In 1997, back in Afghanistan, after his imprisonment in Russia, al-Zawahiri and Bin Laden plotted their strategy as to the United States. Bin Laden was able to convince Al-Zawahiri to discontinue the military operations inside Egypt and, instead, focus on the common enemies America and Israel. They had concluded that it was United States’ appropriations that propped up the regimes of Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt that had prevented the islamists from toppling those regimes. In 1996, Bin Laden announced war against America to the extent of its presence in the Middle East region. By the end of 1997, Bin Laden had determined to openly declare war against America and urge that Americans be killed everywhere.

      Bin Laden issued a fatwa on February 23, 1998 announcing the creation of “The World Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and the Crusaders [Christians].” Along with Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, it was signed by Taha, the man in charge of the Advisory Council of the Islamic Movement in Egypt. Taha was the blind sheik’s successor in the Egyptian Islamic Group. At the end of July 1998, Taha signed a statement saying he had never signed the fatwa. Al-Zayat, who had remained in touch with Taha until Taha was detained while transiting Syria, reports that Taha said that he was asked on the phone whether he would sign a statement to support the Iraqi people who were under American air strikes and he agreed. Taha explained that he had agreed to join in the 1998 “Crusaders” statement because he was told it was in opposition to the bombing strikes in Iraq. “He was surprised to discover later that the statement referred to the establishment of a new front, and that it included a very serious fatwa that all Muslims would be required to follow.”

      Attorney al-Zayat notes that when Mabruk, a long-time confidante of Zawahiri and the head of military operations, was captured in Albania in 1998, “[i]n his possession, the authorities found a laptop that had many names of the members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. This led to the arrest of more than a hundred members, who were tried in one case.” As a general rule, however, organizational security was very strict. “Any arrest of members is an opportunity for information to be extracted through torture. This is why each member knows only his role. When the members pledge their obedience and loyalty to the leader of the group, they are aware that they are not supposed to ask any questions about things that are not directly related to their role.” For example, Ramzi Binalshibh and Zubaydah reportedly knew only the limited operation they were engaged in. Such adherence to cell security makes piercing a conspiracy and proving it beyond a reasonable doubt very difficult.

      Islamic Group military commander Mustafa Hamza, who reportedly supported a cease-fire, and Islamic Group leader Taha, who supported a return to violence, apparently had a falling out after the Luxor debacle. In 1998, following Taha’s resignation as Islamic Group’s head, Hamza took over as its head. They both remained in contact with the blind sheik and his paralegal Sattar in 1999 at a time there was talk of a need for a second Luxor. They must have overcome their differences Islamic Group leader Taha’s wife and children lived with Hamza’s family in Mashhad, Iran. The pair, I believe, go on trial in Cairo next month and very well may be pardoned by Morsi.

      Zawahiri kept in touch with Mahmoud Jaballah, who had emigrated to Canada in 1996, by satellite phone. EIJ shura member Mahmoud Mahjoub was also in Canada. Mahmoud Mahjoub was second in command of the Vanguards of Conquest, after Agiza (who later was succeeded by Zawahiri) In seeking refugee status in Canada, Mahjoub claimed that the persecution in Egypt was the result of a brief association with a suspected member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mahjoub said that he was arrested several times while in Egypt and claimed to have experienced torture at the hands of the civilian authorities.

      In June 2000, Zawahiri visited Hambali in Indonesia with al-Qaeda military chief Mohammed Atef. Hambali the next year would attempt to reestablish Sufaat’s anthrax lab in Southeast Asia.

      Another friend and colleague of Ayman, Kamal Habib, was playing a prominent role in Egyptian politics. Kamal Habib had graduated from Cairo University in 1979 in political science. Twenty years later, he wrote for the Islamic Assembly of North America (“IANA”) quarterly magazine. The Cairo-based publication Al-Manar Al-Jadeed was sponsored by the Ann Arbor-based charity, Islamic Assembly of North America. The 1999 website announced: “IANA has signed a cooperative agreement with the Cairo based publisher and distributor Dar Al-Manar Al-Jadeed. Jointly they will publish in Cairo and distribute around the world the quarterly Al-Manar Al-Jadeed magazine. The magazine is devoted to addressing the religious, social, and civil matters. Six issues of the magazine have already been published. The editor in chief is the well-known writer, Jamal Sultan. We wish the magazine a very prosperous future.”

      Habib was a key founding member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and spent 1981-1991 in jail for the assassination of Anwar Sadat. Like Abdel-Bari, al-Zayat and Taha, he was critical of Ayman’s tactics, though not his goals. In the late 1970s, the cell ran by the young doctor Zawahiri joined with three other groups to become Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) under Habib’s leadership. The blind sheik was their spiritual adviser. In a 2002 New Yorker article, Lawrence Wright wrote in “The Man Behind Bin Laden: How an Egyptian doctor became a master of terror,” that “[l]ike Zawahiri, Habib, who had graduated in 1979 from Cairo University’s Faculty for Economics and Political Science, was the kind of driven intellectual who might have been expected to become a leader of the country but turned violently against the status quo.”

      The editor-in-chief of the IANA quarterly journal Al Manar Jadeed was Gamal Sultan, who had also been a member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. When Mr. Sultan traveled to Pittsburgh in 2000, Mr. Sultan recalls other islamists remarking it was the Kandahar of the US, given its rolling hills. Kamal Habib and Jamal (Gamal) Sultan also wrote for Assirat Al-Mustaqeem, an Arabic-language magazine embracing radical, anti-U.S. views that was published in Pittsburgh from 1991 to 2000. Mr. Sultan’s brother Mahmoud did also. Unlike Zawahiri, Kamal Habib and Gamal Sultan believe in achieving shariah law through democracy. Computational biologist Al-Timimi was on the Assirat Advisory Board.

      Al-Timimi was sentenced to life plus 70 years for exhorting young men to jihad. A prominent IANA speaker, he shared a fax in the summer of 2001 with former Russian bioweaponeer Ken Alibek and former USAMRIID head and Ames researcher Charles Bailey. Al Timimi met government agents regularly for more than a year before his indictment. The indictment against the paintball defendants alleged that that at an Alexandria, Virginia residence, in the presence of a representative of BIF, the defendants watched videos depicting Mujahadeen engaged in Jihad and discussed a training camp in Bosnia. Al-Timimi had asked the FBI to hold off on the indictment until he received his degree. His defense lawyer says that the FBI searched Al-Timimi’s townhouse “to connect him to the 9/11 attacks or to schemes to unleash a biological or nuclear attack.” Former Russian bioweaponeering program head Ken Alibek told me that he would occasionally see Al-Timimi in the hallways at George Mason, where they both were in the microbiology department. Dr. Alibek was vaguely aware that he was an islamic hardliner but considered him “a numbers guy.” When what his defense counsel claims was an FBI attempt to link him to a planned biological attack failed, defense counsel says that investigators focused on his connections to the men who attended his lectures at the local Falls Church, Va.

      The IANA webmaster Al-Hussayen from Moscow, Idaho complained in a Sept. 8, 2002, phone conversation that “we have to have control over our projects,” saying operators of the Islamway Web site, the Al-Manar magazine and the Alasr Web site were doing whatever they wanted, then sending IANA the bills. At the IANA publication Alasr, he complained, “Khalid Hassan puts in it what he wants, with some of the articles being sensitive causing us some problems at the present time. .. They don’t think, for example, what you might face being here.” Four fatwas justifying suicide attacks — including flying a plane into a tall building — that were posted on the Alasr’s Web site were central to the allegations against Sami Al-Hussayen.

      Al Qaeda military commander and former Egyptian police sergeant commander Atef, a key anthrax planner, was killed in November 2001. Taha was rendered transiting Syria in 2001. Canadian Khadr was killed. In 2005, Iran reportedly turned Mustafa Hamza over, where he was tried and convicted for assassination and attempted assassination of various high Egyptian government officials. In 2006, Zawahiri’s chief aide al-Hadi was captured. Cairo attorney Mamdouh Ismail, al-Zayat’s co-founder of the Islamic party, was arrested in late March 2007. He allegedly was serving as a conduit with jihadis in Egypt, Yemen and Iraq. In short, it’s not been a good decade for Friends of Ayman — except for that bit about taking over Egypt. Any compartmentalized cell in which Ayman operated in his anthrax program was tight indeed. The roots of the Amerithrax likely grew in the United States rather than a faraway place like Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia or Malaysia. Although the seeds were planted in Cairo, the tree took root not only in Brooklyn and in many places in the US.

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