TERRORIST network funded by Osama Bin Laden was established in New
York and California more than 10 years ago with operatives
dispatched to America for training in aviation, urban warfare and
sending booby-trapped letters.
The plot that succeeded: a terror base was set up in
America 10 years before the twin towers attack
Confessions by Islamic fundamentalists under the command of Ayman
Al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden's deputy, have revealed how - years before
the September 11 attacks - the terrorists established sleeper cells
across the western world and were plotting sophisticated attacks.
In more than 10,000 pages of Egyptian state security documents,
Britain is named as one of the key bases of Al-Zawahiri's Islamic
Jihad organisation. Three leading members of its ruling council were
based in London and it was also an important fundraising centre,
making money through farming and even renovating houses in London.
Among the terrorist leader's agents living in America in the
early 1990s were a communications specialist, a special forces
officer, two wealthy doctors and a chain of fundraisers.
One operative with American citizenship, codenamed Adam, was
planted in the United States in 1987 and then helped to co-ordinate
communications, dispatch forged documentation and finance
terrorists. Adam, the son of an Egypt Air pilot, was also instructed
to get flight training.
Another agent, a former Egyptian special forces officer, worked
with the American army before providing personal security advice to
Bin Laden in Sudan in 1992.
Compiled by the Egyptian defence ministry, the documents provide
the most authoritative account yet of the Islamic Jihad organisation
and of Al-Zawahiri, whom many suspect was the inspiration behind the
September 11 attacks. One of the most important hijackers, Mohammed
Atta, was an Egyptian from Cairo. He, too, is suspected of being a
member of Al- Zawahiri's organisation.
The documents reveal how:
Islamic Jihad, now considered part of Bin Laden's
Al-Qaeda network, was being funded in Egypt from Bin Laden's
personal fortune from the early 1990s.
A base in Santa Clara, California, was used from
1990 to co- ordinate communications with terrorists' cells around
the world, including Bin Laden's Sudanese base. Other operatives
were based in New York.
American army manuals and topographical maps were
translated into Arabic for terrorist training.
Sources of funds of the terrorist network included
the sugar trade and sheep rearing in Albania as well as the
renovation of old houses in London.
According to one confession, the ruling shura (council) of
Islamic Jihad in the mid-1990s had 14 members, including three in
London. Two of those three, Adel Abdel Bary and Ibrahim Eidarous,
are now in Belmarsh prison fighting extradition to the United States
for alleged involvement in the 1998 bombings of American embassies
in Tanzania and Kenya.
But Hani al-Sibai, a third alleged member of the shura at that
time, lives with his wife and five children in Hammersmith, west
London. Sources say he has split with Al-Zawahiri, at least since
Al-Sibai, a lawyer, denies any link with Islamic Jihad. Last week
he said he had known Al-Zawahiri in the past but was himself a
"quiet man" who had never committed a crime. Al-Sibai said he been
visited by Scotland Yard detectives since September 11 and had been
warned against making inflammatory statements. He has not been
arrested or charged.
The most detailed account of Islamic Jihad's activities in the
West is provided by Khaled Abu el-Dahab, a naturalised American,
codenamed Adam. His confessions are detailed in a state security
document from Egypt's defence ministry dated October 28, 1998.
Born in 1963 and a student of medicine at Alexandria, in Egypt,
he had the same profile as many of the September 11 hijackers: a
middle-class background, a good education and a willingness to adopt
El-Dahab was met on arrival at San Jose airport in California by
his friend Ali Abu Seoud, a former special forces officer in the
Egyptian army. Seoud is now known to have been an Islamic Jihad
agent as well and later became a close Bin Laden associate.
According to the confession, it was Seoud who convinced el-Dahab to
become more closely involved in the holy war. El-Dahab was trained
to make booby-trapped letters to send to "important people" and was
also instructed to enrol in American aviation schools to learn how
to fly gliders and helicopters.
With an American wife and a job at a computer company, he blended
into suburban life. Yet his home in Santa Clara was an important
communications hub. He also distributed forged documents and made
Ahmed al-Naggar, another Islamic Jihad member who was also
captured by the Egyptian authorities in 1998, revealed how Bin Laden
came to be a key fundraiser for the organisation at an early stage.
"The funding of the organisation came [primarily] through
financial support from the Saudi Osama Bin Laden," he told Egyptian
state security interrogators. "As well as members of the
organisation donating 10% of their salaries, funds were also raised
through trade projects such as sugar, raising sheep in Albania,
trade in southeast Asia and the project of working on and renovating
old houses in London."
El-Dahab received a 15-year sentence and al-Naggar 25 years.
Seoud was sentenced to death and al-Sibai to life imprisonment, both
in their absence. Seoud, however, is believed to be still in America
where he is understood to have co-operated with the FBI.
Three men and a woman with alleged links to Bin
Laden have been detained in the French city of Strasbourg. The four,
thought to be Algerians, are suspected of organising the escape to
Spain of Mohamed Bensakhria, 34, an Algerian said to be one of Bin
Laden's chief lieutenants in Europe.
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