by Paul L. Williams:
Part I : Eleven Years after 9/11, the Threat Remains: The Leading Al Qaeda Operative Remains at Large
Part II: 9/11 A Prequel? Next Attack on America in Works
As the Arab Spring transforms into a chilling autumn of anti-American riots, the “most dangerous” al Qaeda agent on planet earth remains on the loose with the intent of launching terrorist attacks with radiological bombs in major cities throughout the USA.
Seven years ago, the FBI issued a BOLO (“be-on-the-look out”) with a $5 million reward for any information resulting in the arrest of Adnan el Shukrijumah.
Despite the expenditure of nearly $50 million, the search for this elusive terrorist has produced no results. Elaborate plots were designed to snag him in Guyana; his photo has appeared on the front page of every leading American newspaper; and a special office, manned by a small army of FBI agents, was set up in Miami to uncover his whereabouts.
But Adnan el-Shukrijumah, the Brooklyn-bred jihadi, remains alive and well and more dangerous to America’s national security than ever before.
US officials first became aware of him in the wake of Operation Enduring Freedom (the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan), when the names of Jaffar al Tayyar (“Jafer the Pilot”) and Mohammed Sher Mohammed Khan were discovered among the “pocket litter” of al Qaeda soldiers. [i]
In May 2002, U.S. intelligence and military officials starting asking a pressing question to al Qaeda detainees who were being interrogated at foreign prisons and secret CIA and military facilities abroad. “Whom,” the officials asked, “would al Qaeda pick to lead the next big attack against U.S. targets?” Intelligence sources told U. S. News and World Reports that several of the detainees coughed up the same answer: “Jaffar al Tayyar.[ii]
The detainees said they had encountered ”the Pilot” during al Qaeda training exercises in Afghanistan. Intelligence officers presented photos of hundreds of suspected al Qaeda operatives to the detainees. Several identified an individual who bore a resemblance to Adnan el Shukrijumah.
But the resemblance was not reality, and it would take months before the FBI and CIA teams, with their sophisticated equipment and state-of-the-art search engines, would realize it. “We were pursuing a lead,” says one official, “that in the end turned out to be a dead end. We found out we were after the wrong person.[iii]
Indeed, the teams might still be searching for the wrong suspects and hitting dead-ends, if not for the fact that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured, quite by accident, in Karachi, Pakistan March 1, 2003.
THE PLOT REVEALED
After days of interrogation, coupled with severe sleep deprivation, Mohammed told U.S. officials that bin Laden was planning to create a “nuclear hell storm” in America.[iv] Unlike other attacks, the terrorist chief said, the chain of command for the nuclear attack answered directly to bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and a mysterious scientist called “Dr. X.” Mohammed later admitted that “Dr. X” was Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani father of the Islamic bomb and the godfather of modern nuclear proliferation. He further confessed that the field commander for this operation was a naturalized American citizen whom he also referred to as Mohammed Sher Mohammed Khan and “Jafer al Tayyar” (“Jafer the Pilot”).[v] Both names are aliases of Adnan el Shukrijumah.
Khalid Mohammed went on to say that Adnan represents a “single-cell” – - a lone agent capable of launching a solo nuclear or radiological attack on a major American city. The news of such a cell reportedly startled U. S. officials who assumed that al Qaeda cells contained several members who were supported by broad logistical back-up crews.[vi]
In March 21, 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller issued an urgent alert for Shukrijumah, and several of his al-Qaeda associates, including Amer el-Maati, Abderraouf Jdey, and Aafia Siddiqui, who received a biology degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and penned a doctoral thesis on neurological science at Brandeis University.[vi]
Siddiqui, a native of Pakistan, looms of importance in the search. She worked closely with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as a “fixer,” the central al-Qaeda operative who supplied money and logistical support to Adnan and his associates in southern Florida. The money, as it turns out, came from the Saudi embassy.[viii]
‘DEMANDING, RUDE, AND OBNOXIOUS’
Several days after the BOLO was issued, Adnan and Jdey were spotted at a Denny’s restaurant in Avon, Colo., where one ordered a chicken sandwich and a salad. Samuel Mac, the restaurant manager, described them as “demanding, rude and obnoxious.[ix] They told Mac they were from Iran and were driving from New York to the West Coast. Upon calling the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., Mac said the agent who answered the telephone said he had to call the bureau’s Denver office and declined to take down any information. When Mac called the Denver office of the FBI, he said he was shuttled to voice mail because “all the agents were busy.”[x] It was five hours before a seemingly uninterested agent called the restaurant manager. This agent, according to Mac, took a few notes and said she would pass the information along to the field agents who were handling the case.[xi]
This promise represented the full extent of the government’s interest in the sighting, even though Shukrijumah had been labeled “the next Muhammad Atta by FBI Director Robert Mueller. The federal and state law enforcement officials failed to interview the restaurant workers and the patrons, purportedly even those who were willing to verify the presence of the terrorists in the restaurant. No forensic evidence was obtained from the scene by any law enforcement officials – - not even the utensils that had been used by the suspects.
When contacted by The Denver Post, Monique Kelso, spokeswoman for the Denver bureau, said the office had received at least a dozen calls as a result of the BOLO. The calls, Kelo said, were all taken seriously. She added, “We follow up on every lead.”[xii]
THE WAZIRISTAN SUMMIT
Following the federal botch-up in Colorado, the diminutive Shukrijumah resurfaced at a terrorist summit in the lawless Waziristan Province of Pakistan in April 2004. The summit has been described by the FBI as a “pivotal planning session” in much the same manner as a 2000 meeting was held in Kuala Lumpur for the 9-11 attacks. Attending the summit were Abu Issa al Hindi, a Pakistani technician whose company contained plans for staging attacks at financial institutions in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., and Mohammed Babar, who has been charged with buying materials to build bombs for attacks in Great Britain. [xiii] Babar is an American citizen and resident of Queens, New York, where he was a leading member of the Islamic Thinkers Society, a group that burned the American flag during a demonstration before the Israeli consulate in 2006 and held up placards stating: “The mushroom cloud is on its way.”[xiv]
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