Saudi fugitive led U.S. Al Qaida cell

Thursday, June 3, 2004

A Saudi national led an Al Qaida cell authorized to launch a series of massive attacks against the United States, U.S. officials said.

Adnan Shukrijumah, the Saudi operative, speaks fluent English and has been living 15 years in the United States.

Shukrijumah was born in Saudi Arabia and was said to be carrying a Guyanese passport, Middle East Newsline reported.

"He is a trained operative who poses an operational threat to the United States," FBI director Robert Mueller said.

Officials said Shukrijumah had resided in southern Florida before he fled U.S. authorities. He has been nicknamed "Jafar the pilot" and was believed to have trained insurgents in a role similar to that of Mohammed Atta, the architect of the September 2001 suicide attacks on New York and Washington.

Shukrijumah was said to be carrying passports from Canada, Saudi Arabia and Trinidad. The FBI began searching for Shukrijumah in 2003 in wake of information provided by Al Qaida operations chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

The family of Shukrijumah said he left Miami in May 2001 and denied any links with Al Qaida. Instead, the family maintained that Shukrijumah has resettled in Morocco.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia plans to announce new restrictions on the state-operated Al Haramain charity, deemed as a financier of Al Qaida. The Saudi embassy in Washington was scheduled to hold a news conference regarding a "major development" that would designate at least four Al Haramain affiliates as terrorist financiers.

"This announcement will be an important one," Saudi adviser Adel Al Jubeir was quoted in a statement issued by the Saudi embassy. "We are not only going after the terrorists, but also the money and the mindset that support them or condone their actions, regardless of where they exist."

[In Riyad, Al Qaida insurgents fired toward U.S. military personnel as their three-vehicle convoy left a U.S. military compound. Nobody was injured and the insurgents escaped in Wednesday's attack.]

U.S. officials identified a Canadian national born in Tunisia as a member of the suspected seven-member Al Qaida cell. They said Abderraouf Jdey was selected to receive flight training as part of an effort to launch a second suicide air strike in the United States.

The cell was also said to have comprised a U.S. citizen who converted to Islam, identified as Adam Gadahn. Amer El-Maati, a Kuwaiti native, was described as a Canadian citizen of Egyptian and Syrian origin who has a pilot license.

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani were identified as participants in the bombings of the U.S. embassies in east Africa in 1998. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani national, was the only woman in the group and was said to have attended colleges around Boston until 2003. The colleges included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"They all are sought in connection with possible terrorist threats in the United States," Attorney General John Ashcroft said.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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