Blogs of War

Hizballah Cavalcade

Internet Haganah



Kremlin Trolls

Making Sense of Jihad

Selected Wisdom

Views from the Occident


American Terrorists

Anwar Awlaki

Al Qaeda


American Al Qaeda Members

Inspire Magazine

Revolution Muslim


News, documents and analysis on violent extremism

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Embassy Bombing Documents Offer Window Into Al Qaeda Operations

A flood of new details concerning Al Qaeda's operations in Afghanistan and Somalia during the 1990s were revealed Friday, when prosecutors unveiled a series of previously secret documents in the trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Guantanamo detainee convicted of conspiracy in Al Qaeda's bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The documents, meant to support the maximum sentence for Ghailani, contain detailed transcripts of three interrogations:

  • A 1999 Justice Department interrogation of Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, in South Africa, where he had been detained by immigration officials. Mohamed was later convicted for his role in the embassy bombings. Interrogation of Khalfan Mohamed, Oct. 9, 1999 (PDF)
  • A 1998 Justice Department interrogation of Mohamed Sadiq Odeh, another convicted operative in the embassy bombings. Interrogation of Mohammed Odeh, Aug. 31, 1998 (PDF)
  • A summary of a Justice Department interrogation of Ghailani after he was captured and imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. The summary is dated December 2008. Interrogation of Ahmed Ghailani, Dec. 12, 2008 (PDF)

    Some of the more interesting details found in these interrogations include substantial information about Al Qaeda's operations in Somalia, more broadly in Africa and in Afghanistan. Some of the material below has been previously reported. These items only scratch the surface of the information contained in these documents, which includes a great deal of data on the logistics of the embassy bombings. Readers are encouraged to review the documents and discuss them with me on Twitter.

  • Odeh was ordered to Somalia by Saif Al Adel, one of the most senior surviving members of Al Qaeda still active in the organization and one of the most important figures in Al Qaeda's Somalia operations. The orders originated with Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda focused on one tribe, the Um Rehan, which was most ideologically compatible. (Much of this information came out during the first embassy bombings trial.)
  • Khalfan Mohamed went to Somalia twice in 1997 on behalf of Al Qaeda. He helped train members of Al Ittihad, a Somali Islamic group led by Hassan Dahir Aweys, who later helped found the Islamic Courts Union and is now a member of Al Shabab. Odeh also reported interacting with Al Ittihad.
  • According to Odeh, "Sheikh Hassan" (possibly Aweys) asked Al Qaeda's military commander, Mohammed Atef, aka Abu Hafs, for help. Atef brought five Al Qaeda trainers to Somalia and temporarily took over the operation from Saif Al Adel. Odeh reported that his group exchanged fire with UN officials during this period.
  • In June or July of 1998, a few months after bin Laden issued a fatwa declaring war on America, Sheikh Hassan from Somalia requested a meeting with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. It was not clear if the meeting ever took place, given the close proximity of the request to the embassy bombings.
  • A number of Al Qaeda members questioned the fatwa against America, worrying that Al Qaeda had become isolated from its former allies by 1998, but their loyalty to bin Laden outweighed their objections.
  • Odeh explained that Al Qaeda's core membership was small (he put the number at 150), but that the "friends of Al Qaeda" worked in close tandem with the organization without being sworn members.
  • During interrogation, Ghailani described meeting or interacting with a number of key players in the September 11 attacks, including several hijackers, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh and Zacarias Moussoui. The information here is mostly incidental, interesting but not necessarily significant.

    New information about American Al Qaeda members also emerged in the transcripts.

  • A previously undocumented American jihadist, "Sulieman America [sic]," described by Khalfan Mohamed as a being tall and thin with curly brown hair and a medium complexion. The name is probably correctly transcribed as Suleiman Al Amriki. Suleiman attended basic training at Al Qaeda's Markaz Fath training camp in Afghanistan, then later received advanced training in the assembly of improvised explosives. Suleiman left the camp in 1995.
  • Abu Suleiman is one alias used by Ihab Ali, an Egyptian and naturalized U.S. citizen who lived in Florida and worked with Wadih El Hage and Ali Mohamed, two of the most American U.S. Al Qaeda members. It's not clear if this Abu Suleiman was Ihab Ali. Ali is in U.S. custody under unclear circumstances, much like Ali Mohamed, who pleaded guilty under a plea deal but was never sentenced.
  • Odeh reported that American citizen Al Qaeda member Wadih El Hage was visited by an Egyptian named "Nawi" who also lived in America. That person is almost certainly Ihab Ali, who also used the alias Nawawi. Odeh said Nawi was responsible for facilitating travel for Al Qaeda members. In an intriguing aside, Odeh said Nawi "was once jailed in Peshawar but was taken out of jail by an American."
  • Odeh also mentioned two American Al Qaeda trainers, "Abu Osama" and "Abdul Malek." From the aliases and descriptions, it's clear he is referring to known Al Qaeda members Ali Mohamed and Christopher Paul.

    Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

    Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



    Tweets referencing this post:



    ", granular analysis..."

    ISIS: The State of Terror
    "Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger's new book, "ISIS," should be required reading for every politician and policymaker... Their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations... a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group." -- Washington Post

    More on ISIS: The State of Terror

    "...a timely warning..."

    Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam:
    "At a time when some politicians and pundits blur the line between Islam and terrorism, Berger, who knows this subject far better than the demagogues, sharply cautions against vilifying Muslim Americans. ... It is a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective." -- New York Times

    More on Jihad Joe


    INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


    Newest posts!

    A Look Into The Troubled Mind Of Jihadist Emerson ...

    Online Jihadist Who Threatened Sweden Seen On New ...

    Intelwire Daily Brief

    Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go To War In The Name Of ...

    Secret British Documents From 1980 Detail Origins ...

    FBI Records Reveal Details Of Nixon-Era Racial Pro...

    Declassified Cable From INTELWIRE Expands Wikileak...

    Previously Classified Documents On Srebrenica Mass...

    New Issue of Al Qaeda English-Language Magazine In...

    More Ruminations about Al Qaeda's War on Scholarship


    New York Pipe Bomb Suspect Linked to Revolution Muslim

    The Utility of Lone Wolves

    Interview with Online Jihadist Abu Suleiman Al Nasser

    A Way Forward for CVE: The Five Ds

    How Terrorists Use The Internet: Just Like You

    PATCON: The FBI's Secret War on the Militia Movement

    Interview About Jihad With Controversial Cleric Bilal Philips

    Forgeries on the Jihadist Forums

    U.S. Gave Millions To Charity Linked To Al Qaeda, Anwar Awlaki

    State Department Secretly Met With Followers of Blind Sheikh

    State Department Put 'Political Pressure' On FBI To Deport Brother-in-Law Of Osama Bin Laden In 1995

    FBI Records Reveal Details Of Nixon-Era Racial Profiling Program Targeting Arabs

    Gaza Flotilla Official Was Foreign Fighter in Bosnia War

    U.S. Had 'High Confidence' Of UBL Attack In June 2001

    Behind the Handshake: The Rumsfeld-Saddam Meeting