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        T e r r o r i s t   W a t c h

 

While you walk through this life so precious hold the flame of God's love gently in the palm of your hand, for the wind is fickle.

                                                                                                                   
Terrorist Watch addresses the terrorist activities and the the methods used by al-Qaeda terrorist operatives in the U.S.,  with in-depth analysis of  the relationships that exist between al-Qaeda and Middle Eastern terrorist groups and their Middle East nation-state benefactors.

 

This Web site was first published in July of 1998, and has been  maintained and updated on a non-profit basis consistently since that time, without personal concern of retribution, despite a number of death threats, for the benefit of citizens worldwide who cherish their families, the right to live in a free and democratic society, and the freedom to worship the true God Almighty through the religion of their choice.

 

Terrorist Watch

    New Era Preface
    The Little Scroll
   America Strikes Back
    Preface to The Little Scroll
    The Little Scroll  Summary

    Iranian Ties to al-Qaeda

Kings and Generals of Nations

al Qaeda Description

The Walrus of the Sea

New Era Satellite View

State-Sponsored Terrorism

al Qaeda Terrorism In England

Terrorist Threat Confronting US

Usama bin Laden

    Ayman Al-Zawahiri FBI Poster

The Saudi Connection

    The USA Dollar Bill

The Al-Qai'da Manual Section 1

NORAD Security Breach

US Nuclear Missile Shield

Babylon of Usama bin Laden

Charter of Hamas

New Era OPS Members

Former al Qai'da Prophet

The Terrorist Threat Confronting the United States

Counter-Terrorism Sites

Afghan/Taliban/al-Qaeda Links

Interpol's Bin Laden Site 

Congressional Quarterly Press

ERRI Site on bin Laden/al Qai'da

Official DoD Pentagon Photos

FBI Official Website Most Wanted Terrorists

The U.S. Constitution

The US Bill of Rights

 

 

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A new nest for international terrorists

They have a growing presence in Latin America. Intelligence agencies watch closely.


By Katherine Ellison
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

CHUI, Brazil -- By 11 p.m., the Fortaleza cafe in this small town on the border with Uruguay was full of cigarette smoke, pungent lamb and guttural Arabic. At a table in front, Mayor Mohamad Kassem Jomaa, a graying Lebanese man with a quick grin and big gold Rolex, talked about the stranger who was known as Ibrahim during eight quiet days he spent here before his arrest.

Intelligence officials in several nations have denounced that stranger as a terrorist: El Said Hassan Ali Mohamed Mukhlis. Egypt said it suspects him of being a shooter in the 1997 attack in the tourist city of Luxor that killed 58 foreigners and four Egyptians.

Moreover, Egyptian and U.S. officials have called him a key player in the Egyptian extremist group al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, which gets support from Osama bin Laden, the Saudi renegade accused of masterminding the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania last year. Mukhlis's case raises troubling questions about the growing presence of international terrorists in Latin America.

The twin towns of Chui, Brazil, and Chuy, Uruguay -- and even more, the area about 560 miles north of here where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet -- are part of a new front line in the battle against international terrorism.

And U.S. officials said that the arrest of Mukhlis here on Jan. 29 was an important catch in the cat-and-mouse game in which the United States and its allies are trying to counter an accelerating effort by bin Laden and his allies to retaliate for the U.S. cruise-missile attack on bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan after the embassy bombings.

"This is a major blow to bin Laden's organization," a U.S. intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Mukhlis is one of a relatively small number of people that bin Laden can count on to carry messages, spread the word, and move around the world."

A wiry man with a thin moustache, Mukhlis was born in Port Said, Egypt, in 1968, according to Egyptian authorities. When arrested on the Uruguayan side of this town, he had a Malaysian passport that gave his name as Ibrahim Mohammada al Thaqaaf and his birthdate as May 25, 1964.

"The Uruguayans knew in advance exactly what he looked like, what kind of passport he had, the number of the passport, and how many people were with him," an Argentine intelligence official said in Buenos Aires.

The Uruguayans also soon learned of his travel plans: Mukhlis had five airplane tickets for London, via Sao Paulo, Brazil, for himself, his wife and their three children, Argentine officials said.

Argentine intelligence officials said that Mukhlis speaks Arabic, English and Spanish.

Mukhlis' name had been on a list circulated by Egyptian security officials to intelligence agencies and other authorities around the world. The Egyptians have said that he also may have had a role in an assassination attempt against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1995.

Argentine investigators said that Mukhlis had been living since 1993 in Foz de Iguacu, Brazil, a scenic city in the so-called tri-border area where Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina meet.

U.S. intelligence has been keeping a close watch for years on the area, where about 18,000 people of Arabic descent live and where officials said several "very virulent" Islamic extremist organizations have been operating for some time.

Mukhlis had a shop across the border in Paraguay's Ciudad del Este, where he sold household electrical appliances. But the Argentine intelligence officials said that the shop was a front for a business in false passports, including the ones he got for himself and his family.

They said that he also communicated with members of the extremist groups Hezbollah and Hamas, sent money to the Middle East, and provided logistical support for al Gamaa al Islamiyah.

"He's a real fanatic," Jomaa, the Chui mayor, said, adding that Mukhlis told him that he had traveled to Afghanistan several years ago for 18 months of religious preparation.

Intelligence sources said that he went there to prepare for something else entirely. "He wasn't studying the Koran," one U.S. official said. "He was going to bomb school."

Of all the investigators commenting on the case, Uruguay's have been the most cautious. In an interview, Interior Ministry Undersecretary Daniel Lamela emphasized that Egypt has only announced its plans to request extradition, and has sent no documents to substantiate the charges.

"So far, there's been a lot of noise, but no nuts, as we say here," Lamela said. "Mukhlis could end up being the kind of guy who just came out on the balcony and waved a flag after something happened."

Other agents said Lamela's understatement was easily understood. "Until now, Uruguay has been neutral," a high-level Argentine spy in Buenos Aires said. "Imagine what he must be thinking about the possible consequences for his country of pursuing a major terrorist."

Intelligence sources said that Uruguay had little choice but to act once Mukhlis tried to cross the border.

Chui, 240 miles east of Montevideo, is known to Uruguayans less as a place of intrigue than as a shopper's paradise. Its short dirt streets stop at the Avenida Brasil, the wide divide between Chui, Brazil, pop. 7,000, and Chuy, Uruguay, pop. 12,000.

Cross the avenue, and you are in another country. Chui's large supermarkets attract Uruguayan bargain-hunters when Brazil's currency is cheap, as it is now. On the Uruguayan side, Avenida Brasil is lined with duty-free stores. If several accounts are to be believed, there are spies on both sides.

Here in Chui, Brazil, Mukhlis stayed in a $7-a-day room at the Sao Joao hotel. He fit in easily among the town's 500 or so merchants, most of whom are Palestinian. Amid the secular, commercial bustle, the only thing that appeared to draw notice was his obvious religious observance: He ate no meat that had not been ritually slaughtered, and he prayed five times a day.

On the afternoon of Jan. 29, Mukhlis and his family went to the nearest Uruguayan immigration post. They were driven there by Jameel Yousef, an immigrant from Jordan who owns the Supermercado Panama in Chui. He and Mukhlis' wife were arrested along with Mukhlis, but later let go.

"You know the Middle East? We Arabs are very united," Yousef said one recent morning as he rang up purchases. "But I didn't know anything about his having a false passport. If I'd have known, I wouldn't have driven him."

Although a Uruguayan official said that Mukhlis was nabbed after a routine passport check, others said that Uruguay had been notified weeks in advance and had been waiting. Both U.S. and Argentine intelligence claim credit for tracking him down.

Jomaa, the mayor, said that, if Mukhlis was really a terrorist, "of course he should pay," but said he personally did not believe that was so.

"Maybe he's not the guy who actually did anything, but just a guy who knew the guys who did," Jomaa said. In any case, he suggested he doubted that Uruguay or Egypt would eventually prove its case.



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