Family and friends of arrested Al Qaeda computer mastermind feign ignorance of his terrorist ties
Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan's father sent him to live with aunt in apartment close to targetted Heathrow airport
August 8, 2004
MIM: History and conventional wisdom should provide ample proof that "someone who will kill you will also lie to you".
In the case of militant Islamists this deadly deception also includes the terrorist's family and friends.
Babar Ahmad one of the Al Qaeda operatives arrested in the recent anti terror sweeps in the UK, is a cousin of Noor Khan. The US is requesting his extradtion.
In another development an Imam at the Al Huda mosque New Jersey, Mazen Mokhtar,i who is reported to have been an "outspoken advocate of Palestinian causes" is being investigated in the case .(see WPost article below ).
As the article belows shows Al Qaeda terrorist mastermind Noor Khan, lived by all accounts a "Walter Mitty" existence with his aunt in an apartment which was convienently situated near Heathrow airport. Khan's aunt claims that her brother asked her last year to let his son Noor stay with her. Itis noteworthy that neither the aunt nor grandmother thought it was suspicious that the nephew whom they claimed "was studying" so diligently, appears to only have stayed with them for 3 weeks before returning to Pakistan.
In another article, Khan's father claims he has not had any contact with his son in years since they had a "falling out".
Which begs the question as to how Khan was arrested at the airport in Pakistan retreiving a package from his father, and why his father responded that " I am working on the details but am not too bothered" by what happened. One can only hope that law enforcement will make it a point of "bothering" Khan's father in Pakistan and aunt in London to find out their involvement in their relative's Al Qaeda activities.
Terror mastermind lived in flat under Heathrow approach By Daniel Foggo and Massoud Ansari (Filed: 08/08/2004)
An al-Qaeda "communications chief" who is believed to have been co-ordinating a plot to bomb Heathrow spent three weeks living near the airport late last year, the Telegraph can reveal.
Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, 25, who is under arrest in Pakistan, lived in a ground floor flat in Reading, Berkshire. The address, on Wensley Road near the centre of town, lies below a western approach flight path to the airport.
Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan: reconnaissance
He lived there with his grandmother, Batool Begum, and his aunt, Arifa Noor Khan, who last week told this newspaper that the al-Qaeda suspect was very private about his movements while in Britain.
"My brother Hayat, Naeem's father, asked if he could come and stay with me last year," Mrs Noor Khan said.
"He said he was doing a computer course and was studying, but didn't say where. He just went out in the morning and came back in the evening. When he came back late he said he had been studying."
Mrs Noor Khan, a divorcee, said that she had been unaware that her nephew had been arrested by the Pakistani intelligence service. Nor had she or Khan's grandmother any knowledge of his alleged involvement with al-Qaeda.
The fact that Khan stayed near Heathrow in November and December will add credence to claims by Pakistani intelligence that he had been helping to reconnoitre the airport for a possible terrorist attack.
Files found on his computer showed detailed information about the infrastructure of Heathrow and other high-profile sites.
After his interrogation, Khan, who was used by al-Qaeda to send messages to cells in Britain and elsewhere, agreed to contact them to enable police to find them.
...Reports claimed that Noor Khan spent three weeks living near Heathrow late last year.
He lived in a ground floor flat in Reading with his grandmother and his aunt, according to the Sunday Telegraph.
His aunt told the newspaper that Noor Khan went out in the morning and came back in the evening and said only that he had joined a library and had been studying.
Reports last week also claimed that five al Qaida militants were on the run in the UK after escaping capture in last Tuesday's raids.
Note that Khan's father is an employee with Pakistani airlines and that according to the article below, "The elder Khan denies that he has had any contact with his for several years. Khan's aunt states in the article above that it was Khan's father who contacted her "last year and asked if he could come and stay with me last year". In addition Khan was reportedly picking up a package at the airport from his father when he was nabbed by authorities...
.....Khan is about 6 feet tall and fair skinned, Qasim said, and often dressed in the traditional shalwar khameez that is customary in Pakistan, rather than the Western clothes preferred by many of the nation's young.
"While here he was a quiet and humble student. I remember him around. There were a few mischievous students but he always remained quiet and concentrated on his study," Qasim said.
He said Khan had a particular interest in a database program designed by Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle Corp.
Intelligence officials have said that a computer seized from Khan contained photographs of Heathrow airport, as well as pictures of underpasses that run beneath several buildings in London, believed to be possible targets for attacks he was involved in planning against them. He is also accused of sending coded e-mails to al-Qaida operatives.
Khan is said to have been in contact with a man known as Eisa al-Hindi and Abu Musa al-Hindi, believed to be a senior al-Qaida figure in Britain, who was allegedly plotting to attack London's Heathrow airport. Al-Hindi also used the code name of Bilal, according to British news reports, and was among 12 suspects arrested Tuesday in Britain, according to one official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Khan also led Pakistani security forces to Ghailani and two South African men arrested with him. The South Africans had maps of several cities in their home country and are believed to have been planning attacks there, intelligence and police officials say.
Qasim, the professor, said he was shocked to learn of Khan's arrest.
"I did not find him to be leaning in any peculiar direction," Qasim said. "He was a little religious and had a short beard ... but I never saw him engage in the activity of any (militant) student organization."
The New York Times reported Friday that Khan was arrested at Lahore airport while picking up a package sent to him by his father, but the elder Khan denied having any contact with his son for several years.
Khan's father, a flight attendant with Pakistan International Airlines, told AP earlier this week that he hadn't seen his son since about the time of his graduation, and indicated there had been a falling out.
"Whatever I know about my son is through newspaper reports. He has not been with me for the last two or three years," said the father, Noor Khan, from the doorway of his home in a middle-class Karachi neighborhood. "I am trying to get the facts but I am not too bothered."
He said his son had not been a part of any militant group until after he left home, and then quickly closed the door.
MIM :The excerpt from the article below proves that Khan's father knew he was involved in Al Qaeda . It is simply not credible that his father did not know he was married, had a child, and had spent time at training camps in Afghanistan .The elder Khan used his free tickets as airline employee to bring his son to London allegedly to "escape" from the influence of fundamentalists. Khan's sister having an apartment so close to the airpor also smacks of more then just "coincidence". According to the aunt Khan's father often checked up on him.even thought he was said to have stayed only three weeks in London. Law enforcement claims that the time spent at his aunt's apartment was used to "stake out" Heathrow airport and plan a massive attack and escape route .
During his time at the flat where he lived with his elderly grandmother and aunt, Khan, known as Naeem to his family, lived quietly, often telling his relatives that he was going to the library to study.
But according to information obtained by the Pakistani authorities, Khan was instead carrying out a detailed reconnaissance of Heathrow Airport.
His reasons were, they say, entirely malevolent. Naming him as an influential al-Qaeda operative, the Pakistani intelligence service says that Khan was involved in a plan to bomb the airport, through which 63.5 million passengers pass each year. Had such a plot succeeded, its consequences could have been disastrous.
"Al-Qaeda's most immediate and imminent plan was to strike either Heathrow Airport or the underpasses running underneath several buildings in London," a Pakistani intelligence official said last night.
"The way Khan was working is absolutely astonishing. The most chilling part of all this is the fact that he located the fragile spots for their targets during his several visits in the UK as well as the safe passage to escape after carrying out these attacks."
Khan's immersion in al-Qaeda proceeded. He married the sister of a "top ranking" Taliban leader, and frequently visited her at their home in Wana, the capital of tribal South Waziristan in Pakistan.
Reportedly, they had a son, Talha. Later, Khan is said to have adopted the pseudonym Abu Talha (literally, father of Talha) as his codename.
As Hayat became increasingly worried about his son's fundamentalist tendencies, he tried to remove him from that influence by taking him on trips to London, using the free airline tickets to which he was entitled.
On their return, however, Khan would resume his contact with the fundamentalists.
Last week Hayat claimed that he had broken off all contact with Khan several years ago.
"Whatever I know about my son is through newspaper reports," he said. "He has not been with me for the last two or three years. I am trying to get the facts, but I am not too bothered."
One of his last attempts to distance his son from trouble was to have him visit Britain last year and stay with his aunt and grandmother.
Last week, Mrs Noor Khan expressed amazement that her nephew had been arrested in Pakistan. She does not read the English newspapers or watch television.
"I am amazed, just very surprised," she said, her face shocked. Mrs Begum gasped and sat, head in hands, as her daughter translated the news for her.
"I find it difficult to believe that Naeem would be involved with al-Qaeda," said Mrs Noor Khan.
She added: "Naeem always said he would get a good job once his studying was finished."
Now, as details of his alleged plot are revealed to the world while he is held in a Pakistani prison, that modest ambition of Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan seems a distant prospect.
Beirut, Lebanon - The groups are small, little known and highly militant with ideologies similar to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda. They have struck around the world, carrying out suicide bombings in Morocco, kidnapping civilians in Iraq and attacking Western residential compounds in Saudi Arabia.
The emergence of these groups is making the fight against terrorism more challenging. Instead of targeting one enemy - al-Qaeda - the West and its allies now face many "al-Qaedas," splinter groups that are mostly unrelated to each other but bound by the same hatred of the West -especially the United States and its allies, including Israel.
"It's like McDonald's giving out franchises," said Dia'a Rashwan, an Egyptian expert on militant groups. "All they have to do is follow the company's manual. They don't consult with headquarters every time they want to produce a meal."
'It's like McDonald's giving out franchises - all they have to do is follow the company's manual'
A key conclusion in the September 11 commission report put out last month was that even though al-Qaeda has been weakened, these imitator groups pose a "catastrophic threat" to the United States.
"The enemy is not just 'terrorism', some generic evil," said the report.
"The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more specific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism - especially the al-Qaeda network, its affiliates and its ideology."
"The second enemy is gathering, and will menace Americans and American interests long after bin Laden and his cohorts are killed or captured," the report said.
Two recent major sweeps against suspected al-Qaeda-linked suspects in Pakistan and Britain have dealt a further blow to bin Laden's network. At least 20 people have been detained in Pakistan in the past month, and Britain is holding 11 men from raids Tuesday. British police on Thursday announced the arrest of another man, wanted in the United States for allegedly helping finance terrorism.
'Al-Qaeda is the kind of brand name that we're giving to Islamic extremists of all kind'
Yet bin Laden is still able to rattle the United States. That was highlighted last week when US Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge warned of possible terrorist attacks against "iconic" financial institutions in New York, Washington and Newark, New Jersey. That is consistent with bin Laden's strategy to strike at US financial targets...
Cousin of Mohammed Noor Khan also arrested in UK terror sweep.
New Jersey Imam Mazen Mokhtar , of Al Huda mosque under investigation for ties to Al Qaeda . The Imam was was scheduled to speak in a summer camp, in Pennsyvania on the theme of "Looking for a Few Good Men".
New York City investigators are attempting to retrace the steps of an al Qaeda suspect who was arrested in England last week and is believed to have been sent by Khalid Sheik Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, to case financial targets in New York in early 2001, according to several law enforcement officials.
As the ripples from a recent spate of arrests and computer discoveries became apparent yesterday, law enforcement officials and documents disclosed that Eisa Hindi is believed to have been dispatched to New York with two other al Qaeda members whose mission was to take photographs and document security around symbolic financial buildings.
By retracing their steps and interviewing people identified in the surveillance photos, such as security guards on the job at the time, investigators hope to discover someone who may have been in contact with Hindi and might know more about his contacts in the United States, one law enforcement official said.
Several counterterrorism officials said yesterday that Hindi is not believed to have been in the United States since early 2001. They also disputed news reports that Hindi had come to Washington to surveil buildings.
Counterterrorism officials said Hindi was an alias for Issa al-Britani, who is a subject of the recently completed report on the 2001 terrorist attacks. Under interrogation, Khalid Sheik Mohammed described al-Britani as a trusted al Qaeda operative whom he sent to conduct surveillance of possible economic and Jewish targets in New York. Mohammed told interrogators that the casing mission was ordered by Osama bin Laden.
Mohammed, who has been in CIA custody in a secret location since his capture in Pakistan last year, also told interrogators he sent al-Britani in late 1999 or early 2000 to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to meet with Riduan Isamuddin, the top al Qaeda figure in Southeast Asia who is better known as Hambali. Hambali is also being held by the CIA.
The 9/11 commission report said al-Britani offered Hambali addresses of individuals in California and South Africa who al-Britani said could help Hambali.
Meanwhile, a New Jersey man is under investigation for having helped a British computer specialist, also arrested in London this week, allegedly solicit funds for a terrorist group by creating and operating an exact replica of the British man's Web site.
Mazen Mokhtar, an Egyptian-born imam and political activist, operated a Web site identified in an affidavit unsealed Friday by the U.S. attorney's office in Connecticut. The Web site solicited funds for the Taliban and Chechen mujaheddin, according to the affidavit. It is an exact replica of Web sites operated by Babar Ahmad, who was arrested in England on a U.S. extradition warrant this week.
The affidavit said the New Jersey home of the mirror Web site operator, identified on a Web site as Mokhtar, was searched in the recent past and that copies of Azzam Publications sites, operated by Ahmad, were found on Mokhtar's computer's hard drive and files.
Officials at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, which is leading the investigation, declined yesterday to comment on Mokhtar or the New Jersey investigation.
Ahmad possessed three-year-old classified routes of a U.S. naval battle group and is believed to be part of a branch of al Qaeda linked to Khalid Sheik Mohammed that authorities on three continents have been working to capture in recent weeks. He allegedly operated two U.S.-based Web sites, one in Connecticut and one in Nevada.
Ahmad, a British subject of Pakistani descent, faces four charges of involvement with terrorism. His attorney, appearing in a British court Friday, denied Ahmad was involved in terrorism.
According to the affidavit, Ahmad "worked in concert" with the New Jersey-based operator of www.minna.com, who is identified on the site as Mokhtar. Mokhtar is described in news reports as a U.S. citizen in his mid-thirties and an outspoken advocate of Palestinian causes. There was no answer at a phone listed at Mokhtar's home Friday or Saturday.
News accounts of rallies where Mokhtar has spoken have also described him as an imam, or spiritual leader, at the Masjid al-Huda mosque in New Brunswick, N.J. He was scheduled to speak later this month in Pennsylvania at a summer camp run by Young Muslims, at a seminar titled "A Few Good Men."
Ahmad is also the cousin of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, who was arrested last month in Pakistan. Khan's computers carried detailed surveillance of five financial buildings in New York, Newark and Washington and prompted the Department of Homeland Security to elevate the threat alert level to orange.
Staff writer Sari Horowitz and staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to