Читать онлайн "The Black Banners" автора Soufan Ali H. - RuLit - Страница 27

 
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Rasheed was presented with the document and an Arabic translation. He seemed happy with it. After it was signed, he said: “Thank you, and now I have something to tell you.” He paused, and then continued, “My name is not Khaled Saleem bin Rasheed. I am Mohamed al-Owhali, and I’m from Saudi Arabia.” Having fulfilled his role as a suicide bomber without in fact dying—a feat he would eventually explain—Owhali had fled the scene of the attack and was alive to tell the FBI his story.

He said that his path to al-Qaeda had been through the Khaldan training camp. While the camp was not controlled by al-Qaeda, it was in the habit of letting the leadership know about promising recruits. Owhali had been one such recruit. He told the interrogators with pride that his skills had distinguished him from fellow recruits and that he had been recommended to al-Qaeda. In due course, he had met bin Laden. Owhali told the interrogators that he had found himself agreeing with everything that bin Laden said.

He pledged bayat to bin Laden and joined al-Qaeda. Soon after, he asked bin Laden for a mission. Bin Laden told him that something would come his way. Eventually bin Laden summoned Owhali and told him that he would be part of an effort to inflict a mighty blow against the United States—he would help bomb the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. On July 31, he had flown from Pakistan to Afghanistan to Dubai, where he had missed his intended flight to Nairobi, not arriving till August 2.

Owhali took the interrogation team through everything he knew about the bombing, from the bomb maker—whom he identified as the Egyptian known as Saleh—through to his actions on the day of the attack. He was not a proficient liar, and when he tried to withhold information or protect the identity of his friends, the interrogation team caught him out.

Around May 1998, Harun Fazul, who was to serve as a guide for Owhali and his fellow designated bomber Jihad Ali during their time in Nairobi, rented a villa, at 43 New Runda Estates. On August 4, Owhali, Harun, and other al-Qaeda members reconnoitered at the U.S. Embassy. On the fifth, sixth, and seventh, Owhali called Hada’s switchboard in Yemen from a phone at the villa. On the morning of the bombing, at around 9:30, Harun accompanied the bombers from the villa to the embassy. They traveled in a convoy, led by Harun in his own truck, with Owhali and Jihad Ali following in the bomb-laden truck. Owhali was equipped with four stun grenades, a 9 mm Beretta handgun, bullets, and keys to the padlocks on the bomb truck.

At around 10:30 AM, Harun threw a stun grenade at embassy guards to engage and distract them while Owhali and Jihad Ali continued on toward the building. Harun drove off, his part in the mission finished. As Owhali and Jihad Ali got closer to the embassy, they reached a point where gates and another set of guards prevented them from going any further. Owhali jumped out—it had been agreed that his role would be to detonate himself at these very gates in order to enable Jihad Ali to explode himself and the car close enough to the embassy to do damage. Brandishing the stun grenades, Owhali shouted at a guard to open the gates. The guard refused, and Owhali threw a grenade at him. Seeing the commotion and the explosion, Jihad Ali began firing a pistol at the embassy, causing people to scatter.

Owhali was unsure what to do: his mission had been to help Jihad Ali get as close to the embassy as possible. Although the gates were still closed, the guards had dispersed, and Jihad Ali was in fact now close enough to fulfill his mission. For Owhali to blow himself up would be considered suicide rather than martyrdom—forbidden under Islam. It was a fine distinction, but one of importance to Owhali. After making a quick calculation, Owhali began to run away—and was knocked over and injured by the explosion when Jihad Ali blew himself up.

Owhali entered a nearby hospital, disposing of his remaining bullets from his gun in the bathroom in which they were later found and placing a few other belongings on the window ledge. He told the nurses and doctors who treated him that he had been a victim of the blast. After being stitched up and bandaged, he left the hospital and contacted al-Qaeda through the Hada switchboard, reporting what had happened. He asked that someone send him a passport and money. A thousand dollars was transferred, which Owhali used to buy new clothes. He was planning his escape from Nairobi when he was picked up.

Owhali was flown to the United States and, once jailed, was asked who his next of kin was. He pointed to Stephen Gaudin. Owhali was tried in 2001 and sentenced in federal court to life without parole, along with Wadih el-Hage and two other operatives involved in the bombings, Mohamed Odeh and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed.

Ali Mohamed was arrested in September 1998 when he tried to flee to Egypt after being subpoenaed for his connection to the bombings. He pled guilty in May 1999 but was never sentenced. To date he is awaiting sentencing and is being held in a secure location. Pat Fitzgerald had long been pressing for Mohamed to be tried and convicted, and when I went with Pat to debrief him in jail, the former double agent seemed shaken.

The investigators followed up on Owhali’s leads, all of which proved accurate. We later learned that in the days after the Nairobi bombing, Harun Fazul hired people to clean the villa at 43 New Runda Estates, and around August 14 he left Nairobi for the Comoros Islands. In Dar es Salaam, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed cleaned the premises at House 213 in Ilala and made arrangements for the cleaning and discarding of the grinder used to prepare the TNT. On August 8, he left Dar es Salaam for Cape Town. A full picture emerged of how the attacks had been planned and carried out, and the prosecution teams began planning the indictments and trials of bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders for their roles.

The searches of the different facilities, safe houses, and offices used by al-Qaeda generated valuable documents, phone numbers, and photographs of many al-Qaeda members. At the Help Africa offices, agents recovered passport-size photos used to issue bogus identification cards. The photos were of the entire al-Qaeda leadership, in addition to most of the main operatives from the period bin Laden was based in Sudan. The pictures became the basis for one of our first al-Qaeda “photo-books,” a term the agency uses for mug shots and other pictures of suspects relevant to an investigation.

At the same time, our investigative interest now had taken new directions. First there was Yemen: it was clear that al-Qaeda members were based there and were using the country for operations. The fake passports used by Owhali (in the name of Rasheed) and other terrorists involved in the attacks were issued in Yemen, with Hada’s phone number the main means of communication. Then there were leads pointing to al-Qaeda in London. We had started investigating London in 1996 because bin Laden’s media office was based there. After the East African embassy bombings, British authorities had finally arrested Khalid al-Fawwaz and two of Zawahiri’s operatives. Working with Scotland Yard, we had found that the claims of responsibility for the attacks had been faxed by Zawahiri's two Egyptians, Adel Abdel Bary and Ibrahim Eidarous, from The Grapevine, a copy shop across the street from a residence on Beethoven Street used by the group’s media operatives. We dubbed it the Beethoven Office.

Two of the agents involved in the Dar es Salaam investigation were Abby Perkins and Aaron Zebley. Both were instrumental in apprehending and gaining a confession from Khalfan Khamis Mohamed—a confession that helped convict him and get him a life sentence in the eventual embassy bombings trial.

In the second half of 1999, bin Laden met with some thirty graduates of a special “close combat” training session at Loghar training camp. Assembled by Khallad, the members of the group were viewed as special operatives. Khallad brought in a Pakistani trainer to teach the operatives hand-to-hand combat, and Tae Kwan Do and other martial arts.

     

 

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