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A Continuum of Terror

by Tom Turnipseed

A native of Egypt, Ali Abdelsoud Mohamed rose to the rank of major in Egypt’s special forces before being forced out of Egypt’s military in 1984 because he was considered a religious extremist. Much later he was identified as a secret member of the Islamic Jihad movement that assassinated Egypt’s President Sadat in 1981. According to an amazing front page story in the Wall Street Journal on November 26 headlined The Infiltrator, “Ali Mohamed Served In the U.S. Army–And bin Laden’s Inner Circle,” it is implicit that the FBI and the CIA would have had to have knowledge of Mohamed’s chameleon-like lifestyle. Mohamed was able to obtain a visa, marry an American woman, become a U.S. citizen, settle in California and somehow become a U.S. Army sergeant by 1986. Until 1989, he was a supply sergeant and lecturer on Mid-east culture at the U.S. Army’s special warfare school at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, a place where he had studied earlier as an Egyptian officer.

Even though the U.S.. Army and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment to Journal reporters, Mr. Mohamed’s new friends in California took it for granted that he was working for the CIA in their proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The CIA helped recruit, organize and finance the mujahedeen in an anti-Soviet Jihad throughout the Muslim world. Ali Zaki, a San Jose obstetrician and close friend of Mr. Mohamed, told the Journal that “Everyone in the community knew he was working as a liaison between the CIA and the Afghan cause.” Mr. Mohamed brought Egyptian Islamic Jihad leader Dr. Ayman Zawahri, who is now thought to be bin Laden’s right hand man, with him to California in the early 1990s on a fund-raising trip, ostensibly for the Kuwaiti Red Crescent. Mr. Mohamed was also deeply involved with a group in New York headed by a “fiery blind imam,” Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. They set up the Kitah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, established to help the mujahedeen in the anti-Soviet Jihad, but by the 1990s it began turning into an al-Queda front. The group was implicated in the assassination of the extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York as well as the World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the F.B.I. questioned Mr. Mohamed in 1993 and he told them Mr. Bin Laden was running a group called al-Queda “and was building an army”. Many of the mujahedeen liberation fighters who fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan became al-Queda members under bin Laden’s leadership. It was not until 1998, following the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, that Mohamed was arrested. He pled guilty to the East African bombings and is awaiting sentencing in federal prison. Nabil Sharef, a former Egyptian intelligence officer, told the Journal, “For five years he was moving back and forth between the U.S. and Afghanistan. It’s impossible the CIA thought he was going there as a tourist.” Like Dr. Frankenstein’s creation, the CIA’s invention of the marvelous mujahedeen to rid Afghanistan of the Soviets has turned into the “evil-doing” al-Queda that attacked America.

The latest news from the war in Afghanistan has a bitterly ironic, but interesting, story on the continuum of terror from the mujahedeen to al-Queda. Like the Saudi Arabian leader, bin Laden, the mujahedeen were recruited by the CIA from across the Arab world to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Many of those same Arabs are now Taliban or al-Queda, and U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has proclaimed they cannot leave Afghanistan alive. Rumsfeld wants them either killed or made prisoners, but not allowed to go home to Saudi Arabia or Egypt or wherever they were recruited from in the Arab world.

There are news reports of the summary executions by the Northern Alliance of several hundred prisoners of war including “foreigners” among the Taliban and more killings of “foreign Arabs” in a controversial “prison revolt” in the Northern Alliance controlled city of Mazar-e-Sharif. The U.S.’s Persian Gulf allies, led by Saudi Arabia, are calling for the repatriation of the “foreign” fighters. Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz told reporters, “We hope that all people who are of Arab or Islamic origin in Afghanistan can return to their country of origin…. We hope that no one will be subject to injustice.”

Given the miserable human rights record of many elements of the Northern Alliance who now occupy the Afghan capitol of Kabul, where they raped, murdered and pillaged as recently as 1996, human rights advocates have an overwhelming sense of foreboding about the future of the strife-ridden land. The Northern Alliance seems to have the upper hand in forming a new government as remnants of the Taliban and al-Queda are either destroyed or dissolve into the caves and barren countryside. Meanwhile, back in the laboratories of Washington, D.C., is Dr. Frankenstein concocting another invention that will extend the continuum of terror?

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and civil rights activist in Columbia, SC.

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