Skip to comments.Did Nichols and Yousef meet?
Posted on 02/20/2004 5:40:33 AM PST by Peach
Did Nichols and Yousef meet? Closer analysis of Terry Nichols and Ramzi Yousef timelines creates a compelling, if still circumstantial, case and offers clues to where the smoking guns may be found By J.M. BERGER INTELWIRE.com
In November 1994, Terry Nichols and Ramzi Yousef both walked on the grounds of the same college campus in the Philippines. Whether their paths crossed is a question that still dogs researchers. But it's increasingly clear that what separates their respective itineraries is sometimes a matter of yards, feet or even inches, within a span of days, hours and sometimes mere minutes.
They even booked travel on the same airline, on the same route and apparently on the same day the exact date Yousef planned to unleash a massive September 11-style attack on the United States.
It's unclear what it will take to officially draw a line directly connecting the two most notorious terrorist attacks of the 1990s the 1993 World Trade Center bombing masterminded by Yousef, and the Oklahoma City bombing, which Nichols was convicted of assisting (the exact extent of his involvement is still the subject of an ongoing criminal prosecution).
While a substantial amount of myth and misinformation surrounds Nichols and his possible connections to al Qaeda terrorists, the provable facts in the case are shocking enough in context, and perhaps even convincing merely on the sheer volume of the circumstances involved.
Although such connections have not yet been proven by a "smoking gun" piece of incontrovertible physical evidence, there is ample evidence to support continued attention and investigation by enterprising journalists. Unlike many so-called "conspiracy theories," the question of whether al Qaeda had some degree of involvement with the Oklahoma City bombing seems well within the reach of a credible investigation.
The most compelling evidence surrounds a visit to the Philippines by Nichols from November 1994 through January 1995. While he and McVeigh were presumably in the thick of planning the Oklahoma City bombing, Nichols simply dropped everything in his life and went to the Philippines on a trip that he believed would endanger his life.
When he arrived in the Philippines, Nichols showed up unannounced on the campus of Southwestern University, a Cebu City college with a strong Islamic fundamentalist movement where his wife was attending classes. Yousef visited the campus during the same period. Another of Yousef's accomplices made phone calls to a friend on the campus during the same period. And two more al Qaeda operatives may have had business connections to the lumberyard where Nichols and his wife stayed during the visit.
According to his visa records and trial testimony, Nichols was planning to return on January 21, 1995, the same day that Ramzi Yousef planned to bomb almost a dozen U.S.-bound airliners simultaneously over the Pacific Ocean and possibly crash a hijacked airplane into the Pentagon or CIA headquarters.
A note Nichols left behind "for the purpose of my death" expressed concern that he might die before returning from the winter trip, and included specific instructions on how to handle his money if his life insurance refused to pay out "for some reason."
Nichols was carrying stun guns on his person when he flew out of the U.S. When he flew back to the U.S., he was on a Northwest Airlines route out of Manilla that terminated in Los Angeles, matching one of the flights targeted by Yousef.
As incredible as the proposition may sound to some, there is a strongly compelling basis to further investigate the possibility that Nichols was recruited to as an al Qaeda operative for Yousef's Bojinka plan, a direct precursor to the September 11 attack on America.
SECTIONS: EARLY PHILIPPINES TIES
THE EDWIN ANGELES QUESTION
YOUSEF, NICHOLS AND McVEIGH
WHERE THE SMOKING GUNS LIE
THE BOJINKA FLIGHTS
NOTES (in new window)
EARLY PHILIPPINES TIES Terry Nichols first traveled to the Philippines after leaving the Army in 1989. He signed up with an illegal marriage-broker (or "mail-order" bride) known as Paradise Shelton Tours, based in Scottsdale, AZ.1 He departed for the Philippines for the first time in November 1989.
While Nichols was in the Philippines during this visit, several al Qaeda operatives were also in the country. A longtime associate of Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad traveled to the Philippines in January 1990, where he enrolled in flight training.2 At around the same time, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa was creating a series of business fronts designed to launder money on behalf of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Khalifa, a brother-in-law of bin Laden, created several organizations and businesses starting around 1988 and continuing through the early 990s. These included Benevolence International Corp., a rattan furniture exporter; the International Islamic Relief Organization, a charity non-governmental organization (NGO); and Khalifa Trading Industries, a lumber and furniture import-export company.3 Khalifa's businesses were based in Manila and around the country, particularly in the southern regions where the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorist gang was active. Khalifa funded ASG with front operations in Cotabato and Zamboanga.4
Meanwhile, Nichols was in Cebu City, the center of the country's rattan industry, where he met and eventually married a Filipina named Marife Torres. At various times through 1996, Marife Nichols lived with her parents in an apartment attached to a Cebu lumberyard.5
A considerable mythology has sprung up around Nichols' alleged travels to the Philippines. Some sources have repeatedly alleged that Nichols made dozens of trips to the Philippines, often without his wife. These accounts are rarely sourced in detail, and they have almost certainly been elaborated Nichols could hardly have spent any time in the U.S. at all.
However, there are a few confirmed trips which have been documented in published accounts and trial testimony. Nichols wed Marife in November 1990, in Cebu, and he stayed in the country through January 1991.6 Murad traveled to the Philippines the same month and stayed through February 1991.7
There are various and conflicting accounts about when World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef first traveled to the Philippines, but it's generally accepted that his first visit began around the summer of 1991.8 Yousef trained Abu Sayyaf fighters in the south of the Philippines during this visit, an effort which led directly to the testimony which is most and least damning in the case of the Oklahoma City bombing.
THE EDWIN ANGELES QUESTION There is only one piece of direct testimony which conclusively ties Ramzi Yousef to Terry Nichols. Its authenticity is uncertain. Edwin Angeles was one of the founders of the Abu Sayyaf Group, an al Qaeda-linked Islamic terror organization in the southern Philippines. Angeles was also a sometime government informer, but his reliability has often been called into question.
Angeles told the Philippines National Police (PNP) that he was present for a meeting in the Philippines in the early 1990s between Yousef, Murad, Wali Khan Amin Shah and an American he referred to as "The Farmer," whose appearance approximated that of Terry Nichols.9
The original claim was made during a videotaped interrogation of Angeles by the PNP. The tape was later obtained by an attorney for Timothy McVeigh. When viewed by CNN correspondent Maria Ressa, the audio content of the tape was indecipherable.
The story has been told and retold in several versions, including an alleged "deathbed confession" from Angeles' wife of doubtful pedigree, and conflicting dates have been cited for the alleged meeting. One of the alleged dates for the meeting was November 1991. Yousef, Khalifa and top al Qaeda operative named Wali Khan Amin Shah were all reported to have been in the southern Philippines in January 1992.10INTELWIRE could not confirm Nichols' presence in the Philippines on either date at the time of this writing.
The details of the Angeles claim have never been confirmed, and Angeles himself was assassinated in 1998. In the absence of further documentation, the story must be considered unsubstantiated as of this writing.
YOUSEF, NICHOLS AND McVEIGH Nichols appears to have spent most of 1992 in the United States, working at his brother's farm in Decker, MI, where he moved with Marife after their wedding. Yousef traveled to the U.S. in September to begin work on the World Trade Center bombing plot. He and a traveling companion arrived in New York City carrying bomb-making manuals which included detailed instructions on how to build a truck bomb virtually identical to that believed used in Oklahoma City.11
In New York, Yousef made contact with an al Qaeda cell led by Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, out of the al Kifah mosque in Brooklyn. The al Kifah cell provided support and accomplices for the bomb plot, even as it laid its own plans for a "Day of Terror" attack later in 1993.
A key Brooklyn cell member was Clement Rodney Hampton-El, a U.S. born black Muslim who had trained and fought for bin Laden in Afghanistan. Hampton-El was described as an expert bomb maker, like Yousef, who was also an Afghan veteran.
Hampton-El counted weapons procurement and recruiting among his chief responsibilities in the cell, and he traveled to gun shows around the region to further these goals. In late 1992, he was tasked to recruit former U.S. servicemen as trainers and mujahideen fighters for al Qaeda.12
Shortly after a December meeting in which Hampton-El was given a list of former U.S. servicemen to recruit, Terry Nichols abruptly left the U.S. and traveled to the Philippines for a trip of about 60 days.13 He was likely in the Philippines on the date of the WTC bombing in February.
McVeigh had traveled to Florida, where a burgeoning al Qaeda operation was busy recruiting U.S.-born operatives, including Jose Padilla, a former Latino gang member who converted to Islam around the same time.14
While working at gun shows in Florida, McVeigh met Roger Moore, a gun dealer with at least casual ties to domestic antigovernment and white separatist movements that would later play a role in the plot to bomb the Murrah building.15 Both al Qaeda and local white power organizations were extremely active in the area at the time, and the local gun show scene was known as a venue for terrorists seeking weapons (including a regular show at the Fort Lauderdale Armory which was attended by McVeigh.16
Nichols went to the Philippines at a time when al Qaeda was very active in recruitment and training exercises associated with the Abu Sayyaf Group. Several members of the Brooklyn terror cell stated they planned to travel to the Philippines and wage jihad from there, once they had completed their terrorist attacks in the U.S. Hampton-El traveled to the Philippines himself in May 1993. Like Terry Nichols and Jamal Khalifa, and in keeping with standard al Qaeda procedure, Hampton-El intended to marry a Filipina, which would facilitate his travel and residency in the country.17
WHERE THE SMOKING GUNS LIE The circumstances around Nichols' November 1994 trip to the Philippines bear the closest examination and offer the tantalizing prospect of a smoking gun that may yet be uncovered. By November 1994, Nichols and McVeigh had stolen or purchased substantial amounts of explosive material for the Oklahoma City bombing, housing the chemicals in storage lockers located mostly in Kansas.
In Chicago, Ill., on Nov. 4, Nichols applied for a standard 60-day visa at the Philippines consulate.18 On Nov. 5, he made a reservation to fly out of Kansas to the Philippines, but he changed this arrangement later so that he would fly out of Las Vegas.
While in Las Vegas, he stayed with his ex-wife and visited with their son. When he left the country on Nov. 22, he left her with a sealed package and the instructions to open it if he didn't return within 60 days, including a sealed letter which was to be sent to Timothy McVeigh after Jan. 28, 1995.
Nichols had left an estimated $60,000 to $80,000 in cash and goods secreted around Padilla's house and in a nearby storage locker. Some of the material had been stolen from Roger Moore, McVeigh's gun dealer associate, a few weeks earlier.19 Other material may have been associated with a bank robbery gang that has been linked to the Oklahoma bombing plot.20
The note attached to the material specified how Nichols' ex-wife should distribute the money "if for any reason my life insurance doesn't pay." There are three primary reasons why any given life insurance policy might fail to pay its beneficiary if the insured commits suicide, if the insured dies in the course of commiting a crime, or if the insured is murdered by the policy's beneficiary.
There is absolutely no reason to think Terry Nichols was afraid of being murdered by his wife. Indeed, if he had that concern, it seems unlikely he would specify that his money be sent to her.
On Nov. 23, Nichols unexpectedly showed up on the campus of Southwestern University, where his wife was attending classes in physical therapy. She had not been forewarned of his visit, according to her account of the meeting.21
Southwestern University was known as a center for Islamic fundamentalists in Cebu City, according to several leading experts in terrorism and al Qaeda. Ramzi Yousef was known to have associates on the campus, and he visited the campus throughout the fall and winter of 1994.
Yousef had entered the country in the fall of 1994, along with Abdul Hakim Murad, Wali Khan Amin Shah and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, in order to plan a series of spectacular terrorist attacks against the West on behalf of al Qaeda.
Yousef is specifically documented to have visited Cebu twice while testing explosives in November and December 1994, once to set a bomb in a shopping mall and the second time to set a bomb on an airplane.22
In addition, Abdul Hakim Murad made phone calls during the same period to Khalid Hassan, a former roomate, staying in Cebu City. According to Murad, Hassan was there studying dentistry (there are two dentistry schools in Cebu, one is Southwestern and the other is listed as having the same mailing address).23
Further connections, while not yet fully documented, offer a tantalizing glimpse at where a true smoking gun might be found. The family of Marife Nichols stayed in an apartment attached to a lumberyard in Cebu City, according to her account at her husband's trial. Her family used the lumberyard office's phone, according to testimony at Nichols' trial, which purported to explain the numerous phone calls made to the yard on a long-distance calling card used by Nichols and McVeigh.
The lumberyard was identified as "Star Gladh," according to testimony and evidence given at trial. The identification appears to come from an FBI 302 detailing the interrogation of the lumberyard's owner, Serafim Uy. The 302 was obtained by author Peter Lance for his book "1000 Years for Revenge." Parts of the document's contents were shared with INTELWIRE for this investigation.
INTELWIRE has not been able to confirm the existence of a lumberyard with a name spelled "Star Gladh" in Cebu, although there are Gladh timber operations worldwide. The name is was taken down as a handwritten notation on the 302 by the FBI agent who conducted the investigation. Phone records used at trial did not correctly record the name of the lumberyard.
Cebu is the leading producer of rattan and plywood in the Philippines. The specifics of the lumberyard connected to Nichols' family becomes important in light of the business fronts used to fund al Qaeda operations in the Philippines.
Jamal Khalifa ran several furniture-related businesses in the Philippines, including a rattan import-export company. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who would later mastermind the September 11 attacks on America, posed as a plywood exporter named Salem Ali while in Manila working with Yousef.24
If a direct connection can be drawn between the lumberyard and one of Khalifa's business concerns, it would constitute a tangible link running from al Qaeda to Oklahoma City. INTELWIRE continues to research this possibility.
THE BOJINKA FLIGHTS Terry Nichols left for the Philippines on Nov. 22, 1994, on a standard 60-day visa which would have expired on Jan. 21, 1995. 25 Ramzi Yousef was planning to launch Bojinka on Jan. 21, 1995. 26
In November 1994, when boarding his flight for the Philippines, Nichols was almost stopped at the gate when U.S. airport security discovered he was carrying two stun guns on his person.27
In late 1994, Yousef and Khalid Shaikh flew several Bojinka test runs in which they measured airline security by smuggling various bomb components onto planes.28
Nichols flew back to the U.S. on Northwest Airlines. His flight number could not be obtained at press time, but it arrived in the U.S. in Los Angeles, Calif. (Nichols then took a connecting flight to Las Vegas, his final destination.) 29
Ramzi Yousef planned to have one al Qaeda operative on board Northwest Airlines Flight 30 from Manila to Los Angeles.30
On January 6, 1995, Ramzi Yousef and his Bojinka plot were exposed when the hallway of the apartment building filled with smoke after an apparent accidental fire caused while Yousef and Murad were mixing chemicals for the Bojinka bombing.31
On January 6, Abdul Hakim Murad was arrested.
On January 7, Yousef fled the Philippines.
On January 11, Wali Khan Amin Shah was arrested.
On January 14, Terry Nichols called his ex-wife in Las Vegas and told her he would return to the U.S. on January 17 (four days before his visa would have expired).32
On January 15, Wali Khan broke out of prison and fled the country.
On January 17, the FBI arrived in Manila to examine the Bojinka plot materials.33
Later that day, Terry Nichols left the Philippines for the last time.
On April 19, 1995, an imprisoned Abdul Hakim Murad told his U.S. captors that he and Ramzi Yousef were responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. He repeated the claim to the FBI the next day.34
AFTERWORD The very notion that al Qaeda may have been behind the Oklahoma City bombing can produce a reaction ranging from polite disinterest to outright contempt from many news consumers. There are a number of reasons for this reaction. Many people are dismissive simply because, in the days following OKC, speculation ran rampant that Islamic terrorists were behind the bombing. When Timothy McVeigh was revealed a few days later, many news consumers felt that they had been "had" and chalked up the speculation to a cautionary tale about media excess.
In the intervening years, the concept of a conspiracy involving "others unknown" in the OKC bombing has been significantly marginalized for a number of reasons not having to do with the credibility of the basic premise.
I plan to write more on this subject later, but the specifics are secondary at the moment. The important point is that the public's interest in and openness to alternative views of the bombing have fallen sharply even as the evidence to support such views has dramatically grown.
Two FBI internal investigations, fully available to the public, have shown that the agency was guilty of mismanaging the case at best, and malfeasance at worst.
Credible, independent investigations by the Associated Press, the McCurtain Gazette and criminologist-author Mark Hamm have demonstrated virtually within a reasonable doubt that white supremacists associated with the militia movement and the Elohim City compound in Oklahoma helped execute the bombing.
New stories appear every single day detailing the infiltration of the United States by al Qaeda sleepers. Some lived in Texas and Arizona, others in Oklahoma. Some were white Christian males including a national guardsman who previously pursued ties with the militia movement. al Qaeda is now known to have recruited former U.S. servicemen, including Gulf War veterans like Timothy McVeigh, as first reported on this site.
How much circumstantial evidence needs to accrue before the premise of an al Qaeda role in the OKC bombing is considered effectively true?
The mass media, and to a lesser extent the general public, will determine that threshhold. But even though the evidence remains circumstantial, as above, the premise can no longer reasonably be considered extraordinary nor even particularly unlikely.
NOTES 1. By Blood Betrayed, Lana Padilla, 1995 2. PNP interrogation record, Abdul Hakim Murad, provided to INTELWIRE by Motley Rice law firm 3. Author research, DNB Business Records, Khalifa v USA (1995 civil lawsuit), US v Benevolence International Foundation indictment 4. Ibid., see also Seeds of Terror, Maria Ressa, 2004 5. US v Terry Nichols, 96-CR-68 6. US v Nichols, PBS Frontline report citing McVeigh defense team notes (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/documents/mcveigh/) 7. Contemporary Southeast Asia, Volume 24, Number 2, August 2002, "The Role of PhilippineAmerican Relations in the Global Campaign Against Terrorism: Implications for Regional Security" 8. The New Jackals, Simon Reeve, 2002; 1000 Years for Revenge, Peter Lance, 2003 9. Others Unknown, Stephen Jones, 2001 10. Seeds of Terror, ibid. 11. US v Omar Abdel Rahman et al, S5 93 Cr. 181 12. INTELWIRE: Al Qaeda Recruited U.S. Servicemen: Testimony Links Plot To Saudi Gov't, US v Rahman (ibid.) 13. By Blood Betrayed; Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, July/August 2002, "The Thrill of a Good Conspiracy" By Cate McCauley 14. INTELWIRE: Jose Padilla Backgrounder 15. In Bad Company, Mark S. Hamm, 2002 16. USA Today, "Gun shows give terrorists easy access to firearms," 12/12/2001; US v Ali Boumelhem, No. 00-81013; NOW with Bill Moyers, 11/15/2002; Pritchard v. Miami Beach, 1992; US v Adham Hassoun, 2004 17. US v Rahman 18. 1000 Years for Revenge 19. US v Nichols 20. In Bad Company 21. US v Nichols 22. The New Jackals, 1000 Years, Seeds of Terror, US v Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad, Wali Khan Amin Shah, S1293CR.180(KTD) 23. PNP documents on interrogation of Abdul Hakim Murad, provided to INTELWIRE by law firm Motley Rice; author research. 24. US v Yousef et al, Dow Jones News Service, 1000 Years 25. 1000 Years, New Jackals 26. New Jackals, PNP reports 27. By Blood Betrayed 28. Seeds of Terror 29. By Blood Betrayed 30. US v Yousef 31. US v Yousef, et al 32. By Blood Betrayed 33. US v Yousef 34. 1000 Years
Significant documents cited in this article were provided by investigative journalist Peter Lance http://www.peterlance.com, whose book on the FBI's investigation of Ramzi Yousef, "1000 Years for Revenge," is available from Amazon.com and at booksellers everywhere.
Contact J.M. Berger:
IN A NUTSHELL:
The movements of accused OKC plotter Terry Nichols and al Qaeda mastermind Ramzi Yousef correspond with a high degree of accuracy during key times, placing them on the same small college campus of each other during November 1994.
HOW THIS STORY WAS REPORTED:
This report was derived from more than a year and a half of research, using sources that include court documents (many of which have never before been reported), congressional testimony, published newspaper and media accounts, books, government documents and other testimony. Peter Lance, author of "1000 Years for Revenge" provided assistance in reporting this story.
WHY IT'S IMPORTANT:
This story offers a roadmap for finding a smoking gun to tie al Qaeda and the Oklahoma City bombing, as well as presenting a compelling circumstantial case for such a link simply on the face of it.
(C) 2004, J.M. Berger, All Rights Reserved. Contact Intelwire for permissions.
Note that the article doesn't specify which Padilla this is... Nichol's wife's last name was Padilla. Then there is Jose Padilla. I suppose it can be presumed that the Padilla in the above sentence is Nichol's wife, since it refers to money he is leaving for her... but the article hadn't spelled out that Nichol's wife's last name was Padilla. Also, this paragraph follows the first mention of Jose Padilla in the story...
So it is a little unclear. And if it IS Jose Padilla's house where Nichol's stashed money, then whoa nellie!
I have this VERY bad feeling you are probably right.ANYTHING having to with with the clinton administration seems to be covered up without explanation!
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