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Al Qaeda Recruited U.S. Servicemen: Testimony Links Plot To Saudi Gov't ^ | 2004 | J.M. BERGER

Posted on 07/01/2004 7:58:36 PM PDT by Destro

Al Qaeda Recruited U.S. Servicemen: Testimony Links Plot To Saudi Gov't
Saudi Program Converted Thousands of U.S. Servicemen To Islam; After Gulf War, Soldiers Targeted As Bosnian Volunteers After Leaving Military


An al Qaeda operative sought to recruit U.S. veterans as paramilitary trainers and combat volunteers in 1992 and 1993, at the explicit direction of a cleric who converted thousands of Gulf War soldiers to Islam on behalf of the Saudi government.

Clement Rodney Hampton-El was convicted of conspiring to blow up New York City landmarks in a 1993 terror plot linked to the World Trade Center bombing in February of that year.

An al Qaeda-trained bomb expert with ties to Ramzi Yousef and radical cleric Omar Abdel Rahman, Hampton-El testified that he was summoned to a meeting at the Saudi embassy in December 1992.

During the meeting, Hampton-El was informed that wealthy Saudis were sponsoring jihad operations in Bosnia, according to his testimony in the 1995 trial (US v. Rahman, S5 93 Cr. 18, August 2, 1995). Hampton-El said he was allotted a budget of $150,000 to train volunteer mujahideen fighters and support their families in the U.S.

"They said that it would be a budget of $150,000," Hampton-El testified. "These moneys, a small portion would be given to me to establish a training program. The remaining would be given to people who went to Bosnia to help the people to support their families, to pay their bills, etc., here in America."

The day after the meeting, Hampton-El given a list of U.S. soldiers who were completing their tours of duty to recruit as potential mujahideen fighters in a Bosnian insurgency that has been linked to Osama bin Laden by a spate of recent terrorism prosecutions.

Hampton-El's list of U.S. military contacts came from a Saudi-trained cleric named Bilal Philips, according to the testimony. Philips gave him the list at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, after a meeting that Hampton-El characterized as an Islamic conference for military personnel, according to the testimony.


Bilal Philips began working for the Saudi government in March 1991, leading an educational program for American soldiers stationed in the Gulf. Ostensibly to teach the Americans about Islamic and Saudi culture, the program was in actuality an aggressive campaign to convert U.S. soldiers to Islam, by Philips' own admission.

Immediately after Iraq surrendered in the Persian Gulf War, Philips organized a "tent revival" in the middle of the U.S. barracks in Riyadh, targeting U.S. soldiers assigned to defend the kingdom, according to Senate testimony by foreign propaganda expert J. Michael Waller of the Annenberg Institute and published interviews with Philips.

For about five and a half months beginning in March 1991, the program converted between 1,000 and 3,000 U.S. soldiers to Islam. According to Waller, Philips was "made a proselytization official by the Saudi Air Force. Philips said his work on the program continued through 1994.

The entire operation was sanctioned and sponsored by the Saudi government, according to a November 2003 article in the Washington Post.

"We registered the names and addresses of over 3,000 male and female US soldiers," Philips said in a 2003 interview with a Saudi-owned Arabic language magazine published out of London. According to Philips, a team of workers trained in psychology identified soldiers who were receptive to Islam and singled them out for more personalized preaching in smaller groups. In some cases, soldiers also visited with Saudi families.

After the initial conversion program ended, Philips followed up in the United States, with phone calls and visits designed to recruit recently released veterans as potential members of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. He enlisted assistance from others based in the U.S., including Hampton-El and members of Islamic centers "all over the United States."

"After preparing a list of names and addresses, we worked out a plan according to which Islamic centers all over the United States were asked to follow up on the ones nearest to them. This continued successfully until 1994," Philips said in the 2003 interview (appended to Waller's testimony).

The testimony linking Philips to Hampton-El was little noted when it was delivered, in part due to the low visibility of al Qaeda operations at the time.

However, the Rahman trial and two World Trade Center bombing trials provided extensive evidence of repeated serious breaches of military security, which were clearly known to the FBI and U.S. prosecutors no later than 1993.


Immediately after the Saudi embassy meeting, Philips and a "Marine Sergeant" named Carson gave Hampton-El contact information for servicemen about to complete their tours of duty.

"I was given several names of individuals who would be leaving the military in the very near future, those who would be getting out in a week or two; different states that would provide training also or themselves was interested in going to Bosnia," Hampton-El testified.

Hampton-El said he had previously been given the contact information for potential recruits in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Ohio. Hampton-El said Bilal Philips had received the list from Sgt. Carson.

In response to a question, Hampton-El testified that "Carson" was a psuedonym. It's unclear from the testimony whether he was an active duty serviceman at the time. Carson was not formally identified during the trial.

Hampton-El also testified that he met a "Prince Abdullah Faisal" at the embassy, who told him he had heard of Hampton-El "from Afghanistan."

Under Saudi naming conventions, it is extremely unclear to whom this refers; the name would be consistent with more than one member of the Saudi royal family.

One possible identification consistent with the name would be Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki bin Abdullah al-Saud, a Saudi prince who was named as a major terrorist sponsor by a captured al Qaeda mastermind in 2002, according to Gerald Posner, writing in "Why America Slept."

Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki was killed in a car accident less than four months after being named an al Qaeda accomplice, according to Posner. Two other Saudis named by the al Qaeda lieutenant also died under unusual circumstances within days of the accident, Posner writes.


Documents recovered in Bosnia in 2002 indicated that Saudi-sponsored charities and wealthy Saudi donors were, at times, directly paying bin Laden and al Qaeda's military leaders for activities there and abroad, according to a recently unsealed FBI affidavit related to the Benevolence International Foundation, a Saudi-sponsored charity now designated as a terrorist organization by several governments worldwide.

Philips admitted in the 2003 interview that the Saudi conversion program was used to recruit Bosnian volunteers and paramilitary trainers from the ranks of U.S. veterans.

"My role was confined to encouraging them (U.S. veterans) to train Muslim American volunteers and go to Bosnia to help the mujahidin (sic) and take part in the war at the request of the Bosnians to help them defend themselves," Philips said. "(...) I kept in touch with them, and when I visited the United States I made it a point to pay courteous visits to them."

In the interview, Philips explicitly denied supporting al Qaeda and condemned the terror network as being unIslamic, calling it "a misled, deviate, and terrorist group." There is no indication from Hampton-El's testimony or the Philips interviews as to whether he was aware of bin Laden's association with the Bosnian insurgency at the time.


Hampton-El was an American-born Muslim convert who fought with the mujahideen in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, he worked with the "Services Office," a predecessor group to al Qaeda which was run by bin Laden in the late 1980s. On returning from Afghanistan, he joined a terrorist cell in New York City that took its spiritual inspiration from "the blind Sheikh," Omar Abdel Rahman.

Hampton-El was described as an expert bomb-builder who obtained guns for the New York- based terrorists. He was photographed by the FBI wearing a "Services Office" T-shirt in 1989, while attending paramilitary training under convicted al Qaeda lieutenant Ali Mohammed, according to author Peter Lance in his book, "1000 Years for Revenge."

Members of the New York terror cell were arrested in a warehouse in June 1993, caught in the act of assembling ammonium nitrate-fueled bombs for a massive "Day of Terror" attack on New York City landmarks.

A similar bomb was used to destroy the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995. Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was a Gulf War veteran who briefly served in Saudi Arabia after the end of hostilities, at the same time the Saudis were proselytising to servicemen.

Hampton-El and his compatriots in the Landmarks case were closely tied to Ramzi Yousef, the expert al Qaeda terrorist who detonated another similarly designed (but chemically distinct) truck bomb under the World Trade Centers in February 1993.

In early 1995, Philippines police uncovered a Manila-based plot for a September 11-style attack on the U.S. just two weeks before its scheduled execution. The mastermind of the plot was Ramzi Yousef, who narrowly escaped capture in Manila but was apprehended a month later in Pakistan.


In the mid-1990s, Bilal Philips taught at an Islamic school in Cotabato, the Philippines. Cotabato is a regional center for Islamic extremists in the region, including the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

According to terrorism expert Simon Reeves, writing in "The New Jackals," al Qaeda had recruited "dozens" of fighters from Cotabato and surrounding regions by the early 1990s. More recent estimates potentially place that figure much higher.

Both ASG and MILF received assistance from al Qaeda in the early 1990s, funneled through businesses and charities run by Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, according to U.S. and Philippines authorities in a host of affidavits, indictments and public statements. Khalifa and Yousef both traveled through the Cotabato region in the early 1990s to train and fund Abu Sayyaf militants in the region.

U.S. and Philippines authorities believe Khalifa was a key player in establishing ASG in the south of the Philippines, using the International Islamic Relief Organization as a front. Khalifa was the head of the IIRO in the Philippines from the late 1980s on.

Under his leadership, IIRO set up offices in Manila, Cotabato and Zamboanga City, the Philippines, according to numerous media reports, and U.S. and Philippines authorities. According to Reeves, Khalifa recruited al Qaeda operatives in Cotabato, among other areas. Khalifa denies ever having had any ties to al Qaeda or terrorism of any kind.

In May 1993, Bilal Philips sent for Hampton-El, who was flown first to Saudi Arabia for a week, then to the Philippines for a week.

In Manila, Hampton-El testified, he met with Philips at an Islamic conference that Hampton-El said was sponsored by wealthy Saudis and the Islamic Da'wah Council of the Philippines. The Da'wah Council was one of Khalifa's charities, according to an intelligence report compiled on Khalifa by the Philippines government.

Related: al Qaeda recruited Christians in key Terry Nichols locale

On his return to New York, Hampton-El told friends that he was planning to move to the Philippines and join an Islamic militant movement there. According to testimony and surveillance tapes presented at his trial, he told other members of the New York cell that he visited training camps in the south of the country during the May 1993 trip. He also described visiting a terrorist safehouse with Bilal Philips.

Hampton-El denied both those earlier claims during his court testimony, saying his previous statements had been lies made to impress his friends.

One month after the conference, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa incorporated the International Islamic Relief Organization in Manila, according to registration filings cited in various media accounts, although there are conflicting reports as to this date. The purported charity had already been in operation in the country for a few years.

IIRO was primarily funded by wealthy Saudis, including substantial donations from the royal family and government officials, according to numerous court filings, media accounts and even Saudi government press releases.

Philippines and U.S. law enforcement identified IIRO as one of the main funding mechanisms for the Abu Sayyaf Group and later for a terror cell run by World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammad in Manila.


At the time the "Day of Terror" plot was exposed, the perpetrators were thought to be independent operators, or possibly attached to the Islamic Group, an Egyptian terror organization tied to Abdel Rahman.

But a substantial amount of evidence uncovered since then shows that the cell was almost certainly an al Qaeda-sponsored operation, either in part or in whole, as documented by Lance in "1000 Years," and in numerous recent court filings and terror prosecutions.

Many operatives tied to the NYC cell were Egyptian, and some were also associated with Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a terror group run by current al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. The extensive cooperation on display in the NYC cell between known al Qaeda figures and known EIJ figures strongly suggests that Zawahiri joined forces with bin Laden years earlier than the conventional wisdom suggests, perhaps as early as the late 1980s. Most experts currently believe EIJ and al Qaeda merged around 1998.

The New York cell was intimately tied to Ramzi Yousef and the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. Once thought to be a kind of terrorist freelancer, Yousef is now believed to have been an al Qaeda operative who took money and instructions from bin Laden. While in New York, Yousef received money from Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, who would later become the top operational mastermind of al Qaeda.

Members of the New York cell, including Hampton-El, received training, bomb-making manuals and U.S. military documents from Ali Mohammed, a California-based al Qaeda operative who was bin Laden's chief of security in the early 1990s, according to extensive testimony and his own guilty plea in a separate case. Ali Mohammed trained bin Laden's personal bodyguards, a clear sign of his status within al Qaeda.

Hampton-El fought in Afghanistan during the period bin Laden was active there, around the time al Qaeda is alleged to have formally organized. He was closely associated with the Alkifah mosque in Brooklyn, which has also been tied to al Qaeda and its predecessor organization, the Services Office.


The New York terror cell possessed bomb-making manuals similar or identical to those brought into the U.S. by Ramzi Yousef's accomplice Ahmad Ajaj. One of the Ajaj manuals was labeled with the name Abu Barra (or Bara), an alias used by Jamal Khalifa, according to a 2002 FBI affadavit. Abdel Rahman, the spiritual leader of the terror cell, possessed a business card for Khalifa in August 1993, according to the same affadavit.

Jamal Khalifa was actually in U.S. custody at the time the "Day of Terror" trial was being prosecuted. He was deported at the request of the U.S. State Department under unusual circumstances, even as the FBI investigated his links to at least three major terrorist attacks against the United States (see previous story: "bin Laden Kin Deported in April 1995 Despite Alleged Terror Links").

Khalifa's deportation was approved barely two weeks after extensive testimony relating to Islamic militants in the Philippines was presented in the "Day of Terror" trial. He is currently living freely in Saudi Arabia and strenuously denies ever having done "anything wrong."

Bilal Philips has addressed prior allegations he recruited U.S. soldiers as mujahideen during the Day of Terror trial, claiming that "the talk that I was the one who persuaded them to do that, as mentioned in some US investigations and revealed by a person called Imad Salim (Emad Salem) who worked as translator for Shaykh Umar Abd-al-Rahman, is not true."

Salem was a government informant whose testimony and intelligence was integral to the federal sting against the Rahman cell. None of the information relating to Philips in this article was derived from Salem's testimony.

According to Philips, "(Salem) said that he trained the group to go to Bosnia and that he was converted to Islam through me. This was how my name was involved in this case."

However, Philips name was cited in taped comments made by government witness and convicted Day of Terror conspirator Siddig Ali, and in surveillance tapes played or transcribed at the trial, as well as in Hampton-El's firsthand testimony on Aug. 3, 1995 regarding the Saudi embassy meeting and his subsequent trip to the Philippines.

Hampton-El described Philips as the head of "Project Bosnia," and testified that he funneled money from Saudi Arabia to pay for noncombatant support services for the mujahideen in Bosnia. Based on the testimony and Philips' own published comments, however, Project Bosnia recruited combatants and specialists in violent activities, such as paramilitary training. Later indictments related to the Benevolence International Foundation tend to affirm that perspective.

In the Siddig Ali comments, recorded on an FBI surveillance tape, Siddig was the one who first mentioned the name of Bilal Philips, in a conversation with Salem. Siddig said that Philips was a member of a committee of wealthy Saudis who were sponsoring various jihad operations.

"The money donors were Arabs from the Gulf, from Saudi Arabia," Siddig said on the tape. "They donate the millions my brother. (...) For the purpose of jihad." Siddig believed these wealthy Saudis were acting without the knowledge of the Saudi government; he does not make reference on the tape to the fact that Philips was employed by the Saudi government. Siddig said that Philips had chosen Hampton-El to lead a training camp for mujahideen headed for Bosnia.

Siddig also commented extensively on the "Islamic leadership" in the Sudan, where Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda had moved after leaving Afghanistan in 1991.

A Sudanese national, Siddig in his testimony referred to mujahideen training camps in the Sudan. After the World Trade Center bombing in February, he attemped to assist Yousef's co-conspirator Mahmud Abouhalima in reaching a safehouse in the Sudan. Siddig testified that he knew both Abouhalima and Yousef, as well as several other WTC bombing conspirators.

Bilal Philips, Osama bin Laden and Mohammed Jamal Khalifa were all named by the government as unindicted co-conspirators in the Day of Terror trial, according a list published by the Jewish Defense Organization which has been verified in part but not in whole.

Some court transcripts cited in this article were provided by investigative journalist Peter Lance, whose book on the FBI's investigation of Ramzi Yousef, "1000 Years for Revenge," is available from and at booksellers everywhere.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: alqaeda; balkans; bosnia; hamptonel; napalminthemorning; wot

1 posted on 07/01/2004 7:58:39 PM PDT by Destro
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To: *balkans


2 posted on 07/01/2004 7:59:31 PM PDT by Destro (Know your enemy! Help fight Islamic terrorism by visiting
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To: Destro
Members of the New York terror cell were arrested in a warehouse in June 1993, caught in the act of assembling ammonium nitrate-fueled bombs for a massive "Day of Terror" attack on New York City landmarks.

A similar bomb was used to destroy the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995. Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was a Gulf War veteran who briefly served in Saudi Arabia after the end of hostilities, at the same time the Saudis were proselytising to servicemen.


3 posted on 07/01/2004 8:02:58 PM PDT by Incorrigible (immanentizing the eschaton)
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To: Incorrigible

Secrets of Al-Qaeda: Network studied Oklahoma-style bomb "A do-it-yourself guide written by Bosnian"

OKLAHOMA BOMBING LINKED TO BIN LADEN (Captured Chemical Notes Say in Bosnian ‘Was used in Oklahoma’)

4 posted on 07/01/2004 8:07:52 PM PDT by Destro (Know your enemy! Help fight Islamic terrorism by visiting
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To: Destro

You've got a very nice article index at your fingertips there Destro! :-)

Wasn't it called Bohicka or something like that?

5 posted on 07/01/2004 8:10:07 PM PDT by Incorrigible (immanentizing the eschaton)
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To: Incorrigible
Wasn't it called Bohicka or something like that?

Uh, that would be Operation Bojinka. Bojinka was the plan to bomb 11 trans-Pacific US airliners simultaneously, and to crash an airplane into CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

BOHICA is the acronym for a foreseeable unpleasant experience:

6 posted on 07/01/2004 8:20:08 PM PDT by XHogPilot
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To: Destro


7 posted on 07/01/2004 8:50:34 PM PDT by blam
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To: Destro


8 posted on 07/01/2004 9:01:37 PM PDT by nopardons
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To: Incorrigible

Not just interesting, VERY interesting.

9 posted on 07/01/2004 9:05:24 PM PDT by expatpat
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To: Destro

Smoking gun of Saudi complicity in 9/11.

10 posted on 07/01/2004 10:41:37 PM PDT by playball0
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To: Destro

Another interesting find Destro...well done :)

11 posted on 07/02/2004 11:21:29 PM PDT by Jane_N (Truth, like in the eyes of the beholder! And please DON'T feed the trolls!)
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To: Destro


The info is out there, yet we sleep. Three years after 911, and the Saudis are pandered to the way a hooker in Vegas panders to her client.

I'ts not all muslims, just the stinky wahhab cult protected and sheltered by the USG.

12 posted on 07/07/2004 1:41:46 PM PDT by swarthyguy
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To: Destro
A similar bomb was used to destroy the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995. Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was a Gulf War veteran who briefly served in Saudi Arabia after the end of hostilities, at the same time the Saudis were proselytising to servicemen.

More eveidence that OKC was a Jihad operation.

Also gives one reason to wonder if McVeigh had converted to Islam.

13 posted on 07/08/2004 8:43:31 AM PDT by happygrl
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To: happygrl

That al-Qaeda like elements were involved in the OKC along with the Americans is a theory championed by Richard Clark - no real proof though just speculation.

14 posted on 07/08/2004 9:02:38 AM PDT by Destro (Know your enemy! Help fight Islamic terrorism by visiting
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