Skip to comments.Militant cleric (Dr. Hook) had links with al-Qa'eda chiefs, says FBI report
Posted on 06/24/2003 5:34:16 PM PDT by Pokey78
Abu Hamza, the militant, London-based Muslim cleric, maintained close contact with the leadership of al-Qa'eda during the years when it operated a worldwide terrorist network from Afghanistan, according to FBI files.
Documents obtained by The Daily Telegraph state that Hamza, the former imam of Finsbury Park mosque, north London, dealt personally with Abu Zubeidah, Osama bin Laden's director of operations.
Zubeidah, a Palestinian who is now in US custody, communicated bin Laden's instructions and messages from his hideout in Afghanistan to al-Qa'eda cells around the world.
Hamza had the power to refer recruits to Zubeidah for "leadership training" in Afghan terror camps.
The cleric, who lost his hands and an eye in an explosion in Afghanistan, also built a relationship with the Taliban foreign minister and sent him a laptop computer for his personal use.
The growing body of evidence about Hamza's role in the Islamist terrorist network questions the view long held by the authorities that he is an inflammatory but essentially harmless demagogue.
British security agencies monitored his activities during the 1990s but decided - against the wishes of overseas agencies - not to take action against him.
Although now removed from his post at Finsbury Park mosque, Hamza has not been detained and continues to address his followers outside the building every Friday.
An attempt to strip him of his British citizenship has been stalled because Hamza has lodged an appeal that will not be heard for several months.
The US authorities are delaying their extradition request until they are satisfied they have built a strong enough case to succeed in the British courts.
The details about Hamza's contacts with bin Laden's closest associates are contained in papers recently "unsealed" at the US District Court in Seattle.
They were made public after James Ujaama, who ran Hamza's website, pleaded guilty to helping the Taliban and agreed to give evidence against him.
The documents include accounts of interviews with Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian who has been co-operating with the FBI since his arrest for his role in a millennium plot to blow up Los Angeles airport.
In an affadavit, special agent Darrick Smalley, of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, said that while Ressam was training at Khalden camp in Afghanistan in 1998 two new Algerian recruits arrived.
"The two Algerians were selected for leadership training based on the recommendations of Abu Hamza al-Masri and another person," said Agent Smalley.
"Such recommendations by someone who is known and trusted are required for access to the training camps and for specialised training such as leadership training. One person with the power to accept or reject a candidate for training is Emir Abu Zubeidah."
Ressam then named Hamza as one of Zubeidah's "contacts in the United Kingdom".
Agent Smalley said: "Ressam stated that Abu Hamza al-Masri was at the Finsbury Park mosque in London, England. He described Abu Hamza as having lost his hands and an eye, purportedly while conducting explosives experiments in Afghanistan."
Other contacts of Zubeidah in Britain were named as Abu Doha - architect of an Algerian terrorist network and currently in Belmarsh jail, south London - and Mustafa Labsi, also in custody here awaiting extradition to France.
The special agent added that "document exploitation teams" working in Afghanistan had found dossiers at training camps in which Hamza was named as the referee for recruits.
Other documents in the Seattle files show that British intelligence disclosed information to the FBI that Ujaama had travelled to Afghanistan on Hamza's behalf to deliver a laptop to Wakeel Ahmad Mutawakil, the Taliban foreign minister.
FBI agent Fred Humphries told the district court that British sources told him that Hamza had been "trying to curry favour with the Taliban".
The court papers show that the US authorities have gathered information about Hamza from detainees being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Afghanistan.
Other documents claim that Hamza was kept informed about plans to buy land in Oregon for use as a "jihad training camp" and sent two representatives to the US to examine the site.
One of those men - Oussama Abdullah Kassir - now lives in Sweden and is a former cellmate of Kerim Chatty, who allegedly tried to board a Ryanair flight from Stockholm to Stansted last year armed with a gun.
Abu Aziz, a spokesman for Abu Hamza, said the new allegations represented part of a "concerted campaign" against him.
"Sheikh Abu Hamza has been tried and sentenced by the media in this country - anything he says or does is turned against him," said Mr Aziz.
"There have been a lot of allegations against him but the fact remains that he has not been arrested. To be frank, he is very open-minded and ambivalent about what is said. It is all based on suspicion and media hype."