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  • suesarkis@aol.com
    Aug 6, 2010
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      Published Aug 6, 2010
      Published Friday August 6, 2010
      New al-Qaida leader knows U.S.
      By CURT ANDERSON


      Al Qaida Attack Leader
      Adnan G. Shukrijumah. is seen in these artists renderings by the FBI and
      made available to the Associated Press Aug. 2, 2010. (AP Photo/FBI,HO)
      MIAMI (AP) - A suspected al-Qaida operative who lived for more than 15
      years in the U.S. has become chief of the terror network's global operations,
      the FBI says, marking the first time a leader so intimately familiar with
      American society has been placed in charge of planning attacks.
      Adnan Shukrijumah, 35, has taken over a position once held by 9/11
      mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was captured in 2003, Miami-based FBI
      counterterrorism agent Brian LeBlanc told The Associated Press in an exclusive
      interview. That puts him in regular contact with al-Qaida's senior
      leadership, including Osama bin Laden, LeBlanc said.
      Shukrijumah (SHOOK'-ree joohm-HAH') and two other leaders were part of an
      "external operations council" that designed and approved terrorism plots
      and recruits, but his two counterparts were killed in U.S. drone attacks,
      leaving Shukrijumah as the de facto chief and successor to Mohammed - his
      former boss.
      "He's making operational decisions is the best way to put it," said
      LeBlanc, the FBI's lead Shukrijumah investigator. "He's looking at attacking the
      U.S. and other Western countries. Basically through attrition, he has
      become his old boss."
      The FBI has been searching for Shukrijumah since 2003. He is thought to be
      the only al-Qaida leader to have once held permanent U.S. resident status,
      or a green card.
      Shukrijumah was named earlier this year in a federal indictment as a
      conspirator in the case against three men accused of plotting suicide bomb
      attacks on New York's subway system in 2009. The indictment marked the first
      criminal charges against Shukrijumah, who previously had been sought only as a
      witness.
      Shukrijumah is also suspected of playing a role in plotting of potential
      al-Qaida bomb attacks in Norway and a never-executed attack on subways in
      the United Kingdom, but LeBlanc said no direct link has yet emerged. Travel
      records and other evidence also indicate Shukrijumah did research and
      surveillance in spring 2001 for a never-attempted plot to disrupt commerce in the
      Panama Canal by sinking a freighter there, LeBlanc said.
      Shukrijumah, who trained at al-Qaida's Afghanistan camps in the late
      1990s, was labeled a "clear and present danger" to the U.S. in 2004 by
      then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for
      information leading to his capture and the FBI also is releasing an
      age-enhanced photo of what he may look like today.
      It's natural he would focus on attacking on the U.S, LeBlanc said.
      "He knows how the system works. He knows how to get a driver's license. He
      knows how to get a passport," LeBlanc said.
      Shukrijumah's mother, Zurah Adbu Ahmed, said Thursday on the front stoop
      of her small home in suburban Miramar, Fla., that her son frequently talked
      about what he considered the excesses of American society - such as alcohol
      and drug abuse and women wearing skimpy clothes - but that he did not
      condone violence. She also said she has not had contact with her son for several
      years.
      "This boy would never do evil stuff. He is not an evil person," she said.
      "He loved this country. He never had a problem with the United States."
      LeBlanc said the new charges were brought after the New York subway bomb
      suspects identified him to investigators as their al-Qaida superior. The New
      York suspects provided other key information about his al-Qaida status.
      "It was basically Adnan who convinced them to come back to the United
      States and do this attack," LeBlanc said. "His ability to manipulate someone
      like that and direct that, I think it speaks volumes."
      Before turning to radical strains of Islam, Shukrijumah lived in Miramar
      with his mother and five siblings, excelling at computer science and
      chemistry courses while studying at community college. He had come to South
      Florida in 1995 when his father, a Muslim cleric and missionary trained in Saudi
      Arabia, decided to take a post at a Florida mosque after several years at a
      mosque in Brooklyn, N.Y.
      At some point in the late 1990s, according to the FBI, Shukrijumah became
      convinced that he must participate in "jihad," or holy war, to fight
      perceived persecution against Muslims in places like Chechnya and Bosnia.
      That led to training camps in Afghanistan, where he underwent basic and
      advanced training in the use of automatic weapons, explosives, battle
      tactics, surveillance and camouflage.
      "What's dangerous about an individual that understands the U.S. is he may
      have a better sense of our security vulnerabilities and insights into how
      to terrify the American people using smaller attacks for large, political
      impact," said Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism research fellow at the New
      America Foundation. "This increases the risk of attacks outside traditional
      places we normally worry about like New York and Washington."
      Shukrijumah was born in Saudi Arabia. He is a citizen of Guyana, a small
      South American country where his father was born. His father died in 2004.
      While still in Afghanistan, he met another young recruit - Jose Padilla,
      an American citizen once suspected of plotting to set off a radioactive
      "dirty bomb" and now imprisoned on a 2007 terrorism material support conviction
      in Miami. At one point, according to interrogations of Padilla and other
      al-Qaida detainees, Shukrijumah and Padilla were paired in a plot to fill
      apartments in several high-rise apartment buildings with natural gas and blow
      them up, but they had a falling out.
      "They just couldn't get along. It's like two guys that could not work
      together," LeBlanc said.
      The FBI is still hoping to bring charges in South Florida against
      Shukrijumah, but key information about him was provided by Guantanamo Bay detainees
      such as Mohammed, whose use as a witness would be difficult.
      "For us, it's never been a dry hole. It's always been an active
      investigation and it's global in nature," LeBlanc said. "We have never stopped
      working it."
      Associated Press writer Adam Goldman in Washington contributed to this
      report.


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