FBI, CIA Benefit from RAW's Inputs

by B. L. Kak
The Daily Excelsior [Indian newspaper]
October 18, 2001
http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/01oct18/news.htm#7

 

NEW DELHI: The US Administration has called for "quiet" investigations by America’s intelligence establishment in close cooperation with its allies outside the United States of a set of reports, all accusing Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of having played its role while facilitating the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Even as Pakistan President and military ruler, Gen. Parvez Musharraf, has tried to divert Washington’s attention by sacking the ISI chief, Gen. Mehmood Ahmed, America’s FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) seem determined to investigate the allegations against the ISI.

The FBI investigators have come across what has been termed as the "most damaging evidence" vis-à-vis the former ISI chief’s connection with Omar Sheikh, the Pakistan-born British national, who was released by the Government of India along with Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Zargar towards the end of 1999 to seek the freedom of passengers of the hijacked plane of Indian Airlines at Kandahar in Afghanistan.

The FBI investigators are reported to have conceded that India’s inputs proved to be "vital". A highly-placed intelligence source told EXCELSIOR that the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) provided the critical lead, which was vigorously pursued by the FBI investigators in Pakistan for more than 10 days until the cat was out of the bag.

The critical lead, the source elaborated, was the cellphone number of Omar Sheikh. In the initial stages, America’s intelligence establishment was found having certain reservations on India’s inputs. The scenario changed after the RAW made available Omar Sheikh’s cellphone number-0300 94587772.

The FBI’s examination of the hard disk of the cellphone company Omar Sheikh had subscribed to led to the discovery of the "link" between him and the deposed chief of the Pakistani ISI, Gen. Mehmood Ahmed. And as the FBI investigators delved deep, sensational information surfaced with regard to the transfer of 100,000 dollars to Mohammed Atta, one of the Kamikaze pilots who flew his Boeing into the World Trade Centre. Gen. Mehmood Ahmed, the FBI investigators found, fully knew about the transfer of money to Atta.

Atta graduated from Cairo University’s engineering department in 1990, but his degree meant little in a country where thousands of college graduates were unable to find good jobs. Though Mohammed Atta, as reported by New York Times, found work with a German company in Cairo, his father convinced him that only an advanced degree from abroad would allow him to prosper in Egypt. Soon he was headed to Hamburg Technical University on a scholarship.

Atta’s academic focus was Arab cities, specifically preserving them in the face of Western style development. According to the American publication, Atta arrived in June 2000 at Newark International Airport in New Jersey and would spend the next 15 months in nearly perpetual motion, earning a pilot’s license in Florida in the last six months of 2000, then spending the first nine months of 2001 travelling across the country and at least twice to Europe.

For much of 2001, Atta, as reported by Western media, appeared to make important contacts with other hijackers or conspirators. He travelled twice to Spain, in January and July, and officials are investigating whether he met with Al Qaeda contacts. He also used Florida as a base to move around the United States and made trips to places including Atlanta, where he rented a plane; New Jersey, where he may have met other hijackers, and Las Vegas at least twice.

The CIA as well as the FBI investigators, report said, had accepted Indian intelligence community’s inputs that it was with the full support of the former ISI chief (Gen. Mehmood Ahmed) that Omar Sheikh and Masood Azhar launched Jaish-e-Mohammed after the Kandahar hijacking episode. The FBI investigators, reports added, had also come across evidence with regard to the contact the two militants had developed with Osama bin Laden after their release.

Omar Sheikh languished in the Meerut district jail in Uttar Pradesh for over three years in a TADA case before he was moved to Delhi’s Tihar Jail, and eventually released. The FBI investigators are presently collecting every strand of information on Omar Sheikh.

Omar was seen in Karachi a fortnight before the September 11 strikes. America’s intelligence community as well as India’s RAW treat him as the "crucial link" in the probe into the September 11 attacks. He has gone underground since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Is he hiding in Afghanistan?

 

Copyright 2001

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