OBL's Missouri Connections

Today’s online Post Dispatch has a lengthly article about Ziyad Sadaqa, the man who purchased a much used and much traveled phone for the OBL network and the Islamic American Relief Agency that Sadaqa worked for in Columbia, MO.

The article starts out casting doubt on the role that the dead Sadaqa played in the islamic organization. The Columbia, MO group is currently under investigation by the feds:

The man who bought a satellite phone that bin Laden used to plot the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 had worked for an Islamic charity in Columbia, Mo., the organization has acknowledged.

But Ziyad Sadaqa had no leadership role in the Islamic American Relief Agency, its lawyer, Shereef Akeel, emphasized in an interview with the Post-Dispatch.

“He was not a decision-maker,” Akeel said. “The record is devoid of any evidence that he influenced the organization’s conduct in any manner.”

Sadeaqa purchased a phone that was linked to various terrorsit activities including the Nigerian Embassy bombings and the phone even made it’s way to a prison in Chechyna. But, the Sadeqa’s faimily insists he is innocent:

Sadaqa’s friends and family have said he had no knowledge of what the satellite phone would be used for. An attorney for Sadaqa has said that before he left the country, he testified before the federal grand jury investigating the bombings.

The blasts on Aug. 7, 1998, in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killed more than 200 people, prosecutors said in the 2001 trial.

A native of Kuwait, Sadaqa moved to the U.S. in the early 1980s to attend school in Michigan. He moved with his wife to Columbia around 1994, to attend Columbia College. As early as 1996, he began using the name Sadaqa instead of Khaleel.

But it was under the name Khaleel that he paid $7,500 to buy the satellite phone on Nov. 1, 1996, from O’Gara Satellite Networks, witnesses said in the trial.

Sadaqa did it at the urging of Khaled Al-Fawwaz, an al-Qaida operative in London, federal prosecutors said, according to the transcripts. Fawwaz was then known as the head of the Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights, a London-based group created in the early 1990s by Muslim clerics at odds with Saudi royal leaders. The group was legal in London, though it was banned by the Saudi government.

In addition to Bin Laden, the phone was used by the man considered his chief deputy, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, prosecutors said in the trial.

Al-Zawahiri had been head of Egyptian Jihad, a group that carried out terrorist attacks in Egypt, before joining forces with bin Laden’s al-Qaida organization, authorities say.

In December 1996, the month after Sadaqa bought the phone, Al-Zawahiri and two associates were arrested near Derbent, Russia, with a satellite telephone and details of a bank account in St. Louis, the Wall Street Journal reported in 2002. He was involved in a terrorist mission in Chechnya, but Russian authorities were unable to identify Al-Zawahiri, who was traveling under a false name, and he was released after about five months in a Russian jail, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, Sadaqa took steps to keep the satellite phone operating. Under O’Gara Satellite’s policies, minutes had to be bought in advance, prosecutors said, so Fawwaz arranged for Sadaqa to receive money to buy them.

In May 1998, Sadaqa bought a battery pack for the phone, and shipped it to Bin Laden via a man in Washington, prosecutors said. They said Sadaqa next bought 400 additional minutes for the phone on July 30, 1998.

The islamic Organization Sadaqa worked for in Columbia, MO is claiming it is completely innocent:

…a federal criminal probe of the charity has led to no charges. The FBI served a search warrant at the charity’s office in Columbia on Oct. 13, the same day Treasury Department agents seized its assets.

When the Treasury Department shut down the Relief Agency, it said the group was part of the Islamic African Relief Agency, based in Sudan, which has more than 40 offices worldwide.

Treasury officials said the charity had provided financial aid to bin Laden or his organizations, and specifically the charity’s “overseas branches” had provided “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to bin Laden in 1999. The agency also designated five foreign employees of the Sudan-based charity as terrorists.

In its suit, the group says it is a “completely separate, independent organization” with its own directors, officers and employees. Akeel noted that none of its employees was among the five people designated terrorists by the Treasury Department.

In a reply filed in court, Treasury attorneys pointed out that other Islamic African Relief Agency offices have listed the charity in Columbia as their U.S. affiliate, and that it had listed Islamic African Relief operations as “partner offices.”

The government says the Columbia group changed names merely “to obscure” its ties to the Sudanese organization.

The islamic organization had received an extensive amount of aid from the US government including funding from USAID :

In 1999, the U.S. Agency for International Development decided to stop funding the Columbia charity on grounds it was not “in the national interest.” The documents do not say why, and federal officials have declined to explain.

In October 1999, AID asked the Islamic American Relief Agency to agree to a mutual termination of its grants, and charity lawyers objected, the documents show.

On Nov. 19, 1999, an AID official in Mali wrote the Columbia charity’s executive director, Mubarek Hamed, a letter saying AID had reconsidered.

“While we continue to believe that our concerns are valid, we have concluded that there is no basis for USAID to unilaterally terminate the cooperative agreement. Accordingly, additional funding will be made available,” wrote Annette Tuebner, the AID officer in Mali, where the charity was handling a project to improve water systems and education.

In the end, the Columbia-based charity received almost $1.2 million in funds in 1999 from AID, according to documents filed in court. Then, on Dec. 29, 1999, AID announced that continued assistance to the Islamic American Relief Agency “would not be in the national interest,” and banned it from any new grants.

Sadaqa was also connected to another terrorist, Randall Royer, indicted by federal prosecutors for various terrorist activities including carrying an AK-47 and ammo in his vehicle. Royer had worked for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), militant Islam’s most aggressive political organization in North America:

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg argued in court, reports Karen Branch-Brioso in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that Royer is “dangerous … and should be kept in jail pending trial.” As proof, Kromberg offered several pieces of evidence, including these two: (1) Royer’s admission in his testimony before a federal grand jury in St. Louis last year that he fought with jihadists in Bosnia under one Abu Zubar, who had been “sent by Osama bin Laden to Bosnia.” (2) Ramon Royer, Ismail’s father, having rented a room in his St. Louis-area home in 2000 to Ziyad Khaleel (also known as Ziyad Sadaqa), a student at Columbia College in Columbia, Mo. Khaleel bought the satellite phone carried to Afghanistan by Tarik Hamdi (on which, see my article, “Bin Laden and Herndon, Virginia”) and used by Al-Qaeda for planning the two
U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa in August 1998. Kromberg said this showed how “the connections between Lashkar-e-Taiba and al-Qaida are manifold.”

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