Are the Sniper Suspects Connected to Al Qaeda?

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John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo are accused of terrorizing communities across five states — are they connected to Usama bin Laden's terror network? While officials say they have yet to see concrete evidence tying this terrible series of attacks to Al Qaeda, they assert the investigation is ongoing and they intend to follow all leads in an effort to determine the "full extent of criminal activity."  You Decide.


John Muhammad: 1978–Sept. 2002

Sniper Spree: Oct. 2002

The Antigua Connection

It is unclear why John Muhammad traveled to Antigua in March of 2000. However, this area of the Caribbean has long been considered a haven for tax evaders and an international center for money laundering. The Seattle Times reported that Muhammad may have been involved in a human smuggling operation and is currently being investigated for passport fraud and racketeering. As part of the war on terror, a new law was passed in December forcing U.S. banks to break ties with shell banks in the Caribbean with a reputation for money laundering. Read more.

From the FBI website:

Dennis M. Lormel, Chief, Financial Crimes Section for the FBI in a statement to the record before the House Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, February 12, 2002:

"Terrorist financing methods range from the highly sophisticated to the most basic. There is virtually no financing method that has not at some level been utilized by terrorists and terrorist groups. Traditionally, their efforts have been aided considerably by the use of correspondent bank accounts, private banking accounts, offshore shell banks, Hawalas, bulk cash smuggling, identity theft, credit card fraud, and other criminal operations such as illegal drug trafficking. We are optimistic that provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act enacted by this Congress will significantly erode the effectiveness of many of these methods."

False Birth Certificates — Muhammad made or purchased a false birth certificate in order to obtain an Antiguan passport. He is being investigated for doing the same for many Jamaicans wishing to emigrate to the United States. It is unclear where he may have learned how to do this, but it has been widely reported that Al Qaeda trains their operatives to falsify documents.

Richard Reid — The Antiguan Sun reported that members of the CIA and FBI were in Antigua investigating a potential tie between Muhammad and Reid.  When Reid was questioned by police before boarding an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami, Reid said he was on his way to Antigua to visit family. Information received by U.S. investigators suggests the suspected shoe bomber's father was British, and that his mother was Jamaican. Reid has been linked to Abu Hamza, a muslim cleric in London whom officials have identified as an Al Qaeda operative. A cell in Seattle, Wash. has also been linked to Abu Hamza.

The Tacoma Connection

Semi Osman —  The Seattle Times reported in July that this former leader of the Dar-us-Salaam mosque in Seattle worked as an auto mechanic in Tacoma, Wash. He was arrested on charges of fraudulently attempting to obtain U.S. citizenship with the intent of supporting international terrorism and possession of a handgun with the serial number removed. He was indicted along with James Ujaama for allegedly trying to set up an Al Qaeda training camp in Bly, Ore. When Osman's Tacoma apartment was raided by the FBI last May, documents detailing how to poison water supplies were discovered. While suspected sniper John Muhammad was also an auto mechanic in Tacoma, it is still unclear what mosque he attended or whether he knew this fellow mechanic. Muhammad was listed as a water transport specialist during his time in the Army in addition to metal worker and combat engineer.

Frequent Travel —  According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Rev. Al Archer, director of the homeless shelter where Muhammad and Malvo lived in Bellingham, Wash. said he became suspicious of Muhammad because he was receiving phone calls from travel agents and taking trips to Jamaica, New Orleans and Antigua. "That doesn't happen a lot in a mission," Archer said. He said he contacted the FBI about Muhammad in mid-October 2001, but never heard back from them. It is unclear how many times Muhammad traveled back and forth from Antigua or why he moved from Tacoma to Bellingham, a city close to the Canadian border. Few details are also known about his subsequent journey to the Eastern seaboard.

Disappearing Money — Although Muhammad was allegedly involved in a lucrative smuggling operation during his stay in Antigua, he checked in to a homeless shelter upon his return to the U.S. In addition, it has been reported that Muhammad tried to run an auto repair shop and a Karate school for Muslim boys in Tacoma, but in both ventures the profits seemed to vanish. One of Muhammad's customers reported Muhammad "lost" his car and told him he would get him another one. According to The Seattle Times, police investigating a shooting in Tacoma last February believe Muhammad intended to shoot his former bookkeeper, but instead shot her niece by mistake.

Registered Caprice on 9/11/02 —  The Courier Post reported that Muhammad obtained the license plates for the Caprice suspected in the shootings in Camden, N.J. exactly on year after the Sept. 11 attacks. They also reported a bomb threat was called into the DMV simultaneously.

Sophisticated Equipment — The Federal complaint against Muhammad reveals a list of expensive items found during the search of the Caprice: a military pack containing a GPS (global positioning system), a pair of two-way radios and a Sony laptop computer. Investigators are currently looking into whom Muhammad and Malvo were e-mailing from their car. FBI Director Robert Mueller confirmed the so-called 20th hijacker Zacharias Moussaoui researched GPS technology.  In addition, The Washington Post reported that 9/11 hijacker Ziad Samir Jarrah purchased a GPS unit in Miami in August of 2001.

Use of Aliases and Fake Driver's Licenses — According to the Federal criminal complaint filed, suspect John Muhammad also goes by John Williams, Wayne Weeks and Wayne Weekly. Investigators say Muhammad almost always traveled under a different additional names. A wallet containing several driver's licenses bearing Muhammad's likeness but with different names was found in his car.  Read more.

Credit Card Theft — A letter left at the crime scene in Ashland, Va. demanded officials transfer $10 million dollars to a credit card account stolen from a woman in Flagstaff, Ariz. which could be accessed worldwide. Law enforcement has determined that a key component of Al Qaeda's financial operation involves credit card theft and money laundering. Several suspects have been arrested for trying to raise money for the organization through stolen credit cards, including suspected 20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui. Read more.

From the FBI website:

Dennis M. Lormel, Chief, Financial Crimes Section for the FBI in a statement to the record before the House Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, February 12, 2002:

"Another pattern of terrorist financing involves funding of terrorist cell activities through various criminal activity. Al Qaeda has been known to encourage and instruct terrorist cells in terrorist training camps in Afghanistan in ways they can fund their terrorist activities through various criminal activity. For example, Ahmed Ressam, the Algerian extremist convicted in the terrorist plot to place bombs at Los Angeles International Airport among other locations, was instructed in these camps to engage in criminal activity such as bank robberies and fraud schemes to fund his terrorist activities. As another example, investigation has identified a terrorist cell based in Spain with ties to Al Qaeda that used stolen credit cards in fictitious sales scams and for numerous other purchases for the cell. They kept purchases below amount where identification would be presented. They also used stolen telephone and credit cards for communications back to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, etc. Extensive use of false passports and travel documents were used to open bank accounts where money for the mujahadin movement was sent to and from countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. In addition, the cell relied upon street crimes such as home burglary, car theft, and car burglary to fund their cell activities."

Anti-American Sentiment — The Seattle Times reported that after the Sept. 11 attacks, Muhammad and Malvo made anti-American statements to neighbors and expressed sympathy with the Islamic extremists who carried out the terrorist attacks.

Tabligh Jamaat — According to an articled written by B. Rahman of the Indian think tank SAPRA (Security and Risk Analysis) in October 2000: "Amongst the alleged members of the TJ in the Muslim community in the US is Mr.Louis Fara Khan, the Black Muslim leader. The TJ operates in the US and the Caribbean directly through its own preachers deputed from Pakistan and also recruited from the Pakistani immigrant community in the US as well as through front organisations such as the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra founded in the 1980s under the leadership of Sheikh Mubarik Ali Gilani, who generally lives in Pakistan, but travels frequently to the US and the Caribbean. The annual report on the Patterns of Global Terrorism during 1998 issued by the Counter-Terrorism Division of the US State Department states as follows of the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra: "Seeks to purify Islam through violence. Members have purchased isolated rural compounds in North America to live communally, practise their faith and insulate themselves from Western culture. Fuqra members have attacked a variety of targets that they view as enemies of Islam, including Muslims they regard as heretics and Hindus. Attacks during the 1980s included assassinations and fire bombings across the US. Fuqra members in the US have been convicted of criminal violations, including murder and fraud."

Jamaat al-Fuqra — The Washington Times reported that federal investigators also continue to survey small settlements of black Muslims involved with Jamaat al-Fuqra, a group founded in the early 1980s by Sheik Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani, a Pakistani with numerous terrorist ties.

Arresting the Suspects — A Timeline of Tips

On October 17, 2002, a call was received at the task force tipline urging police to check out a shooting in Montgomery, Ala.

Montgomery police told the sniper task force that they uncovered a print left at the scene.  The task force turned up Malvo's picture as soon as they ran the prints through the FBI indexing system.

This led police back to INS reports filed on the December 19 (mentioned above) involving Malvo and his mother, in which Muhammad's name was mentioned.

Officials then made the connection to an October 8, 2002 report from a Baltimore City police officer who found Muhammad and Malvo sleeping in a blue Caprice sedan and took down their New Jersey plate number.

Police released the names and description of the car around midnight on October 23, 2002. A truck driver listening to a radio program heard the names and spotted the car at a rest stop in Maryland. He quickly alerted authorities who arrived on the scene shortly after 1 am.



John Muhammad: 1978–Sept. 2002

Sniper Spree: Oct. 2002

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