AL QAEDA’S DENTIST
London dentist Sohail Qureshi told the police he was just off to celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid with his family in Pakistan…
But instead of dental floss and fluoride, Qureshi, 30, tried to board a plane at Heathrow Airport with $18,000 in cash, a night vision scope, two metal batons, terror handbooks, extremist material, military information on CDs and medical supplies.
Security services didn’t buy Qureshi’s vacation story and ended his trip before it could start.
Describing his “vacation” in an e-mail, Qureshi wrote, "Pray that I kill many, brother. Revenge, revenge, revenge." On an extremist Web forum, he added, “I am not going for good as far as I know, it is only a 14- to 20-day operation, if it's in Pak, Afg or Waz."
The Islamic extremist was in fact on his way to fight for the Taliban against American and British troops.
In court, he boasted he had been sent to the U.K. by Al Qaeda for terrorist fundraising. He posted a farewell letter anonymously on an Islamist website bragging about raising thousands of pounds from sympathizers in the U.K. for the cause because "bullets cost money."
"The Dentist" set off on his “vacation” with keepsake snapshots of himself holding an M-16 rifle and an AK-47, both thought to be have been taken in Pakistan when he attended a terrorist training camp. Scotland Yard released e-mails revealing that "The Dentist" had trained at an Al Qaeda camp in Pakistan in 1996 and was the "emir" of another camp in 1998.
In my Dec. 31, 2007 column, the concern was raised that Samina Malik, the so-called “Lyrical Terrorist,” was a perfectly placed terror insider at one of the world’s largest airports. She wrote poems about beheadings, poison bullets and martyrdom, posting them to “attract men.” As it turns out, Qureshi may have been one of her suitors.
Police had the dentist under surveillance when he contacted Malik to ask about security at the airport. Recent testimony revealed that the dangerous duo was in e-mail contact.
Just before his arrest, Qureshi asked Malik, "What is the system like at work? Is the checking still very harsh or have things calmed down a bit?"
Work for the “Lyrical Terrorist” was a magazine shop on the flight side of Heathrow airport. As Qureshi’s airport insider, Malik received a suspended jail sentence in November.
Evidently, “The Dentist” fancied himself an extremist scribe as well. During his arrest, cops found a chapter from an autobiographical book he had written called “My Father the Bombmaker,” as well as some “motivational Islamist material” stored on a CD.
Arrested in October 2006, he has become the first person to be convicted under tough new U.K. anti-terror laws and was given 4-and-a-half years.
He could, however, be out of jail within a year, free to concoct further family “vacations.”
‘BUFFALO BILL’ GOES AL QAEDA, NOW APPLYING FOR COLLEGE
How does an Australian real-life cowboy named David Hicks end up joining Al Qaeda and attacking U.S. forces alongside the Taliban?
He was just an immature adventurer who traveled to Afghanistan after his application to enlist in the Australian army was rejected on the basis of his lack of education, his lawyers say.
Given that he met Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden at least 20 times, it is especially difficult to believe that he just fell off the turnip truck.
U.S. forces captured Hicks in December 2001. A month later, he was sent to the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay where he spent more than five years. Under a plea bargain, Hicks was allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence at a maximum security prison in his hometown of Adelaide in Australia.
“The Cowboy” was the first person convicted at a U.S. war-crimes trial since World War II after he pleaded guilty to providing material support to Al Qaeda.
The Muslim convert renounced the faith after confessing to aiding Al Qaeda during the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Released Dec. 29, 2007, a federal court ruled that Hicks was still a security risk because of training he received in Afghan terror camps.
How tough is life for this former terrorist released from prison?
Under the court order, Hicks must report to police three times a week and obey a curfew by staying indoors at his safe house. He is also forbidden from leaving Australia and from contacting a list of terror suspects.
“The Cowboy,” who has been reunited with his wife and children, goes to the beach, the movies and shopping.
Hicks' father also confirmed to the Melbourne Herald Sun Tuesday that his son is focusing on applying to college. He is considering majors of ecology, geology and zoology.
“His idea is he more he can be out in the public he better off he’s going to be, so people will get used to the idea that he’s out there and he’s just a normal person” his father said.
Just a normal person?
Hicks’ release has just been used to justify the light sentence issued Tuesday for Jose Padilla, the American Muslim convert who plotted to unleash a radioactive dirty bomb on the U.S.
Allison Barrie, a security and terrorism consultant with the Commission for National Security in the 21st Century, has an M.A. from the King's College War Studies department and has just completed her Ph.D thesis with King's.