Friday, May 28, 2004

TT: FBI's most wanted terrorist Al Shukrijumah's TT connection

Four Trinidadians have said US authorities questioned them about their contact with a suspected al-Qaeda operative after he visited T&T in 2001.

Adnan G El Shukrijumah was named when US attorney general John Ashcroft warned of intelligence showing al-Qaeda plans for an attack against the United States.

Large photos of El Shukrijumah and six others were displayed at a news conference in Washington on Wednesday.

The Saudi native visited Trinidad for six days in May 2001 and stayed with Zainool Ali, who lives in Chaguanas.

Ali and three others were questioned by US authorities in late 2003, they told AP.

FBI agents interviewed them at their homes, a police station and the US Embassy in Port-of-Spain, they said.

All four said they had not heard from El Shukrijumah since the visit. They also said he never mentioned terrorism or links to al-Qaeda.

Ali said he invited him to stay at his home in Chaguanas.

He said he took El Shukrijumah fishing in his small skiff, took him to a beach and prayed with him in a mosque across the street.

“He never even went anywhere that was questionable,” Ali said.

“He just visited friends, had dinner, went to the beach. It’s very strange that he found himself in this situation.”
El Shukrijumah went to Guyana to visit relatives when he left Trinidad, Ali said.

Last week, a man in Guyana, George Bacchus, said US Embassy security officials had shown him a photo of El Shukrijumah this year.

Bacchus said he was “90 per cent” sure he had seen the man in a money exchange office in Georgetown as recently as December.

Bacchus has been at the centre of controversy in Guyana, after accusing the country’s interior minister of directing a hit squad that killed his brother.
El Shukrijumah’s relatives in Guyana refused to comment on Wednesday. One female relative who refused to give her name said, “We don’t know where he is and we can’t say anything.

Ali said he spoke last week with El Shukrijumah’s father, who lives in Miramar, Florida.

His parents had not heard from him and did not know where he was, Ali said.

Saudi-born El Shukrijumah, whose father is Guyanese, lived in Trinidad as a child in the 1980s. His father taught Arabic and lectured at mosques here. The four Trinidadians said they knew him from that period.

In 2001, the father contacted Ali and told him El Shukrijumah wanted to visit Trinidad. El Shukrijumah was living in Florida at the time.

Imtiaz Mohammed, who also knew the family, said the FBI questioned him twice late last year, with each session lasting about two hours.

They wanted to know when he last saw El Shukrijumah and what they talked about.

Mohammed said they ate lunch together and talked about world politics, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but nothing about terrorism was mentioned, he said.

Mohammed claimed the US officials offered a reward for information.

“I kind of laughed at them and said, ‘I don’t have any information to give you,’” he said

The others questioned, Munaf Mohammed and Nizam Ali, said they also had nothing to tell authorities since they have not maintained contact with El Shukrijumah.
Also this:
Authorities say he may be carrying passports from Trinidad and Tobago, Saudi Arabia and Canada.

Panamanian Security Council Chief Ramiro Jarvis said El Shukrijumah arrived in Panama legally from the United States in April 2001– five months before the September 11 terror attacks – and stayed in Panama for 10 days. He also visited T&T for six days the next month.
And, this:
Police said the FBI agents arrived with the names and addresses of the four Trinidadians, asking for assistance in locating them as part of US authorities’ search for El Shukrijumah.
AP reporter Michael Smith yesterday identified the four as Zainool Ali, Munaf Mohammed, Imtiaz Mohammed and Nizam Ali.
Law enforcers here said the Saudi national was in possession of several passports including a T&T one. They could not say how he obtained the T&T document.

“We don’t know where he got it from,” a senior officer said
Where did he get the TT passport from? In the 1990s, the trade in Guyanese traveling to the U.S. on TT passports was a thriving one. They would come in to TT, get hooked up with a TT national who had contacts in Immigration and Passport Control, and would have their picture replace that of the original owner's. From TT, they'd fly out to Barbados on their Guyanese passport, and from Barbados to Miami on the TT passport. On arrival in Miami, the passport would be taken away and returned to TT for fixing and later use.

Now, if that was possible to do then, it can be no mystery how Al Shukrijumah got a TT passport. He knew somebody who knew somebody who could get him one. When TT changed its passport to combat the Guyana-TT-Barbados-Miami scam, all Al Shukrijumah had to do was submit his old passport in exchange for a new one. He could've done this any place in the U.S., U.K., or wherever TT has a consulate.


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