Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Authorities investigate terror link - Venezuelan al-Qaida operative
Houston Chronicle ^ | March 29, 2003 | T. CHRISTIAN MILLER and SEBASTIAN ROTELLA

Posted on 03/28/2003 11:44:38 PM PST by Cincinatus' Wife

Al-Qaida "may see Latin America as an area where nobody is looking for them," Hoffman said. "They see breathing space and room to maneuver."

CARACAS, Venezuela -- British and local authorities are investigating whether a Venezuelan found last month with a hand grenade in his luggage at London's Gatwick airport has ties to al-Qaida or other Mideast terrorist groups.

Hazil Mohammed Rahaman, 37, a Venezuelan who studied in Saudi Arabia to become an Islamic spiritual leader, raised suspicions because his passport showed he had spent the past three years touring countries that included Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Sudan, Venezuelan officials and investigators said.

Scotland Yard and secret police here are now combing bank accounts, telephone records and other travel documents to determine whether Rahaman, who also suffered from serious depression, might have been part of an al-Qaida cell seeking to launch a surprise attack from an unexpected base: South America.

"This is a very complicated, very delicate investigation," said a Venezuelan government official involved in the inquiry. "We are looking to see what links he had" to terrorist groups.

Latin America's loose borders, weak legal systems and poor regional cooperation have long allowed some areas to become minor havens for activities linked to international terrorism.

Venezuela's Margarita Island, a tourist destination with a large Arab population, has been identified as a source of funding and site of money laundering for the Hezbollah and Hamas militant groups.

Investigators say Rahaman has ties to the region where the borders of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil meet. Local Arab traders there are accused of sending millions back to Hamas and Hezbollah. U.S., Argentine and Israeli authorities believe the area was the launching site for bombing attacks in Buenos Aires, Argentina, against the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and a Jewish community center in 1994 that left 86 dead.

Brazilian federal police also said recently that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged al-Qaida chief of operations and Sept. 11 mastermind who was arrested earlier this month in Pakistan, visited the triple-border region at least twice in the 1990s.

And in 1999, police captured an Egyptian terror suspect affiliated with al-Qaida who established himself at the triple border in order to set up a network there, according to Argentine intelligence documents.

Rahaman had phone contact and other ties with suspected extremists in the triple border region, a U.S. official said in an interview. It is not clear whether Rahaman traveled to the area, the U.S. official said.

Investigators in Europe and Venezuela have not yet determined what Rahaman's target might have been, the U.S. official said.

But if he turns out to have been part of an al-Qaida operation, it would mark the first time the group has tried to launch an attack from Latin America, raising fears of a new front in the U.S. government's war on terror just hours from Miami. U.S. law enforcement officials are monitoring the case, but have not opened an official investigation.

Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert who heads the Washington office for Rand Corporation, noted that al-Qaida's Web site was paid for from a Caracas-based bank account for a brief period last year.

Al-Qaida "may see Latin America as an area where nobody is looking for them," Hoffman said. "They see breathing space and room to maneuver."

Rahaman was arrested Feb. 13 when British customs inspectors found a hand grenade in a large duffel bag as he was leaving the baggage claim area at Gatwick airport. He had flown to London on a British Airways flight that originated in Colombia and made stops in Caracas and Barbados.

Rahaman was charged with three counts under Britain's Terrorism Act and remains in custody.

At first, his attempt was dismissed as the clumsy work of a lone actor, similar to the reaction to so-called "shoe bomber," Richard Reid. But Reid turned out to be an al-Qaida operative who had trained at Afghan camps and had contact with terror networks in Europe that funded his plot and provided him with explosives. Now, authorities say that Rahaman's effort, too, was more sophisticated than first believed.

The grenade was carefully concealed in an electrical appliance in the duffel bag, which had been wrapped in plastic and marked "Fragile." The grenade was live, though it was not attached to any timing device.

Investigators are also looking into a circuitous money transaction used to buy the British Airways ticket. Through a third party, Rahaman arranged to give 900 euros in cash to a former Venezuelan police officer, who then used his credit card to purchase the passage. The police officer has been interviewed, and is not believed to be involved in any plot.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: alqaida; communism; hugochavez; latinamericalist; terrorism
From Venezuela, A Counterplot*** As Washington prepares a high-stakes military venture in the Persian Gulf, a growing physical threat is being posed by Iraq, Libya and Iran to the soft underbelly of the United States. Hundreds and possibly thousands of agents from rogue Arab nations are working hard to help President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela take control of South America's largest oil industry and create al-Qaeda-friendly terrorist bases just two hours' flying time from Miami.

Arab advisers now are reinforcing a sizable contingent of Cubans in efforts to reorganize Venezuela's security services, assimilate its industries based on totalitarian models and repress a popular opposition movement. "What happens in Venezuela may affect how you fight a war in Iraq," Gen. James Hill of U.S. Southern Command is reported recently to have told his colleague at U.S. Central Command, Gen. Tommy Franks.

"Chavez is planning to coordinate an anti-American strategy with terrorist states," says Venezuela's former ambassador to Libya, Julio Cesar Pineda, who reveals correspondence between the Venezuelan president and Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi about the need to "solidify" ties between liberation movements in the Middle East and Latin America and use oil as an economic weapon.

Exhorting his countrymen to return to their "Arab roots," Chavez has paid state visits to Libya, Iraq and Iran and signed a series of mutual-cooperation treaties with the rogue governments whose operatives now are flooding into Venezuela. There they can blend into an ethnic Arab community estimated at half-a-million.

Last Jan. 10, 18 Libyan technicians flying in from Tripoli via Frankfurt, Germany, were received at the Caracas airport by Ali Ahmed, head of Libya's "Commission" in Venezuela. He was accompanied by the parliamentary whip of the ruling Venezuelan Revolutionary Movement (MVR), Cilia Flores. Nicolas Maduro and Juan Baruto, two other bosses of the MVR party militias (the Circulos Bolivarianos) who had paid an extended visit to Tripoli in 2000, also were on hand to smooth the way for the Libyans coming off Lufthansa Flight 534.

The Libyan agents were identified as: Alsudik Alghariy, Elmabruk Najjar, Koaled Adun, Zeguera Adel, Sherif Nagib, Abubaker Benelfgh, Nabiel Bentahir, Abdulfat Enbia, Waldi Majrab, Amhamed Elkum, Abdulgha Nashnush, Mohamed Romia, Abdurao Shwich, Abdulnass Elghanud, Ezzedin Barhmi, Abdulssa Seleni, Hassan Gwile and Mhemmed Besha.

The high level of security provided for the Libyans' arrival was intended to avoid the havoc of previous days when the entry of Iraqi and Iranian groups touched off a riot. As word of the landing of 20 Iranians had spread through Simón Bolívar International Airport on Jan. 8, crowds of infuriated travelers banged counters and cigarette urns and chanted "Get out! Get out!" to protest what many Venezuelans perceive as foreign interference in their country's affairs.

…………. Meanwhile, Iraqi VIPs, moving under the protection of Chavez's secret police -- the Department of Intelligence Security and Prevention (DISIP) -- came to the attention of Venezuela's regular military when government agents tried to use air-force planes to fly five of Saddam Hussein's agents into the interior of the country. Military pilots requested special clearances before allowing the Iraqis onto the C-130s.

Military sources also report that the recently arrived group of Libyans is billeted at the Macuto Sheraton Hotel in La Guaira, which they share with Cuban commandos who have been conducting strike-breaking operations around the nation's oil ports. Local units of the National Guard, the branch of the Venezuelan armed forces responsible for internal security, were reported to be refusing government orders to repress strikers.

According to Capt. Jose Ballabes of the merchant-marine union, the Cubans improvised floating concentration camps on board oil tankers, threatening officers and crews to get them to move the paralyzed vessels. When the Venezuelans still resisted, "such methods as sleep deprivation, often used against political dissidents in Cuba, are being systematically employed against our people," says Ballabes.

Sources in Venezuela's merchant navy name two of the Cuban agents on the tankers as Arturo Escobar and Carlos Valdez, who were presented as "presidential advisers" operating with DISIP. Venezuela's internal-security organization now is reported to be controlled by a command cell of undercover officers from Fidel Castro's military-intelligence service. Venezuelan sources say the Cuban operatives also run a computerized war room inside Chavez's presidential palace, Miraflores. It is in this war room that the repressive policies now afflicting the country have been planned, according to serving officers in the Venezuelan army, navy and national guard consulted by Insight.

The Libyans, like the Cubans, are specialists in military intelligence and security, but are described as computer specialists brought in to operate and reprogram crashed systems at the oil refineries, according to industry sources.

"The West must expect deepening relations between Venezuela and Islamic states," says professor Elie Habalian, a specialist in petroleum economics and a consultant to PDVSA President Ali Rodriguez Araque, who is identified by Venezuelan military sources as a one-time communist guerrilla chief. Aided by Cuban intelligence and Islamic workers, the government has managed to get oil production back up to 34 percent, a level sufficient to supply basic domestic needs. "It's a war between two models," continues Habalian, "one seeking total control over oil policy and the liberal international policy represented by PDVSA's previous management" effectively eliminated by the government, which has ordered the mass dismissal of 7,000 oil-company employees.

Interfacing of Venezuela's oil industry with the radical state systems also facilitates plans for a possible oil embargo against the United States in the event the military assault on Iraq is prolonged. While international oil experts consider such a scenario unlikely due to Venezuela's desperate need for export earnings, Venezuelan opposition leaders fear that Chavez could take advantage of a conflagration in the gulf to consolidate his dictatorship with the support of Cuban and Arab agents already in place.

"Chavez has violated the constitution on 34 counts and is moving to nationalize banking," says a leading member of Venezuela's business community. "He has packed the high courts with his judges, neutralized the army and turned the national assembly into a rubber-stamp parliament. All that's left to do is shut down the independent media and decapitate the opposition." According to this source, Chavez is most likely to move when world attention is fixed on Iraq.

……….. Undercover police officers report that the group has ties to a Hezbollah financial network operating from the Caribbean island of Margarita under Mohammed al Din, an important Chavez backer and a close friend of hard-line MVR deputy Adel el Zabayar Samara, a key link between Islam and Latin America's radical left.

The Caracas cell is involved in recruiting Venezuelan Arabs for terrorist indoctrination and military training at isolated camps in the country's interior and on islands off the coast, according to intelligence officers who claim that members of al-Qaeda are hiding out in Margarita. They say these members include Diab Fattah, who was deported from the United States for his possible connections with the Sept. 11 hijackers. Four Venezuelan officers investigating terrorist activities on the resort island were killed in 2001 when Chavez moved to dissolve DISIP Section 11, which had targeted radical Arabs. ***

Hugo Chavez - Venezuela

Fidel Castro - Cuba

Chávez's Bolivarian Circles in South Florida - 17 around U.S. - Spreading around world *** Circle leaders draw strength from what they say is a growing Bolivarian international network. The U.S. circle members will hold their first national assembly in New York in March, and Chávez representatives from Venezuela plan to attend.***

1 posted on 03/28/2003 11:44:39 PM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Cincinatus' Wife
Thanks, Cincinatus' Wife, for watching this.

an Islamic spiritual leader ... who also suffered from serious depression
tells me everything one needs to know about this islamofascist's danger.

2 posted on 03/29/2003 1:04:34 AM PST by flamefront (Take the oil money from the islamofascists! And not for the UN. Only UN-Americans ignore U.S.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: flamefront
Well, we need to understand his motivation and mental state.....
3 posted on 03/29/2003 1:17:41 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Cincinatus' Wife
Chavez + Castro + Gaddhafi + Hezbolla/Al Qada = Western Hemisphere Axis of Evil
4 posted on 03/29/2003 3:57:37 AM PST by happygrl
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: happygrl
REAL AXIS OF EVIL - Venezuela and CUBA***Possibly thousands of Arab terrorists as well as Colombian narcoguerrillas are being protected by DISIP, which has come under the control of Cuba's DGI, according to members of the Venezuelan security agency. European diplomatic officials in Caracas confirm that Cubans are operating DISIP's key counterterrorist and intelligence-analysis sections. According to a variety of sources, 300 to 400 Cuban military advisers coordinated by Havana's military attaché in Venezuela, navy Capt. Sergio Cardona, also are directing Chavez's elite Presidential Guard and his close circle of bodyguards, some of whom can't even sing the words to the Venezuelan national anthem. As many as 6,000 Cuban undercover agents masquerading as "sports instructors" and "teachers" also are reported to be training the Circulos Bolivarianos and even operating naval facilities.

"I quit my job when I got tired of doing dirty work for Chavez with the Cubans looking over my shoulder," Ferreira tells Insight, claiming that Interior Minister Rodriguez Chacin and other presidential aides repeatedly pressured him to launder the identities of terrorists and narcotraffickers transiting through Venezuela. He also was ordered to deceive U.S. authorities on the activities of a Hezbollah financial network whose files were requested by the FBI following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Chavez gave instructions to destroy records on 10 suspected Hezbollah fund-raisers conducting suspicious financial transactions in the islands of Margarita, Aruba and Curaçao, and the cities of Maracaibo and Valencia, according to Ferreira. The Venezuelan president also dissolved key military counterterrorist units by firing 16 highly experienced, U.S.-trained intelligence officers at the time of the terrorist plane attacks in New York City and Washington. Circulos Bolivarianos leader Lina Ron celebrated the event by burning an American flag in the center of Caracas.***

Castro, Chavez Attending Brazilian Inauguration - "Jan. 1 is no longer a Cuban monopoly" [Full Text] BRASILIA, Brazil - Cuban leader Fidel Castro arrived Tuesday in Brazil to attend the inauguration of Luiz Inacio da Silva, the country's first leftist president in 40 years. Castro, dressed in trademark green uniform, was driven in a motorcade to a Brasilia hotel amid tight security. "I am happy to be in Brazil, and happy to say that Jan. 1 is no longer a Cuban monopoly," Castro told reporters. Jan. 1 is the anniversary of the Cuban revolution that brought Castro to power. A serious leg infection kept Castro out of sight in Cuba for nearly two weeks in December, but he showed no difficulty walking as he entered the hotel.

Silva takes over Wednesday for outgoing president Fernando Henrique Cardoso in an inaugural ceremony expected to attract presidents from at least six other Latin American countries and 100,000 or more Brazilians. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was also expected to attend. But the four-week-old strike in Venezuela aimed at ousting him was expected to delay him. Earlier this month, Chavez said until the last minute that he would attend an economic summit in Brasilia, but never showed up. Silva, a 57-year-old former union leader, will govern Latin America's largest country and counts Castro and Chavez among his friends. [End]

Three years after a coup attempt former colonel takes reins in Ecuador***Seven Latin American presidents were among the guests at the inauguration, including the region's top leftist leaders, Cuba's Fidel Castro, Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Gutierrez has frequently expressed his admiration for Chavez, raising fears among some Ecuadoreans that he may seek to emulate Chavez, a former paratrooper and coup leader whose leftist rhetoric has divided Venezuela and produced growing political instability.

Gutierrez thrust himself into the national spotlight in January 2000, when he led a group of disgruntled junior army officers and 5,000 Indian protesters in an uprising that drove the widely repudiated Jamil Mahuad from power in the midst of the country's worst economic crisis in decades. Gutierrez was imprisoned for six months after the coup and expelled from the army.

In his address Wednesday, he said he would take strong steps against "the corrupt oligarchy that has robbed our money, our dreams and the right of Ecuadoreans to have dignified lives." "If sharing and showing solidarity, if fighting corruption, social injustice and impunity, means belonging to the left, then I am a leftist," he said, drawing cheers. But he added: "If generating wealth and promoting production means belonging to the right, then I am a rightist." That remark drew fewer cheers.***

5 posted on 03/29/2003 4:02:59 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Cincinatus' Wife
Authorities investigate terror link - Venezuelan al-Qaida operative

Hazil Mohammed Rahaman, 37

These people must be profiling. They need to check the Smith and Thorsen surnames first.

6 posted on 03/29/2003 5:05:27 AM PST by Nov3
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: *Latin_America_List
7 posted on 03/29/2003 5:49:42 AM PST by Free the USA (Stooge for the Rich)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Nov3
We'll get them too. Probably live in Fla or Northern Calif. Just kidding - sort of.
8 posted on 03/29/2003 7:32:05 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Cincinatus' Wife
The biggest bimbo-- dupe ...

was the lady who boardered a plane in England to Israel? ---

with a package (( bomb )) from her arab guy friend -- 'lover' !

Fortunately customs caught it !
9 posted on 03/29/2003 2:50:39 PM PST by f.Christian (( who you gonna call ... 1 800 orc // evo bstr ))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Cincinatus' Wife
Another good catch. I hadn't previously been aware of these South American links. Thanks!
10 posted on 04/01/2003 3:49:39 AM PST by EternalVigilance
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: EternalVigilance
This is something to watch closely. Thanks for following the LINK. Bump!
11 posted on 04/01/2003 3:55:15 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: EternalVigilance
This is something to watch closely. Thanks for following the LINK. Bump!
12 posted on 04/01/2003 3:55:31 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson