Last year, a former U.S. Army sergeant, Egyptian-born Ali Mohamed, admitted that he had been involved in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa that were blamed on Osama bin Laden. Mohamed told a New York court that he helped train members of bin Laden’s terrorist organization, al Qaeda. A book originally published abroad, Dollars for Terror, by Swiss television journalist Richard Labeviere, suggests that Ali Mohamed was an active agent of U.S. policy who trained bin Laden’s agents in the New York area. Labeviere, who conducted a four-year investigation, concluded that the international Islamic networks linked to bin Laden were nurtured and encouraged by elements of the U.S. intelligence community, especially during the Clinton years.
LaBeviere’s thesis strikes some as too outlandish to accept, but Larry C. Johnson, a former deputy director of the Office of Counterterrorism at the State Department who had previously worked for the CIA, confirms it at least in part. He told the San Francisco Chronicle that the CIA had a brief relationship with Ali Mohamed after he offered in 1984 to provide information about terrorist groups in the Middle East. In 1981, the year in which Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Army officers who belonged to the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Mohamed joined that terrorist group. Seven years later he told Lt. Col. Robert Anderson, “Anwar Sadat was a traitor, and he had to die.”
Larry Johnson told the Chronicle that the CIA had ended its relationship with Mohamed because they found him unreliable, but he said the FBI later used him as an informant. Johnson said the FBI should have recognized that he was a terrorist who was plotting violence against the U.S. “The FBI assumed he was their source,” Johnson said, “but his loyalties lay elsewhere.”
Ali Mohamed was sent to Ft. Bragg in 1981 to train with the Green Berets for four months. Returning to Egypt he spent three more years in the Egyptian Army with the rank of major. He quit in 1984 and took a security job with Egypt Air. That was when he approached the CIA.
In 1985, Mohamed obtained a U.S. visa. He came here in 1986, enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 34 and was assigned to Special Forces at Ft. Bragg as a supply sergeant. Lt. Col. Anderson thought it strange that a major in the Egyptian Army unit that killed President Anwar Sadat would be given a visa to come to the U.S. and that he would be accepted by our Army and assigned to Special Forces. Anderson assumed that Mohamed was sponsored by the CIA, but Larry Johnson told the Raleigh News & Observer, “He was an active source for the FBI, a double agent.” Johnson charged that the FBI “did a lousy job of managing him. He was holding out on them. He had critical information years ago and didn’t give it up.”
That probably explains why Ali Mohamed’s plea agreement was sealed by the court and remains so until this day. The other four defendants, all of whom were foreign nationals, testified at the trial, and all were convicted. Mohamed did not testify for reasons which have yet to be explained. He and his attorney have not been available for interviews. It appears that the secrecy was invoked to spare the FBI and the Army painful embarrassment.
In 1988, while still on active duty, Mohamed took leave to go to Afghanistan and fight the Russians. Lt. Col. Anderson told the Chronicle this was “contrary to all Army regulations.” He said he wrote reports to get Mohamed investigated, court-martialed and deported, but no action was taken. The News & Observer says that near the end of his tour at Ft. Bragg, Mohamed would go to New Jersey on weekends to train Islamic fundamentalists in surveillance, weapons and explosives. This Egyptian terrorist was honorably discharged in 1989 with commendations for “patriotism, valor, fidelity and professional excellence.” He later became an American citizen.
Mohamed traveled abroad to meet with bin Laden and his operatives. He helped move him from Afghanistan to Sudan, and in 1996 he helped him and his aides move back to Afghanistan. He handled sensitive security matters for bin Laden, trained his bodyguards and his fighters in Afghanistan and translated training manuals from English to Arabic. He cased the American Embassy in Nairobi for bin Laden, helping plan the bombing that killed 224 people and wounded over 4,500. And all this time he was a trusted FBI informant. No wonder bin Laden thought his audacious terrorist attack of September 11 could succeed.