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Kandahar hijacking, 9/11 ‘linked’
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
Fresh evidence has surfaced suggesting that the December 24, 1999, hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC 814 was a progenitor of unprecedented terrorist attack on the American mainland (9/11). Two terrorist incidents — one in India and the other in the USA — are closely interconnected as without the hijacking of IC 814 in 1999, 9/11 possibly could not have taken place.

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, one of the three terrorists who were taken to Kandahar for release by the then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, was one of the key planners and perpetrators of the most daring terrorist attempt on the US soil, said a former military intelligence analyst John Newman during his testimony before the 9/11 inquiry commission.

Newman went on to say that “Saeed Sheikh was probably a triple agent” who operated for Pakistani, American and British intelligence while being an Al-Qaida’s top functionary. After his release in 1999, Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British national of Pakistani origin, was appointed member of the Majlis Al-Shura by Osama Bin Laden, said the testimony, which did not find mention in the final report on 9/11.

Despite startling revelations about Islamabad’s involvement in the 9/11 by Newman, the military government of General Pervez Musharraf succeeded in getting vital information removed from the final report.

Bin Laden referred to Sheikh as his son. No attempt was made to arrest when he returned to Pakistan from Kandahar where he was set free in exchange of Indian hostages in IC 814 episode.

The ISI gave him a house and protection from the police. He lived openly and frequented swanky parties attended by senior government officials, observed Newman adding that the US government sources told Newsweek that he was a “protected asset” of the ISI.

Sheikh, who carried many names, including Mustafa Ahmed, Mustafa Shmed al-Hasawi, Mustafa Mahmoud Saeed Ahmed, Mustafa Mohammed Ahmed, is a hijacking, kidnapping and financial expert. He was tasked with killing Daniel Pearl and is understood to have funded 9/11 by wiring $100,000 to Mohammed Atta.

Sheikh, the man about whom the Commission of Inquiry report utters no word, overhauled Al-Qaida’s logistics, communications and financial networks and was given responsibilities in international liaisons such as relations with the Hezbollah or the Sudanese National Islamic Front.

To facilitate financial and communications needs, he designed a new secure, encrypted, web-based communications system for Al-Qaida. There was talk that he would someday succeed Bin Laden. Over and above all these responsibilities, Sheikh had another extremely sensitive job for Al-Qaida.

He was the group’s principal liaison with the ISI. He worked closely with various current and former officers of Pakistani intelligence, including Lieut-General Mohammed Aziz Khan, who along with President Pervez Musharraf himself, was the most powerful commander in Pakistan.

A product of the London School of Economics, he went on to play a vital role in 9/11 by financing the hijackers. For his trouble, he received the same impersonal budget as the two other key coordinators, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin Al-Shibh.

As the 9/11 attacks neared, ISI chief General Ahmed became more deeply mired in the plot, apparently to secure new sources of funds for the airline tickets needed for the reconnaissance flights on the date of the attack.

In early August, Sheikh’s former prison mates kidnapped a wealthy shoe tycoon in India and held him for 15 days. Chief gangster Ansari ran the operation from Dubai in the Arab Emirates. Sheikh was carrying out his 9/11 paymaster duties. The kidnappers freed their hostage for $ 830,000 and gave $ 100,000 to Sheikh.

In an email discovered afterwards, Ansari said: “I’ve paid $ 100,000 to Sheikh,” said Newman in his testimony.

On the orders of the ISI chief, Sheikh wired the money to hijack leader Mohammad Atta. Flush with money, Atta Hamzi and Hanzour flew first class on the type of aircraft they would use on September 11, 2001.

All this does not find mention in the commission report because both the USA and the British governments were keen to enlist Pakistan as a key ally in their attack on Afghanistan.

Recent revelations in the Pakistani media have confirmed that Islamabad had paid tens of thousand dollars to lobbyists in the USA to get anti-Pakistan references dropped from the 9/11 report.

In 1993, he got hooked up with Pakistani terrorist in Bosnia to take up “jehad” and got training in terror camps in Afghanistan. In 1994, he tried to get a terrorist leader freed from an Indian jail by luring an American and three Britons to locations where they were kidnapped but the plot failed and he ended up in jail instead. The hostages were rescued.

The ISI paid for his lawyer, but he was never tried during his 5 years of incarceration. Despite his kidnapping of British citizens, he was allowed to immediately travel to London. There were no indictments either in India, the UK or the USA.

On January 2, 2000, the British Foreign Office spokesman would only say that this was so because he was a British citizen and had not been convicted of any offences overseas.


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