San Diego Terror Plots & Patsies

Title: Three San Diego Residents Charged With Aiding Somali Terror Group
November 2, 2010
LA Times

Abstract: Three San Diego residents have been indicted on charges of conspiring to provide money to a terrorist group in Somalia that uses murder, beheadings and bombings, the U.S. attorney's office announced Tuesday.

The three are charged with aiding Al Shabab, listed by the State Department as a group pledged to use terror and intimidation to undermine Somalia's weak transitional government.  All three are in custody.

Charged are Basaaly Saeed Moalin, 33; Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud, 38; and Issa Doreh, 54.

Al Shabab has claimed responsibility for a bombing that killed 76 people in Uganda who were watching a telecast of a World Cup soccer match. Included in the dead was an American aid worker.

Although it has ties to Al Qaeda, the group is not believed to have launched any attacks on U.S. soil, officials said.

The indictment charges that Moalin was in telephone contact in 2007 and 2008 with a leader of the terror group, Aden Hashi Ayrow, who asked him to send money to the group. Money from San Diego was sent to Somalia on several occasions, the indictment alleges.

Also, Moalin provided a safe house for terrorists to use in Somalia, the indictment says.

Moalin was arrested Sunday as he attempted to board a flight from San Diego's Lindbergh Field. Doreh and Mohamud were arrested Monday.

In August, 14 people, most of them U.S. citizens of Somali descent, were indicted in three states on charges of helping the same group. Included in that group was a former San Diego resident, Serwan Mostafa, 28, a U.S. citizen. He remained at large.

At the time, U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder said the group was attempting to put together a "deadly pipeline" of funds and fighters to help its goal of toppling the Somali government and installing an Islamic regime akin to that of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Holder said that an increasing number of U.S. residents "have become captivated by extremist ideology." An estimated 20 young men left Minnesota from 2007 to 2009 to join Al Shabab, Holder said (LA Times, 2010).

Title: Two Of The Hijackers Plotted And Studied In San Diego
May 2, 2011
UT San Diego

Two of the men who carried out Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 terror attack lived in Clairemont and Lemon Grove in 2000, blending into the community by attending mosques, studying English and mingling with young Muslim men.

Nawaf Alhazmi and Kahlid al-Midhar also were taking flying lessons at Montgomery Field in preparation for the day they would commandeer a jet and fly it into the Pentagon.

The two Saudi Arabians apparently used valid visas when they entered the country. For most of 2000, Alhazmi and al-Midhar lived in the Parkwood Apartments on Mount Ada Road in Clairemont. (The apartments have since been converted to condominiums and been renamed Blossom Walk.)

Alhazmi and al-Midhar also took several lessons in May 2000 at Sorbi’s Flying Club at Montgomery Field.

Later that year, the pair rented rooms in the Lemon Grove home of prominent Muslim leader Abdussattar Shaikh before moving to Arizona and then Virginia. Afterward, Shaikh said he was horrified to learn that his former renters were among the hijackers.

The two terrorists used their own names in the community, obtained driver’s licenses, and Alhazmi was listed in the phone book. Authorities said another Saudi, Omar al-Bayoumi, helped them get settled in San Diego County and may have helped pay their living expenses. Al-Bayoumi left the United States about two months before the hijackings. He was arrested in London after 9/11, but later released.

In August 2001, Al-Midhar and Alhazmi were placed on the federal government’s terrorist watch list. At that time, the list typically wasn’t used to launch efforts to round up suspects who were already in the United States.

The FBI later was accused in government reports of failing to notice suspects who were living in plain sight, and of failing to work sources who would have known of the hijackers’ presence. Bill Gore, who was head of the San Diego FBI office on Sept. 11, 2001, and other officials have said the FBI didn’t know the two were suspected because it did not receive any such information from the CIA.

“How were we supposed to find them when we didn’t know we were looking for them?” Gore said in 2005, in response to a U.S. Justice Department report on the matter. Gore, who retired from the FBI, is now San Diego County’s sheriff.

In the past decade, the federal government has sought to improve communication between law enforcement agencies (UT San Diego, 2011).

Title: Terrorist Cell Was Embedded Deeply In San Diego
September 10, 2011
North County Times

On Sept. 11, 2001, when a second jet crashed into the World Trade Center, it became shockingly clear that what might have been a tragic accident was in fact a terrorist attack on the United States.

As San Diego County residents joined the world to watch the horrific spectacle, almost nobody knew how closely linked the terrorist plot was to San Diego, and how close law enforcement agents here came to preventing 9/11.

Not only did three of the suicide hijackers live in San Diego and several more allegedly visit as they planned the attacks, but there were also many others in the region who assisted the terrorists. Some of these supporters had connections to the Saudi government, and some were never detained or properly investigated. None was ever convicted of any crimes related to 9/11, and most have since left the country.

The following are just some of the many links between San Diego and 9/11, according to law enforcement and intelligence officials, and the report of a joint congressional committee investigation into how the nation's intelligence agencies performed before and after the attack.

The Hijackers
Three of the 19 suicide hijackers ---- Khalid al-Mihdhar, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Hani Hanjour ---- lived in San Diego, and several more were said to have visited, according to local residents.

Before arriving in San Diego, al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi had been identified by the CIA as al-Qaida operatives who had attended a terror summit in Malaysia just before coming to the United States. But as Newsweek reported, the CIA inexplicably didn't share this information with the FBI or any other federal agencies.

Picked by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohamed to be among the first of the 19 hijackers to enter the U.S., al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi lived high-profile lives here, worshipping at the San Diego Islamic Center, taking flight lessons at Montgomery Field, frequenting local strip clubs, obtaining bank accounts and credit cards and signing rental agreements using their real names. Al-Hazmi's name, address and home phone number even appeared in the 2000-01 San Diego phone book.

Alleged Advance Man
In early 2000, al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi entered the country through Los Angeles International Airport with little knowledge of the English language, but they evidently had a plan and a support system in place. The two terrorists, who were later joined by Hanjour, were brought to San Diego from Los Angeles by an enigmatic Saudi national named Omar al-Bayoumi, who had lived in the U.S. since the early '90s.

Al-Bayoumi, who'd worked for the Saudi government in civil aviation (a part of the Saudi defense department), was thought by many locals to be a spy who reported to the Saudi royals on the activities of Saudi-born students living in San Diego County. A gregarious presence in San Diego's Muslim community, he often carried a video camera and called himself a student, but he was never seen holding a textbook, nor was he ever enrolled in any local colleges.

As Newsweek reported, on the same day in early 2000 that al-Bayoumi visited the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles for a private meeting, he went to a restaurant and ended up at a table next to al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi. He told authorities later it was a chance meeting in which he and the two al-Qaida operatives struck up a friendly conversation, and he asked them whether they wanted to move to San Diego.

Al-Bayoumi set the two terrorists up in an apartment in Clairemont near the San Diego Islamic Center mosque, and he paid $1,500 to cover their first two months of rent.

When asked after the attack in 2001 about al-Bayoumi's possible role in 9/11, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore, who was then the local head of the FBI, told Newsweek the local investigation had found no evidence that al-Bayoumi was involved in the attack.

Later, a former top FBI official told Newsweek, "We firmly believed that (al-Bayoumi) had knowledge (of the 9/11 plot)."

After 9/11, al-Bayoumi was detained by New Scotland Yard while living in the U.K. but was released a week later and allowed to return to Saudi Arabia. Gore said the FBI sent agents to London to interview him.

Newsweek reported that classified sections of the Congressional 9/11 Inquiry indicated that the Saudi Embassy in London pushed for al-Bayoumi's release.

Local Saudis Tied to Hijackers, Saudi Royals
Another San Diego Saudi who befriended the hijackers (and knew al-Bayoumi) was Osama Basnan. As Newsweek reported at the time, he received monthly checks for several years totaling as much as $73,000 from the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar, and his wife, Princess Haifa Faisal.

The checks were sent because Basnan's wife, Majeda Dweikat, reportedly needed thyroid surgery. She then signed many of the checks over to Basnan's friend, Manal Bajadr, who was al-Bayoumi's wife. This money allegedly made its way into the hands of San Diego-based hijackers al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, according to the congressional report.

At a post-9/11 gathering in San Diego, Basnan allegedly called the attack "a wonderful, glorious day" and celebrated the hijackers' "heroism." Basnan and his wife, Dweikat, admitted they had used false immigration documents to stay in the United States, and were arrested. Despite all this, Basnan was ultimately allowed to return to Saudi Arabia, and Dweikat was deported to Jordan.

Mystery Man Funded a Mosque
During a one-week visit to San Diego, yet another mysterious Saudi, Saad al-Habeeb, purchased a building in El Cajon with a $450,000 cashier's check for use as a mosque and community center for San Diego's Kurd Muslims.

His motivation for this gift was never explained, but it was given on the condition that al-Bayoumi be set up as the building's maintenance manager and given a private office at the mosque, with a phone and a computer. But leaders of the Kurd mosque said at the time that al-Bayoumi was never seen in that building, and al-Habeeb disappeared.

Student Allegedly Knew about 9/11 Plan
The hijackers made friends quickly thanks to al-Bayoumi, who threw a party introducing them to many in the local community. Among the hijackers' friends was Mohdar Abdullah, a student at Grossmont College at the time who told authorities that al-Bayoumi had asked him to help the future hijackers learn English and get driver's licenses.

When interviewed by the FBI, Abdullah denied knowing about the operatives' terrorist plans. But while he was incarcerated, Abdullah allegedly told fellow inmates that he had advance knowledge of the 9/11 mission.

And according to federal court records made public in 2002, a spiral notebook seized from Abdullah's car a week after the terrorist attacks contained references to "hijacking," "mass killings" and "burning flesh falling from the sky."

Abdullah, who tried to get married and stay in the U.S. after 9/11, was ultimately deported on immigration violations.

Local Imam Counseled Hijackers, Became Jihadist
Al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi also had a close but clandestine relationship with Anwar Awlaki, who at the time was a cleric at a small mosque in La Mesa, where he and the hijackers would hold regular private meetings. Awlaki, who had attended San Diego State University and characterized himself as a moderate who condemned 9/11, was investigated by local FBI agents several years earlier for his connections to Hamas and with planners of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, but nothing came of that investigation.

Awlaki, who had twice been arrested in San Diego for soliciting prostitutes in 1996 and 1997, lied to reporters when he said he didn't know al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi. On Feb. 4, 2000, the day that al-Bayoumi helped the hijackers find an apartment in Clairemont, four calls took place between Awlaki's phone and al-Bayoumi's phone, according to the Congressional 9/11 Inquiry. The nature of those phone calls is not known.

Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents, left San Diego to run a mosque on the East Coast and was followed there by the San Diego hijackers. Awlaki has since become arguably the most dangerous anti-American jihadist in the world.

From December 2008 to June 2009, at least 18 emails passed between Awlaki and Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the suspect in the November 2009 killing of 13 at Fort Hood, Texas. After the killing spree, Awlaki said of Hasan, "What he did was heroic and great ... I ask every Muslim in the U.S. Army to follow suit."

Failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad reportedly told law enforcement officials that he was a "fan and a follower" of Awlaki, as was the Christmas Day "underpants bomber," Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian who claimed the airliner attack over Detroit on behalf of the Yemen-based al-Qaida.

Awlaki is now believed to be in Yemen. The Obama administration last year authorized his assassination, a rare move against an American citizen.

FBI Informant Housed Local Hijackers
Abdussattar Shaikh, a co-founder of the Islamic Center of San Diego and a local Muslim leader who was called "The FBI's best chance to uncover September 11th before it happened" by the Joint Congressional 9/11 Intelligence Committee, housed al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi in his East County home. Shaikh helped al-Hazmi open a bank account and place an online personal ad seeking a wife. Although Shaikh repeatedly denied being an FBI informant to reporters, he was in fact a longtime asset to the bureau here.

Shaikh's FBI contact in San Diego, Steven Butler, who has since left the bureau, told the 9/11 Commission that if Shaikh had told him the names of the two men staying at his home and that they were taking flying lessons, and if the CIA had shared with the FBI the fact that al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi were al-Qaida operatives, the terrorists would have been immediately detained and questioned and the dominoes of the 9/11 plot might have been toppled.

Shaikh insists to this day that he had no idea what the men who lived in his home were planning. But his neighbors say they saw several other hijackers visiting Shaikh's home (they identified them from photos that ran in newspapers and magazines after 9/11). And during the Congressional 9/11 inquiry, the FBI conceded that the hijackers may have known Shaikh months earlier than Shaikh admitted, and that there were significant inconsistencies in Shaikh's statements about his contacts with persons of interest to the bureau.

Shaikh also claimed not to have known the hijacker Hanjour, but a neighbor of Shaikh's told the Chicago Tribune that Shaikh introduced him to a friend called Hani, whom the neighbor later reasonably assumed to be Hanjour.

In 2009, community leaders, including representatives from the Sheriff's Department and San Diego State University, honored Shaikh, who still lives in the area, for his 50 years of service promoting religious tolerance (North County Times, 2011).

Title: SDSU Student Back Home After Detour Over ‘No-Fly’ List Status
Date: June 8, 2012
CBS Los Angeles

Abstract: A Southern California-born Muslim man was back home on Friday after he discovered he was on the U.S. government’s “no-fly” list and had to walk back over the border on foot.

KNX 1070′s Tom Reopelle reports Kevin Iraniha had just received his masters’ degree from a college in Costa Rica.

San Diego State University graduate Iraniha, 27, was preparing to return to his home in Point Loma when TSA officials informed him of his “no-fly” status.

His brother Johan said the family was not provided any details on Kevin’s flight status.

“Basically, he was told he could not fly,” he said. “They didn’t give him any information, they said to go to the U.S. Embassy.”

Officials from the U.S. Embassy then told Iraniha that in order to get back home, he would have to fly into Tijuana and then walk across the border on foot.

Iraniha’s brother Johan was furious that his brother was subjected to such treatment.

“I definitely am angry, I’m very upset about it and I want to do as much as I can but I also wanna make sure that he’s here so we can definitely tackle the situation together, so I could see how he feels, how he was treated,” said Johan.

An FBI spokesperson has confirmed with KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO that a “no-fly” status cannot prevent any U.S. citizen from reentering the country on foot.

A family member did confirm to a San Diego-area station that Iraniha had traveled to Egypt during the uprising that led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year, but denied he was “the revolutionary type” (CBS Los Angeles, 2012).

Title: Mexico Deports US Man Over Bomb Threats
August 21, 2012

Mexico has deported to the United States a US citizen of Russian origin who allegedly threatened to bomb a courthouse in California, police here said Monday.

Georgiy Chipunov, 28, was handed over to US authorities Sunday after his arrest in the northwest border city of Tijuana, a Mexican police official told AFP.

"Chipunov threatened to blow up the federal courthouse of San Diego, California and kill judges and officials," said Alfredo Arenas Moreno, international relations coordinator for police in the Mexican state of Baja California.

The suspect is considered a "dangerous terrorist" by US authorities who also accused him of cyber-terrorism, Arenas Moreno said.

US officials said Chipunov made his threats last week in emails that were traced back to San Antonio del Mar, a tourist complex in Tijuana some 20 kilometres from the US border.

He was arrested over the weekend after the San Diego sheriff's department requested help from Mexican authorities in Baja California (Australian, 2012).

Title: Russian-American Accused Of Bomb Threats Against El Cajon Courthouse
August 22, 2012
Santee Patch

A Russian-born U.S. citizen accused of threatening a sheriff's deputy and a judge at the El Cajon courthouse pleaded not guilty Tuesday to felony charges.

Georgiy Chipunov, 28, faces up to three years and eight months in prison if convicted of two counts of making a false bomb threat.

Chipunov—who was detained Thursday in Tijuana and turned over to U.S. authorities—has his bail set at $1 million.

A news release from the Baja California Public Safety Secretariat described the defendant as "a dangerous Russian terrorist" who had "threatened to explode the installations of the court in San Diego ... as well as kill judges and officials."

The alleged threats led to the closing of the courthouse for two days, according to the statement.

San Diego County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Jan Caldwell would only say that Chipunov was arrested for allegedly "sending threatening emails" to the deputy and the judge.

Chipunov will be back in court Monday for a bail review. A preliminary hearing was set for Sept. 4 (Santee Patch, 2012).

Title: San Diegan Possibly Linked To Terror Suspect
October 19, 2012
UT San Diego

A San Diego man who may be connected to the plot to blow up the Federal Reserve in New York pleaded not guilty in federal court to child pornography charges, while court records on both sides of the country indicated he was linked to the main suspect in the foiled terror plan.

Howard Willie Carter II, 36, made a brief appearance in San Diego federal court Thursday pleading not guilty to two charges of possessing child pornography. He was ordered held without bond pending a hearing next week.

Federal officials did not comment on any link to the New York case. But a complaint filed in federal court in Brooklyn, along with an affidavit for a search warrant of Carter’s apartment in San Diego, draws connections between Carter and 21-year-old restaurant busboy Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, the main suspect in the New York case.

Nafis appeared in federal court in Brooklyn on Wednesday to face charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al-Qaeda. Wearing a brown T-shirt and black jeans, he was ordered held without bail and did not enter a plea. His defense attorney had no comment outside court.

FBI agents grabbed Nafis — armed with a cellphone he believed was rigged as a detonator — after he made several attempts to blow up a dummy 1,000-pound bomb inside a van parked next to the Federal Reserve Wednesday in lower Manhattan, according to a criminal complaint.

Nafis, a Bangladeshi man in the U.S. on a student visa, allegedly had tried to recruit conspirators in his plot, but ended up unwittingly communicating with undercover agents.

They supplied Nafis with explosives they’d rendered inoperable, authorities said.

The complaint against Nafis filed in New York mentions an unidentified “co-conspirator” who Nafis referred to as “Yaqueen.”

The same name shows up in a search warrant affidavit filed in San Diego for Carter’s apartment. The document said Carter maintained several Yahoo email accounts — one was under the name “yaqeencarter” and another “yaqeenzuizz.”

The information was found on a hard drive of a computer belonging to Carter. An FBI agent had dug the computer out of a trash bin at Carter’s City Heights apartment complex in August.

The document said that Carter was under surveillance at the time, but does not say why.

However, the criminal complaint in Nafis’ case says that he and the “Yaqueen” co-conspirator had been communicating throughout July and August. By the time the computer was discovered, the FBI was deeply involved in Nafis’ investigation.

The search warrant affidavit also said that the hard drive contained more than 1,000 images of child pornography and 30 homemade videos. In one video that Carter recorded of himself in a mirror, he is seen waving a sword in the air.

In court Thursday, Carter, a bulky man with a balding head and full beard, stood quietly during the short hearing. The normally routine court proceeding was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney William Cole, the chief of the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney in San Diego who has handled terrorism prosecutions in the past. Cole declined to comment after the hearing (UT San Diego, 2012).

Title: San Diego State Student Faces Charges After Cache Of Military-Grade Weapons Found In His Car
October 28, 2012
Fox News

A 20-year-old San Diego State student faces charges after officers discovered a cache of firearms in the trunk of his car.

KFMB-TV reports David Robert Moore III initially attracted the attention of undercover officers Friday night while they were conducting a sting targeting minors trying to buy alcohol at a shopping center.

When Moore opened the trunk of his white Honda Civic, two officers noticed what appeared to be military-grade weapons inside. They found nine guns, including a modified sniper rifle, a pistol and a rifle.

A military knife was also discovered.

Moore was given a field sobriety test and arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.

Police say he could also face charges for the weapons (Fox News, 2012).