Hate Club: Al-Qaeda's Web of Terror

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AFP / Getty Images

Osama Bin Laden (C), Ayman Al-Zawahiri (L), a physician and the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and Muhammad Atef (R), who has been indicted in the US for his alleged involvement in the 1998 bombings of US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya are seen in this file photo obtained October 2, 2001 by the office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

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Children of immigrants, Muslims in Europe, highly skilled, Daoudi and Moussaoui epitomize the kind of person investigators now think provides some of al-Qaeda's key recruits. Above all, both men were true global citizens; Moussaoui, a child of the warm south, ended up in the state where ice fishing is a favorite sport. As they dig deeper, law-enforcement agencies are beginning to understand just how effectively globalization has spread terrorism around the planet.

Consider two countries half a world apart and far from the Islamic heartlands: the Philippines and Britain. It was in Manila, that most Catholic of cities, that Mohammed Sadeek Odeh found his vocation. Sentenced to life imprisonment on Oct. 18 for his part in the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Odeh seemed to have lived the predictable life of an al-Qaeda operative — he was born to exiled Palestinians in Saudi Arabia and grew up in Jordan. Yet he turned to radical Islam while studying engineering in the Philippines. It was there that Odeh first saw and heard videos and taped messages from Abdallah Azzam. In 1990 Odeh moved to Pakistan, and from there to the camps in Afghanistan and a new life as a soldier in al-Qaeda.

Other Muslims who had studied in the Philippines maintained links there. It was from Manila that Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind behind the first World Trade Center bombing, hatched a plan to blow up 12 American airliners as they flew over the Pacific. In the mid-1990s, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, married to one of bin Laden's sisters, allegedly funded Islamic schools in the south of the country, where Muslim insurgents have been fighting for years. The Filipino government has long claimed that Abu Sayyaf, the most bloodthirsty of the groups — its specialty is beheadings — has been supported by al-Qaeda. Abdurajak Janjalani, the group's late founder, fought in Afghanistan, reportedly with bin Laden and Yousef. The links may be a thing of the past; these days Abu Sayyaf's style runs more to kidnapping and ransom than to jihad. Still, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo recently said Khalifa had offered to secure the release by Abu Sayyaf of 18 hostages, including an American missionary couple.

About the only thing that Manila has in common with London is damp — that and a reputation for giving succor to terrorist supporters. Britain has always had a habit of providing safe haven to political refugees; that's why Karl Marx is buried in Highgate cemetery. But in the past 20 years, says Neil Partrick, a Middle East analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, London has become "the capital of the Arab world." As they used to say in Britain: Whoever lost the Lebanese civil war, London won it. With Beirut in ruins, banks relocated from Lebanon; they were followed by Arabs from Saudi Arabia and the gulf who summered in Kensington Gardens, journalists, members of opposition groups — and radical Islamic clerics.

One such preacher, Abu Hamza al-Masri, arrived in 1981, having left one eye and both hands in Afghanistan. He was granted British citizenship in 1985, and his mosque in Finsbury Park, tucked among Victorian row houses one tube stop from Arsenal's soccer stadium, has become famous worldwide for preaching jihad. Moussaoui, the Courtailler brothers and Beghal all attended prayers there. Beghal is said also to be a follower of Abu Qatada, a radical who preached jihad from a community center on Baker Street and whose bank account, allegedly with $270,000 in it, was frozen by the Bank of England in mid-October.

London's dirty secret is that it has long been a recruiting ground for terrorists. French authorities moan with frustration at the lack of British cooperation. For years the French were unable to get London to extradite suspected members of the Algeria-based gia, responsible for a wave of bombings in Paris in the mid-1990s. The U.S. hasn't always had better luck; Americans have been trying to get their hands on Khalid al-Fawwaz, a London-based Saudi alleged to have set up an office for bin Laden in 1994 and now wanted for trial in relation to the African embassy bombings. (Al-Fawwaz's legal maneuverings have just reached Britain's highest court.)

The gears of British justice are starting to grind more quickly. London has detained and questioned a number of Sept. 11 suspects, including Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian alleged to have helped train the suicide pilots in the attacks. And last week Yasser al-Siri, whose bookstore and website are well known in London, was charged with conspiracy to murder Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the anti-Taliban Afghan Northern Alliance. Massoud died after assassins bombed his headquarters on Sept. 9.

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