Indonesian Cleric Tied to U.S. Embassy Plot
W A S H I N G T O N, Oct. 2 — U.S. counterterrorism officials believe that a shadowy Indonesian cleric with links to al Qaeda played a leading role in a thwarted effort to bomb at least one American embassy in Southeast Asia on the anniversary of Sept. 11.
Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, is the operations chief of Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional Islamic extremist network that receives support from al Qaeda, according to U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
U.S. officials have declined to specify the target or targets of the Sept. 11 anniversary operation or to detail how the plots were averted. Hambali's precise role in the attack has not been laid out either, but terrorism officials suspect him of organizing other terrorist attacks as well.
Counterterrorism officials learned critical aspects of the bombing plot from an al Qaeda operative who was captured by Indonesian authorities in June. His information led to the closure of embassies in Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam. That day, the Philippine government released a letter from U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James A. Kelly warning that al Qaeda members were prepared to launch truck bomb attacks in the region and that intelligence indicated "imminent threats to U.S. Embassies."
The prisoner, Omar al-Farouq, was turned over to U.S. authorities after his capture. He recently began talking to his interrogators. Al-Farouq and Hambali are believed to have been close associates, with al-Farouq serving as liaison between Jemaah Islamiya to al Qaeda's senior leadership.
His interrogation has provided a clearer picture of Jemaah Islamiyah, a group U.S. officials say has a twofold purpose: to create an Islamic state in Southeast Asia and to conduct acts of terrorism against U.S. interests.
Jemaah Islamiyah resembles al Qaeda in organization and, like al Qaeda, operates across international boundaries. The group has cells in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Myanmar and Thailand.
This is unlike many other groups affiliated with al Qaeda, many of which are focused on overthrowing the government of a single country.
Leadership of the group is split between Hambali, who handles operations, and Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, another Indonesian cleric who denies links to terrorism but is believed to be the group's spiritual leader, according to U.S., Singaporean and Malaysian officials. The group has sent people to Osama bin Laden's Afghan camps and received money from al Qaeda.
Hambali's whereabouts are unknown. According to Singapore's Home Affairs Ministry, Hambali also gave the orders to Jemaah Islamiyah operatives who were arrested in December 2001 in connection with plots to bomb the U.S. Embassy in the city-state and American naval targets.
In addition, Hambali has been linked to two Sept. 11 suicide hijackers. He is believed to have arranged the January 2000 meeting of Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi with a senior al Qaeda operative, Tawfiq Attash Khallad, one of the masterminds of the USS Cole bombing later that year. The subject of the meeting remains a mystery.
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir lives openly in Indonesia, despite entreaties from Malaysia, Singapore and the United States to authorities there to arrest him. Indonesian officials say they have no evidence to arrest him, but American officials suggest the Indonesian government fears a public backlash if the popular cleric is detained.
Ba'asyir denies links to terrorism and that Jemaah Islamiyah exists, but U.S. counterterrorism officials allege he founded the group in 1989 and maintains knowledge of the group's operations. In a recent interview with The Associated Press, he challenged the United States to make its case against him and warned that jailing him would anger Muslims.
"I am not fighting against the American people but against the U.S. government," he said. "The government and the Jews are fighting against Muslims. It's part of a crusade by America to attack Islam. The United States hates me because I struggle in the name of Islam."
—The Associated Press
al Qaeda Suspect Ordered Held Without Bail Pending Trial
S E A T T L E, Oct. 2 — A federal magistrate ordered an American Muslim held without bail on charges of trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon, saying it was the only way to ensure his appearance at trial.
On Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate John Weinberg added that the government had presented persuasive evidence that James Ujaama, who grew up in Seattle, had been helping terrorism.
Ujaama was arrested July 22 in Denver. He was held as a material witness until Aug. 29, when a grand jury indicted him on one count of conspiracy to provide material support and resources for the al Qaeda terrorist network, and another count of using, carrying, possessing and discharging firearms during a crime.
Weinberg noted Ujaama's previous work as a community activist in Seattle. "He was a fine citizen over those years," the magistrate said, "but people change."
Although Ujaama's mother and aunt had offered to put up their houses as collateral, that would not ensure Ujaama would stay in this country to face trial, Weinberg said. The trial is set for November.
Prosecutors say Ujaama, 36, tried to set up a terrorist training camp in Bly, Ore., in 1999. He denies the charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Hamilton argued that since Ujaama converted to Islam and traveled to London in 1997, he has become a close associate of Abu Hamza al-Masri.
The government froze al-Masri's funds for his alleged membership in the Islamic Army of Aden, the organization that claimed responsibility for the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000.
Al-Masri provided Ujaama with a letter of introduction that enabled him to attend a terrorist camp in Afghanistan, Hamilton said. Prosecutors say they aren't sure when he attended.
Ujaama's lawyers argued that the government had provided no evidence he is a flight risk. Attorney Robert Mahler also questioned the source of the government's allegations.
"Where does all this information come from?" he asked. "They haven't provided a stitch of evidence."
Prosecutors have declined to identify their source, except as a "cooperating witness" referred to in the indictment.
—The Associated Press
WTC Wreckage Memorials Spark Mixed Feelings
J E R S E Y C I T Y, N.J., Oct. 2 — Anthony Crispino and some colleagues were walking to work when they passed the twisted steel beams of Jersey City's World Trade Center memorial. Their conversation darkened.
"They've got death written all over them," said Crispino, 35, an assistant vice president at Lehman Brothers. "I don't think they should be in public."
Sitting nearby, Mike Maras couldn't help being distracted by the beam.
"It's disturbing," said Maras, a 26-year-old portfolio administrator.
People organizing Sept. 11 memorials across the country have used wreckage from the trade center to convey the horror of the attack. But responses to the memorials vary widely.
"You never know what is going to trigger a reaction in someone," said Renee Burawski, director of the help line for Project Phoenix, a federally funded post-Sept. 11 mental health counseling service. "So my feeling is you stay away from anything that might trigger that kind of response."
Hilary Ballon, chairwoman of the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University in New York, said beams from the towers can be an appropriate part of the memorials.
"My sense is that these ruins can play a very powerful role in helping people comprehend — not just the people now, but in years to come — what happened," she said. "When you have a ruin, when you have that twisted beam of steel, that's a way that makes it much more concrete, much more graphic."
Beams have been distributed to sites including the Mining Museum in Franklin, N.J., the Nixon Library in California, Denver International Airport, and the Consulate General of Portugal.
The city of New York sent whole beams or cut sections to 150 locations before deciding recently not to take any more requests, said Thomas Curitore, who heads the community services unit in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office. Before the city took over distribution, requests were handled by companies under contract to recycle the material.
The harsh imagery may be easier to deal with after emotional wounds have had time to heal, said Bartholomew Voorsanger, whose architectural firm collected some 1,800 objects, from steel beams to coffee cups, for possible use in a trade center memorial or museum.
"I would strongly advocate there has to be some time to separate us from 9-11 to the time when these memorials start to emerge," he said.
That is just what memorial planners in Lake Charles, La., are doing with two beams and a piece of granite from the Pentagon, where a son of Lake Charles, Petty Officer Kevin Yokum, was killed.
Mayor Randy Roach said the beams could help satisfy his city's "ache" to cope with Sept. 11.
"For people who are close to New York, there will be a reminder there forever. Ground Zero will forever be enshrined. For the rest of the country, there is a need to express our grief. This gives us a place to cry," he said.
"We could build something out here in concrete and granite. We could inscribe it, we could etch it. But it would not have the same meaning."
Forty Jersey City residents were killed in the attacks. In a ceremony this Sept. 11, Jersey City Mayor Glenn D. Cunningham invited people to touch the beams. His spokesman said the display allows people to feel closer to the event.
Fallon, Nev., a city of 8,300, put up a memorial in which a beam is set in a brick wall built to appear to be toppling. A plaque reads: "This piece of steel donated to the City of Fallon by the people of New York City serves as a reminder of the buildings from which it came, those who lost their lives there, and the spirit of heroism and patriotism exhibited by countless Americans in the aftermath of the attacks."
Mayor Ken Tedford Jr. said that for several days after the display was dedicated this Sept. 11, a stream of people filed past the beam, many pausing to lay hands on it. Some cried, he said, but no one complained.
"I think that day was a good healing process and I think it was one that was necessary," he said.
Five years passed before the Oklahoma City National Memorial was unveiled, commemorating the 168 people killed in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995.
Jane Thomas, the memorial's curator, said materials from the Murrah building have been incorporated into memorials but are not usually displayed in raw form.
"Don't get me wrong, we tell a hard story, and we tell it hard and we tell it graphically," Thomas said. But for the memorial itself, she said, "We were just very keen on soothing."
—The Associated Press
Group Planning WTC Memorial Visits Flight 93 Crash Site for Inspiration
S H A N K S V I L L E, Pa., Oct. 2 — A group planning the memorial for the World Trade Center visited a temporary memorial set up near the site of the crash of United Flight 93, seeking inspiration and to incorporate ideas that will link the memorials.
The terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks "united us in a way that we haven't been united for quite awhile ... I'm not standing in Pennsylvania, I am standing on American soil," said Lee Ielpi, a retired New York City firefighter whose son, firefighter Jonathan Ielpi, died in the World Trade Center. Ielpi is a member of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. — a city-state agency that has received $2 billion from Congress to redevelop and revitalize the area around the World Trade Center and design a memorial.
Members of the group toured the makeshift memorial, about 80 miles south of Pittsburgh, on Tuesday and were scheduled to visit other memorials, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., the civil rights memorial in Montgomery, Ala., and the Oklahoma City National Memorial, this week.
"It is as moving, I suspect, as anything a great architect or artist could design," said Tom Johnson, standing near the temporary memorial which is decorated with hundreds of American flags, dozens of hats, photographs and mementos written on plywood.
Johnson, whose son was killed in the south tower of the World Trade Center, said he and Ielpi cried they read a small granite marker for the passengers and crew of Flight 93.
Johnson said the memorials at the Pentagon, Ground Zero and Shanksville should complement each other because many people will make pilgrimages to them after they are completed.
Ielpi and Johnson brought framed pieces of debris from Ground Zero, which will ultimately be included in the planned memorial for Flight 93.
The flight, which was headed from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco, was the only one of four flights hijacked Sept. 11, 2001, that did not take a life on the ground. Investigators believe it was headed toward a target in Washington when it turned east near Cleveland. They believe it was brought down when people on board confronted the hijackers.
The 40 passengers and crew have been hailed as heroes in what some have called the first battle in America's war against terrorism.
"We came here to share our experiences on how we should be moving forward on our memorials and demonstrate our solidarity," said Anita Contini, a vice president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.
A design competition for the World Trade Center memorial is scheduled to begin early next year, Matthew Higgins, a spokesman for the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. Organizers hope to complete the memorial in time for the second anniversary of the attacks.
Meanwhile, a committee to develop the Flight 93 memorial, which will be overseen by the National Park Service, has yet to be appointed.
The committee, made of local residents, landowners, families of the victims, emergency responders, local officials and historians, will have about three years to develop plans, but it's unclear when it could be completed, said Joanne M. Hanley, superintendent of the National Park Service in western Pennsylvania.
—The Associated Press