An American Married to Al Qaeda

A California woman reveals to ABC News that she unknowingly married a Muslim extremist who helped set up what authorities say was one of the first al Qaeda sleeper cells out of their Orange County apartment complex.

Saraah Olson says she watched as her then-husband, Hisham Diab, and his group transformed local teen Adam Gadahn into an America-hating fanatic who she says is the masked man who promised in an al Qaeda video message released in Pakistan in late October that the "streets of America will run red with blood."

"I was just a steppingstone to a green card," Olson said. "I married a terrorist. I married somebody who did not like America, who didn't like Americans."

Gadahn, who met Olson's former husband at a local mosque, was "fresh meat," she said. "Someone they could control. Not only that, he's very unassuming-looking, he can do a lot of their tasks."

The voice, gestures and rhetoric of the video's "Azzam the American" were all familiar to Olson, especially the phrase "red with blood," which was one of the group's favorite sayings, she said.

And over the course of six years, Olson said, some of Osama bin Laden's top deputies would stay with her and her husband, including blind Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who would later go to prison for life for his role in organizing terrorist plots against the United States.

Olson said she repeatedly tried to notify the FBI of her husband's suspicious activities, but that she was never taken seriously. "I'm in hell," Olson remembers thinking after she recognized Abdel-Rahman in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. "I have entered the bowels of hell and I'm going to be here forever. And I've only been married seven months. I've got a terrorist in my house."

The FBI said in a statement that counterterrorism is its top priority. "Whenever we receive credible information pertaining to terrorist threats against the United States, the FBI acts immediately to thoroughly pursue all such leads," the statement read.

Federal authorities say the couple's neighbor Khalil Deek, considered a major al Qaeda figure, ran the Orange County sleeper cell operation.

Diab, who obtained a U.S. passport after marrying Olson, left the country suddenly in June 2001. He is now being sought by U.S. authorities and is believed by intelligence officials to be hiding in Pakistan with top al Qaeda leaders.

"I was the wife," Olson now says. "So it looked like a typical guy married to an American girl with the little blond-haired, blue-eyed boy in tow."

Blinded by Love

But when she first met Diab 13 years ago, while working at a local university issuing foreign student visas, she thought the then-32-year-old Diab had more honorable intentions.

"I really loved him," she said. "I was 22 years old and I was in love."

Diab introduced himself as an Egyptian national who had overstayed his visa and needed to switch visas, said Olson. She then explained that the school's program was not applicable to him, that he could not switch visas.

"He seemed fine with it," Olson said. "He left. No problems. Came back the next day, 'Will you go out with me?'"

In just a few months, they were married and settled in an apartment complex in Anaheim. Olson and her 4-year-old son from another relationship, Ryan, both converted to Islam.

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