The Wall Street Journal | March 18, 2003
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, is a Pakistani Baluch. So is Ramzi Yousef, who masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. In 1995, together with a third Baluch, Abdul Hakam Murad, the two collaborated in an unsuccessful plot to bomb 12 U.S. airplanes. Years later, as head of al Qaeda's military committee, Mohammed reportedly planned the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings, as well as the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.
Why should the Baluch seek to kill Americans? Sunni Muslims, they live in the desert regions of eastern Iran and western Pakistan. The U.S. has little to do with them; there is no evident motive for this murderous obsession. The Baluch do, however, have longstanding ties to Iraqi intelligence, reflecting their militant opposition to the Shiite regime in Tehran. Wafiq Samarrai, former chief of Iraqi military intelligence, explains that Iraqi intelligence worked with the Baluch during the Iran-Iraq war. According to Mr. Samarrai, Iraqi intelligence has well-established contacts with the Baluch in both Iran and Pakistan.
Mohammed, Yousef and Murad, supposedly born and raised in Kuwait, are part of a tight circle. Mohammed is said to be Yousef's maternal uncle; Murad is supposed to be Yousef's childhood friend. And U.S. authorities have identified as major al Qaeda figures three other Baluch: two brothers of Yousef and a cousin. The official position is thus that a single family is at the center of almost all the major terrorist attacks against U.S. targets since 1993. The existence of intelligence ties between Iraq and the Baluch is scarcely noted. Indeed, these Baluch terrorists began attacking the U.S. long before al Qaeda did.
Notably, this Baluch "family" is from Kuwait. Their identities are based on documents from Kuwaiti files that predate Kuwait's liberation from Iraqi occupation, and which are therefore unreliable. While in Kuwait, Iraqi intelligence could have tampered with files to create false identities (or "legends") for its agents. So, rather than one family, these terrorists are, quite plausibly, elements of Iraq's Baluch network, given legends by Iraqi intelligence.
Someone named Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was born in Kuwait to Pakistani parents on April 19, 1965. After high school in Kuwait, he enrolled at Chowan College in North Carolina in January 1984, before transferring to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, where he received his degree in December 1986. Is the Sept. 11 mastermind the same person as the student? He need not be. Perhaps the real Mohammed died (possibly during Iraq's occupation of Kuwait), and a terrorist assumed his identity.
Mohammed should now be just under 38, but the terrorist's arrest photo, showing graying sideburns and heavy jowls, seems to suggest an older man (admittedly, a subjective judgment). Yet this question can be pursued more reliably. Three sets of information exist regarding Mohammed: information from U.S. sources from the 1980s (INS and college documents, as well as individuals who may remember him); Kuwaiti documents; and information since the liberation of Kuwait (from his arrest, the interrogation of other al Qaeda prisoners, and the investigation into the 1995 plane-bombing plot).
The Kuwaiti documents should be scrutinized for irregularities that suggest tampering. The information about Mohammed from the '80s needs to be compared with the information that has emerged since Kuwait's liberation. The terrorist may prove to be taller (or shorter) than the student. Interrogators might ask him what he remembers of the colleges he is claimed to have attended. Acquaintances -- like Gaith Faile, who taught Mohammed at Chowan and who told the Journal, "He wasn't a radical" -- should be asked to provide a positive identification.
Along these lines, Kuwait's file on Yousef is telling. Yousef entered the U.S. on an Iraqi passport in the name of Ramzi Yousef, but fled on a passport in the name of Mohammed's supposed nephew, Abdul Basit Karim. But Kuwait's file on Karim was tampered with. The file should contain copies of the front pages of his passport, including picture and signature. They are missing. Extraneous information was inserted -- a notation that he and his family left Kuwait on Aug. 26, 1990, traveling from Kuwait to Iraq, entering Iran at Shalamcheh on their way to Pakistani Baluchistan. But people do not provide authorities an itinerary when crossing a border. Moreover, there was no Kuwaiti government then. Iraq occupied Kuwait and would have had to put that information into the file.
Karim attended college in Britain. His teachers there strongly doubted that their student was the terrorist mastermind. Most notably, Karim was short, at most 5-foot-8; Yousef is 6 feet tall.
Nevertheless, Yousef's fingerprints are in Karim's file. Probably, the fingerprint card in Karim's file was switched, the original replaced by one with Yousef's prints on it. James Fox, who headed the FBI investigation into the 1993 WTC bombing, has been quoted as affirming that Iraqi involvement was the theory "accepted by most of the veteran investigators." Pakistani investigators were likewise convinced that Yousef had close links with the MKO, an anti-Iranian terrorist group run by Iraq, and conducted a bomb attack in Mashhad, Iran, in 1994.
U.S. authorities may unravel the story very quickly if they pursue the question of Mohammed's identity, instead of assuming they know who their captive really is. As for the larger issue of these murderously anti-American Baluch, that matter may become clear soon, once U.S. forces take Baghdad -- and take possession of Iraq's intelligence files.
Ms. Mylroie is the author of The War Against America (HarperCollins, 2001)
Masoud Rajavi was born in Tabas, in central desert of Iran. This region is the neighbor of the Baluchestan of Iran and Pakistan.
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