The Curious Case Of Ahmed Mohammad Ajaj
On August 31,1992, using services of a Pakistani travel agent, Ahmad Ajaj and Ramzi Yousef boarded Pakistan International Airlines flight 703 in Peshawar and flew to Karachi, Pakistan, then on to Kennedy Airport in New York City, flying first class during both legs of the trip, believing they would receive less scrutiny.
On September 1, 1992, at Kennedy airport Ajaj was sent to secondary immigration inspection, where he claimed he was a member of the Swedish press, travelling as Khurram Khan with International Student Identification card and a falsified Swedish passport. He was traveling with another person, Ramzi Yousef or also known as Abdul Basit Karim (his actual name). As inspectors looked thru Ajaj’s luggage INS inspector Mark Cozine and Robert Malafronte found a Saudi passport, altered Jordanian passport, with supporting documents for both; a plane ticket and British passport in the name of Mohammed Azan, bomb-making manuals, videos and other materials on assemble weapons and explosives assembly, letters referencing his attendance at terrorist training camps; anti-American and anti-Israeli materials, instructions on document forgery, and two rubber stamp devices to alter the seal on passports issued from Saudi Arabia.
One of the manuals, written in 1982, seven years before the group was founded, was entitled al-Qaeda (The Basics) and was more widely reported after the group came to prominence. An INS supervisor informed the FBI Terrorist Task Force which declined to get involved but requested copies of the file. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was notified but was “not interested.”
Ajaj’s terrorist kit, counterfeit entry stamp, and outburst were all decoys intended to deflect INS attention away from Yousef and facilitate Yousef’s processing — a premeditated plan intended to exploit routine activities of busy INS inspectors. He was held in detention, as Yousef went thru checkpoint security under the protest of INS inspector Martha Morales. Ajaj remained in contact with Yousef and other co-conspirators and continued to be involved in the World Trade Center bombing plot. Ajaj was released from prison March 1, 1993 — three days after the WTC bombing. But who was Ahmed Ajaj really.
Ahmed Ajaj was actually a small-time crook who was arrested in 1988 for counterfeiting U.S. dollars. Ajaj and two other members of his counterfeiting ring ran a printing press in an Arab cemetery outside East Jerusalem, housing their equipment in the same building where religious Muslims wash corpses before burial. When Israeli police raided the cemetery, they arrested Ajaj, who was holding some $100,000 of bogus U.S. currency. Another gang member was carrying an antiquated pistol. Ajaj was convicted for counterfeiting and sentenced to two-and-one-half years. It was during his prison stay that Mossad, Israeli’s CIA, apparently recruited him, say Israeli intelligence sources. By the time he was released after having served just one year, he had seemingly undergone a radical transformation. The common crook had become a devout Muslim and hard-line nationalist. Soon after, he was arrested for smuggling weapons into the West Bank, allegedly for El Fatah.
Although Israel says Ajaj was expelled to Jordan in April 1991 as a security risk, Peter Lems, an official for the Palestine Human Rights Center, based in East Jerusalem, told the Voice that Ajaj’s name does not appear on any known list of Palestinian deportees. Whatever the case, soon after Ajaj left Israel, he traveled to Peshawar, Pakistan, where he reportedly fought with the mujaheddin, the Muslim fundamentalist rebels in Afghanistan. He later showed up in New York, where he allegedly befriended members of the radical Muslim clique surrounding Sheikh Abdel-Rahman. With the Mossad and the FBI following with close scrutiny on the Brooklyn Al Farooq cell, the intelligence community,, very much like 9/11, had inside knowledge about what was about to transpire and even had moles working in the core of the terrorist cell.