The Gitmo Files: al Qaeda's alleged primary financial manager
Haji Wali Mohammed.
A Guantanamo detainee identified as a "primary financier for al Qaeda and the Taliban" worked with Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence agency to purchase arms for al Qaeda, according to a leaked Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) threat assessment dated Oct. 23, 2008.
The detainee, an Afghan named Haji Wali Mohammed (internment serial number 560), allegedly "facilitated money transfers for al Qaeda weapons purchases and terrorist operations, including those supporting the 1998 East Africa US Embassy bombings." Jordanian intelligence officials also fingered Haji Wali as the money man for al Qaeda's Millennium plot in Amman.
Some of the weapons purchases facilitated by Mohammed were reportedly "done with support from the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate (ISID)." For instance, in 2000, two ISI officers allegedly provided cash for shoulder-fired missiles that Osama bin Laden wanted to deliver to jihadists in Chechnya.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, however, Pakistani intelligence officials captured Haji Wali and turned him over to American authorities.
Al Qaeda's "primary financial manager"
The intelligence connecting Haji Wali to the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as other terrorist activities, came in part from Jordan. Haji Wali allegedly financed an al Qaeda cell in Amman as it prepared to take part in attacks commemorating the new Millennium. Khadr Abu Hoshar, who led the cell, and 15 of his men were arrested in late 1999 as they were planning to assault Israeli and Western tourist targets, including the Radisson Hotel in downtown Amman.
The 9/11 Commission's final report describes the Millennium plot in Jordan, which was to coincide with an al Qaeda attack on Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Jordanian intelligence learned of the plot after it intercepted a telephone call by top al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah and Hoshar. Zubaydah was heard telling Hoshar, "[t]he time for training is over." The Jordanians suspected that this was Zubaydah's command to launch an attack.
In fact, Zubaydah had orchestrated the plot more than one year in advance. One of Hoshar's co-conspirators, Raed Hijazi, had been trained in Zubaydah's Khalden camp. In late 1998, the 9/11 Commission found, Hjiazi and Hoshar "settled on a plan" for attacking targets that "were likely to be thronged with American and other tourists." The pair "cased the intended targets and sent reports to Abu Zubaydah, who approved their plan."
Then, in early 1999, Hoshar and Hijazi contacted an American associate of Zubaydah named Khalil Deek, who had co-authored a terrorist manual called Encyclopedia of Jihad. With Deek's assistance, Hoshar and Hijazi obtained an electronic copy of the manual. Hoshar, the 9/11 Commission explained, also "arranged with Abu Zubaydah for Hijazi and three others to go to Afghanistan for added training in handling explosives."
In Afghanistan in late November 1999, "Hijazi reportedly swore before Abu Zubaydah the bayat to Bin Laden, committing himself to do anything Bin Laden ordered."
The Jordanians broke up Zubaydah's plot before Hoshar and Hijazi had an opportunity to launch it. They were stockpiling explosives at the time of their arrest.
The intelligence from Jordanian authorities contained in the JTF-GTMO file appears to be from the year 2000. Roughly two years earlier, in September 1998, a top al Qaeda operative named Mamdouh Mahmud Salim (aka Abu Hajer al Iraqi) was arrested in Germany. Salim, a founding member of al Qaeda, was turned over to US authorities because of his involvement in the August 1998 embassy bombings. Jordanian officials concluded that Haji Wali had replaced Salim as "al Qaeda's primary financial manager."
In this role, according to the JTF-GTMO file, Haji Wali allegedly transported cash and gold from the Middle East and elsewhere to South Asia on behalf of both al Qaeda and the Taliban. Intelligence cited by JTF-GTMO also indicated that Haji Wali was involved in narcotics smuggling.
The Pakistani Intelligence Bureau (PIB), which is Pakistan's main domestic intelligence agency, identified Haji Wali as an Afghan "Saraf," who is "affiliated with" Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami (HIG) and "very close to" the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Omar. The Pakistani ISI also "confirmed" Haji Wali's ties to the HIG. Haji has multiple family ties to HIG leaders, including Hekmatyar.
Despite allegedly working with the ISI to purchase missiles for Osama bin Laden, Haji Wali was captured by Pakistani intelligence officers "at his home in Peshawar" on Jan. 26, 2002. Previously, not only did Haji Wali conspire with ISI officers, he also told US authorities that the ISI had sold him license plates for $350 that allowed him to move freely between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Haji Wali called the cash-for-license plate deal "corruption money."
Haji Wali was handed over to US forces in February 2002 and transferred to Guantanamo on April 30, 2002. Once in custody, he tried to distance himself from the Taliban.
Haji Wali claimed that the Taliban trusted him with $1 million in 1997 but that he lost half of it due to currency devaluation and fell out of favor with the Taliban. Other sources cited by JTF-GTMO contradicted his story, however. And JTF-GTMO found that not only did Haji Wali continue moving money for both al Qaeda and the Taliban, he also allegedly made a number of suspicious money transfers in 2001. JTF-GTMO concluded that the transfers were "possibly related to terrorist activities."
During his combatant status review tribunal (CSRT) at Guantanamo, Haji Wali denied any involvement with al Qaeda or the Taliban. "I have no relationships or associations with the Taliban and al Qaeda," Haji Wali told his review board. "They're all accusations and lies. If you have any proof or witnesses, please bring them on."
JTF-GTMO disagreed, according to the leaked threat assessment. Haji Wali was found to be a "high" threat and to be of "high" intelligence value. JTF-GTMO recommended that Haji Wali be retained in the Department of Defense's custody. He remains detained at Guantanamo, more than nine years after first being transferred there.