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Fugitive Suspected of Links to Alleged 'Dirty Bomb' Plotter

FBI seeks to establish ties between two men whose names came up in recent intelligence.

March 22, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The FBI worked Friday to establish links between a Saudi-born man, believed to be part of the Al Qaeda network, and other terrorist suspects, including alleged "dirty bomb" plotter Jose Padilla.

Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, 27, lived in South Florida at the same time as Padilla, an American being held in a military brig on charges of being an "enemy combatant."

Padilla, a Muslim convert and a former member of a Chicago street gang, is suspected of planning to detonate a bomb that would have spewed radioactive material.

Senior federal law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Friday that the names of both Padilla and Shukrijumah -- or perhaps one of the latter's half-dozen aliases -- surfaced in intelligence collected after the March 1 capture of senior Al Qaeda operative Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

Mohammed, a member of Osama bin Laden's inner circle, is being interrogated at an undisclosed location overseas. The FBI on Thursday launched a worldwide manhunt to locate Shukrijumah and linked him to Al Qaeda.

The investigation spread Friday to Guyana and Trinidad; Shukrijumah was believed to hold passports from the two nations.

Authorities there were searching databases to determine whether he had entered their countries. One official said it appeared that any passport from Trinidad had been forged because no matches came up.

It was unclear whether Shukrijumah and Padilla knew each other in Florida.

Gulshair Muhammad El Shukrijumah, 73, said Friday from his home in Miramar, Fla., that his son was not a terrorist and did not know Padilla. The elder Shukrijumah said the FBI has visited him six or seven times since the Sept. 11 attacks and interviewed him Thursday for more than an hour.

His son left home two years ago, according to the father, a Muslim missionary who is a spiritual leader at a Miramar mosque. When they last talked five months ago, his son was teaching English in Morocco, the father said. The younger Shukrijumah disliked the American lifestyle and was offended by women wearing skimpy clothes, but his father insisted that such views would not have led his son to harm Americans.

"He does not hate anyone," the father said. "I always trained my children to hate evil and not evildoers."

The FBI is also investigating the younger Shukrijumah's friendship with Imran Mandhai, one of two Florida college students convicted of conspiring to bomb electrical stations, a National Guard armory, Jewish businesses and Mt. Rushmore. The elder Shukrijumah said the two young men knew each other but were never close.

A Florida law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators were also looking into a link between Adnan Shukrijumah and Richard C. Reid, who pleaded guilty last year to attempting to light explosives in his shoes aboard a Paris-to-Miami flight.

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