By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
In 1993, Israeli intelligence arrested Salah and another naturalized American, Mohammed Jarad, on suspicion of transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hamas for guns and ammunition.
Salah was interrogated by Israeli military intelligence -- he says he was tortured, a claim the Israelis deny. Under interrogation, Salah reportedly confessed to recruiting Islamic militants and then helping to instruct them in the use of poisons, chemical weapons and explosives. The training supposedly occurred in the late 1980s. Later, in 1991, Salah allegedly served as a financial agent for Hamas, opening accounts at a number of Chicago-area banks. Wright‘s affidavit states that between June 1991 and December 1992, Salah spent more than $100,000 in direct support of Hamas military activities. Wright added that the weapons purchased were used in Hamas assaults and suicide attacks on Israeli citizens.
In 1994, at Salah’s secret military trial, Israeli prosecutors introduced a statement signed by another Palestinian detainee, Naser Hidmi, formerly a student at Kansas State University. Hidmi stated in an affidavit that he accepted Salah‘s invitation to a four-day “retreat” at a camp in the Chicago area in June 1990. At the camp, he reportedly studied Hamas philosophy and received explosives training. Hidmi also asserted in his statement that he met Salah again at a conference of Muslim youth held in Kansas City in December of the same year. On that occasion, Hidmi claimed he got more Hamas training and Salah participated in the instruction.
In 1995, Salah pleaded guilty to funneling funds to Hamas and he served about five years in prison before being released and deported to the U.S. Mohammed Jarah served six months in jail following a plea bargain to a lesser charge.
While Salah sat in an Israeli prison, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control added his name to the list of “Specially Designated Terrorists,” because of his alleged Hamas connections. After he returned to Chicago, Salah found himself squarely in the FBI‘s crosshairs. In 1995, Wright began investigating money laundering on behalf of international terrorist organizations. This investigation led him to Salah.
Wright’s affidavit alleges that Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, a Hamas leader, directed Salah‘s activites, at one point authorizing him to give $790,000 to Hamas military units. The Israeli government indicted Marzook, while he was living in the U.S., for abetting terror attacks in Israel. American authorities arrested Marzook and held him for two years before deporting him to Jordan.
Wright also alleged that Salah funneled money through Switzerland via Saudi businessman Yassin Kadi. The U.S. government has since designated Kadi as a financial supporter of Osama bin Laden and frozen his American assets. Kadi too has denied any wrongdoing.
The assets-forfeiture case against Salah, which was filed in an Illinois federal court, remains active. Wright was removed from the case shortly after it was filed. And he would apparently contend, if allowed to talk, that his FBI superiors ordered him to drop any criminal investigation into Salah and the terrorist camps allegedly run by Hamas.
Wright’s was not the only probe of Middle Eastern links to terrorists and acts of terror in the U.S. Unbeknownst to Wright, an investigation of Salah and his alleged involvement in training camps was undertaken by the House of Representatives Republican Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare. This task force, as previously reported in the Weekly, had issued alerts to law enforcement and U.S. intelligence agencies in the months prior to the Oklahoma City bombing. It had warned of an impending Islamist terror campaign, allegedly run by Hamas and directed by Iran.
After the 1995 blast, Oklahoma City--based television reporter Jayna Davis spoke numerous times with task-force executive director Yossef Bodansky. He eventually gave her a memo in which he‘d summarized intelligence reports detailing the operations of the terror camps. In the memo, constructed from his intelligence reports, Bodansky wrote that Iranian intelligence had ordered Hamas to develop cadres from among Palestinian youth living in the U.S.
“The idea,” Bodansky wrote, “was to build a group of highly trained Arabs with U.S. passports who can be inserted into Israel to replace local cadres killed or arrested by Israeli Forces.” The Iranians, Bodansky contended, argued that Israel would treat the Americans with “kid gloves.” He also stated it would be easier for these recruits to infiltrate Israel with U.S. documents.
Bodansky declined to be interviewed by the Weekly, but in the memo, Bodansky also alleged that the first round of training took place in Chicago, “organized by Muhammad Salah” in 1990. Bodansky stated that “25 trainees” took part and all were given code names.
“Salah and five other instructors, including a Libyan-American, who was a former Marine,” he wrote, conducted training. The instruction included military topics, sabotage, and one group received “detailed instructions on building car bombs from readily available, off the shelf materials.”
Bodansky also wrote that a second round of training occurred at a December 1990 Hamas youth conference in Kansas City. “Secret sessions,” he added, “were devoted to leadership and command training.” Another round of training also occurred in Kansas City in 1991. During this meeting, he said, some people were given “highly detailed and practical instructions in supervising the construction of explosives, including car bombs like the one used in Oklahoma City.”
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