Most Dangerous Terrorist Eludes Massive Manhunt: A Federal Folly (Part III)

by PAUL L. WILLIAMS, PHD September 21, 2012

Part I : Eleven Years after 9/11, the Threat Remains: The Leading Al Qaeda Operative Remains at Large

Part II: 9/11 A Prequel? Next Attack on America in Works

As the Arab Spring transforms into a chilling autumn of anti-American riots, the "most dangerous" al Qaeda agent on planet earth remains on the loose with the intent of launching terrorist attacks with radiological bombs in major cities throughout the USA.

Seven years ago, the FBI issued a BOLO ("be-on-the-look out") with a $5 million reward for any information resulting in the arrest of Adnan el Shukrijumah.

Despite the expenditure of nearly $50 million, the search for this elusive terrorist has produced no results. Elaborate plots were designed to snag him in Guyana; his photo has appeared on the front page of every leading American newspaper; and a special office, manned by a small army of FBI agents, was set up in Miami to uncover his whereabouts.

But Adnan el-Shukrijumah, the Brooklyn-bred jihadi, remains alive and well and more dangerous to America's national security than ever before.

US officials first became aware of him in the wake of  Operation Enduring Freedom (the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan), when the names of Jaffar al Tayyar ("Jafer the Pilot") and Mohammed Sher Mohammed Khan were discovered among the "pocket litter" of al Qaeda soldiers. [i]

In May 2002, U.S. intelligence and military officials starting asking a pressing question to al Qaeda detainees who were being interrogated at foreign prisons and secret CIA and military facilities abroad. "Whom," the officials asked, "would al Qaeda pick to lead the next big attack against U.S. targets?" Intelligence sources told U. S. News and World Reports that several of the detainees coughed up the same answer: "Jaffar al Tayyar.[ii]

The detainees said they had encountered "the Pilot" during al Qaeda training exercises in Afghanistan. Intelligence officers presented photos of hundreds of suspected al Qaeda operatives to the detainees. Several identified an individual who bore a resemblance to Adnan el Shukrijumah.

But the resemblance was not reality, and it would take months before the FBI and CIA teams, with their sophisticated equipment and state-of-the-art search engines, would realize it. "We were pursuing a lead," says one official, "that in the end turned out to be a dead end. We found out we were after the wrong person.[iii]

Indeed, the teams might still be searching for the wrong suspects and hitting dead-ends, if not for the fact that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured, quite by accident, in Karachi, Pakistan March 1, 2003. 


After days of interrogation, coupled with severe sleep deprivation, Mohammed told U.S. officials that bin Laden was planning to create a "nuclear hell storm" in America.[iv] Unlike other attacks, the terrorist chief said, the chain of command for the nuclear attack answered directly to bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and a mysterious scientist called "Dr. X." Mohammed later admitted that "Dr. X" was Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani father of the Islamic bomb and the godfather of modern nuclear proliferation. He further confessed that the field commander for this operation was a naturalized American citizen whom he also referred to as Mohammed Sher Mohammed Khan and "Jafer al Tayyar" ("Jafer the Pilot").[v] Both names are aliases of Adnan el Shukrijumah.

Khalid Mohammed went on to say that Adnan represents a "single-cell" - - a lone agent capable of launching a solo nuclear or radiological attack on a major American city. The news of such a cell reportedly startled U. S. officials who assumed that al Qaeda cells contained several members who were supported by broad logistical back-up crews.[vi]

In March 21, 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller issued an urgent alert for Shukrijumah, and several of his al-Qaeda associates, including Amer el-Maati, Abderraouf Jdey, and Aafia Siddiqui, who received a biology degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and penned a doctoral thesis on neurological science at Brandeis University.[vi]

Siddiqui, a native of Pakistan, looms of importance in the search. She worked closely with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as a "fixer," the central al-Qaeda operative who supplied money and logistical support to Adnan and his associates in southern Florida. The money, as it turns out, came from the Saudi embassy.[viii]


Several days after the BOLO was issued, Adnan and Jdey were spotted at a Denny's restaurant in Avon, Colo., where one ordered a chicken sandwich and a salad.  Samuel Mac, the restaurant manager, described them as "demanding, rude and obnoxious.[ix] They told Mac they were from Iran and were driving from New York to the West Coast. Upon calling the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., Mac said the agent who answered the telephone said he had to call the bureau's Denver office and declined to take down any information. When Mac called the Denver office of the FBI, he said he was shuttled to voice mail because "all the agents were busy."[x] It was five hours before a seemingly uninterested agent called the restaurant manager. This agent, according to Mac, took a few notes and said she would pass the information along to the field agents who were handling the case.[xi]

This promise represented the full extent of the government's interest in the sighting, even though Shukrijumah had been labeled "the next Muhammad Atta by FBI Director Robert Mueller. The federal and state law enforcement officials failed to interview the restaurant workers and the patrons, purportedly even those who were willing to verify the presence of the terrorists in the restaurant. No forensic evidence was obtained from the scene by any law enforcement officials - - not even the utensils that had been used by the suspects.

When contacted by The Denver Post, Monique Kelso, spokeswoman for the Denver bureau, said the office had received at least a dozen calls as a result of the BOLO. The calls, Kelo said, were all taken seriously. She added, "We follow up on every lead."[xii]


Following the federal botch-up in Colorado, the diminutive Shukrijumah resurfaced at a terrorist summit in the lawless Waziristan Province of Pakistan in April 2004. The summit has been described by the FBI as a "pivotal planning session" in much the same manner as a 2000 meeting was held in Kuala Lumpur for the 9-11 attacks. Attending the summit were Abu Issa al Hindi, a Pakistani technician whose company contained plans for staging attacks at financial institutions in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., and Mohammed Babar, who has been charged with buying materials to build bombs for attacks in Great Britain. [xiii] Babar is an American citizen and resident of Queens, New York, where he was a leading member of the Islamic Thinkers Society, a group that burned the American flag during a demonstration before the Israeli consulate in 2006 and held up placards stating: "The mushroom cloud is on its way."[xiv]


On May 27, 2004, Adnan el Shukrijumah was spotted at an Internet café in Tegucigalpa, the hilly capital of Honduras, where he made calls to France, Canada, and the U.S. He was described as badly dressed and bearded. At his table were Mara Salvatrucha leaders (jefes) from Panama, Mexico, Honduras, and El Salvador.[xv] According to the café owner, who recognized Adnan from photos in the newspaper, he spoke to the jefes in English and Spanish. Shukrijumah's presence at the cafe was later verified by the Honduran Security Ministry, who confirmed that the elusive terrorists had made telephone calls from there to France, the U. S., and Canada. [xvi] While in Honduras, the Ministry maintained, Adnan became engaged in a plot to blow up the Panama Canal.[xvii]

From Tegucigalpa, Adnan made his way north to Belize in British Honduras and, from Belize, to Mexico's Quintana Roo State, south of Cancun.[xviii]

He remained in Mexico for much of the summer of 2004. In early August, he was spotted in the northern Mexican province of Sonora near "terrorist alley," the main passageway for illegal aliens, including OTMs (other than Mexicans) and "Special Interest Aliens" - - to the land of Mickey Mouse, MTV, and Barack Obama.[xix]

On August 18, 2004, Texas and Arizona law enforcement officials were placed on alert for an attempt by Adnan to sneak into the country with the vast hordes of Hispanic illegal immigrants. The alert was issued by the U. S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso. "We don't want him crossing into the United States because his plan is to conduct terror operations," Art Werge, a spokesman for the FBI's El Paso office told the press.[xx]


Concern about Shukrijumah's extended stay in Mexico was heightened in November 2004 with the arrest in Pakistan of Sharif al-Masri, a key al Qaeda operative. Al Masri, an Egyptian national jihadist with close ties to al Zawahiri, bin Laden's No. 2 man, informed interrogators that al-Qaeda had made arrangements to smuggle nuclear supplies and tactical nuclear weapons into Mexico. From Mexico, the weapons were to be transported across the border with the help of a Latino street gang. The gang was later identified as Mara Salvatrucha, the gang that Adnan had trekked across the North American continent to meet in a Honduran café, and the plans that he discussed with the gang leaders were the plans that had been purportedly finalized at the terrorist summit in Waziristan.[xxi]

In response to this information, U.S. officials began monitoring all heavy trucks crossing the border, while Mexican officials pledged to keep close watch over flight schools and aviation facilities. Such precautions may have been adopted too late. A Piper PA Pawnee crop duster was stolen from Ejido Queretaro near Mexicali on November 1, 2004. The plane's tail number was XBCYP. The thieves, Mexican officials surmised, were either drug dealers or al-Qaeda operatives, and clearly one was a highly trained pilot.[xxii]


On March 7, 2007, Sean Michaels, a correspondent for Global TV and a member of this investigative team, met with FBI Special Agent Andrew Lenzen, who has been appointed to spearhead the search for Adnan. The meeting took place in Miami at the request of Mr. Michels.

Mr. Lenzen professed to have the only real insight into Adnan's training as a jihadi and present whereabouts. "I know him almost like his mother," he said. "I've lived, slept and dreamed him for the past three years."

During his conversation with Michaels, Mr. Lenzen dismissed the findings of several leading investigative journalists and insisted that Adnan was neither a pilot nor an engineer. The agent further maintained that neither Adnan nor his family have ties to southern Ontario.

Mr. Lenzen's assertions, however, are refuted by Adnan's appearances at flight schools in Florida and Oklahoma, his academic records at Broward Community College, and the photographs from the Shukrijumah family album. For this reason, the Special Agent was either a disseminator of disinformation to lead the press and the public on a wild goose chase or a victim of the agency's own misinformation.     


In the summer of 2005, Adnan was spotted at a gas station on two occasions in Toronto by a former Israeli intelligence official, who reported the sightings to CIS and the FBI. He continues to wait for a response.

On October 31, 2006, the sight of Adnan without a Halloween mask on the campus of McMaster University scared the hell out of members of the Gerard Group, a New England security company. The company officials reported the sighting to the FBI but there calls to the hotline and various regional offices went unanswered.

On January 25, 2007, witnesses testified that Adnan was residing in an apartment complex within the quaint Canadian city of Guelph in southern Ontario. They said that Adnan and nine other Muslim men who lived in the building made daily visits to the regional airport where they believed he was working. The witnesses contacted the authorities and expressed concern about their personal safety, especially since several lived in the complex. But no officials appeared at their doorways to substantiate their claims.

In June, 2010, anonymous U.S. counter-terrorism officials told the Associated Press that Najibullah Zazi, who was arrested in September 2009 on charges that he planned to suicide bomb the New York subway system, had met with Shukrijumah in a camp in Pakistan.[xxiii] One month later, Shukrijumah's name topped the FBI list of the Most Wanted Terrorists.[xxiv]

Where is Adnan el Shukrijumah? Authorities only know that he regularly travels to Pakistan but always returns home to the US and Canada.

Is he really as dangerous as the FBI purports? Consider this. More time and effort has been spent attempting to capture Shukrijumah than any other terrorist figure, save Osama bin Laden.

Can he detonate a radiological or tactical nuclear device that will leave a US city in ruins?  Only this is known for certain. Al Qaeda's eleven years of planning for the next attack on American soil resides solely with this one American citzen.

Do Homeland Security and federal law enforcement officers possess the ability to find him and end the threat? Probably not. The manhunt has been marred by gross incompetence, woeful mismanagement, and almost incomprehensible misformation. Despite the fact that the findings of this reporter have been verified by highly credible sources, including Harvard University's Belfer Center, he has yet to receive a call from

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that if you stare into the abyss long enough, the abyss will stare back. This report stands as a refutation to this assertion. The abyss will not stare back. The abyss, truth be told, is an abyss.

[i] "Most Wanted: The Next Atta," 60 Minutes, CBS News, March 26, 2004.

[ii] Chitra Ragavan, "A Hunt for ‘The Pilot."

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] James Gordon Meek, "Officials Fear Al Qaeda Nuclear Attack."

[v] Ibid

[vi] "One Man ‘Dirty Bomb' Cell Sought in US and Canada."

[vii] "FBI Seeking Public Assistance in Locating Individuals Suspected of Terrorist Activities," FBI National Press Office, March 20, 2004. Also see Evan Thomas, David Klaidman, and Michael Isikoff, "Enemies among Us," Newsweek, June 7, 2004.

[viii] "Neurologist Questioned by FBI for Alleged al-Qaeda Links," NBC News, April 3, 2003.

[ix] Jim Kirksey, "Two Suspected Al Qaeda Agents Dropped In for Meal, Says Denny's Manager," Denver Post, May 28, 2004.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Monique Kelso, quoted in Ibid.

[xiii] Elaine Shannon and Tim McGirk, "What Is This Man Planning?" Time, August 23, 2004.

[xiv] Interview with Steve Emerson, Hannity and Colmes, Fox News, April 24, 2006.

[xv] "Al Qaeda Said to Recruit in South America," Associated Press, August 22, 2004.

[xvi] Sherrie Gossett, "Police Searching for Next Muhammad Atta," World Net Daily May 27, 2004,

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] "Border Breach Stirs Fears," Dallas Morning News, August 14, 2004.

[xix] Michael Marizco, "Sonora on Alert for #1 Al Qaeda Suspect," Arizona Daily Star, August 18, 2004.

[xx] Art Werge in Ibid.

[xxi] "Al-Qaeda Wants to Smuggle N-Materials to US," Nation, November 17, 2004.

[xxii] Anna Clearley and Ornell R. Soto, "Reason for Plane Theft Worrisome," San Diego Union Tribune, November 7, 2004.

[xxiii] Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, "U.S. Officials: Al Quaeda Operative Tied to NY Plot, Associated Press, June 20, 2010.

[xxiv] Contributing Editor Paul L. Williams is the author of Crescent Moon Rising: The Islamic Transformation of America, The Day of Islam: The Annihilation of America and the Western World, The Al Qaeda Connection, and other best-selling books. He is a frequent guest on such national news networks as ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, MSNBC, and NPR.

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