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Tale of a jihad soldier

By Warren Richey and Faye Bowers / September 19, 2001



The experience of Khalfan Khamis Muhamed of Tanzania provides a window into the bin Laden network. Mr. Muhamed was convicted of taking part in the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

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Mr. Muhamed is typical of the people who take part in these acts, says Jerrold Post, a former CIA personality profiler, who spent 15 hours interviewing him in prison.

He was poor, undereducated, and young. At the local mosque, he found a sense of belonging. There, he regularly heard stories of how Muslims in the world were persecuted - how the Bosnian Serbs massacred 8,000 Muslim men and boys, how the Russian military indiscriminately killed Muslims in Chechnya, and how the Palestinians were subjugated by the Israelis.

Moved by the stories, Muhamed asked a friend at the mosque how he could help. The friend said training in Afghanistan would be a must, so, using money he earned working in his brother's grocery store, he traveled there in 1994.

After several months, he was sent home. He wasn't contacted again until 1997, when he was asked to "help train Muslim brothers" to use small arms in Somalia.

In the spring of 1998, Muhamed was called upon "to do a jihad job." He was sworn to secrecy, even though he didn't know details of the assignment.

"The Al-Qaeda members were knowledgeable of the plans and the goals of the group," says Post. "Nonmembers [like Muhamed] were excluded from these details."

There were other big differences, Post says. Al-Qaeda provided false papers and air passage out of Tanzania for those who left before the bombing. Muhamed used a passport he had gotten himself, was given $1,000, and left to his own devices. "He was manipulated because of his ... zeal to participate in jihad," says Post.

Muhamed didn't object, Post says, when hearing the target was the US Embassy. He didn't think of questioning his superiors. Muhamed will spend the rest of his life in a prison in New York.

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