In 1973, a young terrorist named Khalid Duhham Al-Jawary entered the United States and quickly began plotting an audacious attack in New York City.I'm sure Yemen would like to have him. He'd probably be bumped up to an al-Qaeda No. 2 role in no time.
He built three powerful bombs — bombs powerful enough to kill, maim and destroy — and put them in rental cars scattered around town, near Israeli targets.
The plot failed. The explosive devices did not detonate, and Al-Jawary fled the country, escaping prosecution for nearly two decades — until he was convicted of terrorism charges in Brooklyn and sentenced to 30 years in federal penitentiary.
But his time is up.
In less than a month, the 63-year-old Al-Jawary is expected to be released. He will likely be deported; where to is anybody's guess. The shadowy figure had so many aliases it's almost impossible to know which country is his true homeland.
Al-Jawary has never admitted his dark past or offered up tidbits in exchange for his release. Much of Al-Jawary's life remains a mystery — even to the dogged FBI case agent who tracked him down.Nonpolitical. Sure. If you want an idea where his politics lie, this part should be of interest.
But an Associated Press investigation — based on recently declassified documents, extensive court records, CIA investigative notes and interviews with former intelligence officials — reveals publicly for the first time Al-Jawary's deep involvement in terrorism beyond the plot that led to his conviction.
Government documents link Al-Jawary to Black September's murderous letter-bombing campaign targeting world leaders in the 1970s and a botched terrorist attack in 1979. Former intelligence officials suspect he had a role in the bombing of a TWA flight in 1974 that killed 88 people.
"He's a very dangerous man," said Mike Finnegan, the former FBI counterterrorism agent who captured Al-Jawary. "A very bad guy."
The events linked to Al-Jawary happened long ago, when the conflagration in the Middle East spread around the world; he is being released into another century, one in which the scale of terrorism has grown exponentially, even bringing down two of New York's skyscrapers.
Al-Jawary has long insisted that he was framed and that the government has the wrong guy. Al-Jawary declined an interview through prison officials and has since failed to answer letters mailed to him in the last year and a half, but his former lawyer, Ron Kuby, insists he "wasn't a threat in 1991 and he's not a threat now."
Federal prosecutors didn't see it that way. They point to his trip to the United States in the 1970s as proof.
A slender, nattily dressed man with a thin mustache, Al-Jawary walked into the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in November 1972 and applied for a visa using a phony Iraqi passport. He answered some routine questions, had his picture taken and was granted a visa.
On Jan. 12, 1973, Al-Jawary flew to Boston via Montreal and then to New York City.
Five days later, after the bureau's office in Tel Aviv received a tip in connection to another investigation, agents tried to locate a man who later turned out to be Al-Jawary.
They found him in New York City and conducted a perfunctory interview. Where do you live? Baghdad. Why did you come here? Flight training at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.
The agent asked if Al-Jawary was affiliated with any political groups. He said he was "nonpolitical."
All the explosives seized from Al-Jawary and the other men bore the same wrapping from a pastry shop in Beirut which served as a front for Fatah, the military arm of the PLO. Al-Jawary's fingerprints were on the wrapping.The insane part is this guy wasn't captured until 1991. Looks like he got quite the discount on his 30-year sentence.
Judge Jack B. Weinstein sentenced Al-Jawary to 30 years in prison on April 16, 1993. Weinstein later rejected his pleas for mercy in a written opinion issued after the trial, saying the bombs would have "killed and maimed hundreds, caused large fires and terrorized thousands of people."Read the rest.
Al-Jawary, the judge wrote, was a serious threat.
"It is highly likely that were this defendant released he would continue his dangerous terrorist activities," the judge said.