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New York Post Dec 15,2001
'SHEIK' EYED AS 9/11 HELPER
By NILES LATHEM and BRIAN BLOMQUIST
WASHINGTON - U.S. officials are looking into whether the mystery dinner-guest sheik who lavishly praises Osama bin Laden in the notorious video might have recruited some of the Sept. 11 hijackers, a source said last night.
The sheik was identified yesterday as Ali bin Said al-Gham di, who sources said was a professor of Islamic theology in Saudi Arabia. U.S. officials said they did not know where he taught.
Al-Ghamdi was arrested in 1995 in Saudi Arabia for preaching his radical militant views of Islam and comes from the country's Assir province - also home to some of the hijackers, a U.S. official said last night.
ABC News, which first reported the investigation into possible terrorist recruiting by al-Ghamdi, said he'd been arrested twice in Saudi Arabia - though details on the second arrest weren't available.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia - nine of them from the same coastal city, Jeddah, as al-Ghamdi, according to the State Department.
Three of the hijackers shared the same name as "al-Ghamdi," though it's a common name in the Arab world and there's no indication that the sheik was related to any of the hijackers.
Al-Ghamdi doesn't indicate on the video that he knew any of the suicidal hijackers involved in the terror atrocities that left more than 3,000 people dead.
A State Department official said al-Ghamdi is a leader of the radical Wahhabi strain of Islam, which has been at odds with the mainstream Saudi leaders, who say they're trying to help the United States in the terrorism war.
The London-based Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights, an advocate for Saudi dissidents, trumpeted al-Ghamdi's 1995 arrest, along with the arrest of another radical sheik, Hamud al-Shuaybi, around the same time.
Al-Ghamdi refers to al-Shuaybi in the now-notorious bin Laden video.
Describing a "vision" that al-Shuaybi had, al-Ghamdi said, "He said, 'There will be a great hit and people will go out by hundreds to Afghanistan.'
" 'I asked him, 'To Afghanistan?'
"He replied, 'Yes,' " al-Ghamdi said, adding that the other sheik predicted "hundreds of people will go out to Afghanistan."
Officials aren't sure what to make of al-Ghamdi's relaxed and talkative visit with bin Laden, which they believe occurred on Nov. 9 at a house in Kandahar.
They say Arab clerics regularly paid homage to bin Laden in Afghanistan, bringing him money and news from the mosques, but they're interested to know why he told bin Laden, "You have given us weapons."
"He's not all that significant and well-known a figure," a U.S. official said.
Officials say they don't know whether al-Ghamdi is still in Afghanistan or back in Saudi Arabia - or how he became paralyzed.
He appears on the video with his legs stretched out in front of him and covered by a blanket.
On the tape, al-Ghamdi indicates that he secretly entered Afghanistan, even while the United States was attacking. He does not say where he came from.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 15, 2001
This is very offensive
-- (Alan Ghamdi @ Dearborn.MI), December 15, 2001.
Well...if he's blind, paralyzed or has seizure disorders, it's a good chance he's a fundamentalist Islamic holy man.
-- (just email@example.com), December 15, 2001.
With any luck he didn't get out.
-- Carlos (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 15, 2001.