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More About the LA Terror Assailant
DEBKAfile July 7 (continued from July 5)
From DEBKAfile's Exclusive counter-terror sources Hesham Mohamed Hadayat was no stranger toEl Al's Los Angeles airport office. According to DEBKAfile's counter-terror sources, the man who murdered two Israelis on the El Al ticket line at Los Angeles airport on July 4th worked for the American Mercury ground service company from 1993 (one year after he arrived in the US) until 1998, when he left to set up his own limousine service for air passengers.
Exactly what he did at Mercury is vague, but during his five years in their employ, this former bank clerk from Cairo was free to move around Los Angeles international airport. Our sources reveal that during that time, he aroused the suspicions of El Al security personnel who warned airport security. When no action was taken, they put him under surveillance. El Al asked Mercury to rearrange Hadayat's shifts for periods when none of its planes were scheduled, which Mercury agreed to do
After the 4th of July attack, in order not to clash directly with the US authorities which refused to identify it as a terrorist assault, El Al and Israeli security spokesmen said that even if the Egyptian gunman was not a proven member of a terrorist group, his crime ranked as an act of terror.
However, Sunday, July 7 the influential Arabic London-based Al Hayat followed the original DEBKAfile disclosure of July 5 - that Hadayat was a member of the Egyptian Jihad Islami - and took it a step further. According to the Arabic paper, the Egyptian gunman met Dr. Ayman Zuwahri, the Jihad Islami chief who is Osama bin Laden's deputy, twice in California, once in 1995 and again in 1998. According to DEBKAfile's sources, it was at that second encounter that Hadayat was told to leave his job with Mercury and given capital to set up his small limousine firm, so as to take advantage of his access to airport facilities and airline personnel contacts, while at the same time shaking off any watchers.
The Al Hayat report places Dr. Zuwahri in California unobserved less than three years before the 9/11 hijacking attacks in America and a year and a half before the Egyptair disaster (see first DEBKAfile story).
The Hadayat family lives in Cairo. His father, a retired Egyptian army general, and his uncle, a former minister of science, admit that Hesham was a fervent Muslim who did what he could to encourage everyone to read the Koran. They say he was happy in Irvine, California. His neighbors in that Los Angeles suburb tell a different story, that he hated Israelis and Jews and asked one of them to take down the American and US Marine flags put up after 9/11.
From all the foregoing, our counter-terror experts cite Hesham Hadayat as a classical a Qaeda plant. He was positioned at Los Angeles airport in the early 1990s to bide his time for the right moment to carry out a terrorist attack against an El Al flight. When Hayat's handlers saw he was under observation, they made him lower profile. His assignment was revised to fit his role as a limousine driver familiar to the Tom Bradley terminal staff and free to move around - namely to shoot down a line of passengers waiting to board an El Al flight.
Although from 1994 or 1995 at the latest, Hadayat was brought to the notice of American security, was under the eye of El Al security, and the Egyptian authorities must have known about him, he was never investigated - even after 9/11. The FBI has admitted he figured on no watch list for terrorists. This left him perfectly free to carry out his mission on behalf of the extremist Islamic organization, all of which raises some hard questions about the way in which the war against terror is carried out in the United States.
DEBKAfile's Counter-Terror Sources: Hadayat Belonged to Egyptian Jihad, al Qaeda's Operational Arm
Hashem Mohamed Hadayat, 41, who gunned down Yakov Aminov, 46, and Vicky Hen, 25, both from Los Angeles - on the 4th of July at the El Al terminal of Los Angeles, and wounded 7 others, is revealed by DEBKAfile's intelligence and counter-terror sources as a Muslim extremist.
During his ten years in the United States, he was a secret operative of the Egyptian Jihad who maintained undercover links to the same Jihad cell in Brooklyn, New York, as the blind sheikh Abdul Rahim Rahman and Ramzi Yousef. Both are doing time for perpetrating the first attack on the New York World Trade Center in 1993.
Hadayat is also believed to have abetted a previous, contrived airline disaster: On October 31, 1999, an Egyptair Boeing 767 Flight 990, which also took off from Los Angeles airport for Kennedy, New York. After Kennedy, the plane bound for Cairo plunged into the Atlantic off the Nantucket Island, Mass. coast, killing all 217 passengers and crew. In a special probe, the US National Transportation Safety Board found that the copilot Gameel el-Batouty was at the controls when the plane went into its dive. His voice was recorded shouting, "I put my faith in Allah!" The report held back from referring more directly to the Egyptian copilot's responsibility for the crash.
Our sources affirm that Hadayat, who lived in Irvine, California, 70 km south of Los Angeles, knew Batouty well. There are also indications that, in the years 1998 and 1999, Hadayat was in touch with a group of high Egyptian air force officers and helicopter pilots posted at the time at Edwards Base north of Los Angeles. They were there to learn how to install command and control centers in Egypt's air defense systems, operate anti-air missile batteries and fly Apache gunships. Most of those officers were on the doomed Egyptian airliner after completing their courses.
Although the long-delayed US Transportation Board report never referred to the presence of this high-ranking Egyptian air force delegation on the flight, DEBKAfile's Washington sources reported at the time that most of the investigators were satisfied that Batouty could not have seized control of the Boeing 767 without the aid and certainly the compliance - of those officers.
Two years ago, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak exerted all his influence on President Clinton to keep the federal board's findings out of its published report and, above all, the fact that a group of Egyptian air force officers was on the plane. He warned that citing the Egyptian copilot as deliberately causing the crash would have a negative effect on Egyptian-US relations.
The report therefore fell short of clear conclusions. Hadayat's murderous attack on El Al flight 106 passengers points back to the Egyptair 990 disaster of 1999, reviving the many questions left open by that earlier, half stifled inquiry, which carefully stepped round any suggestion of terrorism. It also raises the question of how many sleeper cells the Egyptian Jihad, al Qaeda's primary operational arm, maintains in American cities.
Hadayat struck the El Al ticket line on his 42nd birthday. The initial FBI inquiry found through records of his fingerprints at the Department of Motor Vehicles, which issued him with a limousine license, that he was married with at least one child, and had lived in Irvine for the last two years, working on a green card.
Since the attack, the possibility that he arrived in America as a sleeper terrorist must be seriously addressed. US investigators realize he was not a lone operative and are seeking his accomplices in such matters as setting up the hit, providing the guns he carried and intelligence on the security situation at the Tom Bradley terminal.
DEBKAfile's Middle East intelligence sources report that early Friday, Egyptian intelligence officers picked up Hadayat's relatives and associates in Cairo, to try and trace the identities of his fellows in the American Jihad cell.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 07, 2002
DEBKAfile is an right-wing Israeli newsletter that specializes in obtaining insider info/leaks/rumors before mainstream pubs. As such, it is prone Matt Drudge-ish coups and errors.
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Fly EgyptAir. Our pilots are certified zealot-maniacs. You may get to Cairo. You may get to Paradise. Paradise is better.
-- (Sheik It @ Twist n.Shout), July 08, 2002.