Sheikh-Atta: 2000, 2001, both?
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When did Omar Sheikh transfer $100,000 to Mohammed Atta, if he did so at all? It’s a simple question, but there doesn’t seem to be a simple answer.

The original Times of India story, for instance, doesn’t tell us.

India helped FBI trace ISI-terrorist links

New Delhi: While the Pakistani Inter Services public relations claimed that former ISI Director-General Lt-Gen Mahmud Ahmad sought retirement after being superseded on Monday, the truth is more shocking. Top sources confirmed here on Tuesday, that the General lost his job because of the "evidence" India produced to show his links to one of the suicide bombers that wrecked the World Trade Centre. The US authorities sought his removal after confirming the fact that $100,000 were wired to WTC hijacker Mohammed Atta from Pakistan by Ahmad Umar Sheikh at the instance of Gen Mahumd.

Senior government sources have confirmed that India contributed significantly to establishing the link between the money transfer and the role played by the dismissed ISI chief. While they did not provide details, they said that Indian inputs, including Sheikh’s mobile phone number, helped the FBI in tracing and establishing the link.

A direct link between the ISI and the WTC attack could have enormous repercussions. The US cannot but suspect whether or not there were other senior Pakistani army commanders who were in the know of things. Evidence of a larger conspiracy could shake US confidence in Pakistan’s ability to participate in the anti-terrorism coalition.

Indian officials say they are vitally interested in the unravelling of the case since it could link the ISI directly to the hijacking of the Indian Airlines Kathmandu-Delhi flight to Kandahar last December.

Ahmad Umar Sayeed Sheikh is a British national and a London School of Economics graduate who was arrested by the police in Delhi following a bungled 1994 kidnapping of four westerners, including an American citizen.

A second account says the transfer occurs in “the summer of 2000”. However, this is less definitive in its naming of Sheikh, and also doesn’t suggest the ISI are ultimately behind the transfer:

THE gossamer web linking Jammu and Kashmir terrorists with the September 11 attacks on the United States is starting to stand out in stark relief. Early this month, German authorities came across information that Ahmad Omar Sayeed Sheikh, a close associate of Jaish-e-Mohammad commander Masood Azhar, may have played a key role in the September 11 attacks. Azhar, informants told the German internal security service, may have sent a draft for $100,000 to Mohammad Atta, one of the men who crashed an aircraft into the World Trade Centre in New York. The draft, sources say, was sent in the summer of 2000 employing a pseudonym. Atta is thought to have returned $15,600 through the hawala channel just before the attack. An Egyptian national, Atta is believed to be among the central figures responsible for conceptualising and executing the attacks on the U.S...

Michel Chossudovsky cites this Brian Ross report on ABC News as evidence of what the FBI discovered early on, though (our emphasis):

Following is the transcript of ABC's "This Week," hosted by Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts...

DONALDSON: Well, united in the hunt for the terrorists, which continues this weekend on two fronts. Our chief investigative reporter, Brian Ross, has the latest on the FBI's investigation.

Brian, what's new?

ROSS: Well, good morning, Sam.

The investigation is divided into two areas, what happened on September 11 and what might happen next. And that's getting by far the most attention.

Of greatest concern, terror strikes that may be planned or already under way, including, ABC News has been told, intelligence information that American tourists overseas, particularly in Asia, could be targeted for kidnappings or assassinations.

As to September 11, federal authorities have told ABC News they've now tracked more than $100,000 from banks in Pakistan to two banks in Florida to accounts held by suspected hijack ringleader Mohamed Atta.

As well this morning, ``Time'' magazine is reporting that some of that money came in the days just before the attack and can be traced directly to people connected to Osama bin Laden.

It's all part of what has been a successful FBI effort so far to close in on the hijackers' high command, the money men, the planners, and the mastermind, Sam.

DONALDSON: Thank you, Brian. Brian Ross.

There’s a quote here about some money arrived “in the days just before the attack”, which perhaps is why Chossudovsky uses this entry in his timeline:

Summer 2001: ISI Chief Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad transfers $100,000 to 9-11 Ringleader Mohamed Atta

This seems curious, though. Why send money so late? Did the hijackers have some other purpose for it of which we’re unaware, or does this show that whoever was sending the money didn’t realise it was probably no longer necessary? (Which doesn’t suggest an in-depth knowledge of the attack schedule.)

Of course it could be argued that the Time quote about some of the money coming “in the days just before the attack” didn’t refer to the Sheikh transfer, and so Chossudovsky’s use of “Summer 2001” is simply a mistake. Except there is actually more evidence supporting the idea of a late 2001 transfer.

He was referring to Calcutta shoe tycoon Partha Roy Burman, who was abducted last summer [2001] and held captive near India's border with Bangladesh, which runs the length of West Bengal state.

The kidnappers freed Burman after 15 days for a reported ransom of about $830,000. Indian police investigators suspect that some of the money eventually reached Mohammed Atta, the Egyptian who is believed to have led the terrorists who flew planes into New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11.

Police believe a man named Aftab Ansari, an alias for Aftab Malik, now runs the kidnapping operation from Dubia, India Today, the country's leading weekly newsmagazine, reported earlier this month. A senior Calcutta police investigator, speaking on condition he not be named due to the sensitivity of his work, confirmed the report.

A Pakistani militant named Ahmad Sayed Omar Sheikh wired $100,000 of the ransom money, which he received from Ansari in Dubai, to one of Atta's bank accounts, India Today reported.


This story places the transfer after a summer 2001 kidnap, although a more detailed version of the story does even better:

Even as the CBI has asked two leading e-mail service providers, and, to furnish the printouts of all e-mails sent by Aftab Ansari in the past one year, The Tribune today got an exclusive account of some of the damning e-mails which hint at his possible linkage with Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaida network.

The e-mails also nail down Pakistani authorities’ rebuttal of their nexus with the deported underworld don.

The two e-mail service providers have agreed to cooperate with the CBI, though the process of locating Ansari’s e-mails is going to be a tedious and time-consuming job.

Well-placed sources here said a series of e-mails were exchanged in August 2001 between Ansari, Bin Laden’s inner-ring man Ahmed Omar Sayed Sheikh and Asif Reza Khan, the notorious gangster who was shot dead in an encounter with the Gujarat Police on December 7 last - an act which triggered off the January 22 Kolkatta American Centre shootout in revenge.

Sheikh, a graduate of London School of Economics, is believed to be the current deputy head of the banned militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). He was released along with JeM founder Maulana Masood Azhar in exchange for the hijacked Indian Airlines plane IC-814 passengers in 1999. Asif Reza Khan was branded by investigators as the “chief executive of Ansari’s operations” in India.

Omar Sheikh, a suave, English-speaking chess buff, is understood to be in Pakistan ever since he was taken out from the Tihar jail here and released in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on December 31, 1999. From Afghanistan, the three released prisoners had gone to Pakistan.

Investigators have intercepted hundreds of e-mail communications among Ansari, Sheikh and Khan, three of which are reproduced below. The e-mails indicate that Ansari had arranged for $ 100,000 for some “noble cause” as early as August 2001.

This fact is enough to make the Americans take note of the Aftab Ansari case with a new perception as the amount of $ 1 lakh arranged by Ansari could well have a connection to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on America.

Considering the ramifications of the case, the contents of the e-mails have been shared with the Interpol, FBI and other foreign investigating agencies.

In the August 8, 2001 e- mail, Ansari asks Khan whether he agrees “to part with $ 100,000 for a noble cause as requested by Sheikh”. The next day, Khan sent an e-mail saying that he is “agreeable and has no objections”.

Two days later ( August 11), Ansari sent an e-mail to Khan saying that “the amount mentioned has been sent to Sheikh”.

On August 19, Sheikh sent an e-mail to Ansari which said: "The money that was sent has been passed on." Interestingly the militants had adopted a mode of communication similar to that followed by Mohammad Atta and other members of Al-Qaida to carry out the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre (WTC).

Put these two reports together and they illustrate some interesting points.

You’ll notice that they don’t claim Sheikh was being run by the ISI or anyone else, for instance. They also show how he could obtain large sums of cash without needing state assistance.

They also place the $100,000 transfer very late, less than a month before the 9/11 attacks. If this was sent to Atta (and that’s not proven here, once more relying on Indian allegations) then it’s hard to see what it was for. And if this was the only transfer made by Sheikh, then he can hardly be the September 11 paymaster that is sometimes claimed.

Of course you could also claim that this wasn’t Sheikh’s only transfer, and there’s no confusion here, the truth being that he made two transfers (at least): one in the summer of 2000 and another in 2001. And perhaps that’s true, but as we’ve seen elsewhere, confirmation of the earlier transfer, and its sponsorship by the ISI, is in very short supply.

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