Karim el-Mejjati

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Abdulkarim al-Touhami Driss el-Mejjati
Arabic: عبد الكريم المجاطي
Born October 30, 1967
Morocco
Died April 2005
Ar Rass, Saudi Arabia
Cause of death
Ar Rass raids by Saudi authorities
Other names Bashir Al-Maghribi[1]
Abu Ilyas/Elias[1][2]
Abu Ins[2]
Spouse(s) Fatiha Mohamed Taher Housni el-Mejjati[3]
Children Ilyass, Adam[3]

A French citizen born in Morocco,[4] Karim Thami el-Mejjati[5] (October 30, 1967 – April 2005) was a Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group militant claimed to have aided the Riyadh compound bombings, the 2003 Casablanca bombings, the 2004 Madrid train bombings and the 2005 London bombings.[6][7]

He was killed, along with his 11-year-old son, by Saudi authorities in a series of raids in April 2005. His wife maintains that he was not connected to all the attacks, but insinuates that he had arranged attacks against Saudi Arabia, provoking their anger.[3]

Life[edit]

A medical student,[8] el-Mejjati was born to a wealthy Moroccan father who worked in commerce and French mother who worked in cosmetics.[2][9] They enrolled him in a French-speaking school from which he graduated in 1986.[8][9][10] He also spoke English and sub-par Arabic.[8] He kept a poster of Clint Eastwood taped to his bedroom wall, and dreamed of traveling to the United States.[11] A secular Muslim, he reportedly ate pork and drank alcohol in violation of Islamic law, and enjoyed partying at Les Sablettes beach resort,[11] as well as visiting Ceuta and Melilla.[12]

On September 25, 1991, he married a Tunisian-American named Fatiha, who was seven years older than he was and had been dismissed from her job at the Casablanca medical school where he was studying because she started wearing the niqab face-covering.[10][13] A 1985 law graduate, she later remarked that the student unrest over the management's attempts to fire her were likely what brought both her and el-Mejjati back to being observant Muslims.[13] He dropped out of medical school, and they traveled to an Islamic conference in Paris for a month.[8][13] They had two sons, named Ilyass and Adam.[3]

By 1992, he'd returned to France and begun selling Moroccan handicrafts to support his desire to travel and volunteer as a Bosnian mujahideen.[11][13] After one tour in Bosnia, he returned to bring his wife back to the Balkans with him, but was stymied by Germany's refusal to grant a visa.[13] Returning alone, he was arrested for a month by Croatian forces, before being released at the request of the French government, although he was forbidden to return to Bosnia for five years.[13]

Upon returning to Morocco, he rented a two-room apartment and began wearing Afghan clothing and a long beard. When women visited, he and his male friends would sleep in their cars parked on the street, while the women slept inside.[8] Neighbours later recalled that he once loudly berated a couple for their public display of affection.[8]

In early 1994, he traveled to Mecca on the hajj pilgrimage, and then continued on to Afghanistan, where he enrolled at the Khalden training camp where he contracted malaria and had to be sent home to Morocco.[13] Once, upon returning to Morocco, he was questioned about the Pakistani visa in his passport and the Abdullah Azzam book he was reading.[13]

Around this time, his wife was diagnosed with cancer.[3] He maintained a relationship with Yusuf Fikri, leader of the Takfir wal-Hijra.[2]

In 1996 he took a second wife at the urging of his wife, the Belgian Fatihah al-Hawshy who lived in England and was a friend of his wife.[3][14]

Around 1997, he traveled to New Jersey on the invitation of a friend for several months.[13] It was one of two visits he made to the United States prior to 1999.[1] He later listed the address of a New York bookseller, Abdulrahman Farhane, as his own - later entered as evidence against Farhane following accusations he financially supported terrorism.[15]

While American authorities claimed he hadn't entered the country since 1999, Saudi media reported that he traveled back to the United States with al-Hawshy, his second wife, in 2000 and dropped her off there while he traveled to Pakistan.[14]

In July 2001, el-Mejjati and his wife determined to leave Morocco permanently, and flew to Spain for two weeks while awaiting their entry visa to Iran. When Italy declined their request for travel documents, they flew out of Frankfurt instead. After landing in Tehran, they crossed the border into Afghanistan the following day.[13] He traveled to Kandahar, ostensibly to seek out Osama bin Laden even though he had no intentions of joining al-Qaeda, but was disappointed to discover the militant leader had already left the city.[13] He later managed to see both bin Laden and Mullah Omar.[3]

Following the American reprisal bombings following the September 11 attacks, el-Mejjati and his wife left Afghanistan and traveled to Dhaka, Bangladesh where they remained for ten months after their passports were seized due to fake Pakistani visa stamps.[13] They moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, using false Qatari passports, after that.[13][16] Some have claimed the move was authorised by bin Laden to build a "Saudi network".[17]

Entry into militant plots[edit]

After moving to Riyadh, el-Mejjati agreed to allow Khalid al-Juhani, a veteran of the First Chechen War and Afghan Civil War who was being sought by Americans, stay with his family. He asked his wife to help him find a wife for al-Juhani, who was not supposed to be involved in any more fighting.[13]

On March 23, 2003, his wife and 10-year old son Ilyass left the city to try to reach an Ophthalmologist. They had been originally intended to travel with al-Juhani, which caught the attention of the Mabahith secret police. However, al-Juhani argued he wasn't feeling well and asked a brother and his wife to instead accompany el-Mejjati and her son. The group was nonetheless arrested by authorities who hoped that al-Juhani was present.[3] When questioned, his wife confirmed to police that el-Mejjati was indeed living in Riyadh, but refused to write an open letter in the newspapers calling for her husband to surrender himself to authorities stating that he hadn't done anything wrong.[3]

After his wife's arrest, he is believed to have fallen in with the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, and to have provided training to its members in a forest outside Rabat.[18] His name was mentioned in connection with the Riyadh compound bombing in May of that year.[7]

Days before the May 16 attack in Casablanca, el-Mejjati is believed to have fled to Spain.[5][8] Arguments that he had dressed as a woman to travel unnoticed were rebuffed by his wife who pointed out he stood 6'4".[3]

On June 20, 2003, when it was discovered that al-Juhani had been among the men killed in the Riyadh compound bombings, Saudi Arabia transferred el-Mejjati's wife and son to Moroccan custody, flying them on a private jet through Cairo into Morocco.[3]

In September 2003, the FBI issued an alert for four people they alleged "pose a threat to U.S. citizens", including Abderraouf Jdey, Adnan G. El Shukrijumah and the previously unknown Zubayr al-Rimi and el-Mejjati.[19]

While in Spain, el-Mejjati became associated with Jamal Zougam, who had helped construct the bombs, leading to the suggestion that he had been involved in the March 11 Madrid bombings.[18]

In December 2003, he was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment in absentia by a Moroccan court, for his role in the Casablanca bombings.[17]

On March 17, 2004, his wife and son were released from prison.[3] Police set up a 24-hour stakeout of her house, and watched her every move.[8] In April, Belgian newspapers in Antwerp received threatening notes that made reference to el-Mejjati, and suggested that Jewish locations in the city might become targets in the future.[8] While authorities now began searching Europe in earnest for his whereabouts, others suggested that he had fled to Pakistan, Iran, Syria or Iraq.[8] In early 2005, Riyadh officials intercepted text messages being sent by el-Mejjati to Great Britain authorising hawala money transfers.[20][21]

Death[edit]

FBI-released photo noting his death

el-Mejjati, as well as his 11 year old son Adam and the leader of al-qaeda in Saudi Arabia Saud Hamoud 'Abid al-Qatini al-'Otaibi,[3] were among those killed in April 2005 in a series of Ar Rass raids by Saudi authorities.[8][22] Saudi security forces had not known el-Mejjati would be present when they surrounded their first target, a house with approximately eight occupants. When shooting began, the occupants fled to a nearby construction site where the battle lasted until the following morning.[23] A columnist later suggested that el-Mejjati had shot his son after he was captured by Saudi forces.[16] Saudi authorities also alleged that el-Mejjati had killed a foreigner living in the Kingdom, and attacked a police patrol in Al-Ghat "with the support of his son", despite being only 11 years old.[24]

At the time of his death, he was #4 on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's "26 Most Wanted" list.[25]

el-Mejjati was survived by his wife and 12-year old son Ilyass.[3] A friend of the family had phoned to tell her that he had just heard a report that el-Mejjati had been killed on the television, to which she replied "Alhamdulillah".[3] She then wrote to the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior, and its Saudi counterpart, to ask them to positively confirm the identity of her husband and son through DNA testing, with which they complied.[3][26]

His wife sought permission to travel to Saudi Arabia to claim the body of her husband and son for proper burial, and proposed traveling with his second wife, stating that she could not find closure until she had seen the bodies herself.[3]

Aftermath[edit]

His wife later gave an interview to France 3 television following his death,[27] in addition to Moroccan newspapers; stating that her husband had been a mujahideen, and not a terrorist.[3] However, in other interviews she stubbornly stated that it was wrong to consider him a member of GICM since he "only belongs to Al-Qaeda".[13]

Later analysts suggested that he was closely tied to Salafia Jihadia or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.[28][29]

Following the July 7 bombings in London three months after his death, Saudi Arabia stated that they had warned Britain of the impending attack, sending them an intelligence file that contained details of el-Mejjati and his alleged connection to lead bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan.[30][31]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c FBI Seeking Information alert at the Wayback Machine (archived October 8, 2003)
  2. ^ a b c d Stevens, Robert. Associated Press, "Confusion reigns in the Kingdom", July 2, 2004
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r La Gazette du Maroc, Mon mari n'etait pau un terroriste, mais un Moujahid, May 30, 2005
  4. ^ Yahoo News, "Saudi confirms death of top Al-Qaeda pair in gunbattle", April 10, 2005
  5. ^ a b Le Monde, Un Franco-Marocain suspecte dans les attentats de Casablanca et Madrid, March 25, 2004
  6. ^ Associated Press, "Spain Charges Two More in Bombings", March 30, 2004
  7. ^ a b Stratfor, Al Qaeda's Possible Hidden Operative, May 3, 2005
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Odyssey of an Al Qaeda Operative, Washington Post Foreign Service, 2 May 2005
  9. ^ a b al-Zaydi, Mshari. The World According to Fatihah, June 22, 2005
  10. ^ a b Reuters, "Spain probes Morocco link, press names FBI suspect"
  11. ^ a b c Karam, Souhail. SABC News, "Danger man started life as a fan of Americans", April 2, 2004
  12. ^ Al-Arabiya, عاشق السينما الأمريكية الذي صار إرهابيا هاربا, November 1, 2004
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, An Al-Qaeda Love Story: From Morocco to Bosnia to Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, Via New Jersey, June 17, 2005
  14. ^ a b Al-Riyadh, مصادر أمنية مغربية تبدي ارتياحها لسقوط المجاطي الحلقة المفقودة في تفجيرات الدار البيضاء الإرهابية, July 28, 2005
  15. ^ Preston, Julia. New York Times, Bail denied for Brooklyn Bookseller accused of financing terrorism, February 11, 2006
  16. ^ a b Al-Sharq al-Awsat, "Women, Children, and Terrorism", July 15, 2005
  17. ^ a b Tefft, Bruce. "Mastermind of Spain bombings dies after shootout in north Saudi town", April 18, 2005
  18. ^ a b El Periodico, "El Marroc identifica el presumpte cervell de la massacre de Madrid", March 28, 2004
  19. ^ CNN, FBI seeks 4 suspected of terrorist activities, September 2003
  20. ^ Dodd, Vikram. The Guardian, Investigators examine video for al-Qaida link to bomb attacks, September 3, 2005
  21. ^ Reuters, "Probe seeks Saudi link to London bombers", 7 August 2005
  22. ^ Spain issues warrants for 5 in relation to the Madrid bombings, BBC Arabic, 31 March 2004
  23. ^ BBC, Saudi battle kills top suspects, April 5, 2005
  24. ^ Arab News, Death of Top Terrorists in Al-Rass Gunbattle Confirmed, April 10, 2005
  25. ^ Death of Top Terrorists in Al-Rass Gunbattle Confirmed, Arab News, 10 April 2005
  26. ^ CNN, Al Qaeda 'big fish' killed, April 6, 2005
  27. ^ France 3, Interview with Fatiha el-Mejjati on YouTube, January 21, 2006
  28. ^ Ward, Blake D. "Osama's Wake: The Second Generation of al-Qaeda", Air War College, 2005. p. 26
  29. ^ The Center for Policing Terrorism, Analysis: May 16, 2003 Suicide Bombings in Casablanca, Morocco
  30. ^ Bright, Martin. The Observer, "Saudis warned UK of London attacks", August 7, 2005
  31. ^ Bright, Martin. New Statesman, "What did the Saudis know about 7/7?", November 1, 2007