Jaber A. Elbaneh

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Jaber A. Elbaneh
Jaber A. Elbaneh

September 9, 1966 (1966-09-09) (age 53)
Occupationterrorist, al-Qaeda planner

Jaber A. Elbaneh, also known as Gabr al-Bana (Arabic: جبر البنا‎; born September 9, 1966) is a Yemeni-American[1] who was labeled a suspected terrorist by the United States after it emerged that he had attended the Al Farouq training camp alongside the Lackawanna Six, and remained on at the camp after they returned home. He fled to Yemen, where he worked as a cab driver before turning himself in to authorities.

As Yemeni officials squabbled over his $5 million reward, he escaped in a mass breakout along with a number of other high-profile prisoners, and was added to the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list. When Yemen convicted him in absentia for conspiracy in a plot against oil facilities, he again turned himself in to the police, and served a 5-year sentence. He is related to Susan Elbaneh, the only American victim of a terrorist attack against the U.S. Embassy in Yemen in September 2008.[2]

Life in the United States[edit]

Born in Yemen, Elbaneh lived in the United States where he maintained a "spotty work history", with his longest stint being at a New York cheese factory.[3] He is married, with seven children.[3]

Elbaneh was closely associated with the Lackawanna Six, a group of American friends living in the suburbs of Buffalo, New York who had attended an Afghan training camp together prior to the outbreak of the War on Terror.[4] When the group went to Galyan's Sporting Goods in Cheektowaga to outfit themselves for the trip, purchasing boots, flashlights, books, diarrhea medication and other essentials, he laughed that he would just add it all onto his credit card account, bringing his total debt to $145,000.[3]

Elbaneh was also indicted in absentia in a federal criminal complaint unsealed on May 21, 2003, in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York, Buffalo, New York.[5] All of them attended get-togethers at the apartment of Kamal Derwish, and Elbaneh and Yahya Goba tended to "compete" for the attention and favour of Derwish, who spoke of his travels abroad and ostensible history fighting in Palestine.[3]

Mr. Williams' allegations about McMaster [are] on par a par with UFO reports and JFK conspiracy theories ... that notion that because there are people on faculty from Egypt that McMaster is then a haven for terrorism is not only logically offensive, it smack of racism.

In October, FBI consultant Paul Williams wrote a book Dunces of Doomsday in which he claimed that Adnan Shukrijumah, Amer el-Maati, Elbaneh and Anas al-Liby had all been seen around Hamilton, Ontario the previous year, and that Shukrijumah had been seen at McMaster University where he "wasted no time in gaining access to the nuclear reactor and stealing more than 180 pounds of nuclear material for the creation of radiological bombs". He was subsequently sued by the University for libel, as there had been no evidence to suggest any part of his story was true. The publisher later apologised for allowing Williams to print statements which "were without basis in fact".[6][7]

By June 2003, Elbanehhad been added to the FBI Seeking Information - Terrorism list.[8]

Arrest and escape[edit]

Jaber A. Elbaneh c. 2000
Jaber A. Elbaneh in 1996

Elbaneh worked as a cabbie in San'a for months, before turning himself in to Yemeni authorities. He was sent to a maximum-security prison run by the Political Security Office, while authorities argued with the United States over the substantial $5 million reward, and who should receive it.[3] Some suggested that if they refused to turn Elbaneh over immediately, the United States might increase the reward.[3]

Elbaneh was named as one of 23 people who escaped from a Yemeni jail on February 3, 2006.[9] Prisoners had banned guards from entering the prison basement, as they dug a 143' tunnel using a broomstick and a sharpened spoon, which exited in the women's washroom of a nearby mosque. They had masked the sounds of their escape by playing soccer to distract guards.[3]

The FBI confirmed the escape was genuine on February 23, as they issued a national press release naming Elbaneh as one of the first new additions, since inception in 2001, to the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list.[10][11] They also stated that they believed the escaped prisoners, which included Jamal al-Badawi who had a previous successful escape from custody, had likely received help from female sympathisers attending the mosque, who may have helped digging the tunnel from their end.[3]

He is now listed on U.S. Rewards for Justice Program with a $5 million bounty for his capture.[12]

2007 conviction[edit]

In 2007, a Yemeni court convicted Elbaneh in absentia for the 2002 oil facilities plot and sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment. In December 2007, Elbaneh surrendered himself but he was not returned to prison. Reported on May 19, 2008, Elbaneh was jailed in Yemen after an appeals court upheld his 10-year prison sentence.[11]

In November 2008, Yemen's appeal court reduced Elbaneh's sentence from 10 years to 5 because he surrendered to authorities.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Officials Say American Among Yemen Prison Escapees". Fox News. February 8, 2006. Archived from the original on 2008-04-30. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
  2. ^ "cnn.com". U.S. student, husband among dead in embassy attack in Yemen, September 18, 2008. September 18, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-09-18. Retrieved 2008-09-18.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Temple-Raston, Dina. The Jihad Next Door: The Lackawanna Six and Rough Justice in the Age of Terror, 2007
  4. ^ "coldtype.net" (PDF). Is the Buffalo, NY terrorist cell for real? (pdf), December 14, 2003. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2006-05-03. Retrieved 2006-05-29.
  5. ^ FBI Most Wanted Terrorists wanted poster for Elbaneh Archived 2008-07-08 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Pither, Kerry. "Dark Days: The Story of Four Canadians Tortured in the Name of Fighting Terror", 2008.
  7. ^ el-Maati, Ahmed Barbara Jackman. Chronology of events[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ FBI Seeking Information, War on Terrorism list archive, Internet Archive Wayback Machine, June 3, 2003
  9. ^ Hunt on for Yemeni jailbreakers Archived 2010-10-07 at the Wayback Machine, BBC, February 4, 2006
  10. ^ RECENT ESCAPEES FROM YEMEN PRISON ADDED TO MOST WANTED TERRORISTS AND SEEKING INFORMATION - WAR ON TERRORISM LISTS Archived 2010-04-11 at the Wayback Machine, FBI national Press Release, February 23, 2006
  11. ^ a b "FBI Most Wanted terror suspect jailed in Yemen", Ahmed al-Haj, Associated Press, May 19, 2008
  12. ^ "Rewards for Justice - Wanted". Archived from the original on 2016-12-20. Retrieved 2016-12-18.
  13. ^ http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5j7PQyZH1KbhXFwONyyW2GvE3XHrw[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]