On July 7, 2013, Omar Mohammed Othman, better known as Abu Qatada, was deported from the UK to Jordan to stand trial on terrorism charges. His deportation was the end of a legal fight in the UK that lasted more than a decade. Abu Qatada was first arrested in early 2001, only to be released and detained once again in October 2002. He spent years in British custody before a transfer agreement was finally reached between the two governments last year.
Since his return to Jordan, the man once dubbed Osama bin Laden's "European ambassador" has repeatedly weighed in on current events. He is not just commenting, however. He is providing ideological guidance to jihadists operating in Syria and North Africa. And al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, the Al Nusrah Front, now promotes messages from Abu Qatada online. In a recent latter published by Al Nusrah, Abu Qatada denounces Al Nusrah's rival in Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS).
Abu Qatada's ability to communicate with the outside world is troubling, US intelligence officials say, given the constellation of al Qaeda actors he has colluded with for decades. Western intelligence and law enforcement officials have compiled a thick dossier on his activities.
While Abu Qatada was held in the UK, some of his associates were detained elsewhere and transferred to US custody at Guantanamo. Declassified and leaked files describe the jihadist ideologue's place in the al Qaeda network.
"Abu Qatada was a London-based al Qaeda recruiter whose teachings influenced numerous extremists including some of the 9/11 hijackers, Richard Reid, and Zacarias Moussaoui," a leaked Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) threat assessment of one of Abu Qatada's associates reads. Richard Reid plotted to detonate a shoe bomb aboard an airliner in late 2001, and Zacarias Moussaoui was slated to take part in a second wave of attacks following 9/11. Another leaked JTF-GTMO threat assessment describes Abu Qatada as a "prominent al Qaeda spiritual leader, recruiter, and financier." Other al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists, including some of those responsible for the 2004 Madrid train bombings, were also inspired by Abu Qatada.
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- Judy Chaffee
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