Jewish World Review March 6, 2002 / 22 Adar, 5762
Debra J. Saunders
He got away
IN NOVEMBER, Spain indicted eight men
connected to the al Qaeda terrorist network. Judge
Baltasar Garzon said the men were "directly linked
to the preparation and the carrying out of the
attacks perpetrated by suicide pilots on Sept. 11."
The indictment described one Abu Qutadah of
London as "the supreme leader at the European
level of the mujahedeen."
Abu Qutadah, a Jordanian who won asylum in the
United Kingdom in 1993, denied the charges. "I am
just a cleric for Islam," he told the Associated Press.
Others disagree. In 2000, a Jordanian military court
convicted Abu Qutadah in absentia for conspiracy
to attack U.S. and Israeli targets and sentenced him
to 15 years behind bars. The court acquitted him of
being linked to al Qaeda but, as AP reports,
Jordanian officials believe the ties exist. (The Brits
refused to extradite.)
Also, the brother of Zacarias Moussaoui --
allegedly the would-be 20th hijacker -- said that
Moussaoui was radicalized at Abu Qutadah's
Finsbury Park mosque. It appears that alleged
shoe-bomber Richard Reid also was radicalized
When British authorities raided Abu Qutadah's
London home in February 2001 because of his
suspected links with Osama bin Laden, they found
$256,000 in cash -- even though Qutadah was
living on the dole. Police later released him, although
the government suspended his welfare benefits. A
judge later upheld the welfare suspension, but ruled
the government had to provide some sustenance lest
the family starve or become homeless.
Bad News: Abu Qutadah took a powder in late
December, just as a new law that gave British
authorities the power to detain suspected foreign
terrorists without charge or trial took effect.
"He basically got in a van and vanished," Jonathan
Stevenson, research fellow for the International
Institute for Strategic Studies, told AP. "(British
authorities) haven't been able to find him, and they
have been actively trying to find him. I think it's
pretty clear he's gone underground."
How could America's most valued anti-terror ally
let Abu Qutadah disappear?
The British consulate could not comment, but it
appears that good intentions aided Abu Qutadah's
Oxford historian Andrew Apostolou noted that
British authorities aren't anxious to repeat past
mistakes. "We've got a history in Britain of putting
innocent people in jail," he said.
Apostolou added that the U.S. Justice Department
fumbled when it pushed for the U.K. to extradite
Algerian pilot Lofti Raissi -- then failed to produce
evidence that he was indeed the "lead trainer" of
some Sept. 11 hijackers.
The Brits are understandably sensitive about not
offending the country's largely immigrant Muslim
population. But sensitivity shouldn't stop authorities
from keeping tabs on known associates of
terrorists. As Stevenson wrote, "They should have
at least had the guy under sufficiently heavy (and/or
competent) surveillance that he could not disappear.
British threat perceptions, though changing, may still
be lower than they ought to be."
If Brits don't see the threat, they should look harder.
A Finsbury Park imam was filmed telling young men
to attack nonbelievers and "crush his head in your
arms, wring his throat, rip his intestines out."
Outside the mosque, the Washington Post reports,
worshipers can buy a $14 tape that shows jihadis
how "to choke, blind or slit the throat." National
Public Radio taped mosque worshipers shouting
"Death to Blair."
Now Abu Qutadah is missing. He could be
Comment JWR contributor Debra J. Saunders's column by clicking here.
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