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WikiLeaks: Journalist, Al Qaeda Jihadist, or Both?

1:31 PM, Apr 29, 2011 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Prior to working for Al Jazeera, Hajj repeatedly traveled to jihadist hotspots. The leaked file notes that Hajj was “stopped and questioned at the airport” in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1999. Hajj had $220,000 in his possession, which he told Azerbaijani officials was to be split between “an unspecified flour factory” ($120,000) and Al Haramain ($100,000), an Islamic “charity.”

The problem is that Haramain was, in fact, a front for al Qaeda and like minded terrorist organizations. Azerbaijani security officials reportedly told Hajj that Haramain “was aiding the Chechen mujahideen.” And Chechen jihadists weren’t the only mujahideen sponsored by Haramain. Its chapters have been designated as terror supporters around the globe.

Hajj repeatedly shipped supplies and funneled money to Baku from Dubai on behalf Haramain while working for a firm called Union Beverage Company (UBC). At some point, Hajj allegedly admitted that the UBC “was powerful and that all charities working with the Chechen mujahideen used the UBC to smuggle money and goods between the United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, and Chechnya.”

Despite their suspicions, Azerbaijani officials allowed Hajj into their country in 1999. By early 2000, however, the situation had changed. The leaked file reads:

On 4 January 2000, [Hajj] was prevented from entering Azerbaijan and was sent back to Dubai, AE. The Azerbaijani Ministry of National Security had ordered the border guards to be alert for [Hajj]’s possible return to Azerbaijan, as [Hajj]’s visa was revoked and he was prohibited from ever re-entering Azerbaijan again. [Hajj] was believed to be a money courier for the UBL network and his role in Azerbaijan was to channel UBL funds to the rebels in Chechnya.

Authorities in Dubai came to the same conclusion as those in Azerbaijan. The leaked file notes:  “The United Arab Emirates State Security Directorate identified detainee as a senior al-Qaida member and logistics expert.”

So, at least two different foreign state security services concluded that Hajj was funneling money for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. (The file also includes this sentence: “A foreign government service reported [Hajj] was a personal acquaintance of UBL.” It is not clear if this is some other foreign government or one of the two already mentioned.)

In addition to the UBC, Azerbaijani authorities were suspicious of Hajj’s ties to two other companies as well. One of the two was called Rumat International, which was based in the UAE. Both Hajj and an Iraqi named Mamdouh Mahmud Salim “were affiliated with” Rumat, according to the leaked file. Salim is more widely known by his nom de guerre, Abu Hajer al Iraqi – a cofounder of al Qaeda who was imprisoned after the 1998 embassy bombings.

The other company was called SAMICO Services, which Hajj established in May 1999. SAMICO was supposedly set up to “produce, stockpile, and sell goods for national consumption, as well as tourism and other activities.” But it never did any business at the address listed on its registration documents. In November 2002, Azerbaijani authorities raided “locations in Baku suspected of being tied to” an extremist facilitator. “Several documents relating to the SAMICO Company were found during the raid.”

An Alleged ‘Leader’ in the Muslim Brotherhood

The leaked file cites a number of intelligence reports linking Hajj to the Muslim Brotherhood. It is impossible, as an outside observer, to evaluate the veracity of these reports since we do not have access to them. However, it is especially interesting to learn that Guantanamo’s analysts concluded that Hajj was a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) at the same time he was supporting al Qaeda.

An entire mythology has been built up concerning the MB. Some, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, have gone so far as to claim that the MB has renounced violence. This is simply not true, as MB leaders have openly and repeatedly advocated violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian-controlled territories, and elsewhere. The MB has eschewed violence in Egypt simply because, during President Hosni Mubarak’s reign and before, it didn’t work. Each spasm of MB-initiated violence was met with crushing oppression.

If the file on Hajj is correct, then we have a prominent example of just how shallow Washington’s thinking on the MB is. In fact, the information contained in the file would be headline-worthy if given any weight by the press. Here is the key paragraph:

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