A Hunt for `The Pilot'
The global advisory issued by the FBI in late March gave no hint of the many twists and turns that led the bureau to Adnan Gulshair El Shukrijumah. But there was no doubting the urgency of the plea for help. Senior FBI officials tell U.S. News that they believe El Shukrijumah, 27, is a “grave danger” to the United States. As a result, the officials say, the FBI, the CIA, and several foreign intelligence services have begun a worldwide search for the elusive young man who once resided in South Florida and is known to carry multiple passports. “We are very worried,” says a U.S. official. “Wherever he is in the world, we think he might be a key al Qaeda operative targeting U.S. interests.” On March 19, intelligence and law enforcement officials conclusively identified El Shukrijumah–described by one counterterrorism specialist as possibly the next Mohamed Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker. Top-tier al Qaeda detainees, including the alleged key planner of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, helped make the identification, government officials say. “We can’t possibly overstate,” a U.S. intelligence official said, “the value that Khalid Shaikh Mohammad has been to us.” A wide array of other intelligence information and sources indicate that El Shukrijumah may have been asked by al Qaeda to lead a new “suicide squad,” like that led by Atta. The Saudi Arabia-born El Shukrijumah is also suspected of having ties to former Chicago gang member Jose Padilla, now being detained as an “enemy combatant” because authorities believe he wanted to detonate a “dirty bomb” on American soil. Law enforcement officials are not sure what exactly El Shukrijumah may be planning, but they say he could target gas stations, fuel trucks, subway systems, trains, or bridges. “Our No. 1 priority,” Larry Mefford, assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division, told U.S. News, “is to find sleeper cells if they exist. If El Shukrijumah were to be in the U.S., he would possibly be in that category.” Full Story