(AFP) – Aug 6, 2010
WASHINGTON — A man believed to be a rising leader in the Al-Qaeda network spent much of his childhood in New York and south Florida, US investigators told CNN Friday.
Adnan Shukrijumah has been linked to a thwarted plot to detonate bombs aboard the New York subway system and is thought to have once scoped out the Panama Canal as a target, an FBI agent told the US news network.
"He would be equated with being chief of operations," FBI special agent Brian LeBlanc told the US news network, adding that investigators believe Shukrijumah is "extremely dangerous."
"He may not be someone who's going to come into the United States to conduct the attack, but what makes him more dangerous is he's out there plotting the attacks and recruiting people to actively do that," LeBlanc told CNN.
Both Najibullah Zazi, arrested in connection with the New York subway plot, and the self-described mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, have provided information about Shukrijumah, LeBlanc said.
The Saudi-born militant is believed to have worked his way up into the leadership ranks of Osama Bin Laden's terror network after starting out as a dishwasher at an Al-Qaeda training camp.
The FBI thinks he is now in Pakistan's Waziristan region, and ascended to his current position after two other Al-Qaeda operational leaders were killed in suspected US drone strikes.
Shukrijumah came to America as a young child, living in the New York borough of Brooklyn, before moving with his family to Florida in the 1990s, FBI investigators said.
As an adult, he worked odd jobs and took classes at a local college, including an English course with a professor who remembered his former student when FBI agents came knocking years later.
The teacher was able to turn over video he had taken of students in class, providing agents with material they could show to Zazi, who promptly identified Shukrijumah.
"(Shukrijumah) was the one that convinced... them to come back to the United States and conduct the attack here," LeBlanc said.
Investigators now believe he arrived in Afghanistan by June 2001, and called his mother shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
His mother, who declined to be identified, told CNN they argued about whether it was safe for him to return to the United States after the attacks, and she has not heard from him since.
"My son is not a violent person. He is very kind, generous," she said.
LeBlanc said a detailed profile of Shukrijumah suggested otherwise.
"He's definitely focused on attaching the United States and other western countries," he said.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »