Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Hamas 'capable of U.S. attacks'.
Hamas has cells inside the United States that are technically capable of attacking the country, terrorism experts and senior security officials told World Net Daily.
The officials were responding to a WND exclusive interview last week in which Hamas chief Mahmoud al-Zahar warned President Bush's actions in the Middle East are "placing America in danger."
"We have information Hamas agents have been on U.S. soil the past few years and that the group may currently have up to 100 agents operating inside America," an FBI counterterrorism agent in New York said, speaking on condition of anonymity since he is not authorized to talk to the media.
The comments reaffirm testimony to the U.S. Senate this past February in which FBI Director Robert Mueller stated, "Although it would be a major strategic shift for Hamas, its United States network is theoretically capable of facilitating acts of terrorism in the United States."
Mueller described a Hamas network the FBI believes may be operating in the U.S. mostly for fundraising purposes. While many suspected Hamas-linked charities such as the national Holy Land Foundation have been shut down, the FBI suspects others are still functioning in America.
Holy Land was one of the largest Islamic charitable organizations in the U.S., and closed amid accusations the group was a front for Hamas.
In August 2004, Ismail Selim Elbarasse, a long-time Hamas money man, was arrested reportedly after authorities witnessed his wife videotaping Maryland's Chesapeake Bay Bridge from their SUV as Elbarasse drove.
The images captured by Mr. Elbarasse's wife included close-ups of cables and other features "integral to the structural integrity of the bridge," according to court papers.
In an FBI affidavit requesting a search warrant for Elbarasse's house obtained by WND, special FBI agent Shawn Devroude states, "In previous years, al-Qaeda commanders and officials stationed in Western countries, including the United States, have recruited Hamas operatives and volunteers to carry out reconnaissance or serve as couriers."
Also in August of last year, two suspected high-level Hamas operatives, Mohammed Salah and Abdelhaleem Ashqar, were detained in America and charged with providing material support to Hamas, racketeering and money laundering.
Ashqar, under house arrest in Virginia, denied to WND he was involved with Hamas fundraising and claimed doesn't know of any Hamas networks operating in America.
In November 2003, Jamal Aqal, a Canadian immigrant born in Gaza, was arrested in Israel under suspicion of receiving weapons and explosives training from Hamas for use in future terror attacks in Canada and New York City.
Aqal pled guilty in 2004 to planning to kill American and Canadian Jewish leaders and Israeli officials traveling in the U.S.
Some analysts and counterterrorism officials are also worried al-Qaeda agents Israel says infiltrated the Gaza Strip may be working with Palestinian terror groups to carry out attacks both in Israel and abroad.
IDF intelligence Chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi Farkash earlier this month confirmed Al-Qaeda operatives were present in Gaza, crossing in from its border with Egypt after Israel withdrew from the area.
Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, points out what he says are other Hamas' ideological justifications for attacking America.
In 2003, Pipes writes, Hamas declared Bush "Islam's biggest enemy," and in 2004 called him "the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and Muslims."
Pipes also writes that a 2004 Hamas press release announced, "Hamas considers the U.S. as an enemy and as an accomplice to the Israeli enemy aggression against the Palestinians. ... The U.S. will face responsibility for its position as an accomplice with Israel."