March Issue 2003

By | News & Politics | Published 19 years ago

Al-Qaeda’s James Bond, Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, was born to a Baloch who married a Kuwaiti woman in the early 1960s. His father hails from a village near Gwadar in Balochistan’s coastal area and, according to local sources, belongs to the Baloch Rind tribe.

Khalid’s mother’s family was affluent and religious and that influenced him. He was committed to Islam from an early age and faithfully attended congregations held in mosques. He was brilliant at his studies as well and wanted to experience living in the culture of the west. In 1983, he enrolled himself in a college in a small town in North Carolina, studying engineering. In 1986, he graduated from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro. In the United States, he met Islamic clerics who propagated the significance of jihad for the “oppressed Muslims”, suppressed by the “enemies of Islam” in the Islamic world.

In those days, Afghanistan was the hub for the mujahideen and experts say that in the 80s, around 35,000 mujahideen from several Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Somalia and Egypt entered Afghanistan through Peshawar to fight the Soviets, kindled with the spirit of jihad.

Impressed by his meetings with Islamic leaders in America, Khalid pledged to sacrifice his life for the cause and joined the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood. Now his mission was to fight for Afghanistan. He came to Peshawar along with his older brother, Zahed. Here, among the mujahideen, his innate brilliance came to the fore and this young, foreign-educated man made an impression on Osama bin Laden and a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdullah Azam. Azam, later killed in a bomb blast in Peshawar, is credited with introducing the Arab element into the mujahideen, including the young Saudi billionaire, Osama bin Laden.

Khalid trained volunteers for Afghanistan and at the same time came closer to Osama. He was fluent in Arabic, English and Urdu. Khalid is known to have used 60 aliases and perfected the art of disguise during the Afghan jihad. Being a well-educated and trusted person, he was chosen by Osama for establishing contacts in southeast Asia, the west and the Persian Gulf.

Khalid now started spending time with his uncle, Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York. This was the first time that he was spotted by the FBI. At the time, Khalid along with Ramzi Yousef, stayed with Osama’s brother-in-law, Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, in the Philippines, well on his way to becoming a leading figure of Al-Qaeda.

In 1995, Ramzi Yousef was captured in Pakistan and extradited to the US and is now serving a sentence of 240 years in a US prison. By then, Khalid had become a leader of Al-Qaeda and later, one of the main strategists behind anti-US attacks including the 9/11 attacks. After the Taliban’s ouster in Afghanistan, Khalid became important in the hierarchy of the organisation and headed its operations. For a number of years he outplayed the well-equipped American intelligence agencies in a game of cops and robbers.

But on March 1, he found himself trapped in the net he had woven himself. His trusted friend and activist of the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, Abdur Rehman, cracked duing his interrogation and revealed information about Khalid’s location, bringing to a close a long career in international espionage and deception.