Officials with the FBI and the U.S. Embassy in Panama said this evening they could not confirm an
Agence France-Presse report stating a member of al-Qaida had href="http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000086&sid=as5DRu6fTf_E&refer=latin_america">targeted the Panama Canal.
Officials at both agencies said they were not aware of the allegations until contacted by WND.
Today AFP reported Leonel Sauceda, spokesman for Honduras Security Minister Oscar Alvarez, confirmed comments the minister made to local media, that the “38-year-old suspect” – identified as Adnan Guishar El Shukrijumah, or Jafar al-Tayar – was in Honduras late last month and “planned to plant explosives in the Panama Canal to hamper boat traffic in the area.”
Alvarez’s remarks were published in the daily La Tribuna today, along with photos of the suspect.
El Shukrijumah is wanted in connection with possible terrorist threats against the United States.
The U.S. State Department is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading directly to his capture. FBI records give the suspect’s birthdate as Aug. 4, 1975, making him 29 years of age.
El Shukrijumah speaks English and is said to carry a Guyanese passport, but according to the FBI, could attempt to enter the U.S. with a Saudi, Canadian, or Trinidadian passport.
At the time of this report, Security Minister Oscar Alvarez could not be reached for comment. It has not been made clear whether others were implicated by the Honduran government, what interrupted the alleged plot or where El Shukrijumah is thought to be at present.
Update: Three hours after the filing of this report, Oscar Alvarez clarified the allegations and denied local media reports which quoted him referring to a plot to bomb the Panama Canal. The story, which originated in the Honduran press, was also picked up by Bloomberg News, which used the Agence France-Presse story as its sole source.
Alvarez told Miami Herald reporter Juan Tamayo that a tipster had alerted Honduran security forces that the suspect, El Shukrijumah, had been seen in a Tegucigalpa Internet cafe in May.
The cafe’s owner allegedly identified Shukrijumah from a photo lineup and said he had been in the cafe with two other men, “all badly dressed and bearded,” who spoke English and French but little Spanish. Tamayo reported that the other two men have not been identified.
“We found out that this man was in Tegucigalpa at the end of May. He was seen in an Internet cafe in the city and we confirmed that he made phone calls to France and the United States from there,” spokesman for the Honduran Security Ministry Leonel Sauceda told media. An anonymous Honduran security source told the Miami Herald that calls were also made to Canada. The phone records have been passed on to allied foreign intelligence services.
It is now being reported that Costa Rica is on the alert for the possible entrance of the alleged terrorist.
Security Minister Rogelio Ramos told the press that both the Honduran and Costa Rican governments had strengthened their border security after confirming the terrorist was seen in its capital Tegucigalpa. Nicaragua lies to the north of Costa Rica and Panama to the south.
Minister Ramos will meet officials of the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica tomorrow to discuss developments in the situation.