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Central American terrorists – what's going on?

Posted By Sherrie Gossett On 07/02/2004 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

In a rapidly growing story, Honduran officials report that one of the top terrorist suspects in the world, Adnan G. Shukrijumah, was spotted in Honduras recently.


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Adnan G. El Shukrijumah

Readers might want to reserve judgment, however, taking the reports with a grain of warm Honduran sand, since contradictions have become apparent. It’s unclear whether the problematic elements to the story stem from inaccurate statements made by government officials, from inaccurate reporting of those statements, from a lack of forthcoming detail, from poor communications between international allies or a combination of these.

Here are some points to consider:

  • The date: According to Leonel Sauceda, spokesman for the Honduran
    Security Ministry and another official with the ministry who spoke with WND today, the suspect was seen on May 27 at an Internet caf? in Tegulcigalpa.

    Hours after WND and the Miami Herald reported the date, href="http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/southflorida/sfl-71adnan,0,7692219.story?coll=sfla-home-headlines">the
    Associated Press reported that the date was not known, that Security
    Minister Oscar Alvarez declined to state the date “on security grounds”
    when being interviewed, leaving the interpretation open that he could have been referring to a more recent sighting.

  • The timing: The question of why contradictory information is emanating
    from the same government agency (if that information was accurately reported) leads to the next question of why the information is just now being released, more than a month after the alleged sighting occurred.

  • The escape: In addition, Alvarez told the Associated Press that the suspect fled after being sighted. “This man was seen at an Internet business in
    Tegucigalpa, and then he fled the country,” Alvarez said, referring to
    Honduras’ capital city.

    It’s unclear how the Honduras government knows the suspect fled
    the country since they never were able to locate or apprehend the suspect
    in the first place.

  • The alert: If the suspect fled Honduras over a month ago, why
    have Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama just now been put on alert by
    Honduras that the suspect may be trying to enter one of those countries?

  • The previous stop: While the Associated Press reported that “El Shukrijumah … apparently entered Honduras illegally from Nicaragua or Panama,” the
    Honduran Security Ministry told WND it was not known how or when the suspect entered the country. It’s unclear, therefore, how it is known where the suspect was prior to arriving in Honduras. Before the Honduran sighting news, the suspect had last been seen in Guyana. It’s also unclear why the suspect is thought to have entered from Nicaragua (a neighbor) or Panama (not on the border of Honduras). If the suspect
    arrived by sea, it’s unclear why arrival from Costa Rica, Cuba, Belize or elsewhere is not thought possible, or by land from El Salvador or Guatemala.

  • Late alert or late arrival? The AP reported that Alvarez implied the Honduran government received news of the man’s sighting after it was too late to catch him. WND was told by the Security Ministry that police arrived at the Internet caf? after the suspect had left.

  • Who said what?: This news follows a tangle of misreporting yesterday
    about an alleged plot to bomb the Panama Canal. Agence France-Presse
    published a story saying Leonel Sauceda, spokesman for the Honduran
    Security Ministry, had confirmed comments Security Minster Oscar Alvarez
    allegedly made to the Honduran press about the plot. Sauceda allegedly
    confirmed to AFP that Alvarez said Shukrijumah had been involved in a
    plot to use explosives to damage the Panama Canal. The AFP story was
    then picked up by Bloomberg News. But the bombing story was false. There are
    indications also that some journalists may have started off on the
    wrong foot by mistranslating some details that were in the Honduran press.

  • What bomb plot?: After WND reported that neither FBI headquarters nor
    the U.S. Embassy in Panama nor the FBI legal attache in Panama knew
    anything about the allegations, and could not therefore confirm them,
    the Security Ministry told WND that Alvarez never made the comments, but
    simply referred to the May 27 sighting of the terrorist. The headline
    story in Panama today was that there was no bomb plot.

  • What alert? What sighting?: While the FBI today said it had no further
    comment on Shukrijumah’s case or the Central American alert – adding, “We’re going to let what’s already out there in the media stand” – Joe Reap, spokesman for the U.S. State Department Office of Counterterrorism told WND he had not heard of the sighting or the Central American alert. Ditto for another State Department official. So far, the information is being confirmed solely by Central American government sources, and U.S. Embassy officials are simply confirming that they’ve been told the same thing by
    those governments.

The U.S. Embassy in Panama told WND they are awaiting guidance from the
State Department – the same State Department that apparently knows nothing about
the situation.

So, stay tuned for more details. Oscar Alvarez, security minster for
Honduras, has been in meetings all day with the president and various
cabinet members. WND is expecting a call from him this evening.

Related stories:

Police searching for ‘next Mohammed Atta’

Panama Canal target of al-Qaida suspect?


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