Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Al Qaeda's Branching Out Already

Here's hard evidence that al-Qaeda isn't about to wait until the "young swarthy Middle Eastern male" strategy starts foiling its operatives.

Harlingen, Texas - American federal authorities are investigating a South African woman whom they say tried to board a flight near the United States-Mexico border with an altered passport, amid reports that South African passports have ended up in the hands of terrorists.
Farida Goolam Mohamed Ahmed, 48, was arrested on July 19 at the McAllen airport and charged four days later with illegal entry into the United States, falsifying information and falsifying a passport. She was denied bail on Tuesday by a federal magistrate.
A senior federal law enforcement official said on Tuesday that investigators were trying to determine whether the woman had ties to terrorist groups. So far nothing has been substantiated.
South African officials have acknowledged that al-Qaeda militants and other terrorists travelling in Europe have obtained South African passports.

[............]

Ahmed was arrested as she tried to board a flight for New York and could not provide a visa to prove her legal travel within the US, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Special Agent Daniel Delgado said in an affidavit.
Ahmed provided a South African passport that was missing four pages, according to the affidavit. Authorities said she said that her visa was in New York.
Authorities searched Ahmed's bags and found a pair of wet and muddy pants in one and plane tickets and flight schedules in another.
They said that she later told them she was smuggled into the US from Mexico by crossing the Rio Grande.
"I did come here illegally, I came through the bush," Ahmed told FBI agents in a voluntary interview on July 21, the affidavit said.
She isn't young, she isn't Middle Eastern (at least not by nationality), and she sure as hell ain't male; so much for the assumption that al-Qaeda's religious beliefs would deter it from utilizing female operatives. One more thing worth keeping in mind - despite this woman's name and South African nationality, it isn't even a sure thing that she's "swarthy." I for one am glad that the investigators who arrested this woman weren't relying on any of the complacent notions that so many supposedly "aware Americans" have been demanding, otherwise they'd never have given her the scrutiny she deserved.