- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Two men under investigation by the FBI for suspected ties to international terrorists were denied entry to Israel in December after immigration officials there found a letter suggesting they planned a suicide attack.
Documents filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, released yesterday by federal prosecutors, said that while U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service officials allowed the men to board an El Al flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Israeli authorities denied them entry and forced their return to the United States.
The Israeli decision came after officials in Jerusalem found a four-page letter that read, in part, "When I heard what you are going to carry out, my heart was filled with the feeling of grief and joy because you are the closest human being to my heart."
The letter also said it was "incumbent upon me to encourage you and help you, because Islam urges Jihad for the sake of Allah," according to the court records.
The men were identified as Mohammed Osman Idris, 24, of Annandale, and Mohammed El-Yacoubi of Fairfax. The records said Mr. El-Yacoubi was carrying the letter, written in Arabic and believed to be from his younger brother, Abdalmuhssin El-Yacoubi, a student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
FBI Agent John V. Wyman, in an affidavit, told the court that Abdalmuhssin El-Yacoubi had "drafted this extraordinary letter to his brother under these circumstances because, based on his conversations with Mohammed, he believed his brother was about to engage in a terrorist activity he might not survive."
Mr. Wyman, who submitted the affidavit in support of a criminal complaint, also said the two men were carrying $2,000 in cash, a cellular telephone, a compass, a calculator and a video camera.
"Idris made numerous false statements under oath," Mr. Wyman said in the affidavit, adding that he had consulted with Arabic and Islamic experts who analyzed the letter at the FBI's request.
"The references to jihad in an overwhelmingly violent context cannot be confused with a letter written to someone traveling to Israel solely for the purpose of sightseeing or praying," Mr. Wyman said.
Mr. Idris, accused of lying to a federal grand jury, has been released on bond. The FBI said he testified before the grand jury that he and Mr. El-Yacoubi considered going to the Vatican, Israel and Saudi Arabia when planning their trip, but his travel agent said Mr. Idris wanted to visit only Jerusalem.
The FBI also said Mr. Idris lied about efforts he made to obtain a new passport for his trip to Israel because his existing passport included entry stamps to Saudi Arabia.
"I … believe that Idris and El-Yacoubi wanted new passports that lacked references to prior travel to Saudi Arabia in order to enhance the likelihood that they would be allowed into Israel and to avoid suspicion by Israelis that they were there to commit or support acts of terrorism," Mr. Wyman said.
A grand jury in Alexandria is investigating whether Mr. Idris, Mohammed El-Yacoubi and others provided support for Hamas or Islamic Jihad, both of which have been named by the State Department as terrorist organizations.
Frank Shults, chief of liaison for U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty, yesterday declined to comment on the ongoing case.
Mr. McNulty oversees some of the nation's highest-profile cases, including the pending trials of suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, the first person to be charged in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and American John Walker Lindh, who faces life in prison on charges of assisting Taliban forces in Afghanistan.


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