- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2002

Two U.S. citizens who were denied entry to Israel in December over concerns about their ties to a potential suicide attack in that country applauded recent bombings against Israelis, records showed.
FBI Agent John V. Wyman said in an affidavit that Mohammed Osman Idris, 24, of Annandale, and Mohammed El-Yacoubi, 23, of Fairfax, along with a friend, focused on Palestinian issues and watched television news for hours to see the latest reports on events in Israel.
"The three would become emotionally upset about the events and visibly excited when news of suicide or other bombing attacks against Israelis were broadcast, making comments like 'payback's a bitch,'" Mr. Wyman said.
"Idris would complain that everything bad that happened was the fault of the Jews, saying in one instance, 'the Jews are probably behind this,'" the agent said, explaining in the affidavit that the two men often discussed a theory that Israel was behind the September 11 attacks on America.
Mr. Idris and Mr. El-Yacoubi, both Fairfax County natives, were stopped Dec. 13 by Israeli immigration officials at Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv after authorities found a letter in their possession suggesting the two men had planned a suicide attack. They were returned to the United States.
In the affidavit, filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Mr. Wyman said the four-page letter, sent by Abdalmuhssin El-Yacoubi to his older brother, 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, written in Arabic, 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 affidavit.
A federal grand jury in Alexandria is investigating whether Mr. Idris, Mohammed El-Yacoubi and others have provided support for Hamas or Islamic Jihad, both of which are named by the State Department as terrorist organizations.
Mr. Idris testified twice before the grand jury, once in January and again in February. He has since been charged with making false statements to the grand jury. Mr. El-Yacoubi was held as a material witness and later released.
Both men have denied any wrongoing. Mr. El-Yacoubi described the situation as a "big misunderstanding."
Mr. Wyman said in the affidavit that FBI language specialists at the bureau's Washington field office, both fluent in Arabic, determined that the letter appeared to be a farewell note to Mohammed El-Yacoubi from his younger brother "for a suicide mission in the name of 'Jihad.'"
He said the reference to jihad "in an overwhelmingly violent context cannot be confused with a letter written to someone traveling to Israel solely with the purpose of sightseeing or praying," which is what the two men later claimed in interviews with the FBI.
Mr. Wyman said Mr. El-Yacoubi purchased two tickets to Israel in November, paying for them with $2,000 in cash he had received from Mr. Idris.
In the affidavit, Mr. Wyman said last year the two men became "more focused on their religion and the events affecting Islam," specifically including the ongoing struggle between the Palestinian people and Israeli forces.
He said an informant told the FBI that the two men's increased concern over the Palestinian issue coincided with the recent uprising, or "intifada." He said they discussed "suicide bombings as a justified alternative for the Palestinian people" and believed "the Israeli enemy was a justified target."
"Idris and El-Yacoubi both believed that suicide bombings were an effective defensive measure for the Palestinian people, in that it was the only weapon that they have left," the affidavit said.
Mr. Idris and Mr. El-Yacoubi are longtime friends. They attended the same elementary and high school, the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria.


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