- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A federal immigration judge in Seattle yesterday ordered the deportation of an Iraqi national with ties to a senior al Qaeda operative suspected of helping plan the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 and the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman Dean Boyd said U.S. Immigration Judge Kenneth Josephson ordered Sam Malkandi of Kirkland, Wash., removed from the United States. Judge Josephson based his decision on evidence presented by ICE attorneys during hearings that concluded earlier this month, Mr. Boyd said.

Mr. Boyd said ICE attorneys accused Mr. Malkandi of committing fraud against the U.S. government to obtain immigration benefits for himself and his family.

He said the attorneys also introduced evidence, some of which was referenced in the September 11 commission report, that Mr. Malkandi used fraud in an attempt to obtain a U.S. visa for Tawfiq bin Attash, a one-legged al Qaeda operative also known as “Khallad.” A trusted lieutenant and former bodyguard of al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, bin Attash is suspected of planning the embassy bombings and the Cole attack.

Mr. Boyd said the evidence linking Mr. Malkandi to the al Qaeda operative surfaced in 2003 after bin Attash was captured in Karachi, Pakistan, and turned over to U.S. authorities.

The September 11 commission report said bin Attash told U.S. officials in August 2003 that a person in Bothell, Wash., whose name sounded like “Barzan,” had tried to help him obtain a visa to enter the United States. U.S. officials concluded that “Barzan” was a Bothell man named Sarbaz Mohammad, who changed his name to Sam Malkandi in 2001.

Mr. Boyd said an investigation by ICE and FBI agents on the Seattle Joint Terrorism Task Force determined that “Barzan” and Mr. Malkandi were the same person. Among other things, he said, federal agents were able to obtain documents showing that Mr. Malkandi had made arrangements with a clinic in Bellevue, Wash., for bin Attash, under an alias, to obtain a new prosthetic foot in 1999.

Bin Attash was never able to come to the United States because his visa application was denied, Mr. Boyd said.

ICE agents arrested Mr. Malkandi in August on fraud charges. He was accused of falsely claiming to have been incarcerated in Iran for possession of prohibited political materials, which originally qualified him for refugee status to enter the United States in June 1998.

“We are gratified that justice has prevailed in this case,” said Dorothy Stefan, chief counsel for ICE in Seattle.

Under the law, Mr. Malkandi has 30 days to appeal Judge Josephson’s decision. In the meantime, ICE continues to hold him without bail.

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