Last fall, HBO produced a documentary called The Journalist & The Jihadi - The Murder of Daniel Pearl. It profiles WSJ journalist Daniel Pearl and the jihadi who ensnared him before his untimely execution, Omar Sheikh. This weekend, CNN aired the documentary on its new show Special Investigations Unit, hosted by Christiane Amanpour, who also narrated the HBO special.
As the documentary notes, before Daniel Pearl was abducted, he was attempting to meet with a shadowy cleric known as Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani. There had been some suspicion that perhaps the shoebomber Richard Reid had been a follower of his. The film also mentions that Gilani was suspected of running the hawala network that al-Qaeda used to move money around. Gilani has been reported to have ties with several known al-Qaeda members. A close associate and sometime spokesman of Gilani's named Khalid Khawaja appears in the film. He is pictured in the thumbnails for Parts 4 & 5 of the video below.
In the documentary, Khawaja appears a thin, almost gaunt, soft-spoken man. He says Pearl asked him several times to set up a meeting with Gilani and that he told Pearl the shiekh would not grant an interview. After that, he doesn't know what happened. A contact of mine has met Khawaja personally and says that yes - he is a soft-spoken man, but, don't let him fool you. He is very close to Gilani and supposedly even lives with him. My contact says the two are practically "blood-brothers". Khwaja is an extremist and is very connected (both in Pakistan and Afghanistan) and has given weapons training to many jihadis. He is reportedly very good.
To provide some additional background - visitors familiar with this blog know that I have been investigating Gilani and his connections for close to a year and a half now and have also written about his friend Khawaja. Why have I been doing this? Because, likely unknown to most Americans, Gilani has maintained an active network of followers and operatives inside the United States for the last 25 years and to this day continues to do so. This network, called Al-Fuqra, which has operated sleeper cells on US soil and has connections to other terrorist groups, has been responsible for numerous firebombings and assasinations, drug and weapons trafficking, lucrative white collar schemes, and identification fraud. They have even operated terrorist training camps and conducted targeted surveillance of key infrastructure and military installations. They use various front organizations as cover for their activities - most significant among them is one called Muslims of the Americas.
Both Gilani and Khawaja have personally responded to my writing. Gilani issued a 14-page diatribe on his organization's website (http://www.iqou-moa.org/editorial/terror_roots.htm) denouncing me and The Northeast Intelligence Network for a report that we issued early last year. He said that we were "the actual perpetrators of international terrorism" because of our "racial and religious bigotry". Khawaja went so far as to leave a comment on this very blog, leaving his personal phone number and email address, saying he would clarify any confusion I might have about the Sheikh. I did not respond, nor would I recommend anyone else doing so. Khawaja is a former ISI agent and also a personal friend of Osama bin Laden.
Pearl was playing a dangerous game, but it seems the gap between Gilani's associates and the AQ cell that executed Pearl was not that wide.
That said, you should watch the film. Naturally, someone has already uploaded the film to YouTube. It's in eight parts. [UPDATE: The videos have been taken down]
Buy the DVD
The commitment of Sheikh Gilani's followers