Intelligence Confirms: Arab Egyptian Was An Islamic Jihad

by DEBKAfile

5 July 2002


Hashem Mohamed Hadayat, 41, who gunned down Yakov Aminov, 46, and Vicky Hen, 25 – both from Los Angeles - on the 4th of July at the El Al terminal of Los Angeles, and wounded 7 others, is revealed by DEBKAfile’s intelligence and counter-terror sources as a Muslim extremist. During his ten years in the United States, he was a secret operative of the Egyptian Jihad who maintained undercover links to the same Jihad cell in Brooklyn, New York, as the “blind sheikh” Abdul Rahim Rahman and Ramzi Yousef. Both are doing time for perpetrating the first attack on the New York World Trade Center in 1993.

Hadayat is also believed to have abetted a previous, contrived airline disaster: On October 31, 1999, an Egyptair Boeing 767 Flight 990, which also took off from Los Angeles airport for Kennedy, New York. After Kennedy, the plane bound for Cairo plunged into the Atlantic off the Nantucket Island, Mass. coast, killing all 217 passengers and crew. In a special probe, the US National Transportation Safety Board found that the copilot Gameel el-Batouty was at the controls when the plane went into its dive. His voice was recorded shouting, “I put my faith in Allah!”

The report held back from referring more directly to the Egyptian copilot’s responsibility for the crash.

Our sources affirm that Hadayat, who lived in Irvine, California, 70 km south of Los Angeles, knew Batouty well. There are also indications that, in the years 1998 and 1999, Hadayat was in touch with a group of high Egyptian air force officers and helicopter pilots posted at the time at Edwards Base north of Los Angeles. They were there to learn how to install command and control centers in Egypt’s air defense systems, operate anti-air missile batteries and fly Apache gunships. Most of those officers were on the doomed Egyptian airliner after completing their courses.

Although the long-delayed US Transportation Board report never referred to the presence of this high-ranking Egyptian air force delegation on the flight, DEBKAfile ’s Washington sources reported at the time that most of the investigators were satisfied that Batouty could not have seized control of the Boeing 767 without the aid – certainly the compliance - of those officers.

Two years ago, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak exerted all his influence on President Clinton to keep the federal board’s findings out of its published report and, above all, the fact that a group of Egyptian air force officers was on the plane. He warned that citing the Egyptian copilot as deliberately causing the crash would have a negative effect on Egyptian-US relations.
The report therefore fell short of clear conclusions.

Hadayat’s murderous attack on El Al flight 106 passengers points back to the Egyptair 990 disaster of 1999, reviving the many questions left open by that earlier, half stifled inquiry, which carefully stepped round any suggestion of terrorism. It also raises the question of how many sleeper cells the Egyptian Jihad, al Qaeda’s primary operational arm, maintains in American cities.
Hadayat struck the El Al ticket line on his 42nd birthday. The initial FBI inquiry found through records of his fingerprints at the Department of Motor Vehicles, which issued him with a limousine license, that he was married with at least one child, and had lived in Irvine for the last two years, working on a green card.

Since the attack, the possibility that he arrived in America as a sleeper terrorist must be seriously addressed. US investigators realize he was not a lone operative and are seeking his accomplices in such matters as setting up the hit, providing the guns he carried and intelligence on the security situation at the Tom Brady terminal.

DEBKAfile’s Middle East intelligence sources report that early Friday, Egyptian intelligence officers picked up Hadayat’s relatives and associates in Cairo, to try and trace the identities of his fellows in the American Jihad cell.