Arab LAX Gunman Was Well Known To Airport Security!

by DEBKAfile

7 July 2002

Hesham Mohamed Hadayat was no stranger toEl Al’s Los Angeles airport office.

According to DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources, the man who murdered two Israelis on the El Al ticket line at Los Angeles airport on July 4th worked for the American Mercury ground service company from 1993 (one year after he arrived in the US) until 1998, when he left to set up his own limousine service for air passengers.

Exactly what he did at Mercury is vague, but during his five years in their employ, this former bank clerk from Cairo was free to move around Los Angeles international airport. Our sources reveal that during that time, he aroused the suspicions of El Al security personnel who warned airport security. When no action was taken, they put him under surveillance. El Al asked Mercury to rearrange Hadayat’s shifts for periods when none of its planes were scheduled, which Mercury agreed to do.

After the 4th of July attack, in order not to clash directly with the US authorities who refused to identify it as a terrorist assault, El Al and Israeli security spokesmen said that even if the Egyptian gunman was not a proven member of a terrorist group, his crime ranked as an act of terror.

However, Sunday, July 7 the influential Arabic London-based Al Hayat followed the original DEBKAfile disclosure of July 5 - that Hadayat was a member of the Egyptian Jihad Islami - and took it a step further. According to the Arabic paper, the Egyptian gunman met Dr. Ayman Zuwahri, the Jihad Islami chief who is Osama bin Laden’s deputy, twice in California – once in 1995 and again in 1998.

According to DEBKAfile’s sources, it was at that second encounter that Hadayat was told to leave his job with Mercury and given capital to set up his small limousine firm, so as to take advantage of his access to airport facilities and airline personnel contacts, while at the same time shaking off any watchers.

The Al Hayat report places Dr. Zuwahri in California unobserved less than three years before the 9/11 hijacking attacks in America and a year and a half before the Egyptair disaster.

The Hadayat family lives in Cairo. His father, a retired Egyptian army general, and his uncle, a former minister of science, admit that Hesham was a fervent Muslim who did what he could to encourage everyone to read the Koran. They say he was happy in Irvine, California. His neighbors in that Los Angeles suburb tell a different story, that he hated Israelis and Jews and asked one of them to take down the American and US Marine flags put up after 9/11.

From all the foregoing, our counter-terror experts cite Hesham Hadayat as a classical Al Qaeda plant. He was positioned at Los Angeles airport in the early 1990s to bide his time for the right moment to carry out a terrorist attack against an El Al flight. When Hayat’s handlers saw he was under observation, they made him lower profile. His assignment was revised to fit his role as a limousine driver familiar to the Tom Bradley terminal staff and free to move around - namely to shoot down a line of passengers waiting to board an El Al flight.

Although from 1994 or 1995 at the latest, Hadayat was brought to the notice of American security, was under the eye of El Al security, and the Egyptian authorities must have known about him, he was never investigated - even after 9/11. The FBI has admitted he figured on no watch list for terrorists. This left him perfectly free to carry out his mission on behalf of the extremist Islamic organization – all of which raises some hard questions about the way in which the war against terror is carried out in the United States.