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Pakistan: Shopping trip led to arrest of Padilla

©Associated Press
June 14, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- "Dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla went to a Central Asian country in search of radioactive components before returning to the United States, where he was arrested last month, the Associated Press reported, citing Pakistani officials it did not name.

U.S. officials say they have no information that Padilla traveled to another Central Asian country earlier this year in search of radiological weapon components.

The Pakistani officials refused to identify the Central Asian country or say whether Padilla was successful. He was arrested by the FBI on May 8 in Chicago after stops in Switzerland and Egypt, U.S. officials say.

According to the Pakistani authorities quoted by the AP, the search for the Brooklyn-born Padilla, 31, also known as Abdullah al Muhajir, began shortly after the arrest in March of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant, Abu Zubaydah, who was detained in a raid on a safehouse in Faisalabad.

Zubaydah is in U.S. custody.

Padilla apparently had been assigned by Zubaydah to explore the possibility of causing maximum damage to Americans, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

He traveled to the Central Asian country in April, then returned to Pakistan and left from the southern city of Karachi, officials said.

Pakistani intelligence officers said at least two Padilla associates are in custody in Pakistan, undergoing questioning by the FBI.

Padilla went to mosque linked to terror funds

MIAMI -- A man accused of taking part in a plot to explode a radiological device in the United States once worshiped at a mosque whose former leader raised money for a Muslim charity suspected of financing terrorists.

Jose Padilla, 31, attended prayer services and studied the Koran at Masjid Al-Iman in Fort Lauderdale in the months before he left to study overseas in 1998, acquaintances said Thursday.

Raed Awad, the mosque's prayer leader, or imam, at the time served as the chief fundraiser in Florida for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, according to state records.

The Texas-based charity's offices were raided and shuttered by the Treasury Department in December as part of a terrorism investigation. The Bush administration has linked the charity to the Islamic militant group Hamas.

Holy Land officials have denied supporting terrorism, saying they raise money for humanitarian and disaster relief.

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