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ighting terror

Father denies son linked to terror

By KATHRYN WEXLER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 22, 2003

MIRAMAR -- While a worldwide hunt continued Friday for a man thought to be an al-Qaida terrorist, the suspect's father insisted that his long-absent son has no links to violent extremists.

Gulshair El Shukrijumah said his eldest son, Adnan, left the United States about five months before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He went to Trinidad by way of Panama for his import-export business.

The younger El Shukrijumah, 27, last phoned his parents five months ago, his father said. He reported he was leading a quiet life in Morocco with a new wife and baby, and teaching English.

"He doesn't tell us where he is but he normally goes between Florida and the Kingdom of (Saudi) Arabia," the elder El Shukrijumah said after emerging from his small stucco house in a working-class neighborhood south of Fort Lauderdale.

"He is a nice boy," said the father, an Islamic scholar in a traditional lavender robe and Western jacket. "I trained him to be an Islamic missionary."

Soon after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Washington, Adnan El Shukrijumah phoned his parents from Trinidad.

He cautioned his family about federal scrutiny.

"He told us, do not get panicked and stay cool, and people will come and question you," the elder El Shukrijumah said.

Indeed, authorities have been to the family's house at least a half-dozen times, most recently on Thursday.

FBI agents paint a very different portrait of the son, who was born in Saudi Arabia, sometimes worked in a Miramar used car dealership and complained about scantily clad women here.

Federal officials believe Adnan El Shukrijumah is an al-Qaida member trained to carry out deadly attacks on a grand scale, such as the 19 men who hijacked and downed four American planes 18 months ago. They say he may have taken flying lessons in Florida, which his father denies.

His name surfaced in intelligence collected after the March 1 capture of senior al-Qaida organizer Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

Officials believe he is linked to "dirty bomb" plotter Jose Padilla, who was in South Florida at the same time. Padilla is an American being held as an "enemy combatant" for allegedly planning to detonate a bomb that would spew radiological material into the air.

Law enforcement officials fielded numerous reports of possible sightings from Tallahassee to South Florida of Adnan El Shukrijumah. Officials at Vandenberg Airport east of Tampa turned over a videotape of a man matching his description who flew in and out of there Thursday. No sightings have been confirmed.

Adnan El Shukrijumah was one of six children raised and schooled in Saudi Arabia. The family moved to Trinidad so the elder El Shukrijumah could spread the word of Islam.

In 1995, the family moved to Miramar, an area of palm trees and strip malls where an Islamic community was establishing small mosques and study groups. He said he wanted his son to get a college education.

Adnan El Shukrijumah enrolled at Broward Community College from 1997 through 1999, studying computer science, but apparently did not receive a degree, said college spokeswoman Jillian Krueger Printz.

He was known to visit the small mosque next door to his house, called Masid Al'Hijrah, which his father helped establish and where he led sermons and taught classical Arabic studies. A converted house with a small, concrete courtyard, the mosque has always been a place of tolerance, said its treasurer, Farzan Mohammed.

A hand-written placard on the building Friday said: "The key to paradise is prayer and all God's creation is his family."

But he complained to his father about the United States.

"He said he did not like the lifestyle in this country and people walking around half-naked in the street," the elder El Shukrijumah said. "I said, 'Son, you're not in Saudi Arabia.' "

Adnan El Shukrijumah holds a green card but skipped out on an interview to become a U.S. citizen, said his father, a naturalized citizen originally from Guyana. The son is still a citizen of Guyana.

FBI agents say he uses a half-dozen aliases and passports from various countries, including Canada, Trinidad and Saudi Arabia.

The FBI is also is investigating Adnan El Shukrijumah's friendship with Imran Mandhai, one of two Florida college students convicted of conspiring to bomb electrical stations, a National Guard armory, Jewish businesses and Mount Rushmore, plots not carried out. The elder El Shukrijumah said the two knew each other but were never close.

"Imran used to come to me for lessons in Arabic and commentaries on the Koran," El Shukrijumah's father said. "I've never seen any negative acts by him."

When they last spoke, El Shukrijumah's father said, he and his wife advised their son to stay out of the United States.

Adnan El Shukrijumah told them his import business of robes, women's shawls and books on the Koran would soon take him to Saudi Arabia.

He gave no address or phone number, said his father. "Very rarely he contacts us," he said.

The suspicion of federal authorities was misguided, he said. He will not stand for violence -- it is not Islam.

"I feel sad about the whole thing," he said, adding, "I will not harbor anybody with those beliefs."

-- Times researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report. Information from the Associated Press and WTSP-TV Ch. 10 was also used.

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