Married to alqaeda
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Newsweek Cover: 'Married to Al Qaeda'
In the January 14 issue of Newsweek: An exclusive interview with the wife of an Al
Qaeda operative who was convicted of conspiracy in the trial of the bombings of the
U.S. embassies in Africa; an exclusive report from Afghanistan with the U.S. Special
Forces, the team that liberated Mazar-e Sharif that led to the fall of other cities and the
collapse of Taliban rule; a report on the economy with a discussion on whether or not
things are going to get better soon; the anatomy of a figure skating routine and movie
critic David Ansen's top 15 movies of 2001. (PRNewsFoto)[JA]
NEW YORK, NY USA 01/06/2002
American Wife of Convicted Terror Conspirator Says Husband Incapable of
Murder; Osama bin Laden 'Was a Great Boss ... Not the Monster People Make Him
Out to be'
Thinks Sept. 11 Attacks Were Plotted by CIA or Israelis; Opposes Killing
Civilians but Would Consider Sending Son to Fight if Jihad Against Islam
NEW YORK, Jan. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- April Ray El-Hage, a 34-year-old suburban
Dallas housewife, describes her husband Wadih El-Hage, who, for several years,
was the personal secretary of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, as a sweet
man, a warm-hearted bumbler who is better at reading to his children than
running a business -- and who is utterly incapable of plotting mass murder.
"He didn't do anything. Everybody loves him," she tells Newsweek in an
exclusive interview in the current issue. And bin Laden? "He was a great
boss," she says. "He's not the monster people make him out to be."
(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20020106/NYSU001 )
El-Hage is serving a life sentence in a maximum-security prison for
conspiracy to commit terrorism in the August 1998 bombings of two American
embassies in East Africa that killed 250 people and injured 5,000 more. Within
Al Qaeda, El-Hage was nicknamed "the Manager," according to federal
prosecutors. For several years in the 1990s, the U.S. government alleges,
El-Hage performed nefarious chores for his terrorist boss, like purchasing a
jet plane in order to deliver Stinger missiles (he personally handed the keys
to bin Laden at a dinner party), Newsweek reports.
In several extensive interviews with Newsweek, April Ray was feisty and at
times cagey as she sought to prove her husband's innocence and good character
as he pursues an appeal. (Ray says she herself has had no involvement in
terror, and authorities never accused her of any.) For almost a decade, she
trooped along with her husband, a naturalized American citizen, to Pakistan,
the U.S., Sudan and Kenya, with their growing family (now seven children).
She, along with wives of other bin Laden followers, went to picnics at bin
Laden's family farm on the banks of the Blue Nile.
April Ray won't accept that bin Laden ordered the September 11 attacks on
New York and Washington. She suspects they were plotted by the CIA or Israeli
intelligence. She is opposed to killing civilians, but if the jihad against
the enemies and corrupters of Islam goes on, and her 15-year-old son wants to
fight, then she'd consider letting him join when he comes of age, she tells
Newsweek in the January 14 cover story "Married to Al Qaeda" (on newsstands
Monday, January 7). She says she puts her faith in the will of Allah. "As
Muslims, we accept death," she says. "We know it's part of life."
April says she never met bin Laden himself, even though he would routinely
harangue the men about the evils of corruption in Saudi Arabia. "I don't meet
the men," she tells Newsweek's Kevin Peraino.
"My husband could bring home the president of the United States and if he
didn't want me to know, I wouldn't know they were there. The women don't sit
with the men ... You don't look at the men."
She did, however, stand up to bin Laden's influence on her husband in
1994, when El-Hage told her that he was going to take a second wife. He
explained that bin Laden was encouraging men to have more than one wife
because "there are so many women who don't have husbands." But April reminded
him that in their original marriage contract, he had promised not to take a
second wife. She couldn't have forced him to divorce a second wife (who was
already under contract) because, she says, "that's un-Islamic." Instead, "I
made his life hell ... I was becoming a real b----," she says. After six
months, El-Hage relented and did not go through with his second marriage.
El-Hage was working for bin Laden's legitimate business enterprises, which
included everything from farming to chemical manufacturing. But investigators
believe that many of bin Laden's businesses are mere fronts for moving money
and supplies around the globe and that any profits are put into activities
like running terrorist training camps. At the trial, El-Hage's lawyer Sam
Schmidt countered that El-Hage worked for bin Laden's legitimate businesses,
and had nothing to do with terrorism. April says she was oblivious to her
husband's work. She was "busy, busy, busy. House house house, kids, kids,
kids, house," she says.
They moved to Nairobi in Kenya in 1995 and El-Hage went out on his own as
a trader, dealing in jewels and other commodities. But he wasn't very good at
it and April urged him to go back to work for bin Laden. Federal prosecutors
believe he never really stopped working for him.
In 1997, Kenyan police and FBI knocked on the door, telling her they
believed El-Hage's life was in danger and that someone might try to kill him.
They offered to take her in right then, but she didn't want to leave without
her husband, who was in Pakistan on business. They soon moved back to Texas.
On August 8, 1998, when she heard the news about the embassy bombings, she was
overcome by a sense of dread. "Oh my God," she says she thought to herself.
"This is really bad. We were there. They're going to think my husband did it."
El-Hage was arrested a few days later, charged with conspiracy and
perjury. (He was not accused of taking a direct role in carrying out the
embassy bombings, but rather of conspiring to kill Americans at the embassies
and around the world.)
He was convicted in a trial in May 2001. Although El-Hage wrote his wife
letters, they have not spoken in person or over the phone since Sept. 11.
(Read Newsweek's news releases at http://www.Newsweek.MSNBC.com.