A car bomb that killed Islamic radical Abdullah Azzam and his two sons in Peshawar, Pakistan, in 1989 went unnoticed here, but some experts say his teachings inspired local fundraising for a group that later became al-Qaida.
Five years after Sept. 11, Mr. Azzam's name and face are nearly unrecognizable, compared with his former partner and successor, Osama bin Laden, who remains at large.
Mr. Azzam, considered by some experts to be the godfather of worldwide Islamic jihad, inspired a former Boston charity with some Central Massachusetts connections to raise money from local sources for terror groups, including organizations with ties to al-Qaida, before Sept. 11. Two men, Muhamed Mubayyid of Shrewsbury and Emadeddin Muntasser of Brookline, were charged in federal court in Worcester with providing the U.S. government false information about the charity, Care International, among other charges. They are not charged with supporting or financing terrorists.
A pair of highly regarded terrorism analysts say Care International was raising money for the global jihad at a time when no one here was paying attention.
"It is related to al-Qaida, there's no doubt about that," said Rachel Ehrenfeld, a terrorism researcher and author who wrote "Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed - and How to Stop It."
Mr. Mubayyid, Mr. Muntasser and several others worked for Care International, which operated from about 1993 to around 2003, when it ceased. The FBI says Care International was an outgrowth and successor organization to the Boston branch of the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, a Muslim charity. Al-Kifah's Brooklyn headquarters gained notoriety in 1993 when members were linked to the first bombing of the World Trade Center. After the 1993 bombing, the Boston branch changed its name to Care International, which is the basically same name of the well-known, worldwide charity based in Atlanta, Care. The two were not affiliated. Suheil Laher, a former president of Care International, told the FBI that Al-Kifah's Boston branch changed its name because it didn't want to be associated with its Brooklyn parent after media reports linked the Brooklyn branch to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Mr. Laher wrote and distributed material advocating the global jihad in Care International's name, according to the Investigative Project, a Washington, D.C.-based terrorism research group led by author and journalist Steven Emerson. Mr. Emerson, author of "American Jihad: The Terrorists Among Us," has one of the largest archival intelligence centers in the world on Islamic terrorism. Mr. Emerson began researching the organization in 1993, while researching terrorism funding in America.
The project researched Care International and several people who worked there, compiling newsletters and Web postings that were published and distributed by the organization.
The FBI raided a unit that belonged to Care International at a Northboro storage facility in April 2003 during its investigation of the charity and confiscated more than 18,000 pages of material, 40 videotapes, four computer hard drives and 100 computer diskettes, among other evidence that belonged to the organization, according to court records.
Introducing a piece by Mr. Azzam, Mr. Laher wrote the following, according to information held by the project:
"The martyred shaykh and mujahid, `Abdullah' Azzam (may Allah's mercy be upon him) dispels some common misconceptions/misgivings about the practical realization of jihad today. The extract following is from `Al-Difa' an `Aradi al-Muslimeen' (Defence of the Muslim Lands). Please note that the text is copyrighted. With all due respect to other shaykhs, the fatwa of a shaykh living in the midst of a situation must be given priority to someone speaking from the outside. In addition, those who perform ribat and jihad are in a spiritually sharpened state of mind, which makes their fatawa very weighty and valuable. Thus, whenever an issue was ambiguous or enigmatic for people, they would say, `Ask the people of the frontline, for they are the closest of people to Allah.'"
The "misconceptions/misgivings" Mr. Laher referred to were related to an Islamic call to arms and how Muslims should participate, given other responsibilities.
"If only the Muslims applied the command of their Lord, and executed the verdict of their Shariah in going out to Palestine (for jihad) for a single week, palestine(sic) would be permanently purified of the Jews," Mr. Azzam wrote.
Care International's newsletter was named "Al-Hussam," which means "The Sword." The group solicited donations from area Muslims to satisfy the Muslim duty "zakat" which requires devotees to donate a percentage of their income to charity.
Mr. Muntasser served as Care International's president from 1993 from 1996 and Mr. Mubayyid served as the charity's treasurer from 1997 to 2003.
Ms. Ehrenfeld, a leading authority on terrorism financing, is director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy and the Center for the Study of Corruption & the Rule of Law. One advisory board member of the organization is R. James Woolsey, former director of the CIA. She says Mr. Azzam inspired al-Qaida, and anyone who distributed or published his material was savvy to that.
"Abdullah Azzam was bin Laden's mentor, who planned the development and globalization of the jihad movement. For them (Care International) to say they didn't know who he was, is like saying they don't know who is bin Laden," Ms. Ehrenfeld said.
A publication of Al-Hussam claimed that Mr. Azzam himself founded the Boston-based Care International, according to the FBI.
"Care is a nonprofit organization founded by Imam Abdullah Azzam to provide services to war victims and refugees around the world," according to a Care International pamphlet cited by the FBI in a court filing.
The FBI claims that Care International raised about $1.7 million from 1993 to 2003. The CIA estimated that al-Qaida spent about $20 million annually before Sept. 11. Care International claimed to raise money for widows and orphans of mujahedeen fighters but even such purported charitable causes aids terrorist organizations, Ms. Ehrenfeld said.
"Since money is fungible," she said, "they often use it to pay for more martyrs, thus creating more widows and orphans."
Muslim charities sometimes blurred the line between legitimate charitable causes and nefarious ones, said Tamar Tesler, a researcher at the Investigative Project. U.S.-based Muslim charities often sold two different versions of their mission - one for legitimate charitable purposes, such as raising money for the needy, and the other, for funding the global jihad.
"A lot of their donors didn't want to hear about jihad," Ms. Tesler said.
Care International claimed it raised money for widows and orphans - which it may have legitimately done - but it also raised money for terror groups, according to the FBI. Court records in the Worcester case say checks deposited into Care International accounts had phrases such as "for jihad only" and "Bosnia Jihad fund" and "Chechen Muslim Fighters" handwritten on the memo lines of donors' personal checks.
After Sept. 11 the Treasury Department placed numerous organizations on a specially designated terrorist watch list. The first group it put on the list was Makhtab al-Khidamat/Al-Kifah, on Sept. 23, 2001. Makhtab al-Khidamat, translates to "the Services Office" in English, a group that the FBI says was founded by Mr. Azzam and a precursor to al-Qaida. The Boston-based Care sent about $60,000 to the "Human Service Office," or variations of that name, in Bosnia, according to the FBI. The agency believes the money was intended for Makhtab al-Khidamat.
Mr. Azzam was a Palestinian radical who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan and inspired Islamic radicals, including Osama bin Laden, to undertake global jihad. When the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1988, Mr. Azzam and bin Laden were considered the two leading jihadists, though they may have had different agendas. Mr. Azzam, a Palestinian, may have desired to focus on his homeland and the Israelis, while bin Laden had larger ambitions. His murder was never solved by Pakistani authorities. His words were distributed by Care International in Massachusetts for several years.
Mr. Muntasser told a member of the agency's Joint Terrorism Taskforce that he visited Peshawar, Pakistan, in 1994 for humanitarian purposes. He later told a federal immigration officer that he traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan seven times between March 1993 and November 1997, including one 30-day trip to the two countries from December 1994 to January 1995.
Much of the case involving Mr. Muntasser and Mr. Mubayyid is sealed, with the government submitting sealed motions and a judge issuing an order forbidding the defense lawyers from giving information to reporters. The defense, however, submitted a lengthy request for information to the court, asking a judge to compel the prosecutors to share more information with them.