MIAMI -- He was not a member of the South Florida "sleeper" cell that plotted the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but former Broward County Community College student Adnan El Shukrijumah has risen to the top ranks of al-Qaida's global operations, according to the Justice Department.
The Saudi-born El Shukrijumah, who studied computer science and chemistry at the community college, left his family's home in Miramar, Fla., for Trinidad the week before the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults. His whereabouts were a mystery for years.
But last July, the 35-year-old was charged along with four others in an alleged al-Qaida plot to attack New York's subway system and targets in England.
El Shukrijumah, a one-time legal U.S. resident and citizen of Guyana, is now a fugitive believed to be in Pakistan, according to the FBI.
El Shukrijumah "served as one of the leaders of al-Qaida's external operations program," federal authorities said in 2010. He was accused in an indictment of recruiting three other defendants to return to the United States to carry out terrorist attacks in New York.
The federal government is offering a reward up to $5 million for information leading directly to his capture.
The indictment, alleging a conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and other terrorist offenses, revealed that the plot was uncovered in September 2009 and directed by high-ranking al-Qaida operatives in Pakistan.
According to the FBI, El Shukrijumah and two other al-Qaida leaders were part of an "external operations council" that designed and approved terrorism plots. His counterparts were killed in U.S. drone attacks, leaving El Shukrijumah as the operations chief.
"It's not true," his mother, Zurah Adbu Ahmed, told South Florida's Sun Sentinel last August.
She could not be reached for comment Monday. The phone number for her Miramar residence was disconnected.
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El Shukrijumah, despite his notoriety, is not nearly as infamous in South Florida as one-time enemy combatant Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen of Puerto Rican descent.
Padilla, a former Chicago gang member, was recruited at a Broward County mosque and traveled overseas to train with al-Qaida, authorities said. He was convicted with two others in Miami federal court in 2007 of conspiring to commit murder while providing material support such as money, recruits and equipment for "violent jihad" overseas.
The region's other major terrorism case: the prosecution of the so-called Liberty City Seven, a group of inner-city men who were arrested in 2006 on charges of plotting with al-Qaida to blow up high-profile buildings in Miami, Chicago and other cities.
The FBI sting operation, which involved the use of a Middle Eastern man posing as an al-Qaida financier, led to the conviction of five defendants and acquittal of two after three controversial trials.
(c) 2011, The Miami Herald.
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