American Muslim fugitive with al Qaeda ties arrested in Belize
Police in Belize on Dec. 19 arrested an American Muslim with ties to al Qaeda who pleaded guilty in 2003 to conspiring to provide cash, computers and fighters to the Taliban, but fled after agreeing to cooperate in ongoing investigations.
Authorities said James Ujaama, who was wanted for parole violation, entered Belize, a small country on the eastern coast of Central America, 10 days ago using a phony Mexican passport.
“The police conducted an investigation, and some time around midnight last night or earlier this morning, this fugitive was appre- hended here in Belize City,” said acting Police Chief Eduardo Wade, adding that one Belizean police inspector was treated and later released for injuries he received when Ujaama “attempted to escape during his apprehension.”
Ujaama,whoservedtwoyearsin a plea agreement on charges of dealing with al Qaeda and providing various types of material support to the Taliban, has since been turned over to U.S. authorities, said Leonard Hill, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy.
Mr. Hill said Ujaama’s immediate crime was a parole violation, but he could face additional charges and also is being held as a material witness in other terror-related cases.
“One indication of his status may be that federal officials sent down a private plane to bring him back to the States,” Mr. Hill said.
Ujaama, also known as Ernest James Thompson, was first arrested in Denver in July 2002 as a material witness and later named in a federal grand jury indictment of providing resources to al Qaeda. The indictment said he was attempting to create a camp for training terrorists near Bly, Ore., between October and December of 1999.
In April 2003, the government filed a superseding complaint saying Ujaama took money, computer equipment and women to Taliban officials in Afghanistan. In February 2004, he agreed to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors — especially for what he knew about radical London cleric Abu Hamza alMasri, who has since been convicted in Britain of inciting murder and racial hatred.
Al-Masri, the one-eyed former head of the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, preached hatred to hundreds of young Muslims, including Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the U.S. in connection with the September 11 attacks.
Ujaama, a former community activist in Seattle, converted to Islam in the post-civil rights era. While traveling in England in 1999, he purportedly met with al-Masri and then traveled to Afghanistan to study Shariah, according to family friends. Shariah refers to the legal frameworkwithinwhichpublicand some private aspects of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on Muslim principles of jurisprudence.
As part of the plea agreement, which limited his prison terms to just two years, he admitted delivering currency and other items to persons in the territory of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban, and that with the assistance of the Taliban, he entered the country to install software programs he had brought with him on computers belonging to Taliban officials.