Wadih Elias el-Hage (Arabic: وديع الحاج)|
July 25, 1960
|Occupation||Secretary for Osama bin Laden|
Wadih Elias el-Hage (Arabic: وديع الحاج, Wadī‘ al-Ḥāj) (born July 25, 1960) is a Lebanese-born American former al-Qaeda member who is serving life imprisonment in the United States for his part in the 1998 United States embassy bombings. He was indicted and arrested in 1998, and convicted on all counts and sentenced to life without parole in 2001. His sentence was overturned in 2008 because it was based on federal mandatory sentencing guidelines invalidated by the US Supreme Court in 2005. He was re-sentenced to life without parole in 2013. El-Hage and his co-defendants are currently in the supermax prison known as ADX Florence.
El-Hage was born to a Maronite Christian family on 25 July 1960 in Sidon, Lebanon, but grew up in Kuwait, where he converted to Islam. He traveled to the United States for college. From 1978, he studied urban planning at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, then-named the University of Southwestern Louisiana.
El-Hage interrupted his schooling to travel to Afghanistan via Pakistan to participate in the fighting against the USSR. He was reportedly under Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, an important figure in the early history of al-Qaeda. El-Hage returned to his university in January 1985, graduating in 1986. Married by now, to an 18-year-old American Muslim named April, he relocated to Arizona. There he held several low-wage jobs including city custodian. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1989.
Over the next few years, the el-Hage family traveled repeatedly to Pakistan, initially taking along his mother-in-law and her husband. In an interview with PBS Frontline, el-Hage's mother-in-law said, "I was the matron surgical nurse at an Afghan surgical hospital. Wadih did not actually fight, but acted as an educator. My husband went with Wadih to deliver textbooks and Qur'ans to the young people. It was a Jihad, a fight for Islam."
At an Islamic conference in Oklahoma in December 1989, el-Hage met Mahmud Abouhalima, who was later convicted for his part in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. El-Hage's prosecutors say that Abouhalima told el-Hage to buy a .38 caliber revolver, that he did so, and that El Sayyid Nosair used that revolver to kill Rabbi Meir Kahane.
Prosecutors have also suggested that el-Hage and Jamaat ul-Fuqra were involved in the murder of Dr. Rashad Khalifa on January 31, 1990, in Tucson. They believe that el-Hage knows who killed Khalifa. And even if el-Hage was not himself involved, the prosecution asked why he had not told them what he knew. El-Hage's family says he was not in the country at the time of the murder.
At some later point, el-Hage moved with his family to Arlington, Texas. He was called to the Brooklyn charity Alkifah Refugee Center, by the group's office in Tucson, via el-Hage's mosque in Arlington. Family members acknowledge that he was in contact with the Alkifah group, and say that he was called in to mediate a dispute. A week later, the group's leader, Mustafa Shalabi, was found stabbed to death in an apartment that he shared with Abouhalima. This murder is unsolved. El-Hage's family said that he cried when he heard that Shalabi was dead.
In January 1992, el-Hage was arrested for writing false checks. In the car with him was Marwan Salama, whose phone records show his contact with the conspirators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Shortly thereafter, el-Hage moved his family to Sudan and worked as a secretary for Osama bin Laden, who operated a network of businesses and charities, some of them fronts, in East Africa at the time. El-Hage often travelled to Europe in this capacity. Prosecutors believe that el-Hage became a key aide to Bin Laden. They also believe that he was trying to obtain chemical weapons for the terrorist group. Little public evidence has emerged from Sudan for these claims.
In 1994, his wife April convinced el-Hage to leave Sudan and stop working for Bin Laden's organization there. As his mother in law said, "April would have none of that. She is Muslim, but she is also American, and she wouldn't stand for it." However, prosecutors believe that el-Hage continued to work for bin Laden's organisation in Nairobi, Kenya. In Kenya, he became the director of Help Africa People, a Muslim charity organization, which Kenyan documents say helped control malaria. El-Hage also made money in the jewelry business. Prosecutors say that el-Hage was in contact in Kenya with Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri, who was al-Qaeda's #2 member until his death in 1996. The badly wanted al-Qaeda suspect Fazul Abdullah Mohammed moved in and worked at the house as a secretary. A letter, thought to be from Mohammed, suggests el-Hage was the "engineer" of this East African cell. Another al-Qaeda member, Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, admitted knowing el-Hage in Nairobi and said that el-Hage attended his wedding.
The Nairobi house was raided on August 21, 1998. el-Hage himself was questioned two days later upon his return to Nairobi from Afghanistan. el-Hage's family says that he was told to leave Kenya. In September 1998, he returned to Arlington with his family; several accounts say that he sold all of his possessions to fund the trip. However, upon arriving in the United States, he was arrested on September 15, 1998.
Before a grand jury, el-Hage denied knowing bin Laden and others accused of the embassy bombings. On 20 September, he was arrested for perjury, and has not been free since. The indictment for the bombings themselves was read on 7 October of that year.
- Copy of indictment Archived 2001-11-10 at the Library of Congress Web Archives USA v. Usama bin Laden et al., Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies
- Four embassy bombers get life, CNN.com, By Phil Hirschkorn, October 21, 2001 Posted: 10:58 AM EDT (1458 GMT)
- PBS article on el-Hage, updated 12 September 2001
- Bergen, Peter, "The Osama bin Laden I Know', 2006.
- Wadih El Hage at GlobalSecurity.org
- O. Zill, ‘A Portrait of Wadih El Hage, Accused Terrorist’, PBS, 12 September 2001.
- Cases > El Hage et al.
- Letter to El-Hage, PBS, 2001
- Benjamin, Daniel & Steven Simon. The Age of Sacred Terror, 2002
- "Wadih el-Hage." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on January 5, 2010.