Karim Mejjati was a mid-level organizer for al-Qa'ida, typical of an increasingly important role of field directors in the movement. Mejjati, a Moroccan, is believed to have been involved in al-Qa'ida related attacks in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Spain. He was listed as wanted by the governments of Morocco (where he was convicted in absentia to 20 years in prison for his involvements in May 2003 bomb attacks), Saudi Arabia, and the United States. In April 2005, Mejjati was killed along with his son by Saudi security forces in a raid in the town of Ar Rass, Saudi Arabia.
His background was affluent in Casablanca, Morocco. He was raised by a Moroccan father and a French mother in a cosmpolitan neighborhood. After attending a prestigious French-language school, Mejjati enrolled in a medical school in France in the early 1990s. Within a few years, he returned to Morocco a changed man. Mejjati's faith had become much more devout. His dress was traditional Islamic and he wore a beard typical of those with Islamist beliefs. By publicly scolding those around him who did not live strictly according to his hardline interpretation of Islam, he caused controversy. At some point in the decade, Mejjati started a family, marrying a Moroccan woman and having two sons with her.
Mejjati's ideology translated into action. He became involved in the al-Qa'ida movement at some point in the late 1990s. US officials have stated that he entered the US at some point between 1997-1999. According to Saudi government sources, Mejjati was sent to Saudi Arabia from Afghanistan by the al-Qai'ida leadership in 2002 to set up a network of cells. He is suspected to have worked under the direction of Yusuf Ayeri, the first chief of al-Qa'ida in Arabia, a man who reported directly to Usama Bin Ladin. Mejjati is believed to have been involved in the May 2003 bombings in Riyadh.
That same month, simultaneous bombings took place in Casablanca at a Jewish center, a restaurant, a nightclub, and a hotel. The May 16 attacks were the deadliest in Moroccan history with 45 dead. At first, the attacks were believed to have been locally organized. Mejatti's name came up while Moroccan officials interrogated another suspect in the case. Before it had been confirmed that Mejjati was providing explosives training in the country, but there was no concrete connection with the attacks. After new evidence arose, Moroccan officials believe that the attack was indeed planned by al-Qa'ida with Mejjati as the point man.
The FBI released a bulletin in September 2003 announcing that they were seeking information on Mejjati in conjunction with possible threats on the United States. Investigators knew that he had entered the US at least twice in the late 1990s. The details of any involvement on the behalf of Mejjati in operations targeting the US are unclear however.
Mejjati is believed to have been connected to the cell behind the Madrid train attacks on 11 March 2004. The connection comes through another Moroccan, Amer Azizi, who Spanish authorities indicted in the aftermath of the attack and who remains at large. Mejjati and Azizi were both involved with the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (MICG) at a high level. According to officials, MICG were responsible for the recruitment of the muscle in the 11 March operation.
While Mejjati is not confirmed to have ever been in Spain, the search for him shifted to Europe after threats appeared in Belgium that credited him as inspiration. The arrest of Hussein Hoammed Haski in Antwerp intensified fears that Mejjati was planning operations there, as the two Moroccans were known associates. Some at the time did not put faith in these theories and instead believed that Mejjati was in hiding in an area such as Pakistan.
In April 2005 the search for Mejjati ended after he was confirmed killed in a gunfight with Saudi security forces. His presence in Saudi Arabia came as an admitted surprise to the Saudis, a testiment to his tradecraft. Following up on a tip of militant activity in the town of Ar Rass, northwest of Riyadh, Saudi forces became engaged in a skirmish that left 15 militants dead. Upon examination of the dead, it became clear that Mejjati and his son were among them.
Mejjati's case offers a telling glimpse inside al-Qa'ida, especially at the mid-level operatives who are believed to carry out most of the planning and execution of attacks, rather than high level leadership such as Usama Bin Ladin and Ayman al-Zawahiri.
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