The retirement of career FBI Special Agent Danny
Defenbaugh, accused by defense attorneys and plaintiffs
in the Oklahoma City bombing case of withholding key
evidence, wasn't the only dramatic development in the
continuing controversies surrounding the April 19, 1995,
attack that killed 168 people.
Insight has learned that the widow of
Philippine-government intelligence agent Edwin Angeles
has provided audiotaped testimony to an investigator
working for the American victims' families that directly
ties Iraqi intelligence agents to Terry Nichols, the man
sentenced in 1998 to life in prison for his role in
bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Building seven years ago.
Elmina Abdul is the 27-year-old widow of Angeles, one of
the cofounders of the Abu Sayyaf group, a Muslim
separatist terrorist organization in the Philippines
whose members trained in Osama bin Laden's camps in
Afghanistan. Her astonishing story, revealed in this
exclusive story for the first time, could blow the lid
off what a growing number of people believe is a U.S.
government cover-up of vital evidence in the Oklahoma
City bombing case. It also exposes an alleged plot
ginned up by former Philippine president Fidel Ramos to
manipulate Abu Sayyaf as a means of enhancing his
personal political power.
With the knowledge that she was dying of liver disease,
Elmina agreed to meet with Dorian Zumel Sicat, a Manila
Times correspondent serving as an investigative liaison
in the Philippines and the Pacific Rim for Oklahoma City
lawyer Mike Johnston, who represents the victims'
families. "I want to tell the truth of what I know of my
late husband," she said in a taped audio statement.
Angeles was "what they call a 'deep-penetration agent'"
who was working for "some very powerful men in the DND,"
the Philippine national defense-intelligence agency,
Elmina said. Angeles was arrested in 1995 after he had
negotiated a deal to turn himself in to the Philippine
authorities. By that point, the Abu Sayyaf he had helped
create in 1991 with bin Laden protιgι Abdurajjak Abu
Bakr Janjalani had carried out a series of terrorist
attacks. These included a failed assault on a U.S.
Information Agency library in Manila in January 1991
that was part of a worldwide terrorist campaign against
U.S. interests orchestrated by Iraq during the Persian
"Does the name 'Ramzi Yousef' mean something to you, Mr.
Sicat?" Elmina asked. Angeles had extensive meetings
with Yousef and two Americans, including one whom he
called "Terry" or "The Farmer," she said.
Angeles ultimately was cleared of terrorism charges at
trial, when documents proving he was working as a
government agent were produced. He was released from
prison in 1996 but not before he provided astonishing
details during a videotaped interrogation by Philippine
police authorities of his activities with Abu Sayyaf,
including the secret meetings with Iraqi intelligence
agent Yousef, Nichols and the second American identified
in the document as John Lepney.
The earliest meetings took place at a Del Monte canning
plant in Davao in late 1992 and early 1993 just prior
to the first World Trade Center bombing. Later meetings
with Nichols, Yousef and the second American whose
name has never been revealed until now took place at
Angeles' house in late 1994, according to a report on
that interrogation which has been obtained by
investigators working for attorney Johnston, who has
been joined by Judicial Watch in representing families
of those murdered in the Oklahoma City bombing.
Angeles also revealed the meetings to Elmina, who became
his third wife in 1997, "because he knew that he would
soon be killed," she said in her audiotaped statement
with Sicat, which was witnessed by a
Philippine-government official. "He wanted me to know
everything so that if anything happened to him I could
tell others." Also present at those meetings was a
half-brother of Yousef, who was using the pseudonym
Ahmad Hassim, she said.
"They met almost every day for one week. They met in an
empty bodega [warehouse]. They talked about bombings.
They mentioned bombing government buildings in San
Francisco, St. Louis and in Oklahoma. The Americans
wanted instructions on how to make and to explode bombs.
He [Edwin] told me that Janjalani was very interested in
paying them much money to explode the buildings. The
money was coming from Yousef and the other Arab."
When asked if Angeles had told her the results of those
conversations, Elmina replied: "He told me that the
Americans exploded one bomb in Oklahoma in 1995, after
he was arrested and after we first met."
Later in the interview, she chided Sicat for not knowing
that Yousef was "representing Iraq and Saddam Hussein."
"Did Edwin tell you that?" Sicat asked.
"Not only Edwin, but others that were close to us,
before he was killed," Elmina said. "One time, a
[Philippine-army] soldier and Edwin were talking
secretly. I was there because Edwin demanded [it]. The
soldier ordered Edwin never to tell anybody about the
On Jan. 14, 1999, Elmina was waiting for her husband in
an open-air market in Isabela, the provincial capital of
Basilan province. Suddenly, as he emerged from a nearby
mosque, she watched as two of his former associates
walked up behind him and, with .45-caliber automatics,
pumped six bullets into him. He staggered toward her and
died in her arms.
The video interrogation linking Nichols to Yousef, bin
Laden and Iraq initially was obtained by Stephen Jones,
the defense attorney who represented convicted Oklahoma
City bomber Timothy McVeigh. But at the insistence of
federal prosecutors, trial judge Richard P. Matsch
refused to admit it into evidence.
The judge also refused to admit into evidence the
testimony of Yousef coconspirator Abdul Hakim Murad, who
was a federal prisoner at the Metropolitan Correctional
Center in New York City. Murad was awaiting trial for
his part in Project Bojinka, a plot hatched up by Yousef
to blow up 11 U.S. 747 jetliners over the Pacific Ocean
in 1995 (see "Iraqi Connection to Oklahoma Bombing,"
April 15). On the day of the Oklahoma City bombing he
told his jailers that Yousef had orchestrated the plot.
"Why should Murad be believed?" Johnston asks
rhetorically. "For one thing, Murad made his
'confession' voluntarily and spontaneously. Most
important, Murad tied Ramzi Yousef to the Oklahoma City
bombing long before Terry Nichols was publicly
identified as a suspect." (See "Iraq Connections to U.S.
Extremists," Nov. 19, 2001.)
Johnston informed Jones last week he would be serving
him with a desk subpoena to obtain this and other
materials that were either sealed by the court or not
admitted as evidence in the McVeigh trial. Shortly after
Johnston got off the phone with him, Jones received
threatening calls from federal prosecutors in Denver and
Oklahoma City, warning him not to release the materials,
Insight is told by a close associate of the lawyer.
Jones did not return several calls by press time.
FBI spokesman Bill Carter tells Insight the FBI was
unaware of a "foreign terrorist connection" to the
Oklahoma City bombing. "There is no evidence of a
foreign connection in our files," he says. "The Oklahoma
City bombing was investigated thoroughly by the FBI; no
evidence was found that would tie it to any foreign
terrorist group. If we had found any evidence, it would
have been presented."
That statement, like so many others from the government
in this murky case, appears to be extraordinarily
misleading to the families of victims still not
convinced that they or the American public know the full
story of what happened seven years ago.
In the Philippines, the real story of the Abu Sayyaf and
its ties to Iraq, bin Laden and to former president
Ramos who is planning a comeback into Philippine
politics is a dangerous topic.
In his videotaped interrogation, Angeles says Yousef
first approached him in July 1989 as the "personal
envoy" of bin Laden to set up a new base for regional
Islamic expansion on the Muslim island of Mindanao. At
the time, bin Laden's brother-in-law, Mohammad Jamal
Khalifa, was operating commercial front companies in the
Philippines for bin Laden. This apparently led to the
creation of the Abu Sayyaf.
A former CIA station chief in Manila confirms to Insight
that bin Laden came to the Philippines personally in
1992 and was flown down to Mindanao in a government
C-130 aircraft by then-president Ramos. "Bin Laden
presented himself as a wealthy Saudi who wanted to
invest in Muslim areas and donate money to charity," the
former CIA officer says.
While Yousef was collecting money from bin Laden, he was
taking orders from Iraq and is believed by U.S.
intelligence officials to have carried out the June 20,
1994, bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine in Mashad, Iran,
on orders from Iraq. Yousef reportedly carried out that
attack with help from his own father and a younger
brother, Abdul Muneem, in conjunction with an Iraqi
front group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization, also
known as the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran.
Angeles "knew he was going to be killed by his own
people once he was released from jail," Sicat tells
Insight in a telephone interview from Davao, a city on
Mindanao. "The question is, who were his own people? Abu
Sayyaf, or the cabal who had Angeles help set them up?"
Angeles' second wife, who had prepared the meals for
Nichols and Yousef, was gunned down during a government
raid on an Abu Sayyaf safe house in 1996. Elmina died
last month just days after giving her taped audio
statements to Sicat, who tells Insight that he has
received death threats and been shot at in recent weeks
by unknown assailants. He recently has been given
round-the- clock police protection by the government,
which is investigating the attacks.
If the remaining witnesses live long enough, the only
question left is whether the Bush administration will
order the FBI to reopen its files. Or, as some of the
lawyers in the case and their clients fear, the
administration will endorse what they believe and
testimony now in hand suggests was a wider conspiracy
that was hidden by the Clinton administration and Janet
Reno's Justice Department. It may require full and open
congressional hearings if the current administration
refuses to help or otherwise blocks the federal courts
from re-examining the case to find out why the U.S.
government shut down preliminary investigations into
possible overseas links to the murder of Americans in
downtown Oklahoma City.
Timmerman is a senior writer for Insight