Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hispanic Criminal Willing to Carry out Al Qaeda's Dirty Work

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hispanic Criminal Willing to Carry out Al Qaeda's Dirty Work

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES LANGTON;CHRIS MILLAR

THE suspect at the centre of the plot to detonate a "dirty bomb" in a US city was last night revealed to have a history of crime, including membership of one of America's most notorious street gangs.

JosE Padilla, 31, who changed his name to Abdullah al Muhajir after converting to Islam, joined the Latin Kings as a teenager in Chicago and is said to have been involved in a gangland murder when he was 13.

FBI officials have refused to reveal his record as a juvenile, but he is known to have been arrested five times in Chicago for assault and other crimes between 1985 and 1991.

Born in Brooklyn in 1970, Padilla moved to Chicago with his parents when he was four. His baby-faced looks won him the nickname "Pudgy" - but from his early childhood he showed a tendency towards the episodes of violence which marked his life.

After a spell in school for troubled children, Padilla moved to Florida to live with a girlfriend and work in hotels. He struggled to hold down a job, but found acceptance with the infamous Latin Kings.

He was sent to prison in 1991 after a road rage incident in Fort Lauderdale which he fired a shot at another driver after a minor accident. He served a total of 195 days in prison for the offence.

While on probation he began his conversion to Islam and changed his name.

But despite his religious conversion, he continued to commit offences of violence. While serving a subsequent one-year prison sentence he attacked a sheriff 's deputy and was arrested nearly a dozen times in 1997 for traffic offences that included driving without a licence and speeding.

It is thought he met Abu Zubeida, said to be Osama bin Laden's chief of staff and the highest ranking al Qaeda official to be captured, in Afghanistan last year, prior to the World Trade Center attacks, then travelled to Pakistan where he was taught the basics of handling a "dirty bomb" at an al-Qaeda safehouse in Lahore. …

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