A Terrorist Hiding In Texas?

It may be the last place on earth you'd go looking for an international terrorist, but the Lone Star Wheels and Tires shop in Fort Worth, Texas, is where the FBI thinks they've found one, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart for Eye On America.

His name is Wadih el Hage, and he may be the last person you'd expect to be charged as an international terrorist. After all, he's a U.S. citizen, Christian by birth, a graduate of the University of Southwest Louisiana, married to an American, and, until recently, the respected manager of Lone Star Wheels.

But according to the FBI, Wadih el Hage is no such thing. They allege that for three years he traveled in Africa as personal secretary to Osama bin Laden, the most prominent terrorist leader in the world today. And for at least the past year, they believe he has been bin Laden's undercover point man in America.

Furthermore, it was El Hage, they say, who bought weapons for the men who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. And it was his roommate who made the bomb that exploded outside the U.S. embassy in Nairobi this summer. If you bet all that would be hard for el Hage's old neighbors back in Texas to believe, you'd be right.

"I saw his picture in the paper, and I told my landlord, I said, 'You know what?' I said that guy that used to live, ah, ah, well hey! He's into bombin' or something. Look at that," says neighbor Faye Baker.

From the Arlington mosque el Hage prayed at, to the school several of his seven children still attend, the description we heard was always the same: quiet family man and devoted husband.

"He makes the children their breakfast every morning," says wife April.

His wife April said the FBI now constantly watches her family. She wouldn't talk about her husband's case, but she did say this:

"I basically try to stay home as much as I can, waiting in case he calls."

But from his prison cell in downtown New York, el Hage hasn't been able to phone much of anyone since his not guilty plea.

How the FBI came to finger a tire salesman in Texas as a link to the east African embassy bombings has emerged as a pivotal event in the bureau's three-month old investigation of the attacks. And what's more surprising is that they've apparently known about him for five years, and were watching him long before the embassy bombings.

His name had emerged at least twice before. Once in connection with a Muslim refugee center favored by terrorists in a Brooklyn neighborhood, and again right after the World Trade Center attack when one of the suspected bombers volunteered to investigators that the group had twice gone to a man named el Hage in Texas to buy guns.

But by 1994, he had moved to Khartoum in the Sudan, agents say. This is were the Southwest Louisiana graduate officially became personal secretary to terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

"They are drawing on bin Laden's very substantial resources," says terrorist expert Ken Katzman. He refers to people like el Hage as sleepers, and now wonders how many more like that does Osama bin Laden have hidden out there?

"That's what's been so hard for law enforcement," Katzman continues. "That these people are so well blended into the average middle class Arab Muslim family neighborhoods in the United States. They blend in perfectly."

And they will continue to live quietly among innocent Arab-Americans, some agents fear, until the next call to action by a terrorist leader a half a world away.
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

On Twitter