- Member of the Portland Seven terrorist group
- Sympathized with the Taliban and al Qaeda
Born in Jordan on November 19, 1965, Habis Abdulla Al-Saoub (a.k.a. “Abu Tarek”) was a member of the Portland Seven, an Oregon-based cell of Islamic terrorists who conspired to levy war against the United States and to provide material support for al Qaeda and the Taliban. Al-Saoub’s fellow Portland Seven members included Maher Mofeid Hawash, Patrice Lumumba Ford, Ahmed Abrahim Bilal, Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal, Jeffrey Leon Battle, and October Martinique Lewis.
A fundamentalist Sunni Muslim, Al-Saoub fought as a mujahadeen against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s. He subsequently resided in Peshawar, Pakistan until 1993, at which time he immigrated to the United States and settled in Portland, Oregon where he became a permanent resident alien. In Portland, Al-Saoub worked variously as a parking lot attendant, computer assembler, and auto mechanic.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Al-Saoub and some of his male accomplices from the Portland Seven underwent training in the use of shotguns, assault rifles, and semiautomatic pistols. On September 29, 2001, Deputy Sheriff Mark Mercer, acting on a tip from someone who had heard gunfire, discovered Al-Saoub, Patrice Lumumba Ford, Jeffrey Leon Battle, and a few other men engaged in shooting practice in a gravel pit in Skamania County, Washington. After taking the men’s names, Mercer let them go and reported the incident to the FBI.
On October 17, 2001—ten days after the U.S. had begun its post-9/11 military operations against Taliban and al Qaeda strongholds in Afghanistan—Al-Saoub fled to his native Jordan in order to avoid being arrested and interrogated with regard to the September 29 incident. Soon thereafter, he and his five male allies from the Portland Seven—calling themselves by the Arabic name Katibat Al-Mawt (“The Squad of Death”)—traveled to China in hopes of gaining entry from there into Pakistan and ultimately Afghanistan, where they planned to join the al Qaeda and Taliban forces that were engaged militarily against American soldiers. Only Al-Saoub actually made it into Afghanistan, thanks largely to the help of his new Pakistani wife. The others, finding that they were unable to breach Afghanistan’s sealed-off borders, returned to the U.S. between November 19, 2001 and February 2002.
Meanwhile, back in the United States, FBI agents examined Al-Saoub’s belongings and discovered, among them, a seventeen-page, hand-written Arabic document entitled A Martyr’s Will. Lamenting that the animosity and threats of other nations had brought “disgrace and humiliation” to his homeland, this document’s unnamed Afghani author exhorted his “brave” countrymen to “[keep] the jihad going” in a “manly stand against the enemy.” Quoting the prophet Muhammad’s seventh-century proclamation that abandoning the cause of jihad is an act every bit as disgraceful as renouncing the Islamic faith outright, the document urged all the world’s Muslims to follow the Afghani example and “fight the tyrants of the earth.”
Al-Saoub was never apprehended. He was killed in October 2003 by Pakistani forces targeting an al Qaeda group suspected of crossing into Afghanistan to attack a U.S. base near the remote town of Shkin.
Further Reading: “Habis Abdulla Al-Saoub” (FBI.gov); “Terrorist Blamed His Failure on Bush” (by Terence P. Jeffrey, 2-10-Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (by