Federal News Radio:
A South African woman picked up in Texas almost 10 days ago may turn out to be a key, high-level al-Qaida operative.
Her name is Farida Goolam Mohamed Ahmed. She was stopped at McAllen Miller International Airport on July 19. She was headed to New York.
Eddie Flores of the U.S. Border Patrol office in McAllen, Texas, tells FederalNewsRadio.com that a review of her papers raised some concerns.
"In looking at her documents, they did not find any entry documents in her passport where she was legally admitted into the United States," says Flores.
Ahmed produced a South African passport to the agents with four pages torn out, and with no U.S. entry stamps. Ahmed reportedly later confessed to investigators that she entered the country illegally by crossing the Rio Grande River. Ahmed was carrying travel itineraries showing a July 8 flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, to London. Six days later, Ahmed traveled from London to Mexico City before attempting to travel from McAllen to New York.
Government sources tell FederalNewsRadio.com that capturing this woman could be comparable to the arrest of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of 9/11. It was revealed in court Tuesday that she was on a watch list and had entered the U.S. possibly as many as 250 times.
Tuesday, the South African government issued a warning that al-Qaida militants and other terrorists traveling through Europe had obtained South African passports, and authorities believe they got them from crime syndicates operating inside the government agency that issues the documents.