From Vietnam to 9/11, via the CIA: How US Special Forces Veterans Aided Al Qaeda

by Anthony C Heaford, updated 29 July 2023

I first met Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s financiers in April 1997 at a printing industry trade show held at McCormick Place exhibition centre in Chicago. They were purchasing approximately $3-million of printing machinery to furnish KSM’s front company in Taiz city Yemen 17-miles south of a town called Al Qa’idah. The second time I met those financiers was in September 1997 when my employer (my family’s business J M Heaford Ltd based in Manchester England) sent me to Taiz to install the printing machinery those financiers had purchased at the exhibition in Chicago. On the last day of that six day business trip to Yemen I was introduced to ‘the Engineer’ (KSM) before being taken to an unscheduled meeting in a secluded valley one-mile from Al Qa’idah town where an attempt was made to recruit me to their organisation. Concerned about missing my flight home and with no idea who these people were or what the purpose of that unscheduled meeting was, I cut the meeting short and resumed my journey home. I now know it was an attempt to recruit me to KSM’s wider terrorist network.

Who were KSM’s financiers? A Yemeni family business called the Hayel Saeed Anam (HSA) Group, a multi-billion dollar global conglomerate established in the British Crown colony of Aden in 1938. Aden had been under British control since it was invaded and capture by the private British East India company in 1839 and then ruled over and controlled by the British Raj of India until 1937. The HSA Group prospered under British rule in Aden but was forced out by Arab nationalist forces very soon after Britain’s departure in 1967, which was when they moved their business headquarters to Taiz city, just over the border between the then divided North and South Yemen. HSA maintained their close relationship with Britain, opening their London office called Longulf Trading in 1977, through which the printing machinery purchases in Chicago had been made. 

Five years after opening that London office HSA’s first documented links to terrorism funding can be found. In 1982 a HSA director gave his power of attorney to an Eritrean businessman called Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, the owner of another multi-billion dollar global conglomerate established in another British colony - Nigeria. In 1984 that power of attorney was used to setup a financial shell company in Switzerland called the Malaysian Swiss Gulf and African Chamber, or MIGA for short. After 9/11 MIGA, Nasreddin and a multitude of his business interests were designated as terrorist financiers by the US Treasury. In August 2002 US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill described Nasreddin and his partner as "supporters of terrorism" involved in "an extensive financial network providing support to Al Qaeda and other terrorist-related organisations.” The HSA director was not included in that US Treasury terrorist financier designation though and HSA explained away his links to Nasreddin by saying he’d forgotten about giving him his power of attorney in 1982. Nasreddin, MIGA and his other business interests (including banks registered in the British Bahama’s tax haven) were removed from the US Treasury terrorist financier designation list in 2007. They were not cleared of financing terrorism though; bizarrely they just promised “not to do it again” and that was enough for the US Treasury.

HSA also used Caribbean tax havens, becoming directors of a financial shell company called Atlantic Investments in the British Cayman Islands in March 1997, just prior to their April shopping spree in Chicago. The founders of Atlantic Investments (setup in 1994) were members of the St Clair-Morgan family of Jersey (another British tax haven), at least one of whom has been accused of money laundering and arms dealing. HSA continued their shopping spree in Britain in May by establishing Cepac Limited, Britain’s largest cardboard packaging company by purchasing and amalgamating several existing British companies. The chairman of HSA’s London office Longulf Trading is also an honorary vice president of the British-Yemeni Society (setup in 1993) whose other members include significant British diplomats and Establishment figures. 

From Vietnam, via the CIA

How does all this relate to Vietnam and the CIA? In brief, I believe my employer’s machine sale to the HSA Group in 1997 Chicago was setup by a US Vietnam war veteran who was contracting for rogue elements of British and US Intelligence agencies. His name was Dave Dean, my employer’s US salesman. I had first met Dean in 1988 when working part-time for my family’s company during my last summer holiday after finishing school. My brother Paul and I had collected Dean from Manchester airport to travel to an industry trade show in Birmingham. Despite Paul appearing to know him well I was told Dean was new to the role with my family’s company and to the printing industry too. Paul moved to Kentucky in the 1990s, working directly for Dean as his service technician in the USA, but that role also included some international travel, specifically installing my family company’s first machine sale to the HSA Group in Yemen in 1993/94. That machine sale helped my family company win their second Queen’s Award for Export Achievement in 1995. They won their first Queen’s Award in 1987, a year after selling a gravure proofing press to the government mint of the CIA backed junta in El Salvador. My father had installed that machine in 1986 and he later described to me how after collecting him from the airport his El Salvadorian government driver had driven him slowly passed a recently executed young man. My Father told me about this after collecting me from school that same summer, described a pool of fresh blood seeping across the pavement from head wound, alluding to the dangerous nature of his business and customers with a certain sense of pride. Over the course of the trade show in Birmingham in 1988 I was told about Dean’s service in Vietnam and that he fought in the 1969 battle for Hill 937, famously known as Hamburger Hill. Although he didn’t elaborate too much on his experiences there Dean did tell me a couple of things. He explain he was not as old as he looked on account of his stark white hair which had turned that colour almost overnight after a particularly stressful incident (he didn’t say what). He told me his military career ended abruptly after an in-country (Vietnam) parachute training accident ‘broke nearly every bone in his body’, and that he’d spent the remainder of the war running a go-go bar in the Philippines, one right next to the US airforce’s base in Angeles city. In November 2019, over thirty years after Dean told me about his parachute training accident, I discovered the only such training in Vietnam at that time (post 1969) was run by a legendary special forces operator called Billy Waugh who went on to contract for the CIA, work that included training President Gaddafi’s special forces in 1970s Libya and, by Waugh’s own confession, spying on Osama bin Laden in 1990s Sudan and training Al Qaeda fighters in 1990s Yemen. Since the Saudi led coalitions attacks on Yemen had began in 2015 I’d been investigating my vague suspicions about my 1997 business trip to Yemen. I’d already found the HSA’s terrorism funding links and the exact location of my unscheduled meeting (by Al Qa’idah town), and now (November 2019) I had found evidence of my family's business’s connection to a CIA contractor (Billy Waugh) who admitted training Al Qaeda fighters in 1990s Yemen

Dave Dean and my father had both been present at the April 1997 trade show in Chicago, but had very strangely left our sales stand about 20-minutes before the Longulf Trading / HSA executives had visited to purchase our machine and returned to the stand about 10-minutes after those executives had left. Upon their return to the stand they both patronisingly feigned surprise about the £100,000 machine sale we’d made in their absence, but it was clear not all was as it seemed. The HSA executives had caused quite a stir with their shopping spree at the trade show, being followed from stand to stand by a group of men watching on in amazement. The executives knew nothing about printing machinery and were simply using a ‘shopping list’ that must have been supplied to them. They paid over the top list prices for the machinery they bought, not even trying to negotiate, and very suspiciously refused to give a delivery address in Yemen beyond Sanaa airport. As the executives left our sales stand one salesman immediately said there was something very suspicious about the them and the machine sale. The other salesman (my brother Nigel) dismissed that concern by saying: “Don’t ask any questions, they just paid list price for our machine”. Was I the only family member who didn’t know about the true nature of the family business and its customers? Looking back after my November 2019 discovery of Dave Dean’s connection to Billy Waugh, it does appear so.


I had begun working full-time for my family's business in November 1988 after dropping out of college. I completed a five year mechanical fitter apprenticeship but they were the five most miserable years of my life due to the internal politics of the company. I resigned in 1993 and tried to make my own way in life but in October 1996 my parents asked me to rejoin the company as a field service technician, an offer I accepted. My April 1997 visit to the USA was my first overseas business trip in that role. I soon became a frequent flyer, sent to America again in June 1997 to complete various machine installations in different states. An essential part of my tool kit were box-cutters, used to cut polymer printing plates and substrates, and I had by accidentally carried those box cutters on domestic flights in the USA in both April and June. Aware of how stringent European airport security was, I was horrified at my accidental carriage of box cutters in my carry on luggage - horrified at my carelessness and at the lack of security on domestic US flights. And so when flighting from Boston to Toronto (an international flight on a large aircraft) on 11 June I ensured my box cutters were in my hold baggage, but my experience at Logan airport that day proved that was unnecessary. From exiting the taxi outside the airport to taking my seat on the aircraft I’d not undergone a single security check - not one. I could literally have had anything in my carry-on baggage and not have been detected. I’d told the cabin attendant at the aircraft door about the lack of security and she replied: “Don’t worry, that’s normal.”

As the aircraft ascended I looked at the unsecured cockpit door and realised in an instant how easy it would be to hijack a plane in the USA. I knew about the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing and recalled having read recently about a small plane striking an office block in the USA. Before my flight landed in Toronto I had already perceived the grave danger of a 9/11 style hijacking. I didn’t dare repeating my prediction to airport security or over the phone to security services for fear of being misunderstood and therefore risking my ability to travel in the USA. But I also knew I couldn’t remain silent because my expectation of such an attack was so certain. I settled on telling the customer in Toronto the next morning, somewhere where I could explain my fears while having the ‘protection’ of my role as a service technician. I arrived at the customer’s factory (Sunworthy wallpaper printers) the next morning and after explaining my fears to the machine operators and to the factory manager I refused to start work until I was given an assurance that they would pass my warning and business card on to the appropriate authorities. The factory manager Bob Wilton said he had a contact in ‘the security services’ and assured me he would pass my warning on. Despite being at the factory for a week there was no feedback or any further reference to my warning, but I had given a very clear warning and had been told it had been passed on to the security services. I was content I’d done all I reasonably could and could conceive that such a warning would not be acted upon, even if I wasn’t told what that action might be.

I continued my business travels that summer as normal until September when my parents (both directors of the family business but now retired) called me to their home and asked me to travel to Yemen to install the machine sold at the April 1997 trade show. They explained the technician first asked to travel to Yemen had refused due to the well known danger of kidnapping in Yemen, something that anyone knowing that prudent technician could have predicted very easily. My father had sought assurances for my security and after a couple of mysterious phone calls he told me my security in Yemen was absolutely guaranteed. I welcomed the chance to visit a new country and agreed to their request. My flight and itinerary were arranged by my factory manager Tony Preece. As per the HSA executives refusal to give a delivery address beyond Sanaa airport, he didn’t have the customers address but said that it was in Taiz city and that I’d be collected from Sanaa airport by the customer.

There was someone waiting to collect me upon my arrival in Sanaa on Saturday 20 September but he had the other technician’s name on his sign and for whatever reason I didn’t recognise it and decided to make my own way to Taiz by taxi despite not having a specific address or as it turned out the correct company name. As we reached the outskirts of Taiz city we stopped to ask directions from a random elderly person on the street; they didn’t know the company name that I had but they did give us directions to somewhere they called ‘the foreigner’s compound’ which was in fact the HSA Group’s hilltop headquarters. I had quite remarkably found my customer’s factory and set to work after the briefest of introductions to the managing director there. 

The machine had already been unpacked and setup by the factory mechanic, introduced to me as Dino - a man I now know was Ahmed al-Darbi, a Saudi national release from Guantanamo prison in 2018 after admitting to his terrorist activity in 1990s Yemen. The machine operators I was to train said they had no knowledge of printing whatsoever and that they were Pakistani chemistry graduates, the same nationality as the inordinate number of security guards living inside the compound. They told me the factory’s correct name, YemPak, and explained its meaning as being a Yemeni-Pakistani collaboration. There was an Italian service technician there too, Nicholas from Bielloni - a printing press manufacturer. Nicholas left on the Monday morning but not before he’d taken me to one side and said there was something very suspicious about this customer, specifically that they had no knowledge of printing and that they had no product to produce. Regretfully I dismissed his concern, thinking that this was simply a new venture funded by very wealthy financiers. It was after his departure on Monday that one of the machine operators asked me about my travels in the USA and about his visiting New York as a tourist. I think he also asked very specifically about visiting the World Trade Centre (WTC) too, prompting me to repeat my warning that I’d given in Toronto on 12 June. I told him not to visit the WTC because I expected the same group behind the 1993 WTC bombing to try again but using a hijacked civilian airliner as a missile the next time. I explained my warning by repeating my experience at Logan airport, saying that I could literally have boarded the plane with an Uzi style submachine gun in my carry-on baggage and that all the hijackers would need was basic pilot training which was freely available in the USA.

On Tuesday the second operator asked me about my warning, first asking what if they couldn’t carry a gun on board and then asking me where they would put the bomb. I told him about my accidentally carrying my box cutters on board several flights and said they were enough for determined hijackers to take control of a plane. As for the bomb question, I explained that a fully fulled large aircraft was the bomb. That is when I believe the 9/11 plot was initiated by my unwittingly giving the key details of such an attack to men I now know (believe) were members of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s terror cell operating from the YemPak front company.

The Wednesday was a strange day. A service visit to the machine my brother Paul had installed in 1993/94 in a HSA factory in another location in Taiz was cancelled and I spent most of the day alone in the YemPak factory. I trained Dino (Ahmed al-Darbi) on the machine’s maintenance but there was no mention of my travel warning in the two hours I spent with him. Thursday was even stranger. The installation and training were complete and after spending a morning twiddling my thumbs the HSA HQ managing director came to see me for the first time since I’d met him briefly on the Saturday of my arrival.

He asked about the installation and whether my hotel was okay for me before asking if I had really given a warning about another attack on the WTC. I said yes, I think saying how crazy the lack of security on US domestic flights was. I recall he nodded in agreement but didn’t ask any further questions, just gave me the afternoon off and said someone would join me at my hotel that evening for dinner. When I asked the machine operators the managing director’s name they said they called him ‘the Chief’. Watching my conversation with ‘the Chief’ from across the factory floor was the man introduced to me the next morning as ‘the Engineer’ - a man I now know was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I asked ‘the Chief’ if my dinner companion was a YemPak employee (I didn’t even know of the HSA Group at that time, only the purchase agent Longulf Trading) and he said no, but that I should shouldn’t worry and just enjoy the dinner.

A man who introduced himself as Yousef arrived at my hotel about 4pm and suggested we walk to a view point (Al Qahira Castle) overlooking the city before dinner. Yousef was good company and we appeared to connect during our walk. Over dinner my travel warning came up and we discussed it for perhaps an hour, but with a focus on the strategy of such an attack (and its consequences) rather than just the tactics as I had discussed with the machine operators. Yousef left about 8pm and I got an early night in preparation for my journey the next day, a five hour drive to Sanaa and then my flight home.

The Friday morning was in retrospect was one of the most significant days in my life although I didn’t know it at the time. Rather than a swift departure for Sanaa as I’d expected I was left in the YemPak factory for an hour or more (with the machine operators coming and going), making me very concerned about missing my flight home. Eventually the Chief came to get me, asking me to walk to the main office building with him to complete my paperwork before departing. I asked him his name for my customer data base and he told me it was Saeed Alrobaidi (I asked if the ‘al’ just meant ‘the’ which he confirmed and I recorded his name as ‘Said Obadi’). This is significant because the contact name my brother Paul had recorded from his 1993/94 visit to Yemen was Ahmed Alrobaidi, suggesting a family relation between the two men.

In the main office block I was shown my completed paperwork before a group photo was suggested; I initially declined, saying the photo I’d taken of the installation was just for my customer records but the Chief was very insistent and so I agreed. Immediately the general manager Mohamed began to dress me in local clothing and produced a jambia (dagger) for me to wear. I wasn’t happy but what could I do, my thoughts focused on reaching Sanaa in time for my flight home. As they finished dressing me a side door opened and the man I’d seen across the factory floor the previous day appeared. The Chief introduced him as ‘the Engineer’ and perplexed I asked why we’d not been introduced before. The Chief said; “He’s working on other projects” before the group photo was quickly convened. The Engineer put his arm around me for the photo despite not having spoken to me or shaken my hand and as soon as the photos had been taken he disappeared back through the side door and I was quickly taken to a jeep waiting outside before departing with the general manager Mohamed. 

About 20-minutes into our journey Mohamed announced that he was taking me to a meeting and frustrated about my already delayed departure I said: “No! We’ll miss my flight.” Mohamed replied: “Don’t worry the plane will wait for you.” before taking a right turn between some buildings that led to a dust track with open fields on the right and steep cliffs/hills to our left. Within 5-minutes, after some off-road driving and turning into a hidden entrance, we reached a collection of buildings and parked in the shade of a tree. 

Mohamed got out immediately and disappeared from my field of vision before I realised what was going on. Two men appeared in front of the jeep and the nearest gestured for me to get out. Assuming at this point I was being kidnapped and matters were out of my control I followed his directions and he guided me to a doorway and indicated I should wait alone inside the room. Within a few minutes about ten men entered and without a word being said they joined me at the table there and began to serve food. I knew there was no way I’d make it to Sanaa in time for my flight home if I stayed and took the decision to cut the meeting short by ignoring normal customs and decorum. I figured the sooner the meal was eaten the sooner I’d find out whether this was a kidnapping or not and so helped myself to the large central meat dish before anyone else. Whether by design or accident that had the desired result - the man at the head of the table stood up abruptly and was followed by all the others. I remained seated with my head down and without a word having been said the group of men left the building. A couple of minutes later someone else came to fetch me. The jeep had been turned around and was waiting with a new driver and the engine running ready for my departure. There was no sign of Mohamad and for the next 4-hours I travelled in silence with the new driver. We arrived late at Sanaa airport but I was guided through an empty airport like a VIP and the plane was indeed waiting for me - loaded with passengers and with the engines running. We took off as soon as I sat down.

I now realise that unscheduled meeting was my recruitment interview to join the group known as Al Qaeda, and that if I’d minded my manners there would have been a good meal likely followed by incriminating photos of me with these men, some of whom I suspect went on to execute the 9/11 plot. If I had stayed I’d have likely been given a helicopter ride to Sanaa from the nearby Taiz airport; I base that assumption on the fact a scheduled international flight was made to wait just for me - anyone with the power to do that would have had the power to acquire a helicopter ride too, and it would have been a clear demonstration to me of how powerful these people were. 

After my overnight flight home I went to work on the Saturday morning to handing my paperwork to the factory manager Tony Preece as I had the next two weeks booked-off on holiday. Still perplexed by events in Yemen I raised my concerns with Preece, saying there was something very suspicious about the customer in Yemen. But he dismissed my concerns out-of-hand, saying it didn’t matter because they’d already paid. I tired to persist in raising my concerns but Preece wouldn’t listen, literally shooing me out of his office.

After my holiday I tried raising my concerns again with the senior service technician David Hughes, about the customer in Yemen and my conversations about a 9/11 style attack but his reaction was similar to Preece’s - telling me never to mention such things to security services because it would mean ‘having my card marked’ every time I went through airport security in future. He told me not to worry because there were people whose job it was to investigate such matters.

Over the next few months I was sent on a series of very peculiar business trips - twice to Dubai, to Jakarta, New York and Manila too, and finally to one in London in March 1998 - all of which I now believe were linked to my experiences and conversations in Yemen. I was made redundant by my parents in April 1998 following the same bizarre internal company politics I’d experienced when working for them during my apprenticeship. During that last business trip to the USA, at a factory in Brooklyn within sight of the WTC I decided to ignore Hughes’s advise and repeated my 9/11 warning to the customer but this time included a mention of my experiences and conversation in Yemen. One of the customer’s owners, a Dan Barkochba, listened to my warnings and said he would pass my warning on to his security services contact but once again there was no feedback - it was as if no one cared about the very real danger of the 1993 WTC bombing group trying again.


I have no doubt that the 9/11 plot was triggered by my travel warning given in Yemen in September 1997. That belief is supported by the fact that 9/11 hijacker pilot Ziad Jarrah switched abruptly from studying dentistry to aircraft engineering in September 1997; I’d put money on that happening on or after the 23 September, the day I spoke with the Pakistani machine operator in Yemen about box cutters being used to hijack a plane. Within six weeks of my visit to Yemen 9/11 hijacker/pilot Hani Hanjour reentered the USA and resumed his commercial pilot training there. And in December 1997 the first very specific 9/11 warning was passed to a former CIA operator, Robert Baer. A dissident Qatar police chief told Baer that “KSM is going to hijack some planes”. I also have no doubt that my family’s business was intimately linked to the British and American security services, or rather a trans-Atlantic deep state operated by corrupt elements of both nation’s Intel agencies. 

A couple of question still remain for me thought. Despite the machine sale to Yemen being made before I gave my first 9/11 warning in June 1997, I wonder whether I was sent to Yemen because of travel warnings. Did those people working for or with my family business hope that I would repeat my travel warning in Yemen, knowing HSA’s connection to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? My suspicion is the answer to those questions is yes, and that both I and KSM were patsies of that trans-Atlantic deep state which was willing to sacrifice thousands of innocent lives in the heart of America.

My greatest problem now is my poor communication skills and my admittedly flawed character meaning my claims can easily be dismissed by those in authority. But I won’t give up because of my certainty that I am right about HSA hosting and financing KSM, about Al Qa’idah town being the true origin of the group known as Al Qaeda and about my own family being intimately linked to that trans-Atlantic deep state.

My final appeal

My claims and recollections can easily be dismissed, my blurred photos discounted and the plethora of supporting evidence simply ignored. What can’t be ignored is my photo with Yousef, a man who facial recognition software matches to Yemeni 9/11 accused Ramzi bin al Shibh (I think they are close blood relatives). And the history of Al Qa’idah town can’t be ignored either - established in 1174 as a military base by the invading Ayyubid dynasty, a town on the same site kept the same name - Al Qa’idah - the military base. The facts that Osama bin Laden was half Yemeni, that his mentor was a Yemeni from the same province as Al Qaidah town, as was his last wife who he married in 2000, and that Yemeni General Ali Mohsen was a principle recruiter of Arab Mujahideen who fought alongside Osama bin Laden in 1980s Afghanistan.

If someone can identify Yousef or confirm my assertion that Al Qa’idah was used as a sanctuary for Arab Mujahideen returning from Afghanistan in the late 1980s then together we can speed a peaceful resolution to the global crises that have played out in the last few years, specifically since my November 2019 discovery of Dave Dean’s links to CIA contractor Billy Waugh who admitted train Al Qaeda fighters in 1990s Yemen.

If no one can or will help me in these matters then that trans-Atlantic deep state that was willing to allow thousands to be murdered on 9/11 so they could justify the last 20+ years of unrestricted global warfare, then I have to accept that, but I will remind them that silence is complicity - making them complicit with those profiting off of the pain all of humanity has suffered on and since 9/11.

Truly, for some of us nothing is written, unless we write it 
© Anthony C Heaford - The Quiet Mancunian