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Tuesday, February 14, 2006 · Last updated 11:50 a.m. PT

Man allegedly linked to al-Qaida ordered deported


SEATTLE -- An Iraqi Kurd who federal authorities say tried to help a senior al-Qaida operative gain entry to the United States was ordered deported Tuesday.

Immigration Judge Kenneth Josephson found that Sam Malkandi, of Kirkland, lied on his 1998 asylum application when he said he had been imprisoned in Iran for possessing forbidden political materials.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators say that in 2003, Malkandi tried to help Tawfiq bin Attash obtain a U.S. visa. The one-legged bin Attash, a former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden, also known as Khallad, is suspected of helping plan the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 and the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

Malkandi has adamantly denied knowingly assisting bin Attash, saying instead that in 1998 he was approached by a stranger at the Northgate Mall who befriended him and then later asked him to help a Yemeni friend. Malkandi's lawyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

Malkandi's supporters have called him kind and hardworking and say he would never intentionally assist a terrorist. He is expected to appeal Tuesday's decision.

Malkandi came to the attention of authorities after bin Attash was captured in Pakistan in 2003. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, he told U.S. officials that a man in Bothell, a north Seattle suburb, whose name sounded like "Barzan," had tried to help him.

Investigators concluded the man was likely Malkandi, who changed his name from Sarbaz to Sam in 2001. They discovered Malkandi had made arrangements for bin Attash, under a pseudonym, to obtain a new prosthetic foot at a clinic in Bellevue in 1999, ICE said in a news release announcing Josephson's decision.

Bin Attash never made it to the U.S.; his visa application was denied.