Man Sets Himself on Fire in Front of White House
A Falls Church, Va., man who worked as a federal informant on terrorism set himself on fire in front of the White House on Monday, hours after announcing his suicide attempt and citing his growing despondency over how the FBI managed his case.
Mohamed Alanssi, 52, approached the northwest guardhouse on Pennsylvania Avenue about 2:05 p.m. EST and asked the security detail to deliver a note to President Bush. When uniformed Secret Service officers turned him away, he stepped about 15 feet from the guard post and used a lighter to ignite his jacket, according to the U.S. Park Police.
Secret Service officers wrestled him to the ground and doused the flames with fire extinguishers. Alanssi was taken to Washington Hospital Center, where he was listed in critical condition with burns over about 30% of his body, authorities said.
Alanssi, who is from Yemen and also uses the name Mohamed Alhadrami, recently discussed his work as a federal informant in a series of interviews with the Washington Post. Monday morning, he informed the newspaper by faxed letter and by telephone that he was going to “burn my body at unexpected place.”
He also sent a copy of a letter he said he had faxed to the FBI agent in New York who is handling his case. The Post alerted the agent and provided a copy of the letter.
In the recent interviews, Alanssi expressed anguish over not being able to visit his family in Yemen. He said he suffers from diabetes and heart problems and his wife is seriously ill with stomach cancer. Alanssi said he could not travel to his native country because he had no money and because the FBI, which is expecting him to testify at a terrorism trial in New York, was keeping his Yemeni passport.
The FBI declined to comment on Alanssi’s identity or his claims of working with the bureau. “We don’t have a policy on revealing who is a cooperator or informing witness,” said Joe Valiquette, an FBI spokesman in New York. The U.S. attorney’s office in the eastern district of New York, which is prosecuting the terrorism-related trial in January, also declined to comment.
Alanssi, who described himself as a once-successful businessman in Yemen, also said he was upset with the FBI because agents had not kept promises they made to secure his cooperation. Those promises included a large, but unspecified, amount of money, eventual U.S. citizenship and protection of his identity, he said.
Alanssi said that he went to the FBI in New York shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks and offered information on alleged financers of Al Qaeda working in Yemen. He said he quickly became a major informant for the FBI, on occasion traveling to Yemen to gather intelligence.
He volunteered that the FBI paid him $100,000 in 2003. But he said he had been expecting much more because he said some agents told him he would “be a millionaire.” And although he was promised permanent residency in this country, he said, he has not received it.