Saddam's Ambassador to al-Qaeda *(The Smoking Gun)*
A RECENTLY INTERCEPTED MESSAGE from Iraq-based terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi asking the al Qaeda leadership for reinforcements reignited the debate over al-Qaeda ties with Saddam Hussein's fallen Baath regime. William Safire of the New York Times called the message a "smoking gun," while the University of Michigan's Juan Cole says that Safire "offers not even one document to prove" the Saddam/al-Qaeda nexus. What you are about to read bears directly on that debate. It is based on a recent interview with Abdul Rahman al-Shamari, who served in Saddam's secret police, the Mukhabarat, from 1997 to 2002, and is currently sitting in a Kurdish prison. Al-Shamari says that he worked for a man who was Saddam's envoy to al-Qaeda.
>>>This statement echoed an independent Kurdish report from July 2002 alleging that ordnance seized from Ansar al Islam was produced by Saddam's military and a Guardian article several weeks later alleging that truckloads of arms were shipped to Ansar from areas controlled by Saddam.<<<
>>>Muhammed told Goldberg that Abu Wael was "the actual decision-maker" for Ansar al Islam and "an employee of the Mukhabarat."<<<
Al-Shamari also told me that the links between Saddam's regime and the al-Qaeda network went beyond Ansar al Islam. He explained in considerable detail that Saddam actually ordered Abu Wael to organize foreign fighters from outside Iraq to join Ansar. Al-Shamari estimated that some 150 foreign fighters were imported from al Qaeda clusters in Jordan, Turkey, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, and Lebanon to fight with Ansar al Islam's Kurdish fighters.
Al-Shamari said that there was also contact with the Egyptian "Gamaat al-Jihad," which is now seen as the core of al Qaeda's leadership, as well as with the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which bin Laden helped create in 1998 as an alternative to Algeria's Armed Islamic Group (GIA). Al-Shamari talked of Abu Wael's links with Turkey's "Jamaa al-Khilafa"--likely the group also known as the "Union of Islamic Communities" (UIC) or the "Organization of Caliphate State." This terror group, established in 1983 by Cemalettin Kaplan, reportedly met with bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1997, and later sent cadres there to train. Three years before 9/11, UIC plotted to crash a plane into Ankara's Ataturk Mausoleum on a day when hundreds of Turkish officials were present.
Al-Shamari said that importing foreign fighters to train in Iraq was part of his job in the Mukhabarat. The fighters trained in Salman Pak, a facility located some 20 miles southeast of Baghdad. He said that he had personal knowledge of 500 fighters that came through Salman Pak dating back to the late 1990s; they trained in "urban combat, explosives, and car bombs." This account agrees with a White House Background Paper on Iraq dated September 12, 2002, which cited the "highly secret terrorist training facility in Iraq known as Salman Pak, where both Iraqis and non-Iraqi Arabs receive training on hijacking planes and trains, planting explosives in cities, sabotage, and assassinations."
Zarqawi, as the prisoner explained, was al-Qaeda's link to Iraq in the same way that Abu Wael was the Iraqi link to al-Qaeda. Indeed, Zarqawi (who received medical attention in Baghdad in 2002 for wounds that he suffered from U.S. forces in Afghanistan) and Abu Wael helped Ansar al Islam prepare for the U.S. assault on its small enclave last year. According to al-Shamari, Ansar was given the plan from the top Iraqi leadership: "If the U.S. was to hit [the Ansar base], the fighters were directed to go to Ramadi, Tikrit, Mosul . . . Faluja and other places." This statement agreed with a prior prisoner interview I had with the attempted murderer of Barham Salih, prime minister of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. This second prisoner told me that "Ansar had plans to go south if the U.S. would attack."
StillProud, is this group
>>>Al-Shamari said that there was also contact with the Egyptian "Gamaat al-Jihad," which is now seen as the core of al Qaeda's leadership<<<
Related to this group?
>>>Egypt has released 950 jailed members of the militant Islamist group Gamaa Islamiya. Some of them have been in prison since the assassination of President Anwar Sadat 25 years ago.<<<