Saddam's Ambassador to al-Qaeda

(Weekly Standard) - Jonathan Schanzer 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. 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, says he worked for a man who was Saddam's envoy to al-Qaeda. Al-Shamari's division of the Mukhabarat provided weapons to Ansar al Islam, "mostly mortar rounds." Al-Shamari said the Mukhabarat also helped finance Ansar al Islam: "On one occasion we gave them ten million Swiss dinars [$700,000]." Al-Shamari told me he had worked for Abu Wael, the leader of a special intelligence directorate in 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 said there were also contacts 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). Abu Wael dispensed most of the funds himself, al-Shamari said, but there was also some cooperation with Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Zarqawi 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. The challenge now is to document the claims of these witnesses about the secret ties between Saddam, al-Qaeda, and Abu Wael. The writer is a terrorism analyst for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

2003-02-25 00:00:00

Full Article


Visit the Daily Alert Archive