Talisman Gate

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Introduction to Talisman Gate


The purpose of this blog is to have all the columns that I've been writing for the New York Sun in one place. My other blog at The Other Talisman Gate is where I hope to have a more dynamic and interesting exploration of the Middle East.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What Obama Needs to Learn Fast







Section: Opinion > Printer-Friendly Version

Stop Terror's Next Act

By NIBRAS KAZIMI
July 21, 2008

http://www.nysun.com/opinion/stop-terrors-next-act/82252/

Senator Obama has some explaining to do: what does he mean by saying that he would end the war in Iraq? Whereas some aspects of the war seem to indicate that America is at war with itself as the Iraq debate rages in a charged partisan atmosphere, yet it is often the case that wars usually involve more than one side. So who is America at war with in Iraq? And is the enemy willing to end the war, and under what conditions?

Then there is another existential conundrum that Mr. Obama needs to contend with: how does one go about ending a war that, for all intents and purposes, is already over. The enemy has been defeated before it and its aims have been defined; now that's quite an auspicious outcome. But it is also a dangerous one, since important lessons need to be learned before the enemy regroups and reengages on newer fronts.

It is quite unusual that after five years of war, the American discourse concerning Iraq continues to be disinterested in the identity and aims of the enemy, as if the casualties and terror that had unfolded there were one-sided — pegged by some on the left of the political spectrum as America's fault.

It so happens that the principal enemy that America had faced in Iraq, the so-called Zarqawist wing of worldwide jihad, named after its founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was responsible for more than 60% of the insurgency's output at its height. Irrespective of whether the jihadists were operative in Iraq before the 2003 invasion, it was Zarqawi and his followers who chose Iraq as the newest jihadist battleground from which to resume their open-ended war against America.

Zarqawi didn't start out as a member of Al Qaeda, for Osama bin Laden's leadership was not radical enough for his tastes. When Zarqawi took the fight to Iraq he was embarking on a far more ambitious endeavor that had not been attempted before by the jihadists: waging war from the center of the Middle East against the world's mightiest military power. Mr. bin Laden would not have the audacity for such a thing; it took a new generation of jihadists, of whom Zarqawi was to be their poster child, to take jihad to the next level.

Zarqawi only joined Al Qaeda after he had turned his endeavor in Iraq into a success story. He did so hoping that eventually he would supplant Mr. bin Laden as the leader of global terror. Nevertheless, Zarqawi only had use for the Al Qaeda franchise for a year or so and then proceeded to expand his Iraqi and regional operations under other names.

Even though Zarqawi was killed in June 2006, his successors inherited his audacity and gall: in October 2006 they proceeded to declare the so-called "Islamic State of Iraq." It was at this point that America's apathy regarding Iraq reached its nadir just as the jihadists were thinking that they were about to turn a corner towards victory for Islam. That was the reason why America's commentators on Iraq, running the gamut from Baghdad-based journalists to Washington-based analysts, missed the crucial import behind the newfound jihadist state: the jihadists had laid the foundation stone for the state of the caliphate that would rule, once again, the Islamic lands spanning the three continents of Africa, Asia, and Europe. They even went as far as to pick a caliph, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who they called the "Commander of the Faithful" — a caliphal title.

And it isn't as if they were being too discreet about it either: they published a 100-page book in Arabic under the title of "Informing the People About the Birth of the State of Islam" and they pulled such stunts as keeping Mr. Baghdadi's identity secret but made a great hullabaloo about his ancestry, going to the length of specifying exactly how is descended from the tribe of Quraysh, a prerequisite in a caliph.

Unfortunately, due to the general unawareness that pervades the ranks of the self-styled Iraq experts back in America, these signs were misinterpreted: the "Islamic State of Iraq" was dismissed as an Al Qaeda façade when it designed by the Zarqawists to supersede Al Qaeda. Another illogical talking point that may have stemmed from jihadist disinformation and regurgitated by these experts had it that Baghdadi himself was a fictitious character.

There are a couple of "official" jihadist propaganda outlets on the Internet — their main channel for disseminating information — and one such discussion board is called Al-Hesbah where a certain pseudonymous Abu Dujanah al-Khurasani is active. Only a limited number of jihadist writers are allowed to post their views there and Mr. Khurasani is one of them.

In November 2007, Mr. Khurasani posted a mini-play of several acts; the opening scene takes us to the year 2025 to show Baghdadi surveying the capital of his empire, the city of Baghdad. After reminiscing about Zarqawi's last dying moments, Baghdadi receives a call on his cell phone from the "Chief of Staff of the Army of the Caliphate." Another scene is set in a classroom where a teacher asks his pupils "What was the Arabian Peninsula called before it was liberated by the Commander of the Faithful Abu Omar al-Baghdadi in 2010?" The students grapple with the answer before one of them blurts out that it used to be called Saudi Arabia.

Yet another scene showcases an Al-Jazeera TV-like program where the topic of discussion is the dictatorship of Edward the Third in Britain — remember the year is 2025 — and the leader of the British opposition movement, who has adopted Mr. Baghdadi's Baghdad as his city of refuge, is identified as "Peter," the fictitious son of Tony Blair.

Fantastical as this may all seem, it was exactly where the jihadists thought they would be in a couple of decades. They thought they were building an empire in Iraq, the caliphate that Mr. bin Laden was always harping on about but never got the nerve to attempt. It was to be the realization of their dream, the same vision for which they launched the September 11, 2001, attacks and the mayhem and bloodshed in Iraq.

And now that they have been defeated in Iraq — anyone saying otherwise is either clueless or being purposely mendacious — America has in fact achieved something far greater than a military victory: America's soldiers have smashed the nascent state of the caliphate; the dream is no more. This is a fate far worse than death for the jihadists, who enthusiastically embrace dying for their cause of resurrecting an Islamic empire as a noble act of martyrdom. Should Mr. bin Laden be killed or captured, then he would remain an undiminished hero in their eyes; while Americans may think that this would count as victory, the jihadists may simply shrug it off. However, seeing their state collapse in Iraq is their own nadir of demoralization and ideological defeat.

I wonder if Mr. Obama understands all of that. Keeping troops in Iraq is not an end unto itself, yet victory is. Stationing more troops than are necessary to maintain the fruits of victory was never one of America's war aims. Victory is easily defined as having a democratic and independent state of Iraq (check) and preventing another "Islamic State of Iraq" (check).

Prime Minister Maliki recently welcomed Mr. Obama's withdrawal plan with caveats and this sent the usual pundits a-twitter, but whereas Mr. Obama was thinking in terms of retreat, Mr. Maliki on the other hand was suggesting the natural outcome of victory: that America's soldiers, who had fought a hard won yet incidental battle against the ultimate jihadist aim of resurrecting an Islamic Empire, could go home with laurels and to acclaim.

I also wonder whether the European crowds cheering Mr. Obama and giving him a super-star's welcome this week understand the implications of victory in Iraq. Sadly for them, the jihadists are not going to give up especially now that they have something more to prove after the humiliation of losing their state: the jihadists intend to hit the reset button on worldwide jihad by launching painful attacks on Europe, and these painful attacks will involve whatever weapons of mass destruction they can get their hands on.

How do I know this? Well, I read the jihadist Internet forums where they casually discuss the prospects of killing some 90,000 to 200,000 Europeans, maybe in a country where its free press had run cartoons or broadcast documentaries found offensive to Islam, say Denmark or Sweden or Holland, as a double act of retaliation and deterrence. The jihadist thinking is that once they do something of this magnitude, the west will back off and allow them to build their empire once again somewhere in the Middle East.

Never mind that the jihadists have Spain, Greece, Italy, the Balkans, and parts of southern France on their "must-eventually-reoccupy" to-do list.

Going back to Afghanistan is an abhorred historical regression, and certainly the pride of the Zarqawists, the most radical and once most successful of the jihadists, will not allow them to hide away in some cave in Waziristan after they had attempted a project as historically grand as the new caliphate in Baghdad. They will come back bigger, deadlier and far more audacious, as is their style, the next time around. Mr. Obama and his European hosts need to update what they think they know about the enemy before the enemy catches its breath.

Mr. Kazimi is a contributing editor to the New York Sun.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Iran's Shifting Strategy




Iran’s Shifting Strategy

By NIBRAS KAZIMI May 12, 2008

The healing in Iraq and the deterioration in Lebanon are not unrelated. In fact, Iraq will serve as both cause and effect to Lebanon’s misfortunes. Iran, eclipsed in Sadr City, had decided to allow its sectarian acolytes to put on a show of strength in Beirut. And the jihadists of Al Qaeda’s ilk, soon to be eclipsed in Mosul, will migrate to Beirut to meet Iran’s challenge.

Five years ago, there was a hope that held Iraq as a would-be beacon for democracy throughout the Middle East, but that vision had too many determined enemies both inside and outside Iraq. Yet as the situation there darkened through the actions of these regressive forces, the spontaneous outpouring of liberty demonstrated by the Lebanese people seemed to validate the notion that democracy and liberty would take in the region, and that the hope for what Iraq may portend was not misplaced. But the Cedar Revolution, as the March 2005 events of Beirut are remembered, also had too many internal and external enemies determined to spoil the elation.

Two countries that were dead-set against Iraq succeeding were Syria and Iran. These are also the two countries most responsible for fomenting political paralysis and chaos in Lebanon.

In Iraq, the Iranians and the Syrians began a joint-partnership aimed at harnessing the disruptive energies of the Mahdi Army as a weapon by which to retaliate against America should either of them get attacked, as well as acting as a force keeping Iraq in a state of permanent disorder.

Syria’s influence on the Sadrist movement from which the Mahdi Army springs is often overlooked: Damascus was a refuge for many prominent Sadrists during the latter years of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny, and the Syrian Baathists brokered the initial rapprochement between the Sadrist old guard and Iran. Many of these Sadrist apparatchiks were openly hostile to the Iranians and Iran’s preferred acolytes in Iraq such as the Hakim family, long-standing rivals of the Muqtada al-Sadr’s father, the man who founded the Sadrist movement. Actually, many of them continue secretly to believe that Saddam’s regime had nothing to do with their leader’s murder in early 1999 and lay the blame solely on the Hakims and Iran.

However, after the first major confrontation between the Sadrists and American troops in the spring of 2004, the Iranians saw potential in Sadr’s thugs at around the same time as they were becoming increasingly disappointed with the Badr Corps, the Iranian-trained militia under the leadership of the Hakim family. The Hakims had become too invested in, and integrated within, the Iraqi state — their revenues from contracts and trade earned inside Iraq exceeded the overall budget of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which had funded them previously — and could not be counted on to act as Iran’s agents of disorder. Whereas the Hakim turned independent as they didn’t need Iran anymore, the Sadrists were desperate for arms and training, and Iran was more than willing to accommodate them with the Syrians acting as go-betweens.

It was in this vein that the first batch of Iranian-administered training was supposed to take place in Damascus during November 2004. It was geared towards turning ten of the top Mahdi Army field commanders into the security chiefs of a parallel intelligence agency working on behalf of the Iranians. The seminar did not take place on time, and it is unclear whether it ever subsequently took place in Damascus.

But other training, on security matters and terrorism, did take place in a camp near Tehran, according to captured Mahdi Army commanders in Iraq, and it was administered by instructors from Lebanese Hezbollah. It should also be noted that the political channel through which the Syrian leadership maintains its relationship with Hezbollah — primarily through General Muhammad Nassif, ostensibly the Syrian prime minister’s deputy on security matters — is the very same channel through which the Syrians communicate with the Sadrists.

Thus, the Iranians and the Syrians were hoping to turn the rag-tag elements of the Mahdi Army into an Iraqi version of Hezbollah, with both a political wing represented by Mr. Sadr and a military wing that they called the majamee’ alkhasa, or “Special Groups,” a name chosen in Tehran and not a technical term invented by American commanders as so many Iraq-watchers seem to think.

And boy, was that a mistake: the Mahdi Army as a whole and the Special Groups in particular have collapsed after seven weeks of fighting against a confident and capable Iraqi Army that was bolstered by American air cover and logistical support. On Thursday, the Sadrists effectively offered their surrender to Prime Minister Maliki, who had earlier put them on notice that he would smash into their redoubts, especially Baghdad’s slum of Sadr City, if they continued to act as saboteurs. Mr. Maliki was prepared to go all the away, including displacing hundreds of thousands of refugees from Sadr City and arresting Sadrist parliamentarians.

Iran had lost and the leaders in Tehran needed to save face fast. Iran needed to show that it could create mischief around the region for that has always been one of Tehran’s strategic strengths. That is why they pushed Hezbollah to overreact when given a juicy provocation by the American-backed cabinet of Fouad al-Siniora. The Lebanese government has done and said many provocative things in the past but Hezbollah chose this particular provocation to throw a theatric and violent tantrum.

The situation in Lebanon is immensely complex and there are too many factors to list as to why it had been so messy, yet it was a manageable mess that never seemed to boil over — that is, until Hezbollah decided to rampage through Beirut and humiliate the Siniora government and the March 14 coalition that supports it; showing them up as weak and feckless, and in turn embarrassing America and Saudi Arabia for being unable to do anything to help their allies. This was no coup or deft move aimed at breaking the political stalemate: Iran was simply flexing its muscles in Beirut through Hezbollah because Iran’s other pawns were shown-up as feckless and weak in Sadr City.

That too was a major mistake. The Iranians and the Syrians may have concluded that they have passed the worst of the Sunni-Shia tensions that were roiling the Middle East over the last couple of years. In particular, the ruling Alawites of Syria, a Shia-offshoot minority, were worried about internal fall-out should the majority Sunni Syrians get exposed to headlines blaring sectarians strife in Lebanon next door. However, recent polling from the Middle East seemed to indicate that being virulently anti-American and anti-Israeli was enough to offset the stigma of being a Shia or an Alawite among Sunni audiences, and this may have emboldened the Syrians to go along with Iran’s plan.

But there was no escaping the potent imagery of armed Shia gangsters, under orders from Hezbollah and its affiliates, seemingly emasculating Beirut’s Sunnis and wounding their pride, especially given the rising sectarian temperatures in Lebanon that had never abated. Suddenly, the Sunnis of Lebanon felt exposed and no longer able to trust their established communal leaders, such as the Hariri family, to protect them. That is why they may look elsewhere for muscle, and that’s why jihadist internet forums have lighted up with giddy expectations of taking the jihad against the Shias from the streets of Baghdad to the streets of Beirut.

Mr. Maliki has just ordered the launch of a much-anticipated military campaign to rid Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city, of whatever significant vestige of Al Qaeda’s remaining in Iraq. The inevitable jihadist collapse there will push more and more jihadists to re-establish their efforts elsewhere, and nowhere looks more promising than Lebanon.

Mr. Kazimi is a contributing editor to The New York Sun.

Friday, May 09, 2008

What Happened in Basra?




What Happened in Basra?

By NIBRAS KAZIMI May 9, 2008

Ever since the prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, launched Operation Cavalry Charge in Basra on March 25, which has been going on there and elsewhere across Iraq, three important conclusions can be drawn: the Iraqi state and the Iraqi army can function on their own; an influential figure in Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr, is much weaker than he was deemed to be; and Iran has bet on the wrong horse.

As a result of being unable to rely on Mr. Sadr’s organization, Iran would lose a menacing avenue for retaliation against America should Iran’s illicit nuclear program get attacked.

Basra had a moment of clarity, illuminating the convergence of several positive trends in Iraq. What’s driving these trends is a sense among regular Iraqis that their state has outlasted its challengers, whether they are Sunni insurgents, organized crime cartels, or hostile regional powers. Basra is “Exhibit A” for those who argue that Iraq’s remaining problems are fixable, that the achievements seen so far are irreversible, and that a sense of patriotic cohesion is salvageable and viable.

Consequently, the events in Basra do not sit well with those who have argued otherwise and staked their careers and credibility to the storyline that Iraq is irredeemable, such as the many journalists and pundits who have been covering Iraq over the last five years. This has seemingly induced them to fabricate a negative and false narrative in the hope that their predictions would go unchallenged.

Six weeks ago, Iraqi policemen in Basra were dodging RPG projectiles fired by teenagers. These days, though, they keep themselves busy with house-to-house sweeps in search for weapons caches. Moreover, on a daily basis, they issue hundreds of tickets for traffic and parking violations. Indeed, the situation in Basra has changed dramatically.

The violence in Basra was not sectarian in nature even though Iraq’s southernmost province — first in potential wealth with between 60% and 70% of the country’s oil and second, after Baghdad, in its population size — boasts a significant Sunni minority, as well as Christian, Mandean, and non-mainstream Shia denominations.

Basra’s chaos resulted from a unique mélange of Iranian meddling, proliferation of organized crime, and Britain’s unsteady hand in running military and political matters. The Americans had delegated Basra’s management to their British allies, who ended up ruining things in Iraq’s most promising piece of real estate.

However, it is not surprising that the British would mismanage a place that they had thoroughly studied a little over 90 years ago, the first time they came to occupy Basra as a result of World War I.

Basra was founded by the Arabs who invaded the city 1,400 years ago. They used it as an operating base against the Persian Empire. It became a military base in a land teaming with Jews, Christians, and Manichean peasants, all of various Semitic extractions.

In that intensely fertile land, a land open to the influences and trade of the Indian Ocean, many propagandists roamed and many bastard children were left by a passing sailor. Thus, the pure-bred Arabian tribes that were settled south of the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates were instilled with a distinct identity that meant that one’s roots in Basra would set one apart from those who originated in Baghdad or Nejd or Isfahan.

But something of the original mission against Persia seems to have survived among Basra’s original Arab tribes, for today it forms the backbone of the tribal elements that have flocked to Mr. Maliki’s side in his battle against the organized crime cartels — criminality that had found political refuge and patronage within the Sadrist movement.

This divide is historical in origin too: most of these Sadrists descend from destitute families that escaped the poverty and tribal hierarchies of the nearby Amara Province in the 1930s and 1940s. They were looking for menial work and if that was not available, they turned to a life of crime. Some of their kin also flooded into Baghdad, creating the human overflow in the slums that would become Sadr City. A derogatory name was coined for the boorish newcomer: shroogi or “easterner.” In the last five years, being a Sadrist was almost synonymous with shroogi ancestry.

Various troublemakers in modern Iraq have made up their unruly mobs with these dislocated social misfits. The Iranians are no different as they set about establishing a parallel contingency plan in Iraq that would unleash chaos and terror should America contemplate a war against Tehran. That is supposed to be Iran’s strategic deterrence.

Once Mr. Maliki launched Operation Cavalry Charge, the Iranians and the organized crime cartels that they have been patronizing realized that they were no match for a prime minister who is bent on their destruction. He had enough soldiers with armored vehicles to withstand that first volley of Iranian-supplied RPGs that were unleashed when his troops drove down previously no-go alleyways. Mr. al-Maliki also rallied the silent majority of Basra to reclaim their city after they had receded into the safety of their homes. The Iraqi state had endured the worst, and came back to reclaim its turf.

Mr. Maliki can draw upon a war chest of $60 billion from this year’s budget. He has enough bags of money to entice the bulk of the “shroogis” away from life on the margins and into the benevolence of the state. He offered them a newer sense of belonging within the ranks of the government-employed lower middle-classes.

Over the last five weeks, the Iraqi army has smashed through many myths that have been internalized by Iraq-watchers about the weakness of the Iraqi state, the strength of the Sadrists, and the omnipresence of the Iranians.

Last year, many had speculated that Mr. Maliki’s government would collapse as a result of a boycott by the Sadrists. Periodically since then, some have been holding their breath every time a confrontation between Messrs. Sadr and Maliki seemed imminent. Yet no lessons were drawn about who has the upper hand even though Mr. Sadr has been the one to back down at every juncture.

If some worry that the Iranians may unleash a Sadrist deluge against the Green Zone should America conduct a bombing run against Iran’s nuclear facilities this summer, then those worries should be downgraded. It seems now, as the Iraqi state keeps pressing on, that the Sadrists will fold easily.

Mr. Kazimi is a contributing editor of The New York Sun, and discusses Basra on his blog, Talisman Gate, talismangate.blogspot.com

Monday, November 05, 2007

Narrative of a Conspiracy

Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 1

I decided to translate the roller-coaster testimony made by Faisal Akbar—the Saudi citizen (...we think) who first confessed to a role in the Hariri assassination after he was arrested in January 2006 but then retracted his statement—which was published in the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar over the last week.

It’s a lot of material, so I am dividing it up into four parts. This is a fascinating window into jihadist tradecraft that we don’t usually see in such open-source detail, and it should be of value to analysts interested in jihadism and related security issues. This is not the generic material in jihadists manuals, this is the real stuff.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2. I tried to adhere as much as possible to the original Arabic so that the tone and wording is not lost in translation. This makes it a bit of a clunky read.

This first translated chunk appeared in Al-Akhbar on October 10, 2007, under the byline of Fida’ ‘Itani.

FAISAL AKBAR SPEAKS

Bio:

[My name is] Faisal Asa’ad Hashim Hussein Akber; mother is Sheikha Hussein Ali Al-Hussein; born in the Eastern [Province] in Saudi Arabia in 1397 A.H., that is 1976 AD. I use a forged Saudi passport under the name Fahed Muhammad Hassan Al-Khadim al-Yamani, mother’s name Fatima. I also use a Syria identification card in the name (Faris Waleed) Abdel-Ghani Waleed Faris, mother’s name Khulood, born 1978, Syrian. I also use a special permit for Palestinians issued by the Lebanese Ministry of Interior in the name Hassan Nassir ‘Isa, mother’s name Hamida, born 1972, Sidon, Palestinian. I currently live in Beirut, the Ramla al-Beidha neighborhood, the Shati’ al-Dhahabi Building, 10th Floor, my Lebanese numbers are 03/938610 and 70941510, and I live in other apartments in Beirut, in Al-Besta al-Tahta, and two apartments on Tariq Jdeideh and Ain al-Rummaneh and al-Oza’i. I previously resided in Syria, in Damascus, Homs and Aleppo, and at different addresses. I have a Syrian cell phone, but I don’t know its number, and it is in your possession. My address in [Saudi Arabia] is the Eastern [Province], Ras Tanoura City. I left [Saudi Arabia] seven years ago, my no. there is 0096636672750, Saudi citizen, I lost my Saudi passport in Afghanistan in 2001. I hold a university degree in the principles of religion from the Imam Muhammad bin Saud University in Qasim, and I am single. Unemployed. A mujahid in the Al-Qaeda organization.

INTERROGATION

“You approached me in the ‘Ain al-Rummaneh neighborhood, in the street in front of the Sumood Building, near the Al-Huda school, you declared your official identity and the purpose of your coming. Then you insulted me, and did not find any contraband on me, and you confiscated my two cell phone and memory flash disks and my personal diary. You brought me to your headquarters, and continued taking the calls to my phones, and you arrested those who called me and who are known by me, then I showed you to the apartment that I use in Beirut, then you informed me of my right to make a phone call and to see an attorney and to undergo medical examination, and I am ready to answer your questions. Furthermore, nothing was lost or damaged or went missing of my belongings as a result of the arrest and the search, which occurred over several phases.

Q: What are the aliases that you have used for yourself and why did you use them and under what circumstances?

A: I used many aliases, of which I remember Tariq and Rani and Abu Suleiman and Salih and Fahed and Faris and Abdul-Ghani and Hassan and Al-Sheikh. And I used these aliases for security work, to disguise [myself] and not to reveal my real identity.

Q: We found on you a forged Saudi passport and a Palestinian identification [card] and a Syrian identification [card] and other papers all of them forged with different names but carrying your picture. In addition, you have told us that your real identity is Faisal Akbar, Saudi citizen, and that you had lost your original identification [card] in Afghanistan, and that you had resided in Syria, and were arrested in Lebanon?

A: I will tell you that I left my home in 1999 from Saudi Arabia and headed to Afghanistan with the purpose of [joining the] jihad, where I pledged allegiance to Sheikh Osama Bin Laden since I was a Salafist by creed. I participated in the fighting alongside the Taliban against the forces of Ahmad Shah Masoud, of course that after undergoing many military courses in the organization I belong to.

Q: Who is Jamil?

A: Jamil is a Syrian youth, approximately 27 years of age, an official in Al-Qaeda in the Levant.

Q: Didn’t this Jamil, who you mentioned, get pursued in Syria [by the authorities there]?

A: Yes, Jamil was pursued, but he was not found.

Q: Why didn’t he head to Lebanon as you and your comrades did?

A: Jamil stayed in Syria so that the organization would continue to have a presence there, and to follow-up on some matters.

Q: Tell us about the roles of your comrades who are with you in Lebanon, especially since we found two military pistols and a hand grenade and a mask and many other materials that we exhibit in front of you and which were confiscated from the Ramleh al-Beida apartment?

A: I will tell you that Marwan opened our organization’s electronic mail, and renting houses for us in Lebanon. As for Nidhal, he is a mujahid who was being pursued and he managed to arrive to Lebanon. Samer and Wasim are two mujahids from Lebanon. As for the doctor, he is our group’s doctor who was arrested with us, he was our personal physician, and he was pursued too. And you arrested Sheikh Rashid along with the doctor, and he is the head of our group, and the rest are pursued members whom we housed in our apartments to protect them, and there are others who have not been arrested. And they are in other areas of Lebanon, such as Faraj and Dani and Jalal and Nour, and all these aforementioned use aliases, so these are not their real names.

Q: Give us the identities of these persons whom you mentioned by their aliases, and we will show you pictures and personal identification [cards] for those who are in our [custody]?

A: After seeing the pictures in your possession, I can say that the doctor is Tariq al-Nasser, and that Jawher is Faysal Hassan, and that Nidhal is Jamal al-Babily, and that Sheikh Rashid is Hussam Mneimneh, and that Marwan is Hani al-Shenti, and that Samer is Amer Hallaq, and that Wasim is Salim Halimeh, and that Nour is Khalid Taha, and that Jalal—also known by the name Ramadhan—is Bilal Za’aroureh, and he who is known as Abdullah is Ziyad Ramadhan, and let it be known that all those who are in your custody were given forged identification cards through a man known by Murad, who is a Syrian and whose real identity I do not know, and his specialty is forgery and montage.

Q: According to our information, there is an activist who resided in Syria, who is called Sheikh Rashid, who used to head the organization in Syria, and testimonies were recorded saying that those who left Lebanon to fight in Iraq would pledge allegiance to this Sheikh Rashid. Is the aforementioned the same person who is in our custody, who we detained when he tried to call you under normal circumstances?

A: The person you arrested while he was trying to call me from a call center in front of Mazin Pharmacy, and this is a pre-agreed upon place that we call “maram”, is the same Sheikh Rashid who [others pledge allegiance to], and he is also known as Al-Sheikh or Muayyad or with other names that he used during his three year stay in Syria. But the Levant means Syria and Lebanon, so all the mujaheddin coming from Lebanon would pledge allegiance to the Emir in the Levant. Most of those who came from Lebanon would pledge allegiance to Sheikh Rashid, and in some other instances would pledge allegiance to Jamil or Nabil. I want to add that I do not know the full identities of Jamil or Nabil, and I do not confirm to you that Husam Mneinmeh is the real name of Sheikh Rashid, because we do not reveal our real names to each other for security reasons.
I do not know Jamil’s current whereabouts, and he is hiding in Syria, and I spoke to him last from a pay phone in the Verdun neighborhood, which I can lead you to, and his number was 096710528 and it was in the evening time, and that was two days before I was arrested, that is Saturday December 31, 2005. As for Nabil he was martyred in Iraq seven months ago in the city of Al-Qaim when he resisted an American airborne raid there.

Q: You told us that Nabil was who [others would pledge allegiance to], so how is it that he moves to join the fighting in Iraq while the rest of the Emirs who [others pledge allegiance to] don’t?

A: Nabil went to Iraq to fight due to a request from Abu Musa’ab al-Zarqawi. In such a case, orders are not rejected. He was informed of this by Sheikh Rashid.

Q: Tell us about the stages that you’ve witnessed concerning the movement of fighters from Lebanon via Syria to Iraq, by way of procedures?

A: Usually, the mujaheddin from Lebanon are received after they have been vouched for from persons who are already members in the group, and they are activists who have already pledged allegiance, and they are trustworthy. After someone arrives from Lebanon, he is received in Syria, and is taken to a place that we call a ‘madhafeh’ [guest house], without letting him know the route or address, and they procedures are called ‘secure transfer’. Then this person usually undergoes a security seminar, and if the reasons for an immediate transfer to Iraq are satisfied, then he is transferred. And if he isn’t transferred to Iraq, then he remains at the guest house until there is an opportunity to get him into Iraq. During this time, he pledges allegiance to the Emir, which binds him to working with the group. I should add that it the right of a mujahid to stipulate during his pledge of allegiance whether he would be a fighter or a suicide bomber, or to stipulate that he is only to fight the Americans, or to set any conditions that the mujahid may want.

Q: Tell us more about pledging allegiance, inform us is there a way to break one’s pledge, and do you have firsthand experience with anyone who has?

A: Yes, [one can] break the pledge, and that in only specific cases, such as when one of the conditions that were set are not met. As such the pledge is broken and the mujahid is liberated from the pact of allegiance. And this happened with Samer and Wasim.
The approved wording of the pledge is: أبايعك على السمع والطاعة في المنبسط والمكره

Q: After we showed you one of our photographs, you identified Khalid Taha, who you stressed was known to you as Nour, and before that by another name. Do you know where Khalid is now, and when did you last see him or talk to him?

A: After perusing the photograph in your possession, and it is a color photograph of Nour who was previously known by the name Badr, I learnt from you that his name is Khalid Taha, and he was the one who vouched for many of mujaheddin who came from Lebanon. The last time I saw him was 13 days ago in the Corniche Al-Mazra’a neighborhood near the Abdel-Nassir Mosque, and I took him to the Al-Oza’i Mosque, and delivered him to a man named Ali, who transferred him with a man named Murad to the Ain al-Helwah [Palestinian Refugee] Camp to hide there.

Q: Were you in regular contact with Khalid Taha, that is Nour, before the time you are telling us about?

A: Khalid Taha was throughout this last period in Syria with he who is known as Jamil. But after the security sweeps that were conducted by the Syrian security services, he escaped to Lebanon with Jalal towards the end of December 2005. He stayed at the Ain Rummaneh apartment with he who is known as Jalal, that is Bilal Za’aroureh, at Marwan’s, that is Hani al-Shenti, for three days. I received him from Hani in front of the Abdel-Nassir Mosque, and I delivered him to Ali with Murad who was in the Al-Bastah apartment, and Ali got them moved to the Ain al-Helwah Camp. After about four days, I received from Hani al-Shenti he who is known as Jalal and also Ramadhan, in front of the Abdel-Nassir Mosque and I took him to Kheldeh after the bridge near the Bata stores, where Ali arrived and received from me Bilal Za’aroureh and he moved him with two Syrian individuals named Abi al-Rou’a and Ahmad who had stayed in the Al-Oza’i apartment with Nidhal who is currently detained by you. The three of them were moved in Ali’s car to Ain al-Helwah Camp to hide there, per Rashid’s instructions.

Q: Who is Ali, how did you meet him, and since when have you known him?

A: Ali is his alias, I don’t know his real name. He is a Palestinian youth, about 27, from the people of the Ain al-Helwah Camp, and he works for Usbet al-Ansar. Appearance: stout, tall, black fine hair, combs his hair back, thin beard and mustache, wears jeans and sneakers. I saw him for the first time when he arrived to pick-up Khalid Taha and Murad, and I saw him next when he received Bilal Za’aroureh, Abul Rou’a and Ahmed from me. I met him for the first time per Jamil’s instructions from Syria, and I didn’t know him before. Jamil gave me his description and the place where he will arrive in front of the Al-Oza’i Mosque. I will specify to you that Jamil told me that Ali will wait for me in that neighborhood by standing in the street and carrying a small nylon bag with a unique pink color. And so it was: when I arrived in front of the Al-Oza’i Mosque, I saw a young man with such a description, carrying a small pink bag. I approached him and asked him: “Ali?” He answered: “Yes.” Then I delivered Khalid Taha and Murad to him and he left. I met him for the second time as I already told you.

Q: At both times when you delivered Khalid Taha and his companion, and in the second time when you delivered Bilal Za’aroureh and his two companions, tell us what each of them was carrying?

A: In both cases the guys were carrying their bags or nylon bags containing their personal items. Khalid Taha too his personal HP computer on the first time, and at the second time Bilal Za’aroureh took his personal Toshiba computer.

Q: Were Khalid Taha and Bilal Za’aroureh hidden away at the camp based on orders?

A: Yes, the order to hide Khalid al-Taha and Bilal Za’aroureh in the Ain al-Helwah Camp came from Rashid. Jamil coordinated with his acquaintances in the camp to hide them there. As for Murad and Abul Rou’a and Ahmad, they are wanted in Syria, and an order to hide them in the camp was also issued. Usually, an order would arrive for the youth to hide if they meet a security problem, and when the route was open from Syria to Iraq, they would be asked to move to Iraq. But lately, and since the route to Iraq has been closed and security sweeps continue in Syria, the move has been to Lebanon. This is what happened to me and Sheikh Rashid and the other guys like the doctor and others.

Q: Was any order issued to Hani al-Shenti, who is known as Marwan, or to anyone else, to hide and not show up at our headquarters when instructed to do so by us? Who issued the order and to whom?

A: The orders were issued by Jamil and Rashid when they were in Syria, and I was still there, to Marwan, that is Hani al-Shenti, to hide and not to go to the security HQ so as not to take his statement and detain him. This was told to me lately by Hani al-Shenti while I was in Beirut. Wasim and Samer, that is Amer al-Hallaq and Selim Halim[a], had hid at Hani’s in the Al-Besta apartment in expectation that they may be called to any security body in Lebanon, and that is to make sure that what information they know about the activities of the group are not divulged.

Q: Do you know a person called Ziyad Ramadhan, especially since you know Khalid Taha and Hani al-Shenti and Amer al-Hallaq and Selim Halima and Bilal Za’aroureh and others who know this Ziyad character?

A: I have never made the acquaintance of Ziyad Ramadhan, but I had heard about him when I came to Lebanon. I found out that he used to be called Abdullah, and he used to know Amer al-Hallaq and Selim Halima, as I was told by Amer and Selim, and that he used to know Khalid Taha according to what they said.

Q: How did you mention this topic?

A: During my recent stay in Lebanon, Amer and Selim told me that they are hiding because they knew Ziyad Ramadhan, and that they are worried to be called in for questioning, and in this course we talked about the details.

Q: What ties together the individuals in your statement, and when did you meet them?

A: I met Khalid Taha, who was initially known as Badr, two years ago approximately from what I recollect, when he came to Syria and underwent a security seminar that I administered to him in the city of Aleppo. Later he met Nabil and Rashid in that order to give his allegiance, and then Khalid Taha began to recruit the brothers to work with us. Thus arrived Abu Turab who I gave a security seminar to like the rest of the brothers, then Nour, that is Khalid Taha, took him to pledge allegiance to Rashid, and then Marwan, that is Hani al-Shenti, arrived after being vouched for by Khalid Taha, and also underwent my security seminar, and then gave his allegiance to Rashid. Hani vouched for Amer Hallaq and Selim Halima who came to Aleppo and took the security seminar, and then pledged allegiance to Rashid or Nabil. Amer arrived before Selim by two months as far as I remember, and the last person who arrived to pledge allegiance and to take the security seminar was Jalal, that is Bilal Za’aroureh, and that is after Samer and Halim. A while after that the security sweeps began in Syria so we moved to Lebanon and Jamil stayed back and Nabil was martyred in Iraq.

Q: You mentioned Abu Turab to us. Can you remember his appearance or will you recognize him if you see a photograph of him. Do you know his identity?

A: Yes I know the description of Abu Turab because after undergoing my security seminar he was taken by Khalid Taha to Nabil and Rashid to pledge his allegiance, and he is the same person who appeared on TV on 14/2/2005 and read the statement taking credit for the Rafiq Hariri assassination. Khalid Taha told me that his name is Ahmed Abu Ades.

Q: Is this the reason why Khalid Taha and Hani al-Shenti and the others went into hiding after we started looking for them?

A: A week after the assassination, Khalid Taha disappeared and he was not seen, as was usual, at our guest houses. I think he changed his alias from Badr to Nour in that period as far as I remember.

Q: When did Ahmed Abu Ades arrive in Syria, and through whom did you meet him and conduct the seminar that you mentioned?

A: I remember that Ahmed Abu Ades who is known as Abu Turab came to Syria in the beginning of 2005, in [January] of that year. I went to Damascus at the time, where I met him there. With me was Khalid al-Taha. Ahmed Abu Ades traveled with the smuggler that we deal with whose name is Ahmed and he is from the town of Majdel Anjar.

Q: How were you informed that Ahmed Abu Ades had arrived in Damascus, and how did you identify him, and was this the first time you see him or had you seen him before?

A: I had never met him before this time, and Khalid Taha told me that Abu Turab had arrived, and Khalid al-Taha came with me because he knew him, and we met him in Merjeh Square in Damascus whereby the smuggler handed him over to Khalid, and then the smuggler, Ahmed, left us, and Khalid, Ahmed Abu Ades and I took a taxi to a guest house in Damascus, in the Rukn al-Din neighborhood. Abu Ades spent a week there approximately, and then Khalid al-Taha took him to meet Nabil and Sheikh Rashid.

Q: Is it usual for you to personally receive arrivals from Lebanon?

A: No, usually I never receive a person coming from Lebanon in the street, and usually the person comes to the guest house where the seminars are administered.

Q: Then why was it in the Ahmed Abu Ades case that you traveled to meet him?

A: Nabil and Rashid gave me orders to go personally and receive Ahmed Abu Ades.

Q: Why this uniqueness?

A: At the beginning it was not clear to me.

Q: What became clear to you after that, and how did you justify their request of you to personally receive and accompany him?

A: Later, when Abu Ades was shown on TV, I understood the importance of receiving him because he pulled off the operation.

Q: Why are you giving information, which if true could show your culpability and your possession of further details. We advise you to answer in all truthfulness and objectivity and clarity, and to tell all the minutest details about your meeting with Ahmed Abu Ades?

A: After you detained me and detained Sheikh Rashid and members of the group, I could not hide the information that I knew about Ahmed Abu Ades and other details that we know about me and Khalid Taha and Sheikh Rashid. Therefore I will tell you with all honesty and detachment my knowledge of my meeting with Abu Ades and what happened between us.

Q: Are you undergoing any coercion or guidance, and are you giving your statement for some [unknown] purpose, or are you giving your statement in all honesty?

A: I am giving my testimony with my full consent, and without any pressure or any hints. I am telling the truth as it is.
No, I have no more to say, and this is my statement.

[The statement was read back to him, he confirmed it and signed it along with us.]

Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 2

Today’s excerpts come from the October 10th and the and the October 15th issues of Al-Akhbar.

FAISAL AKBAR’S TESTIMONY (CONT.)

MEETING AHMED ABU ADES IN DAMASCUS

Q: Tell us in detail all your observations and recollections since the first moment you received instructions to meet Ahmed Abu Ades until the last moment you saw Ahmed Abu Ades?

A: I hadn’t heard any information about Ahmed Abu Ades’ arrival to Syria until Tuesday, the date of which I don’t remember, actually I think it was 18/1/2005 and specifically in the evening, until Khalid al-Taha arrived in Damascus, to Merjeh Square, and I had received a phone call from Jamil on my mobile number that I don’t remember, whereby Jamil told me that Khalid al-Taha is due to arrive and he will discuss a certain topic with me which [Jamil] did not mention on the phone, which is what we do usually when calling each other. And verily, Khalid al-Taha got to Merjeh Square and I was waiting for him near the Victoria Cinema and the flyover.
Khalid arrived alone, and he greeted me, and told me that Jamil says that we are to receive a person coming from Lebanon the next day, and who I would have to administer to the security seminar that I give to the guys. We agreed to meet at noon on Wednesday, the next day, in Merjeh Square near the Khayyam Hotel. Then Khalid al-Taha left and I returned to my apartment in Damascus, in the Mezzeh neighborhood.
The next day, at [2:30 PM], I took a ‘service’ to [somewhere] near the Khayyam Hotel. I met Khalid there and he was wearing black jeans and a bright blue shirt. Me and Khalid conducted a surveillance check as we usually do when meeting in public streets, that is when meeting members of our group. At [3 PM], a Syrian taxi, it was yellow I think, and a compact make, stopped before it reached us, and two persons got out who approached us. I understood that the other person is the smuggler who transported Ahmed Abu Ades, and Khalid introduced me to the newcomer without giving his name, and that this is the person we are supposed to meet, and then the smuggler left us on foot. I should add that the smuggler did not get any money from us and neither I nor Khalid knew him and it is possible that Ahmed Abu Ades was the one who pointed us out to the smuggler because [Abu Ades] already knows Khalid al-Taha; Khalid told me that he was the one who had vouched for this person, that is Ahmed Abu Ades; the three of us took a Syrian Iranian-made Sapa taxi.
Me and Ahmed Abu Ades sat in the back, while Khalid sat in the front seat next to the driver, and we took this taxi without previously knowing the driver; we were in the car for about 15 minutes for the trip from Khayyam Hotel to the Rukn al-Din neighborhood. Khalid paid the taxi fare which was 35 Syrian Lira, and he was the one who gave the driver directions to the guest house. It was a white building, with an elevator, and the apartment was on the second floor, and it was the first time that I had been taken to this guest house. We got to the door of the guest house, that had a wooden door white in color, Khalid rang the bell, and the door was opened to us by he who is known as Shakir, and I knew Shakir from before since he was the one who rented apartments for us and managed the guest houses.
We entered the apartment which consists of three rooms and a salon, and it has floor coverings and mattresses (approximately six) and two brown-colored plastic chairs. We sat in one of the rooms furthermost from the door of the apartment, and we sat on the mattresses all four of us. I introduced myself to him with the name Tariq and told him that I will be the one administering the security seminar; later on Shakir went downstairs and bought some [rotisserie] chicken and we had dinner the four of us around 7 in the evening.
I left the guest house and went to my apartment in Mezzeh. Shakir also left to get breakfast supplies for the next morning, and came back and slept in the apartment. I was to return in the morning to commence giving the seminar to Ahmed Abu Ades who I had not known his name or alias to that point.

NEW INTERROGATION SESSION

Q: We ask you to give us your testimony in the fullest and truest details, since we have managed through our searches and investigations over a period of months to prepare a study encompassing photographs of individuals, and correlating phone calls with geographical movements, and conclusions from previous investigations, in addition to detaining persons currently in our custody, which we shall show you; and we ask you to answer all these questions?

A: After Ahmed Abu Ades arrived to the guest house in the Rukn al-Din neighborhood, as I told you in my statement, and after we had had dinner in the apartment, me and Ahmed Abu Ades and Khalid al-Taha and Shakir, I left to sleep in my apartment and I returned in the morning at around 7, where I found Shakir and Ahmed Abu Ades and Khalid al-Taha. I began to give Ahmed Abu Ades the lessons of the security seminar, and this lasted until the afternoon. As such the first day of the seminar was over. We had food and we sat to chat.
Meanwhile Khalid had left to Homs to meet Jamil. This situation lasted for three days, and I had moved to live in the guest house, that is I began to sleep there with Shakir and Ahmed Abu Ades.
The seminar ended after four days when Khalid al-Taha returned from Homs, and he had black clothing with him and the cloth banner with the writing on it that appeared later behind Ahmed Abu Ades in the video film, when he declared the Hariri assassination and took credit for it. He also brought with him a Sony video camera, and Khalid al-Taha sat alone with Ahmed Abu Ades, and I think he was preparing him psychologically for the filming, and teaching him what to say. The Khalid al-Taha sat with us and told us that an order for an assassination had been issued, and that we must film that.
We began to prepare a room to film the tape. We picked an appropriate room, and it was the room where I gave the lessons, then we ate and talked between the four of us, and then we went to sleep.
On the next day, that is 24/1/2005, we woke up late. We ate, then we entered me and Khalid and Shakir to the lessons room, while Ahmed Abu Ades entered a different room, and I think he was writing parts of the statement. We had moved a wooden table to the lessons room, and had it covered with black sheets, and we put it on the wall using small black nails from the top left and right hand sides, and we put a plastic chair (brown color) behind the table, thus the room was ready for filming. We locked the door of the room after we left it, and we entered a different room. Meanwhile Khalid al-Taha received the clothes and the white turban and the paper that contain parts of the speech, which he had gotten from Jamil.
Later Ahmed Abu Ades wore the black clothes and the turban, and we entered the room where he sat behind the table and we performed a test run and filmed it. The filming wasn’t good the first time around, then we tried again for a second time on the next day. During the filming, Ahmed Abu Ades coughed, so we decided not to use this film. We stopped filming for that day, and the four of us stayed in the guest house, we didn’t leave it and no one visited us. Khalid was instructing Ahmed Abu Ades about the filming. On the third morning, we began to film, and Shakir was holding the camera, and me and Khalid were standing next to him, me on the right and Khalid on the left.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 3
Today’s translated segment first appeared in Arabic on October 16, 2007 in Al-Akhbar newspaper:

"The Saudi detainee Faisal Akbar continues to relate the details behind filming the Ahmed Abu Ades video in a secret apartment in Syria, before the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. The following is a continuation of the interrogation session with Faisal Akbar:

“We conducted the filming and Shakir was carrying the camera. Me and Khalid were standing next to him, I on the right and Khalid on the left. The camera was in Shakir’s hand who stood opposite of Ahmed. This trial work, and we displayed it on the camera screen that folds out.

Khalid called Jamil using his cell phone and told him that the film was ready. In the next day, me and Ahmed and Khaled left for Aleppo in a rented car, a Skoda pick-up, roofed and white in color. [We headed] to the farm, which is a facility that belongs to Al-Qaeda and it is managed by he who is known as Sami in the area of the Zeryeh road [Translator’s note: this should probably read Zerbeh, which is 20 Km south of Aleppo on the main highway]. We were received there by Sheikh Rashid, Nabil and Jamil.

Let me correct something for you: Jamil had arrived to Damascus on that day, and he is the one who took us in the aforementioned car. And as the four of us arrived at the farm, Jamil and Khalid and me and Ahmed Abu Ades, we were welcomed by Sami and Sheikh Rashid. After being greeted, Sheikh Rashid and Jamil took Ahmed Abu Ades aside and me and Khalid and Sami stayed outside. Their closed meeting with Abu Ades lasted for three hours, and they emerged later from the room; Sheikh Rashid and Nabil watched the film claiming responsibility for the operation through connecting the camera to the television (18 inch TV, I remember it was a Toshiba, grey in color), and Sheikh Rashid was pleased with the tape.

Afterwards, and upon Jamil’s order, me and Abu Ades and Khalid and Jamil, who drove the car, moved on to Homs where there’s a guest house managed by Jamil. It is located in the Khalidiyyah area near the Nour Mosque in a crowded area in a building with four floors: an apartment to each floor, and Jamil lived on the second floor. Next to this building was a supermarket, and we stayed in this apartment for two days while preparing to move to Lebanon prior to pulling-off the Hariri assassination.

Jamil distributed $50,000 [in cash] that he had received from Rashid. He gave me $10,000 in $100 bills, and he gave Khalid another $10,000 and kept $30,000, which were the funds for the financing the operation. During this time, Jamil had gotten hold of Syrian identification cards for us from Murad under fake names, with our pictures on them, and these were four Syrian identification [cards]. My new fake name was Hassan Al-Eid, mother’s name Ghayda’, born 1977, Syrian. As for Abu Ades and Jamil and Khalid, I did not know their fake names in the aforementioned identification [cards]. After two days, and according to my memory it was 28/1/2005, we left Homs in the Skoda car to Damascus. Jamil was driving and Abu Ades was next to him, while me and Khalid were in the backseat. We reached Damascus around 10 AM in the morning; Jamil parked the car somewhere near the Hrasta garage across from the shipping [offices] and the restaurants on the main street. I think he left the key inside the car and locked it, and it should be known that Sheikh Rashid had a copy of the keys, and he would send Shakir later to take the car back to the [rental office]. We rode in a taxi the four of us, and it should be known that the clothes and the car and the camera and the taped film remained with Sheikh Rashid at the farm.

When in the taxi, Jamil sat next to the driver, who we didn’t know, and me and Khalid and Abu Ades sat in the backseat, heading towards the Tashrin Park. We got out of the taxi, and Jamil paid the 35 Syrian Lira to the driver, and we weren’t carrying any extra clothes or belongings with us. Near Tashrin Park and on the northern corner where there is a newspaper stand, we met the smuggler who was waiting for us in a Syrian taxi, which was Mazda [mini-]bus, white in color, and new. We rode the mini-bus in the direction of Jedidet Yaboos, and there we got off with the smuggler. We paid 80,000 Syrian Lira to the smuggler in return to smuggling us over the border, whereby we crossed the Syrian side in around an hour. We began by descending then ascending the mountain then descending again. It should be known that we were transported on an old motorbike that was parked near the smuggler’s home, and he would take each of us alone for a distance of 15 minutes then he would return and get the next one. He began by transporting Jamil then Abu Ades then Khalid and finally me, and he left the motorbike during the phase of ascending the mountain, where there was a small Syrian village, the name of which I can’t remember, where the smuggler had acquaintances.

When we reached the Lebanese side in a place near the Masna’a, we walked on the main road in Masna’a. We took a red-colored Mercedes taxi to Chtoura near the money changers. We paid 4000 Lebanese Lira to the driver, Jamil paid the sum. Jamil changed $500 into Lebanese currency in an exchange office that doubled as a restaurant too. I don’t remember the name of the place, but I can show you to it. The smuggler was still with us and he was called Ahmed, and he was the same person who first brought Ahmed Abu Ades to Damascus in the beginning.

Ahmed the smuggler rented a van with a driver, and it was Hyundai as far as I recall, olive-colored. The driver was 35 years old with a moustache and his chin was clean shaven. The smuggler sat next to the driver and we sat in the back, and the journey to Beirut began; we did not stop on the way; there was a traffic choke, and the trip took two hours. We arrived in Beirut around 2 in the afternoon in the Cola neighborhood, Jamil paid the driver via the smuggler a sum of 15,000 [Lebanese] Lira, who took the smuggler with him and they both left.

We took a white-colored Mercedes taxi to the southern Dahiya to a place that I don’t know. There was a gas station and a Jammal Bank, as far as I remember. We entered a building in a souq and it consists of three floors. The appearance of the building was messy. We went up to the second floor where there are two apartments, we entered the apartment on the right and its door was wooden, brown in color. Jamil had rented it previously and had changed the lock on the door. He opened the door with a key that he had, and the apartment continued sparse furniture: six mattresses, five pillows, and six blankets, with plastic floor coverings.

We sat there, and afterwards Jamil went downstairs and was away for about an hour then he returned with food from KFC. The four of us ate, that Khalid and me and Jamil and Abu Ades, and Abu Ades had shaved his beard before we arrived to Lebanon, and we slept because we were tired from the trip.

On the next day, that is 1/2/2005, and Jamil had brought with him when he was out the night before a cell phone, a Nokia 3300 model, dark grey in color, with a Lebanese [SIM card] whose number I didn]t know; Jamil and Khalid left the apartment, and Abu Ades and I stayed inside until Jamil and Khalid returned at night. I think they got clothes and pajamas and underwear and things to eat; we ate and then me and Jamil discussed the phases of the operation, and Jamil told me that he is seeking to purchase a pick-up truck, and that his group is working to find such a car. He also told me that there is a surveillance team that has been monitoring the target for three weeks before we got to Lebanon, and that they are Lebanese and trustworthy, and they are cadres from Al-Qaeda, and their aliases were Fahed and Thamer and Adnan and Fawwaz and Bessam. This day ended like this.

On the next day, Jamil and Khalid left after having breakfast at around 12 noon, and it was our second day in Lebanon, that is 2/2/2005. They returned late at night, around 1 AM, and I didn’t talk to them. On the morning of the third day, that is 3/2/2005, I left with Jamil while Abu Ades and Khalid stayed in the apartment. We took a taxi from the Dahiya in the direction of ‘Ain al-Mereeseh. We got there around 1 PM, and we walked near the Tazej Restaurant east, passing the McDonald’s restaurant, near the ‘Ain al-Mereeseh mosque, whereby the McDonald’s was on our left. We ascended an incline, to the left there is a car rental agency at the end of the street. We veered left and walked in the direction of the Holiday Inn, and when we got to the intersection we veered left, and it was a downhill street, I saw the Phoenicia [Hotel] on my left and in front of me, and lying on a lower level, was the sight of the beach where the Yacht Club is, and to its left the St. George.

Jamil was pointing out the locations to me, and giving me the addresses. We got in front of the St. George where Jamil informed me that the convoy is forced to pass in front of the St. George, and that the best spot to perform the operation would be the building adjacent to the St. George on the right hand side of the street; we discussed this spot and Jamil informed me that there is another spot in front of President Hariri’s office that could also be suitable to perform the detonation operation, let it be known that we didn’t stand near the St. George for long, rather we would stand for a moment then continue walking and then stop so as not to raise any suspicions.

As we arrived near a pharmacy in ‘Ain al-Mereeseh, we took a taxi to the Aishah Bakkar neighborhood or Verdun from what I remember. There we got out before the office at the intersection and we went downhill. While going downhill I saw a series of restaurants on the left, and there was also a bank on the left, and an Adidas store and a women clothing stores on the right hand side. We got to an intersection near the Holiday Inn and across from it on the corner was an old building surrounded by many trees and a large picture of President Hariri in the vicinity of the building. We walked on the sidewalk across from this building which was [Hariri’s] office. We didn’t stop, but rather continued walking as we walked and took note of the traffic. I saw through the open gateway the removable barrier to the entrance, and inside were parked some ordinary cars. There wasn’t any leeway to place a truck and center it in that street because it would arouse suspicions when it would stop there.

We dismissed this option and we took a taxi back towards the Dahiya. During this time, Jamil was receiving calls on his cell phone from the onlookers, I think. We got to the apartment in the evening; and I talked to Jamil about the on-the-ground scouting that we had done, and then we slept.

In the next day, that is 4/2/2005, Khalid and Jamil left and returned in the evening. Jamil told me that there is a suitable car in Tripoli, a large pick-up, white in color, that costs approximately $7000 that one of his acquaintances was [getting it out of customs] and buying. And that the shipment, that is the explosives, had arrived in Lebanon from Syria and that it originated from Iraq, and that is was TNT with Cortex ropes and ten electric detonators, and it is now in a safe place, that he wouldn’t tell me about.

During this night, I felt that Khalid al-Taha was acting out of character, for he was silent and conspicuous. He usually jokes around and smiles constantly. We went to sleep and I slept with Jamil in a room, and Khalid and Abu Ades in other rooms.

The morning of the next day, that is 5/2/2005, I don’t remember this day well, I think that Jamil got a call from his group that are assigned to buy the car, and that the car was agreed upon for $7500. As he told me he bought in a normal way, and he is to leave with Khalid to prepare the car and to prepare the explosives, and he gave me his number which I don’t remember, on the condition that I call him only in case of the most urgent emergencies, and he left.

I stayed with Abu Ades in the apartment for two days, we didn’t leave and nobody came in on us. Khalid and Jamil returned on 9/2/2005, Jamil told me that the truck had been prepared and that explosives arranged in a directed manner, and that it was appended with a switch that acts as the detonator to the explosion. Jamil and Khalid arrived in the afternoon, and Jamil told me that the delicate task is now up to the guys doing surveillance and monitoring. He was still receiving calls, and it should be known that he would turn off his phone around midnight, and when he returned to the [apartment] he would turn off the phone in the street before he went up to the apartment, and if he was in the apartment he would leave at night and turn off the line so that the geographical movements of the line are not shown.

On the 10th day we went out with Jamil and went to the St. George area to inspect the place. We arrived by taxi ahead of the St. George too, near the ‘Ain al-Mereeseh mosque, and we walked in the same street. We passed by the entrance of the St. George and we didn’t see any suspicious movement or any checkpoints or patrols. We returned to the apartment at night. We talked over what had happened during our surveillance of the St. George area and we agreed that the spot after the St. George entrance in front of the adjacent building, I can show it to you, in the final point where the truck is to be parked and inside it Abu Ades to conduct the explosion operation while the convoy passes in the remaining days before 14/2/2005, the day the operation was conducted.

The surveillance and monitoring [teams] were active, and we also discussed our evacuation plan after the operation. On 13/2/2005 Jamil left and took Abu Ades with him. I stayed with Khalid in the apartment, and [Jamil] showed [Abu Ades] the pick-up car and the place where the operation is to be conducted. They returned to the apartment at night and Abu Ades was relieved and every encouraged about conducting the operation, and while me and Jamil and Khalid talked, Abu Ades went into the other room to pray and worship. The three of us, me and Jamil and Khalid, discussed the evacuation plan which was as follows: the surveillance and monitoring team would withdraw and us too towards the [American University of Beirut] –the sea entrance. We went to sleep. We got up for dawn prayers, then went back to sleep. We got up at around 10, and Abu Ades went out alone, he said goodbye and hugged us, Khalid cried. After nearly half an hour the three of us left, me and Jamil and Khalid, after Jamil had kept Abu Ades’ fake Syrian identification [card]; someone drove the pick-up while Abu Ades was next to him, and he was a member of the surveillance team and I don’t know who he was. After we left the apartment, we took a taxi towards ‘Ain al-Mereeseh. We got out near the ‘Ain al-Mereeseh mosque, we stopped on the cornice in front of the mosque, and it was around 12 noon, Abu Ades stopped and waited for the convoy to pass. And when the convoy passes, the explosion occurred, after Abu Ades blew himself up in the convoy.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 3.5

I translated part of the final section that appeared on October 16, 2007 in al-Akhbar, and hopefully will put up the remaining part of the piece and my own analysis of Faisal Akbar’s testimony over the next few days:

"After the Saudi detainee Faisal Akbar confessed to the details of the operation to assassinate Rafiq Hariri, he goes back and retracts his full testimony in the same interrogation session:

Q: Through surveying the events before the attack, and we mean the security cameras that are concentrated in the vicinity of where the explosion took place, and based on deductions that are available to us, and what was forthcoming in your statement here, it turns out that the truck was moving before the attack. There is information that says that Abu Ades does not drive, and you did not tell us that you gave him any lessons on driving in the seminar your administered to him, in addition to this issue of driving, and under such circumstances, he would not have been able to control the driving of the truck at the speed that was seen on the security camera. Then it is also somewhat dangerous to parade Abu Ades in the Syrian cities, Damascus, Aleppo and Homs, and to smuggle him over the land borders and to place him in the middle of the capital, where he is from, and to risk having him identified by chance and thus ruining your plans. It was also proven that there was not DNA [evidence] indicating that Ahmed Abu Ades was at the scene of the crime. It is certain that you are an explosives expert, and we noticed this while searching the Rosheh apartment, where we found ear plugs and special eardrops for you, and that you have symptoms in your ears, as we were told by the doctor in your group. It is also clear that Abu Ades taped the video film, but it is not known what happened after that.
Now tell us how the operation took place, and what happened to Abu Ades, and who are the real participants and perpetrators and activists and look-outs who were involved in preparing the vehicle and the explosives and all the elements of the crime? Tell us about all that with honesty, and about the place where you stayed in?

A: The truth is that Ahmed Abu Ades recorded the video tape, and he was brought by Khalid al-Taha from Beirut on 16/1/2005 to Sheikh Rashid, to his headquarters in Aleppo. During this time, I had been in Beirut for two months with the operation team, and with us was Jamil and Adnan and Fawwaz and Thamir and Bassam and Muhanned, and we were staying at an apartment in the Dhahia. Khalid al-Taha joined us, afterwards, to finish-up the surveillance operation, and let it be known that the person who conducted the bombing was a Saudi youth, who arrived from the ‘Al-Qaeda in the Haramein’ [organization], and he was sent by Abu Hajer. He’s the one who conducted the operation to assassinate Hariri using the same truck that I mentioned to you. Afterwards we broke the [SIM cards] of our cell phones, and we left the places that we were at, and then we crossed over to Syria through smuggling.
The suicide bomber was called Abu Muqatil al-Asadi, and the truck was prepared [for detonation] in the ‘Ain al-Helwah Camp by Abu ‘Ubeida.

Q: Can you remember any of the [cell phone] numbers that were used by yourselves in the two month period that you mentioned?

A: No, I can’t remember any of them.

Q: We will show you a list of eleven numbers, can you recognize any of the numbers that were used in what you mentioned?

A: The numbers used were seven, and not eleven, and after perusing [your list] I can’t remember any of them.

Q: Can you inform us about the address or the full identity of Abu Muqatil al-Asadi?

A: No, I cannot inform you of that.

Q: If we took you with us, would you be able to identify the apartment in which you stayed during the preparation phase of the operation that you claimed to have participated in?

A: No, I don’t remember how to get to these places.

Q: Then why did you weave together events from your imagination or from a source you may have heard give the details if you hadn’t participated [in these events]?

A: I should tell you that Sheikh Rashid, and that was two weeks ago and we were in Lebanon in the Shati’ al-Dhahabi apartment, had asked me to inform the guys that the security services in Lebanon don’t know anything about the subject of Ahmed Abu Ades. He added that I should inform them that if any of them was detained by these [security] services, that they should not confess to the issue of Ahmed Abu Ades. On this basis, and through my close relationship and understanding of my emir, Sheikh Rashid, I imagined the details as I mentioned to you, and I put myself in these details since I thought that you wouldn’t believe that I hadn’t participated if I had told you the details without being part of their stages.

Q: We asked you repeatedly to speak with honesty and to be specific, and it was you who claimed that Abu Turab was the alias of Ahmed Abu Ades, and that he was brought to you in Syria by way of Khalid al-Taha. What is established is that the latter is connected to you, and you deliberately smuggled him into the Ain al-Helwah Camp. And after we questioned you about this Abu Turab, you informed us that you learnt that his real name later after you watched Abu Ades appear on TV.
You are the one who wanted to give this detailed information, that corresponded with the results of our investigations and many elements of the investigations so far. So do you know Ahmed Abu Ades, and did you smuggle Khalid al-Taha to the camp, and did the following [persons] attend your security seminars: Khalid al-Taha, Hani al-Shenti, Amer Hallaq, Selim Halimeh, and Bilal Za’aroureh?

A: I lied to you about the topic of my meeting of Ahmed Abu Ades. As for Hani al-Shenti whose alias is Marwan, and Bilal Za’aroureh also known as Jalal, and Amer Hallaq also known as Wasim, and Selim Halimeh also known as Samir, they underwent security seminars with me, and then they pledged allegiance to Sheikh Rashid.

Q: Why this exclusivity, since all the aforementioned knew and had a relationship with Ahmed Abu Ades, and why is he excluded from your list, given that he follows the same creed. What is the purpose of crossing him out of the list?

A: I affirm to you that I didn’t see Ahmed Abu Ades during my security seminars.

Q: Tell us about the frequency of seminars that you set up for those who requested them over the last two years?

A: I shall tell you that I gave seminars to approximately four persons every week, over the last two years. Youth from all the countries of the Islamic world would attend, including those from Lebanon and Palestinians residing [in Lebanon].

Q: Were you distracted by something during this period you talk of, and what distracted you from training the mujaheddin. If yes, tell us when and for how long and why?

A: No, I didn’t leave my work giving lectures in security seminar but once and that was for a week in June 2005, when I went to Iraq and met Sheikh Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi to discuss the matter of the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Q: Can you remember the young [men] who came to you in the first and second month of 2005, especially any Lebanese or a Palestinian residing in Lebanon, and to name him?

A: No, I don’t remember any of these guys from that period.

Q: By looking into the call logs of the seven numbers that were used from 4/2/2005 to 14/2/2005 until 1 PM, that is the time of the assassination of the martyr president Hariri, these numbers only called each other, and their geographical movements paralleled on different dates the movement of the private convoy of the martyr and the vicinity of the parliament and the St. George Hotel and the places overlooking it, and they were shut off at the moment of the explosion or seconds after that and were never active again, in addition to the cut-off in the activity of these lines after noontime on 14/1/2005 to start up again on the morning of 20/1/2005, given that Ahmed Abu Ades disappeared on the morning of 16/1/2005 and that corresponded to the time that Khalid al-Taha arrived on the evening of the 15/1/2005, and his departure from Lebanon through the Masna’a [border point] on the morning of 16/1/2005.
In addition to that, your distribution of those [tasked with] surveillance and monitoring, as you called them in your testimony, at the places that you mentioned which matched the movement of those who were using the numbers and the times of when they woke up [also matched] what you told about your movements in the apartment in Dhahia. We also, in order to verify [information], showed you a list of [phone] numbers so that you’d remember the numbers that were used as you told us, and we added four fake numbers to them, and corrected us by telling us that the numbers used were seven [in number], and not eleven, which corresponded to the aliases you mentioned: five onlookers and you and Jamil makes seven, and these facts did not appear in the news or in the media. How do you explain your knowledge of these details, and how is it that you can describe the streets of Beirut and its landmarks. Can this all be by way of coincidence?

A: It occurred to me to mention five onlookers, so I gave you made-up aliases, and me and Jamil make seven. Thus the number seven popped into my mind and I mentioned it to you. And I had no knowledge that the numbers that you say were used to in the phases of the Hariri assassination were seven.
I also concocted the places that I told you about, and that the surveillance team had been based there, and that was a figment of my imagination, and I used my knowledge of these streets and the St. George since I’ve been to Lebanon on previous occasions and I know them since then, and they would be useful to be sites for observing the place of the assassination that I saw on television. As for the disappearance of Ahmed Abu Ades, I know nothing about this subject, except what Rashid told me recently which I mentioned to you, to warn the guys, Marwan and Khalid Taha, not to tell the security services anything concerning Abu Ades.

Q: Since you are an instructor of many security seminars for the youth, and we have looked-over the content of the lessons that you would give on this manner from what was captured among the belongings of the detainees, it had become clear that there were lessons on how to mislead interrogators and other techniques, and advice to the students that in the case of investigations being conducted with them then they should deviate the course of the interrogation to waste time and to hide facts, and this was made very clear in your statement. Why do you resort to this technique?

A: It was not my intention to mislead the investigation or to hide information, and now I telling the truth about what I have to say.

Q: So you retract your testimony over meeting and interviewing Abu Ades?

A: Yes, I retract it, and I didn’t see him or meet him in any prior time. I only watched him on television on three occasions, and that was after the bombing.

Q: What else do you recant from your testimony?

A: I recant my knowledge of or participation in the phases of the Hariri assassination on 14/2/2005.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 4
This is the final installment of the Faisal Akbar testimony, which appears in the October 16, 2007 issue of Al-Akhbar. I will post my analysis over the next couple of days. Promise.


"Q: We noticed while taking down your statement during the phases of the investigation that you use aliases for some people while neglecting [the use of aliases] for others. Why [do you do this]?

A: I am used to saying, for example, Sheikh Osama bin Laden or Sheikh Abu Abdullah, because the alias is repeated to me all the time, especially since this goes to the core of my work as a mujahid in Al-Qaeda. When it comes to Hariri, I say this without his title since there is no intention or particular purpose to mention this title in this way.

Q: Why did you purposefully take security precautions, as you told us, varying in degrees of importance, such as hiding Khalid al-Taha at the camp, while you isolated Marwan, that is Hani al-Shenty, in the Al-Besta apartment and Amer Hallaq and Salim Halimeh in the Tareek Jdeideh apartment, without them finding a way [of contacting] one another. What is the purpose of these measures, and why does Khalid al-Taha enjoy such a high level of security importance?

A: I was following the orders of Sheikh Rashid as they were in the security arrangement, because Khalid al-Taha has a relationship with Ziyad Ramadhan, and the latter was mentioned by name in the Mehlis report.

Q: You said that you are part of, and organized within, a jihadist movement that seeks to fight in Iraq. While in Lebanon, we found in the apartments that you manage weapons and rockets and bombs and communications equipment and guns and a mask and belts that belie that they are suicide belts, and hair color dyes and electrical components for detonations, and we also found wireless equipment. And with the detainees that contacted you, we found combat and training manuals that surpass is security sophistication what we ourselves know. Tell us why [you] possessed these materials, especially in light it has become clear that [your] movement was not from Syria to Iraq, but [rather] from Syria to Lebanon. Why is this presence [infused] with such caution including providing each one of you, in the very least, with a fake identification document. It was also revealed that each one of your comrades, and you too, had several phone cards. Each person would use one card, and his alias would be marked on the back of the card. In addition we asked you to provide us with the name of one person who took a [security] seminar and gave his allegiance, and then managed to get to Iraq to fight and achieve his goal?

A: We came to Lebanon to escape the Syrian security sweeps and to continue our jihadist work in Lebanon [which involved] the bombs and the rockets. As for the explosive belts, they also enter into our work. As for the hair dyes, they are for masquerading, and they are used by Sheikh Rashid, not myself. As for the electrical circuits, they belong to the electronic [part of our organization] that is managed by Jamil. As for the studies that were saved on the computers of the guys, these are modern combat studies, like the seminar of the martyr Isma’il al-Khatib on assembling electronic circuits to attach to explosives, and seminars on making explosives, and seminars on advanced communications equipment. As for the brothers who fought in Iraq and came from Lebanon, I will mention to you the martyr Abu Omar al-Lubnani, the father of Muhammed Ramadhan whose son was also martyred in Iraq, and that was two years ago. But nowadays, the borders were shut down as of approximately a month and a half ago.

Q: What did you see on television when Ahmed Abu Ades appeared, and what do you remember of him?

A: I remember watching him on the Aljazeera channel, in a film cut up into two or three segments, reading a statement [on behalf] of the Nusra wel Jihad group, taking responsibility for the Hariri assassination. I don’t remember all the reasons, but I remember some of them that revolved around the revenge for the martyrs of the haramein [Translator’s Note: the holy cities of Mecca and Medina], and it was widespread among us that Hariri had signed the execution [orders] for some of the Salafist mujaheddin in Lebanon.

Q: Could the life of Khalid al-Taha be in danger now since he is, as you said, suffering from problems?

A: Khalid is in the Ain al-Helwah Camp with the Usbet al-Ansar group, and they are brothers to us and there is coordination between us and them, and they are taking care of him per an agreement between Sheikh Rashid with he who has the alias Abu Bassir, and he is the head of the group. I will tell you that Khalid al-Taha left his gun in the Ain al-Rummaneh apartment with Hani al-Shenty because he felt safe about knowing that he is going to move into the Usbet al-Ansar camp.

Q: After perusing and checking your laptop, we found encrypted e-mails that were stored in a secret file. Explain these messages to us, and what are they meant [for], and the symbols found in them?

A: This file contains encrypted e-mails that [belong] to Rashid, and I cannot open them or translate these messages for you. Rashid is the only one capable of reading these messages, because he possesses the password and we do not possess it.

Q: You mentioned in your statement that the cost of the Mitsubishi truck was 7000 dollars, and this price matched the price of the aforementioned truck in the Lebanese market?

A: This happened by coincidence.

Q: The list of forgery equipment, letters, laptop and its accessories, weapons, funds, phone cards and other things found in the Shati al-Dhahabi apartment belong to who? Tell us about them in detail?

A: The paper on which the electronic equipment and stationary and the maps of Beirut and Tripoli are noted was a request from Jalal, who is also called Sultan or Murad, and he is the one who is proficient at forgery within [our] group. He asked me for these things so that I would buy them for him because he wanted to use them in the Ain al-Helwah camp. The laptop is Rashid’s, and the accessories of this laptop belong to Rashid too. The letters, which you have shown me, and that I have recognized them, are letters from the brothers in Usbet al-Ansar in the Ain al-Helwah Camp to Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, through Rashid, [while] the letter addressed to “the Hajji”, which is an alias for Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, and the letter to Abu Laith al-Nejdi, who was martyred [later], these two letters [belong] to Rashid. It should be noted that I burn any letter after reading it, but I don’t know why Rashid keeps these letters.

As for the two guns and the bomb, they were brought by the doctor whose alias is Muwwafaq with him, and he is in your custody. The funds belong to our organization, and it is in Rashid’s charge. The VISA credit cards with the names of Saudi persons belong to Rashid, and he is capable of withdrawing money with them after the owners deposit the funds that are donated to [our] organization. The phone cards are for use between us and the guys in Lebanon and Syria. The belts, I don’t know what they are used for, except one which is for straightening a back. The fake identification cards were received by Rashid for distribution among the guys.

The hair dying kit found in the Shati’ al-Dhahabi apartment belongs to Rashid, because he wanted to change his appearance, because he is known and for security reasons. The mask was brought by the doctor with him.

Q: Why do you deliberately change aliases?

A: For security circumstances, aliases are changed every once and a while.

Q: When did Khalid al-Taha change his alias from Badr to Nour, and under what circumstances?

A: I don’t know.

Q: Has Marwan changed his alias since joining the group, we mean Hani al-Shenti?

A: No Marwan didn’t change his alias, and kept it the same.

Q: Did Amer and Selim change their aliases since that time?

A: No they did not change their aliases.

Q: Did Bilal Za’aroureh change his alias?

A: Yes he changed it from Jalal to Ramadhan.

Q: Why this uniqueness and security circumstances that drove Khalid al-Taha and Bilal Za’aroureh specifically to change their aliases, especially since they were sent to the camp to hide?

A: For security necessities.

Q: Can you explain this security necessity in light of their association with Ahmed Abu Ades?

A: I do not have an answer to this question.

Q: What do you think about Rashid’s denial to any [emir status] or pledge of allegiance or activity or knowledge of activities that your comrades admitted to willingly?

A: Rashid is an emir, and I think he is thinking for the long term so that he won’t stay in prison for too long. He will [then] get out to continue his jihadist activity. Because he is an emir, he is entitled to claim and say what he sees fit.

Q: During a stage of the stages of this interrogation, you gave a clear testimonial about receiving Ahmed Abu Ades, and then your participation in filming the video, and explaining specific details during the filming, such as breaking down the Abu Ades statement on the film into four parts, and then you told us about the reasons and motivations that Abu Ades mentioned in the film, and then you gave an oral testimony to the Lt. Col. who heads [our] branch, and then you retracted [your testimony]. Explain this to us?

A: I told you many things that I made up in my imagination, and they have no connection to reality, such as dividing up the statement into four parts, and they are the religious introduction, that contains verses from the Koran, then a tradition [of the prophet], and third the political reasons that involve stealing the money of Lebanon, and that Hariri signed the execution [orders] for the young mujaheddin in Lebanon who had assassinated Nezar al-Halabi, and to avenge the martyrs of the haramein like Abu Hajer [who is] Abdel-Aziz al-Muqrin, and the fourth [part] is his [final words] to his mother and the Muslims in general.
I certify to you that all these details were derived from my imagination and are not true.

Q: The details that you innovated match irrefutable facts, that have been revealed in many investigations regarding the topic of our [file] here [regarding] the crime of assassinating the martyred President Rafiq Hariri and the disappearance of Ahmed Abu Ades, which shows that you know of matters and details you told us about or modified, and then you backed away from them. We advise you to tell the truth as it is, and to tell us about the persons who you may perceive, and for special reasons, as the legitimate superiors or brothers in the jihad?

A: The real reason that I mentioned and I am certain of and this is widespread among the mujaheddin, is the matter of the Hariri’s signature on the execution [orders] of the mujaheddin in Lebanon. I heard this matter from Rashid after the Hariri assassination, and while we were following the news on television in the security office in Syria during the same day that Hariri was assassinated on.

Q: Was that on 14/2/2005, and at what time as far as you recall?

A: Yes this matter was [during] watching television and hearing the Abu Ades statement on 14/2/2005, and I remember it was after afternoon prayers.

Q: What did Rashid say at the time, and who was with you?

A: No one was with us, and Rashid said at the time, after the film was played on Aljazeera, that “Hariri was implicated and responsible for signing the execution [orders] for the mujaheddin in the Nezar al-Halabi case” and I hadn’t known about this matter until Rashid told me about it.

Q: Are you prepared to confront Rashid with this claim, and what if he asked you to obey his order since he was the emir as you mentioned?

A: Yes I am prepared to confront Rashid, Hassan al-Naba’a, on what he said on that date, and I will not follow his order if he asked me to stop testifying or to corroborate his statements, because now I am speaking truthfully and there is no guile in what I am saying.

Q: What about your retraction in a short while after what we said, if we asked you another question?

A: I certify to you that what I mentioned now is honest and true, and what Rashid had mentioned about the execution of the mujaheddin in the Nezar al-Halabi case is what I learnt from him. As for what [I meant] by widespread, are the executions in general, which Hariri signed, and they concern past Lebanese mujaheddin like Badi’ or Wadi’. This matter is specific to the Lebanese, and known by them like Rashid, but I didn’t know it. I have given my testimony willingly and with all truthfulness and I have nothing to say otherwise.

[His statement was read to him; he corroborated it and signed it along with us]

Sending Swords to Iraq

Q: It came to light in the testimony of someone else in this [investigation] that he was tasked once with purchasing a sword from Beirut, and specifically from the Dora [area], and sending it to Rashid in Syria, what is the veracity of this claim?

A: Rashid sends swords to Iraq to Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, and I have no knowledge of who from the guys brings them from Lebanon.

Q: Who do you think it is?

A: My direct emir is Rashid.

Q: How does that obligate you, explain that to us?

A: I fully follow what he says to me or assigned to me by him and I don’t refuse it unless there is a religious [reason] not to.

Q: Given what you just said, does this matter obligate you to hide facts so as not to damage the group or its emir or the general doctrine?

A: Yes I am committed to following orders, especially if they are from the emir, to hide facts or details.

Q: Where did you meet Rashid and how and when?

A: I met Rashid who is in your custody and now I found out that his name is Hassan Naba’a, in Afghanistan during the year 2000 in one of the training camps and we stayed together for approximately five months, then Abu Musa’ab al-Zarqawi sent him to Lebanon to organize groups to prepare the ground for the jihad in Lebanon, so Rashid arrived and he was called at the time “Abu Muslim”.

Knowledge of the streets of Beirut

Q: You mentioned to us that you knew the streets of Beirut because you have been to Lebanon on previous occasions, when did you arrive and where did you stay and what was the purpose of your presence during those times?

A: I arrived in Lebanon in mid-2001 as I was tasked by Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi to meet the Jund al-Sham group that is located in the ‘Ain al-Helwah Camp. I came from Turkey to Lebanon, and I stayed at the White House Hotel in Hamra under my real name for an hour only then I traveled with someone called Mu’in to the Ain al-Helwah Camp to discuss with Jund al-Sham the issue of pledging allegiance and going to [do] jihad in Afghanistan and I stayed in the camp for about two weeks. I traveled afterwards to Turkey and then to Afghanistan, and I came during the same year from Syria to Lebanon through the Masna’a [border point] under my real name again and I went directly to the Ain al-Helwah Camp. I met again the brothers in Jund al-Sham for about four days to observe the issue of going out to the jihad and to ascertain their preparedness and abilities.

During that time I became wanted in Lebanon by the Lebanese judiciary because Mu’in was stopped in Syria and handed [back] to Lebanon for the crime of forgery, I was called at the time “Qweidh” “Qaws”. I managed to leave to Syria and then returned to Lebanon on dates that I don’t remember for about three times again to the Ain al-Helwah Camp. After this time I used to enter Lebanon with a fake Saudi passport under the name Fahed al-Yamani, and I would come for a day or two for the [border] stamps so that the Syrian General Security [Directorate] would see stamps on my passport even though it was fake, and I would use when coming to Lebanon furnished apartments in Hamra and Rosheh, and I also stayed in the Shuweifat area in an apartment with Nabil who is called “Abu al-Ghadieh”, who was martyred in Iraq. I stayed for two days there, then I returned to Syria while Nabil statyed there, and that was in 2003, so I have been to Lebanon around eight times, and that is why I know the streets of Beirut.