Bolstering the argument of experts who claim former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had close ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network, a former member of the ex-president’s secret police has corroborated the connection in a recent interview.
Columnist and author Jonathan Schanzer writes in the Weekly Standard of his meeting with Abdul Rahman al-Shamari, who is currently sitting in a Kurdish prison. Al-Shamari told Schanzer he worked for a man who was Saddam’s envoy to al-Qaida.
In the interview, al-Shamari confirmed he was involved in assisting Ansar al Islam, an al-Qaida affiliate responsible for attacks against Kurdish and Western targets in northern Iraq. Weapons, “mostly mortar rounds,” were supplied to the terrorists, the prisoner told Schanzer.
Besides weapons, al-Shamari says, Saddam’s secret police, the Mukhabarat, helped the terror group financially “every month or two months.”
“On one occasion we gave them 10 million Swiss dinars [$700,000],” al-Shamari said.
The prisoner then confirmed that his former boss, Abu Wael, was the main point of contact between Saddam and the terror network. Schanzer showed al-Shamari a photo of Abu Wael. Wrote Schanzer:
Do you know this man?” I asked al-Shamari. His eyes widened and he smiled. He told me that he knew the man in the picture, but that his graying beard was now completely white. He said that the man was Abu Wael, whose full name is Colonel Saadan Mahmoud Abdul Latif al-Aani. The prisoner told me that he had worked for Abu Wael, who was the leader of a special intelligence directorate in the Mukhabarat. That directorate provided assistance to Ansar al Islam at the behest of Saddam Hussein, whom Abu Wael had met “four or five times.”
Al-Shamari added that “Abu Wael’s wife is Izzat al-Douri’s cousin,” making him a part of Saddam’s inner circle. Al-Douri, of course, was the deputy chairman of Saddam’s Revolutionary Command Council, a high-ranking official in Iraq’s armed forces, and Saddam’s right-hand man. Originally No. 6 on the most wanted list, he is still believed to be at large in Iraq, and is suspected of coordinating aspects of insurgency against American troops, primarily in the Sunni triangle.
Al-Shamari explained to his interviewer that Saddam used Ansar al Islam as a tool to foment unrest in the pro-American Kurdish area of Iraq, saying most of the Kurds fighting for the terror group didn’t know of Saddam’s financial and logistic support.
Wrote Schanzer: “Al-Shamari also told me that the links between Saddam’s regime and the al-Qaida network went beyond Ansar al Islam. He explained in considerable detail that Saddam actually ordered Abu Wael to organize foreign fighters from outside Iraq to join Ansar. Al-Shamari estimated that some 150 foreign fighters were imported from al-Qaida clusters in Jordan, Turkey, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, and Lebanon to fight with Ansar al Islam’s Kurdish fighters.”
Besides Ansar al Islam, al-Shamari said, Abu Wael also sent money to other al-Qaida affiliates and to other groups that “worked against the United States.”