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Recently translated documents captured by U.S. forces provide new evidence of a direct link between Saddam Hussein’s regime and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
Rosters of officers in Saddam’s Fedayeen list Lt. Col. Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, who was present at the January 2000 al-Qaida “summit” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at which the 9-11 attacks were planned, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The Fedayeen was the elite paramilitary group run by Saddam’s son Uday, which was deployed to do much of the regime’s dirty work.
The U.S. has never been sure Shakir was at the Kuala Lumpur meeting on behalf of Saddam’s regime or whether he was an Iraqi Islamist on his own, the Journal notes.
The paper cautions, however, it is possible the Shakir listed on the rosters is not the Iraqi of the same name with proven al-Qaida connections.
But sources tell the Journal the authenticity of the three Fedayeen rosters is not in question. Coalition forces have found millions of documents that still are being sorted, translated and absorbed, the paper said.
Reported accounts of the al-Qaida planning summit said Shakir had a job at the Kuala Lumpur airport he obtained through an Iraqi intelligence agent at the Iraqi embassy.
Among the al-Qaida operatives in attendance were the two who flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon – Khalid al Midhar and Nawaz al Hamzi – and Ramzi bin al Shibh, the operational planner of the 9-11 attacks.
Also in attendance was Tawfiz al Atash, a high-ranking Osama bin Laden lieutenant and mastermind of the USS Cole bombing.
Shakir left Malaysia four days after the summit finished, Jan. 13, 2000, then turned up in Qatar, where he was arrested Sept. 17, 2001, four days after the attacks.
A search uncovered phone numbers of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers’ safe houses and contacts and information related to a 1995 al-Qaida plot to blow up a dozen commercial airliners over the Pacific.
But Shakir, inexplicably, was released after a brief detention and flew to Amman, Jordan, where he was arrested again. The Jordanians released him, however, with the OK of the CIA, after pressure from the Iraqis and Amensty International.
He was last seen returning to Baghdad.
Noting the volume of evidence, the Journal said, “One of the mysteries of postwar Iraq is why the Bush Administration and our $40-billion-a-year intelligence services haven’t devoted more resources to probing the links between Saddam’s regime and al-Qaida.”
The current official U.S. intelligence conclusion is that Saddam’s regime was not involved in supporting the Sept. 11 attacks.
A new book by Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard, “The Connection,” puts together the evidence of Saddam’s ties to al-Qaida.
“The Baathists killing U.S. soldiers are clearly working with al-Qaida now,” the Journal says. “Saddam’s files might show us how they linked up in the first place.”
As Geostrategy-Direct reported, new evidence about a meeting in Prague between Sept. 11 plot leader Mohamed Atta and Iraqi intelligence officer Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani has been uncovered. If confirmed, the meeting would indicate a role by Saddam’s intelligence service in some level of support for the 9-11 plot.
The information supports other journalists who have uncovered a connection between Iraq and al-Qaida, including Jayna Davis, author of “The Third Terrorist: The Middle Eastern Connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing.”
In her book, Davis suggests the Sept. 11 attacks possibly could have been prevented if evidence of an Iraqi and al-Qaida link to the OKC bombing had been pursued.
Davis writes that in November 1997, Hussain Hashem Al-Hussaini – a former Iraqi Republican Guardsman whom multiple eyewitnesses identified as McVeigh’s elusive accomplice, John Doe 2 – confided to his psychiatrist that he was anxious about his airport job because “if something were to happen there, I (Al-Hussaini) would be a suspect.” At the time, Al-Hussaini was employed at Boston Logan International Airport, where two of the four 9-11 suicide hijackings originated.
She also reveals court records that suggest one of bombers Timothy McVeigh’s and Terry Nichols’s accused Middle Eastern handlers had foreknowledge of the 9-11 plot.
In addition, Davis discusses information she first uncovered eight years ago – that Nichols learned the macabre genius of terrorist bomb making under the training of Philippines-based al-Qaida explosives expert Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
In February, columnist and author Jonathan Schanzer wrote in the Weekly Standard of his meeting in a Kurdish prison with Abdul Rahman al-Shamari, who claims 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.”
In December, Geostrategy-Direct reported Iraqi officers interrogated by the United States and coalition officials said Saddam, through Saudi contacts, had invited al-Qaida insurgents to form suicide and other units to stop the U.S. military in March.
Saddam’s contacts with al-Qaida, the officers told interrogators, preceded the Sept. 11 attacks. They said Saudi envoys arranged for al-Qaida insurgents to enter Iraq and begin training in camps around Baghdad.
The al-Qaida insurgents were trained at two camps – Nahrawan and Salman Pak – under the supervision of the Fedayeen Saddam.
Officers said the Salman Pak training included ways to hijack airplanes. Training was conducted under the supervision of an unidentified Iraqi general who is currently a police commander. They said many of the al-Qaida insurgents left Iraq after their training stint.
The London Telegraph reported in December the discovery of a secret memo to Saddam that gives details of a visit by Atta to Baghdad just weeks before the 9-11 attacks. Information obtained by Iraq’s coalition goverment indicated Atta was trained in Baghdad by Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal.
“We are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam’s involvement with al-Qaida,” said Dr Ayad Allawi, a member of Iraq’s ruling seven-man presidential committee, according to the London paper.
“But this is the most compelling piece of evidence that we have found so far,” he said. “It shows that not only did Saddam have contacts with al-Qaida, he had contact with those responsible for the September 11 attacks.”
In November, the Weekly Standard reported a 16-page top secret government memo to the Senate Intelligence Committee said bin Laden and Saddam had an operational relationship from the early 1990s to 2003 that involved training in explosives and weapons of mass destruction, as well as financial and logistical support, and may have included the bombing of the USS Cole and the Sept. 11 attacks.