United States Marines may have uncovered “smoking-gun” evidence supporting one of the coalition’s justifications for war in Iraq.
The Los Angeles Times reports soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Regiment found what appears to be a large-scale terrorist training camp for the Palestinian Liberation Front, as well as documents indicating Iraq recently sold weapons to the terror group for its fight against Israel.
“This proves the link between Iraq and terror groups,” the Times quotes Capt. Aaron Robertson, the battalion’s intelligence officer, as saying.
According to the paper, the 25-year-old hidden compound could have accommodated 600 recruits at one time.
Its 20-plus cement buildings contain an obstacle course, parade deck, lecture halls, dining halls, barracks, administrative offices and small jail cells likely used to teach students how to survive as a prisoner of war.
The obstacle course is described as being better than some used to train American forces.
Uniforms, books and bomb-making materials were found inside the largely abandoned facility, along with a clay table-top model of a city, which the Times likens to those used by military officers in planning an attack. Intelligence officers were studying what city the model’s design was meant to replicate, according to the paper.
Marines also recovered documents from the PLF and its political arm, the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Large murals of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein cover the walls on the outside, while side-by-side pictures of Hussein and PLF leader Abu Abbas fill the walls inside. Other photographs showed Abbas posing with senior officers of the Iraqi Republican Guard.
Slogans on walls linked the PLF and Iraqi causes, including one that, in Arabic said, “Live the Dream of Both Causes Against the Invading Enemy: the Jew.”
“Beginning In This Prison Is The Flower of Our Manhood,” another read.
The camp is due east of the Diallo River on the southwest edge of Baghdad, set away from main roads and surrounded by berms and large trees.
Outfitted with electricity, running water, air-conditioning and a sewer system, the facility is described as having better conditions than nearby residences.
The U.S. has long insisted regime change is needed in Iraq because it allegedly has weapons of mass destruction and harbors terrorists.
“Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaida. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own,” President Bush said in his State of the Union address in January.
MSNBC reported U.S. military Chemical-Biological Survey teams, or CBSs, have similarly inspected a handful of training camps belonging to Ansar al-Islam, a Muslim terrorist group said to receive support from both Iraq and al-Qaida.
As WorldNetDaily reported, the Ansar bases in the rocky border region between Iraq and Iran were targets of a joint Kurdish-American operation slated for the early days of the war in Iraq.
Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations Security Council in February that al-Qaida fighters fled Afghanistan for the camps in northeastern Iraq, following Operation Enduring Freedom. He said al-Qaida operatives were developing the deadly toxin ricin at the camps.
As WorldNetDaily reported, U.S. and British intelligence believe a group of Algerian extremists arrested in a London apartment, that was equipped with a make-shift ricin laboratory which contained traces of the deadly toxin, were linked to Ansar and suspected of having ties to both al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein’s regime.
According to The Guardian, the Algerian terror networks were born out of the Armed Islamic Group that directed attacks in the 1990s at the Algerian government and France, which supported Algiers. In the late 1990s, the militants became influenced by al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.
Some attended al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan which evidence suggests included familiarization with ricin and other toxins.
From the al-Qaida training camps, some of these Algerian militants went on to fight in Chechnya, expanding their jihad against the U.S. and its allies.
Following the joint U.S.-Kurdish raid on the Ansar camps, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the base was probably a site where terrorists made ricin.
Citing an American officer familiar with the search of the sites, MSNBC reports detailed recipes for toxins and chemical agents were discovered, along with page-by-page translations of U.S. military tactical warfare training manuals.
The London Telegraph reported Kurdish forces also found hundreds of documents containing contact addresses and telephone numbers in London and throughout the Arab world in the camp.