While President Ahmadinejad’s call for the annihilation of Israel elicited (and rightly so) a great deal of international outcry even among the Iranian regime’s staunchest defenders, at some point one must consider that it is far more important what the Iranian government does than what it says.
Towards that end, I would like to call the readers’ attention to two articles that have appeared in the German political magazine Cicero over the last year. The first, published last spring, was apparently so concerning to the German government in terms of the information contained that it prompted a raid on Cicero‘s Potsdam-based offices by German authorities. To the best of my knowledge, much of this information has yet to be widely reported in the English media.
This blog post will contain the full text of the first Cicero article courtesy of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) and the relevant portions of the second courtesy of Rantburg poster Iblis with relatively little commentary, enabling readers to read both of them and draw their own conclusions.
The World’s Most Dangerous Man
by Bruno Schirra
Supported by Iran, gone underground in Iraq, Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi has been pulling the strings of Islamist terrorism, becoming Usama Bin Ladin’s new crown prince and an unscrupulous Holy War fighter.
Two videotapes, two lives. Two men, dressed in orange, squatting on the floor, trembling. They know what will happen. And they also know how it will happen, of course, because there is still a third man. He stands there, towering above them, clad in black. He reads something in praise of his God. After ending his sermon, he jumps up, throwing himself down on Eugene Armstrong, pressing him to the floor with his left hand, while his right hand tightly clasps a 25-centimeter long knife. The man in black holds the knife to Armstrong’s throat and starts to saw away at it, for seemingly endless 31 seconds. Then it is all over. There is blood everywhere. Eugene Armstrong, a 52-year-old engineer from Hillsdale, Michigan, was slaughtered. He was killed for greater glory and in the name of God — and God is great, “Allah Aqbar.” This is what the man in black said with fervor, when he cut off, with his own hands, the head of US citizen Nick Berg last May and then, later, on 20 September, that of Eugene Armstrong. After that, he triumphantly held up the cut-off head, then placing it back on the torso of what used to be Eugene Armstrong.
Who is Ahmad Fadil Nazal al-Khalayleh? “A drunkard and a randy bastard,” is the response of someone who knows him, but refuses to reveal his identity. In Zarqa, a dreary industrial town in Jordan, everyone knows Ahmad Fadil Nazal al-Khalayleh, and just two years ago, everyone knew a story about him. All were agreed that never, ever would Ahmad do all the things of which he has been accused. Never! He belongs to the Beni Hasan tribe and the clan of the Al-Khalaylehs. He is not a Palestinian, as has always been claimed. A Beni Hasan tribesman, people in Zarqa kept saying, would never do such things.
Well, back in the 1980s, when he was young, he drank and got entangled in petty crime. He was a flamboyant character in the youth gangs in Zarqa. He failed his final exam at high school, yet then, people say, he pulled himself together, working in the municipal administration for two years, married, stopped drinking and started to pray in the Al-Husayn-Ibn-Ali Mosque, returning to the path of the right faith, thanks be to Allah. Ahmad a terrorist? Never.
Yet all this is what people in Zarqa said two years ago, long before Ahmad Fadil Nazal al-Khalayleh started to cut his victims’ heads off. Now, in the first few weeks of the New Year, it is difficult to find someone who would be prepared to talk. They are afraid now. They are afraid of him, because his arm seems to be long, although he is far away in Iraq. One of the neighbors keeps turning to look around whether someone watches him while he speaks. “No one is safe from him,” he says with a shudder, “not you in Europe either.” And then, after all, he starts telling what happened back then, when Ahmad Fadil Nazal al-Khalayleh was arrested for the first time. He was charged of sexual harassment, the term the Jordanian Penal Code uses for attempted rape, as a result of which Al-Khalayleh served a short term in jail. “In the past, he drank whisky, now he is a monster, drinking blood.”
Who is Ahmad Fadil Nazal al-Khalayleh? “He is the most dangerous terrorist in the world,” the friendly gentlemen of the General Intelligence Department (GDI) in Amman say. They must know. After all, Ahmad Fadil Nazal al-Khalayleh tried to blow up their offices some time ago. When the Jordanian secret service GID stopped a truck on the Syrian-Jordanian border in the night of 31 March last year, it discovered explosives hidden in the cargo. The driver and the co-driver were subjected to meticulous questioning, commonly known as torture. What they disclosed got the GID interrogators into a state of utter panic. Plans exist for a concerted action to blow up the US Embassy, the office of the prime minister, the residential home of the GDI director, and the headquarters of the Jordanian secret service with the help of 20 tons of explosives. What paralyzed the investigators was the information they got during the interrogations: a second series of explosions is to release highly toxic chemical warfare agents. Is this the expected chemical weapons attack that all intelligence services fear? In the course of their investigations, the Jordanians then come across Muwaffaq Ali Ahmad Odwan and Azmi Abdal Fatah Hajj Yussef Jaiousi. After tapping their phones and keeping them under surveillance, the investigators strike out. Odwan is killed, while Jaiousi is arrested. Both are acknowledged experts for explosives. Both were instructed by Ahmad Fadil Nazal al-Khalayleh to carry out a chemical mega attack. At least 80,000 people could have been killed in this terrorist attack, the Jordanian authorities believe. Had the attack been successful, “this would have torn to pieces the entire Middle East,” Jordanian GID officers say today, “because without state support from Syria and Iran, Al-Khalayleh’s career would never have come to this point.”
Who is Ahmad Fadil Nazal al-Khalayleh? Initially, he was just a man having many names and holding even more passports. One was issued in the name of Jan Ellie Louise. Al-Khalayleh used the British passport just as the real Iranian ones made out in the names of Ibrahim Kasimi Ridah and Abdal Rahman Hasan al-Tahihi. There is just no passport for one of Al-Khalayleh’s many names. It is the name under which he has become famous worldwide. Within the shortest possible time, Al-Khalayleh has become the Flying Dutchman of bloody Islamist terror, stepping out of the shadow of Usama Bin Ladin. How far he left Bin Ladin’s shadow behind is proven by numerous files and dossiers put together both by Western and Middle East secret services as well as information and documents compiled by German security authorities. They do not only show the career of headhunter Al-Zarqawi, but also that his career in the name of Allah could only take place because God’s killers were supplied with logistical support, money, and weapons by state organizations in a number of Middle Eastern states. Top of the list of Al-Zarqawi’s sponsors: the Islamic Republic of Iran and the hardliners from the group around the Al-Qods Brigades of the Revolutionary Guards, the Pasdaran. It is Germany’s Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA), of all places, that has confirmed that Iran “provided Al-Zarqawi with logistical support on the part of the state.” According to BKA files, Iran used to be “an important logistical basis.”
The BKA files list nine other passports and identity cards from Lebanon, Iran, Palestine, and Yemen that Al-Zarqawi undoubtedly used to travel over the past three years. His radius of action covers Iraq, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, the Pankisi Valley in Georgia, and the northern Caucasus. In these countries Al-Zarqawi is not only able to draw on an army of sympathizers of the Holy War, that is, members of rather diverse Islamist networks who are at his disposal when necessary, he also has his own cells of active Holy Warriors in this semicircle across borders: in North Africa, Spain, France, and Italy, as well as in Germany: German security authorities suspect that at least 150 of his followers live, above all, in Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg, and Berlin. His network is attached to radical mosques such as the Al-Nur Mosque in the Berlin district of Neukoelln or the Multicultural Centre in Neu-Ulm. These are radical jihadists for whom Al-Zarqawi’s ideology according to which “the jihad can only be fought successfully by resorting to terrorism” is the sole yardstick of their actions.
The BKA has described and analyzed the career of Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi and the ramifications of his global network in a 125-page report dated 6 September 2004. Each page is stamped “VS — for official use only, not to be used in court, reference file only.” No wonder: not all of the findings can be used in preliminary proceedings in Germany. Not all of the sources on which the compendium is based have the reputation of strictly following the rules of the law when carrying out investigations. A total of 392 footnotes present data, sources, and facts with determination. Business trips of German investigators to Rabat in Morocco, Amman in Jordan, to France, and Italy, reports on findings put together by the German intelligence service (BND), the FBI, the CIA, and recurring briefings of French and Israeli offices outline the career of Al-Khalayleh al-Zarqawi and the growth of his international “Network of Arab Mujahidin.” “In our view, Al-Zarqawi must be seen as the leader of an independent terrorist network working autonomously,” the German analysis says.
The international secret service community regards Al-Zarqawi as “the currently most dangerous man in the world.” Jordanian and German investigators say in unison that, “Bin Ladin represents an idea and an ideology today. The man is good as a myth only, showing up the United States in its futile attempts at apprehending him. Al-Zarqawi, by contrast, is a man of action. He has his own functioning network and also access to other networks. Al-Zarqawi is Bin Ladin’s new crown prince.”
Western services are concerned most of all about Al-Zarqawi’s efforts to carry out his terrorist attacks with chemical weapons in the future.
He has a good deal of experience. After 1989, when he only experienced the final stages of the Holy War against the Shuwari, the Russians, in Afghanistan, he initially worked as a reporter for the Islamist paper Al-Bunyan Al-Marsous, and later for the Islamic Relief Committee, an Islamic Non-Governmental Organization which, according to Western and Middle Eastern services, channeled money into the hands of radical jihadists for over a decade. In 1994, Al-Zarqawi was sentenced to lifelong imprisonment in Jordan for planning terrorist attacks. He met Abu Qatada and Al-Maqtisi, two radial preachers, in jail. Here, he completed his change from radical Islamist to absolute jihadist, for whom naked terrorism is ultimate reason and precondition for success in the Holy War. Five years later, Al-Zarqawi is released following a general amnesty — and returns to Afghanistan. There, he offers his services to Usama Bin Ladin and his security chief Seif Al-Adel. Bin Ladin entrusts him with the leadership of a “fully finished camp in Herat,” BND officers say. Although he has formally never regarded himself as a member of Bin Ladin’s Al-Qa’ida and has probably not sworn the oath of allegiance, cooperation between the two has always been very close.
At the time, permanent streams of God’s Holy Warriors from Germany, France, Britain, Spain, and North Africa arrive in Al-Zarqawi’s training camp. The courses focus, among others, on training biological and chemical terrorist attacks. It is here where Al-Zarqawi recruits both the leaders and the ranks for his subsequent network. It is here where he establishes his global contacts with other groups of the jihad.
After the war in Afghanistan, Al-Zarqawi sets up new camps and safe houses in Zahedan, Isfahan, and Tehran. His European followers come to Tehran, bringing with them money and new passport identities and collecting instructions. Communication is handled through middlemen and by phone. The German BND listens in: it has tapped Al-Zarqawi’s Swiss satellite telephone with the number 0041-793686306 and his Iranian cell phones with the numbers 0098-9135153994 and 0098-218757638.
Supported by radical groups within the secret service of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Al-Zarqawi may safely use the landline number 0098-9112311436. In Isfahan, he uses a telephone with the number 0098-9112399346, which is registered under the name of Ahmad Abdul Salam, Bahar Street, Block No. 27, Kukak Area, Asfahan, Iran. In urgent cases, his followers can reach him under his fax No. 0098-218757638. German security authorities confirm on the quiet what their Jordanian colleagues also see as the reason of why Al-Zarqawi was, and is, as a Jordanian investigator adds, so successful: “The fact that the two sides hate one another for religious reasons has never prevented them from cooperating very closely.”
In 2002, Al-Zarqawi travels from Tehran to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. He cooperates with the antediluvian Islamist killers of Ansar al-Islam. He positions his deputy in the Shura, the highest body of Ansar al-Islam. Al-Zarqawi sets up a small chemical laboratory in the inhospitable mountains behind Kurmal and Biyarra in the border area with Iran. With him is Abu Wal, a high-ranking leading member of Ansar al-Islam and a fanatic jihadist. In his former life, Abu Wal used to be a major of Saddam Husayn’s Military Intelligence Service and as such was assigned to keep an eye on Ansar al-Islam, supporting it in its war against the Kurds that Saddam hated.
This was a bizarre alliance in Ansar al-Islam’s territory, comprising Al-Zarqawi with his fanatic hatred of Shiites, the hardliners of the Shiite Islamic revolution, former Ba’th secret service officers, and the internationalists of the Holy War. The alliance manages to survive the course of time and continues to work to date. “Al-Zarqawi is using Saddam Husayn’s secret service structures today,” a high-ranking officer of the Jordanian GID says. “He knows them from the past.” Both Jordanian and Western intelligence services watch Al-Zarqawi’s followers traveling via Tehran to Iraq, mainly from and through Europe, to fight the crusaders in the Holy War. It is no one-way traffic. Fighters, equipment, and weapons are smuggled out of Iraq into Europe. When German investigators arrested Lokman M. in Munich in 2003, they found out that he had established a virtual travel agency for trips to Iraq and back. “This is a rat line of which we only know that it exists,” a German BND officer groans. “We have no idea of its course and where it goes and who else is involved in the organization. Yet at one point, we will have the Big Bang [previous two words published in English] right here in Europe, and it will all be Al-Zarqawi’s doings.” It is an admission of impotence behind which is sheer horror — that there is something in all the rumors, clues, and meager evidence and that Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi will finally manage to carry out his chemical mega attack.
How far Al-Zarqawi’s experiments have really progressed to carry out terrorist attacks using chemical warfare agents in Europe is something the European services do not know exactly. “All we know is that he is working on it,” one secret service official says. Investigators suspect that one center of Al-Zarqawi’s efforts to produce and distribute chemical warfare agents is situated in the northern Caucasus and in Georgia today. “Georgia, as a rule, is mentioned in the same breath with suspected activities to produce poisons,” the BKA investigators write in their documentation, listing the names of those involved: “The main activist is said to have been Adnan Sadiq Muhammad Abu Injila, alias Abu Atiya, who is said to have carried out experiments with cyanide and ricin in the Pankisi Valley in Georgia to produce contact poison. Abu Atiya is said to have graduated from the camp in Herat and to be a confidante of Al-Zarqawi.” According to intelligence service findings, Al-Zarqawi’s loyal follower Abu Atiya is assumed to have “organized and coordinated the dispatch of toxic material.” Ricin and cyanide were intended to be used, among others, in a terrorist attack in Britain.
Abu Atiya is also said to have assigned terrorists to carry out attacks in Europe. The BKA has named witnesses: Rashi Zuhayr, one of Al-Zarqawi’s Holy Warriors. “He was arrested when he tried to cross a border holding forged identity papers. When questioned, Rashi admitted to have been asked by Abu Atiya to spy out targets in the United Kingdom for attacks involving poison and conventional weapons together with other persons. The information gained from Rashi led to further arrests, enabling the authorities to avert a major terrorist threat in the United Kingdom.” The European investigators, who try to get onto Al-Zarqawi’s network and his chemical terror plans, feel like “poking about in a fog. Sometimes, we catch someone more or less accidentally, giving us bits of information. And then we often do not know for a long time whether they are any good,” one investigator grumbles. In the case of Al-Zarqawi’s chemical attack plans in Britain, the investigators were lucky. The information they had been given by Rashi Zuhayr coincided with that given earlier by another detainee. He is number three in the Al-Qa’ida hierarchy: Abu Zubaydah, who has been detained by the United States since 2002 and been interrogated in custody. BKA investigators say that the information delivered was really explosive. “It also confirms the information supplied by Abu Zubaydah that Al-Zarqawi and his network planned to carry out poison attacks in the United Kingdom. A large number of the people who are in contact with Rashi in Europe is said to come from North Africa, therefore finding it easy to enter neighboring countries,” the BKA investigators wrote.
Yet even without the use of chemical warfare agents, Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi may look back at a murderous track record in Europe. In the early hours of 11 March last year, 10 explosive devices detonated within minutes in four commuter trains in Madrid. A total of 191 people died, more than 1,600 were severely injured. On 22 March 2004, General Laanigri, who is in charge of the Moroccan security apparatus, announced his view of who is behind the assault: “Al-Qa’ida established a network in Europe long ago,” a German investigator quotes the Moroccan security chief. “Responsibility for this and for the planning of attacks rests with Al-Zarqawi. He has deliberately recruited Moroccans and other people from Maghreb states. The point is to destabilize the entire Maghreb region out of Europe to establish an Islamic state of God in the region in the long term.” The claim that the Moroccan authorities made at the time is a certainty for Spanish examining judge Balthasar Garzon. He has laboriously investigated the links between the perpetrators and Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi. This theory is that the attacks in Madrid were carried out on the instructions of Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi.
For the German investigators, this is not the end of the new star in the jihadists’ sky. “Perhaps we will all be lucky,” one of the investigators says. “Perhaps the Americans accidentally stumble across him in Iraq. But who would ever have so much luck.”
Two brief points, not the least of which being that this appears to verify much of the information presented by Collin Powell at the United Nations with respect to the nature and threat posed by Zarqawi and his network. While Powell’s primary focus was on Iraq, at least one observer has noted that European governments were likely quite surprised that he mentioned nothing about Zarqawi’s ties to Iran.
As for the phone numbers, lest anyone assume that the author of this article was compromising intelligence information, these numbers have appeared on German court documents prior to this point and were likely obtained by German authorities during their investigation into cells loyal to Zarqawi that were active in Germany during 2002.
And then there is this excerpt from the second article:
Dass nach Ahmadineschads Amtsantritt Realität wird, was bisher nur angedroht wurde, befürchten nun die europäischen Verhandlungspartner Irans. Zumal ihre Geheimdienste über alarmierende Erkenntnisse verfügen. “
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