Iraq regime linked to terror group
Secret Iraqi files detail contacts with Africa group linked to Al Qaeda.
BAGHDAD AND WASHINGTON
A cache of files recovered from the bombed-out headquarters of Iraq's intelligence agency shows Saddam Hussein's regime had links to an Islamist terror group in Africa - and had corresponded about opening a Baghdad training camp for the group.Skip to next paragraph
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The documents, pulled by a reporter from a tangle of wires and shredded paper, may be important evidence of the relationship between the Hussein regime and Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network - something the Bush administration has long sought to prove.
They also reveal of the daily problems and intense anger of the terrorists' world. In one document written in English in a sloping, almost schoolboyish, hand, a terror leader in Uganda vows to attack the US and its allies without rest.
"We should deliberately drive panic into them and their bases and their interests. We do this in Africa, you do this in the Middle East, Gulf, and Asia," writes Bekkah Abdul Nassir, self-described chief of diplomacy of the Allied Democratic Forces guerrilla group, to his Iraqi contacts.
The headquarters of Iraq's intelligence agency, the Mukhabarat, is located in the upscale Mansour district of Baghdad. Or was, rather, as US bombs have shattered the building, and looters have carted off most of its contents.
What's left is the detritus of tyranny, a mess of discarded dossiers and half-shredded files containing everything from a collection of magazine clippings on Mr. bin Laden to some details of apparent Iraqi espionage in China, Italy, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam, among other nations.
Perhaps the most interesting and complete file left untouched deals with the apparently longstanding relationship between the Iraqi intelligence service and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) of Uganda.
Over a period of several months in 2001, a high-level ADF member outlined his group's progress to an Iraqi chargé d'affaires based in Nairobi, Kenya. Bekkah Abdul Nassir's letters, each 10 to 15 pages long, were all written in English, and were then meticulously translated into Arabic - presumably by Hussein's security apparatus.
The letters, whose authenticity couldn't be verified by the Monitor, retain cover sheets imprinted with the Mukhabarat's eagle insignia - a symbol also stamped liberally throughout the documents themselves.
There is nothing in the letters that documents Iraqi payments, weapons shipments, or other material support. No operations, past or planned, are discussed. But they contain an interesting air of implied fellowship.
"We in the ADF forces are ready to run the African mujahideen headquarters. We have already started and we are on the ground, operational!" reads one.
The ADF is a terrorist insurgent group that was formed in the early 1990s to undermine the Ugandan government. In the mid-1990s, when bin Laden was based in Sudan, he reached out to make contacts with groups like ADF.
"Osama's main purpose [at that time] was to create an Islamist network throughout Africa," says Rohan Gunaratna, an international expert on terror and author of "Inside Al Qaeda." "Members of ADF came to both Sudan and later to Afghanistan to train, and the leader of this group, Sheikh Jamil [Mukulu], was close to Osama."
Dr. Gunaratna goes on to say that up to now, "the links between Al Qaeda and its associated groups and the Iraqi regime are based on assessment and not hard information. This recovery will provide lines of inquiry to the intelligence community into the Iraqi-Al Qaeda connection."