April 14, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1611

Former Osama bin Laden Bodyguard in Al-Arabiya TV Interview: I Love Him More Than I Love My Own Father

April 14, 2008
Special Dispatch No. 1611

The following are excerpts from an interview with Nasser Al-Bahri, aka "Abu Jandal," former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on May 4, 2007.

Al-Bahri, who was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was arrested in 2001 in Yemen on suspicion of involvement in the attack on the American destroyer USS Cole, and was released after receiving amnesty from Yemen President Ali Abdallah Saleh.

The interview is followed by an August 3, 2004 interview with Al-Bahri in the London Arabic daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi. [1]

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Interviewer: "How did you become the bodyguard of such an important person, who is wanted by all the security agencies around the world, after only two years of training?"

Nasser Al-Bahri: "The bodyguards, especially those protecting Sheikh Osama bin Laden, were distinguished from bodyguards protecting anyone else in the world in that they were willing to die. No other bodyguard on the face of this planet has this quality. These guys are, in fact, fighters, not bodyguards. They've come to die and have no problem with this."


"Saddam Hussein was not willing to die in the days preceding his capture, but Osama bin Laden never considered the possibility of being captured. Being captured was not even an option."

Interviewer: "Yet this has not been classified as 'suicide'... "

Nasser Al-Bahri: "No, it hasn't."

Interviewer: "How did you classify it from the perspective of religious law?"

Nasser Al-Bahri: "As martyrdom."


"I recall that once, he was talking to me, and I said to him: Allah will not make me do this."

Interviewer: "What did he say?"

Nasser Al-Bahri: "He said: 'If we are besieged - do it.'"

Interviewer: "He gave the order to kill him, so he wouldn't get caught..."

Nasser Al-Bahri: "I remember he said: 'I'd rather be shot in the back by the bodyguards than be arrested alive by the Americans.'"

Interviewer: "Do you think there is any coordination between the [Al-Qaeda] organization and Iran?"

Nasser Al-Bahri: "There is coordination on the basis of joint interests."

Interviewer: "In what way?"

Nasser Al-Bahri: "For example, there is a common enemy - the U.S. - and the Iranians, for your information, know that the [American] strike in inevitable. Therefore, they have to take advantage of all those available on the scene, including the Al-Qaeda organization."

Interviewer: "So the way you see it, the Al-Qaeda organization can cooperate with the Iranians against America?"

Nasser Al-Bahri: "It can cooperate with the Iranians but it won't operate under the Iranians. But there is no problem with regard to cooperation."


"I would like to emphasize here, on Al-Arabiya TV, that I place Sheikh Osama on the same level as my father, and I love him perhaps even more than my father."


Interviewer: "Where do you think the Al-Qaeda organization is still active?"

Nasser Al-Bahri: "In Afghanistan."

Interviewer: "That's it?"

Nasser Al-Bahri: "I know that it is active in Afghanistan. What goes on elsewhere - in Iraq, Somalia, or North Africa - is that Islamic groups, and especially those mujahideen who bear arms, have embarked on a plan to unite their efforts. You've begun to hear about the 'Al-Qaeda Organization in North Africa.' What's the story of this organization? These are old groups, some of which may be older than Al-Qaeda itself."


"Sheikh Osama used to say: 'My children, we can't continue to carry our high-profile and costly operations this way, because every time we hit an exposed target, they will close another target. We must deal them blows in order to draw them into the battlefield.' He has succeeded in doing so. Now the bull has begun to scream [for help] in Afghanistan."

Interviewer: "But don't you think many new battlefronts have been opened in the Arab world?"

Nasser Al-Bahri: "That is due to the stupidity of the bull. When the bull stuck its head into Afghanistan..."

Interviewer: "What bull?"

Nasser Al-Bahri: "The American bull, the stupid American cowboy who has begun to kick everywhere. It attacks in Baghdad, it attacks in Somalia, and it will attack everywhere."

August 20, 2004

Al-Bahri's Activities in Al-Qaeda

"I joined the Al-Qaeda organization at the end of 1996 after returning from a trip in Tajikistan… My first visit to Afghanistan took place in late summer in 1996, and from then on I left Afghanistan three times. The first time I left was in order to get married. The second time I went to Yemen to arrange and finalize the arrangements for the wedding of Sheikh Osama bin Laden [to a Yemenite woman]. My third and final trip was approximately two and a half months before the action against the Cole. I was in charge of guarding Sheikh Osama bin Laden and I served for a while as his personal bodyguard."

The Attack On the Cole and the French Supertanker Limburg

"A watch was established on the [Cole] destroyer for a while, during which time information was gathered by the 'Committees for Intelligence-Gathering.' Only two people worked on this, no more and no less. The allegations that the Mossad was responsible [for the attack on the Cole] are nonsense, and are an attempt to cast doubt on the ability of the Muslims to do something of this sort. Those who carried out the operation were well-known young men from among the ranks of our brothers the Mujahideen - may Allah have mercy on them… Hassan Al-Khamri from the Shuba district, originally from Al-Ta'if in Saudi Arabia, and Ibrahim Al-Thur, from San'aa, also originally from Al-Ta'if."

In response to the question of why the destroyer was chosen as a target, Al-Bahri said: "There were many reasons: [We wanted to] damage the U.S.'s reputation in the naval arena, to raise the morale of the Muslims, and to prove to the Islamic nation that its sons are capable of striking the nation's enemies wherever they may be, by sea, by air, and by land… Nearly 71 Islamic countries are incapable of saying 'no' to the U.S., but as individuals we can say 'no' to it… The choice of the best destroyer in the American navy and the best product of the American military was a difficult blow for the U.S., [which proves that] we are capable of striking them whenever we see fit and in any manner that we see fit."

On the strike against the French supertanker Limburg off the shores of Al-Mukalla, he said: "That was the result of a mistake of both sides. [It was] in retaliation for the killing of Yahya Majly, [2] who was killed in the city of San'aa by [Yemenite] government forces. The response was a hasty and irrational one, with harsh consequences both for the Yemenite government and for the Yemenite people."

Al-Qaeda Activity in Yemen

"At present one could say that Al-Qaeda does not exist in Yemen as an organization, and that there are only individuals who believe in the ideas of Al-Qaeda. [The activities of] the organization [in Yemen] came to an end when Sheikh Abu Ali Al-Harithi, commander of the organization in Yemen, was martyred… There are many in Yemen who belong to the organization in terms of their sympathies but do not belong to it on the ideological, organizational, and administrative levels, and they are not enlisted [in the organization]… but we do not have peace with the country [Yemen].

"These youth have no leadership… Those who carry out operations are not necessarily Al-Qaeda members. People without an organizational connection to Al-Qaeda are perfectly capable of carrying out operations such as, for instance, the murder operation against the American missionaries in Jablah, or the murder of Jar Allah Omar at the Reforms Convention."

He added: "I can tell you that 95% of Al-Qaeda members are Yemenites … including the leader of the Al-Qaeda organization, whose origins are from Yemen. His bodyguards are Yemenite, the drill instructors in the camps are Yemenite, the front-line leaders are Yemenite, and all of the operations against America were coordinated with the Yemenite members of the organization."

Al-Qaeda Activity in Iraq and Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi

"A large number of Al-Qaeda operatives have entered Iraq and they are currently fighting in the ranks of the Iraqi resistance… The problem is that today Al-Qaeda is not an organization in the true sense of the word but only an idea that has become a faith.

"Many among the youth have begun to believe in Al-Qaeda's views and beliefs regarding the struggle against America. Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi was in Afghanistan and in Kabul. He met with Osama bin Laden a great many times, but I do not believe that he is No. 1 in the Al-Qaeda organization, since Al-Qaeda has Iraqi leaders present on the ground in Iraq and they are not in need of Al-Zarqawi."

Terror Attacks in Saudi Arabia and Abd Al-Aziz Al-Muqrin - The Saudi Government Originally Supported the Jihad

In response to the question of whether Al-Qaeda was involved in the attacks in Saudi Arabia, Al-Bahri said: "On the basis of my personal acquaintance with some of the [Al-Qaeda] leaders and with some of those who carry out martyrdom operations in Saudi Arabia, I can say that they [the latter] are Al-Qaeda operatives. But one must ask the question: What causes these youth to take up arms and to commit bombings on Saudi soil?

"I think that it is the stupid policies of the Saudi government regarding these people. Those who blew up the Al-Muhaya compound spoke in their recorded messages on the websites about the fact that they went to jihad with the permission and sanction of the state and with the encouragement of Sheikh Sa'd Al-Bureik, Sheikh 'A'idh Al-Qarni, and Sheikh Salman Al-Odeh, as well as many others who incited among these young men. However, when the struggle against the government began, the youth were surprised to find that the same sheikhs who had in the past urged them on now disavowed them. Not only that, but people like Sheikh Sa'd Al-Bureik and Sheikh 'Ai'dh Al-Qarni have even begun to attack these youth, despite the fact that their actions were the logical outcome of their own lectures, sermons, [and] lessons…

"The operations in Saudi Arabia were reactions [against the Saudi government]. The case of Abd Allah Al-Ma'badi, whom I know personally, is a good example. Not only was he opposed to the idea of [perpetrating] operations in Saudi Arabia, he was even against any operation that would harm Saudi Arabia. How, then, did he end up carrying out an operation in Saudi Arabia? Abd Al-Aziz Al-Muqrin was also completely opposed to the idea [of operations in Saudi Arabia]. What caused him to carry out such an attack was the fact that [members of] the [Saudi] Criminal Investigations Department broke into Abd Allah Al-Ma'badi's house [where Al-Muqrin was staying at the time]; they beat Al-Muqrin's mother and broke his brother's hand, and broke into his sister's bedroom. What can you expect from a guy who was in solitary confinement for a year and five months for no reason other than that he went to [wage] jihad?"

According to Al-Bahri, the armed operations against Saudi Arabia will continue "as long as Saudi Arabia continues in its policies which are designed to appease the U.S."

The Failure to Apprehend Osama bin Laden

In response to the question, "Why is America unable to apprehend Osama bin Laden, whereas it was able to arrest Saddam Hussein within a short time after the war in Iraq?" Al-Bahri answered, "Many people claim that Osama bin Laden hasn't been arrested yet because he is an agent [of the U.S.]. But we say that the comparison between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein is not an apt one, since Saddam has some dark chapters in his past conduct toward his people - just look at the massacre of the Kurds in Halabja, the massacre of the Shi'ites in the south [of Iraq], the violation of Iraqi women, the anarchy, the despotism, and the enslavement of the Iraqi people. [All these factors] caused him to be hated, and that made his arrest easier. But Osama bin Laden, wherever you go from one corner of the world to another... is popular and well-received."

Al-Qaeda's Goal

"The Al-Qaeda organization's goal from its inception is to sow conflict between the U.S. and the Islamic world. I remember that Sheikh Osama bin Laden used to say that we cannot, as an organization, continue with quality operations, [3] but rather, we must aspire to carry out operations that will drag the U.S. into a regional confrontation with the Islamic peoples."

[1] MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 767, "Interview with Osama bin Laden's Former Bodyguard," August 20, 2004, Interview with Osama Bin Laden's Former Bodyguard.

[2] This name is transliterated - it is perhaps "Majally."

[3] "Quality operation" is a standard term among Islamists for a large-scale attack on a target of strategic significance that causes a large number of casualties.

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