August 20, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 767

Interview with Osama Bin Laden's Former Bodyguard

August 20, 2004
Yemen | Special Dispatch No. 767

The pro-Saddam London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi conducted an interview with Nasser Ahmad Nasser Al-Bahri, also known as Abu Jandal, an Al-Qa'ida member who was formerly Osama bin Laden's bodyguard. 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 the president of Yemen, Ali Abdallah Saleh. The following are excerpts from the interview: [1]

Al-Bahri's Activities in Al-Qa'ida

"I joined the Al-Qa'ida 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 wedding arrangements of Sheikh Osama bin Laden [with 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 Against 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."

Al-Bahri, in response to the question of why the destroyer was chosen as a target, answered: "There were many reasons: [we wanted to] damage the USA'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 USA 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 USA, [which proves that] we are capable of striking them whenever we see fit and in any manner that we see fit."

About the strike against the French supertanker Limburg off the shores of Al-Mukalla: "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-Qa'ida Activity in Yemen

"At present one could say that Al-Qa'ida does not exist in Yemen as an organization, and that there are only individuals who believe in the ideas of Al-Qa'ida. [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-Qa'ida members. People without an organizational connection to Al-Qa'ida 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-Qa'ida members are Yemenites … including the leader of the Al-Qa'ida 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-Qa'ida Activity in Iraq and Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarkawi

"A large number of Al-Qa'ida operatives have entered Iraq and they are currently fighting in the ranks of the Iraqi resistance… The problem is that today Al-Qa'ida 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-Qa'ida's views and beliefs regarding the struggle against America. Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarkawi was in Afghanistan and in Kabul. He met with Osama bin Laden a great many times, but I do not believe that he is number one in the Al-Qa'ida organization, since Al-Qa'ida has Iraqi leaders present on the ground in Iraq and they are not in need of Al-Zarkawi."

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-Qa'ida was involved in the attacks in Saudi Arabia, Al-Bahri said: "On the basis of my personal acquaintance with some of the [Al-Qa'ida] leaders and with some of those who commit martyrdom operations in Saudi Arabia, I can say that they [the latter] are Al-Qa'ida 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 internet sites about the fact that they went to the 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 in the past had 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] classes…

"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 committing 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 [in which 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 [fight] the 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 United States."

The Failure to Arrest Osama bin Laden

In response to the question, "Why is America unable to arrest 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 United States]. 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 of 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 … he is popular and well-received."

Al-Qa'ida's Goal

"The Al-Qa'ida organization's goal from its inception is to sow conflict between the United States and the Islamic world. I remember that Sheikh Osama bin Laden used to say that we can not, as an organization, continue in quality operations, [3] but rather we must aspire to commit operations that will drag the United States into a regional confrontation with the Islamic peoples."

[1] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), August 3, 2004.

[2] This name is transliterated – it is perhaps supposed to be "Majally."

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

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