October 17, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 592

Iraqi Daily: Saddam Ordered Training of Al-Qa'ida Members

October 17, 2003
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 592

The independent Iraqi weekly Al-Yawm Al-Aakher reveals details on the training of Al-Qa'ida members operating under the orders of Saddam's Presidential Palace two months before the September 11 attacks. The following are excerpts from the article: [1]

Training At Nahrawan and Salman Pak

"An Iraqi officer (L) [only identified by initial] tells us that one day a Land Cruiser belonging to the Personal Security Force (Al-Amn Al-Khass, responsible for the protection of Saddam Hussein) arrived and a senior officer from the Presidential Palace stepped out of it. He was one of those officers who used to stand behind Saddam, which means that he was one of [his] personal bodyguards. After a two-hour meeting with a select group of officers at the Special Forces School, we were informed that we would have dear guests, and that we should train them very well in a high level of secrecy - not to allow anyone to approach them or to talk to them in any way, shape, or form.

"A few days later, about 100 trainees arrived. They were a mixture of Arabs, Arabs from the Peninsula [Saudi Arabia], Muslim Afghans, and other Muslims from various parts of the world. They were divided into two groups, the first one went to Al-Nahrawan and the second to Salman Pak, and this was the group that was trained to hijack airplanes. The training was under the direct supervision of major general (M. DH. L) [only identified by initials] who now serves as a police commander in one of the provinces. Upon the completion of the training most of them left Iraq, while the others stayed in the country through the last battle in Baghdad against the coalition forces."

Al-Qa'ida Group Headed by a Saudi Cleric

"I remember that the leader of the group was a Saudi cleric called [Muhammad], who was a fervent and audacious individual and did not require much training. He was highly skilled, and could fire accurately at a target while riding a motorcycle. Additionally, he used to deliver fiery sermons calling for Jihad and for fighting the Americans anywhere in the world. Surprisingly, this man's picture, alongside the commander of the Special Forces School, was televised several times before the beginning of the war and the fall of the former regime."

Training Supervised by the Fedayeen Command

"...The Fedayeen command [Fedayeen Saddam under Uday's command] supervised the 100 Al-Qa'ida fighters directly, to the extent that senior Fedayeen officers visited them constantly and inspected them almost daily, especially during the final days when they transferred them, late at night in two red trucks that belonged to the Ministry of Transportation, to an undisclosed destination. I witnessed that with my own eyes because on that day I was the duty officer."

Al-Qa'ida Members Participated in Battles Against U.S. Forces

"A few days before the beginning of the last war, we were surprised to see the same people whom we had trained return to the Special Forces School and with them 100 additional individuals. The high command asked us to re-train them and to divide them into several groups to be deployed in various areas in Iraq.

"Truth be told, most of these individuals competed to go to war and to the front lines. [2] Therefore, under pressure they participated immediately in extremely fierce battles that astonished the Iraqis and the Americans."

With the 11th Division in the Area of Al-Kifl

"On April 5, 2003 orders were issued to send these individuals to the battle front immediately. About 100 of them were sent to the 11th company division in Nasiriya. And for the sake of history I will say that this division's endurance was due to some formidable fighters, the commanding officer and members of Al-Qa'ida who fought with intensity and brutality that are seldom matched, while they were praising Allah: Allahu Akbar… Allahu Akbar… What I mean by that are the violent battles that took place along the rapid highway for seventeen consecutive days and forced the Americans to withdraw and re-enter from the industrial area of Nasiriya … As for the groups which went to Al-Kifl, they participated in extremely brutal battles. Not many of them retreated and they sacrificed their lives to Apache [helicopter] fire, amid the admiration of the Iraqis and the Americans themselves. The proof is that some of them blew themselves up in the midst of American forces."

[1] Al-Yawm Al-Aakher (Iraq), October 16, 2003.

[2] According to the article, a number of the individuals also fought in Afghanistan: "Most of [the people] I talked to confirmed to me that they had come from Afghanistan and the Pakistani mountains, and that they were the ones who fought the Americans in Mazar Al-Sharif and Kabul. This was a true experience that they translated into the reality of the fierce battles in Iraq."

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