In the first and only television interview since September 11 with an Al-Qaida leader (with the exception of bin Laden'swith the Pakistani journalist Hamed Mir) Al-Jazeera's correspondent in Kandahar, Yussef Al-Shuli, spoke with AbuHafs 'the Mauritanian.' Abu Hafs, whose real name is Mahfouz Walad Al-Walid and who the FBI accuses ofhaving connections to the bombings of the American embassies in Africa, has been placed on the U.S. list of terroristsand terrorist groups, where he is also referred to as Khaled Al-Shanqiti. Following are excerpts from the Al-Jazeerainterview:
The American Intelligence Apparatus is to Blame
Q: "…the Al-Qaida spokesman [Suleiman Abu Gheith, in the video broadcast by Al-Jazeera] threatened another storm of airplanes…"
Abu Hafs: "He didn't threaten. He said: 'The Americans, with their old policy, bore the fruit of the events of September 11. The fact that they continue with their old policy in addition to the new American aggression against Afghanistan will multiply these matters. But let me complete [this] by telling you another very important thing': In the U.S. [administration] there are [agencies] legally responsible for safeguarding the security of America and the Americans. It is they who should be held accountable. The biggest budget of all the intelligence apparatuses in the world is spent on American intelligence. The FBI, with offices everywhere and dozens of other apparatuses, is entrusted with safeguarding America's security, on which the Americans spend billions of dollars of their tax money and their private funds so they will ensure their security. Where were these apparatuses when these things occurred? These apparatuses have satellites, ground stations, millions of spies, and huge budgets. It is said that they know what is happening in the bedrooms, that they know the shoe sizes of the wanted [men]. How did a group of people manage to stay for years, to train inside the U.S., and to plan this operation?"
"They trained in America, not Afghanistan. The caves of Afghanistan are unsuitable for training pilots on the newest American airplanes. Those people found a security breach as big as a whole fleet of hijacked civilian aircraft, and managed to shove America's nose into the ground, to strike it with this lightning, to take it by surprise, and to strike it with the greatest of military, security, political, and economic blows."
"What every American should do is to call his administration to account for its oppressing, tyrannical policy that incited those people to do what they did. The intelligence, security, and defense apparatuses should be held accountable for their failure and their inability to deal with these attacks. The heads of these apparatuses must, at the very least, submit their resignations and apologize to the American public – but instead of doing this, instead of acknowledging their responsibility, they blamed others, sought a scapegoat, and found one in Afghanistan."
Rejoicing About September 11
Q: "You're saying, then, that these operations brought about the results you hoped for?"
Abu Hafs: "…I cannot conceal the fact that we here in Afghanistan, like hundreds of millions of Muslims throughout the world could not contain our joy when we saw America taste, for one day, what the Islamic people has been swallowing every day for decades because of the actions of the U.S., both directly and indirectly. We rejoiced at this. Although we did not carry them out, these blows coincided with our interests, and their results were significant for us."
Q: "Now, after America has gone to war against you [i.e. Al-Qa'ida] and against Afghanistan, are you promising anything?"
Abu Hafs: "We are not promising anything, and we do not need to promise. We are now engaged in open war. We declared [war] on the Americans and the Americans declared [war] on us. The Americans are sparing no means. So far, the [amount of explosives in the] bombs and missiles that have fallen on Afghanistan is many times greater than the atom bombs that the U.S. dropped on Japan during World War II. If you count up all the explosives that have fallen in over a month on Afghanistan, the amount is double. America has used weapons it never used before in any previous war. But so far America has not managed to accomplish any of the goals it set for itself when it declared its Crusader war against Afghanistan."
Al-Qa'ida's Battle With the Americans Has Not Begun
Q: "All right. What is your military situation, forty-two days after the beginning of the war?"
Abu Hafs: "Our battle with the Americans has not yet begun. In the meantime, it's all aerial bombing from a distance. Eighty percent of the targets hit by the American planes and smart bombs are civilian. You at Al-Jazeera broadcast horrible pictures that express American cultural and moral values; you broadcast pictures of the children killed in their mothers' arms; you broadcast pictures of the ruined mosques and the charred Korans inside them; you broadcast pictures of the villages destroyed along with all their residents. These are the results of the American bombing so far. In contrast, we, as a military force, have not yet used the forces of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Al-Qa'ida forces, and other forces. Not a single bullet has been fired. We are still waiting for the day the Americans come to fight on land. On that day, the real war with the Americans will begin. The Americans are still postponing that day, meanwhile, after the failed landing operations that they tried to carry out, and during which they have so far lost eight military aircraft – only some of which they acknowledged. You broadcast the pictures of the debris of the other airplanes that they did not acknowledge."
Q: "All right. Now, the Taliban has retreated and is losing positions. It has lost the North, it has lost the capital Kabul, it has lost Herat, it has lost other cities. This rapid retreat… or, perhaps better to say, if the expression can be used… sorry, this rapid retreat – how do you analyze this?"
Abu Hafs: "Anyone who follows Afghanistan's history realizes that shifts in control of a particular city or district have little meaning, militarily speaking. Before America came, and before the Crusader war it is waging in Afghanistan, there were exchanges of control over the city of Mazar Al-Sharif, and other cities such as Bamyan. Yesterday, Mazar Al-Sharif fell; today, the students [i.e. the Taliban movement] announced that they have retaken it. The students withdrew from many positions, but they will retake them. We are not talking about a real success against the Taliban movement, against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, or against Al-Qaida. America set goals for itself, and only the goals that are accomplished should be credited to America."
"America stated that its first goal was to destroy the Al-Qa'ida infrastructure, and to assassinate or arrest its leaders. So far, none of this has been accomplished. America has managed to destroy a few houses made of tin and mud in the mountains. The value of all these houses together does not approach the value of one of the thousand missiles it launched to destroy us. These positions were evacuated long before. Americans tried to land on the house of the Emir of the Believers [Mullah Muhammad Omar]; you saw the debris of the American airplanes downed by the Mujahideen, although the guarding force was very small – because the site had been evacuated long before."
The Taliban Will Return and Take Over in Future
"America has not succeeded in toppling the Taliban movement, and so far the movement has maintained its cohesion, and has not become more flexible in its political positions. America has pinned its hopes on creating a schism in the movement, and Pakistan supported it. America used every means of temptation and intimidation, but did not manage to seduce even one of the students [Taliban] leaders into creating a schism. The ranks are still united. So far, not even one of the American offensive's goals has been met – something which has made them change strategy and push the opposition to take several cities. If truth be told, in the long term this is a card against the American political plan, because the media broadcast the atrocities carried out by the opposition today and yesterday in Mazar Al-Sharif, as well as how the plunder and intimidation continued. The UN saw it too."
"The model that we saw in Mazar Al-Sharif is the model that will recur in every city or village taken by the opposition. Then, the people will know the value of the Taliban movement, and what security and stability it brought; how it defended the honor and property of the people after the dirty war in which all sides participated. History is repeating itself now. The cities taken by the opposition in the past two days have begun to return to their life before the Taliban. These are the same conditions that prepared the ground for the Taliban. They are the same conditions that will prepare the ground for the Taliban to return and take over in the future, Allah willing."
Q: "I sense in your words more support for the Taliban movement than for the Al-Qa'ida movement. Why do you support the Taliban so strongly?"
Abu Hafs: "I support the Taliban for several reasons. First, because support for it is support for the truth. We are Muslims, preaching the truth; we are commanded to make the truth prevail…"
"I would not be exaggerating if I said that today there is no regime on the face of the earth that rules according to Islam, according to the book [Koran], the Sunah [the conduct of the Prophet], and the clerics of the [Islamic] nation, in a pure manner, except the Islamic Emirate ruled by the Taliban."
Q: "But some accuse the Taliban of violating human rights and of religious extremism, even in implementing the religion of Islam."
Abu Hafs: "Anyone who knows the truth knows that these are no more than idle accusations, disseminated by elements hostile first of all to Islam and then to the Taliban. Let me give you an example: When the Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] decided to destroy the Buddha [statues], the world cried aloud, and opposed it. It was obvious why the infidel world cried out, since it opposes any policy in this direction. But many of those belonging to the Islamic faction also cried out; I am not talking about ordinary folk. A delegation of Islamic clerics met and came to conduct negotiations with the Taliban. They came with the emotional baggage loaded on them by the Western media. When they came and met with the people of the Islamic Emirate, they admitted that they were victims of media deception. This is what happened to the elite among the clerics of the [Islamic] nation – so what can we say about the ordinary public? The delegation that came went back with a different face. They went back and began to preach in favor of the Taliban [in actuality, the delegation returned after Mullah Omar refused to meet with it]."
"The accusations directed at the Taliban movement are false. They [the members of the delegation] saw with their own eyes the college of medicine that girls attend; they saw clinics run by entire staffs of women; they saw with their own eyes specialist wards for women in the public hospitals; with their own eyes they also saw schools giving all the education that can be given to girls. They testified that the secret behind the girls' non-education is not the policy of the Emirate, but a shortage that does not allow men to be taught, let alone women. I lived with the Taliban movement and I saw how they live. I saw how they rule by means of Islamic religious law. By Allah, there is no regime on the face of the Earth like them, or one that even approaches them."
Q: "…everyone knows that Afghanistan is a country of rapidly shifting loyalties and alliances – to the point where it earned the nickname 'stock market,' in which prices change every minute. Do you expect the loyalties and alliances in Afghanistan [to continue] to change?"
Abu Hafs: "Loyalties that are based on an incorrect foundation change. Loyalties based on political interests and the benefits of this world change and shift. We have seen how Pakistan turned its back on the Taliban movement. In contrast, loyalties based on ideology derived from faithfulness to Allah and his Prophet – loyalties like those of the believers – do not change, and do not shift. The Islamic Emirate has declared and proved its loyalty in practical terms to the immigrants and to the Mujahedeen within it. This is religious ideological loyalty, and loyalty of this kind does not change or die."
Al-Qa'ida's Victory is Guaranteed
Q: "How do you see Afghanistan's future in light of what we are seeing now on the ground?"
Abu Hafs: "By Allah, my brother… We the Muslims are distinct in that we have an ideological outlook regarding everything that takes place on the face of the Earth. It has been proven, in Muslim sources that the Prophet said: 'There remains a group in this [Islamic] nation that preserves the truth; it will not be hurt by those who abandon it or rise up against it until the Hour [i.e. Judgment Day] comes.'"
"We in Afghanistan do not pretend to claim that only we belong to this group, but we absolutely think, that the Islamic Emirate and the immigrant Mujahedeen in this land now constitute the spearhead in slaughtering the current Crusader offensive… We believe with a perfect faith in this Hadith [oral tradition]. The Prophet told us [that this group] would not be harmed by those who rose up against it… This is the victorious group, and, as the Prophet said, it is impossible that victory would not be on its side. But perhaps it must undergo tests."
"Allah told us in his precious book how the best among His creatures, the Prophets, are subjected to tests. Allah said: 'Do you reckon that you will enter Paradise while you have not yet been subjected to the like of that which those were subjected to who have passed away before you? They were affected with indigence and adversity and were sorely tried, so that the Messenger sent to them and those who believed along with him should beseech. When will succor arrive from Allah? Yea, surely, at such times the succor of Allah is nigh [Koran 2:214].'"
"When the friends of the Prophet heard this verse, they waited for the day they would be tested, because it was something promised by Allah to all the believers who follow this path. When the Ahzab [factions] of Quraysh gathered along with the infidels, and when the [Jewish] Bani Quraiza tribe violated the pact Al-Madina, the battle of Al-Ahzab took place – which, because of its intensity, the friends of the Prophet were forced to suffer because they could not go to perform their bodily functions… Then the friends of the Prophet realized that they were walking on the right path – the path of the Prophets and of the Mujahedeen who preceded them…"
"We think that this group is being tested. It suffers damage to property and life, and is stricken with hunger and fear. But Allah will not abandon it. If Allah does not give this group victory, and does not avenge them upon this Crusader enemy – who will vanquish [the Crusaders]?! We accomplished all the Earthly elements [of this victory]. All that remains now is the victory that will come from Allah. We, by Allah, are convinced of the certainty of this victory. Allah has promised this victory to the believers by saying: 'Yours will be the upper hand if you believe,' and also 'If you support Allah, Allah will steady your feet.'"
"A man can wonder about this optimism and this certain belief in victory in light of the conflict of a people comprised mostly of widows, orphans, and cripples… facing the strongest power on the face of the earth, which is feared by international alliances and organizations. A man can wonder about this. But we, as I have already said, are convinced of victory, because Allah has told us so. The money and the budgets that America spends on defense do not frighten us, because Allah has said: 'Those who disbelieve spend their wealth to turn people away from Allah's way. They will continue to spend it in this way till in the end this spending will become a source of regret for them' [Koran 8:36]. The soldiers and their tremendous amount of equipment do not frighten us… These promises come from Allah and they must be believed."
The Future Broad-Based Afghan Government
Q: "If you are so optimistic about the future of Afghanistan despite the bombing and destruction, why do you not advise the Taliban to set up a broad-based government that will include all the classes of the Afghan people?"
Abu Hafs: "The broad-based government is an American plan, not an Islamic plan. The broad-based government was tried in various governments in the past. Everyone realized that the way the Taliban went, which it instituted in the country, thus uniting it, was the only effective way with this people. You know what they mean when they say broad-based government? They want General Dostum. He is a Communist general whose hands are stained with the blood of hundreds of thousands of the Afghan people and the Mujahedeen; they want people supported by India to be in the government… They want seats for those who are supported by Russia, seats for those who are supported by Iran, seats for those who are supported by Pakistan. In the end, people will become agents fighting for the interests of the countries that applied pressure to get them into this government. This is unacceptable."
"Not to mention the second problem – that this government will not institute Islamic religious law and will not set up an Islamic state that will satisfy the will of this people – which sacrificed a million and a half martyrs to establish an Islamic state. Acceding to this government is a betrayal of the blood of the martyrs, betrayal of the Jihad of this great people, betrayal of the hopes of the [Islamic] nation that put its full weight into material and human support for the Afghan Jihad. The proper reward for this support and this Jihad is the Islamic government, established by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."
The Beginning of the End of the U.S.
Q: "What is your view regarding the future of the Al-Qaida organization, considering the conditions and the open war declared against you by the U.S., the strongest country in the world?"
Abu Hafs: "In our opinion, America has entered the phase of the beginning of the end. America is talking about wanting to uproot terrorism in Afghanistan, but the truth is that those in Afghanistan have succeeded in uprooting America from its fortresses and bases and have dragged it, humiliated and shame-faced, to Afghanistan, where their hands, bayonets, and weapons can reach her. America lost even before it entered into battle."
Al-Qa'ida, the Palestinian Problem, and Jihad Against the Arab Regimes and the West
Q: "…why don't you fight a Jihad in Palestine or another Arab country, such as Mauritania?"
Abu Hafs: "You are probing an open wound in my heart. There is no doubt that the Palestine problem is the most important problem for every Muslim. This is the Holy Land, the land of the Night Journey [of the Prophet Muhammad], the land of the Ascension into the Heavens; it is the first direction of prayer and the third [most holy] site [in Islam]. It is the land of the Prophets. No people has suffered [the like of] the barbaric Jewish crimes from which the Palestinian people has suffered, with American and British Crusader support. The Jihad in Palestine does not need encouragement; it is a Jihad that is the personal obligation of every Muslim."
"But how will we fight Jihad in Palestine? If you stand on each of the borders of the Arab states [i.e. Israel's borders] and fire a single shot at the Jews within Palestine, many times more shots will be fired at you – not by the Jews but by the Arab states that guard these borders. We maintain that the Jihad is an obligation, and that Jihad in Palestine is a personal obligation [applying to every Muslim]. We see Palestine as the most important Islamic issue in the entire Islamic world. But so far, we have not had a chance to engage in it. But we strike at the Jews, we strike at the Americans, and we are acting to establish an extensive Islamic state beginning in Afghanistan. We are serving all the Islamic causes, and, first and foremost, the cause of Palestine."
Q: "And what about Mauritania [Abu Haf's homeland]?"
Abu Hafs: "Mauritania is part of the Islamic world, and the fact that I come from there does not advance it, in my eyes, in the Islamic order of priorities… When conditions are right for Jihad in Mauritania or any other country, we, Allah willing, will be prepared for this Jihad. But we think that the cause in which there is a possibility for all Muslims to participate in supporting by means of money, men, or any kind of help, is the cause of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is the first goal for the Crusaders, for the Crusader-Jewish alliance; they want to add it to the booty that they have already accumulated. They believe that they have already secured Palestine, but that the struggle over Afghanistan is still going on. We maintain that protecting what already exists precedes obtaining what is lacking."
Killing Americans: 'An act of grace'
Q: "The U.S. has posted a reward for whoever arrests you, offers information about you, or kills you. Why, and how much?"
Abu Hafs: "First, this question should be directed towards the U.S., as it is the one who set the amount. However, I know the reason. I obey Allah. One of the acts of grace of this generation was to kill the Americans, to incite to this killing, to fight in the Jihad against them with full force. I and my brothers in the Al-Qa'ida organization, and in other organizations, swore an oath to carry out the mission. We obey Allah and one of the most binding commandments of our generation is Jihad and fighting the Americans. All resources should be marshaled to this end. Perhaps this is the reason.
"The truth is that when America puts our names at the head of the list of wanted men and allocates rewards of millions of dollars – at first it allocated five million dollars for each and then it raised the amount, and [the amount] continues to grow as its panic increases – we think that it is doing us a favor. This is a medal of honor, driving every Muslim to try to attain it – to be classified as Enemy No. 1 of the U.S., the most barbaric and tyrannical power on the face of the earth, despotic, aggressive, oppressing, and plundering the rights of others."
Q: "Mr. Mahfouz, you are accused of being terrorists. How do you defend someone who killed innocent people? Are you really terrorists?"
Abu Hafs: "If terrorism is killing people who are really innocent, that is, those whose killing Allah has prohibited, such as women, children, and the elderly, and non-combatants, then we are not terrorists. Just as we worship Allah by waging Jihad against those who should be fought and killed, thus we worship Allah by refraining from killing those whose killing was prohibited by Allah."
"However, [we are terrorists] if terrorism means refraining from carrying out prohibited actions, defending holy places, and waging Jihad against whomever Allah has ordered [us] to wage Jihad against by saying, '…Fight these leaders of disbelief that they may desist, for they have no regard for their pledged word' [Koran 9:12] and 'When the period of four months during which hostilities are suspended expires, without the idolaters having settled the terms of peace with you, resume fighting with them and kill them wherever you find them and make them prisoners and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush' [Koran 9:5]."
"This Terrorism is a Divine Commandment"
"This terrorism is a divine commandment. Allah has said: 'Make ready for them whatever you can of armed strength and of mounted pickets at the frontier, whereby you may daunt the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others beyond them whom you know not' [Koran 8:60]. Striking horror, panic, and fear in the hearts of the enemies of Allah is a divine commandment, and the Muslim has in this matter two choices: Either he believes in these verses, which are clear, or he denies these verses, and [becomes] an infidel. The Muslim has no other option."
"Regarding what happened on September 11, and what was said and written about the killing of innocents and so on, I have a clarification. First, as I said, we are not responsible for this act and therefore we are not responsible for [issuing] religious explanations for it. That's on the one hand. However, many clerics have issued clear religious rulings [in this matter] and explained them by means of the Koran and the Sunah, and with the words of the clerics of the [Islamic] nation, and have proved that if this act was carried out by Mujahedeen Muslims, then it was an unblemished act of Jihad." Al-Qa'ida and Weapons of Mass Destruction
Q: "Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has supposedly said that you have chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. Is this true?"
Abu Hafs: "…If such a weapon is at Al-Qaida's disposal, then it is a deterrent weapon, and not for initiating an action. Let the Americans fear the worst possible scenario when they use any unconventional weapons. We are lying in wait for them, Allah willing…"