Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Potentially Big News on Saddam and al-Qaeda

Lost amid the media and blogging hysteria (on both sides) over the tragic Terri Schiavo situation is this potentially huge report from the AP:

U.S. officials say a terror suspect imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay is a former Iraqi soldier and al-Qaida member who plotted with an Iraqi intelligence agent in August 1998 to attack the American and other foreign embassies in Pakistan with chemical weapons, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.


The Iraqi, whose identity is being concealed by the Pentagon on privacy grounds, is further described as a "trusted agent" of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and a member of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. He was arrested in Pakistan in July 2002.

(emphasis added-DD)

The actual summary of evidence document is posted online (PDF). The summary was written as part of the military tribunal process, in order to convince the court that the detainee is indeed an enemy combatant.

According to the document, dated October 25, 2004, the detainee left Iraq to join the Taliban in 1994. This seems a little odd, as the Taliban were just getting started. However, the 9/11 Commission Report has mentioned that Osama bin Laden and other jihadists did maintain camps in Afghanistan during this period (p.64), and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) was intimately involved in the creation of the Taliban. Thus, it is plausible that the Taliban, or someone linked to them, was recruiting foreign fighters at that time.

AP correspondent Robert Burns notes that, according to the Navy, "the government's evidence against detainees should be presumed to be 'genuine and accurate.'". The individual in question has been in custody for over two years. So there has been plenty of time to investigate the facts of this case.

If true, the information in this document is potentially the biggest story so far of the War on Islamist Terror. It would mean that Saddam Hussein's Iraq actively worked with al-Qaeda in an attack on American interests using weapons of mass destruction. It would constitute yet further evidence that defeating Saddam was an essential part of this struggle.


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