AL-JAZEERA TV INVESTIGATES IRAQI MILITANT AL-ZARQAWI'S AL-QA'IDAH LINKS
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Global News Wire - Asia Africa Intelligence Wire
Copyright 2004 BBC Monitoring/BBC
BBC Monitoring International Reports
July 2, 2004
LENGTH: 7587 words
HEADLINE: AL-JAZEERA TV INVESTIGATES IRAQI MILITANT AL-ZARQAWI'S AL-QA'IDAH LINKS
Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, Jordanian militant blamed by the US for many of the violent incidents in Iraq, has been the subject of a special broadcast by Qatari Al-Jazeera satellite TV. The programme investigated the influences which led to Al-Zarqawi becoming associated with militant groups in Jordan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many of the people closest to Al-Zarqawi were quoted concerning their opinions and stories about him and the programme viewed claims that Al-Zarqawi represented the supposed link between the former Iraqi government and Al-Qa'idah. The following is the text of the "Under the microscope" special programme on the life of Ahmad Fadil Nazzal al-Khalayilah, better known as Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, produced and presented by Yasir Abu-Hilalah, broadcast by Qatari Al-Jazeera satellite TV on 1 July; subheadings inserted editorially:
"Our dead go to paradise but their dead go to hell"
(Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, in an old recording) From God's humble servant Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi to my dear nation. Ye are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind. (Koranic verses) We are, praise be to God, invading them just as they are invading us and we are attacking them just as they are attacking us and we are hurting them just as they are hurting us, but we are not the same. This is because our dead go to paradise but their dead go to hell.
(US President George Bush, in English) Al-Zarqawi is the best evidence of a connection to Al-Qa'idah affiliates and Al-Qa'idah.
(Iraqi Prime Minister Ayyad Allawi) The influx of criminals such as the so-called Al-Zarqawi across the border into Iraq to harm us will be stopped, God willing.
(Abu-Hilalah) Ahmad Fadil Nazzal al-Khalayilah, alias Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, was one of the Arab Afghans who left their countries looking for a place of battle. No-one thought that this young man who had not turned 30 years old would after nearly a decade make headlines around the world and preoccupy people with news of him. In fact, the US Time Magazine regard him as one of the 100 most influential figures in the world. There was not to much be happy about in the world of the fighters, but on this occasion, of which we have obtained a video recording, Al-Zarqawi was happy with the wedding of his sister whom he wanted to be beside him on what he used to regard as a journey to the jihad.
"Strangers in their countries"
The city of Peshawar close to the Afghan border was the first stop for the Mujahidin and the shelter for their families afterward. He (Al-Zarqawi) at first used the alias Abu-Muhammad al-Gharib, which reflected his personality at the time as well as explaining a phenomenon that would have an impact later on. They were young men who felt at a loss and as strangers in their countries and set out on their travels seeking the land of their dreams whose basic foundations would be battle and fighting. Despite the numerous organizations and their diversity in terms of extremism and moderation, Al-Zarqawi was not known to have joined any of them. Mujahidin from various trends and origins and nationalities took part in this wedding. He was not a prominent leader and he did not attract attention, if he were absent he would not be missed and if he appeared he would not be recognized.
But on this occasion, the situation is different. This is because he is receiving congratulations from guests on the wedding of his sister whom he married to a journalist who lost his leg while covering the battles of the Mujahidin.
(Salih al-Hami, former correspondent for Al-Jihad Magazine and Al-Zarqawi's brother-in-law): I got to know him while I was wounded. He saw me when I was wounded and covered in blood. I had not known him before that. When I recovered, he came and introduced himself to me saying I work with the Al-Bunyan al-Marsus Magazine, as a correspondent of course. He wanted me to teach him something about the techniques of correspondence and editing and so on. I taught him and our relationship started afterwards. Then he came to me and offered to marry his sister to me. Actually, I admired his noble character and courage. He reminded me of the noble characters of the prophet's companions, may God be pleased with them, when one of them would offer his sister or daughter to another companion as a wife. She learned that I was wounded (handicapped) and she said that God honoured the handicapped or Mujahidin.
Early Al-Qa'idah contacts
(Abu-Hilalah) Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi was not known to have engaged in political or intellectual discussions. He took part in the capture of the city of Khost and witnessed the entry of the Mujahidin into Kabul. He devoted himself to fighting in the hottest fronts, specifically with Jalal al-Din Haqqani and Hekmatyar, the two Afghan leaders who are today on the US wanted lists along with Al-Zarqawi. His fighting on the Afghan fronts was closer to the line of Abdallah Azzam who was known as the Shaykh of the Arab Mujahidin. Abdallah Azzam did not favour the independence of the Arab Mujahidin in their own fronts in contrast with Al-Qa'idah leader Usamah Bin-Ladin who sought to gather the Arab Mujahidin into a single front and within a single organization, which later crystallized into the Al-Qa'idah Organization. It seems that Al-Zarqawi at the time stayed away from that organization, especially since the organizational or even intellectual features had not yet become clear.
(Al-Hami) He was greatly influenced by the martyr Shaykh Abdallah Azzam and he used to read a great deal of his writings and listen to him a great deal and he used to also reiterate his sayings on many occasions. He used to insist on the slogans of the old Mujahidin such as Al-Izz Bin-Abd-(indistinct word), Abdallah Bin-al-Mubarak and also Shaykh Abdallah Azzam. I think that he follows the same trend until this moment. He used to embrace Salafi thought but he did not belong to a Salafi group. I think that he used to view Usamah Bin-Ladin as a Mujahid and I think that he also used to embrace Shaykh Abdallah Azzam's saying that Usamah Bin-Ladin was the man of the nation. Shaykh Abdallah Azzam used to repeatedly say that Usamah Bin-Ladin was the man of the nation. He used to respect him but according to my inside and definite information, he did not belong to Al-Qa'idah during that period.
"Al-Zarqawi was searching for himself"
(Abu-Hilalah) However, the communities of the Arab Afghans contributed to the formation of his character, exactly as the battlefields had done, especially with the spread of the trends that advocate fighting as the only way to change the societies they had abandoned. These ideas found their way into the heart of the young man and he became influenced by these ideas before realizing their substance, particularly since he had not had any organizational or political experience before coming. Even at the academic level, he had not completed his secondary education. He used to regard Peshawar as the school where he could complete his education that had fumbled and the alternative country that would compensate for the country that he had abandoned.
Al-Zarqawi went to Peshawar for the first time when it was bustling with political and intellectual contradictions and jihad trends. The Russians had left Afghanistan and the Shaykh of the Mujahidin Abdallah Azzam had been killed in a bombing in this place and the Arab Afghans were roaming the streets of Peshawar like orphans. In the midst of this confusion, Al-Zarqawi was searching for himself. The Zayd Bin-Harithah Mosque was bustling with Arab worshippers and the imam of the mosque still remembers some images of Abu-Mus'ab.
(Imam of a mosque in Peshawar) Many Arab brothers used to come and pray alongside us, including also Abu-Mus'ab. I learned that this Abu-Mus'ab had come from Jordan for the purpose of jihad. He used to pray alongside us and he was a learned man. He even prayed alongside us in the evenings, especially during the last 10 days of the month of Ramadan along with the Arab brothers. I went on pilgrimage after Ramadan and before I went he said to me if you go on pilgrimage pray and say may God forgive Abu-Mus'ab.
Al-Zarqawi in Jordan
(Abu-Hilalah) He absorbed the Salafi jihad idea as well as gaining the fighting experience. This was what the result of his stay in Peshawar and on the fighting fronts. However, the hopes of the Arab Afghans were soon dashed and their enthusiasm evaporated following the internal fighting among the Mujahidin who had entered Kabul and expelled the Soviets from Afghanistan. He returned to Al-Zarqa once again, but with Afghanistan in his mind this time. Al-Zarqa is the large city in Jordan that includes the poor working class and encompasses all the components of the society in terms of Bedouins, peasants and refugees. He grew up in this district and belonged to the big place, Al-Zarqa and at the same time to the large Bani Hasan tribe.
(Sabri Rubayhat, Jordanian sociology professor and director of the North-South Studies Centre) In all cities and population centres, there are people who play the role of the bully boy. Additionally, the concept of good villains is known in Arab history. There are people who think they can achieve justice their own way. They also play roles that are bigger than their resources. The fact that he is named after the entire city, Al-Zarqawi, proves this. Al-Zarqa is a city with a population of around 800,000 people, but you rarely find a person named Al-Zarqawi. Certainly there were personal factors that interacted with social factors. Add to this the fact that this person had some degree of intelligence that enabled him to take advantage of the political, economic and social conditions in the region to provide justifications for his actions.
(Abu-Hilalah) He was brought up in Ma'sum Neighbourhood in Al-Zarqa, an area where the traditional, tribal values mix with the culture of rapid civilization. The land is for his Bedouin tribe, but is open to those who came as refugees and displaced people from Palestine, or those who came to earn a living from the far-away rural areas. This is the city of the poor.
The child is influenced by his environment and the cemetery opposite his house is the most prominent landmark in the neighbourhood. It certainly had some influence in shaping his character. Al-Zarqawi was brought up near a cemetery; that is, near death. However, when he became a youth, he went far away looking for another kind of death. He went to Afghanistan, although the Russians had already left.
"A good, sincere person who is close to God"
A certain development must have pushed him to turn to religion, although he was a bully boy in the neighbourhood, who is remote from religion. He became a frequent visitor to Al-Husayn Bin-Ali Mosque. This mosque was his bridge to Afghanistan. A number of young men, who frequented the mosque, went there before him. These young men gave him an example to help him get rid of his past. His acquaintances acknowledge the changes that he went through and affected his character.
(Shaykh Jarrah al-Qaddah, from the Jihadist Salafist trend) He was a man who was far from Islam. He was generous and chivalrous. Many deviant people have honour and chivalry. They became Muslims and retained their traits. The prophet says: I have come to complement the good manners. He had good manners and he complemented them, praised be God, with Islam. We think he is now a good, sincere person who is close to God.
"God showed him the right path to Islam"
(Unidentified man) He was one of those reckless, young men. He then became a quiet man and a good Muslim. He started to pray and show allegiance to God. We are all Muslims. God showed him the right path to Islam. He went back to his religion.
(Abu-Hilalah) After returning, he became busy preaching his new ideas in the various mosques in an effort to complete his Jihadist project, which came to an end when the Mujahidin fought over power in Kabul.
There was a closer enemy to the west of the River (Jordan). The Jews were closer than the communists where he had to cross thousands of miles to fight. He tried to carry out an operation across the river. The weapons were seized and he found his way for the first time to the State Security Court.
On trial in Jordan
He was convicted in a case known as Bay'at al-Imam (Allegiance to the Muslim Leader) although he and his comrades say that the case was fabricated. However, what was established in this case is the presence of weapons in addition to Jihadist Salafist ideology.
(A Jordanian military judge reading the sentence at the State Security Court in the case of Bay'at al-Imam) He is sentenced to 15 years at hard Labour.
(Abu-Hilalah) With him in this case was Abu-Muhammad al-Maqdisi, one of the most prominent theoreticians of the Jihadist Salafist trend. The fame of Al-Maqdisi, whose real name is Isam Tahir al-Barqawi, grew when those who perpetrated Al-Ulayya bombing in Riyadh (November 1995) revealed that he had issued a fatwa sanctioning their operation. Later, Al-Maqdisi supported the bombings of Washington and New York with a religious fatwa.
In the court, it was evident that Al-Zarqawi was saturated with the ideology originating from Afghanistan. He refused to appoint lawyers. He refused to listen to the judges, who, according to his views, gave verdicts not according to the teachings of God. He defended himself by asking the judges to repent and to return to monotheism and jihad. He was sentenced to 15 years. He and the comrades of battle entered a new world. From the battle fields, he moved to the jail courts.
In prison, "emir of the Jihadist Salafist trend"
In prison, his character was shaped very precisely. He became the emir (leader) of the Jihadist Salafist trend. To his side was the theoretician Abu-Muhammad al-Maqdisi. He learned from Al-Maqdisi, but he beat him on the level of organization. His firmness and courage was a source of attraction for his followers. In prison, he completed memorizing the entire Koran by heart and built a network of relations both inside and outside the prison.
(Shaykh Jarrah al-Qaddah) I visited him in jail and when I got to know him, I liked him even more. He is well known for loving his brothers in God more than he loves his relatives. He is a crier (in Islamic tradition, those who cry a lot out of fear of God). He memorizes the Koran very well. He knows the Koran by heart. I was with him in Al-Zarqa one day, with him driving the car. In Al-Zarqa, the streets are normally so crowded that no-one would even think of crying in public. The Prophet Muhammad talked about those who remember God and start crying. You may cry when you are on your own, when you are lonely in the middle of the night, or when you are praying. But he was crying in the streets of Al-Zarqa, in the crowded streets of Al-Zarqa during the day. I was talking to him about fraternity in God and I mentioned one of our brothers in God. The next thing I know, I saw his tears pouring down. I swear to you that this is what happened.
He was the emir of the group in prison because he was firm and strong. Leadership requires strength, knowledge, firmness and decisiveness.
(Abu-Hilalah) The prominent opposition figure Layth Shubaylat was his companion in Suwaqah Prison. Yet, the person who was considered a radical opposition figure by the state was for Al-Zarqawi part of the infidel regime because he accepted the legislative councils, or the infidelity councils, according to the views of the Jihadist Salafist trend.
Jordanian Islamist: "He is really a man"
(Layth Shubaylat, a prominent Jordanian opposition figure and a former Islamic parliamentarian, who served time in jail in Jaysh Muhammad Case) He was a stubborn, firm man who believed in his principles. He is really a man. There were several cases of friction with the prison management, for example, when the prison management insisted on applying the code on prisoners' uniform, although it was known that the political prisoners should have a special case. There was a clash at one time and the security troops entered the prison and were about to storm our area - we were in the same area at that time. They labelled the police as infidels, they labelled us as infidels and they labelled everyone who cooperated with the regime as infidels. They do not believe in the reformist trend.
(Abu-Hilalah) Shubaylat, who left prison following a special pardon from Late King Husayn Bin-Talal, sought to secure the release of Al-Zarqawi and the other Jihadist groups.
(Begin Shubaylat recording, reference to a conversation between him and King Husayn following his release) I told him: Let me give them the good news. He said: Who do you mean? I said the prisoners or let me say the political prisoners or let me say the Islamists or let me say the Afghans? He was taken by surprise. I said, Sir, let me tell you that you and I are responsible for these people. He said: How? I said: For 50 years, you have been teaching them to stand against Zionism and you want them to change overnight? But I, the moderate Islamist, you failed me. You did not allow me or those who think like me to implement any part of my programme. So, Sir, you should expect people worse than me who will label you as an infidel. They will not only label you, but they will label you and me as infidels.
(Abu-Hilalah) His views were not shaken in jail.
(Sabri Rubayhat) The presence of an individual in jail may strengthen the views for which he went to jail in the first place. He may become a leader inside this establishment and he may gather followers and the environment will be appropriate to select recruits and followers to join him. Such recruits would be competent because they spend a lot of time living together inside this establishment. Very strong feelings and ties are established among them.
"Prison strengthened his belief"
(Abu-Hilalah) The letters which he used to send to his family from jail show that the prison strengthened his belief in the ideological line he adopted and has not shaken his beliefs or made him regret the combat experience that he accumulated.
He spent almost four years in jail and had many more years to go. The way out came from a place he did not expect. There was a general amnesty on the occasion of King Abdallah II's assumption of powers in the country following the death of King Husayn.
Some people outside the prison were waiting for him to leave prison and saw in him an example to be emulated.
(Salih al-Hami) He was not very happy when he left jail. It seems that the conditions in the jail were better than the conditions of the easy, nothing-to-do, routine life. I felt that he was bored. I felt that he was bitter. I felt the spirit of jihad inside him. He was dying to get out of this country.
(Abu-Hilalah) Although he returned to his comrades and to the mosques of Al-Zarqa, preaching and educating, instigating and mobilizing people, he, however, was planning to leave. It seems that he realized that Jordan was inappropriate as a base for a Jihadist organization.
Once again, he returned to his first love. Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi continued to have affection for Peshawar. He left prison to return to it once again. Close to it, in Afghanistan, the Mujahidin government collapsed and the Taleban government was established instead. In the shadow, there was a more important thing to consider; that is, Taleban's guest, Usamah Bin-Ladin.
Arrest in Pakistan
Al-Zarqawi returned to the same neighbourhood and the same mosque, seeking, as close associates confirm, to build a new organization to build on what was achieved in his first experience, taking advantage of certain new factors that played in his favour. The Taleban had spread its control over Afghanistan. Pakistan, with its religious schools and its traditional and other groups, became its backyard.
The most important element was Usamah Bin-Ladin, who saw in Afghanistan a base, not only for Al-Qa'idah Organization, which was more established by now in terms of ideology, experience and operations, but also for anyone who wanted to join his project, which could be likened to a multinational company. However, the men in this neighbourhood were different from the old men. Nothing had remained of the Peshawar which he knew before.
Al-Zarqawi did not stay long in Peshawar. He was arrested by the Pakistani authorities
(Imam of Peshawar mosque) He prayed the evening prayer with us. When he left, plain-clothed policemen arrested him.
(Abu-Hilalah) Was this really a case of violating residency law? Why was he not deported from Karachi?
(Salih al-Hami) He had a six-month residency permit, which expired and which they did not renew for him. There were several attempts against the Arabs, starting from the time of (former Pakistani Prime Minister) Benazir Bhutto, to expel the Arabs from that country. The Arabs were harmed a lot. Abu-Mus'ab was arrested in one of these campaigns. He was held in jail for about eight days. He was released for a day or two and they gave him a passport to allow him to leave the country. He left for Karachi and then, I think he went to Afghanistan.
(Abu-Hilalah) Has he escaped from the Pakistani authorities with the tricks he knows, or was there someone who colluded with him? We were unable to answer such questions. The Pakistani authorities say that they do not have in their residency records the name of Ahmad Fadil Nazzal al-Khalayilah.
Despite that, he did not return to Jordan. Instead, he went back to his other country, Afghanistan, which became an open arena for Al-Qa'idah.
He had a private camp in Herat, near the Iranian borders. He enjoyed the Taleban's trust and Bin Ladin's support and began to build his new network, benefiting from the years of fighting and imprisonment.
In Afghanistan, he was travelling between Kabul, where his first wife was, and Herat, where his camp and his second wife were. He got married to the second wife in Herat. Her father was later killed in Iraq.
Meanwhile, there was a new generation that did not go through the first Afghan experience, but who were attached to it. A group of the Jihadist Salafist trend left Jordan at that time. Most of those came from the city of Al-Salt. The most prominent of those was Ra'id Khuraysat, who was later known by the Kurdish Ansar al-Islam group as Abu-Abd-al-Rahman al-Shami. Al-Shami and a number of his comrades from the same city were killed in clashes with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Jalal Talabani, America's strong ally before the war with Iraq and after the collapse of Saddam's regime.
Al-Zarqawi chose Herat near the Iranian borders for reasons which no-one can understand in full. Al-Shami chose to go to Iraqi Kurdistan, where Ansar al-Islam was controlling a small area near the Iranian border, seeking to repeat the Taleban's experience, but on a smaller scale.
(Ra'id Khuraysat, a Jordanian who was leading figure in Ansar al-Islam group, who was killed in Kurdistan) Turn your hearts to one thing only that made the Taleban achieve victory in Afghanistan, without having enough weapons or ammunition. Their will-power to establish the religion of God on earth and establish his laws and their hatred of unbelief and the infidels made them achieve victory. With few weapons or experience, they were able to achieve victory.
(Abu-Hilalah) It is difficult to ascertain why Al-Shami chose Kurdistan, which was outside the control of Saddam Husayn. However, in general, he remained close to his companion Al-Zarqawi, who was near Iran, from the side of Afghanistan.
(Abu-Abd-al-Rahman al-Shami) These hearts are not the hearts of the Mujahidin in Kurdistan, but the hearts of all Muslims on earth. They are tired and sore from the pains and the injustice they are subjected to day and night. There are mass crimes committed in Palestine, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Bosnia. The hearts are tired and nothing can heal these hearts except medicine from God; a medicine prescribed by the God of hearts. God Almighty said: Fight them and Allah will punish them by your hands. (Koranic verse)
(Abu-Hilalah) Satellite dishes returned after the war in the areas under Ansar al-Islam's control. Residents continue to remember the positive and negative aspects of that stage.
(Unidentified man) They had with them Arabs from Baghdad, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. We did not mix or speak with them, but if they bothered us, we used to have discussions with them. They used to force women to wear the head cover and hijab and the aba'ah (long gown) on top of the hijab.
(Unidentified man) During their time, there was security and stability. No-one violated anyone else's rights. If one of them had a case at the courts and was in the right and had witnesses, they delivered a fair ruling. There was no theft, but what was wrong about them was that they forced women to wear the head cover and the aba'ah when going to the fields to work. Such acts aggravated us because the Kurdish dress is a hijab in itself, so there was no need to force women to wear the aba'ah.
"Link between Ansar al-Islam and Arab Afghans"
(Unidentified man) This house that you see behind me was built by the Ansar. Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, representative to Usamah Bin-Ladin, used to live here. He was considered the link between Ansar al-Islam and Arab Afghans. They used to send them to this area. Their camp and training headquarters were here. They had equipment for maintaining and fixing weapons and arms.
(Abu-Hilalah) In his speech justifying the war on Iraq, US Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke about Al-Zarqawi and the camp where recruits were taught how to use poisonous substances.
(Colin Powell) What I want to draw your attention to today is a potentially more evil link between Iraq and the Al-Qa'idah terrorist network. It is a link that combines classic terrorist networks and modern methods of killing. Iraq currently harbours a deadly terrorist network, headed by Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. He is one of Bin Ladin's followers and aides in Al-Qa'idah.
"Ansar al-Islam is an inseparable part of Al-Qa'idah"
(Abu-Hilalah) The Kurdish intelligence believes that Ansar al-Islam is part of Al-Qa'idah and that its choice of Kurdistan was calculated.
(Dana Ahmad Majid, Kurdish intelligence official) I believe that Ansar al-Islam is an inseparable part of Al-Qa'idah. Before 11 September, Al-Qa'idah planned to found another base to fall back on after the 11 September operations because they knew very well that they would be attacked in Afghanistan after 11 September and that they would have to turn to other areas. They called a group from the leadership of Ansar al-Islam, who were previously in Afghanistan and studied the issue and chose Biyara (word as heard) to be their second base should they have to leave Afghanistan.
Their choice was based on several issues. The first was the presence of a base for their network in that area. The second issue was that the area has rough terrain and is similar to the areas in Afghanistan where they trained. The third issue was their relations with the Iraqi regime. The fourth issue was that they sensed that the government of the Kurdistan region was weak and incapable of resisting and they would be able to spread and take control. The other issue was that it was close to Afghanistan and so they would be able to cross Iran by various means to reach that area.
(Abu-Hilalah) Signs of the Arab presence in Iraqi Kurdistan are still there, even after the US bombardment, which destroyed the strongholds of Ansar al-Islam at the start of the war on Iraq. Under the rubble, one can read what remains of the documents about security methods, ways of carrying out explosions and booby-trapping and information on chemical agents.
During his presence in Afghanistan, Al-Zarqawi's name was quietly being mentioned in Jordan again. He was a secondary suspect in the explosions in the new millennium, which the authorities attribute to Al-Qa'idah. His name was added to the case when main suspect Ra'id Hijazi stood trial again. The main suspects were sentenced to death, while Al-Zarqawi was sentenced in absentia to 15 years. The sentence was not the only thread linking him to Al-Qa'idah. After 11 September, other threads were revealed.
Treatment in Baghdad
Al-Zarqawi fought in Al-Qa'idah and Taleban battles. He was besieged with Al-Qa'idah leader in Tora Bora. He also participated in the battles of Shahr-e Kord (word as heard), the last of Al-Qa'idah battles. He escaped the US planes in Afghanistan when they poured their lava on Tora Bora. He was not one of the targets back then, but he escaped again when he was targeted in the early US raids on Iraq. The US bombardment destroyed Ansar al-Islam's camps in Iraqi Kurdistan. How could he not be targeted when he was one of the main pretexts used to justify the war?
Al-Zarqawi was wounded in Afghanistan. According to the US Administration, he was treated in Baghdad and his leg was amputated with the knowledge of Saddam's regime. But, this came in the course of preparations for the war on Iraq, one of the main justifications for which was the relation between Saddam's regime and Al-Qa'idah. After that, the bases for the war collapsed, especially with regard to weapons of mass destruction.
Cell-mate Layth Shubaylat, who failed in mediating with Saddam's regime for the return of some members of the Iraqi opposition, denies these links.
(Shubaylat) I met president Saddam twice to discuss a major issue; namely that the opposition - national opposition - should be allowed. The opposition is dealing with the Americans and the Jews. None of us accept this. But, the opposition is a legitimate right. A state cannot exist without opposition.
Two years later, when I saw him again, I told him: Mr President, your people have not taken any action with a group that is asking to cooperate with the regime to protect Iraq. They are Iraqis and are speaking on this basis.
So, I do not believe that the issue reached the extent of coordinating with Al-Qa'idah because we have even failed to coordinate anything with the opposition.
(Abu-Hilalah) Add to this that Al-Zarqawi does not hesitate to describe Al-Ba'th Party as infidels.
(Al-Zarqawi) They tried before to hide the truth of the battle and to distort the image of the pure banner of jihad. They deluded the world into believing that it is the remnants of the defunct regime and the elements of the infidel Ba'th that are waging the resistance operations so that the nation would not back the battle and hail the epic. But, these are only lies and fabrications. The heroism, sacrifice and resolution that you heard in dealing the enemies was, praised be God, the work of your sons, the knights of the nation.
(Abu-Hilalah) But the Kurdish intelligence services say that an Iraqi intelligence officer used to coordinate with Al-Zarqawi.
(Dana Ahmad Majid, Kurdish intelligence official) He entered Diyara through the Iraqi intelligence services. Abu-Wa'il, who was an officer in the Iraqi intelligence and who up to now works with Ansar al-Islam, was the liaison officer between the Iraqi intelligence services and the Ansar al-Islam cadres. He managed to reach Diyara through him. We have new and old information about this cooperation between the Iraqi intelligence services and Ansar al-Islam.
(John Abizaid, commander of the US Central Command, in English fading into Arabic translation) We have intelligence information that confirms the existence of some relationship between Al-Zarqawi and officials from the former regime, especially officials at the Iraqi intelligence service. We feel worried about the existence of coordination between a terrorist group and elements of the former Iraqi intelligence, for that coordination will help create opportunities for cooperation among the enemies in such a away that can threaten our forces.
"Threads that link them to Al-Zarqawi"
(Abu-Hilalah) During the war on Afghanistan, the Ansar al-Islam Organization was busy with the confrontation with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. According to a recording obtained by Al-Jazeera, they do not hesitate to describe their rivals as renegades. During those confrontations, Khuraysat and three of his townsmen were killed. Their relatives, who set martyr celebrations for them, believed that they had been killed in Afghanistan. The funeral of the four reveals threads that link them to Al-Zarqawi. In the funeral, Nidal Arabiyat appears. He was killed by the US troops in Al-Habbaniyah three years later. They said that he was an aide to Al-Zarqawi specialized in making booby-trapped cars. Arabiyat had left Jordan in the same year in which Al-Zarqawi left, shortly after becoming religious and embracing the Jihadist Salafist thought.
(Nidal Arabiyat's father) He studied until the first secondary grade. He then went to the (Jordanian) army for two years. After military service, he worked as a driver at a private company. He had a car accident. He was with his paternal and maternal cousins. They were driving from Amman to Al-Salt. They had an accident. Two of his cousins were killed. Two of his colleagues were wounded. One month later, the boy began to look different. He began to sit alone for long periods of time. He used to sit alone in his room. Afterward, he became committed to religion. He began to read a lot of books on jihad. He spent many hours reading such books. Of course, he spent his time either in the house or the mosque. He read and read. Afterward, he told me that he wanted to travel for minor pilgrimage (to Mecca). I said all right. But deep inside me, I felt something different. I heard then that many youths from Al-Salt went abroad for jihad. I heard about that. I knew then that his intention was not to go for a minor pilgrimage.
(Abu-Hilalah) Shaykh Jarrah was one of those who led the turnabout in his personality.
(Shaykh Jarrah al-Qaddah, from the Salafist Jihadist Trend) I talked to him. I wanted to use that accident to remind him of death, worship and of Islam. God be praised, he returned to Islam and in a few months, he went out for jihad for the cause of God in the late 1999.
(Abu-Hilalah) Nidal was not alone. He was preceded by others, whose relatives commemorated. He was followed by others. Shihadah al-Kilani, who is believed to have been killed in confrontations with the US troops in Mosul, is accused by the Jordanian authorities of being involved with Al-Zarqawi in the planning for targeting US interests in Jordan. That case was known as Ansar al-Islam case. Al-Kilani left the country in 1999 as well. Since then, his relatives knew nothing about him.
(Shihadah al-Kilani's brother) He then spoke to us. We asked him where he was. He said he was in the Gulf. Most of the families of those who were martyred said that their sons used to call them. However, Shihadah did not call us at all. We expected then that he was either martyred or jailed.
(Abu-Hilalah) Those who went out for jihad from Al-Salt, west of the Jordanian capital, were over 50. About 20 of them were killed. One of the most prominent of those who left Al-Salt was Mu'ammar al-Jaghbir, who is considered by the US authorities as an aide to Al-Zarqawi. They allocated 1m dollars as a reward for whoever provides information that leads to his arrest.
Killing of US diplomat
(Al-Qaddah) He went out when he knew about the martyrdom of the brothers -the brother Ra'id Khuraysat, we beseech God to accept him as a martyr, Lu'way al-Kayid, Mu'tasim and Mahmud Daradikah. When he learned about their martyrdom, he went out for jihad for the cause of God.
(Abu-Hilalah) There have been other blood links between Al-Zarqawi and Al-Qa'idah organization. The assassination of the US diplomat Lawrence Foley in Amman took place shortly before the war on Iraq and after the war on Afghanistan. According to the files of the case, Al-Zarqawi planned and financed the operation during his stay in Iraq. According to the confessions of the accused, they received a phone call from Mu'ammar al-Jaghbir following their success in the operation. The papers of the case reveal part of the movements of Al-Zarqawi. After the war on Afghanistan, he left for Iran and from there to Iraq. He then left for Syria and then Jordan. He moved although he was on the top of the US lists. He was smuggled into the country (Jordan) although he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He met the accused. He also met his wife in the house of the main accused, the Libyan Sa'id Bin-Suwayyit, who came from Afghanistan to Jordan using a false Tunisian passport. Afterwards he left for Iraq.
(Jordanian military court judge) Concerning the seventh, Mu'ammar Ahmad Yusuf al-Jaghbir and the eighth criminal Ahmad Fadil Nazzal al-Khalaylah, both will be sentenced to death by hanging.
(Abu-Hilalah) Al-Zarqawi was sentenced to death along with a number of the accused. However, they deny in a letter their link to the killing of Foley. Yet, they praise Abu-Mus'ab and claim that they made the confessions under torture.
(Shubaylat) The question that needs an answer concerns the Libyan person. If the Libyan carried out an operation, then why did he stay in Jordan one and a half to two months after the operation? If he was from outside Jordan and committed a murder, then he should leave immediately. This cannot be believed. The operation did take place, but the question is whether those or other parties are involved. I do not believe that those persons were the perpetrators.
Planned chemical attack on US embassy
(Abu-Hilalah) No sooner had the verdict concerning the case of the assassination of Foley been issued than Al-Zarqawi's shadow appeared again. This time was through an operation that attempted to target the General Intelligence Department and the US embassy in Amman. The operation was foiled. In accordance with official Jordanian statements, the chemical materials that were to be used in the operation could have killed 80,000 people confessions of the main culprit, which were aired by the Jordanian Television, revealed new information about the activities of Al-Zarqawi in Afghanistan and Iraq.
(Azmi al-Jayyusi, key suspect in a reported plan to blow up the Jordanian Intelligence Department) In Herat, I began training for Abu-Mus'ab. The training included high-level explosives and poison courses. I then pledged allegiance to Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi and agreed to work for him without any discussion. After the fall of Afghanistan, I met Al-Zarqawi once again in Iraq.
After returning from Afghanistan to Iraq, I met with Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. With him was Muwaffaq Adwan, a Jordanian national, who I knew in Afghanistan. In Iraq, Abu-Mus'ab told me to go to Jordan along with Muwaffaq Adwan to prepare for a military operation in Jordan. He arranged for smuggling me into Jordan. Upon arrival in Jordan, I met one of the individuals affiliated with Abu-Mus'ab. His name was Haytham Umar Ibrahim, a Syrian national, who had secured safe houses for us.
(Abu-Hilalah) In an audio recording, Al-Zarqawi acknowledged the foiled the operation, but he denied what he considered as exaggerations by the authorities.
"Signs of torture were evident on the brothers' face and hands"
(Al-Zarqawi) The tonnes that were manufactured were raw materials that are sold in markets as brother Azmi al-Jayyusi said, may God set him free. As for the chemical bomb and poisons, they were fabrications by the evil Jordanian agencies. This has been very clear, as the signs of torture were evident on the brothers' face and hands. Yes, the plan was to completely destroy the building of the General Intelligence. The operation was planned against the source of black evil in our country.
(Abu-Hilalah) Targeting the state's interests in this way is an unprecedented phenomenon in Jordan. This has perplexed observers.
(Sabri Rubayhat, director of the North and South Studies Centre) Most unfortunately, some people could sympathize with such phenomena and cases. This sympathy is not just because they support this action, but to express their unhappiness with what is taking place around them. In other words, when not everybody is involved in popular action, then they might sympathize with the parties with destructive inclinations within this society.
(Abu-Hilalah) Some link the Al-Zarqawi phenomenon with the US and Israeli practices.
(Yasir Za'atirah, an expert on Islamic groups) In my view, what is happening in the entire Arab world is a reaction to the US targeting of the Arab nation and support for the Zionist entity and its crimes against the Palestinians and now because of the occupation in Iraq. This phenomenon is likely to expand and continue if the US-Zionist arbitrariness against the nation and its interests and sanctities continues.
(Abu Hilalah) The Americans attribute to Al-Zarqawi many acts before and after the war. Among other things, they describe him as the leader of the Al-Qa'idah operations in Iraq and an expert of chemical and germ weapons. There is a US interest in the exaggeration of the phenomenon. This is what some observers believe.
(Za'atirah) Those acts were exaggerated by the United States to discredit the Iraqi resistance and describe it as being subservient to foreign parties. Of course, those parties are rejected by a large percentage of the Iraqi people. Therefore, blowing Al-Zarqawi out of proportion is partially a political battle as far as the Americans are concerned. Yet, this man exists. Definitely, the source of his power comes from his ability to use the cheap tools of violence, represented by car bombs and explosive belts. These only need men who believe in what they do. As for the tools, they are available anywhere, especially in a country like Iraq.
"We harvested their heads and tore up their bodies"
(Shubaylat) Based on my knowledge of him and of the whole trend and the level of their education, I find it impossible to believe what is being said about them. They are not at this level of organizational ability and scientific achievement. They might succeed in some technical and scientific specializations that might involve bombings and things like that. But I believe that his character is being blown out of proportion.
(Abu-Hilalah) In an audio recording, Al-Zarqawi brags about many of the acts attributed to them.
(Al-Zarqawi) God honoured us and so we harvested their heads and tore up their bodies in many places: The coalition forces in Karbala; the Italians in Al-Nasiriyah; the US intelligence in Al-Shahin Hotel; and last not but least what God has honoured us today with at the Polish forces in Al-Hillah.
(Abu-Hilalah) Before this audio recording, which has been confirmed as genuine by those who recognize the voice of the man, the Americans found a letter attributed to him. It was addressed to Al-Qa'idah leaders. In that letter, he called for a confrontation with the Shi'is.
(US Secretary of State Colin Powell, in English fading into English translation) It certainly lends some credence to what we said at the United Nations last year about Mus'ab al-Zarqawi being an active member of Al-Qa'idah and he continues to be so. He did actions that were supposed to be known by the Iraqi authorities then. We are looking forward to exposing those relations, taking into account the letter that reveals that.
(Abu-Hilalah) Some cast doubts about the US story, while acknowledging some principled stands on others.
Violence against Shi'is, beheading US hostage
(Za'atirah) It is difficult to be certain whether those individuals are the ones who carried out some acts against the Shi'is. However, the rhetoric they adopt may (cause people to) believe that. However, some statements attributed to Al-Qa'idah deny any responsibility for the killing of (Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir) al-Hakim (in August 2003) or the bombings of Al-Kazimiyah and Karbala.
(Shubaylat) They do not accept us although we have the same faith and belong to the same Sunni creed. They even consider us infidels. Therefore, they undoubtedly consider the Shi'is infidels. The other party, likewise, considers them infidels.
(Abu-Hilalah) The phenomenon has almost turned into a myth, to which every bombing attempt anywhere in the world is attributed. Al-Zarqawi's operations have expanded to include cells in Spain, Germany and finally in Istanbul. According to Colin Powell's address at the United Nations, Al-Zarqawi planned operations in France, Italy, Russia, Britain and Spain.
After Al-Zarqawi became a wanted person by many parties and the earth became so narrow for him, Al-Zarqawi found himself a space on the world wide web, through which he transmits his messages in text, audio and video. On the other hand, his rivals use the web to display his picture accompanied by the reward for arresting him. This is another arena for a confrontation that is still going on.
One of the last operations attributed to him was the killing of the US hostage Berg. It was posted on a web site close to him. The web site said Al-Zarqawi beheaded Berg. Was he the one who did it? Or was that propaganda for or against him? It is a picture that veils more than it unveils. It adds an extra shade of ambiguity to the phenomena or the myth. (Programme ends with a video showing a masked man amid other masked men reading a statement before he produces a knife and holds Berg to behead him)
Source: Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 1905 gmt 1 Jul 04
) BBC Monitoring