What was the relationship between Saddam Hussein's inner circle and Islamic terrorists? A newly released document appears to provide evidence that in 1999 the Taliban welcomed "Islamic relations with Iraq" to mediate among the Taliban, the Northern Alliance and Russia, and that the Taliban invited Iraqi officials to Afghanistan.
The document, captured in Iraq but never before seen by the public, offers glimmers of new insight at the Pentagon's Foreign Military Studies Office Web site. The FMSO is a research and analysis center under the U.S. Army's Training and Doctrine Command.
This particular document mentions two men with similar names, each with ties to Pakistani religious schools known as madrassas, Jihad training camps, the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
This original translation by my translator-colleague, who goes by the nom de guerre of "Sammi," comes from a notebook kept by an Iraqi intelligence agent. It provides evidence of a cooperative, operational relationship agreed to at the highest levels of the Iraqi government and the Taliban. The notebook is lengthy and we will present it on the FOX News Web site in a series of postings. It deals extensively with meetings between Maulana Fazlur Rahman, an Al Qaeda/Taliban supporter, and Taha Yassin Ramadan, the former vice president of Iraq, and other unnamed Iraqi officials.
Ramadan also was Saddam Hussein's chief enforcer, making sure Saddam's orders were carried out by Iraqi officials. He is discussed in a 2002 BBC article that stated "Washington showed considerable interest in him well before the Iraq war this spring, after opposition forces claimed he hosted Usama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, in Baghdad in 1998. He currently is under detention and facing trial in Baghdad along with Saddam. Also present at the discussion recorded in the notebook is Maulana Fazlur Rahman, a Pakistani cleric described in another 2002 article from the BBC Profile: Maulana Fazlur Rahman as "A pro-Taliban cleric in Pakistan … one of the two main contenders for the post of the country's prime minister." The BBC also said that "Maulana Fazlur Rahman … is known for his close ties to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime."
This document appears to have been captured in Iraq in 2003. Sammi adds notes for clarity in parenthesis. I found it necessary, as well, to add informational notes, which are indicated by "RR." The bold typeface is our addition, and indicates emphasis or reference material.
- The notebook from which this document is taken is 76 pages long, and belongs to someone called Khaled Abd El Majid. It covers events taking place in 1999.
- There are two important meetings noted that involve Fazlur Rahman. This is a translation of the first meeting. There is no date, but it can be derived. On page 26/76 the page before this meeting it is mentioned that the person carrying a verbal message from Mullah Omar to Saddam Hussein is arriving on "27/11/1999," a Saturday. The first meeting with the VP is "Sunday 10:30 AM", the following day. The second meeting is dated on page 20/76 as "Sunday 11/28 at 7:45 evening."
- Since Arabic is written from right to left, the meeting starts on page 25 of the notebook and ends on page 21. These are hand-written notes and fragmentary in some parts.
- There also is a notation regarding Fazlur Rahman Khalil, a Pakistani Taliban leader and Al Qaeda associate, who is not the man in this meeting. The notebook mentions Rahman Khalil on page 72, at the bottom of a list of Islamic clerics coming to Iraq labeled "with him in the delegation". "He" is not mentioned by name. "Very important: Fazlur Rahman Khalil: Leader of the Ansar Movement. Does not have a position inside Pakistan but inside Afghanistan and Kashmir."
Translation for ISGP-2003-0001412 (pdf) follows:
Meeting of Mr. Vice-President with the Pakistani Fazlur Rahman
Location: Office of Mr. Vice-President in Zakoura
Date: Sunday 10:30 AM
Present: Mr. Vice-President, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, Taher Krichi (family name not very clear), Jamal Abdul Razzak
Words of welcoming.
— Questions about the situation in Pakistan
Fazlur Rahman: The situation is good and the Pakistani people have come together to struggle against America.
Vice-President: The new humanitarian method of human rights of the American people in the United Nations. (Fragmented notation)
Fazlur Rahman: What is happening in Afghanistan is a violation of the human rights of this country, where Usama bin Laden is one person and the fate of millions cannot be tied to him. (Translator's note: Probably at that time the U.S. is forcing sanctions or pressures on Afghanistan because it is providing sanctuary to bin Laden)
Vice-President: The American method is clear. First I discover many times some Islamic organizations which are not themselves and Islam is innocent from them (RR: probably means Islamic organizations that he believes do not behave like Islamic organizations). Those could be a cover for the American deviation like Kosovo. Muslims are known where they are and America is one of the fiercest enemies of Islam. Muslims in Palestine are slaughtered and they support the Jews, but they were provided this cover. America wants to control the world through human rights (Translator's note: following word unclear, possibly democracy) and multiple parties so it can form collaborating parties and create unrest. Unrest serves America's purpose. The Security Council is a tool in the hand of America.
Can you blockade a country (RR: probably Afghanistan) because of the presence of one man (RR: probably referring to UBL)? This time she (America) got the resolution from the Security Council and it is number 77 (or 771) (RR: probably UNSCR 771 in 1992 concerning Bosnia) relative to Iraq (RR: probably is making a comparison between 771 and a new resolution on Iraq most likely UNSCR 1284 passed Dec 1999 about WMD and humanitarian efforts). And it is the first time that the parliament of a country (U.S. Congress) speaks after a resolution (unclear) and comes out through the Security Council. It is ignorant to send memos and complain to the Security Council because it is a tool in the hands of America the master of oppression and if we do that it does not mean that we are boycotting the diplomatic process. Also the monetary fund (Translator's note: probably the International Monetary Fund) is in the hand of America and she helps according to her interests. My personal stand is with his (RR: probably UBL) call to fight America.
(Probably Rahman:) I support him body and soul and if it is true (probably referring to the UBL call to "fight America") then it is the right thing to do.
(Probably Rahman:) I personally do not know him and never met him (probably UBL) and he is not the issue. There is the port of Gwadar (in Baluchistan area) under construction in Pakistan, and Europe and America wants to use it instead of (unclear possibly Bankham) to trade with Asia. After the fall of the Soviet Union they wish to expand trade to Central Asia through Afghanistan and Afghanistan is against their wishes (RR: opposed to the US) and they want to bring the Taliban government down.
Vice-President: They are controlling Turkey.
Fazlur Rahman: Gwadar is the shortest road for them and we spoke with the Afghani government. I met Mullah Omar the leader of Afghanistan and he welcomed the establishment of Islamic relations with Iraq and we foresee to tell them about our needs and they would like to have contacts with Russia but they feel that the Russians (unclear) with Afghanistan, they go to America (RR: probably means that the Russians side with the US against the Taliban). And they (RR: probably the Taliban) say that now we do not feel that Russia is our enemy and we do not know why they support the Northern Alliance (RR: non-Pashtun Afghani militant groups seeking to topple the Taliban). They (RR: probably the Taliban) want Iraq to intervene with Russia.
And Russia thinks that the Taliban are supporting the Chechens through providing them 5 million dollars in weapons so the question is from where do they have all this money and weapons and they want Iraq to know their problems and needs.
Concerning Hekmatyar (RR: this is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the Islamic Party, a faction that vied for control of Afghanistan before the Taliban victory and has been tied to continued insurgent attacks) I delivered him your letter and his reply was positive for "they are our brothers" (RR: Fazlur Rahman apparently delivered a note from the VP of Iraq to Hekmatyar). But in this case the news from Hekmatyar is that he still has contacts against us so how can we have trust between each other (RR: probably how can the Afghani factions unite). We wish to see Afghanistan as an independent country. We will basically agree with them and later the details will come after Afghanistan is under our control. His (Hekmatyar) answer was positive and he thanks Iraq for its role in this matter (RR: probably for helping as intermediary between him and the Taliban).
Vice-President: Afghanistan has a domestic issue but now we have some insight about it and we feel pain for what is happening. Iraq is the first country which objected to Russia's entering Afghanistan with a "liberating" message, and is this the way you (Russians) are going to deal with the countries you have a friendship agreement with? The Russians were not happy about the message we sent them. Most important is that the situation settles in Afghanistan and that the bleeding between brothers stops. It is better that Afghanistan solves his own problems and not depend on foreign countries.
(Probably Rahman) I support that Afghanistan and the Taliban, from a religious stand point, do not hand over bin Laden
(Probably the VP) The agreement between Afghani parties should not be delayed because the US policy is to keep the world in trouble.
(At the end of page 21, right side)
Fazlur Rahman: One more time concerning Afghanistan I have a suggestion that a delegation should visit Kandahar and a schedule should be set concerning this issue
Vice-President: We will study this in the future.
(Page 21 left side, top.)
Vice-President: Last time you saw Mullah Omar?
Fazlur Rahman: Last July and I proposed to him the subject that I was assigned to and I wanted to meet Mr. President (Saddam Hussein).
Vice-President: I gave Mr. President an overview about Afghanistan and its issues.
This document appears to provide evidence that in 1999 the Taliban welcomed "Islamic relations with Iraq" to mediate between the Taliban, the Northern Alliance and Russia. It seems to provide evidence that the Taliban invited Iraqi officials to Afghanistan. According to this notebook, the Taliban did this via Maulana Fazlur Rahman. The notebook later mentions that another man, Fazlur Rahman Khalil, was visiting Iraq as well, although no transcript of that meeting is provided.
There is another document in the Saddam archive that mentions the relationship of Fazlur Rahman to the Taliban and Saddam. It was captured in Afghanistan and used by the U.S. Army in a report about Al Qaeda. The document is posted under the identifying Harmony number AFGP-2002-601693 at the West Point Combating Terrorism Center. The posted translation is described as a July 26, 2002 four-page typed letter from Abu Mus'ab to Abu Mohammed (apparently Al Qaeda or Taliban operatives) in reply to his inquiry about the status of jihad, or holy war, in Afghanistan:
After my release I found that people came from the Sudan and everywhere, and began fighting alongside the Taliban movement, which for Pakistan was a substitute for Hikmatyar. Everyone, even children in the streets knew that they were created and controlled by Pakistan. Their leader Fadhlurahman is a friend of Banazeer, Saddam and Qaddafi. They comprise of the veteran sheikhs (religious scholars) from the schools of Mujaddidi and Mohammed Nabi such as Sheikh Mohammed ‘Omar the movement leader
(Translator "Sammi" note: Fazlur can also be translated as Fadhlur)
This second source emphasizes the connection of Fazlur Rahman to Mullah Omar, which is a long-established friendship. Therefore, we believe the West Point document is referring to Maulana Fazlur Rahman instead of Fazlur Rahman Khalil.
So what is the relationship between Maulana Fazlur Rahman and the Taliban and Al Qaeda? Rahman often is described in news articles as the father or godfather of the Taliban. It seems clear that Rahman was close to Al Qaeda through his friend Mullah Omar, who sheltered Usama bin Laden prior to the allied invasion of Afghanistan. A leading news Web site in India has a 2003 article entitled Beware the Maulana! . It gives an extensive history of Rahman and explains how he helped to organize the men that would later become the Taliban under his friend Mullah Omar. It also describes links to Al Qaeda:
Since 9/11, US suspicions of the Maulana have worsened because of the active role played by the HUM [Translator's note: Harakat ul-Mujahidin] under the name HUM (Al Alami International) and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami in the terrorist strikes against French and American nationals in Karachi and Islamabad. There were reports before the U.S. invasion of Iraq that HUM had sent its cadres to Saudi Arabia under the cover of Haj pilgrims and that they were to infiltrate into Iraq to start a jihad against US troops. When an injured bin Laden escaped into Pakistan from Afghanistan in early 2002, Mufti Shamzai, Fazlur Rahman's protégé, gave him shelter at the Binori madrasa in Karachi till last August.
Five Pakistani jihadi organizations are members of bin Laden's International Islamic Front — HUM, HUJI, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Of these, HUM, HUJI, JEM and LEJ are close to the Maulana. (Note RR - the HUM leader is/was Fazlur Rahman Khalil and it is/was part of a coalition led by Maulana Fazlur Rahman.)
The Institute for Afghan Studies has on its Web site a report of a Deobandi conference held in April, 2001, in Pakistan, organized by Maulana Fazlur Rahman. It states: "The highlight of the three-day conference near Peshawar from April 8 to April 11 was the prominence given to the messages of Qadhafi (RR: Muammar al Qaddafi), the Taleban leader Mullah Omar and the international terrorist, Usama bin Laden." The report indicates the conference "concluded after adopting resolutions challenging the hegemony of the U.S. and its allies in world; demanding an end to U.N. sanctions against Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and early withdrawal of U.S.-led Western troops from Arab lands."
As mentioned previously, the notebooks mentions Fazlur Rahman Khalil as a visitor to Baghdad. A good description of Fazlur Rahman Khalil can be found at the Terrorism Knowledge Base.
Fazlur Rehman Khalil, former leader of Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM), is one of the most important and prominent terrorists in Pakistan. A student of the radical Binori madrassah in Karachi, Khalil has strong ties to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He is one of five signatories of Usama bin Laden's 1998 fatwa which attempted to induce Muslims worldwide to kill Americans whenever the opportunity arose. He is a mentor to many members of the Taliban. This mentorship is the result of the extensive network of Al Qaeda-associated training camps which he has established throughout Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kashmir.
When the HUM came under Pakistani scrutiny, Khalil re-named it Jamiat ul-Ansar, which matches the annotation in the notebook, "Leader of the Ansar Movement." Khalil was named as the recruiter of two Al Qaeda suspects arrested in California last year.
As the terrorism Knowledge Base Web site mentions, Khalil also was a signatory of the notorious 1998 bin Laden fatwa that declared war against all Americans:
On that basis, and in compliance with Allah's order, we issue the following fatwa to all Muslims: The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it
The fatwa was signed by five men:
Shaykh Usamah bin-Muhammad bin-Ladin
Ayman al-Zawahiri, amir of the Jihad Group in Egypt
Abu-Yasir Rifa'i Ahmad Taha, Egyptian Islamic Group
Shaykh Mir Hamzah, secretary of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan
Fazlur Rahman, amir of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh (Note RR: this is widely accepted to be Khalil, though he did not sign with the third name.)
Two captured documents — this notebook and the West Point document — seem to provide evidence of the same link between Maulana Fazlur Rahman and the Saddam regime, one captured in Iraq, the other in Afghanistan. The document captured in Afghanistan was used in a Combating Terrorism Center at West Point study about Al Qaeda indicating high confidence in its authenticity. The fact that two private communications captured in different countries with different authors make the same point is a good indicator that each is genuine. It thus lends creditability to the notebook that also indicates an Usama bin Laden associate was scheduled to visit Iraq.
Why would the Taliban and/or Al Qaeda turn to secular Saddam for help? Many commentators have stated that collusion between the two was impossible because of diametric religious and political beliefs. But if you examine the historical context of this document, a clear picture of a desperate Taliban comes through.
This meeting appears to have taken place a few weeks after Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf took over the Pakistani government in a coup that threatened to remove Pakistan's key support for the Taliban. Russia and Iran were supporting the Northern Alliance at war with the Taliban in Afghanistan. At this time it also was widely reported in Pakistan that US forces were about to attack Afghanistan to get Usama. The U.N. and even Arab conferences were making clear their grievances with the Taliban. This is a time when the Taliban and its associates (like both Fazlurs) in the North West Frontier province of Pakistan had few friends.
This series of threats may have spurred the Taliban to seek out Saddam, a mutual enemy of the U.S. and friend of the Russians, if a prior relationship between Saddam and the Taliban did not already exist. Thus, it seems Maulana Fazlur Rahman is a lynch-pin of the relationship between the Saddam regime, the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The strong ties between Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and their joint responsibility for terrorism, are clear and well documented. This translated notebook segment provides possible evidence that the Saddam regime and the Taliban were planning diplomatic and possibly operational ties with each other. Independent research indicates Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Fazlur Rahman Khalil were both close to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The Maulana asked the Saddam regime to mediate with the Taliban's enemies to take off some of the pressure. A fair question is what would Saddam have wanted in return? One possible answer is the only thing the Taliban had left to offer: Islamic Jihad and extremists operating for his interests from outside Iraq. Other translations from this notebook appear to expose a commitment between the Saddam regime and the Taliban that goes beyond mediation in order to increase support among Islamic Jihad groups for Iraq via a secret intelligence relationship with the Taliban.
In researching this article a version of the translation was originally posted at Ray Robison's personal Web site on the morning of March, 28, 2006. According to the Italian news Web site adnki.com, on the night of March 28, 2006, a few hours after the translation was posted, Fazlur Rahman Khalil was kidnapped, beaten and left for dead near Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Commentators on this incident indicate that Khalil had a security detail and only a high level and trusted source could have had access to him.
The author welcomes your comment on the translation and analysis of this document. You can contact Ray Robison by emailing him at: email@example.com.
Maulana — Islamic religious title
Maulana Fazlur Rahman (alternate spellings: Fadl Ur, Fadlur for Fazlur; Rehman for Rahman) — a Pakistani cleric and politician, and the head of a group of Islamic political parties. He is the subject of the meeting. It is widely claimed that he helped create the Taliban and is good friends with Mullah Omar. He seems to be more of a political operative involved with securing state support for madrassas (religious schools), Jihad camps, and the Taliban. He was a Pakistan Foreign Office official and diplomat.
Fazlur Rahman Khalil (alternate spellings Fadl Ur, Fadlur for Fazlur; Rehman for Rahman) — is a Pakistani cleric directly involved with the operations of madrassas in Pakistan, recruiting terrorists, a known bin Laden associate and cosigner of the 1998 fatwa against the U.S. He seems to be more of a hands-on terrorist trainer, unlike the other Rahman, who is a diplomat. He controlled one of the political parties that were grouped together under the Maulana Rahman. His meeting is not recorded but he is noted for a visit to Iraq. He is close enough to Al Qaeda to be considered an Al Qaeda operative. Two men arrested in California claim to be Al Qaeda recruited by Rahman.
Taha Yassin Ramadan — one of two of Saddam's vice presidents, noted for his ruthless enforcement of Saddam's orders, and for suspicion of meeting with Ayman al Zawahri in 1998.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar — Mujahideen leader helped to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan, then vied for control with the Taliban.
At the time of this writing, the authors of this article have not identified the other men annotated in this meeting or the author of the notebook other than by name.