NEW YORK – A lawsuit filed Wednesday claims Iraq knew Usama bin Laden was targeting the Pentagon and New York City prior to Sept. 11 and that it sponsored terrorists for a decade to avenge its defeat in the Gulf War.
"Since Iraq could not defeat the U.S. military, it resorted to terror attacks on U.S. citizens," according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court seeking more than $1 trillion in damages on behalf of 1,400 victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and their families.
The suit names bin Laden, Al Qaeda and Iraq as defendants. It was brought by Kreindler & Kreindler, a New York law firm specializing in aviation disaster litigation.
The lawsuit tries to draw a link between Iraq and terrorism that the government has so far not alleged in public court actions.
It relies in part on a newspaper article published July 21, 2001, in Al Nasiriyah, 185 miles southwest of Baghdad. The law firm provided The Associated Press with a copy of the article written in Arabic and an English translation.
According to the lawsuit, a columnist writing under the byline Naeem Abd Muhalhal described bin Laden thinking "seriously, with the seriousness of the Bedouin of the desert, about the way he will try to bomb the Pentagon after he destroys the White House."
The columnist also allegedly wrote that bin Laden was "insisting very convincingly that he will strike America on the arm that is already hurting," a possible reference to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
The lawsuit says a former associate of Muhalhal contends the writer has been connected with Iraqi intelligence since the early 1980s. It also says Muhalhal was praised by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in the Sept. 1, 2001, issue for his "documentation of important events and heroic deeds that proud Iraqis have accomplished."
Jim Kreindler, a lawyer for the firm, said Muhalhal had advance knowledge of Al Qaeda's specific targets on Sept. 11 and that "Iraqi officials were aware of plans to attack American landmarks."
"Further, we have evidence that Iraq provided support for bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terror organization for nearly a decade," he said.
The lawsuit said there have been numerous meetings between Iraqi intelligence agents and high-ranking Al Qaeda members to plan terror attacks.
It said one of those meetings occurred in 1992 when bin Laden's chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, whose whereabouts are now unknown, met with Iraqi intelligence agents in Baghdad over several days.
An Iraqi serving with the Taliban who fled Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 and was captured in Kurdistan has corroborated the meeting and confirmed that Iraqi contacts with Al Qaeda began in 1992, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit noted that Ramzi Yousef arrived in New York on Sept. 1, 1992, with an Iraqi passport to begin planning the 1993 trade center bombing that killed six people and injured more than 1,000 others.
The lawsuit alleges that Yousef was an Iraqi intelligence agent who traveled to the United States using travel documents forged in Kuwait during the Iraqi occupation of that country in 1991.
Yousef was eventually convicted in the trade center bombing and a plot to blow up a dozen airliners over the Far East in 1995. He is serving a life prison term.