Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 3
Today’s translated segment first appeared in Arabic on October 16, 2007 in Al-Akhbar newspaper:
"The Saudi detainee Faisal Akbar continues to relate the details behind filming the Ahmed Abu Ades video in a secret apartment in Syria, before the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. The following is a continuation of the interrogation session with Faisal Akbar:
“We conducted the filming and Shakir was carrying the camera. Me and Khalid were standing next to him, I on the right and Khalid on the left. The camera was in Shakir’s hand who stood opposite of Ahmed. This trial work, and we displayed it on the camera screen that folds out.
Khalid called Jamil using his cell phone and told him that the film was ready. In the next day, me and Ahmed and Khaled left for Aleppo in a rented car, a Skoda pick-up, roofed and white in color. [We headed] to the farm, which is a facility that belongs to Al-Qaeda and it is managed by he who is known as Sami in the area of the Zeryeh road [Translator’s note: this should probably read Zerbeh, which is 20 Km south of Aleppo on the main highway]. We were received there by Sheikh Rashid, Nabil and Jamil.
Let me correct something for you: Jamil had arrived to Damascus on that day, and he is the one who took us in the aforementioned car. And as the four of us arrived at the farm, Jamil and Khalid and me and Ahmed Abu Ades, we were welcomed by Sami and Sheikh Rashid. After being greeted, Sheikh Rashid and Jamil took Ahmed Abu Ades aside and me and Khalid and Sami stayed outside. Their closed meeting with Abu Ades lasted for three hours, and they emerged later from the room; Sheikh Rashid and Nabil watched the film claiming responsibility for the operation through connecting the camera to the television (18 inch TV, I remember it was a Toshiba, grey in color), and Sheikh Rashid was pleased with the tape.
Afterwards, and upon Jamil’s order, me and Abu Ades and Khalid and Jamil, who drove the car, moved on to Homs where there’s a guest house managed by Jamil. It is located in the Khalidiyyah area near the Nour Mosque in a crowded area in a building with four floors: an apartment to each floor, and Jamil lived on the second floor. Next to this building was a supermarket, and we stayed in this apartment for two days while preparing to move to Lebanon prior to pulling-off the Hariri assassination.
Jamil distributed $50,000 [in cash] that he had received from Rashid. He gave me $10,000 in $100 bills, and he gave Khalid another $10,000 and kept $30,000, which were the funds for the financing the operation. During this time, Jamil had gotten hold of Syrian identification cards for us from Murad under fake names, with our pictures on them, and these were four Syrian identification [cards]. My new fake name was Hassan Al-Eid, mother’s name Ghayda’, born 1977, Syrian. As for Abu Ades and Jamil and Khalid, I did not know their fake names in the aforementioned identification [cards]. After two days, and according to my memory it was 28/1/2005, we left Homs in the Skoda car to Damascus. Jamil was driving and Abu Ades was next to him, while me and Khalid were in the backseat. We reached Damascus around 10 AM in the morning; Jamil parked the car somewhere near the Hrasta garage across from the shipping [offices] and the restaurants on the main street. I think he left the key inside the car and locked it, and it should be known that Sheikh Rashid had a copy of the keys, and he would send Shakir later to take the car back to the [rental office]. We rode in a taxi the four of us, and it should be known that the clothes and the car and the camera and the taped film remained with Sheikh Rashid at the farm.
When in the taxi, Jamil sat next to the driver, who we didn’t know, and me and Khalid and Abu Ades sat in the backseat, heading towards the Tashrin Park. We got out of the taxi, and Jamil paid the 35 Syrian Lira to the driver, and we weren’t carrying any extra clothes or belongings with us. Near Tashrin Park and on the northern corner where there is a newspaper stand, we met the smuggler who was waiting for us in a Syrian taxi, which was Mazda [mini-]bus, white in color, and new. We rode the mini-bus in the direction of Jedidet Yaboos, and there we got off with the smuggler. We paid 80,000 Syrian Lira to the smuggler in return to smuggling us over the border, whereby we crossed the Syrian side in around an hour. We began by descending then ascending the mountain then descending again. It should be known that we were transported on an old motorbike that was parked near the smuggler’s home, and he would take each of us alone for a distance of 15 minutes then he would return and get the next one. He began by transporting Jamil then Abu Ades then Khalid and finally me, and he left the motorbike during the phase of ascending the mountain, where there was a small Syrian village, the name of which I can’t remember, where the smuggler had acquaintances.
When we reached the Lebanese side in a place near the Masna’a, we walked on the main road in Masna’a. We took a red-colored Mercedes taxi to Chtoura near the money changers. We paid 4000 Lebanese Lira to the driver, Jamil paid the sum. Jamil changed $500 into Lebanese currency in an exchange office that doubled as a restaurant too. I don’t remember the name of the place, but I can show you to it. The smuggler was still with us and he was called Ahmed, and he was the same person who first brought Ahmed Abu Ades to Damascus in the beginning.
Ahmed the smuggler rented a van with a driver, and it was Hyundai as far as I recall, olive-colored. The driver was 35 years old with a moustache and his chin was clean shaven. The smuggler sat next to the driver and we sat in the back, and the journey to Beirut began; we did not stop on the way; there was a traffic choke, and the trip took two hours. We arrived in Beirut around 2 in the afternoon in the Cola neighborhood, Jamil paid the driver via the smuggler a sum of 15,000 [Lebanese] Lira, who took the smuggler with him and they both left.
We took a white-colored Mercedes taxi to the southern Dahiya to a place that I don’t know. There was a gas station and a Jammal Bank, as far as I remember. We entered a building in a souq and it consists of three floors. The appearance of the building was messy. We went up to the second floor where there are two apartments, we entered the apartment on the right and its door was wooden, brown in color. Jamil had rented it previously and had changed the lock on the door. He opened the door with a key that he had, and the apartment continued sparse furniture: six mattresses, five pillows, and six blankets, with plastic floor coverings.
We sat there, and afterwards Jamil went downstairs and was away for about an hour then he returned with food from KFC. The four of us ate, that Khalid and me and Jamil and Abu Ades, and Abu Ades had shaved his beard before we arrived to Lebanon, and we slept because we were tired from the trip.
On the next day, that is 1/2/2005, and Jamil had brought with him when he was out the night before a cell phone, a Nokia 3300 model, dark grey in color, with a Lebanese [SIM card] whose number I didn]t know; Jamil and Khalid left the apartment, and Abu Ades and I stayed inside until Jamil and Khalid returned at night. I think they got clothes and pajamas and underwear and things to eat; we ate and then me and Jamil discussed the phases of the operation, and Jamil told me that he is seeking to purchase a pick-up truck, and that his group is working to find such a car. He also told me that there is a surveillance team that has been monitoring the target for three weeks before we got to Lebanon, and that they are Lebanese and trustworthy, and they are cadres from Al-Qaeda, and their aliases were Fahed and Thamer and Adnan and Fawwaz and Bessam. This day ended like this.
On the next day, Jamil and Khalid left after having breakfast at around 12 noon, and it was our second day in Lebanon, that is 2/2/2005. They returned late at night, around 1 AM, and I didn’t talk to them. On the morning of the third day, that is 3/2/2005, I left with Jamil while Abu Ades and Khalid stayed in the apartment. We took a taxi from the Dahiya in the direction of ‘Ain al-Mereeseh. We got there around 1 PM, and we walked near the Tazej Restaurant east, passing the McDonald’s restaurant, near the ‘Ain al-Mereeseh mosque, whereby the McDonald’s was on our left. We ascended an incline, to the left there is a car rental agency at the end of the street. We veered left and walked in the direction of the Holiday Inn, and when we got to the intersection we veered left, and it was a downhill street, I saw the Phoenicia [Hotel] on my left and in front of me, and lying on a lower level, was the sight of the beach where the Yacht Club is, and to its left the St. George.
Jamil was pointing out the locations to me, and giving me the addresses. We got in front of the St. George where Jamil informed me that the convoy is forced to pass in front of the St. George, and that the best spot to perform the operation would be the building adjacent to the St. George on the right hand side of the street; we discussed this spot and Jamil informed me that there is another spot in front of President Hariri’s office that could also be suitable to perform the detonation operation, let it be known that we didn’t stand near the St. George for long, rather we would stand for a moment then continue walking and then stop so as not to raise any suspicions.
As we arrived near a pharmacy in ‘Ain al-Mereeseh, we took a taxi to the Aishah Bakkar neighborhood or Verdun from what I remember. There we got out before the office at the intersection and we went downhill. While going downhill I saw a series of restaurants on the left, and there was also a bank on the left, and an Adidas store and a women clothing stores on the right hand side. We got to an intersection near the Holiday Inn and across from it on the corner was an old building surrounded by many trees and a large picture of President Hariri in the vicinity of the building. We walked on the sidewalk across from this building which was [Hariri’s] office. We didn’t stop, but rather continued walking as we walked and took note of the traffic. I saw through the open gateway the removable barrier to the entrance, and inside were parked some ordinary cars. There wasn’t any leeway to place a truck and center it in that street because it would arouse suspicions when it would stop there.
We dismissed this option and we took a taxi back towards the Dahiya. During this time, Jamil was receiving calls on his cell phone from the onlookers, I think. We got to the apartment in the evening; and I talked to Jamil about the on-the-ground scouting that we had done, and then we slept.
In the next day, that is 4/2/2005, Khalid and Jamil left and returned in the evening. Jamil told me that there is a suitable car in Tripoli, a large pick-up, white in color, that costs approximately $7000 that one of his acquaintances was [getting it out of customs] and buying. And that the shipment, that is the explosives, had arrived in Lebanon from Syria and that it originated from Iraq, and that is was TNT with Cortex ropes and ten electric detonators, and it is now in a safe place, that he wouldn’t tell me about.
During this night, I felt that Khalid al-Taha was acting out of character, for he was silent and conspicuous. He usually jokes around and smiles constantly. We went to sleep and I slept with Jamil in a room, and Khalid and Abu Ades in other rooms.
The morning of the next day, that is 5/2/2005, I don’t remember this day well, I think that Jamil got a call from his group that are assigned to buy the car, and that the car was agreed upon for $7500. As he told me he bought in a normal way, and he is to leave with Khalid to prepare the car and to prepare the explosives, and he gave me his number which I don’t remember, on the condition that I call him only in case of the most urgent emergencies, and he left.
I stayed with Abu Ades in the apartment for two days, we didn’t leave and nobody came in on us. Khalid and Jamil returned on 9/2/2005, Jamil told me that the truck had been prepared and that explosives arranged in a directed manner, and that it was appended with a switch that acts as the detonator to the explosion. Jamil and Khalid arrived in the afternoon, and Jamil told me that the delicate task is now up to the guys doing surveillance and monitoring. He was still receiving calls, and it should be known that he would turn off his phone around midnight, and when he returned to the [apartment] he would turn off the phone in the street before he went up to the apartment, and if he was in the apartment he would leave at night and turn off the line so that the geographical movements of the line are not shown.
On the 10th day we went out with Jamil and went to the St. George area to inspect the place. We arrived by taxi ahead of the St. George too, near the ‘Ain al-Mereeseh mosque, and we walked in the same street. We passed by the entrance of the St. George and we didn’t see any suspicious movement or any checkpoints or patrols. We returned to the apartment at night. We talked over what had happened during our surveillance of the St. George area and we agreed that the spot after the St. George entrance in front of the adjacent building, I can show it to you, in the final point where the truck is to be parked and inside it Abu Ades to conduct the explosion operation while the convoy passes in the remaining days before 14/2/2005, the day the operation was conducted.
The surveillance and monitoring [teams] were active, and we also discussed our evacuation plan after the operation. On 13/2/2005 Jamil left and took Abu Ades with him. I stayed with Khalid in the apartment, and [Jamil] showed [Abu Ades] the pick-up car and the place where the operation is to be conducted. They returned to the apartment at night and Abu Ades was relieved and every encouraged about conducting the operation, and while me and Jamil and Khalid talked, Abu Ades went into the other room to pray and worship. The three of us, me and Jamil and Khalid, discussed the evacuation plan which was as follows: the surveillance and monitoring team would withdraw and us too towards the [American University of Beirut] –the sea entrance. We went to sleep. We got up for dawn prayers, then went back to sleep. We got up at around 10, and Abu Ades went out alone, he said goodbye and hugged us, Khalid cried. After nearly half an hour the three of us left, me and Jamil and Khalid, after Jamil had kept Abu Ades’ fake Syrian identification [card]; someone drove the pick-up while Abu Ades was next to him, and he was a member of the surveillance team and I don’t know who he was. After we left the apartment, we took a taxi towards ‘Ain al-Mereeseh. We got out near the ‘Ain al-Mereeseh mosque, we stopped on the cornice in front of the mosque, and it was around 12 noon, Abu Ades stopped and waited for the convoy to pass. And when the convoy passes, the explosion occurred, after Abu Ades blew himself up in the convoy.