Zarqawi Killed Hariri
A more cautious and sensible approach would have phrased the title as ‘Did Zarqawi Kill Hariri?’ But something I read today has compelled me to throw caution to the wind.
Yesterday, the Hezbollah-friendly Lebanese daily, Al-Akhbar, began to publish the initial sworn testimonies of the Al-Qaeda-related cell members who were arrested in Lebanon during January 2006. The details broadly follow the narrative that was released in April 2007, and which I had translated here. Kindly follow that last link to get the whole background to what follows.
The timing of Al-Akhbar’s “scoop” is hardly surprising: these revelations aim to further muddy the political waters as the Lebanese inch closer towards the looming deadline for choosing a new president—an issue of much contention between the Hariri and Hezbollah blocs.
However, there are two new revelations in Al-Akhbar’s stories: the first is that Faisal Akbar’s nationality is reaffirmed as a Saudi rather than a Syrian. The second—this blew my mind—is the mention in two sets of affidavits of a character called ‘Nabil’.
Both Faisal Akbar and Hani al-Shenti mention ‘Nabil’ as a high-level member of their cell who was killed in Iraq in the summer of 2005. Al-Shenti adds that ‘Nabil’ was also known as ‘Abul Ghadieh’.
This would make him ‘Abul Ghadieh Al-Souri’, the pseudonym of Khalid Suleiman Darwish, who was killed in the town of Al-Qaim on the Iraqi-Syrian border during June 2005 in an American airstrike, and who was later eulogized by Abu Musa’ab al-Zarqawi.
Abul Ghadieh was a veteran of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. He was a dentist by profession. It seems that he relocated to Jordan in the 1980s where he married a Palestinian-Jordanian lady. He joined Zarqawi in the Herat camp in Afghanistan in early 2000, and was instrumental in building-up the Zarqawi network in Iraq. In many ways, there would have not been a Zarqawi had it not been for Abul Ghadieh.
This is the first time whereby Abul Ghadieh is being publicly linked to the Al-Qaeda cell that allegedly had some role in assassinating Hariri. This would mean that someone like Ahmed Abu Ades, who was shown in a video taking credit for the Hariri assassination on behalf of this cell, was not linked to second or third tier flunkies in the Zarqawi network, but was rather linked directly to Zarqawi’s right-hand man—Abu Ghadieh!
Abul Ghadieh was killed four months after Hariri was assassinated.
I had speculated back in January 2006 about a possible role for Abul Ghadieh:
Interested parries should also look into a possible role, if any, for Syrian terrorist Abul Ghadieh Al-Souri, another Zarqawi aide killed in June 2005. I'd wager that the multi-talented Al-Souri was the mastermind behind establishing Al-Qaeda's recruiting/funding/operations network in Lebanon and Syria.
This new information about Abul Ghadieh’s alleged role lends further credibility to Al-Qaeda’s culpability in assassinating Hariri: such an operation would have had to be micro-managed from the very top of Zarqawi’s network, and Abul Ghadieh would fit such a bill.
I now find that this idea—that Zarqawi was directly involved in killing Hariri—very convincing. Surely, I will get plenty of flak for this statement from those whose are wedded to allegation that the Syrian regime was behind the assassination. Maybe Syria controlled Abul Ghadieh? Who knows? But as far as I’m concerned, the “Whodunnit?” part of the murder mystery—the smoking gun and the finger on the trigger—has traveled a great distance towards being solved with today’s revelation about Abul Ghadieh’s role in all this. Who provided the gun and pointed to Hariri is a whole different mystery.
But then again, I’m of the opinion that the Zarqawi network represents a completely new paradigm for Islamist terrorism because it is fully independent of state sponsorship and/or guidance. There is currently a raging debate among intelligence and analytical circles on whether that is true or false.
I should also mention that Ahmad Fetfet, Lebanon's current Minister of Youth who was also the acting Minister of Interior during the period when the Al-Qaeda cell was being interrogated by the Internal Security Apparatus that fell under his jurisdiction at the time, vehemently dismissed any link between this cell and the Hariri assassination as a journalistic fabrication when I met him at the Grand Serrail in Beirut last July. So that's what the Hariri side is likely to say in response to Al-Akhbar's reporting.