Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 4
This is the final installment of the Faisal Akbar testimony, which appears in the October 16, 2007 issue of Al-Akhbar. I will post my analysis over the next couple of days. Promise.
"Q: We noticed while taking down your statement during the phases of the investigation that you use aliases for some people while neglecting [the use of aliases] for others. Why [do you do this]?
A: I am used to saying, for example, Sheikh Osama bin Laden or Sheikh Abu Abdullah, because the alias is repeated to me all the time, especially since this goes to the core of my work as a mujahid in Al-Qaeda. When it comes to Hariri, I say this without his title since there is no intention or particular purpose to mention this title in this way.
Q: Why did you purposefully take security precautions, as you told us, varying in degrees of importance, such as hiding Khalid al-Taha at the camp, while you isolated Marwan, that is Hani al-Shenty, in the Al-Besta apartment and Amer Hallaq and Salim Halimeh in the Tareek Jdeideh apartment, without them finding a way [of contacting] one another. What is the purpose of these measures, and why does Khalid al-Taha enjoy such a high level of security importance?
A: I was following the orders of Sheikh Rashid as they were in the security arrangement, because Khalid al-Taha has a relationship with Ziyad Ramadhan, and the latter was mentioned by name in the Mehlis report.
Q: You said that you are part of, and organized within, a jihadist movement that seeks to fight in Iraq. While in Lebanon, we found in the apartments that you manage weapons and rockets and bombs and communications equipment and guns and a mask and belts that belie that they are suicide belts, and hair color dyes and electrical components for detonations, and we also found wireless equipment. And with the detainees that contacted you, we found combat and training manuals that surpass is security sophistication what we ourselves know. Tell us why [you] possessed these materials, especially in light it has become clear that [your] movement was not from Syria to Iraq, but [rather] from Syria to Lebanon. Why is this presence [infused] with such caution including providing each one of you, in the very least, with a fake identification document. It was also revealed that each one of your comrades, and you too, had several phone cards. Each person would use one card, and his alias would be marked on the back of the card. In addition we asked you to provide us with the name of one person who took a [security] seminar and gave his allegiance, and then managed to get to Iraq to fight and achieve his goal?
A: We came to Lebanon to escape the Syrian security sweeps and to continue our jihadist work in Lebanon [which involved] the bombs and the rockets. As for the explosive belts, they also enter into our work. As for the hair dyes, they are for masquerading, and they are used by Sheikh Rashid, not myself. As for the electrical circuits, they belong to the electronic [part of our organization] that is managed by Jamil. As for the studies that were saved on the computers of the guys, these are modern combat studies, like the seminar of the martyr Isma’il al-Khatib on assembling electronic circuits to attach to explosives, and seminars on making explosives, and seminars on advanced communications equipment. As for the brothers who fought in Iraq and came from Lebanon, I will mention to you the martyr Abu Omar al-Lubnani, the father of Muhammed Ramadhan whose son was also martyred in Iraq, and that was two years ago. But nowadays, the borders were shut down as of approximately a month and a half ago.
Q: What did you see on television when Ahmed Abu Ades appeared, and what do you remember of him?
A: I remember watching him on the Aljazeera channel, in a film cut up into two or three segments, reading a statement [on behalf] of the Nusra wel Jihad group, taking responsibility for the Hariri assassination. I don’t remember all the reasons, but I remember some of them that revolved around the revenge for the martyrs of the haramein [Translator’s Note: the holy cities of Mecca and Medina], and it was widespread among us that Hariri had signed the execution [orders] for some of the Salafist mujaheddin in Lebanon.
Q: Could the life of Khalid al-Taha be in danger now since he is, as you said, suffering from problems?
A: Khalid is in the Ain al-Helwah Camp with the Usbet al-Ansar group, and they are brothers to us and there is coordination between us and them, and they are taking care of him per an agreement between Sheikh Rashid with he who has the alias Abu Bassir, and he is the head of the group. I will tell you that Khalid al-Taha left his gun in the Ain al-Rummaneh apartment with Hani al-Shenty because he felt safe about knowing that he is going to move into the Usbet al-Ansar camp.
Q: After perusing and checking your laptop, we found encrypted e-mails that were stored in a secret file. Explain these messages to us, and what are they meant [for], and the symbols found in them?
A: This file contains encrypted e-mails that [belong] to Rashid, and I cannot open them or translate these messages for you. Rashid is the only one capable of reading these messages, because he possesses the password and we do not possess it.
Q: You mentioned in your statement that the cost of the Mitsubishi truck was 7000 dollars, and this price matched the price of the aforementioned truck in the Lebanese market?
A: This happened by coincidence.
Q: The list of forgery equipment, letters, laptop and its accessories, weapons, funds, phone cards and other things found in the Shati al-Dhahabi apartment belong to who? Tell us about them in detail?
A: The paper on which the electronic equipment and stationary and the maps of Beirut and Tripoli are noted was a request from Jalal, who is also called Sultan or Murad, and he is the one who is proficient at forgery within [our] group. He asked me for these things so that I would buy them for him because he wanted to use them in the Ain al-Helwah camp. The laptop is Rashid’s, and the accessories of this laptop belong to Rashid too. The letters, which you have shown me, and that I have recognized them, are letters from the brothers in Usbet al-Ansar in the Ain al-Helwah Camp to Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, through Rashid, [while] the letter addressed to “the Hajji”, which is an alias for Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, and the letter to Abu Laith al-Nejdi, who was martyred [later], these two letters [belong] to Rashid. It should be noted that I burn any letter after reading it, but I don’t know why Rashid keeps these letters.
As for the two guns and the bomb, they were brought by the doctor whose alias is Muwwafaq with him, and he is in your custody. The funds belong to our organization, and it is in Rashid’s charge. The VISA credit cards with the names of Saudi persons belong to Rashid, and he is capable of withdrawing money with them after the owners deposit the funds that are donated to [our] organization. The phone cards are for use between us and the guys in Lebanon and Syria. The belts, I don’t know what they are used for, except one which is for straightening a back. The fake identification cards were received by Rashid for distribution among the guys.
The hair dying kit found in the Shati’ al-Dhahabi apartment belongs to Rashid, because he wanted to change his appearance, because he is known and for security reasons. The mask was brought by the doctor with him.
Q: Why do you deliberately change aliases?
A: For security circumstances, aliases are changed every once and a while.
Q: When did Khalid al-Taha change his alias from Badr to Nour, and under what circumstances?
A: I don’t know.
Q: Has Marwan changed his alias since joining the group, we mean Hani al-Shenti?
A: No Marwan didn’t change his alias, and kept it the same.
Q: Did Amer and Selim change their aliases since that time?
A: No they did not change their aliases.
Q: Did Bilal Za’aroureh change his alias?
A: Yes he changed it from Jalal to Ramadhan.
Q: Why this uniqueness and security circumstances that drove Khalid al-Taha and Bilal Za’aroureh specifically to change their aliases, especially since they were sent to the camp to hide?
A: For security necessities.
Q: Can you explain this security necessity in light of their association with Ahmed Abu Ades?
A: I do not have an answer to this question.
Q: What do you think about Rashid’s denial to any [emir status] or pledge of allegiance or activity or knowledge of activities that your comrades admitted to willingly?
A: Rashid is an emir, and I think he is thinking for the long term so that he won’t stay in prison for too long. He will [then] get out to continue his jihadist activity. Because he is an emir, he is entitled to claim and say what he sees fit.
Q: During a stage of the stages of this interrogation, you gave a clear testimonial about receiving Ahmed Abu Ades, and then your participation in filming the video, and explaining specific details during the filming, such as breaking down the Abu Ades statement on the film into four parts, and then you told us about the reasons and motivations that Abu Ades mentioned in the film, and then you gave an oral testimony to the Lt. Col. who heads [our] branch, and then you retracted [your testimony]. Explain this to us?
A: I told you many things that I made up in my imagination, and they have no connection to reality, such as dividing up the statement into four parts, and they are the religious introduction, that contains verses from the Koran, then a tradition [of the prophet], and third the political reasons that involve stealing the money of Lebanon, and that Hariri signed the execution [orders] for the young mujaheddin in Lebanon who had assassinated Nezar al-Halabi, and to avenge the martyrs of the haramein like Abu Hajer [who is] Abdel-Aziz al-Muqrin, and the fourth [part] is his [final words] to his mother and the Muslims in general.
I certify to you that all these details were derived from my imagination and are not true.
Q: The details that you innovated match irrefutable facts, that have been revealed in many investigations regarding the topic of our [file] here [regarding] the crime of assassinating the martyred President Rafiq Hariri and the disappearance of Ahmed Abu Ades, which shows that you know of matters and details you told us about or modified, and then you backed away from them. We advise you to tell the truth as it is, and to tell us about the persons who you may perceive, and for special reasons, as the legitimate superiors or brothers in the jihad?
A: The real reason that I mentioned and I am certain of and this is widespread among the mujaheddin, is the matter of the Hariri’s signature on the execution [orders] of the mujaheddin in Lebanon. I heard this matter from Rashid after the Hariri assassination, and while we were following the news on television in the security office in Syria during the same day that Hariri was assassinated on.
Q: Was that on 14/2/2005, and at what time as far as you recall?
A: Yes this matter was [during] watching television and hearing the Abu Ades statement on 14/2/2005, and I remember it was after afternoon prayers.
Q: What did Rashid say at the time, and who was with you?
A: No one was with us, and Rashid said at the time, after the film was played on Aljazeera, that “Hariri was implicated and responsible for signing the execution [orders] for the mujaheddin in the Nezar al-Halabi case” and I hadn’t known about this matter until Rashid told me about it.
Q: Are you prepared to confront Rashid with this claim, and what if he asked you to obey his order since he was the emir as you mentioned?
A: Yes I am prepared to confront Rashid, Hassan al-Naba’a, on what he said on that date, and I will not follow his order if he asked me to stop testifying or to corroborate his statements, because now I am speaking truthfully and there is no guile in what I am saying.
Q: What about your retraction in a short while after what we said, if we asked you another question?
A: I certify to you that what I mentioned now is honest and true, and what Rashid had mentioned about the execution of the mujaheddin in the Nezar al-Halabi case is what I learnt from him. As for what [I meant] by widespread, are the executions in general, which Hariri signed, and they concern past Lebanese mujaheddin like Badi’ or Wadi’. This matter is specific to the Lebanese, and known by them like Rashid, but I didn’t know it. I have given my testimony willingly and with all truthfulness and I have nothing to say otherwise.
[His statement was read to him; he corroborated it and signed it along with us]
Sending Swords to Iraq
Q: It came to light in the testimony of someone else in this [investigation] that he was tasked once with purchasing a sword from Beirut, and specifically from the Dora [area], and sending it to Rashid in Syria, what is the veracity of this claim?
A: Rashid sends swords to Iraq to Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, and I have no knowledge of who from the guys brings them from Lebanon.
Q: Who do you think it is?
A: My direct emir is Rashid.
Q: How does that obligate you, explain that to us?
A: I fully follow what he says to me or assigned to me by him and I don’t refuse it unless there is a religious [reason] not to.
Q: Given what you just said, does this matter obligate you to hide facts so as not to damage the group or its emir or the general doctrine?
A: Yes I am committed to following orders, especially if they are from the emir, to hide facts or details.
Q: Where did you meet Rashid and how and when?
A: I met Rashid who is in your custody and now I found out that his name is Hassan Naba’a, in Afghanistan during the year 2000 in one of the training camps and we stayed together for approximately five months, then Abu Musa’ab al-Zarqawi sent him to Lebanon to organize groups to prepare the ground for the jihad in Lebanon, so Rashid arrived and he was called at the time “Abu Muslim”.
Knowledge of the streets of Beirut
Q: You mentioned to us that you knew the streets of Beirut because you have been to Lebanon on previous occasions, when did you arrive and where did you stay and what was the purpose of your presence during those times?
A: I arrived in Lebanon in mid-2001 as I was tasked by Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi to meet the Jund al-Sham group that is located in the ‘Ain al-Helwah Camp. I came from Turkey to Lebanon, and I stayed at the White House Hotel in Hamra under my real name for an hour only then I traveled with someone called Mu’in to the Ain al-Helwah Camp to discuss with Jund al-Sham the issue of pledging allegiance and going to [do] jihad in Afghanistan and I stayed in the camp for about two weeks. I traveled afterwards to Turkey and then to Afghanistan, and I came during the same year from Syria to Lebanon through the Masna’a [border point] under my real name again and I went directly to the Ain al-Helwah Camp. I met again the brothers in Jund al-Sham for about four days to observe the issue of going out to the jihad and to ascertain their preparedness and abilities.
During that time I became wanted in Lebanon by the Lebanese judiciary because Mu’in was stopped in Syria and handed [back] to Lebanon for the crime of forgery, I was called at the time “Qweidh” “Qaws”. I managed to leave to Syria and then returned to Lebanon on dates that I don’t remember for about three times again to the Ain al-Helwah Camp. After this time I used to enter Lebanon with a fake Saudi passport under the name Fahed al-Yamani, and I would come for a day or two for the [border] stamps so that the Syrian General Security [Directorate] would see stamps on my passport even though it was fake, and I would use when coming to Lebanon furnished apartments in Hamra and Rosheh, and I also stayed in the Shuweifat area in an apartment with Nabil who is called “Abu al-Ghadieh”, who was martyred in Iraq. I stayed for two days there, then I returned to Syria while Nabil statyed there, and that was in 2003, so I have been to Lebanon around eight times, and that is why I know the streets of Beirut.