Courtesy of MEMRI
Special Dispatch-Iraq/Jihad & Terrorism Studies Project December 7, 2007 No. 1780
To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit this link: Two Testimonies by Young Men Who Went to Wage Jihad in Iraq
Two testimonies by young men who went to Iraq to wage jihad were published recently. In the first testimony, a young Saudi named Ahmad bin 'Abdallah Al-Shayi' said that he regretted his actions, and accused Al-Qaeda of exploiting young men by tempting them to join the organization and then sending them to carry out martyrdom operations. He warned all young men, and Muslims in general, to learn from his mistake, and not to join the jihad in Iraq or in other regions of conflict.
The second testimony was that of an individual calling himself "the noble mujahid Muhibb Al-Sunna Al-Iraqi." Unlike Al-Shayi', he described his experience in very positive terms, and praised the Al-Qaeda commanders, particularly the late Al-Qaeda in Iraq commander Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi.
The interview with Al-Shayi' was published in the Saudi government daily Al-Riyadh, on November 21, 2007, as part of recent Saudis efforts to prevent young men from participating in jihad in Iraq. The second testimony, published by the Rafidayn Center, was posted in French on the Islamist forum Minbar-SOS (hosted by Bravenet Web Services Inc. in Canada) on October 28, 2007,(1) and also on the Islamist forum Elshouraa (hosted by ZipServers Inc. in Oklahoma, USA), on November 21, 2007. (2)
The following are excerpts from the two testimonies.
Al-Shayi': Although I Couldn't Drive Heavy Vehicles, They Asked Me to Drive a Fuel Tanker to Baghdad – Without Telling Me It was a Truck Bomb
In the interview, titled "I Set Out to Seek Jihad – And They Turned Me into a Pawn for Killing Innocents... My Going There Was a Grave Mistake," Al-Shayi' recounted the unfolding of events from the time he left Saudi Arabia for Iraq via Syria to his injury while detonating a truck bomb in Baghdad, his arrest, and his extradition to Saudi Arabia, where he renounced his jihadist views.
"I left for Iraq in order to participate in the jihad, and to fight the occupiers – [at least] that was what I thought at the time. The commander of my group, Abu 'Abd Al-Rahman, asked me to deliver a fuel tanker to a particular place in the Al-Mansour residential neighborhood in Baghdad, and drew me a diagram of the spot. I told him that I didn't know how to drive a heavy vehicle, but he said that [it] was easy. In truth, this operation, which was the first mission I was asked to carry out since I entered Iraq, was highly suspect. Why were they asking me to deliver [a fuel tanker] when I didn't know how to drive a heavy vehicle – while [the commander] or any other Iraqi in the organization could deliver the tanker and knew the way? But I could not refuse to carry out the operation, for fear that they would kill me.
"[In general,] from the moment I entered Iraq I saw that they were acting suspiciously, and were not training me to use weapons [so that I could] participate in the fighting. But... I told myself, 'They pray and fast, they are jihad-fighting Muslims; they could not possibly kill me or harm me.' And I agreed [to carry out the mission].
"They asked me to deliver [the tanker] at 9:00 PM, and at the appointed hour we [got in] the tanker, which was very long, and drove off. After a while, the driver asked me to try and drive. I did, until I learned how to do it. After that, we got on the main road [to] Al-Mansour, where I was meant to hand over the tanker. A while later, they stopped the tanker, got out, and left in another vehicle. Left there alone, I considered running away, but where [would I go]? I didn't know anyone except them. I trusted in Allah, hoped for the best, and set out to carry out what they had asked of me...
"When I reached the street where I was meant to stop, the truck suddenly exploded. I saw the fire take hold, and it was a nightmare for me; I couldn't believe the horrible sight. Twelve people were killed in the explosion, and dozens of others were wounded – [all of them] innocent people. Later, I learned that this was one of a series of bombings aimed against the Jordanian Embassy, and that this kind of tanker could hold 25 tons of propane.
"After the explosion, I quickly jumped out of the window [of the tanker]... and fell to the ground. [I lay there] until an ambulance took me to the Al-Yarmouk University hospital, and from there to the Muhammad Baqr Al-Hakim hospital, based on the [forged] identity card given to me by the [Al-Qaeda] organization.
"Then Iraqi intelligence was informed of my whereabouts, and an Iraqi intelligence officer came and questioned me in the hospital. Later he took me to the Iraqi Interior Ministry... where I was interrogated by the minister's aide for intelligence affairs... The Iraqi government handed me over to the American forces, which sent me to the hospital at the Abu Ghraib prison, to have my burns and wounds treated. I spent six months there, and received treatment like all the other prisoners.
"Before my extradition to Saudi Arabia, three officers from the Saudi Interior Ministry came, and met with the Saudi prisoners, including me... About a month after that, the American investigator told me that they were going to extradite me to Saudi Arabia, and indeed, a week later, I was extradited to Saudi Arabia on a special plane. When I reached the Riyadh air force base, before we went into the arrivals hall, one of the senior Interior Ministry officers told me, 'Your family is here to welcome you,' and my joy was multiplied."
It All Began When a Friend Gave Me Videocassettes of Jihad Movies and Talked Me into Going with Him to Iraq
"It all began when an old friend of mine, whom I had not seen for years, met with me a few times, and then began to talk about jihad, to tell me hadiths, [and to quote] Koran verses backing up his statements. He also gave me numerous videocassettes that included jihad movies, and the one that stood out most and affected me the most was the one telling the story of the jihad [carried out by] Khattab(3) in Afghanistan and Chechnya...
"After that, he told me that he knew a way to get to Iraq, and that he himself was about to go. He asked whether I wanted to accompany him, and I said yes. I misled my family [into thinking] that I was going abroad, and didn't tell them of my [true] intentions, because I knew that they would be against it. [My friend] once brought [me] a fatwa... that sanctioned going out to wage jihad without the permission of parents or of the ruler, and pointed out that 26 sheikhs and scholars had signed it.(4) [This fatwa] strengthened my resolve. This was during the last third of the month of Ramadan 1425 [November 2004]."
They Asked Me If I Knew that Once I Entered Iraq There Was No Coming Back – Because We Swear an Oath of Allegiance to Death
"About a week later, we left Buraidah together to go to Riyadh, and from there to Syria. In Damascus, my friends introduced me to a coordinator, a Saudi called Abu Abdallah, and he took me to the organization's commander in Aleppo, who was called Mazen... [Mazen] asked me if I knew that once I entered Iraq there was no coming back, because we swear an oath of allegiance to death there... He took me to a crowded hotel for two days, where I met two Saudis and two Moroccans. Then he took me to another hotel, in the suburbs of Aleppo, where I met [some other] Saudis and Moroccans, and where I stayed until after Eid Al-Fitr.
"After that, Mazen asked me to go to the city of Al-Raqa on our way to Iraq, to meet another coordinator [there]. I went there together with another man, a Moroccan, after Mazen provided us with two forged identity cards, one Syrian, the other Iraqi. When we got to Al-Raqa... the coordinator was waiting for us, and when we reached the designated place, a man dressed like a Syrian Bedouin arrived... I learned later that he was a Saudi called Abu Saleh...
"Then we went to a hotel, where I met the friend who had left [Saudi Arabia] with me... I stayed one night at this hotel, and then Abu Saleh asked me and the three Saudis who were with me, one of whom was my friend, to go to the city of Deir Al-Zor to meet the final coordinator [before going to meet] the smuggler [who would get us into Iraq]. [The coordinator] appointed one of us commander [of our group]..."
The Commander of the Arabs in Al-Qaeda Greeted Us and Asked If We Wanted to Become Martyrs
"[In Deir Al-Zor, the final coordinator] handed us over to the smuggler, together with eight more young men of various Arab nationalities – Moroccan, Syrian, Jordanian, Gulf, and Yemeni... We departed in a minibus from Deir Al-Zor to Abu Kamal on the Iraqi border. Before [turning off on] the road to Abu Kamal, the vehicle stopped behind a truck carrying goods to Abu Kamal, and we were asked to get into its front part. When we'd gone about five kilometers, the truck stopped, and 12 more people of various [Arab] nationalities joined us. After another distance, the truck stopped [again], and seven more, all Syrians, joined us. [By now] there were 31 people in the truck...
"When we got to Abu Kamal, they let us off at a farm on the banks of the Euphrates River. Then a boat came, and it began to take us, in groups of seven each time, to an island in the middle of the river, and from there to the other bank. This, they explained, was because there was a checkpoint on the bridge over the river.
"It was 11:00 PM. After crossing the river, the minibus came and took us to the home of the smuggler, which was right on the border. After a short rest, the smuggler took a submachine gun and night-vision binoculars, and we set out for the border, without the seven Syrians...
"When the Iraqis who were meant to take us from the smuggler arrived... the smuggler went back [to Syria], and the Iraqis, who were young, took us and bid us to move quickly [so as to reach our destination] before dawn, and so as not to be discovered.
"We kept running until we came to Iraq, entering via the city of Al-Qaim. The first to greet us was the commander of the Arabs in Al-Qaeda in Iraq, who was a Moroccan called Abu Assil. He asked if we wanted to be istishhadiyun [that is, to carry out martyrdom operations]... Nobody raised his hand. Then [the commander] began to praise istishhad and its benefits, but not one of us changed his mind. Then he took the money that he had and gave each of us $100, took our passports, and took us to the Rawa region of the Al-Anbar district, where at a hotel... 40 Arabs were staying. Together with them, we waited to receive training."
In Five Weeks, I Never Received Any Training
"After staying at the hotel for a week, the commander of the Rawa [region] in the Al-Qaeda organization, called Abu 'Ubaida Al-Ansari, asked me and another Saudi to go to the city of Al-Ramadi, and said there were training camps there. I stayed [at these training camps] for a month, and never received any training... When I complained to the Al-Anbar commander, who was called Abu Osama about not receiving training, and said that we had come to participate in the war, he said that they would take us to Baghdad.
"The next day, they took us [to Baghdad]. At that time, I and another Saudi were greeted by an Iraqi called Abu 'Omar Al-Kurdi, who I later learned was the [operations] commander of Al-Qaeda... Abu 'Omar Al-Kurdi told me that my group commander was Abu 'Abd Al-Rahman. Then he left, and I stayed with the new group – nine men, all of them Iraqis... [The Iraqis] were not pleased at [Saudi] participation [in the war against the Americans]... because [they] consider this to be interference in their internal affairs..."
Fatwas, Islamist Websites, and Jihad Books and Videos Inflame Young People to Go Wage Jihad
"I think that several factors [influence young Saudis to go to wage jihad] – some of them directly, and some indirectly, such as fatwas... websites, and web forums. Many of the websites are spreading poison in the name of Islam, which Islam [itself] renounces, and are saturated with takfir [accusing other Muslims of heresy] and extremism...
"Another factor is the books, cassettes, songs, and films. As I said, there are cassettes and books that include hair-raising atrocities, and these, unfortunately, can be found in libraries... I think that on a short visit to the Islamic libraries one can find songs of incitement and books that inflame the spirit of young people, [and] that include all the forbidden things. I think that letting these materials onto the shelves and into the shops is [an act of] negligence, and I expect the education and information ministries to give their opinion on this matter... because all these things inflame the young people and ignite the fire of war in their hearts...
"I call on young people particularly, and Muslims in general, to learn from my mistakes, and not to be tempted to go to Iraq or to other regions of conflict."
Muhibb Al-Sunna Al-Iraqi: "My Beloved Brother Abu Muhammad... Asked Me to Help Him with an Operation... I Could Not Turn Him Down, For I Craved [Allah's] Reward..."
Al-Iraqi's testimony, titled "One Day in My Life, and the Truth about a Commander," recounts how he went on a jihadist operation in Baghdad, and met Al-Qaeda operatives, including Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi.
"...I have learned, when it comes to matters of jihad and mujahideen, to keep what I have seen and heard to myself, in two senses [of the term]: keep it so as to forget it, and keep it so as not to tell anyone. This is what a mujahid taught me... But today, I will bring back to life one of the things I have buried...
"About three and a half years ago, I was in a phase of transition in terms of ideology and religious approach, and the love of the Sunna was beginning to fill my heart... My close, beloved brother Abu Muhammad – may Allah accept him among the martyrs – asked me to help him with an operation he was preparing in the Baghdad area. I could not turn him down, for I craved [Allah's] reward and compensation. 'For these, let those who want to fight, fight.'
"Abu Muhammad... asked me and [another] brother..., Abu Zaynab – may Allah have mercy upon him whether he is dead or alive – to accompany him to the Baghdad area with the items necessary for the operation. We drove in two cars, my brother Abu Muhammad in one car, Abu Zaynab and me in the other. My meeting with him for this operation was our first and last one...
"After a short time, we arrived at the designated spot, and brother Abu Zaynab asked to enter the house where the necessary items were kept, and to fetch them by himself, while we were to wait for him nearby... This neighborhood had been set on fire that very day, following the murder of a renowned mosque imam at the hands of the Ghadr (Badr) militia,(5) and there were reports of another operation near the district.
"Just a few seconds later, a group of cars full of masked men wearing ashamigh [kaffiyehs] surrounded us on all sides. They all had guns or Kalashnikovs!..."
"He Who Puts His Trust in Allah... Knows for Sure that the Primary Goal is the [Establishment of the] Islamic State"
"I put my fate in Allah's [hands]. They seized me and my brother Abu Muhammad and blindfolded us. I sensed that they were handling Abu Muhammad roughly. Then they drove me to a fairly remote place, and [put me in] a room. There, I asked my brother Abu Muhammad: 'Who are these people?' He said, 'I don't know'... It was very difficult for me, since this was the first time I had [ever] been imprisoned... [But] he who puts his trust in Allah and his fate into Allah's hands, and remains patient throughout the trial, knows for sure that the primary goal is the [establishment of the] Islamic state... And if the moment of death is brought closer by Allah, the reward (for the Hijrah) is certain...
"A few seconds later, a man whose face was covered with a kaffiyeh came in and untied us, and began questioning us... I heard that they were mujahideen and my heart was appeased... At that moment, Abu Zaynab appeared, exhausted from running. His eyes were full of tears, and when he saw us he did the takbir [i.e. greeted us with 'Allah Akbar'], and then embraced us and the man asking questions...
"Later... I went with Abu Zaynab to the house nearby where we had waited so long... We entered the house and greeted the brothers, who apologized for what had happened... I asked a brother for a place to pray. While I was praying, I heard someone give the salaam. I finished praying, and to my right I saw a man – yes, by Allah, a man at a time when [true] men are rare – and felt as though I knew him... So I greeted him and his companions, and began relating what had happened, and praising Allah. I kept looking at that man and he kept smiling at me.
"Then he went to talk with the old man who owned the house. According to what I heard, he was a muhajir (emigrant)... Yes, by Allah, he was talking of ways to improve the condition of the Sunnis, with the help of the renowned and ancient tribal [authorities]. And he seemed... to be worried [that the Sunnis] would face a dark fate if the Crusaders and the Rafidha [i.e., the Shi'ites] came to rule over them, and if the renowned and ancient [authorities] and the tribal sheikhs and their families stopped elevating themselves [to the rank of] the Sunnis, [and stopped] managing the general affairs of the Sunnis and preventing any Tom, Dick or Harry from ruling over them...
"The muhajir advised me to be patient, and reminded me that the way [of the mujahideen] is one of trials and suffering... These few words from the muhajir... were enough to recognize the minhaj [way] of the Al-Qaeda brothers – their patience, tolerance, and their disdain for all differences [between people]...
"A few minutes later, a young man who resided in the house informed the old man [i.e. the owner of the house] that the worshippers of the Cross had entered the area. So the old man told the muhajir: 'This place is no [longer] safe for you.' The muhajir rose with his companions, gave us the salaam, his smile never leaving his face as he looked at me. Then he left the house.
"Later, my brother Abu Muhammad, may Allah accept him, arrived and we took [the items] we had come to fetch..."
"I Have Never Met Any Purer Soul, Softer Heart, or Humbler People than... the Al-Qaeda Soldiers"
"This smiling man, this muhajir whom I met, who smiled when setting his eyes on me... was the Amir of the Martyrs, the Imam, the Muhajir, Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, may Allah accept him in the uttermost [places of] Paradise...
"I believe that, thanks to its [excellent] Amirs and ministers..., the leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq, may Allah secure its pillars, are able to avoid fitna [civil strife]... I was never, not even for one day, a member of Al-Qaeda or [Jama'at] Al-Tawhid Wal Jihad.(6) Rather, we worked to help the mujahideen in general.
"Oh Allah, You bear witness that I have never met any purer soul, softer heart, or humbler people than the People of the Tawhid, the Al-Qaeda soldiers – [nor have I met people] tougher in their power, strength, and hatred for the idolaters than the Al-Qaeda soldiers. As Allah is my witness... The group with whom I carried out the operation was not Al-Qaeda or Al-Tawhid Wal Jihad. It was another group known in the area.
"Oh Allah, accept your servant, the mujahid on Your path, Abu Mus'ab, among the martyrs.
"And accept my beloved brother Abu Muhammad, and all those killed from among the mujahideen...
"Oh Allah, protect the Islamic State [of Iraq], Oh Allah, protect the Islamic State...
"May the peace and mercy of Allah be upon you.
"[Signed] your brother Muhibb Al-Sunnah Al-Iraqi,
"Rabi' Al-Thani 1428,
"Al-Rafidayn Center Publications."
(1) http://www.minbar-sos.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=14; ISP verified November 29, 2007.
(2) http://elshouraa.com/vb/showthread.php?t=14611; ISP verified November 27, 2007.
(3) Al-Khattab, or Ibn Al-Khattab, are aliases of Samer Al-Sweilem, a Saudi who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan and then commanded the Arab jihad fighters in Chechnya until his death by poisoning in 2002.
(4) For more on the fatwa signed by 26 Saudi sheikhs, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 896, "Reactions and Counter-Reactions to the Saudi Clerics' Communiqué Calling for Jihad in Iraq," April 21, 2005, http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP89605 .
(5) The word ghadr ("traitor") is used here as an epithet for the Badr Forces – the military arm of the Iraqi party SCIRI (Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq), headed by 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Hakim, which is supported by Iran.
(6) Jama'at Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad (the Group of Monotheism and Jihad) was the name of Al-Zarqawi's organization before it joined forces with Al-Qaeda and took on the name Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
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