Secret papers claim the feared assassin was hired to find links between Saddam and al-Qa'ida. Robert Fisk reports
Saturday, 25 October 2008
Iraqi secret police believed that the notorious Palestinian assassin Abu Nidal was working for the Americans as well as
Hitherto secret documents which are now in the hands of The Independent – written by Saddam Hussein's brutal security services for Saddam's eyes only – state that he had been "colluding" with the Americans and, with the help of the Egyptians and Kuwaitis, was trying to find evidence linking Saddam and al-Qa'ida.
President George Bush was to use claims of a relationship with al-Qa'ida as one of the reasons for his 2003 invasion, along with
The final hours of Abu Nidal, the mercenary whose assassinations and murderous attacks in 20 countries over more than a quarter of a century killed or wounded more than 900 civilians, are revealed in the set of intelligence reports drawn up for Saddam's "presidency intelligence office" in September of 2002. The documents state that Egyptian and Kuwaiti intelligence officers had asked Abu Nidal, whose real name was Khalil al-Banna, to spy for them "with the knowledge of their American counterparts".
Five days after his death, Iraq's head of intelligence, Taher Jalil Habbush, told a press conference in Baghdad that Abu Nidal had committed suicide after Iraqi agents arrived at the apartment where he was hiding in the city, but the secret reports make it clear that the notorious Palestinian had undergone a long series of interrogations prior to his violent demise. The records of these sessions were never intended to be made public and were written by Iraqi "Special Intelligence Unit M4" for Saddam. While Abu Nidal may have lied to his interrogators – torture is not mentioned in the reports – the documents appear to be a frank internal account of what the Iraqis believed his mission in
"Coded messages indicate that the Kuwaitis asked him indirectly to find out whether al-Qa'ida elements were present in
Abu Nidal was no stranger to
His own interrogation at the hands of Saddam's secret police, will therefore appear equally appropriate punishment for so cruel a man. Among the other crimes of which he was accused in the Iraqi intelligence report was the preparation of 14 booby-trapped suitcase bombs to be used on foreigners – Swiss and Austrian, according to the intelligence file – in the northern Kurdish area of Iraq, at the time a US-supported "safe haven", and an attempt to recruit new members for his so-called Fatah Revolutionary Council among Palestinians wounded by the Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza who were recovering in Baghdad hospitals.
There are some oddities in the report and some unanswered questions. It says, for example, that Abu Nidal originally infiltrated
Could Abu Nidal really have entered
His end is, however, recorded bleakly. "Upon being asked to accompany those charged with guarding him to a more secure location to continue the interrogation procedures, he requested that he be allowed to change his clothes. On entering his bedroom, he committed suicide. Unsuccessful attempts were made to resuscitate him ..." Nothing is known of the fate of Abdulkareem Mustapha, only that he was "submitted to court". But we do know where Abu Nidal now lies.
"The corpse of Sabri al-Banna", the final report concludes, "was buried on 29/8/2002 in al-Karakh's Islamic cemetery [in
Years of terror A man as feared as Bin Laden
Abu Nidal, left, was once as feared as Osama bin Laden. His most notorious attacks included:
*1978 His "Black June" movement blamed for murdering PLO members in London, Paris, Madrid, Brussels, Kuwait and Rome.
*1982 Israeli ambassador to
*1984 Jordanian airliner attacked by rocket on take-off from
*1985 Egyptian airliner hijacked – six passengers murdered and 60 killed when the plane is stormed by Egyptian commandos.
*1985 Gunmen massacre 18 and wound 120 in attacks on El Al ticket desks at
*1986 Machine-gun attack kills 22 in a synagogue in
*1988 Nine killed and 98 wounded when gunmen attack the Greek cruise ship the City of
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs