Sunday, April 22, 2007

Iraq's history of supporting terrorism

Iraq’s Support of Terrorism


And that is the source of our urgent concern about Saddam Hussein's links to international terrorist groups. Over the years, Iraq has provided safe haven to terrorists such as Abu Nidal, whose terror organization carried out more than 90 terrorist attacks in 20 countries that killed or injured nearly 900 people, including 12 Americans. Iraq has also provided safe haven to Abu Abbas, who was responsible for seizing the Achille Lauro and killing an American passenger. And we know that Iraq is continuing to finance terror and gives assistance to groups that use terrorism to undermine Middle East peace. (Bush)

What have we learned from all those years?

I think what we've learned is that the terrorist threat is serious, but it shifts. You cannot make a single person the sole focus of your counterterrorism. We had Qaddafi as the number one enemy from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s. Then we had Abu Nidal who appeared on the scene, and he was the number one enemy from the mid-1980s until the early 1990s. Now we have bin Laden. And the implication of that is if you can deal with this one guy, the threat will go away. The threat doesn't go away, it evolves.
In my view, it is incontestable that Iraq has supported terrorism. Iraq has been on the State Department list of states that support terrorism for more than twenty years. At least two major terrorist groups have had their headquarters openly in Baghdad for most of that time--the Palestine Liberation Front and the Mujahedin-e Khalq. Moreover, as the President said last night, known international terrorists like Abu Abbas and Abu Nidal have lived openly in Baghdad--in the case of Abu Abbas, more than twenty years, and Abu Nidal, for more than a decade. So it is incontestable that Iraq is a supporter of terrorism, and on that there is no disagreement. [NOTE: Public denunciation of Iraq's sponsorship of terrorism predates 9/11. The cases cited by the President were covered, for example, in the Patterns of Global Terrorism report for 2000, especially in the report's Overview, which can be accessed at]
These efforts worked. In 1985, Syria was implicated in 34 terrorist incidents but in 1986 only 6. In 1987, a year after our pressures, we detected Syria's hand in only one incident and in none in 1988. Moreover, Syria expelled the violent Abu Nidal organization from Damascus in June 1987-a major victory for our counterterrorist policies.
* On November 3, 1988, a Maltese court sentenced the sole surviving terrorist in the November 1985 hijacking of an Egyptian ail-liner to 25 years imprisonment-the maximum sentence under Maltese law. The surviving hijacker belonged to the Abu Nidal organization.

* On October 27, 1988, a Sudanese court passed the death sentence on five Palestinian terrorists for their attack this year on Khartoum's Acropole Hotel and the Sudan Club. Tbese five were also member's of the Abu Nidal organization.

* In July 1988, a Pakistan court convicted five terrorists for an Abu Nidal organization attack against a Pan Am airliner in Karachi in September 1986. (Bremer)

Details of Atta's visit to the Iraqi capital in the summer of 2001, just weeks before he launched the most devastating terrorist attack in U.S. history, are contained in a top secret memo written to Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

The handwritten memo, a copy of which has been obtained exclusively by the Telegraph, is dated July 1, 2001 and provides a short resume of a three-day "work programme" Atta had undertaken at Abu Nidal's base in Baghdad.

Abu Nidal May 1937–August 16, 2002), born Sabri Khalil al-Banna, was a Palestinian political leader, mercenary, and the founder of Fatah — the Revolutionary Council (Fatah al-Majles al-Thawry), more commonly known as the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO). At the height of his power in the 1970s and 1980s, Abu Nidal, or "father of the struggle," was regarded as the world's most dangerous terrorist leader.

Part of the secular, left-wing, Palestinian rejectionist front, so called because they reject proposals for a peaceful settlement with Israel, the ANO was formed after a split in 1974 between Abu Nidal and Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Setting himself up as a freelance contractor, Abu Nidal was based over the years in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Egypt, and is believed to have ordered attacks in 20 countries, killing or injuring over 900 people.
Abu Nidal died of between one and four gunshot wounds in Baghdad in August 2002, believed by Palestinian sources to have been killed on the orders of Saddam Hussein, but said by the Iraqi government to have committed suicide. The Guardian wrote on the news of his death: "He was the patriot turned psychopath. He served only ... the warped personal drives that pushed him into hideous crime. He was the ultimate mercenary."
After Libyan intelligence operatives were charged with the Pan Am 103 bombing, Gadaffi sought to distance himself from terrorism in an effort to re-establish diplomatic ties with the West. He expelled Abu Nidal, who returned to Iraq, where he had planned his first terrorist attack 26 years earlier. The Iraqi government later said Abu Nidal had entered the country using a fake Yemeni passport and was not there with their knowledge, but by 2001, at the latest, he was living there openly, and in defiance of the Jordanian government, whose state security court had sentenced him to death in absentia in 2001 for his role in the 1994 assassination of a Jordanian diplomat in Beirut.

Jane's suggests that Saddam Hussein ordered Abu Nidal killed in 2002 in case Abu Nidal acted as a mercenary for the U.S. in the event of an invasion.

On August 19, 2002, al-Ayyam, the official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority, reported that Abu Nidal had died three days earlier of multiple gunshot wounds in his home in the wealthy al-Masbah neighborhood of al-Jadriyah, Baghdad, where the villa he lived in was owned by the Mukhabarat, or Iraqi secret service.

Iraq's chief of intelligence, Taher Jalil Habbush, held a press conference on August 21, 2002, at which he handed out photographs of Abu Nidal's bloodied body, along with a medical report purportedly showing he had died after a single bullet had entered his mouth and exited his skull. Habbush said that Iraq's internal security force had arrived at Abu Nidal's house to arrest him on suspicion of conspiring with the Kuwaiti and Saudi governments to bring down Saddam Hussein. Saying he needed a change of clothes, Abu Nidal went into his bedroom and shot himself in the mouth, Habbush said. He died eight hours later in intensive care. [43] He is known to have been suffering from leukemia.

Other sources disagree about the cause of death. Palestinian sources told journalists that Abu Nidal had in fact died of multiple gunshot wounds. Marie Colvin and Sonya Murad, writing in The Sunday Times, say that he was assassinated by a hit squad of 30 men from Office 8, the Iraqi Mukhabarat assassination unit. Jane's reported that Iraqi intelligence had been following him for several months and had found classified documents in his home about a U.S. attack on Iraq. When they arrived to raid his house on August 14 (not August 16, according to Jane's), fighting broke out between Abu Nidal's men and Iraqi intelligence. In the midst of this, Abu Nidal rushed into his bedroom and was killed, though Jane's writes it remains unclear whether he killed himself or was killed by someone else. Jane's sources insist that his body bore several gunshot wounds.

Jane's suggests that Saddam Hussein may have ordered him arrested and killed because he regarded Abu Nidal as a mercenary who would have acted against him in the event of an American invasion, if the money had been right. (Wikipedia: Abu Nidal)

U.S. welcomes news of Abu Nidal's death
August 19, 2002

WASHINGTON (CNN) --The United States welcomed news Monday of the death of Abu Nidal, a Palestinian guerrilla leader whose group has been blamed for attacks in more than 20 countries that have killed hundreds.

The Palestinian newspaper Al Ayyam said Nidal was suffering from a serious illness and apparently committed suicide in his Baghdad apartment.

Palestinian officials who spoke to CNN said they were told Nidal had been shot dead, but they could not describe the circumstances under which he died.

He had suffered from leukaemia for a long period, veteran Israeli commentator Yossi Melman told Israeli army radio.

"Abu Nidal is a craven and despicable terrorist, and the world would certainly be a better place without people like Abu Nidal," Deputy U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters.

Reeker said the fact Nidal apparently died in Iraq was further proof of Iraq's support of terrorism.

"Iraq's record of providing support, safe haven, training, logistical assistance and financial aid to terrorist groups like the Abu Nidal organization is why Iraq is listed as a state supporter of terrorism," he said.

Abu Nidal, 65, whose real name was Sabri al-Banna, had a reputation as one of the most ruthless Palestinian guerrilla commanders.

As the head of head of the Fatah-The Revolutionary Council group, Nidal broke with the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1974, saying the organization and Yasser Arafat were too moderate.

He tried -- and failed twice -- to have Arafat assassinated. Nidal did kill many of Arafat's confidants and other moderate Palestinians.

Nidal and his group have been blamed for more than 90 terrorist attacks that killed more than 300 people and wounded 600 others. The attacks struck at Middle Eastern, European and U.S. targets.

Major attacks included the Rome and Vienna airports in December 1985, the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul, the Pan Am flight 73 hijacking in Karachi in September 1986, and the City of Poros day-excursion ship attack in Greece in July 1988.

Israel launched an invasion of Lebanon aimed at Arafat and repelling terrorists after Nidal's operatives attempted to assassinate the Israeli ambassador to Britain in June 1982.

He was sentenced to death in absentia by a Fatah military court.

Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) a.k.a. Black September, the Fatah Revolutionary Council, the Arab Revolutionary Council, the Arab Revolutionary Brigades, the Revolutionary Organization of Socialist Muslims

Description: International terrorist organization led by Sabri al-Banna. Split from PLO in 1974. Made up of various functional committees, including political, military, and financial.

Activities: Has carried out terrorist attacks in 20 countries, killing or injuring almost 900 persons. Targets include the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Israel, moderate Palestinians, the PLO, and various Arab countries. Major attacks included the Rome and Vienna airports in December 1985, the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul and the Pan Am Flight 73 hijacking in Karachi in September 1986, and the City of Poros day-excursion ship attack in July 1988 in Greece. Suspected of assassinating PLO deputy chief Abu Iyad and PLO security chief Abu Hul in Tunis in January 1991. ANO assassinated a Jordanian diplomat in Lebanon in January 1994 and has been linked to the killing of the PLO representative there. Has not attacked Western targets since the late 1980s.

Strength: Several hundred plus militia in Lebanon and limited overseas support structure.

Location/Area of Operation: Al-Banna may have relocated to Iraq in December 1998, where the group maintains a presence. Has an operational presence in Lebanon in the Bekaa Valley and several Palestinian refugee camps in coastal areas of Lebanon. Also has a presence in Sudan and Syria, among others. Has demonstrated ability to operate over wide area, including the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.

External Aid: Has received considerable support, including safehaven, training, logistic assistance, and financial aid from Iraq, Libya, and Syria (until 1987), in addition to close support for selected operations.


Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO) a.k.a. Mujahedin-e Khalq, the National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA, the militant wing of the MEK), People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), National Council of Resistance (NCR), Organization of the People's Holy Warriors of Iran, Sazeman-e Mujahedin-e Khalq-e Iran, Muslim Iranian Student's Society (front organization used to garner financial support)

Description: Formed in the 1960s by the college-educated children of Iranian merchants, the MEK sought to counter what it perceived as excessive Western influence in the Shah's regime. Following a philosophy that mixes Marxism and Islam, has developed into the largest and most active armed Iranian dissident group. Its history is studded with anti-Western activity, and, most recently, attacks on the interests of the clerical regime in Iran and abroad.

Activities: Worldwide campaign against the Iranian Government stresses propaganda and occasionally uses terrorist violence. During the 1970s the MEK staged terrorist attacks inside Iran and killed several US military personnel and civilians working on defense projects in Tehran. Supported the takeover in 1979 of the US Embassy in Tehran. In April 1992 conducted attacks on Iranian embassies in 13 different countries, demonstrating the group's ability to mount large-scale operations overseas. Recent attacks in Iran include three explosions in Tehran in June 1998 that killed three persons and the assassination of Asadollah Lajevardi, the former director of the Evin Prison.

Strength: Several thousand fighters based in Iraq with an extensive overseas support structure. Most of the fighters are organized in the MEK's National Liberation Army (NLA).

Location/Area of Operation: In the 1980s the MEK's leaders were forced by Iranian security forces to flee to France. Most resettled in Iraq by 1987. In the mid-1980s did not mount terrorist operations in Iran at a level similar to its activities in the 1970s. In recent years has claimed credit for a number of operations in Iran.

External Aid: Beyond support from Iraq, the MEK uses front organizations to solicit contributions from expatriate Iranian communities.


Muhammad Zaidan (December 10, 1948, Safed – March 8, 2004, Iraq) also known as Abu ‘Abbas or Muhammad ‘Abbas was the founder and leader of paramilitary group the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF).
Achille Lauro hijacking

Throughout the 1980s, the PLF launched attacks on both civilian and military targets in the north of Israel, across the Lebanese border. But Abu Abbas's notoriety in the West is mostly due to his PLF faction's 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship the Achille Lauro.[citation needed] During the hijacking, wheelchair-bound American Jewish passenger Leon Klinghoffer, was shot dead and thrown overboard, which caused an international outcry and resulted in strong pressure on the PLO.

After the hijacking, under immense political pressure from the United States and Italy, Tunisia expelled Zaidan from the country. He fled to Baghdad, where Saddam Hussein sheltered him from extradition to Italy. He remained in Iraq and commanded the PLF (reunited in 1989) until Saddam was deposed by coalition forces in 2003.

Italy (whose government had previously let Abu Abbas leave the country without being arrested, causing collapse of Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi's coalition) sentenced Zaidan in absentia to five terms of life imprisonment for his role in the Achille Lauro hijacking. He was also wanted in the United States for crimes including terrorism, piracy, and murder. In 1996, he made an apology for the Achille Lauro hijacking and murder of Leon Klinghoffer and advocated peace talks between Palestininans and Israel; the apology was rejected by the United States government and Klinghoffer's family, who insisted he be brought to justice.
Death in custody, 2004

On April 15, 2003, Zaidan was captured by American forces in Iraq while attempting to flee from Baghdad to Syria. Italy subsequently requested his extradition. The Pentagon reported on March 9, 2004 that Zaidan had died the previous day, of natural causes, while in US custody. The PLF accused the Americans of assassinating their leader. The US authorities agreed to give Abbas' body to the Palestinian Red Crescent for burial in Ramallah on the West Bank. However, his burial there was blocked by the Israeli authorities, and he was buried in the Martyrs' Cemetery in Damascus instead.

U.S. captures mastermind of Achille Lauro hijacking
From David Ensor

WASHINGTON (CNN)--Abu Abbas, a convicted Palestinian terrorist who masterminded the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro on which a wheelchair-bound American was killed, was captured by U.S. Special Forces in the outskirts of Baghdad, U.S. Central Command said Tuesday.

Abbas, whose real first name is Muhammed, was apprehended Monday night in a compound of three buildings.

His capture was made possible by information from U.S. intelligence, officials said. Several others were also captured at the compound, the officials said. Various documents and passports were also seized.

"One of our key objectives is to search for, capture and drive out terrorists who have found safe haven in Iraq," Central Command said in a statement. "The capture of Abu Abbas in Iraq removes a portion of the terror network supported by Iraq and represents yet another victory in the global war on terrorism."

A senior administration official said the capture sends a strong message to terrorists: "You can run, but you cannot hide." To other terrorists, he warned, "We will hold you to account."

Abbas is the general director of the Palestine Liberation Front, which the U.S. State Department has designated a terrorist organization.

Palestinian Cabinet member Saeb Erakat said Wednesday that the United States violated the Oslo peace accords when it seized Abbas.

Erakat pointed to the Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement, covering the West Bank and Gaza, that was signed by the United States, Israel, Palestinian Authority, European Union, Russia, Jordan, Egypt and Norway.

That agreement specified that no member of the Palestine Liberation Organization will be arrested or brought to court for any action that happened prior to September 13, 1993, the day the Oslo accord was signed, Erakat said.

There was no immediate response from the United States to Erakat's claims.

Soon after Abbas' capture, U.S. officials said U.S. indictments of Abbas for piracy, hostage-taking and conspiracy have apparently expired, although they could be renewed. U.S. officials said Abbas' fate --whether he will be sent to an Italian prison or face a U.S. trial -- is "unresolved."

A Palestinian source told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that Abbas tried to flee to Syria, but was turned away at the border and was captured about 50 miles west of Baghdad.

Palestinian militants under Abbas' command hijacked the Achille Lauro in October 1985. During the hijacking, Leon Klinghoffer -- a 69-year-old wheelchair-bound American Jew who was with his wife of 36 years on the cruise -- was killed and dumped into the sea.

"He created troubles. He was handicapped but he was inciting and provoking the other passengers. So, the decision was made to kill him," Abbas told the Boston Globe in 1998.

Klinghoffer's daughters said in a statement Tuesday they are "delighted that the murderous terrorist Abu Abbas is in U.S. custody."

"While we personally seek justice for our father's murder, the larger issue is terrorism. Bringing Abbas to justice will send a strong signal to terrorists anywhere in the world that there is no place to run, no place to hide."

The daughters, Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, added: "We hope the U.S. prosecutors will be able to revive a federal indictment against Abbas for piracy, hostage-taking and conspiracy, and we urge them to do so."

A warrant for Abbas' arrest is outstanding in Italy, where he was convicted and sentenced to five life terms in absentia in connection with the hijacking. Since then, he has lived in Tunisia, Libya, Gaza and finally -- since 1994 -- in Baghdad, where he was under the protection of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The Palestine Liberation Front, one of multiple offshoots of the Palestine Liberation Organization, was initially based out of Tunisia, but relocated to Iraq after the Achille Lauro hijacking. His group also was responsible for many attacks in Israel.

In an October speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, President Bush accused Iraq of harboring Abbas.

"Iraq has also provided safe haven to Abu Abbas, who was responsible for seizing the Achille Lauro and killing an American passenger," Bush said.

Abbas was a member of the Palestinian National Congress and occasionally traveled to the Palestinian territories, though his movements there were restricted. In a 1996 interview, he told CNN the time for an armed struggle for a Palestinian state was over.

The Achille Lauro hijacking ordeal came to an end after two days when four heavily armed terrorists and Abbas, who helped with negotiations, surrendered to Egyptian authorities in exchange for a promise of safe passage.

As an Egyptian airliner was flying them to safe haven in Tunisia, U.S. Navy fighter jets forced the plane to land at a NATO air base in Italy, where they were arrested. Abbas was soon released by the Italians.

Palestine Liberation Front-Abu Abbas Faction a.k.a. the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), PLF-Abu

Description: Broke away from the PFLP-GC in mid-1970s. Later split again into pro-PLO, pro-Syrian, and pro-Libyan factions. Pro-PLO faction led by Muhammad Abbas (Abu Abbas), who became member of PLO Executive Committee in 1984 but left it in 1991.

Activities: The Abu Abbas-led faction has conducted attacks against Israel. Abbas's group also was responsible for the attack in 1985 on the cruise ship Achille Lauro and the murder of US citizen Leon Klinghoffer. A warrant for Abu Abbas's arrest is outstanding in Italy.

Strength: At least 50.

Location/Area of Operation: PLO faction based in Tunisia until Achille Lauro attack. Now based in Iraq.

External Aid: Receives support mainly from Iraq. Has received support from Libya in the past.


Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) a.k.a. Partiya Karkeran Kurdistan

Description: Established in 1974 as a Marxist-Leninist insurgent group primarily composed of Turkish Kurds. In recent years has moved beyond rural-based insurgent activities to include urban terrorism. Seeks to establish an independent Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey, where the population is predominantly Kurdish.

Activities: Primary targets are Turkish Government security forces in Turkey but also has been active in Western Europe against Turkish targets. Conducted attacks on Turkish diplomatic and commercial facilities in dozens of West European cities in 1993 and again in spring 1995. In an attempt to damage Turkey's tourist industry, the PKK has bombed tourist sites and hotels and kidnapped foreign tourists.

Strength: Approximately 10,000 to 15,000. Has thousands of sympathizers in Turkey and Europe.

Location/Area of Operation: Operates in Turkey, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

External Aid: Has received safehaven and modest aid from Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The Syrian Government claims to have expelled the PKK from its territory in October 1998.

State Department: Patterns of Global Terrorism
Iraq as a State Sponsor of Terrorsm


Iraq's ability to carry out terrorism abroad has been curbed by UN sanctions. As events during 1996 clearly demonstrated, however, Saddam Hussein's regime continues to murder dissidents throughout Iraq and target foreign and local relief personnel in the northern part of the country.

Iraq has not managed to recover its pre­Gulf war international terrorist capabilities, but it is slowly rebuilding its intelligence network. Acts of political violence continued in northern Iraq, and intra-Kurdish fighting in August led to an increased number of operatives there under Baghdad's control. At the time of its military attack on Irbil, Iraq reportedly murdered more than 100 Iraqis associated with the dissident Iraqi National Congress (INC). Later, Baghdad renewed its threat to charge foreign relief personnel and other Iraqi staff with "espionage," a crime punishable by death.

Iraq continues to provide safehaven to a variety of Palestinian rejectionist groups, including the Abu Nidal organization (ANO), the Arab Liberation Front (ALF), and the former head of the now defunct 15 May Organization, Abu Ibrahim, who masterminded several bombings of US aircraft. The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a terrorist group that opposes the current Iranian regime, also is based in Iraq.

In mid-November a Jordanian diplomatic courier was murdered in Iraq on the road from Amman to Baghdad, and his diplomatic pouch stolen. The perpetrators of the act have yet to be identified. The diplomatic bag contained 250 new Jordanian passports, which could be used by terrorist operatives for travel under cover.

The terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) continues to attempt to use northern Iraq as a safehaven and base for attacks on Turkey.


During 1997, Baghdad continued to rebuild its intelligence network, which had been heavily damaged during the Gulf war and which it had previously used to support international terrorism. Press reports citing oppositionist and refugee sources stated that the regime has infiltrated the UN refugee camps and Iraqi communities in Europe and the Middle East. Iraqi oppositionists have claimed publicly that the regime intends to silence them and accused Baghdad of planning to assassinate Iraqi exiles. However, there is no available evidence to indicate that Iraq's agents participated directly in terrorist attacks during 1997. The last known such attack was against former President Bush in 1993.

In October, several gunmen attacked the World Health Organization headquarters in Baghdad with handgrenades, causing property damage but no casualties. The Iraqi Government blamed the attack on Iranian agents. Iran denied any involvement. A rocket attack 2 January 1998 on the headquarters of the United Nations (UNSCOM) inspectors in Baghdad did not cause damage because the rocket did not explode. No group claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Iraq continues to provide safehaven to a variety of Palestinian terrorist groups, including the ANO, the Arab Liberation Front (ALF), and the former head of the now defunct 15 May Organization, Abu Ibrahim, who masterminded several bombings of US aircraft. Iraq also provides bases, weapons, and protection to the MEK, a terrorist group that opposes the current Iranian regime.

In 1998, Baghdad continued efforts to rebuild its intelligence network, which it previously had used to support international terrorism. Press reports indicated that Iraqi intelligence agents may have been planning an attack against Radio Free Europe in Prague in October 1998. Other press reports citing "reliable diplomatic sources" in Amman claimed that Iraq had sent abroad for terrorist purposes intelligence agents who pretended to be refugees and businessmen. Iraqi oppositionists have claimed publicly that the regime intends to silence them and have accused Baghdad of planning to assassinate Iraqi exiles. There are various claims that the Iraqi intelligence service was responsible for the killings of some nine persons in Amman, but we cannot corroborate the charges.

In January 1998 an Iraqi diplomat was fired on in Amman, Jordan. Jordanian authorities arrested five persons who subsequently confessed responsibility. In a separate incident, eight persons--including an Iraqi diplomat--were murdered in the home of an Iraqi businessman. Jordanian authorities in April arrested several persons for this crime.

In southern Iraq, Ayatollah Morteza Borujerdi--a senior Shia cleric--was killed on 22 April. Oppositionists claimed the Iraqi Government assassinated Borujerdi because he refused to cease leading prayers. A second high-ranking Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali Gharavi, was killed on 18 June. The oppositionist Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq accused Baghdad of responsibility. Both men were respected Shia clerics of Iranian origin and their murders remain unsolved.

Iraq continues to provide safehaven to a variety of Palestinian rejectionist groups, including the Abu Nidal organization, the Arab Liberation Front (ALF), and the former head of the now-defunct 15 May Organization, Abu Ibrahim, who masterminded several bombings of US aircraft. In December press reports indicated that Abu Nidal had relocated to Iraq and may be receiving medical treatment. Abu Nidal's move to Baghdad--if true--would increase the prospect that Saddam may call on the ANO to conduct anti-US attacks. Iraq also provides bases, weapons, and protection to the MEK, a terrorist group that opposes the current Iranian regime.


Iraq continued to plan and sponsor international terrorism in 1999. Although Baghdad focused primarily on the antiregime opposition both at home and abroad, it continued to provide safehaven and support to various terrorist groups.

Press reports stated that, according to a defecting Iraqi intelligence agent, the Iraqi intelligence service had planned to bomb the offices of Radio Free Europe in Prague. Radio Free Europe offices include Radio Liberty, which began broadcasting news and information to Iraq in October 1998. The plot was foiled when it became public in early 1999.

The Iraqi opposition publicly stated its fears that the Baghdad regime was planning to assassinate those opposed to Saddam Hussein. A spokesman for the Iraqi National Accord in November said that the movement's security organs had obtained information about a plan to assassinate its secretary general, Dr. Iyad 'Allawi, and a member of the movement's political bureau, as well as another Iraqi opposition leader.

Iraq continued to provide safehaven to a variety of Palestinian rejectionist groups, including the Abu Nidal organization, the Arab Liberation Front (ALF), and the former head of the now-defunct 15 May Organization, Abu Ibrahim, who masterminded several bombings of U.S. aircraft.

Iraq provided bases, weapons, and protection to the MEK, an Iranian terrorist group that opposes the current Iranian regime. In 1999, MEK cadre based in Iraq assassinated or attempted to assassinate several high-ranking Iranian Government officials, including Brigadier General Ali Sayyad Shirazi, Deputy Chief of Iran's Joint Staff, who was killed in Tehran on 10 April.


Iraq planned and sponsored international terrorism in 2000. Although Baghdad focused on antidissident activity overseas, the regime continued to support various terrorist groups. The regime has not attempted an anti-Western terrorist attack since its failed plot to assassinate former President Bush in 1993 in Kuwait.

Czech police continued to provide protection to the Prague office of the US Government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), which produces Radio Free Iraq programs and employs expatriate journalists. The police presence was augmented in 1999, following reports that the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) might retaliate against RFE/RL for broadcasts critical of the Iraqi regime.

To intimidate or silence Iraqi opponents of the regime living overseas, the IIS reportedly opened several new stations in foreign capitals during 2000. Various opposition groups joined in warning Iraqi dissidents abroad against newly established "expatriates' associations," which, they asserted, are IIS front organizations. Opposition leaders in London contended that the IIS had dispatched women agents to infiltrate their ranks and was targeting dissidents for assassination. In Germany, an Iraqi opposition figure denounced the IIS for murdering his son, who had recently left Iraq to join him abroad. Dr. Ayad `Allawi, Secretary General of the Iraqi National Accord, an opposition group, stated that relatives of dissidents living abroad are often arrested and jailed to intimidate activists overseas.

In northern Iraq, Iraqi agents reportedly killed a locally well-known religious personality who declined to echo the regime line. The regional security director in As Sulaymaniyah stated that Iraqi operatives were responsible for the car-bomb explosion that injured a score of passersby. Officials of the Iraqi Communist Party asserted that an attack on a provincial party headquarters had been thwarted when party security officers shot and wounded a terrorist employed by the IIS.

Baghdad continued to denounce and delegitimize UN personnel working in Iraq, particularly UN de-mining teams, in the wake of the killing in 1999 of an expatriate UN de-mining worker in northern Iraq under circumstances suggesting regime involvement. An Iraqi who opened fire at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) office in Baghdad, killing two persons and wounding six, was permitted to hold a heavily publicized press conference at which he contended that his action had been motivated by the harshness of UN sanctions, which the regime regularly excoriates.

The Iraqi regime rebuffed a request from Riyadh for the extradition of two Saudis who had hijacked a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight to Baghdad, but did return promptly the passengers and the aircraft. Disregarding its obligations under international law, the regime granted political asylum to the hijackers and gave them ample opportunity to ventilate in the Iraqi Government-controlled and international media their criticisms of alleged abuses by the Saudi Arabian Government, echoing an Iraqi propaganda theme.

While the origins of the FAO attack and the hijacking were unclear, the Iraqi regime readily exploited these terrorist acts to further its policy objectives.

Several expatriate terrorist groups continued to maintain offices in Baghdad, including the Arab Liberation Front, the inactive 15 May Organization, the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), and the Abu Nidal organization (ANO). PLF leader Abu `Abbas appeared on state-controlled television in the fall to praise Iraq's leadership in rallying Arab opposition to Israeli violence against Palestinians. The ANO threatened to attack Austrian interests unless several million dollars in a frozen ANO account in a Vienna bank were turned over to the group.

The Iraq-supported Iranian terrorist group, Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), regularly claimed responsibility for armed incursions into Iran that targeted police and military outposts, as well as for mortar and bomb attacks on security organization headquarters in various Iranian cities. MEK publicists reported that in March group members killed an Iranian colonel having intelligence responsibilities. An MEK claim to have wounded a general was denied by the Iranian Government. The Iraqi regime deployed MEK forces against its domestic opponents.

IRAQ: Iraqi Ties to Terrorism
April 29, 2003
Council on Foreign Relations

Has Iraq sponsored terrorism?

Yes. Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein provided bases, training camps, and other support to terrorist groups fighting the governments of neighboring Turkey and Iran, as well as to Palestinian terror groups. The Bush administration said it believed Saddam could pass weapons of mass destruction to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network or other terrorists. In the first few weeks after Saddam's fall from power, though, convincing proof of an Iraq-al-Qaeda link remained lacking.

Was Iraq the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism?

No, according to the State Department, which gives that title to neighboring Iran. The State Department has listed Iraq as one of seven states that sponsor terrorism, but experts say Iran, Syria, and, at least in the past, Pakistan, all surpassed Iraq in support for terrorists.

What types of terrorist groups did Iraq support?

Primarily groups that could hurt Saddam's regional foes. Iraq has helped the Iranian dissident group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a separatist organization fighting the Turkish government, and several far-left Palestinian splinter groups that oppose peace with Israel. Iraq also hosted the mercenary Abu Nidal Organization, whose leader was found dead in Baghdad in August 2002. Saddam was a secular dictator, and his regime generally tended to support secular terrorist groups rather than Islamists such as al-Qaeda, experts say. But Iraq also supported some Islamist Palestinian groups opposed to Israel, and before the 2003 war, the CIA cited Iraq's increased support for such organizations as reason to believe that Baghdad's links to terror could continue to increase.

What kind of support has Iraq given terrorists?

Safe haven, training, and financial support. In violation of international law, Iraq has also sheltered specific terrorists wanted by other countries, reportedly including:

* Abu Nidal, who, until he was found dead in Baghdad in August 2002, led an organization responsible for attacks that killed some 300 people.
* Palestine Liberation Front leader Abu Abbas, who was responsible for the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Laurocruise ship in the Mediterranean. Abbas was captured by U.S. forces April 15.
* Two Saudis who hijacked a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight to Baghdad in 2000.
* Abdul Rahman Yasin, who is on the FBI's "most wanted terrorists" list for his alleged role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Iraq has also provided financial support for Palestinian terror groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Palestine Liberation Front, and the Arab Liberation Front, and it channeled money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. In April 2002, Iraq increased the amount of such payments from $10,000 to $25,000. Experts say that by promoting Israeli-Palestinian violence, Saddam may have hoped to make it harder for the United States to win Arab support for a campaign against Iraq.

Was Iraq involved in the 9/11 attacks?

There is no concrete evidence linking Iraq to the attacks, and although Iraq never expressed sympathy for the United States after the attacks, it denied any involvement. In late 2001, Czech intelligence officials reported that the 9/11 ringleader, Muhammad Atta, had met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague in April 2001, but many American and Czech officials have since disavowed the report and say they have no evidence that such a meeting occurred.

Did Iraq cooperate with al-Qaeda?

This is a subject of heated debate. U.S. intelligence officials say they have reports of links, and President Bush has cited Iraqi ties to al-Qaeda as a reason for confronting Iraq. Still, many of the alleged connections remain tenuous, and because U.S. intelligence agencies must protect their sources and methods of intelligence gathering, few specifics have been offered publicly. Most intelligence on Iraq and al-Qaeda draws on sources of unknown reliability, including al-Qaeda detainees.

What ties have been alleged between Iraq and al-Qaeda?

In October 2002, CIA Director George Tenet announced that the CIA had received uncorroborated reports that:

* Senior-level contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda stretch back a decade.
* Iraq and al-Qaeda have discussed the provision of safe havens and reciprocal nonaggression.
* Iraq has provided training to al-Qaeda members in chemical weapons and conventional explosives.
* Al-Qaeda leaders have tried to cultivate contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire weapons of mass destruction.
* Some al-Qaeda members who fled Afghanistan took refuge in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq.

In October 2002, President Bush said that among those who found refuge in Iraq was a "very senior al-Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks"--apparently a reference to a Jordanian operational commander named Abu Musab Zarqawi, who subsequently left Iraq. A second alleged al-Qaeda operative, the Iraqi national Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, was also thought to have returned to Baghdad after fleeing Afghanistan.

Other charges center on possible ties between al-Qaeda operatives and Ansar al-Islam, a Kurdish extremist group that Saddam used as a proxy to combat his Kurdish foes. Some al-Qaeda members who fled Afghanistan were reportedly helping--and receiving shelter--from the group, which operated in a remote corner of northern Iraq's no-fly zone before being routed by U.S. forces. It remains unclear whether mutual ties to Ansar indicate any sort of active cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

Why would Iraq help al-Qaeda?

It's hard to say. Al-Qaeda and Saddam would seem to have incompatible goals. Al-Qaeda is committed to overthrowing secular Muslim rulers like Saddam; for his part, Saddam historically regarded Islamists as a threat to his leftist Baath Party regime and was wary of groups he couldn't easily control.

Still, Saddam demonstrated signs of selectively cooperating with Islamists— or at least co-opting them. In the 1970s and 1980s, he backed the fundamentalist Syrian Muslim Brotherhood; he also on various occasions adopted Islamist rhetoric; and he supported Palestinian Islamist terror groups. And whatever their differences, Saddam and bin Laden shared a deep hatred of the United States.

Has Iraq used terrorism against the United States in the past?

It has tried. During the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq trained several hundred operatives for planned terrorist attacks on U.S. targets, including bombings of American facilities in Southeast Asia. But these efforts weren't particularly successful: although Iraqi operatives pulled off small-scale shootings and grenade attacks in the Middle East, they bungled efforts to use explosives. Outside intelligence and law enforcement agencies thwarted more significant plots, including a 1993 attempt to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush during a visit to Kuwait.

Would Iraq have given weapons of mass destruction to terrorists?

Experts disagree. The Bush administration played up this possibility, but some experts doubt that Saddam would have been so reckless, as his goal was to avoid a U.S. invasion. In October 2002, CIA Director Tenet said that the CIA thought Saddam was unlikely to conduct terrorist attacks against the United States— unless a U.S.-led attack appeared imminent. In that case, Saddam might "decide that the extreme step of assisting Islamist terrorists in conducting a [weapons of mass destruction] attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him." Such an attack failed to materialize.


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