and analysts in the U.S. government have concluded that Iraq
acted as a state sponsor of terrorism against Americans and
logistically supported the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the
United States – confirming news reports that until now have
emerged only in bits and pieces.
A senior government official responsible for
investigating terrorism tells Insight that while Saddam
Hussein may not have had details of the Sept. 11 attacks in
advance, he "gave assistance for whatever al-Qaida came up
with." That assistance, confirmed independently, came in a
variety of ways, including financial support spun out
through a complex web of financial institutions in
Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy and elsewhere. Long
suspected of having terrorist ties to al-Qaida, they now
have been linked to Iraq as well.
The official says the U.S. uncovered the key
"money-laundering operation" in the months following Sept.
11, 2001, when authorities raided the homes and offices of
two Arab bankers, Youssef M. Nada and Ali Himat, principals
at Nada Management (formerly al-Taqwa Management).
Himat, Nada and the names of both companies are all
listed on the U.S. Treasury Department's roll of "Specially
Designated Global Terrorists."
The lawyer for the two Arab financiers, Pier Felice
Barchi, has confirmed to the Swiss press that his clients
will be questioned again in coming days. He added that they
"have nothing to fear and nothing to hide," although he
confirms that authorities seized thousands of pages of
Insight's source, who has seen many of those documents,
confirms that they detail financial relationships between
al-Taqwa and Iraq. The official says the records show al-Taqwa
was formed by Nada, Himat, Ahmed Huber and Mohamed Mansour.
Documents obtained by Insight say that al-Taqwa was
created in the late 1980s by trusted members of a secretive
Islamic extremist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, which is
"dedicated to the overthrow of Western nations and the
creation of a worldwide Islamic government."
The Simon Wiesenthal Center reports that Huber is a
74-year-old neo-Nazi who converted to Islam in the 1960s.
The Chronicle of Foreign Service, published in Bern,
Switzerland, says Huber has praised Adolf Hitler and the
Ayatollah Khomeini and has been quoted as saying: "We will
bring down the Israel lobby and change foreign policy. We'll
do it in America. When it happens you'll understand." Huber
also has been quoted as saying, "Muslims and Nazis were
involved in the same fight."
According to the senior government official, Nada
Management is part of the al-Taqwa group. In November 2001,
President George W. Bush officially cited al-Taqwa as part
of al-Qaida's money-laundering activities. The citation
included the following: "Al-Taqwa is an association of
offshore banks and financial-management firms that have
helped al-Qaida shift money around the world."
It is in al-Taqwa and Nada Management that the government
investigator says he found the links to Saddam and Iraq.
"Al-Taqwa was the recipient of illicit funds from Iraq's
'Oil for Food' program," the official tells Insight, and
from there the financial resources went "through al-Taqwa to
al-Qaida." But in the Chronicle story Huber is quoted as
denying that Nada Management (al-Taqwa) underwrites al-Qaida.
Records show that Youssef M. Nada is, with Huber, a board
member of Nada Management. An Egyptian expatriate, Nada is
said by the government investigator to be central to the
Iraq/al-Qaida connection and "a known associate of Saddam
Hussein and Ayman al-Zawahiri," al-Qaida's second in
The government investigator tells Insight that Nada met
with Saddam and had a "business" relationship with the
former Iraqi dictator. Nada's relationship with al-Zawahiri,
Osama bin Laden's deputy, is reportedly through the Egyptian
Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization founded by al-Zawahiri,
according to the government investigator.
The senior government official tells Insight that
Mohammed Atta, long thought by U.S. authorities to have been
the ringleader of the Sept. 11 hijackings, had frequent
meetings with members of the Syrian branch of the Muslim
Brotherhood, a terrorist organization to which the senior
official says "Saddam provided assistance for years back,
and right up until the end of his regime."
"All al-Qaida members active in Germany and Spain are
members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood," says the
official, and therefore sponsored by Saddam.
Critics of the Bush administration have raised questions
about the president's case for the war in Iraq, citing
concern about an alleged lack of evidence linking Iraq to
the Sept. 11 attacks and other terrorism. Indeed, for
reasons of its own, the administration appears to have
avoided making its case that way, though it has acknowledged
a great deal piecemeal. This includes the capture of a
training base for foreign nationals at Salmon Pak, near
Baghdad, that included the fuselage of a jumbo jet believed
by investigators to be part of training for hijackers.
"There are many things we know about the history of
Saddam Hussein's regime and his ties to terrorism, including
al-Qaida, and we have outlined all that previously," an
irritated White House spokesman Scott McClellan said
recently in response to provocative questions from a
Bush appears to have left the issue open to
interpretation by saying that Iraq has links to al-Qaida but
has stopped short of connecting Baghdad to the Sept. 11
attacks. Typically, without hammering home the point with
details, he again said in his Sept. 23 address at the United
Nations, "The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to
terror while it built weapons of mass destruction."
Insiders say the failure to assign responsibility for the
Sept. 11 attacks to Iraq, Afghanistan or any other
nation-state is intentional. "The administration does not
want the victims of Sept. 11 interfering with its foreign
policy," says Peter M. Leitner, director of the Washington
Center for Peace and Justice, or WCPJ. The WCPJ is
coordinating a lawsuit on behalf of the family of John
Patrick O'Neill Sr., a former top FBI counterterrorism
official who had become director of security for the Port
Authority of New York and New Jersey shortly before Sept.
11, 2001. O'Neill was killed in the World Trade Center as a
result of the attacks.
Leitner tells Insight, "This administration has been
absolutely heroic in the war on terror and has done more
than any other administration to fight terrorism, but they
have been deliberately ambiguous" about Iraq's involvement
in the Sept. 11 attacks. "The civil suits are a way of
transferring power to the American people, to seek justice
and to fight terrorism by depriving them of financial
resources," Leitner says.
The O'Neill lawsuit seeks more than $1 billion in damages
from the Republic of Iraq and a host of other defendants
ranging from the known members of al-Qaida to those the
lawsuit names as coconspirators in money laundering and as
providers of support for terrorist operations, including the
shadowy al-Taqwa group and Nada Management.
Leitner says the Bush administration may be concerned
that if other victims of the Sept. 11 attacks also filed
lawsuits and won civil-damage awards it would reduce Iraqi
resources that the administration wants to use to rebuild
the country. Leitner and others say this explains Bush's
reticence at this time to report the convincing evidence
linking Saddam and al-Qaida that has been collected by U.S.
investigators and private organizations seeking damages.
"The [Bush] administration is intentionally changing the
topic," claims Leitner, and sidestepping the issue that
"Iraq has been in a proxy war against the U.S. for years and
has used al-Qaida in that war against the United States."
The lawsuit against Iraq points to numerous organizations
and financial institutions the plaintiffs say were "fronts"
for Islamic terrorism activities and claims financial
linkages to Iraq, Iraqi intelligence and Saddam. The
lawsuit, which was filed in August, states: "Following its
defeat in the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq's approach to dealing with
the United States was to resort to terrorism. To achieve its
goals, Iraq associated with various terrorist groups."
Also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit is the Arab TV
network Al-Jazeera. "Defendant Mohammed Jaseem al-Ali and
two other employees of Al-Jazeera are identified in
documents captured in the April 2003 U.S. military action in
Iraq as having received substantial funding from the Iraqi
regime in exchange for acting as liaisons between Iraq and
al-Qaida. One document reveals that Al-Jazeera passed
letters from Osama bin Laden to Saddam Hussein," the
According to the Barcelona-based La Vanaguardia, the FBI
is holding Tayssir Alouni, an Al-Jazeera reporter suspected
of being an al-Qaida operative. The reports say he has been
jailed in Spain based on the belief of the FBI and Spanish
police that he was "in charge of al-Qaida propaganda for
Europe and the United States." A spokesman for Al-Jazeera,
Jihad Ballout, tells Insight he cannot comment because it is
part of an ongoing legal matter.
Leitner says he sees the actions he is bringing in the
civil courts as weapons with which to fight terrorism and
"to pursue the terrorists as vigorously as John O'Neill
pursued them when he was alive."