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Profile: Omar al-Faruq
Omar al-Faruq was a participant or observer in the following events:
MILF forces on parade in Camp Abubakar, February 1999. [Source: Romeo Gacad / AFP / Getty Images]The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a large Philippine militant group, sets up a major training camp with al-Qaeda help. According to Philippine investigators, a sprawling complex and set of camps known as Camp Abubakar is built this year in a remote part of the southern island of Mindanao. One camp within the complex called Camp Palestine trains Arabs exclusively. Another is Camp Hodeibia, and is used by Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaeda-linked group based in Indonesia. [Ressa, 2003] Al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida is said to send al-Qaeda operative Omar al-Faruq with one other al-Qaeda camp instructor to help recruit and train in these camps. Al-Faruq will remain the head of al-Qaeda’s operations in Southeast Asia until his capture in 2002 (see June 5, 2002). [Time, 9/15/2002; CNN, 10/28/2002] Philipppine officials will claim that over the next few years Camp Abubakar continues to grow and over twenty other MILF camps are used and supported by al-Qaeda operatives (see February 1999). The Philippine military will raze Camp Abubakar during a brief offensive against the MILF in 2000, but the camp will be quickly rebuilt and still be used to train foreign militants. [Ressa, 2003] The Philippine government has had a series of negotiations, cease fires, and peace treaties with the MILF. The MILF has generally denied ties to al-Qaeda, but in 1999 the head of the MILF will say his group had received non-military aid from bin Laden (see February 1999). In 2003, President Bush will pledge $30 million to MILF regions of the Philippines to promote a new peace treaty with the group. [Asia Times, 10/30/2003]
Video footage of al alleged al-Qaeda training camp in Sulawesi, Indonesia. [Source: CNN]Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s second in command, and Mohammed Atef, al-Qaeda’s military chief, visit the Indonesian province of Aceh to examine expanding al-Qaeda operations there. They are guided by al-Qaeda operatives Agus Dwikarna and Omar al-Faruq. Dwikarna is working as a regional head of the Indonesia branch of the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, a charity directly tied to the Saudi government. US officials already strongly suspected Al Haramain helped fund the 1998 African embassy bombings (see Autumn 1997), though none of their offices were shut down. Dwikarna uses Al Haramain to funnel al-Qaeda money into Southeast Asia and give al-Qaeda operatives cover as charity workers; he also runs an al-Qaeda training camp on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Dwikarna will be arrested in 2001 and al-Faruq in 2002. Both will confess to using Al Haramain to fund al-Qaeda operations. Despite this, Al Haramain’s Indonesia’s office not only stays open, but in 2002 it signs an agreement with the Indonesian government to expand operations while it continues to divert charity money to militant operations. The United Nations will finally blacklist Al Haramain offices worldwide in 2004 (see March 2002-September 2004). [CNN, 8/30/2002; Ressa, 2003, pp. 95-96; Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 41, 202] At the time, an Indonesian government mole named Fauzi Hasbi has deeply penetrated Jemaah Islamiyah, al-Qaeda’s main Southeast Asian affiliate (see 1979-February 22, 2003). Hasbi does not meet with al-Zawahiri and Atef during their visit, but he does speak to al-Zawahiri on the telephone. Hasbi also met with al-Faruq in December 1999. It is unknown if Hasbi knew enough to potentially lead to a capture of the two al-Qaeda leaders. [International Crisis Group, 12/11/2002]
A map of Indonesia, with the Maluku islands highlighted. [Source: BBC]Omar al-Faruq, a Kuwaiti, is considered one of al-Qaeda’s top operatives in Southeast Asia due to links he developed while living in the Philippines in the early 1990s (see 1994). His handler is a Saudi named Syeh Hussein, a.k.a. Rashid. Hussein is said to have access to Osama bin Laden. He also has access to money, and is posing as a representative of the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, a Saudi government charity. Sheikh Bandar, alias Abu Abdallah, is the head of the Al Haramain branch in Saudi Arabia (but not the head of Al Haramain’s headquarters, also in Saudi Arabia). He has an Indonesian wife and frequently travels to Indonesia, and gives large amounts of cash to al-Faruq or Hussein during his trips to bankroll their militant activities. By the second half of 2000, there is a religious war raging in the Maluku islands (also known as the Spice Islands), as thousands of Muslim militants from the island of Java had traveled there and have joined local Muslims in fighting Christians (see January 1999-July 2001). Most militants belong to the paramilitary group Laskar Jihad. Additionally, the al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah has already set up its own safe house and weapons storeroom in Ambon, the capital city of the Maluku province, and coordinates the arrival of its own smaller group of volunteers from Java, who are known as Laskar Mujahidin. Hussein and al-Faruq concentrate their efforts on assisting these groups. They set up the “Special Program,” which is free paramilitary and religious training for local Muslim fighters in the Malukus. They build a training camp, including a wooden schoolhouse, near Ambon. From late 2000 until mid-2001, a rotating group of about 20 foreigners, mostly Arabs, help train locals to fight Christians. Hussein and al-Faruq also help provision militants coming to the Malukus from Java, Sulawesi, and Malaysia. They open safe houses in Ambon and south Sulawesi, fund training camps for Jemaah Islamiyah on the nearby islands of Seram and Buru, buy weapons, and buy a gunrunning boat. This effort is sucessful for a time, but it is increasingly plagued by infighting, especially conflicts between recruits from Java and Sulawesi. In mid-2001, the Sulawesi recruits withdraw from the Malukus. Al-Faruq and Hussein reduce their efforts in the Malukus after that, and focus more of their efforts fomenting religious violence on the island of Sulawesi (see December 2001). [Conboy, 2003, pp. 236-240]
Agus Dwikarna. [Source: Christian Science Monitor]In October 2000, Agus Dwikarna, an Indonesian militant linked to al-Qaeda, helps establish the paramilitary organization Laskar Jundullah. It is modeled after Laskar Jihad, another paramilitary organization formed earlier (see January 1999-July 2001), except Laskar Jihad draws its recruits from the Indonesian island of Java whereas Laskar Jundullah draws its recruits from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Laskar Jundullah gathers about 2,000 recruits to central Sulawesi. Mostly using bats and machetes, they support local Muslims in violent conflicts with Christians near the town of Poso, which have been occurring off and on since 1998, with heavy casualties on both sides. [Human Rights Watch, 12/2002; Conboy, 2003, pp. 223-224] In the second half of 2001, some al-Qaeda linked figures begin helping Dwikarna and Laskar Jundullah:
Omar al-Faruq, a Kuwaiti, who is said to be a key go-between for al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah. Al-Faruq and Dwikarna hosted al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri when he visited Indonesia in 2000 (see June 2000).
Syeh Hussein, a.k.a. Rashid, a Saudi. He is al-Faruq’s handler and is said to have access to Osama bin Laden. He is posing as a representative of the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation. Dwikarna is also posing as an Al Haramain employee (see June 2000). [Conboy, 2003, pp. 223-224]
Reda Seyam, a.k.a. Abu Daud, an Egyptian. He had fought with al-Qaeda in Bosnia in the early 1990s and also has links to key al-Qaeda figures, including having met directly with bin Laden. He had worked for the Twaik Group, said to be a front for the Saudi intelligence agency, and is in Indonesia working for Rawasin Media Productions, which is also said to be a Saudi intelligence front (see 1995-1998). [Conboy, 2003, pp. 223-224; Chicago Tribune, 3/31/2004]
On December 1, 2001, al-Faruq, Hussein, and Seyam meet with fifty Laskar Jundullah recruits near the town of Poso, in central Sulawesi. They present the recruits with weapons, including high quality M-16s and Uzis (which are very unavailable in Indonesia except from military or overseas sources). Near midnight, the group goes to Sepe, a small Christian village near Poso. They attack the village, burning about two hundred houses and killing an unknown number of people. The attack is filmed using night vision equipment. [Conboy, 2003, pp. 223-224] There are allegations that some Indonesian military units take part in the attack. Since 90% of Indonesia’s population is Muslim, most Indonesian soldiers are Muslim as well. Human Rights Watch will later comment, “there is evidence that [Indonesian] soldiers did engage the attackers in a fight [at Sepe], as three soldiers from Infantry Battalion 711 from Palu were reported in critical condition.” Around this time, Laskar Jundullah forces attack about seven other Christian villages in the region. There are reports the Indonesian military sometimes joins these attacks and at other times fails to help the attacked villages. These attacks are little noticed outside of Indonesia, and the involvement of al-Qaeda-linked figures will not be publicly revealed until later. But there is pressure within Indonesia for the government to do something. More military units are bought in several days after the Sepe attack, and they largely quell the violence. [Human Rights Watch, 12/2002] Around December 4, six suspicious foreign men, believed to be Islamist militants, are detained in the area and then let go. [BBC, 12/4/2001] Later that month, Laskar Jundullah is implicated in a bombing of a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in the city of Ujung Pandang, in southern Sulawesi. The group plans further attacks, but it is divided by internal squabbles. Dwikarna, who was not present in the Sepe attack, is upset at the others for recklessly filming themselves in the attack and then planning to use the footage for propaganda purposes. Seyam will be arrested in Indonesia late 2002 and footage of the Sepe attack apparently will be found with him. Dwikarna will be arrested in 2002 as well. His group, and the violence in Sulawesi, will generally come to an end that same year. [Human Rights Watch, 12/2002; Conboy, 2003, pp. 223-224]
In May 2002, the CIA began using new torture techniques on captured al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see Mid-May 2002 and After), and by June senior CIA officials prepare a preliminary report to determine whether Zubaida’s confessions are accurate or not. According to author Gerald Posner, they “found nothing that could definitively prove Zubaida a liar. And they had uncovered some minor corroborating evidence about the times and places of the meetings he had mentioned, which meant he could be telling the truth.” [Posner, 2003, pp. 192] Vanity Fair will later comment that the “CIA would go on to claim credit for breaking Zubaida, and celebrate [James] Mitchell”—the psychologist who devised the torture techniques used on Zubaida by the CIA (see Late 2001-Mid-March 2002, January 2002 and After, and Mid-April 2002)—“as a psychological wizard who held the key to getting hardened terrorists to talk. Word soon spread that Mitchell and [his business partner Bruce] Jessen had been awarded a medal by the CIA for their advanced interrogation techniques. While the claim is impossible to confirm, what matters is that others believed it. The reputed success of the tactics was ‘absolutely in the ether,’ says one Pentagon civilian who worked on detainee policy.” [Vanity Fair, 7/17/2007]
Much Intelligence Comes from His Possessions and FBI Interrogations - However, the reliability of Zubaida’s confessions remains controversial years later, and several factors complicate accessing their impact. For one, it appears that some of his most important confessions took place a month earlier when the FBI was interrogating him using rapport building instead of torture (see Late March through Early June, 2002). What the New York Times calls his two most notable confessions—that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the 9/11 mastermind and giving up the name of Jose Padilla, a militant living in the US—appear to come from this earlier period, although some accounts conflict. [New York Times, 6/27/2004; Suskind, 2006, pp. 116-117; New York Times, 9/10/2006; Vanity Fair, 7/17/2007] Furthermore, it is often not clear what was obtained from Zubaida’s confessions and what was obtained from his possessions. Journalist Ron Suskind will later write: “The phone numbers, computers, CDs, and e-mail address seized at Zubaida’s apartment now—a month after his capture—began to show a yield.… These higher-quality inputs were entered into big Cray supercomputers at NSA; many then formed the roots of a surveillance tree—truck to branches to limbs and buds.” [Suskind, 2006, pp. 116-117] So while it is said that information from Zubaida helped lead to the capture of al-Qaeda figures such as Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Omar al-Faruq, and Ahmed Muhammad al-Darbi, it is unclear where this information came from exactly. [Washington Post, 6/27/2004] Additionally, it is not even clear if he provided such leads. For instance, it has been reported that the main break that led to bin al-Shibh’s capture had nothing to do with Zubaida (see June 14, 2002 and Shortly After). [Salon, 9/7/2006]
Zubaida Describes Vague and Unverifiable Plots - By most accounts, Zubaida’s confessions under torture around this time are frustratingly vague. He describes many planned attacks, such as al-Qaeda attacks on US shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and more. Red alerts are sounded and thousands of law enforcement personnel are activated each time, but the warnings are too vague to lead to any arrests. Suskind will later comment that Zubaida’s information was “maybe nonsense, maybe not. There was almost no way to tell.” [Suskind, 2006, pp. 115-116, 121] But Suskind will later say more definitively: “[Zubaida] said, as people will, anything to make the pain stop. And we essentially followed every word and various uniformed public servants of the United States went running all over the country to various places that Zubaydah said were targets, and were not. Ultimately, we tortured an insane man and ran screaming at every word he uttered.” [Salon, 9/7/2006] Posner claims that Zubaida provided “false information intended to misdirect his captors.” For instance, “He caused the New York police to deploy massive manpower to guard the Brooklyn Bridge at the end of May , after he told his interrogators that al-Qaeda had a plan to destroy ‘the bridge in the Godzilla movie.’” [Posner, 2003, pp. 191]
Link between Iraq, al-Qaeda - Perhaps the most important claims Zubaida makes, at least from the viewpoint of Bush administration officials, are his allegations of an operational relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda. Some of Zubaida’s claims will later be leaked by administration officials, particularly his assertion that Osama bin Laden’s ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was working directly with Saddam Hussein to destabilize the autonomous Kurdish regime in northern Iraq (see December 2001-Mid-2002, October 2, 2002, and January 28, 2003). A former Pentagon analyst will later say: “I first saw the reports soon after Abu Zubaida’s capture. There was a lot of stuff about the nuts and bolts of al-Qaeda’s supposed relationship with the Iraqi Intelligence Service. The intelligence community was lapping this up, and so was the administration, obviously. Abu Zubaida was saying Iraq and al-Qaeda had an operational relationship. It was everything the administration hoped it would be.” Another Pentagon analyst will recall: “As soon as I learned that the reports had come from torture, once my anger had subsided I understood the damage it had done. I was so angry, knowing that the higher-ups in the administration knew he was tortured, and that the information he was giving up was tainted by the torture, and that it became one reason to attack Iraq.” [Vanity Fair, 12/16/2008]
Zubaida Appears to Be Feeding Interrogators' Expectations - Dan Coleman, the FBI’s top al-Qaeda expert at the time who was able to analyze all the evidence from Zubaida, will later claim that the CIA “got nothing useful from the guy.” [Congressional Quarterly, 12/14/2007] Coleman will say: “The CIA wants everything in five minutes. It’s not possible, and it’s not productive. What you get in that circumstance are captives and captors playing to each other’s expectations, playing roles, essentially, that gives you a lot of garbage information and nothing you can use.” [Suskind, 2006, pp. 114] Given his low position in the jihadist hierachy, Coleman will add, Zubaida “would not have known that if it was true. But you can lead people down a course and make them say anything.” [Vanity Fair, 12/16/2008] Counterterrorism “tsar” General Wayne Downing is apparently intimately involved in Zubaida’s interrogation and will later recall: “[Zubaida] and some of the others are very clever guys. At times I felt we were in a classic counter-interrogation class: They were telling us what they think we already knew. Then, what they thought we wanted to know. As they did that, they fabricated and weaved in threads that went nowhere. But, even with these ploys, we still get valuable information and they are off the street, unable to plot and coordinate future attacks.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002] In legal papers to prepare for a military tribunal hearing in 2007, Zubaida himself will assert that he told his interrogators whatever they wanted to hear to make the torture stop. [Washington Post, 12/18/2007]
Entity Tags: Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Central Intelligence Agency, Abu Zubaida, Bruce Jessen, Ahmed Muhammad al-Darbi, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Dan Coleman, Jose Padilla, Wayne Downing, Omar al-Faruq, James Elmer Mitchell, Ramzi bin al-Shibh
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline
Omar al-Faruq. [Source: Getty Images]On June 5, 2002, Omar al-Faruq, a top al-Qaeda senior operative in Southeast Asia, is captured in the town of Bogor, Indonesia, by Indonesian agents after receiving a tip from the CIA. Curiously, later in the year, A.C. Manulang, the recently retired head of the Indonesian intelligence agency, will suggest that al-Faruq was actually a CIA mole assigned to infiltrate Islamic radical groups. Manulang will claim that the bombings that took place in Indonesia were actually the work of anti-Islamic intelligence agencies. [Tempo, 9/19/2002] In any case, al-Faruq is flown to the CIA interrogation center at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan where is subjected to months of intense interrogations. “It is likely, experts say, that… al-Faruq [was] left naked most of the time, his hands and feet bound. [He] may also have been hooked up to sensors, then asked questions to which interrogators knew the answers, so they could gauge his truthfulness,” the New York Times will later report. One Western intelligence official will tell the newspaper that al-Faruq’s interrogation was “not quite torture, but about as close as you can get.” For three months he is provided with very little food, subjected to sleep and light deprivation, prolonged isolation and temperatures ranging from 100 degrees to 10 degrees. On September 9, 2002, he reportedly breaks down and begins freely confessing all he knows (see September-October 2002). He provides information about “plans to drive explosives-laden trucks into American diplomatic centers [and] detailed information about people involved in those operations and other plots, writing out lengthy descriptions.” [New York Times, 3/9/2003]
Al Haramain logo. [Source: Reuters / Corbis]In June 2002, al-Qaeda operative Omar al-Faruq was captured by the US and interrogated with techniques described as close to torture (see June 5, 2002). On September 9, 2002, he reportedly breaks down and immediately begins spilling secrets in great detail. He confesses that he is al-Qaeda’s senior representative in Southeast Asia. He says that al-Qaeda leaders Abu Zubaida and Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi had ordered him to “plan large-scale attacks against US interests in Indonesia, Malaysia, [the] Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Cambodia.” In particular, he had a plan to launch truck bomb attacks on US embassies in Southeast Asia around the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The US issues a code orange alert, and the attacks never happen. He also says that much of the money for al-Qaeda’s operations in the region comes from the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, a charity closely linked to the Saudi government. Al-Faruq’s confessions are immediately leaked to Time magazine, which publishes a story about them on September 15. US investigators tell Time that Al Haramain is a “significant” source of funding for al-Qaeda linked groups in the region and they also say they are investigating possible links between al-Qaeda and top al-Haramain officials in Saudi Arabia. [Time, 9/15/2002] However, Al Haramain offices are not shut down in Southeast Asia or elsewhere. Early the next month, a car bomb and a backpack bomb hit two discotheques in Bali, Indonesia, killing over 200 people (see October 12, 2002). The London Times reports later in the month that $74,000 was sent to Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, al-Qaeda’s main affiliate in the region. The money was spent to buy the explosives for the bombing from the Indonesian military. Furthermore, Jemaah Islamiyah was mainly funded by money from Al Haramain. [London Times, 10/20/2002] However, Al Haramain still is not shut down. In late 2003, it is announced that the charity’s Indonesian branch is shutting down, but in fact it secretly changes locations and stays open. All Al Haramain branches worldwide will finally be shut down in 2004 (see March 2002-September 2004). [Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 38-41]
US officials hold a secret meeting with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and strongly urge her to allow the US to rendition Abu Bakar Bashir out of the country. Bashir is a radical Islamist imam alleged to be the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), al-Qaeda’s main Southeast Asian affiliate. US ambassador to Indonesia Ralph Boyce, National Security Council official Karen Brooks, and a CIA official meet with Megawati at her home in Jakarta. The interpreter is an American named Fred Burks, who will later reveal details of the meeting during an Indonesian trial. Burks claims the CIA official tells Megawati that Bashir was responsible for a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Indonesia in 2000 and asks to rendition him. Megawati had allowed the US to rendition two suspects earlier in the year, Omar al-Faruq and Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni (see June 5, 2002 and Early January-January 9, 2002).
But neither of them are Indonesian citizens, whereas Bashir is. Megawati rejects the request, saying Bashir is too popular to simply disappear without repercussions. (Megawati’s Vice President Hamzah Haz describes himself as “very close” to Bashir, and shortly after this meeting he says publicly, “If you want to arrest Abu Bakar Bashir, you will have to deal with me first” (see July 23, 2001-October 20, 2004).) Burks claims that Megawati says: “I can’t render somebody like him. People will find out.” Boyce will later claim that the US did press forcefully for Indonesia to arrest Bashir because the CIA had just learned from interrogating al-Faruq that Bashir was the head of a terrorist network that was about to attack Indonesia. However, he will deny the US wanted to rendition him. Boyce will later call the meeting the centerpiece of a month-long series of meetings with Indonesian officials in an attempt to prevent a terrorist attack in Indonesia. [BBC, 1/3/2005; Boston Globe, 3/2/2005] However, the Bali bombings take place one month later, killing over 200 (see October 12, 2002). In 2005, Bashir will be acquitted of charges that he was involved in any terrorist acts and set free after serving a year in prison on minor charges (see March 3, 2005).
Abu Bakar Bashir. [Source: US National Counterterrorism Center]Abu Bakar Bashir, allegedly the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, al-Qaeda’s main affiliate in Southeast Asia, is acquitted of most charges in a trial in Indonesia. Bashir, a well-known radical imam, had been accused of involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002) and 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing (see August 5, 2003). However, he is only convicted of one charge of criminal conspiracy, because the judges say he knew the bombers and his words may have encouraged them. Bashir is sentenced to 30 months in prison, but is released after serving only one year due to good behavior. In late 2006, the Indonesian supreme court will void his one conviction altogther. [New York Times, 3/4/2005; Associated Press, 12/26/2006] The New York Times will later report: “Legal observers here said the case against Mr. Bashir was weak. The strongest evidence linking him to the Bali terrorist attacks was never heard by the five-judge panel because of a decision by the Bush administration that the Indonesian government would not be allowed to interview two senior al-Qaeda operatives, Riudan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, and Omar al-Faruq.” The CIA has been holding Hambali and al-Faruq in secret prisons since 2003 and 2002 respectively (see August 12, 2003 and June 5, 2002). [New York Times, 6/14/2006] One Indonesian counterterrorism official says: “We need[ed] Hambali very much. We [fought] to get access to him, but we have failed.” An unnamed Australian official complains that the US was hypocritical in pressing Indonesia to prosecute Bashir and then doing nothing to help convict him. [New York Times, 3/4/2005] Al-Faruq allegedly told the CIA that Bashir had provided logistical and financial support for several terrorist attacks, but he was also interrogated by techniques considered close to torture. The US allowed Indonesian officials to directly interrogate al-Faruq in 2002, but then prohibited any later access to him (see June 5, 2002). And shortly after Hambali’s arrest in 2003, President Bush promised to allow Hambali to be tried in Indonesia, but then failed to even give Indonesians any access to him (see October 23, 2003).
The Bagram escapees, clockwise from top left: Muhammad Jafar Jamal al-Kahtani, Abdullah Hashimi, Omar al-Faruq, and Sheikh Abu Yahia al-Libi. [Source: Ahmad Masood / Reuters]Four al-Qaeda operatives escape the high-security US-controlled prison in Bagram, Afghanistan. The four men—Omar al-Faruq, Muhammad Jafar Jamal al-Kahtani, Abdullah Hashimi, and Sheikh Abu Yahia al-Libi (a.k.a. Mahmoud Ahmad Muhammad)—were all being held in a remote cell for troublesome prisoners. They allegedly pick the lock on their cell, take off their bright orange uniforms, walk through the prison under the cover of darkness, and then crawl over a faulty wall to where a getaway car is waiting for them. One US official later says: “It is embarrassing and amazing at the same time. It was a disaster.” [New York Times, 12/4/2005] The Independent will later comment: “The escape was so remarkable that serious doubts have been raised over whether it can possibly have happened the way it is described. At the very least, analysts have suggested, the four escapees must have had help on the inside, in order to know about the gap in the fence, and to find their way there so easily through a maze of buildings.” [Independent, 9/27/2006] Al-Faruq is considered an important al-Qaeda leader who served as a link between al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah in Southeast Asia until he was captured in 2002 (see June 5, 2002). Al-Kahtani is also considered an important al-Qaeda operative, but not on the same level as al-Faruq. Both of them were scheduled to be transported to Guantanamo.
Deliberately Let Go? - In late 2005, former Bagram prisoner Moazzam Begg will claim that he heard in Bagram that US intelligence officers had proposed staging an escape to release a detainee who would act as a double agent against al-Qaeda. US officials strongly deny that that happened with this escape.
US Hides Identities of Some Escapees - The US soon releases pictures of the four escapees, but strangely does not identify which escapees match which prisoners. Furthermore, as the New York Times will later note, “For reasons they have not explained, the military authorities gave different names for [al-Faruq and al-Kahtani] in announcing the escape.” [New York Times, 12/4/2005] The fact that al-Faruq was one of the escapees only comes out during a November 2005 US military trial of a sergeant who had been accused of mistreating him in 2002.
Fates of Escapees - Al-Faruq will later release a video on the Internet boasting of his role in the escape. He will be killed in Iraq in 2006 (see September 25, 2006). [New York Times, 9/26/2006] Al-Kahtani will be recaptured by US forces in Khost, Afghanistan, in December 2006. He is a Saudi and will be extradited to Saudi Arabia in May 2007. [Agence France-Presse, 5/7/2007] Sheikh Abu Yahia al-Libi will have what the New York Times later will call a “meteoric ascent within the leadership of al-Qaeda” in the three years after his escape. He will become very popular within Islamist militant circles for his propaganda videos. In 2008, Jarret Brachman, a former CIA analyst, will say of him: “He’s a warrior. He’s a poet. He’s a scholar. He’s a pundit. He’s a military commander. And he’s a very charismatic, young, brash rising star within [al-Qaeda], and I think he has become the heir apparent to Osama bin Laden in terms of taking over the entire global jihadist movement.” As of 2008, he and Abdullah Hashimi apparently remain free. [New York Times, 4/4/2008]
Omar al-Faruq in an al-Qaeda propaganda video filmed not long before his death. [Source: Public domain]An al-Qaeda leader who escaped from a US prison the year before is killed in Iraq. Omar al-Faruq is killed in a pre-dawn raid by British soldiers in the city of Basra. About 250 soldiers wearing night vision goggles attempted to take al-Faruq alive, but he is killed in a shoot-out. Al-Faruq was born to Iraqi parents and grew up in neighboring Kuwait. Counterterrorism expert Rita Katz comments: “It’s surprising for someone like him to be able to make it to Iraq, where everyone knows how he looks. The guy has long al-Qaeda records.” Experts are especially surprised to find he was in Basra, a heavily Shiite area not friendly to Sunni militants like al-Faruq. A neighbor says that al-Faruq arrived about a month earlier and had relatives in a nearby Sunni enclave. Al-Faruq escaped from the US-run Bagram prison in Afghanistan in July 2005 (see July 11, 2005). [New York Times, 9/26/2006]
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