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The Pope of Terrorism, Part II

Hassan al-Turabi, Sudan, and the bin Laden-Iraq connection.

12:00 AM, Jul 26, 2005 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Read The Pope of Terrorism, Part I

"When you start fortifying your embassies it becomes very attractive--the Americans have made themselves very attractive targets. Probably [bin Laden] would try to mobilize friends--ex-Afghan fighters from Arab countries--and try to hit back against the Americans. Anywhere."

--Hassan al-Turabi responding to the Clinton administration's decision to destroy a Sudanese factory, as quoted in "For This Islamic Tactician, Battle With U.S. Has Begun," the New York Times, August 24, 1998

TO THE WORLD'S HORROR, Hassan al-Turabi's Manichean vision was unfolding. The Gulf War schism, which fractured the Islamic community, had presented a sizable opportunity and Turabi took advantage. Traditional divisions were washed away in the tide of hatred for the common enemy: the United States and its allies.

Turabi's early efforts to forge a terrorist alliance against the common enemy in the wake of the war would bear fruit. His regime successfully exported terrorism around the globe while, at the same time, providing fertile soil for various new alliances to take shape.

Terrorists of various stripes would continue to use Sudan as both transit hub and safehaven. Sudanese-backed terrorists plotted against the "illegitimate" regimes in Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt, and several other nations throughout Africa and the Middle East. By the late 1990s the Clinton administration was dispensing direct aid to those governments that opposed Sudan's revolution. In addition, the Sudanese government's fingerprints on plots around the world became unmistakable. Countless schemes, including an attempted assassination on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1995, would be traced back to Sudanese soil.

Disturbingly, new evidence of Sudanese involvement in planned attacks on American soil continued to accumulate. In April 1996, for example, according to the State Department's Patterns of Global Terrorism, a diplomat at the "Sudanese U.N. Mission" was expelled for having ties to a bomb plot against the U.N. building and other targets in New York in 1993. Two Sudanese diplomats even planned on using the U.N. building to coordinate attacks on the city.

But, what about Saddam's Iraq? Was Turabi successful in forging alliances between his new "close" ally and the terrorists he hosted, including al Qaeda?

Indeed, he was.

INTELLIGENCE INCLUDED IN A SECRET MEMO from then-undersecretary for Defense Policy, Douglas Feith, to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2003 includes a summary of a debriefing of a "senior Iraqi intelligence officer." This intelligence officer told his interrogators that Turabi brokered several meetings between Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda beginning in 1992. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's number two, and Faruq Hijazi, one of Saddam's most trusted operatives, were both at the first of these meetings.

Turabi's role in facilitating the meetings between Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda was recognized by the 9-11 Commission. The Commission's report noted that Turabi's government had arranged for "contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda." The staff report continued: "A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting bin Laden in 1994. Bin Laden is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded." Bin Laden's request, of course, demonstrates he was not ideologically opposed to working with Saddam as many have claimed.

According to reporting from several sources, the main "senior Iraqi intelligence" officer who met with bin Laden in 1994 was, again, Faruq Hijazi. Turabi's hospitality towards Hijazi would pave the way for him to meet with bin Laden and his inner circle in Sudan and Afghanistan throughout the 1990s, including at key moments in the hostilities between the U.S. and Saddam.

Another high-level meeting was facilitated by Turabi's government in early 1995. According to an internal Iraqi intelligence services (IIS) document obtained by the New York Times, Turabi's government arranged for a meeting between the Iraqi regime and bin Laden in February 1995. At this meeting, bin Laden requested that Iraq's state-run television network broadcast anti-Saudi propaganda and that the two ally in "joint operations against foreign forces" in Saudi Arabia. Saddam agreed to the first request, but the document does not indicate his response to the second. The IIS document indicates that Iraq would seek other means to maintain ties with bin Laden after his departure from Sudan.