SAUDI ARABIA AND ALQUEDA AND OSAMA/ A HISTORY
The following interview of Saudi academic Musa al-Qarni is fascinating for the insight it gives about early days of Jihad,creation of Al-queada and how Saudi Arabia financed them. It also shows how Pakistani ISI along with Saudi Arabia promoted Qulbuddin Heketmayar who was once hailed as hero for throwing acid on the faces of girls in Kabul university.Gulbuddin had direct access to President Reagan and his top Intelligence offcials when they were called "Mujahadin" by the CIA.It also gives an understanding as to why Pakistani army is conducting operation in Bajaur to throw out Afghan refugees back into Afghanistan while allowing the Arabs to stay in Wazirstan.It also gives us an inkling why when Saudi King abdullah called the meeting about reconciliation ;Afghan Army chief Bismillah Khan,Taliban Foreign Minister Abdul sale Zaeef,Gulbuddin Heketmayer,Nawaz sherriff and other Jihadi leaders rushed to Riyadh for breaking bread with the Saudi King.How Zardari and Karzai are now out of loop with CIA and why UK and MI6 is calling the shots with poppytrade being exposed to outside world.There is also an intimate connection to Malliki asking British troops to leave Baghdad and their reluctance to leave.
This also shows how Arab jihadi group aligned with Heketmayar were dead set against Ahmad Shah Masood and why they found it important to kill him with first suicide bombing of Taliban.It also should explain to Indian intelligence why Saudiarabia and ISI were interested in the bombing of Kabul embassy and killing of its RAW personnel.
India must look at SAUDI ARABIA as the real enemy country with its personnel orchestrying the human rights groups in India,funding of Professors who are given specific tasks just like the HUJI professors of Bangladesh who were recently exposed.How it doesnot want democracy in any country and abhors WOMEN especially who work and show INDEPENDENT THINKING like Benzair,Miss Fauzia Koofi and Mrs kakar.That is why its agents put more effort to kill the Shia MLA of J&K.It is also working with interim Bangladesh administration to keep out the two begums especially Begum haseena so that war criminals are not touched.Every Jihad historian must read this interview as why suddenly keeping beard which was once welcomed as sign ofMujahadeen is now condemned as fundamentalism.
Saudi academic Musa al-Qarni, who once led the incitement to jihad in Saudi Arabia and traveled to Afghanistan in the early days of "jihad" against the Russians, believes otherwise.
Al-Qarni is an exciting character, not only because of the events he narrates about the "jihad" leaders, both dead and alive, and his testimonies about yesterday's "mujahidin" and today's "terrorists", but is also exciting because he has a calm personality that has enabled him to pass through contradictory stages and then with great cleverness to leave every one of his experiences behind him. He was the friend of all factions. Among thetakfiris [those who brand other Muslims, including their own governments, as infidels] he advocated respect for the Islamic governments. He defended those whom themujahidin branded as "apostates", such as Ahmad Shah Masood. Indeed he was a personal friend of Usamah Bin-Ladin but an opponent of the Taleban regime. Al-Qarni is a fantastic character that lived in harmony both with the zeal of "jihad" and the quiet life of academia.
Al-Hayat met Al-Qarni and now publishes his interview in the following pages:
[Al-Dhiyabi] Tell us how you travelled to Pakistan, then Afghanistan and worked alongside the mujahidin in the 1980s.
[Al-Qarni] An academic course was being held in Peshawar, Pakistan. I was a lecturer in those days and I asked the university president to allow me to join the group that was attending the course in Peshawar. I also informed him that if I went there, I would try to learn about themujahidin's conditions. I attended the course but found time to visit the battlefronts to learn about the life of the mujahidin. I made the acquaintance of Shaykh Abdallah Azzam and Shaykh Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. In those days Shaykh Sayyaf operated a university called the University of Call and Jihad in an area close to Peshawar that had been named the Village of Migration. It had been specifically established to house refugees from Afghanistan but most of the Arabs who had come to Pakistan with their families also lived there.
At that time Shaykh Sayyaf had been elected as president of the so-called Ittihad-e Islami, the Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan. This group was formed after Muslim ulema and preachers made efforts to unite various mujahidin factions in one body, so they formed Ittihad-e Islami and elected Sayyaf as leader because he had studied at Al-Azhar and spoke Arabic well.
This encouraged the Arabs to go and settle there. Their destination was where Sayyaf resided because first of all he was the president of Ittihad-e Islami and this gave him legitimacy in their eyes and he was also proficient in Arabic. For this reason he had a guest house in the village. Indeed I was a guest there for a long time. This was the beginning.
Afterwards I wanted to stay with the mujahidin longer. Consultations were held on how I could spend a long time with the mujahidin. Since Shaykh Sayyaf had a university for call and jihad, he told me: I will petition to let you become a lecturer at my university.
He made an application to the state to allow him to invite lecturers to teach at the university. The application was referred to Medina's Islamic University, which responded by dispatching to him five instructors to teach at the University of Call and Jihad, and I was one of them. This went on for two years. Actually I played a role that was different from the four other lecturers whose tasks were confined to teaching.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Who were your colleagues at the University of Call and Jihad?
[Al-Qarni] They were Dr Hamdan Rajih al-Sharif, who is a retired professor now; Dr Ibrahim al-Murshid, who now teaches in Al-Qasim; Shaykh Rashid al-Ruhayli, a retired Islamic University professor who is over 80 now; and Professor Dakhilallah al-Ruhayli who continues to teach at the Islamic University. I was the fifth. As I said before, their role was confined to teaching at the university but my role, by virtue of my acquaintance withShaykh Sayyaf and the mujahidin, combined teaching at the university with visits to the front to advocate the faith and give lessons in religion and Islamic shari'ah to the young mujahidin and also to take part in some operations.
[Al-Dhiyabi] What form did the advocacy of the faith take in those days?
[Al-Qarni] Many Arab young men who had joined the jihad lacked a proper Islamic education. Indeed a large percentage of them had lived a dissolute life before. Some did not become upstanding human beings until they decided to join the jihad. They became honest persons and immediately left to join the jihad. I know some youngmujahidin who were later killed in the fighting - I wish God may count them as martyrs - who had led dishonest lives before and indeed some had been really dissolute. But they were attracted to jihad.
This fact actually helped me in my work as advocate of the faith because I realized that many of those dissolute young men had something good inside them but never found the proper environment that would nurture them so they fell into an immoral mode of living. When they first came to us, some of them did not even know the rules of prayer or ritual cleansing prior to performing prayers. They had only come to fight. My field of expertise wasshari'ah -related and I taught the rules of physical purity before performing prayers and the rules of worship. I instructed them in the rules governing jihad, invasion, war spoils and combat and when they should fight and when they should refrain from fighting. So they attended courses in these matters. At the same time they attended military courses and received instructions from military experts.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did you yourself attend military courses? What did these courses focus on?
[Al-Qarni] They focused primarily on developing the quality of endurance. As you know, Afghanistan has a mountainous terrain that has no paved roads for vehicles. So the trainees had to learn to tolerate hardship, to climb mountains and walk for 10-12 hours a day while carrying their personal effects, weapons and food for the trip. It was important to develop their power of endurance.
Secondly they were trained in the use of personal firearms. They were in a war. They had to carry their personal weapon, a Kalashnikov rifle, and know how to use it and how to use a pistol as well. Of course military training differed from one fighter to another according to personal aptitude and the role each was expected to play. Some confined themselves to learning how to use a Kalashnikov. Some trainees wanted to learn personal combat but others wanted to learn how to use antiaircraft guns and antitank guns. Others wanted to learn how to use mines, how to manufacture them and how to dismantle them, etc. The military courses differed in these details according to the type of trainee. Most combatants received training only in the use of personal firearms,Kalashnikovs and pistols.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did anyone receive training in suicide operations?
[Al-Qarni] No, there were no suicide operations at the time. The young men used to attack tanks and fighter aircraft with their personal weapons. The battle was open. The Russian bases with their tanks and planes were there. You had your weapons and you could go and fight them face to face.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Is it true that the university where you and your four colleagues worked turned into a station for the relay of intelligence data? Was the Village of Migration also a channel for intelligence operations?
[Al-Qarni] It is necessary to have intelligence work. This is a normal state of affairs. It was not possible for the combatants taking part in the jihad in Afghanistan not to be backed by an intelligence apparatus. It is simply impossible to operate without intelligence in any country, including Pakistan and the United States. Even the enemies, the Russians, had an intelligence apparatus and sometimes they had moles in the ranks of the Afghanmujahidin . It is normal. However, we never saw any of the intelligence work. The intelligence personnel did not interact directly with themujahidin. They worked directly with the politicians.
[Al-Dhiyabi] The mujahidin killed a group of people who used to work with them, I mean they executed them saying that they discovered that they had been providing information to other parties.
[Al-Qarni] This took place in the later stages. In the early stages, the jihad was out in the open. Public operations do not provide an opportunity for concealment. I will give you an example. Sometimes certain countries would send intelligence operatives and indeed some of them might have been sympathetic to the communists. Indeed we know that some Arab countries were sympathetic to Russia. These countries used to send intelligence personnel. What happened to those people? At first they were received as guests and then invited to join themujahidin in combat. What would such a person do? He would be forced to become a combatant or if he was an intelligence agent, he would remain in the rear among the migrants and civilians. He could not go to the front because he would either be killed in combat or have his cover blown. These people did not want to die especially when faced with the enemy. When you confront the enemy, you must be prepared to die.
[Al-Dhiyabi] How many stages did the Afghan jihad go through in the 1980s?
[Al-Qarni] I would say the first stage lasted from the beginning of jihad until the collapse of Kabul's communist regime and the mujahidin's capture of the city. The second stage was the stage of internal conflict among the mujahidin factions, the infighting. During this period, we isolated ourselves from them. After the mujahidin entered Kabul, I returned to Saudi Arabia and refused to participate in any actions after that.
[Al-Dhiyabi] When exactly did you return?
[Al-Qarni] The problem is that I do not remember dates well.
[Al-Dhiyabi] In the early 1990s?
[Al-Dhiyabi] Prior to the Taleban era?
[Al-Qarni] Yes, before the Taleban. When Ahmad Shah Masood entered Kabul and Najibullah's regime fell, I left. I believe this happened in the 1990s. I and many other brothers who had gone to the jihad in Afghanistan returned home.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did Usamah Bin-Ladin return with you?
[Al-Qarni] He returned to the country, but went back to Afghanistan later.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Do you remember the date?
[Al-Qarni] Frankly, I cannot remember dates at all.
[Al-Dhiyabi] I have heard that the mujahidin used to refuse to memorize Western calendar dates.
[Al-Qarni] No, I am not like that. First of all most of those who joined the Afghan jihad were not known by their real names but used aliases such asAbu-this and Abu-that. I used my real name everywhere I moved in Pakistan.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Was Bin-Ladin's moniker Abu-Abdallah then, the same as today?
[Al-Qarni] Yes, Bin-Ladin was always called Abu-Abdallah from the time he went there until today. He is well known. Everyone knows Bin-Ladin.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Sulayman Abu-Ghayth was with you in those days. Do you know him personally?
[Al-Qarni] I do not know him.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did you know Abu-Sulayman al-Makki, that is Khalid al-Harbi?
[Al-Qarni] Yes, we were acquainted with him at that time. He was one of the first mujahidin. He later went to Chechnya.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Let us talk more about your stay there.
[Al-Qarni] I stayed there for the first two years. Then the two years of my appointment as lecturer on loan ended. I had earned a sabbatical year by that time from my original university. I took that year because I wanted to return to Pakistan on another appointment on loan. Our original university decided that two years were enough and terminated the loan programme. However, I spent my sabbatical there. This means that I spent three years in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Later on I returned to Afghanistan for another two years, which means I spent a total of five years there.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Who took care of your family during those years?
[Al-Qarni] I still had my salary from the university and my wife's brothers lived close to her. Every six months I would go back and spend two weeks with my family. This happened during the school year. During the summer vacation I would take my family to stay with me there. I had a house in the Village of Migration. I built a house there. I stayed there for three consecutive years but I continued to visit that university in later years during the summer vacations.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Is that university still operating?
[Al-Qarni] No, it is closed now.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did you encourage extremism in those days?
[Al-Qarni] It was not called an extremist attitude at that time. Fighting the communists was the prevailing idea. Today it is called extremism. In those days it was called jihad. A Saudi architect was the one who founded the college of architecture at that university. He was a well-known brother who played a significant role in supporting jihad. He was a professor at KingSa'ud University and had an architect's office in Medina. His name was Dr Ahmad Farid Mustafa.
[Al-Dhiyabi] How did the university operate?
[Al-Qarni] Part of the curriculum of the Call and Jihad University was to instruct and train students in jihad. They were sent into Afghanistan. It was a two-hour walk between the Village of Migration and the Afghan border from the direction ofJalalabad. During the Thursday-Friday weekend groups of university students would go to the front and help the mujahidin.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Who used to train them, intelligence personnel?
[Al-Qarni] No, they had instructors. The Arab camps had Arab instructors, some of whom were retired military officers with good experience. The Afghans had their own instructors. The Pakistani army also provided material and moral support.
[Al-Dhiyabi] At that stage Bin-Ladin operated under Abdallah Azzam's command, right?
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did Bin-Ladin express his opinion on military matters?
[Al-Qarni] He certainly did and his views were respected but he could not dictate his views. They had something that operated like a council and it was this body that debated the
[Al-Dhiyabi] Describe the relations between Ahmad Shah Masood on the one hand and Abdallah Azzam and Bin-Ladin on the other.
[Al-Qarni] Shaykh Abdallah Azzam believed that no-one among the mujahidin had Masood's stature. He used to call him the hero of the north. I remember that I once asked him about his opinion of this man. Now the Arabs did not like Ahmad ShahMasood - this is something that needs to become known. The Arabs hated him for several reasons. First of all most of them were influenced byHekmatyar and lived as his guests in his camps. It was well known throughout the jihad years that Hekmatyar was Masood's greatest enemy. The Arabs were influenced by this enmity and became hostile to Masood on these grounds. Indeed some Arabs hated Masood more than Hekmatyar himself.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Am I to understand that Hekmatyar welcomed the Arabs as his guests and incited them against Masood?
[Al-Qarni] Yes, this is a point that should become known. Masood lived in northern Afghanistan, nearer to the Russian positions. He was not close to Pakistan. It took people 20 days to reach Masood's positions from the Pakistani border. As a result Masood did not have an office in Peshawar, nor an information representative. He was stationed in the north directly on the combat lines with the Russians. In contrast,Hekmatyar and Sayyaf had camps and operated on fronts that were very close to Pakistan in the Pashtun region. Most of the Arabs who came to Pakistan and Afghanistan were on the side of Hekmatyar and Sayyaf. You could say that 95 per cent of the Arabs who joined the jihad divided themselves between Hekmatyar and Sayyaf. A small percentage joined Yunus Khalis and Jaluleddin Haqqani.
Very few Arabs joined Ahmad Shah Masood. There few of them and we knew every one. This was the first factor that made the Arabs hate Masood, namely, Hekmatyar's enmity towards him.
The second reason why the Arabs hated Masood, may he rest in peace, was that he was a methodical, strategic thinker. Combat is an organized affair, not a chaotic operation. The Arabs, many of them or actually most of them who came to carry out jihad, were not fond of military discipline. They were disorganized. Some came and stayed for one week only. They would join an operation, fire their weapons, storm a position and then return. Some stayed for a month or two and so on. For this reason the fronts on whichSayyaf and Hekmatyar operated were wide open places where people came and went.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Are you telling me that Hekmatyar's and Sayyaf's guest houses were like open coffee shops?
[Al-Qarni] I mean that they did not impose a strict regimen or force the mujahidin who joined them to stay for a particular period. This is what I mean. Masood was the opposite. He did not accept anyone who came unless he was prepared to stay on and operate under his command. He did not allow anyone to go and carry out operations except when he expressly ordered him to do so. The Arabs operating on the fronts ofHekmatyar and Sayyaf were independent. They could carry out their own operations. They did whatever they wanted without supervision. There was no-one to hold them accountable.
A group of Arabs joined Masood in the early days of jihad. They went there with the same mindset with which they dealt with Sayyaf and Hekmatyar. After they joined Masood, they planned and carried out an operation all by themselves without his knowledge. They attacked Muslim, not Russian, convoys. WhenMasood learned of this, he put them in jail and they were only released after a lot of pleading and intercession by certain quarters. So those who were imprisoned byMasood returned to Hekmatyar in Peshawar and they had developed an unbelievable level of hostility towards Masood because he had jailed them and disapproved of their behaviour.
Shaykh Abdallah Azzam visited Masood after a lot of negative talk was heard about him in Peshawar. Some accused Masood of being an agent of the West. They said this because his father had been a general in the Afghan army and the children of generals were sent to Western schools. Because he had studied in such schools, they accused him of being an agent of the West. This was one thing. He was also accused of immoral actions. Some people actually levelled accusations of immorality against him. The Arabs spread a lot of negative propaganda about him in Peshawar. This reached the point where they were discussing whether it was proper or not from an Islamic viewpoint to support him with money.
[Al-Dhiyabi] It has been said that Masood is a Shi'i.
[Al-Qarni] No, he is Sunni. I remember that when there was too much talk about him in Peshawar, a session was held to try him in absentia. Two people acted as his defence and 21 acted as his accusers. The two who defended him were Algerian nationals: Abdallah Uns, who now lives in Britain and is Shaykh Abdallah Azzam's son-in-law, and a man called Qari Abdelrahim. They had lived with Masood and knew him well. On the other side 21 people including Algerians, Egyptians and Yemenis acted as accusers. There were no Saudis among them. They accusedMasood of offences amounting to apostasy. The trial was held and among those present were Abdallah Azzam, Shaykh Abd-al-Majid al-Zindani and Usamah Bin-Ladin.
[Al-Dhiyabi] How long did the trial last?
[Al-Qarni] It lasted a whole week. Of course they asked me to give testimony but I refused to get involved. Nevertheless I followed what was happening. I received my information fromShaykh Abdallah Azzam, Shaykh Al-Zindani, Bin-Ladin, Abdallah Uns and Qari Abdelrahim. A curious thing was that a brother of Qari Abdelrahim, who was called Qari Said, was one of Masood's bitterest enemies. I ask God to forgive Qari and have mercy on his soul. After he returned to Algeria from Afghanistan, he joined the armed groups there and was killed. The 21 accusers failed to proveMasood's guilt on any of the charges they levelled against him. When the presiding committee announced its verdict, its members declared that they would not say anything either in praise or vilification ofMasood.
[Al-Dhiyabi] What do you think of this verdict?
[Al-Qarni] I think it was unfair. You should either prove a person's guilt or exonerate him but the committee ruled this way because Usamah Bin-Ladin and Shaykh Abd-al-Majid al-Zindani were more inclined to support Hekmatyar than Masood. Additionally they did not want to go against the wishes of the Arabs who were in Peshawar, saying to themselves: All the Arabs in the city are againstMasood, so how could we praise him?
The only exception was Shaykh Abdallah Azzam, may he rest in peace. He said: As for me, I will praise Masood until I go to my Maker, God Almighty. He left that trial session and began implementing a plan to praise Masood. He wrote a book about him called "The Titans of the North". He could not get it printed, however, because almost all of Peshawar was semi-owned byHekmatyar and Sayyaf. Masood had no influence there. So the book was not printed.
I once asked Shaykh Abdallah Azzam, may he rest in peace: Shaykh Abdallah, do you still believe that Masood is the hero of Afghanistan?
Azzam replied: Indeed he is the hero of Islam.
After this I told myself that I should pay a visit to Masood and get to know him from up close. Brother Abdallah Uns used to talk to me about Masood. I used to see his jihad as a different form of jihad. The mujahidin in southern Afghanistan conducted a form of guerrilla warfare. This means you cannot destroy your enemy but you can continue fighting forever. It was a form of hit-and-run warfare without a clear strategy. This is whySayyaf, Hekmatyar, Haqqani, Yunus Khalis and all the other factions in Peshawar could not capture any of the major cities. They lived in the mountains, valleys and small villages, conducting a hit-and-run form of combat. They would carry out an attack, seize war spoils, but then the communists would come and expel them from the positions they had occupied, and so on.Masood, on the other hand, conducted a form of regular warfare. He had a regular army and a clear strategy.
In the second episode of his interview with Al-Hayah Al-Qarni continues to recount the history of the disagreements, stances, and events that swept through the "mujahidin's" state in Afghanistan, which was subsequently hijacked by the fundamentalist Taliban movement. He recounts the story of Shaykh Abdallah Azzam's killing. He makes certain intimations about Usama Bin Ladin in which he asserts that Bin Ladin would never surrender. He tells how he used to be the personal mufti [interpreter of shari'ah rules] of Bin Ladin who eventually became the world's most dangerous wanted man.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Who used to back Ahmad Shah Masood other than the United States?
[Al-Qarni] Masood was not backed by the United States. The entire US aid used to reach the mujahidin through the Pakistani army. The Pakistani army considered that its enemy number one in Afghanistan was not the communists but Masood. When he left Peshawar, he had to flee. I saw the weapons that Masood had in his possession. Most of it was Russian: tanks, planes, and firearms seized as spoils from the Russians. The aid that Masood received from other quarters was small. Priority in aid was given to Sayyaf, Hekmatyar, and Yunus Khalis although they had fewer troops. However, they were Pashtun and thus had relations with the Pakistani Government. Masood was one of [Burhanuddin] Rabbani's military commanders and he received a portion of the aid sent to Rabbani. Masood obtained most of his weapons through self-reliance. I saw the weapons he had and most of them were war spoils. He had another source of backing. I asked him about this when I stayed for about a month with him. Sometimes I used to spend around 12 hours daily with him. Sometimes we were alone, I and he and an interpreter only. We spent many hours together and developed a strong bond with each other.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did you sense that he bore the Arab Afghans a grudge?
[Al-Qarni] Masood was not a man to bear grudges.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Tell us how the fighting between Hekmatyar and Masood became more intense.
[Al-Qarni] That was a bloody war in Afghanistan. Hekmatyar used to fight Ahmad Shah Masood more fiercely than he fought the communists. He gave more priority to fighting Masood than to fighting the Russians. For this reason, when Masood captured Kabul, Hekmatyar refused to enter the city and declared war on Masood. He did this although before he entered Kabul, Masood came to an area outside Peshawar and sent word to all the mujahidin to come and meet with him. He told them: Kabul has fallen. Now form a government among yourselves in Peshawar and come and assume power in Kabul. They all agreed to this exceptHekmatyar, who came out of the meeting and declared war on Masood. He declared that he would enter Kabul only under the black banners of Hizb-e Islami. Many people tried to dissuade him from starting such a war.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Could you tell us how Abdallah Azzam was killed?
[Al-Qarni] Before Shaykh Abdallah Azzam was killed, a dispute broke out between Rabbani and Hekmatyar. There was fierce fighting between them in northern Afghanistan. Rabbani was of course represented by Masood and Hekmatyar's representative was a commander in the north who was subsequently killed. His name was Sayyid Jamal, may he rest in peace. The two sides fought bitterly to the point that roads were closed, people could not travel, and foodstuffs could not reach the villages.
Meetings were held by parties who were connected with the jihad in an attempt to reconcile the two factions. A delegation came from Saudi Arabia. It was a "popular" delegation, of course, composed of persons that themujahidin trusted. It included Dr Muhammad Umar al-Zubayr, former president of King Abd-al-Aziz University; Shaykh Ibrahim Afandi, chairman of Al-Ittihad Club in those days; and Shaykh Abd-al-Majid al-Zindani from Yemen. These were the most prominent members and they had with them veteran supporters of jihad who had spent time in Afghanistan. They asked me to act as moderator and secretary during the meetings.
Shaykh Abdallah Azzam was at the front deep inside Afghanistan. After he heard that a reconciliation committee was going to meet, he arrived in Peshawar on the night of the meeting. I was one of the closest people toShaykh Azzam. After the meeting delegations were sent to Hekmatyar and Rabbani until an agreement was reached. I wrote the agreement with my own hand.
It was a Thursday night, meaning that the following morning was a Friday. We, the entire committee, were meeting in a villa in an area in Pakistan calledDevine's Colony. The committee members resided there and held their meetings. We met on that night and completed writing out the agreement at 12 p.m. All that was left was to sign. We wanted the agreement to be signed that night so that it would be announced to the people the next day, a Friday. The conferees decided thatShaykh Abdallah Azzam would take the agreement to Rabbani's house so that he could sign it. Rabbani lived in Peshawar in a neighborhood close to Devine's Colony.
The conferees chose an Egyptian, who was a senior member of the mujahidin called Shaykh Fathi Rifa'i, to go to Hekmatyar in a camp outside Peshawar so he could sign the agreement.
As Shaykh Azzam was leaving, he said to me: "Come with me, Shaykh Musa." He did this because he knew that there was a great amity between me and Rabbani. We went in the night, me, Shaykh Abdallah Azzam, and his nephew Abu-al-Harith who was also his chauffeur. We knocked on Rabbani's door and one of his bodyguards came out. He had been one of our students. We told him about the agreement. He went and woke up Rabbani. Rabbani came out to us and there at the front door we read to him the text of the agreement by the car's cabin light. He signed it and we returned.Shaykh Fathi Rifa'i, who had gone to meet with Hekmatyar, could not meet him at his house. He telephoned us and said he could not meet Hekmatyar.
[Al-Dhiyabi] How did Rifa'i contact you?
[Al-Qarni] There were telephones in Hekmatyar's office connected to Shaykh Abdallah Azzam's telephone. Rifa'i contacted us and said he could not meet the engineer, which is what they called Hekmatyar. Shaykh Azzam told Rifa'i: "Spend the night there and wait for him until dawn prayers. Let him sign and bring back the agreement."
[Al-Dhiyabi] And you returned?
[Al-Qarni] Shaykh Abdallah Azzam's eldest son had gone to Jordan to get married. On the night that he arrived in Peshawar with his bride, Shaykh Azzam left us after midnight after we returned from Rabbani's house. We heard news that he had asked Shaykh Rifa'i to stay until the morning and get Hekmatyar's signature and then return. We agreed that we would all meet with Shaykh Azzam in the morning.
After we performed dawn prayers, Shaykh Azzam telephoned us and said: When I arrived home, I found my son Muhammad and his wife had arrived. I have no other time to see them except now. Let us delay our meeting until after Friday prayers. You will pray with me at the mosque and after that we will go together to Islamabad. We agreed to do this.
Later while we were sitting in the villa making preparations to go to Friday prayers, the telephone rang. An Egyptian, who was a senior member of themujahidin , raised the receiver. I was with him in the same hall in the villa. I heard him shout at the top of his voice: "There is no power except through Allah." Then he dropped the receiver and said: "Shaykh Abdallah Azzam has been the victim of an assassination." We asked: "Where?" He said: "In an area close to Peshawar."
That area was close to where we were staying and close to Shaykh Azzam's house. It was there that the mosque where shaykh Azzam always prayed was located and where the mujahidin would meet to listen to the Friday sermon.
The original plan was for us to meet at Shaykh Abdallah Azzam's house after dawn prayers and then go to Islamabad. When Shaykh Azzam found his son and his son's wife had returned, he told himself he would stay with his son for a while and then go and deliver his Friday sermon at theSab al-Layl mosque. He had been at the fronts for a while and he needed to spend some time with his sons. He decided to deliver the Friday sermon after that and then we would all go to Islamabad. But fate intervened and an explosive device that had been placed in a culvert under the road was detonated when his car passed over it. His sons Muhammad and Ibrahim were with him in the car.
When we heard the news we hastened, each in his own way, to the site of the mosque. We found body parts strewn all over the place, some hanging from tree boughs, some on the ground 50 meters away. When we asked aboutShaykh Abdallah , they said that he had been taken to the hospital. His body was still in one piece. After he was proclaimed dead, his body was taken to the Village of Migration whereSayyaf was stationed. The people gathered and we prayed over his body after evening prayers.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Who was behind the assassination?
[Al-Qarni] Frankly our analysis at that time rested on the idea that the Israeli Mosad, with help from US intelligence, was behind the assassination. However, after a while another analysis emerged indicating that the Egyptian Al-Jihad Organization was behind the killing. The members of this organization hatedShaykh Azzam and regarded him as an obstacle to the scheme that they wished to implement in Afghanistan. Personally I do not rule out this possibility.
[Al-Dhiyabi] This means that you are not completely ruling out the possibility that the Mosad was the culprit but, based on the sequence of events, you think that it is more likely that the Egyptian Al-Jihad Organization carried out the killing?
[Al-Qarni] There is an important point to remember. Shaykh Abdallah Azzam was the founder of the HAMAS movement.
[Al-Dhiyabi] And Ahmad Yasin?
[Al-Qarni] Ahmad Yasin was the spiritual guide, but the man who founded the movement and personally trained its cadres in Afghanistan was Shaykh Abdallah Azzam.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Is this a historical fact or are you saying this because you loved the man?
[Al-Qarni] No, no. I would like you to read a published book called "HAMAS, the Historical Roots."
[Al-Dhiyabi] We cannot call the Palestinians and the entire HAMAS movement liars and say that Abdallah Azzam founded the movement. We could possibly say that Abdallah Azzam helped to found the movement, but the real founder was Shaykh Ahmad Yasin.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Was the Egyptian Al-Jihad Organization strong and prominent in the Afghan arena in those days?
[Al-Qarni] Actually during the Afghan jihad era and up to the time of Kabul's fall Al-Jihad Organization did not have any roots in the arena of jihad. It was in a dormant state. Of course its members found a safe haven in Peshawar because it was an open place. You did not need a passport or anything of the sort to live there. Any person could go and live there without anyone asking questions. It was a place full of immigrants from all over the world. So they found a safe haven there where they could live with their families and reorganize themselves. They were not known among themujahidin as active in the camps or on the battlefronts. They did not lead operations nor had any ties with the well-known Afghan jihad leaders. In the sphere of education and advocacy of the faith they were not known at all. Today their most prominent figure is Al-Zawahiri. He was not well-known in the days of jihad as he is now. The most prominent Al-Jihad Organization figure was a man they called DrFadl.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Is still he alive?
[Al-Qarni] I asked about him and where he had gone. They told me that he had emigrated either to Australia or Canada and had completely abandoned the jihad idea. He left Al-Jihad Organization, abandoned its ideology, and lived a normal civilian life. Al-Jihad group was not prominently known in those days. It was in a stage of reorganization.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Were they an organized group? I mean, did their name exist in that arena as the Egyptian Al-Jihad Organization or were they under the umbrella of the so-calledjihadist groups or the Arab Afghans?
[Al-Qarni] They were not prominent. They lived there as individuals. They did not operate as an organized group or a party that had activities or a group that gave lectures to themujahidin.
[Al-Dhiyabi] It has been said that Usama Bin Ladin was the one who assassinated Shaykh Abdallah Azzam because he wanted to be the only Arab leader of the jihadist groups. He already had the money but he sought additional legitimacy to be able to act and speak as the leader of the mujahidin around him. What do you think of this theory?
[Al-Qarni] As to whether he was involved in Abdallah Azzam's assassination I would as soon accuse myself of this crime rather than Bin Ladin. I knew that he and Azzam had a relationship of amity and mutual respect.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Perhaps Azzam was assassinated by Bin Ladin's "followers" without Bin Ladin being aware of the matter.
[Al-Qarni] It is possible, yes. It could have been done without his knowledge, but I cannot believe that Bin Ladin was involved in planning, financing, or even knowing about the assassination plan.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Do you think that the changing circumstances forced Bin Ladin to cooperate with the Egyptians?
[Al-Qarni] I cannot say that he was exactly forced to cooperate with them. However, the changing circumstances made Bin Ladin find only Al-Jihad Organization beside him. He found himself in circumstances that drove him to move to the other side and to adopt violence as a method. Many of the people who were acquainted withUsama Bin Ladin , and I was one of them, did not agree with his pursuit of this course. We opposed him on making this choice. When the signs began to appear that he was going to cooperate with Al-Jihad, we opposed him and tried to show him that it was an erroneous course of action.
[Al-Dhiyabi] What was his response?
[Al-Qarni] Usama never liked to argue. He also liked to present his views, listen to others, but then he refused to continue the discussion. He would then make a decision.
[Al-Dhiyabi] He would listen to decisions or make decisions?>
[Al-Qarni] He would listen and then make his decision.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Is Bin Ladin proficient in shari'ah knowledge?
[Al-Qarni] Proficient, no. He had some knowledge of shari'ah and liked to listen to the views of those Muslim jurists whom he trusted, but he was never an expert jurist able to produce rules based onshari'ah. No, he could not do that.
[Al-Dhiyabi] What about the recent leaked videotapes and the calumnies he commits against the nation? He acts as if he is the nation's guardian. Do you not think that he is a man who places himself above the Muslims' imams?
[Al-Qarni] Usama Bin Ladin does not see himself as more proficient in religious knowledge than the Islamic world's illustrious scholars. He does not think he knows more aboutshari'ah than Shaykhs Ibn-Baz or Ibn-Uthaymin. His problem is that he considers some of the nation's ulema as lacking in resolve and loyal to the governments.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Based on your personal knowledge of Usama Bin Ladin, who is the person who is capable of influencing him?
[Al-Qarni] My relationship with Bin Ladin ended after he left Sudan for good and went to Afghanistan. I last met with him before he left Saudi Arabia to Sudan. Usama is the kind of man who can influence others, not be influenced by others. He sees himself as an influential, commanding personality. He believes that he influences people and is not influenced by them. In those days he used to show me a lot of respect and used to give me a prominent place in his gatherings. However, he is not a person who can be influenced by any particular person. He wants people to march behind him. His character developed in this manner because he grew up in an environment of wealth and power. From his youth he had an independent mind and always yearned to carry out jihad. Before he went to Afghanistan to carry out jihad, many people advised him not to go, to remain in his country, and confine his role to financial support, that is, collect donations and send them to themujahidin . They believed that this was a more important task than going there himself. He did not find this a satisfactory state of affairs. He wanted to be a leader, not a follower.
[Al-Dhiyabi] When he left for Sudan, did he ask you to go with him? How many times did he meet with you before he left?
[Al-Qarni] Before he went to Sudan I was always in touch with him. Some jihadists, especially Egyptians, considered him an agent of the Arab governments and intelligence services. Before he left for Sudan, incidents occurred in Iraq and he began to make public speeches to mobilize the people against SaddamHusayn's regime. At one point his activities stopped and some of his followers were arrested. He had surrounded his house with barbed wire. The security services ordered him to remove the barbed wire and live normally like everyone else. Some security agencies began to summon him for interrogation. He regarded this as an insult. He sensed that the road in front of him was slowly becoming blocked and he began thinking of leaving the country. He actually discussed this issue with me.
I did not agree with him and used to tell him this: We need to stay in our country. This country cannot withstand strife and violence. This is our country and we know it better than others. I then asked him: Where shall we go? Where else can we find Mecca and Medina? To what land shall we emigrate? This is the land of Islam.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did he ask you to go with him to Sudan? Did he want you as an assistant?
[Al-Qarni] You could say that he trusted me as an adviser on shari'ah issues and believed that I could serve as mufti or theoretician to him.
[Al-Dhiyabi] This is proof that he lacked proper knowledge of shari'ah rules.
[Al-Qarni] He never regarded himself as an allamah.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Based on your personal knowledge of him and on the videotapes that are released now and then, what impression do you get when you listen to his voice these days?
[Al-Qarni] Based on these tapes, I feel that Bin Ladin has aged.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did you not sense a sad note in his voice?
[Al-Qarni] Not at all. He does not have a hesitant or timid character. Usama is a man who loves death, seeks it, and would like to be martyred.
[Al-Dhiyabi] I disagree with you on this point. The proof is that when the United States decided after 11 September 2001 to attack and overthrow the Taliban regime, various countries and humanitarian organizations asked him to spare the Afghan society the horrors of war, death, and destruction but he preferred to let thousands die so that he could save himself. This proves that he is the opposite of what you claim.
[Al-Qarni] I do not agree that he preferred to let people die so that he could save himself.
[Al-Dhiyabi] According to your analysis, he loves martyrdom.
[Al-Qarni] He loves martyrdom but ...
[Al-Dhiyabi] Do you not agree that martyrdom means sacrificing yourself to save thousands of Muslims from death?
[Al-Qarni] This is not the way he thinks. Take the example of the US military forces invasion of Afghanistan. First of all, Usama was under the Taliban's command. He was not independent.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Who used to finance the Taliban?
[Al-Qarni] He financed the Taliban but was under their command. He believed that Mulla Omar was the prince of the faithful. This is one thing. The other thing is that he now lives under the command of a regime that has collapsed. So he changed his strategy. The Taliban fell and are now finished. Even from a military point of view, it is not logical for him to stay and stand alone. So he withdrew to a remote place where he could reorganize his forces and rearrange his agenda. I sawUsama in the midst of fierce fighting. He is not the type of man to flee and withdraw. There were battles when Usama was left alone with only two or three other mujahidin. They used to stand and fight to cover the entire mujahidin force's withdrawal. He would withdraw only when this was accomplished.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Who among his old friends, whom you knew, have remained with him?
[Al-Qarni] None of his old friends remain. Most of those who were present in Afghanistan in that era returned here after the internal conflict among the Afghan factions started. They changed their plans and began to lead normal lives because the issue had turned into sedition.Usama's problem is that he became involved in that sedition. I used to say this to the Arabs who visited Afghanistan during the Taliban rule: If any of you can reachUsama , give him this advice on my behalf. He should stay apart from the fighting among the Afghan factions. He should not become part of the internal conflict. He should not fight.
[Al-Dhiyabi] What is your opinion of Al-Qa'ida organization? Is it a real organization built on organized military principles?
[Al-Qarni] What is the difference, whether it is an organization or not? Doubtlessly certain circumstances developed, both regional and global, that drove those persons to come together and cooperate. As to whether it is an organization, it is certainly an organization.
[Al-Dhiyabi] An organization based on violence?
[Al-Qarni] Violence is one of its methods, indeed its most important method when it comes to fighting the Americans and those who collaborate with them. In their eyes this is a settled matter. They have no problem in using violence and see it as a form of jihad.
[Al-Dhiyabi] How did they impart legitimacy under shari'ah to the suicide operations that they carried out, which they called jihad operations? How did they give legitimacy to killing hundreds of innocent persons in exchange for one of them?
[Al-Qarni] In my opinion, it is not a question of legitimizing or prohibiting suicide attacks. The issue is the target against which the operation is carried out, but when one kills a Muslim person, even if he kills him outside the scope of a suicide operation, that is a major crime.
[Al-Dhiyabi] At this stage, do you think that Usama Bin Ladin has fallen into the hands of the Egyptian group?
[Al-Qarni] Most certainly. He is now part and parcel of the fabric of Al-Jihad Organization's ideology. He operates in line with its plans.
[Al-Dhiyabi] You have known Bin Ladin personally? How do you see the conclusion of this situation? Is it possible that he might get weary of this path and turn himself in?
[Al-Qarni] This is totally impossible. Usama will continue to be a combatant until he dies even if he is left all alone.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Are all his sons with him? What is the latest information about him? Do you get information from anyone? Do you receive letters?
[Al-Qarni] No, after the arrival of the Americans and the strikes against Tora Bora and the disappearance of Al-Qa'ida members, all information completely stopped. No one goes there anymore; no one comes back. But of course his entire family is with him, his wife and children. Some of his sons returned early, however, including his eldest sonAbdallah . Some of his sons are here in this country. As to the other members of his family, I do not know where they live, in Pakistan or are hiding somewhere with him. I do not know.
[Al-Dhiyabi] I would like to talk some more about Ahmad Shah Masood. How did you make his acquaintance and make him trust you?
[Al-Qarni] During my stay there I became acquainted with most of the leaders residing in Peshawar including Rabbani, Sayyaf, Hekmatyar, and Shaykh Yunus. I got to know them. Masood remained an important factor in the equation of the Afghan issue. I decided that I could not have a complete understanding of the Afghan issue unless I met with him. Otherwise I would not have a complete view of the issue. During our stay there we came to realize thatMasood was the personality that most influenced the course of the Afghan jihad and the person who would bring victory to the mujahidin. Prior to that period many attempts were made to unite the mujahidin ranks, strengthen them, and make them agree on a single plan to enter Kabul and overthrow the communist regime. All these attempts failed. The communist regime was actually weak but what prevented its collapse was the disagreement among themujahidin although many had a sincere desire to become united.
I also remember that Shaykh Abdallah Azzam, may he rest in peace, used to praise Masood highly. This made me eager to become acquainted with him. I decided that I should visit Masood regardless of any difficulties. I did so on my own personal initiative actually. At the same time the dispute between Masood and Hekmatyar was at its height, so I told myself perhaps God might make me an instrument to reconcile the two. We realized that if an agreement could be reached betweenHekmatyar and Rabbani, 70 or 80 percent of the Afghan mujahidin's problems would be solved because they commanded the two largest factions that could influence the course of the Afghan jihad. They were against each other, however, and their dispute had a negative effect. This is why I felt a strong desire to visitMasood in the areas where he operated and get to know him. It was a personal desire. I liked to become acquainted with the mujahidin leaders. It was natural that I should seek to meet with a man like Masood.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Tell us exactly what you think. Did Masood bear a grudge towards Hekmatyar?
[Al-Qarni] First of all I would like to say that my decision to visit Masood was met with strong opposition from the other mujahidin factions, particularly from Afghan groups with which I had relations. When they heard that I planned to visit Masood, they sent me what almost amounted to a warning not to go.
In this episode Al-Qarni concludes his narrative about Usama Bin Ladin, Ahmad Shah Masood, Hekmatyar, the dream of an Islamic state in Afghanistan, Hekmatyar's real role in creating dissension, and Masood's role in carrying out real jihad. He also speaks about the Shiite sect's participation in the Afghan jihad and the story of his last meeting with BinLadin.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Were you not afraid of being assassinated when you went to stay with Ahmad Shah Masood's army?
[Al-Qarni] In that period, no, not during that period but later on there were times when something of the sort occurred. I will tell you about it if you want. To reachMasood's area of operation, you needed to travel from Peshawar to Shatran in the extreme north of Pakistan, a 12-hour journey by car. When I decided to leave Peshawar, I concealed the fact that I was going to visitMasood, primarily because I had learned that the leaders did not wish me to go there. When I reached Shatran, I stayed for a while at a guesthouse belonging to Rabbani's Jamiat-e Islami. Shatran is the border region from which you can proceed to Masood's areas.
One or two days later Muhammad Khayr, the official in charge of the guesthouse, came to me and said: "Shaykh Musa, it has been rumored all over Shatran that some Arabs have taken refuge with Masood."
I said to myself, so they now know. Shatran was one of the world's most active areas in espionage work because it is located on the borders with China, Russia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
I answered him: "What should we do now?"
He said: "You need to remain concealed in this house for a long time until they stop looking for you because certain intelligence services are now investigating the identities of the Arabs who want to joinMasood."
We stayed in that house for nearly a week, never going out, just eating and sleeping. Afterwards they put us in a truck which was loaded with foodstuffs but where hidden places were left for passengers to sit among the goods. We could not be seen but we had openings on the top to allow us to breathe. The truck traveled for around five hours until we reachedMasood's area during which time we passed through nearly 20 Pakistani checkpoints without being discovered. The soldiers manning the checkpoints would ask the driver and his companion: "Are you carrying Arab passengers with you?" The brothers would answer: "No, there are no Arabs with us. The truck is full of foodstuffs."
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did they not search the vehicles since they were looking for Arabs?
[Al-Qarni] No, they did not. They told the driver to get on with the journey. We drove until we reached a gate which had Masood's emblem on it. We continued to travel through Masood's region, this time on the backs of mules and sometimes on foot, until we reached his capital in the north. We were dressed in Afghan garb.
[Al-Dhiyabi] How many were you?
[Al-Qarni] We were five persons and had traveled by road vehicles around 12 hours from Peshawar to Shatran and then five hours from the Afghan border until we reached Masood's region.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did you immediately meet with Masood?
[Al-Qarni] No, I met him only when I reached the north, in his own capital. I noticed something significant. We slept at the first camp inMasood's region and in the morning I asked our traveling companion Abdulwadud, who was one of Masood's men: "Where are our weapons, Abdulwadud?" He replied: "O Shaykh Musa, you are in Masood's region. You do not need weapons here at all?" I asked: "How is that?" He said: "In the areas governed by Masood, if a walking stick is stolen, we find out who it belongs to and we find it and return it to him."
I was incredulous and said: "Abdulwadud, you are exaggerating." He replied: "You will see."
From the border region we traveled until we reached Taloqan. We had spent 10 days without carrying a weapon. We passed through cities full of inhabitants. The schools were open, the clinics were operating, the people were tilling their land, and living a secure and peaceful life. OnlyMasood's regular troops carried weapons. He had a regular army, infantry, tank battalions, artillery forces, and a corps of engineers. He had a state's full army.
After about 10 days we reached Taloqan, the capital and largest city of northern Afghanistan. Of course Masood was informed about our arrival. They took us to a guesthouse there and an Algerian brother called Abdelwahed who had lived in Masood's areas for many years was appointed as our escort, interpreter, and assistant. Two days later Masood himself came to the house. After that he drew up a program for us while we lived in his region. We were with him the entire time, moving from one location to another. I personally spent a period of three or four days with him.Masood , may he rest in peace, asked that I spend some time with him alone with an interpreter. This was because a trust and an intellectual harmony developed between us, especially when he learned that my field of study was the principles of Islamic jurisprudence. He asked many questions aboutshari'ah rules. I spent three or four days in seclusion with him with only the interpreter present. No one else knew of the place where we were staying except the person who brought us food. During those few days we separated only at bedtime. I may summarize his character in a few words. A man likeMasood comes along only once every few centuries.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Apparently it was Al-Qa'ida that assassinated Masood, right?
[Al-Qarni] Yes, someone from Al-Qa'ida.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Do you think that the assassination was a consequence of incitement by Bin Ladin?
[Al-Qarni] I cannot rule this out. After Bin Ladin joined the Taliban and swore allegiance to them, he began to think in a way that made him believe that slaughtering Masood was a permitted action from the viewpoint of shari'ah. Al-Qa'ida members and Bin Ladin's young men fought against Masood. All the Arabs that were with Bin Ladin were against Masood and stood in the first rank of those who fought him. Usama Bin Ladin never felt happy about Masood's status. I want to mention an important point. Unfortunately most of the so-called ulema of the Islamic resurgence in our country here were against Masood and on Hekmatyar's side. For the past 10 years from the time of jihad until today 99 percent of our well-known ulema of the Islamic resurgence here have been against Masood.
It is a regrettable fact that most of the preachers here supported Hekmatyar against Masood although I believe that Hekmatyar was the person who had the most negative effect on the Afghan jihad. He provoked internal strife among the mujahidin and squandered their achievements. In contrast the man who worked hardest to win victory for the jihad, to represent the mujahidin in Afghanistan, and to drive back the communists was Masood.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Do you think that the Arab Afghans phenomenon was a healthy thing, or did it damage the Afghan jihadist actions? The Arabs used to carry out guerrilla warfare and hit-and-run attacks. They used to go to Afghanistan, get some training, and then come back. They never carried out organized action. Do you agree that they hurt Afghan-Pakistani relations and Arab-Afghan relations, which caused the Afghan masses to lose trust in them?
[Al-Qarni] To be fair I think that we need to divide the story into stages. The first stage was the beginning of the jihad until the fall of the communist regime and themujahidin's capture of Kabul. The second stage was the stage of sedition among the mujahidin and the conflict between Hekmatyar and Masood , may he rest in peace, up to the time when the Taliban state was established. The third stage lasted from the emergence of the Taliban state until its fall. I believe that these stages were clearly separate and different from each other.
During the first stage the presence of the Arabs was beneficial. They were useful to the Afghan jihad, not only in the military sphere but also in the sphere of education, advocacy of the Islamic faith, and the dissemination of the Arabic language among themujahidin . I mean if someone went to Kabul today, he might find dozens even hundreds of young men aged 20-30 speaking Arabic fluently. They studied at the schools and institutions that the Arabs established in Peshawar and also inside Afghan territory. This was a huge effort that is not easy to deny. The Afghans themselves recognize it.
During the second stage, which lasted from the beginning of the factional strife until the establishment of the Taliban state, the Arabs' presence was detrimental. They were many Arabs in Afghanistan at that time and there were camps that received a continuing flock of young Arab men. This period was actually the beginning of the development of deviant ideology among the youngmujahidin and the start of the violence and sedition among the Muslims. It was a stage that especially hurt the image of the Arabs. Some Arabs who planned to go to Afghanistan used to come and ask me for advice. I used to tell them: "Go to the training camps but do not interfere in the internal conflict among the Afghan factions. If you can intervene as peacemakers, do so but beware of bearing arms in the service of one side against the other. I warned them against sedition. That period marked the development of deviant ideology and wrong actions in the history of the Arab Afghans. It also marked the start of enmity between the Arabs and the Afghans.
This was followed by another stage after the fall of the Taliban regime when, as you remember, the Arabs were seized and sent to Guantanamo. Most of the inmates there are Arabs. Why? The Afghans started to see the Arabs as their enemies and used to turn them over in exchange for small sums of money. This was a stage that hurt the jihad.
The third stage was the Taliban stage of course. At this time the Arabs were fewer in number because many of them returned when the Taliban rule began. Personally I believe, and many youngmujahidin know my view on this matter, that the purpose of making the Taliban seize power was to destroy whatever had remained of the Afghan jihad. Of course the Taliban had to demonstrate that they had anIslamist policy to gain support. At the same time I would like to repeat what I said in the past that either the Pakistani or the US intelligence service was behind the establishment of the Taliban. I said this before and indeed I said it to some Taliban leaders.
The Taliban's assumption of power obliterated the so-far bright and splendid image of jihad. The shining and pure image of Islam was now distorted. All this occurred because of the Taliban's seizure of power and their insufficient understanding and distorted application of Islamicshari'ah . I have a certain viewpoint on this issue. I would like to state that the Taliban's assumption of power in Kabul was a calamity to the Afghan people.
[Al-Dhiyabi] There were exaggerated accounts of miracles taking place among the mujahidin. Why were these fictitious stories circulated?
[Al-Qarni] Theoretically miracles can occur. We do not deny miracles. They are supernatural occurrences and they happen when God Almighty wishes to do something that will uphold His religion by the hand of his saintly followers. No reasonable person can deny this but one should not tell exaggerated stories about it. Another thing is that we should not accept just any story about a miracle that someone recounts.
[Al-Dhiyabi] What is your assessment of the Islamic resurgence ulema during the Afghan jihad stage?
[Al-Qarni] The arena of jihad is open and any person can exploit it and benefit from it. Why is this so? This is because when young men, especially young men from our kingdom, used to go to Afghanistan and then return, it was natural for them to meet with theulema and as a result a sort of polarization, a sort of ideological trend, emerged. Here in our country we lived through the periods of disagreements among the Muslim Brothers, thesalafis, the followers of the Tabligh School, the Sufis, et cetera. These trends were transferred from there to our own country. I remember in this respect that Shaykh Abdallah Azzam , may he rest in peace, adopted a firm stance on this issue. Some brothers came to us from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and each of their groups, which followed variousIslamist trends, wanted to establish their own training camp. I remember this very well. Shaykh Abdallah Azzam stood and declared: "Brothers, we came here to carry out a nation's jihad. Anyone who makes the declaration of faith that there is no God but Allah can enter these training camps."
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did this hold true for everyone, whether the newcomer was a Sunni or a Shiite?
[Al-Qarni] There were no Shiites. They were all Sunnis because the Shiites were not there. They were stationed on the Iranian border, not in our areas.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Still the Shiites were not welcomed if they wanted to join the jihad, right?
[Al-Qarni] There were no Shiites and the issue did not arise because no Shiites came to begin with. Shaykh Abdallah Azzam used to say that this was a whole nation's jihad open to everyone who said there is no God but Allah and all the groups coexisted, the Sufis, thesalafis, the Muslim Brothers, and the members of the Tabligh School. Shaykh Azzam used to declare: "If you want to discuss the differences among the various Islamic schools of thought, do it in your own countries. Do not do it here." He did not allow any factionalism, but still there were groups that established their own camps and their own military training and had their own sources of finance. At this point the first signs of divisions and disagreements began.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did you play the role of inciter to Saudi young men and encourage them to go and carry out jihad in Afghanistan?
[Al-Qarni] Yes. I had audiocassettes that promoted this call. I used to exhort the people, especially young men, to join the jihad.
[Al-Dhiyabi] What method did you use to do this?
[Al-Qarni] I did it through lectures and religious lessons. I did not rely solely on recorded audiocassettes. I also gave lectures.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Your students, the remaining brothers, are they still there?
[Al-Qarni] No. Those who were close to me subsequently returned. None remained. All of us came back.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Do you still meet with them?
[Al-Qarni] Yes, I still meet with those who now reside in this country.
[Al-Dhiyabi] What is your assessment of our nation's current condition?
[Al-Qarni] First of all, we have experienced periods of pain and sorrow at the condition to which the Afghan jihad has deteriorated. It was a dream that the Islamic nation had entertained, but soon it began to dissipate at the hands of themujahidin themselves, not the enemies. This occurred as a result of factional conflict and narrow personal interests. So we lived through this period of pain. I would like to mention another important point, namely, the distortion of the image of jihad and the attempt to alter its meaning to the point that the very concept of jihad became vague in the minds of preachers and religious scholars. It got to the point that some people began to renounce the concept of jihad and claim that there is no longer any jihad if it means murder, violence, and the killing of Muslims. This is a distortion of concepts and it is a very serious matter to us, the Muslims.
It is one thing when someone errs in his behavior, knows that he has erred, or disobeys God and realizes what he has done. It is a totally different thing when an entire concept of the Islamic nation is distorted and the nation enters a dark tunnel and the entire process of jihad turns into terrorism. It is a terrible thing when everymujahid is considered a terrorist who carries out bombings and accuses other Muslims of disbelief. This is a big problem and needs careful handling.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did any of the Bin Ladin family urge you to intervene and dissuade their brother Usama from going away after he decided to leave Saudi Arabia?
[Al-Qarni] When they first contacted me, it was not to dissuade him from leaving the country but to persuade him to return from Sudan because he was already there. I would like to mention an important fact now, namely, that during BinLadin's stay in Sudan, the kingdom made great efforts to persuade him to return to the country, settle down, and lead a normal life. It sent him many envoys, including his own mother who visited him in Sudan hoping to make him change his mind. However, he persisted in the course of action he had chosen. His brotherBakr asked me to visit him in Sudan and persuade him to return. I asked to take permission first from Shaykh Bin-Baz, may he rest in peace, because I believed that individual action would do no good. I visited Shaykh Bin-Baz here in Riyadh and consulted him about the issue. I said: "I would like my trip to be carried out with your knowledge."
Shaykh Bin-Baz declined to intervene and told me no one had approached him regarding this matter, neither the state nor Usama's brother Bakr. He said: "No one asked me and therefore I cannot intervene."
After this response from Shaykh Bin-Baz, I also apologized and declined to go and see Usama.
[Al-Dhiyabi] When did the last telephone call between you and Usama Bin Ladin take place?
[Al-Qarni] After Usama left the kingdom, we did not call each other.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Was the last meeting between you and him in Jedda?
[Al-Qarni] Yes, the last meeting between us was in Jedda before he left the country.
[Al-Dhiyabi] How long before he left?
[Al-Qarni] We met about two months before he left. He told me that he was going to Sudan to liquidate his assets and investments in that country. That was the last meeting between
[Al-Dhiyabi] Let us talk about the jihadist groups in Iraq. Usama Bin Ladin installed Al-Zarqawi as leader of the Al-Qa'ida of Jihad Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers, and Al-Maqdisi operated in Jordan. Was this group that developed in Jordan a nucleus of the same group that emerged in Saudi Arabia or was it stronger than thejihadist groups that appeared in the kingdom?
[Al-Qarni] There is no doubt that Saudi young men played the greatest role in financing, supporting, and influencing the course of the Afghan jihad in the early stages. This is a well-known fact and the Afghanmujahidin leaders still recognize it. The idea of jihad spread, many Saudis returned to their country, although a few remained, but after that violence erupted in Algeria.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did any Saudis go to Algeria?
[Al-Qarni] I do not know if any went to Algeria.
[Al-Dhiyabi] What are your views on the various names used by these movements like salafism, jihadism, et cetera?
[Al-Qarni] In my opinion all these names are heretical fabrications. Our legitimate name that God gave to us is the Muslim people. Again I believe that the classification of Muslims as liberals,Islamists, modernists, and conservatives is against shari'ah. When the Islamists themselves divide themselves into salafis, Muslim Brothers, followers of the Tabligh School, and jihadists , this is a cause for divisions and strife. The name that God gave to us is enough, namely, the Muslims. I debate this subject a lot with zealous young men who use these appellations. Indeed some of them have told me: "You do not use the name of any specific group." I always answer: "The name of Muslim is enough for me."
[Al-Dhiyabi] What message would you like to address to Salman al-Awdah?
[Al-Qarni] This is what I want to say to him, and I do it from a perspective of fraternity rather than criticism. I tell him: Let your purpose be to seek God's pleasure, not the people's approval.
[Al-Dhiyabi] And what would you like to tell Ayid al-Qarni?
[Al-Qarni] Ayid al-Qarni is a beloved brother. This is my message to him: You have now discovered the path by which you can bring benefit to the people in the cause of God. So continue on this path.
[Al-Dhiyabi] And Safar al-Hawali?
[Al-Qarni] First of all, I have heard that he has been sick, so I wish him good health. Secondly, my message to him is to keep an open mind and heart to those who hold views different from his.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Nasir al-Umar?
[Al-Qarni] My message to him is that when he gives an opinion on an issue, he should try to provide sound shari'ah proofs.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Do you support the idea of holding a dialogue with fugitives who appear on the government's wanted list?
[Al-Qarni] Yes. Indeed I believe that dialogue is the best method.
[Al-Dhiyabi] What about those who refuse to respond to the call to hold a dialogue or do not heed Interior Ministry's call on them to surrender?
[Al-Qarni] Those who reject dialogue condemn themselves to defeat. Dialogue is the sound remedy for deviant ideologies. Those who reject dialogue and respond only to security measures have already condemned themselves to defeat.
[Al-Dhiyabi] What do you think of the escape of 23 prisoners in Yemen?
[Al-Qarni] I still cannot understand how they could escape. Where were the security forces and the state security intelligence apparatus? We are told that they dug a tunnel until they reached a mosque outside jail. I still cannot understand this.>>