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No trust in Islamists, henchman told FBI
Question of the Day
Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, a prominent member of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, told the FBI that the dictator “delighted” in the 1998 terrorist bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa but had no interest in partnering with Osama bin Laden, declassified documents show.
The FBI notes are among hundreds of pages of interrogation records of top Iraqi officials - including Saddam - provided to the AP this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. While most of the Saddam records had been previously released, the National Security Archive, an independent research institute at George Washington University, said the FBI had previously refused to declassify Aziz’s records.
The records are from an FBI operation code-named Desert Spider, which sought to compile evidence of the Saddam regime’s war crimes and to test the theory that Saddam and his intelligence services had some form of cooperation with al Qaeda prior to the U.S. invasion in 2003.
More than seven years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, suspicions Saddam might have secretly collaborated with al Qaeda or other terror groups remains central to the continuing debate over the wisdom of launching the war, which has cost more than 4,400 U.S. lives.
No nuclear weapons - or any sign of an active nuclear program - have been found in postwar Iraq, and the Aziz interrogation records support arguments that while Saddam viewed the U.S. as his enemy, he was also hostile to al Qaeda and its radical religious ideology.
Aziz acknowledged, however, that the Saddam regime supported other terrorists, including notorious Palestinian militant Abul Abbas, mastermind of the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship. American passenger Leon Klinghoffer was killed by the terrorists and his body dumped into the Mediterranean. Abbas was captured in Iraq by U.S. forces in April 2003 and died in custody 11 months later.
Aziz said Baghdad gave Abbas a farm to allow him to generate money for the Palestinian cause. “The farm evolved into a camp where Abu Abbas would train fighters with AK-47s [assault rifles]” provided by the Iraqi government, Aziz said, according to a summary of his May 6, 2004, interrogation.
The interviews, which took place between January and June of 2004, included some lighter moments. A summary of the May 6 session noted that his American interrogators had encouraged him to write a book.
Aziz, 74, who became the international face of Iraq to millions of Americans during the 1991 Gulf War, remains in Iraqi custody after being sentenced to 22 years in prison for crimes linked to his role in the former regime.
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