Last January, the Guardian published an edited version of a speech attributed to Osama Bin Laden in the form of an opinion piece in its Comments section. This article was the source of some hilarity, as wits started to describe Osama Bin Laden as a “Guardian columnist”.
Slightly less amusing was last month’s “Aslam Affair“, in which the Guardian published a series of articles by an activist in Hizb’ut Tahrir, a racist theocratic totalitarian political party.
There were really two aspects to the Aslam Affair. The first was that Aslam’s articles were in effect propaganda pieces for Hizb’ut Tahrir, but that the Guardian had not disclosed to their readership, Aslam’s political activism. The second was that the Guardian clearly had little understanding of the nature of Hizb’ut Tahrir’s politics.
Today’s Comment piece by Sa’ad al-Fagih [sic] is, I think, a somewhat more worrying example of the Guardian’s naiivity in the field of extremist Islamist politics. The essence of the article is that the United Kingdom government needs to change its policies as it is playing into the hands of al-Qaida.
What concerns me is this.
Sa’ad al-Faqih described in the footnote to the article as “a leading exiled Saudi dissident and director of the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia”.
In fact Sa’ad al-Faqih is a little bit more than that.
Al-Faiqih seems to have bought the satellite phone which was used by one of the Al Qaeda suicide bombers who blew up the US embassy in Nairobi.
Sa’ad al-Faqih, was “designated” by the United States Treasury on December 21, 2004 and on 23 Dec 2004 was named on the United Nations 1267 Committee consolidated list of individuals belonging to or associated with the Al-Qaida organisation.
On 14 July 2005, the US Treasury “designated” al-Faiqih’s “Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia” (MIRA), a U.K.-based Saudi oppositionist organization, for providing material support to al Qaida:
Under [al-Faiqih’s] ideological and operational control, MIRA is the main vehicle al-Faqih uses to propagate support for the al Qaida network. MIRA’s 1995 founding statement explicitly states that the organization is not limited to peaceful means in the pursuit of its objectives. According to information available to the U.S. Government, while head of MIRA, al-Faqih assumed the role of the al Qaida spokesperson in London following the arrest of senior Egyptian Islamic Jihad terrorist Yassir al-Sirri in 2001.
Information shows that statements on the MIRA website, including messages from Usama bin Laden and Abu Mus’ab al Zarqawi, are intended to provide ideological and operational support to al Qaida affiliated networks and potential recruits. According to recent information available to the U.S. Government, a senior al Qaida operative in Saudi Arabia sent articles to al-Faqih who then posted them to the MIRA website under the al Qaida operative’s pennames.
In 2003, MIRA and Faqih received approximately $1 million in funding through Abdulrahman Alamoudi. According to information available to the U.S. Government, the September 2003 arrest of Alamoudi was a severe blow to al Qaida, as Alamoudi had a close relationship with al Qaida and had raised money for al Qaida in the United States. In a 2004 plea agreement, Alamoudi admitted to his role in an assassination plot targeting the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and is currently serving a 23 year sentence.
Al-Faqih has maintained associations with the al Qaida network since the mid-1990s, including with Khaled al Fawwaz, who acted as UBL’s de facto representative in the United Kingdom and was associated with the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings. At the U.S. trial of the East African embassy bombers, prosecutors provided evidence that MIRA and al-Faqih paid for a satellite phone that al Fawwaz passed on to UBL, who allegedly used it to help carry out the attacks.
According to the Times, “One of the claims for the London Underground bombings was placed on his website by an al-Qaeda group.”
Did the Guardian know any of this?
Again, why didn’t they flag it up to their readership?
Harry adds: It is not as if al-Faqih has been out of the news recently. A few days after the July 7th terrorist attacks in London he decided to send a message to the Italians via the newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Here is a report in English from an Italian news agency:
“Italy should be very careful, al-Qaeda will strike it soon. Following its strategy, that is the most logical thing it will do,” Saad al-Faqih, a surgeon the US believes has helped finance al-Qaeda, told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
“After Spain, Italy was the weakest link in the chain of allies in Iraq,” he told the newspaper, pointing out that the country’s relations with America have subsequently worsened. “Osama bin Laden will be well aware of that. He follows everything. The murder of your secret service agent in Baghdad [Nicola Calipari, who was shot dead by an American soldier at a checkpoint in March, as he took newly freed Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena to the airport] certainly won’t have passed him by, or the anger of the Milan judge over the illegal kidnapping carried out in your country by the CIA. It could be that these diplomatic differences with Washington have convinced al-Qaeda to strike London before Rome or Milan, but it is only a question of time,” he said.
David T says:
I am really not sure why Sa’ad al-Faqih’s links to jihadism are not flagged up in this article. Here are my off-the-cuff thoughts.
1. Senior staff the Guardian have no idea at all of the politics of jihadism and so simply don’t know that this guy has apparent links with Al Qaeda and Bin Laden, so just published it as an interesting view from a guy who knows about middle eastern politics.
In other words, they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes, and have unwittingly published a propaganda piece, without realising or alerting their readership.
2. Senior staff at the Guardian do know who al-Faqih is, and assume that their readership will too. Why, in that case, was this article not run as a big splash:
“This is what al-Faqih, who is close to Al Qaeda thinking says”
Then there could have been some critical evaluation of it.
3. Senior staff at the Guardian published this piece, knowing that it was from a man with at the very least ideological links to Bin Laden, but were shy of saying so or pointing the apparent links out, for some reason.
I’m really not sure which one is right.