TORONTO STAR STAFF Top-secret Iraqi intelligence documents, unearthed by the Toronto Star in the bombed-out headquarters of the dreaded Mukhabarat intelligence service in Baghdad, have established the first clear link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda organization.
The documents were found by correspondent Mitch Potter, the Star’s Jerusalem bureau chief. Potter, who has been in and out of Iraq since the war began, was digging through the rubble of the Mukhabarat’s Baghdad headquarters with his translator Amir when they uncovered the intelligence treasure trove.
Bin Laden’s name appears three times in the handwritten Iraqi file, but each of the references was clumsily concealed with White-Out and then blackened with ink, “presumably by agents of the Mukhabarat,” writes Potter, who was travelling with Amir and Inigo Gilmore of London’s Sunday Telegraph.
In his dispatch, Potter details how his translator, sitting on the end of his hotel room bed today, carefully scraped away the White Out with a scalpel to reveal bin Laden’s name hidden underneath.
And he writes of Amir’s stunned reaction when the name became apparent: “It says Bin Laden! It says Bin Laden!” The full account will appear in tomorrow’s Star.
The discovery of the document coincides with the Friday capture of Farouk Hijazi, an Iraqi spymaster the United States claims was the link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Hijazi, according to U.S. allegations, met bin Laden prior to the Sept. 11 attacks during Hijazi’s term as Iraq’s ambassador to Turkey.
“The document in question is in every way possible entirely like the hundreds of others we’ve been poring over in our spare hours these many nights in the safety of our hotel room while intermittent gunfire pops away in the distance,” Potter writes.
Spies from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who scoured the building after it was bombed into rubble, apparently missed the document.
The presence of bin Laden’s name on the document has been verified by four Arabic interpreters.