Saddam Hussein’s regime was linked to an African Islamist terrorist group, according to intelligence papers seen by The Telegraph. The documents provide the first hard evidence of ties between Iraq and religious terrorism.
Secret dossiers detailing the group’s discussions with the Iraqi Intelligence Service were found in the spies’ Baghdad headquarters, among the detritus of shredding.
The papers show how Iraq’s charge d’affaires in Nairobi, Fallah Hassan Al Rubdie, was in discussion with the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan guerrilla group with ties to other anti-western Islamist organisations.
While the United States has long argued that Saddam’s regime was aiding Islamist groups, it has struggled until now to provide compelling evidence.
In a letter to the head of the Iraqi spy agency, a senior ADF operative outlined his group’s efforts to set up an “international mujahideen team”.
Its mission, he said, “will be to smuggle arms on a global scale to holy warriors fighting against US, British and Israeli influences in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Far East”.
The letter, dated April 2001, was signed: “Your Brother, Bekkah Abdul Nassir, Chief of Diplomacy ADF Forces”.
Nassir offered to “vet, recruit and send youth to train for the jihad” at a centre in Baghdad, which he described as a “headquarters for international holy warrior network”. It was not clear whether the centre was established.
“We should not allow the enemy to focus on Afghanistan and Iraq, but we should attack their international criminal forces inside every base,” the letters said.
The ADF emerged in 1996, when it launched a rebellion against President Yoweri Museveni’s government. In December 2001 the movement was placed on the US list of terrorist organisations.
Throughout its campaign the ADF has been provided with weapons and funding by the Islamist government in Sudan, one of more than half a dozen states Washington accuses of sponsoring terrorism.
The key figure behind the ADF is widely acknowledged to be a fundamentalist Islamic cleric, Sheikh Jamil Makulu.
According to the Ugandan government and western intelligence sources, Sheikh Makulu became friendly with Osama bin Laden in the early to mid-Nineties, when the al-Qa’eda chief was living in Khartoum.
The IIS’s headquarters were only loosely guarded by US special forces yesterday. The Telegraph entered the building through one of the many holes left by devastating bombing.