Cairo: Nabeel Naeem Abdul Fattah, former leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (1988- 1992), claimed that Al Qaida chief Osama Bin Laden was not shot dead by US Special Forces (SEALs) in ‘Operation Geronimo’, but blew himself up to avoid capture soon after they launched the raid at his Abbotabad compound in Pakistan on May 2, 2011.
“Bin Laden’s burial at sea story was fishy. US President Barack Obama lied when he claimed that Bin Laden was buried at sea. Bin Laden’s body parts were cut into multiple pieces, which is similar to suicide attacks following the bombing, so as not to leave any clue to the US forces to identify him,” added Abdul Fattah - who was not in Abottabad at the time of Bin Laden’s death, but says he heard what happened from a Bin Laden relative - in an exclusive interview with Gulf News.
Abdul Fattah, who was a personal guard of Bin Laden, confirmed that Bin Laden was wearing an explosive belt all the time in the last ten years of his life and insisted on not giving himself up to the Americans.
“US intelligence services had planned to nab him alive, but they miscalculated. He blew himself up to avoid capture. Also, he wanted to keep his secrets until death and he had many sponsors from Gulf States as they were sending him money. He wanted to rescue them from any trouble. He swore in front of the Kaaba to keep all his secrets till death,” Abdul Fattah said.
Abdul Fattah pointed out there is a possibility that one of Bin Laden’s supporters had betrayed him. “It was hard to infiltrate the close circle around Bin Laden. His personal guards were only Yemenis or Saudis who wouldn’t be hired by any hostile party,” Abdul Fattah asserted.
Abdul Fattah explained how the Americans reached Bin Laden: “A brother of a Kuwaiti detainee of Pakistani origin in Guantanamo Bay was close to Bin Laden. He appeared in Kuwait in 2008 when the CIA asked Kuwaiti authorities not to arrest him or track him down. He used to visit his family and go to Pakistan with a fake passport. US intelligence services were monitoring his telephone and tapping all conversations to know his contacts. They then discovered that he was usually switching off his mobile in a certain place where they weren’t able to trace him any more.
“After months of monitoring that guy the Americans failed to find Bin Laden’s house. They organised a mass vaccination campaign to protect children against smallpox. As they found Arab children in the area they tested their DNA to determine the origin of their paternal line. Once US intelligence services knew of Bin Laden’s and his family’s existence in the Abbotabad compound, they decided to launch their raid on it.
“Bin Laden and his men defended themselves. They fired shots at the helicopter that has carried the US Special Forces unit. As the SEALs killed two of his guards and shot him in his thigh, he triggered his explosive belt”.
Abdul Fattah concluded his memorial of Bin Laden’s death referring to a source close to one of the dead guards. He refused to mention his name to protect him, adding that “one day Bin Laden’s wife will tell this story.”
Abdul Fattah recalls what Bin Laden said to him a long time ago in Makkah, even before he left Saudi Arabia, “If we manage to draw America into the Afghan quagmire we will be able to do things that are unprecedented.”
“Among the people who went to Afghanistan and fought the USSR, we used to say that the Americans were crazy. They saw and witnessed how the Soviets were humiliated and left. The Soviets had more perseverance than the Americans. Soviet soldiers would drink from the sewers, whereas American soldiers would cry if you took their mineral water away. They need it even for showering. The Russians, in contrast, would drink from the sewage flowing in the streets,” Abdul Fattah added.
"Unfortunately, what Bin Laden said turned out to be true, because God gave America a very stupid president [George W. Bush] who sent Americans to Afghanistan, where they will be defeated,” Abdul Fattah said.
Obama’s media adviser met Abdul Fattah in Egypt during a conference last year. Abdul Fattah told him: “You will be defeated, not because you are fighting the Taliban, but because you are fighting geography and nobody can beat geography.”
Regarding Jihadist groups’ affiliates with Al Qaida, Abdul Fattah said that these groups in Egypt’s Sinai and other places who claim nowadays to be connected to Al Qaida are nothing but a media show. They say that they belong to Al Qaida in order to scare people, because it is connected with 9/11 attacks. The truth is that they never belonged to Al Qaida or know anything about it. Al Qaida has vanished since the death of Bin Laden.
“The current regime in Egypt [Muslim Brotherhood] wants to blow this out of proportion, in order to claim that the alternative is worse. Just like the previous regime did with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood. They say: the alternative is worse, so you are better off with us,” Abdul Fattah asserted.
Ayman Al Zawahiri is all talk
Abdul Fattah doesn’t believe in Ayman Al Zawahiri’s ability to be an effective successor to Bin Laden.
He said that he cannot do anything and he is just talking. “All he does is to send out recorded messages and I know him personally. He does not have the charisma or the determination. He is swayed by other people’s opinions. Five or six people around him tell him what to do. He’s no Bin Laden. There is a huge difference between them.
“When Mohammad Al Zawahiri [brother of Ayman] was released from prison after Egypt’s revolution, a few young men gathered around him because he is Ayman’s brother. Security services let him move freely and contact people in order to crack down on all who gather around him,” Abdul Fattah added.
He said that Mohammad Al Zawahiri makes contradictory statements. “First he says that democracy is heresy and that the voters are infidels, and then he says that they will fight whoever attacks [President Mohammad] Mursi. Besides, Mursi is now Mr. Democracy himself. Why accuse us voters of heresy? You should be accusing him first.”
Sitting in a poor apartment beside the archaic Roman Catholic Patriarch in Al Zaher, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Cairo, Abdul Fattah recalls his history as a leader of Egypt’s Al Jihad organisation, which assassinated the late president Anwar Sadat in 1981, waged a terrorist war in the 1990s and helped give birth to Al Qaida. He was once “the right arm” of Ayman Al Zawahiri, the former Al Jihad leader who now heads Al Qaida.
“I am the one who sent Mohammad Atta to Afghanistan,” Abdul Fattah says proudly of the lead pilot of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Abdul Fattah was released from prison in March 2011, just weeks after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, who had kept him locked up for 20 years. Al Jihad abandoned violence in Egypt years ago. “We were exhausted,” he says, and at 57, he looks it. The former jihadist concedes that Egypt is headed toward Western-style democracy: “It’s the only available option.”