December 15, 2003,
As U.S. intelligence officers interrogate Saddam Hussein, they should ask the freshly nabbed ex-dictator about an article in yesterday's London Sunday Telegraph. Coinciding with Operation Red Dawn, the respected British paper published a dispatch by correspondent Con Coughlin titled: "Does this link Saddam to 9/11?"
Coughlin, who has reported from Baghdad and authored Saddam: The Secret Life, discusses a document discovered by Iraq's interim government detailing a summer 2001 meeting in the Iraqi capitol between September 11 ringleader Mohammed Atta and notorious Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal.
The handwritten communiqué, according to Coughlin, was penned by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, former chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS). He is the Jack of Diamonds among Hussein's top henchmen and remains at large. Habbush's July 1, 2001, memo is labeled "Intelligence Items" and is addressed: "To the President of the Ba'ath Revolution Party and President of the Republic, may God protect you."
Mohammed Atta, an Egyptian national, came with Abu Ammer [the real name behind this Arabic alias remains a mystery] and we hosted him in Abu Nidal's house at al-Dora under our direct supervision."
While these objectives are unidentified, Atta slammed American Airlines Flight 11 into One World Trade Center on September 11, signaling the first of four deadly, coordinated attacks with hijacked jets that horrid morning. The notion that an al Qaeda operative and Saddam Hussein's spy agency "agreed to destroy" the Twin Towers is bolstered by previous ties between Iraq and the February 26, 1993, WTC bombing. Recall that the mastermind of that operation was Iraqi Ramzi Yousef who traveled before the assault to America on an Iraqi passport.
Also, Indiana-born, Iraqi-reared terrorist Abdul Rahman Yasin was indicted for mixing the chemicals in the bomb that exploded beneath One World Trade Center, killing six and injuring some 1,000 New Yorkers. Indicted by U.S. prosecutors in August 1993 as a conspirator in that plot, Yasin is on the FBI's Most-Wanted Terrorists list. ABC News confirmed on July 27, 1994, that Yasin had returned to Baghdad, where he traveled freely and visited his father's home almost daily. Richard Miniter reported September 25 on TechCentralStation: "U.S. forces recently discovered a cache of documents in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, which shows Iraq gave Mr. Yasin both a house and a monthly salary."
Abu Nidal's appearance in this memo is intriguing. The perpetrator of attacks that killed at least 275 people and injured some 625 others moved to Baghdad in 1999 where he lived under Hussein's protection. But on August 16, 2002, Nidal committed suicide, Baathist officials claimed. What they could not explain, however, is how Nidal killed himself with four bullets to the head.
Did Saddam Hussein, fearing an impending U.S. invasion, eliminate Nidal as Mohammed Atta's former tutor? Remember: Hussein's Salman Pak terrorist training camp 15 miles from Baghdad housed an airline fuselage in which Islamic extremists reportedly learned to commandeer jets with in-flight cutlery.
As for that memo, a leading member of Iraq's governing council told Coughlin: "There are people who are working with us who used to work with Habbush who are convinced that it is his handwriting and signature. We are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam's dealings with al-Qaeda, and this document shows the extent of the old regime's involvement with the international terrorist network."
Now that Saddam Hussein has slept in something other than a dirt-lined hole, American investigators should ask him what he knows about Habbush's memo and when he knew it.
Deroy Murdock is a syndicated columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Fairfax, Virginia.