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Jabir al-Fayfi: The Al Qaeda Commander Who Came in From the Cold - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – Jabir al-Fayfi traveled from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan via Qatar, before crossing the border into Afghanistan, where he fought alongside the Taliban for 9 months, until the 9/11 attacks took place, brining his stay in the country to an end. Al-Fayfi spoke about all of this and more during the first of his televised confessions on Saudi television on Tuesday. Al-Fayfi is the prominent Al Qaeda commander who recently surrendered himself to Saudi authorities, playing what has been described as a key role in uncovering the recent Cargo Planes Bomb plot.

Jabir al-Fayfi is only a recent recruit to Al Qaeda, joining Al Qaeda in Yemen after he was repatriated to Saudi Arabia in late 2006 following a 5-year detention in Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. He was perhaps one of the most prominent figures included on the Saudi Interior Ministry’s list of 85 most wanted terrorists.

In his confession, al-Fayfi who was born in 1975 in Taif, acknowledges being stubborn and head-strong. He reveled that he worked as a prison guard at Jeddah’s Briman Prison before he was laid off due to frequent absences. Although he was not particularly religious at the time, al-Fayfi underwent a religious transformation after losing his job. He then decided to travel and join the “jihad” in Afghanistan as a form of repentance for past misdeeds after listening to audio tapes of well-known Saudi clerics who called on Saudi youth to travel and fight in Afghanistan.

In his televised confession, Al-Fayfi also revealed how the Afghans turned on the Arab mujahedeen after 9/11, and how he, along with 300 other Arab mujahedeen, were betrayed by the Afghans, captured by the Pakistani army, and handed over to the Americans.

Al-Fayfi revealed that during the period that he fought in Afghanistan “at this time [in Afghanistan] there was no such thing as Al Qaeda…the majority of those who entered Afghanistan wanted training or to join the Taliban or travel to Chechnya via Afghanistan [to fight].”

Al-Fayfi said that his own intention upon entering Afghanistan was to receive training and then travel to Chechnya to fight. He reveals that he received his training at the Al Farouk Training Camp around the same time that Al Qaeda was first establishing itself in the country, and denied having any knowledge about how such training camps were funded, revealing that prior to leaving Saudi Arabia he had sold his car in order to finance his trip.

Al-Fayfi also revealed that “before the events of 9/11, I was undertaking a training course [at Al Farouk Camp], and as soon as this [attack] occurred we left the area and traveled to the front-line [between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance] which was in Bagram.” He also reveals that initially there was a lot of confusion about the 9/11 attacks, with various rumors about who had been attacked and who was responsible, including rumors that this attack had been against China.

Al-Fayfi spoke in detail about the period prior to the US invasion, saying “we were in one set of trenches, and the Northern Alliance were in front of us, and after a month the [US] bombing started, and the Northern Alliance advanced forcing the Taliban to retreat. Kabul fell, and we retreated…until we reached Jalalabad where we stayed until it also fell [to the Northern Alliance]…so we were forced to take refuge in the Tora Bora Mountains where the Arabs were already present, so we joined them there.”

Al-Fayfi said that the majority of the Arab mujahedeen were Saudi Arabians, as well as Yemeni nationals. He revealed that the Arab mujahedeen remained in the Tora Bora Mountains throughout Ramadan and that they were provided for and equipped by Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. During this period, al-Fayfi said that the entire region was continually shelled, and that the Arab mujahedeen were completely cut-off from supplies, so that “our food [stores] finished, as did the food [stores] in Afghanistan as a whole.”

Al-Fayfi reveals that at this point, the Afghans turned against the Arabs, beginning to attack them in order to force them to leave the country. Al-Fayfi said “they were fighting us to force us to leave….for their villages were occasionally being hit by air strikes, so they decided to fight us to force us to leave.” He added “we stayed throughout Ramadan and then we left during Eid, we left for Pakistan.”

Here things take a dramatic turn, al-Fayfi said that “we were a group of around 300 people, most of us Saudi Arabians; our ages ranging between 20 and 25….we were deceived that there was an agreement that we would be allowed to enter [Pakistan], and that there would be no problem with this.” He revealed that conditions along the Afghan – Pakistani border at this time were extremely hard, and that the group of 300 Arab mujahedeen marched for around 4 days in freezing cold conditions until they reached the Pakistani border. Al-Fayfi also revealed that the Arab mujahedeen were convinced to lay down their arms before entering Pakistan, which was the beginning of the process of this group of Arab mujahedeen being handed over to the Pakistani army.

Al-Fayfi said that “we were taken to a certain area [in Pakistan]…they put us in a large mosque in the village and said that we would be moving to another region by car and that somebody from the army would be with us to help us pass through any checkpoints to ensure that we are not stopped.” Following this journey, al-Fayfi said that “we were dropped off in a darkened street, and we entered an enclosed space…as soon as we entered we saw that there were a lot of soldiers everywhere…when we asked, what’s happening, they said that this is a prison, and that we had been captured and that they would be seeking to surrender us to our home countries.”

He also revealed that many of the Arab mujahedeen who had been captured by the Pakistani army would have preferred to be imprisoned in Pakistan rather than return to their home countries, but that he himself had no problem returning to Saudi Arabia.

He says that he was later blindfolded and taken to a different prison by the Pakistani authorities where he was fingerprinted, and that he remained there waiting to be sent back to Saudi Arabia until a group of international police arrived at the prison and questioned him and others for a period of around 14 days, after which he was taken into US custody and later transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

Al-Fayfi was later repatriated to Saudi Arabia in late 2006, and he went on to join Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, reportedly becoming a leading member of this organization. However all of this changed when al-Fayfi surrendered himself to the Saudi authorities in October 2010, and reportedly played a key role in uncovering the 29 October 2010 Cargo Planes Bomb plot. This plot saw two explosive devices discovered on Cargo Planes bound from Yemen to the US; these explosive devices were discovered en route in England and Dubai, with sources saying that these bombs were most likely designed to explode to detonate in mid-air, with the intention of destroying both planes over Chicago and another US city.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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