DUBAI (Reuters) – Al Qaeda’s deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri accused Libya of torturing to death a militant whose confession was used to justify the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Libya’s state prosecutor said in May that Libyan Ali Mohamed Abdelaziz al Fakhiri, also known as Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, committed suicide while serving a life jail sentence.
“A false confession was obtained from him through torture about a relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein,” Zawahri said in a video posted on an Islamist website.
Fakhiri made up the story about a link between Saddam and al Qaeda to avoid torture while in the custody of a third country, according to a 2006 U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report.
U.S. human rights groups have said he gave the account to interrogators in Egypt, where he was sent by the United States in January 2002. Fakhiri later recanted, the committee said.
He was sent secretly to Libya by the United States in 2006, and Zawahri said al Qaeda would punish the United States for handing him over to Tripoli.
“They (Americans) have handed him over to the agents of (Libyan leader Muammar) Gaddafi to continue torturing him and kill him.”
“You criminals, you murders, you vampires … your blood will be spilled and your economy will be drained so that you stop your crimes … We will take revenge for every mujahid, orphan, or Muslim you have killed,” said an angry Zawahri in an apparent message to Americans.
“Ibn Sheikh is but one of thousands of victims who have been and still are being devoured by the raving American monster,” said Zawahri. “He was tortured to death.”
“Obama, you who talks about human rights; how many secret prisons are there? Where are they located? How many are their victims? How many of them were killed? How many were disabled? What is their fate? To whom were they handed over? Why did you hand them over?”
Obama has vowed to close the United States’ Guantanamo detention center used to hold suspected terrorists by early 2010. He is also lobbying European allies to accept prisoners who are not seen to pose a security threat but cannot return to their home countries because of a risk of torture.
“Why did your administration conspire with the Libyan regime to kill Ibn Sheikh al-Libi?” asked the Egyptian militant.
Rights groups had urged Libya to conduct a thorough inquiry into the death of Fakhiri. They say his death shows the risks that many prisoners remaining in the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay could face if they are sent back to their home countries.
Zawahri said Fakhiri was tortured in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt and Libya after his arrest following al Qaeda’s September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities.