Tag Archives: Georges Malbrunot

‘Russia Backs Limited US Strike to Force Assad to Negotiate’ Le Figaro

Here is my translation of breaking news on Syria from le Figaro colleague, Georges Malbrunot, Wednesday 28 August 2013, 9.10 am.

An attack on Syria seems imminent. ‘American officials have sent a message to the UN that it would be best for its inspectors in Syria not to prolong their mission,’ a Western diplomatic source, close to the Syria file has told me.

The US ‘has not explicitly asked them to leave Syria but has told them that the intelligence services have proof that last week’s chemical attack near Damascus was carried out by the regime and so there is no need for them to continue their investigations on the ground,’ the source added.
As in Iraq in December 1998, the departure of the UN inspectors from Damascus is a sign of imminent military strikes. In 1998, the US bombarded Saddam’s key power bases over a four day period, accusing him of hiding chemical weapons, just hours after the UN inspectors had left Baghdad. On Tuesday, the UN inspection team in Damascus used the lack of security as a pretext for not leaving their hotel.

According to ‘Foreign Policy’ magazine, US intelligence services intercepted a telephone call from a Syrian solider in a panic calling his superiors to account over the attack.

Also according to our diplomatic source, ‘The Russians, declaring that they are not going to war, have given their backing to a limited American strike’ against their ally in Damascus. The strike would not be aimed at regime change in Syria, a US spokesperson announced yesterday, ‘The aim would be to weaken Assad and, from a weakened position, bring him to the negotiating table in Geneva,’ the diplomatic source explained. ‘Something the rebels have not been able to in more than two years faced with Assad’s army, that is to say change the balance of power on the ground. The Allied forces will achieve this by bombing Syrian Army bases in the hope os strengthening the weak Syrian opposition,’ our source continued.

A strike on the Presidential Palace in Damascus is unlikely to be on the Americans’ strategic radar; however, an attack on one of Bashar al-Assad’s other residences in his Latakia fiefdom might be.

In order to strengthen the so-called moderate, Western-backed opposition, strikes against jihadi groups linked to al-Qaeda are not excluded from the game plan. ‘Otherwise, this military intervention will simply strengthen the radical Islamists; it will also help the Russians – who are ferociously anti-Islamist – swallow the bitter pill of this Western military intervention.’

The diplomat added that the US is reluctant to use force on Friday, the Moslem day of prayer. The window of opportunity is open from this evening, Wednesday.

Bin Laden Bodyguard ‘Can My Story Stop Others Joining Al-Qaeda?’

Nasser al-Bahri was Osama bin Laden’s personal bodyguard from 1997 to 2001. In his memoir, Guarding bin Laden: My Life in al-Qaeda, published today for the first time in English, he describes how he became radicalized, defied his father and ran away to the Bosnian ‘jihad’ in search of ‘martyrdom’. Soon, he moved to Afghanistan where he fulfilled his dream of joining al-Qaeda; Osama bin Laden was quick to single him out to train for his own security detail.

Al-Bahri’s first doubts arose when he was instructed to cold-bloodedly murder a colleague as ‘practise’ for killing an American soldier.

 London, UK, 22 June 2013                                       

Later, he met the men who would carry out the 9/11 attacks…playing a video game which simulated flying a plane into towers. As the organization geared up for 9/11, tensions mounted and al-Bahri began to look for a way out. Married, and with a baby on the way, he had started to lose faith in violent extremism and longed for a ‘normal’ life.

After a row with bin Laden, al-Bahri abruptly left, with his family, for his native Yemen. On the FBI’s ‘most wanted’ list, he was arrested on arrival and interrogated by the bureau’s Ali Soufan who described him as ‘a gold mine of information’. After four years in jail, under threat of extradition to Guantanamo, he convinced Yemeni President Saleh, in a private interview, of his repentance.

Still wanted in 70 countries, al-Bahri is now a taxi driver in Sana’a, the only verified senior al-Qaeda leader at liberty to tell his story. ‘I was persuaded to write this book because I realize I am a witness to history,’ he says, ‘And because I hope that it will stop other young men from making the same mistakes as me and trying to join alQaeda’

For Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, Bahri’s account of al-Qaeda is ‘more important than that of any high-ranking prisoner we transferred to Guantanamo’; he has given international intelligence services a clear picture of what they were dealing with in Afghanistan and what we may face again if – as many experts predict – al-Qaeda re-establishes itself in Syria and Iraq.

In vivid detail, Bahri describes every day life in al-Qaeda’s secret headquarters with its elaborate defences, strict hierarchy and organizational methods. He tells of battles and suicide bombings, spies in the camp and numerous assassination attempts on bin Laden.

On a more personal level, he discusses bin Laden’s personality and habits, his relationships with his four wives and his children, and his attitude to his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri – now al-Qaeda’s leader. Bahri also reveals how the Taliban and al-Qaeda became  inextricably linked and were helped by Pakistan’s Army and Intelligence.

Guarding bin Laden: My Life in al-Qaeda was written with celebrated Figaro journalist, Georges Malbrunot. It was originally published in French in 2010 as Dans l’Ombre de ben Laden.

This is the first English translation, by Susan de Muth and is published by Thin Man Press, London.

Guarding bin Laden: My Life in al-Qaeda is available in paperback from Amazon priced £9.99/$14.95/ €12.99 and on Kindle and all e-book formats.

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