The term “Islamo-leftism” is controversial. Imprecise and too conflating, we prefer, at Global Watch Analysis, the more explicit terms “leftist collaborators of Islamism” or “useful idiots of Islam”! However, “Islamo-leftism”, in the sense of the compromise of certain components or movements of the extreme left with Islamism (political or jihadist) does exist. A long investigation carried out in 2004, for the needs of our book “Ben Laden, la destruction programmée de l’Occident” published that year by Jean Picollec, shows that this “Islamo-leftism” does not only kill the debate of ideas in French universities!
By Roland Jacquard and Atmane Tazaghart
The bloody attacks that struck Madrid on 11 March 2004, killing 201 people and injuring more than 1,500, were disturbing in many ways. Several clues led to al-Qaeda and the Basque independence organisation ETA.
A communiqué from the Abu Hafs Brigades[i] claiming responsibility for the attacks, under the title “death train operations”, has been authenticated by the anti-terrorist services. But the experts were troubled by a set of clues accusing ETA[ii].
Another disturbing fact is that on 25 December 2003, an etarra[iv] was arrested at the San Sebastian railway station in possession of a suitcase containing 28 kilos of the same type of explosive. Following this arrest, a parcel bomb containing 20 kilos of the same dynamite was discovered the same day on board the San Sebastian-Madrid train. It was programmed to explode on arrival at Chamartin station in Madrid.
It was not the only recent attempt by ETA to carry out an attack in the heart of the Spanish capital using this explosive. Less than two weeks before 11 March, the police had arrested two ETA activists who were trying to break into Madrid in a vehicle packed with 500 kilos of dynamite!
Another indication, four days after the arrest, the Spanish daily El Pais, citing police sources, revealed that the Spanish anti-terrorist services feared imminent danger: several reports indicated that ETA was planning to influence the Spanish legislative elections of 14 March 2004.
Does this mean that the attacks of 11 March were the work of ETA?
Nothing is less certain. In addition to the communiqué of the Abu Hafs Brigades claiming responsibility for the attacks, several clues found at the crime scene bore the signature of al-Qaeda. First of all, there was the discovery of a Koranic cassette alongside detonators in a stolen car used to transport the explosives[v].
Other clues giving credence to the al-Qaeda trail: the use of mobile phones as remote controls used to trigger the explosions remotely[vi], the simultaneity of the four attacks[vii] and finally the sending, two days after the attacks, of a video tape showing a hooded man claiming responsibility for the attacks in the name of Abu Dujana Al-Afghani[viii].
Strange connections between the Spanish intelligence services and the instigators of the “death trains”.
The origin of the explosives used, around 150 kilos of Goma2Eco dynamite divided into fourteen explosive charges hidden in backpacks, remains a mystery. Analysis of one of the backpacks that did not explode showed that the dynamite had been manufactured by the company Union Española de Explosivos, based in Paramo de Masa, near Burgos. The transport and storage of this explosive is subject to very strict regulations, and any disappearance would have been reported to the authorities immediately. However, no recent theft of the explosive has been reported either by the company that makes it or by the construction sites that use it.
The Spanish services are said to have sold arms and explosives to terrorist networks with the aim of infiltrating them and getting as high up as possible in the organisation chart of the channels supplying them with weapons. The operation had then gone wrong, enabling the networks in question to escape police surveillance and take action.
The incredible story according to which a former drug-addicted miner by the name of José Emilio Suarez Trashorras sold the 150 kilos of Goma2 used during the attacks to two Moroccans linked to the Djamel Zougham[x] network in exchange for hashish, after having stolen them from a building site where he had worked a few years earlier, without anyone noticing or reporting their disappearance, did not seem very credible to some observers. [xi]
However, such an undercover operation would have no relevance if it targeted a network linked to al-Qaeda. The intelligence services know that it is quite ridiculous to try to trace the tracks through a local network in order to reach the top of the al-Qaeda organisation chart in this way. The strict compartmentalisation of the networks and the gigantic geographical extent of their zones of implantation throughout the world make such an attempt at infiltration vain and absurd.
The undercover operation could have targeted a local Spanish network linked to ETA, which then escaped police vigilance precisely because the explosives that had been sold to it, with a view to using them as bait to try to infiltrate it, had changed hands and reached the Spanish al-Qaeda cells[xii].
Secret alliance between ETA and al-Qaeda?
How can it be explained that explosives sold to an ETA network could, in this way, reach the Spanish cells of al-Qaeda?
A terrorist collaboration between these two organisations seems, at first sight, unthinkable, so unnatural is the alliance between them. However, a lengthy investigation started in March 2002[xiii] revealed that al-Qaeda had in the past already subcontracted logistical aid and the supply of explosives to ETA and other leftist terrorist organisations of the so-called “European type”, such as the Italian Red Brigades, the Spanish GRAPO[xiv] or the Greek 17 November.
It all began in late March 2002, when Moroccan prisoner Abderahmane Hamidou[xv], detained in Guantanamo Bay, revealed to American investigators a plan for a maritime attack on NATO ships as they passed through Gibraltar.
On the basis of this information, a joint investigation by the CIA and the Moroccan DST made it possible to locate an al-Qaeda “Moroccan cell” responsible for carrying out this attack. However, before dismantling it in early May 2002, American and Moroccan investigators decided to monitor its activities, movements and relations for more than a month.
They then discovered with amazement that the members of this cell, Moroccans and Saudis, were making contact, during their sightings in Gibraltar, with members of ETA who were to provide them with the Zodiacs and explosives planned to attack NATO ships!
Two months after the failure of this operation in Gibraltar, other clues came to support the thesis of a secret alliance between al-Qaeda and European terrorist organisations with nationalist or leftist demands.
This was demonstrated by the arrest in Athens on 17 July 2002 of the historic leader of the far-left group 17 November, Alexander Giatopoulos.
This group had become famous in the 1970s and 1980s for its anti-imperialist actions aimed at US interests[xvi]. It was considered the most secretive and compartmentalised terrorist group in Europe. Yet it collapsed abruptly, like a house of cards, when Savvas Xiros, one of its operatives, was accidentally injured by a bomb he was about to detonate in a port on the western outskirts of Athens on 29 June 2002.
Questioned by the Greek police, Xiros had made important revelations about his organisation. In the space of two weeks, a dozen arrests were made, including the arrest of Alexander Giatopoulos.
In the home of this Franco-Greek, born in Paris in 1944, the investigators discovered impressive archives retracing the bloody itinerary of his organisation. Among the mass of documents seized, a photo intrigued the investigators: it showed Giatopoulos in Afghan clothing in an al-Qaeda training camp!
By looking through the archives of Giatopoulos, it was established that the links between 17 November and al-Qaeda dated back to autumn 1998.
Greek leftists were fascinated by the “resounding victory” that Osama bin Laden’s men had just won against the American “imperialist monster” during the attacks on the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
A secret alliance between Carlos, Abu Nidal, bin Laden and the “Afghan Arabs”!
It was during this same period that Carlos, another historical figure of leftist terrorism[xvii], also gave his support to Osama bin Laden[xviii]. In an interview with one of the authors[xix], he affirmed that “revolutionary Islamism” had taken over from communism to become “the spearhead of the anti-imperialist world struggle”.
Throughout the Sudanese period of al-Qaeda and as he began to develop the ambition to federate the Arab veterans of the war in Afghanistan within an Islamist international, Osama bin Laden came closer to certain leaders of the “Arab Afghans” of various nationalities, among whom were already the Egyptians Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atef, but also two Algerians of weight: Qamar Eddine Kharbane and Abdallah Anas, whose real name is Boudjemâa Bounoua, Abdallah Azzam’s son-in-law[xx], who was once a disciple of Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud[xxi].
On the surface, Osama bin Laden was in Sudan to manage his business affairs, which included a construction company, agricultural and livestock projects, and an industrial firm exporting sunflower seeds to Europe.
But, very quickly, the Western and Arab anti-terrorist services realised that these activities were only a facade intended to hide his terrorist plans.
The local branches of the main intelligence services were alarmed in particular by numerous and repetitive night meetings during which Osama bin Laden received – in a villa on the banks of the Nile situated in the locality of Oum Darmane or in another more modest house that he had built in a chic neighbourhood to the south of Khartoum – distinguished Islamist guests and ‘revolutionaries’ of various nationalities.
There were more and more indications that all these meetings were working towards the creation of an Islamist and Arab nationalist coalition directed against the West in general and the American “great Satan” in particular.
Thus, agents of the Algerian military security charged with “tracking” the Islamist leader Ben Azouz Zebda[xxii], exiled in Turkey, managed to get into his close circle. During one of their secret trips to Sudan, they attended, at his side, one of these meetings in the residence of Oum Dermane and managed to discreetly take photos.
By a strange coincidence, one of these photos will put the French DST on the trail of Carlos and lead to his capture in Sudan, in August 1994. The “jackal” had been recognised in this photo by one of his old Algerian acquaintances, General Smain Lamari, who had become the head of the anti-terrorist section of the Algerian services, who hastened to pass it on to his counterpart in the DST, General Philippe Rondot, who had been following Carlos’ trail for twenty years[xxiii].
On the other hand, Carlos – a convert to Islam since 1975 – does not deny having been in contact with Osama bin Laden in Sudan, even if he skilfully avoids dwelling on the subject.
During an interview with one of the authors in July 1999[xxiv], when asked: “Is it true that you knew or met Osama bin Laden in Sudan? What was the nature of your contacts with him?” he simply replied: “It’s no coincidence that Sheikh Osama, other revolutionaries and mujahideen and myself stayed in Sudan at the same time!” [xxv]
Carlos was not, moreover, the only “leftist revolutionary” to ally himself with Osama bin Laden. In an exclusive interview with one of the authors[xxvi], Khalid Awad, a member of the central committee of the Abu Nidal Organisation[xxvii], revealed the existence of connections between his organisation and al-Qaeda during the period when these two groups had their bases in Sudan, that is to say during the first half of the 1990s.
“When Abu Nidal wanted to seek a new refuge from Libya, he says, he chose Sudan. He began preparing for this transfer, buying farms and residences in the country where al-Qaeda was already based. There was no contact or coordination at the organic level between the two organisations. What happened was that Abu Nidal’s executives broke away after arriving in Sudan and joined al-Qaeda. There were between 100 and 120 of them. They were mainly military leaders specialised in training in the handling of explosives and small arms. They certainly played an important role in the training of al-Qaeda fighters in al-Qaeda camps, in Sudan at the time, and then in Afghanistan. I am thinking in particular of one of them, by the name of ‘Wa’el’, who was one of Abu Nidal’s most eminent military instructors. The others were also experienced military trainers. I am sure that they made a significant contribution to the training of al-Qaeda fighters in the use of weapons, but also to the implementation of special operations such as incursions into closed or heavily guarded areas, hostage-taking and individual assassinations[xxviii].”
This trend was further confirmed after the attacks of 9/11. In their turn, the Italian Red Brigades succumbed to the fascination of Islamo-Jihadism[xxix]. During the arrest of an al-Qaeda cell that was preparing a maritime attack in Venice on 10 July 2002, the Italians got their hands on clues that established the existence of contacts between al-Qaeda and the Red Brigades.
In France, a DNAT[xxx] investigator who participated in mid-July 2002 in the dismantling of a terrorist network linked to GRAPO confirmed to us that four of the activists of this group, who had just been arrested in France, had undergone training in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan! [xxxi]
A few weeks later, the secret alliance between al-Qaeda and the Italian Red Brigades was confirmed by a report by the Italian intelligence services, drawn up at the request of a parliamentary committee and made public on 7 August 2002.
This alliance was later officially claimed by Nadia Desdemona Lioce, an important brigadist figure, who was arrested on 2 March 2003 following a bloody shooting on board the Rome-Florence train.
During her appearance in front of the anti-terrorist judge Ferdinando Pomarici, Lioce refused to answer questions and limited herself to reading a long 16-page manifesto in which she explained her action and claimed the Red Brigades’ “political and military solidarity” with al-Qaeda. She justified this position by “the need to bring the support of the urban proletariat of the European countries to the Arab and Islamic masses expropriated and humiliated, in order to counter the Israeli-Anglo-American aims”[xxxii].
How al-Qaeda has revived Europe’s “red neo-terrorism”
These multiple clues have shown that Europe has witnessed, since 11 September 2001, the birth of a new terrorist international in which al-Qaeda enjoys the support of a multitude of European, leftist and nationalist terrorist groups[xxxiii].
A scheme similar to the alliance, which had emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, between leftist and Arab nationalist organisations such as Black September, Abu Nidal, the PFLP or Carlos’ Organisation of Internationalist Revolutionaries and their Western “comrades” of Action directe in France, the Italian Red Brigades, the Japanese Red Army or the RAF[xxxiv], commonly known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany. All these movements had one thing in common: they were all more or less under the remote control of the communist movement that wanted to enslave the West.
However, if groups such as Action directe in France, the Baader Gang in Germany or the Communist Combatant Cells in Belgium have no heirs or successors, far-left terrorism is not crushed.
In Italy, an intelligence report submitted to the Minister of the Interior, Sergio Mattarella, in April 2001, was alarmed at the resurgence of “red neo-terrorism”, embodied in particular by the Red Brigades of the Communist Fighting Party, the anti-imperialist Territorial Beams and the Revolutionary Proletarian Initiation Nuclei.
In Greece, despite the decapitation of the group 17 November after the arrests of July 2002, a bomb attack was carried out on 29 May 2004 by the new leadership of this movement in the town of Larissa where Alexandre Giatopoulos is being held. And serious threats had been openly made by this same group against the Olympic Games in Athens.
In France, where a UCLAT[xxxv] expert considers that “the question of red neo-terrorism has never been so topical”[xxxvi], groups such as the partisan Francs-Tireurs Partisans, the Fédération anarchiste or the Confédération nationale des travailleurs are carrying out muscular actions using violence, but not as part of mass terrorism. They constitute, however, a potential crucible for a red neo-terrorism motivated by a considerably exacerbated anti-imperialist hatred, especially since the American war in Iraq in the spring of 2003.
The same anti-imperialist hatred is in the process of giving rise, particularly since the incidents at the G8 summit in Genoa, within the anti-globalisation movement, which is at the origin of an intellectual and pacifist movement, to a radical current made up of ultra-violent thugs of various nationalities, calling themselves the Black Blocks[xxxvii], which could also become part of this neo-terrorism.
[ii] In spite of the doubts that the Aznar government had, accusing it – and rightly so, in fact – of deliberately favouring the ETA thesis for electoral reasons (the attacks took place just three days before the Spanish legislative elections), several clues and material elements discovered by investigators and authenticated by the best documented experts on ETA led to the Basque nationalists. Among them was Jean Chalvidant, the author of a reference work entitled ETA, the Investigation (Cheminements publishing house).
[iii] The Spanish investigators first thought it was titadine, a type of dynamite from which ETA had stolen 8 tonnes from a Breton quarry in Plérin (Côtes d’Armor) in September 1999. Then investigations showed that it was Goma2 , another type of dynamite that was also very familiar to ETA, which used it in several operations during the first half of the 1980s and in a failed attack on the leader of the Basque Popular Party, Carlos Iturgaiz, in January 2001.
[v] A clue that reminds us of the discovery of a Koran and a text in Arabic written in the hand of Mohamed Atta alongside several aerial navigation manuals, in a van abandoned by the suicide bombers of 9/11.
[vi] A technique widely taught in al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and used in numerous attacks, notably in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. However, in an interview with the monthly magazine La lettre Sentinel (No. 13, March 2004), Jean Chalvidant, a specialist in ETA, points out that this technique, which uses mobile phones to remotely control detonators, was already used by ETA in the failed attack on the leader of the Basque People’s Party.
[vii] The simultaneity of several actions is considered to be one of the main characteristics marking the signature or modus operandi of al-Qaeda. This was the case during the attacks on the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in August 1998, during the attacks of 11 September 2001, and in 5 successive waves of attacks perpetrated since 11 September and each including several simultaneous actions in different countries (see details in the chapter on al-Qaeda‘s new war machine).
[x] According to Spanish investigators, Emilio Suarez Trashorras and his brother-in-law Antonio Toro Castro, both arrested on 18 March, would have sold the 150 kilos of dynamite in question to Rachid Adli and Rafa Zuheir, two Moroccans suspected of being close to Djamel Zougham, the operational head of the 11 March attacks.
[xi] On 28 July 2004, in a performance that was considered serious and very well documented by the Spanish press, the former Minister of the Interior of the Aznar government, Angel Acebes, stated in a record audience – which lasted more than ten hours – before the Spanish parliamentary commission of enquiry into the attacks of 11 March, that “ETA’s shadow still hangs over these attacks [and that] something is not right [in the official version of the Spanish investigators], because it is hard to believe that criminals involved in drug trafficking and car thefts have converted in a short space of time into terrorists capable of planning and carrying out attacks”. While taking care not to divulge any details about the secrets he was keeping as Minister of the Interior at the time of the events, he concluded his statement by saying that there were still many points that needed to be clarified, particularly with regard to what he called “the moral authority over these attacks”!
[xii] After five months of investigation, we have been able to reconstruct the components of this complex network that planned and executed the Madrid attacks. The heads of this network are Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, alias Mohamed al-Masri, emir-coordinator of several al-Qaeda networks based in Italy, Germany and Spain, arrested on 8 June in Milan; Abdelilah Fouad El Akil, the financier of the attacks, arrested in Ceuta on 6 April; Serhane Ben Fakhet, alias the Tunisian, the local emir of the network who blew himself up during the police assault on his hideout in Leganes on 3 April; and Djamel Zougham, the operational head of the commando that carried out the attacks. Al-Masri played the role of recruiter and ideological guide; El Akil financed the attacks via a hashish trafficking network; Ben Fakhet is the mastermind who planned the attacks with six of his lieutenants, Djamel Ahmidan, the two brothers Mohamed and Rachid Oulad, Abdennabi Koudjma, Abderrahim Z’badj and Anouar Asni Rifaât, who all blew themselves up at the same time. Djamel Zougham is the owner of the phone shop in Lavapiès where the mobile detonators were made. He was arrested along with three accomplices: his half-brother Mohamed Chaoui, his employee at the phone shop, Mohamed Bakali, and Bassel Ghayoun, identified by witnesses as one of the perpetrators of the attacks that brought the deadly backpacks on board the trains. The investigation also established that this network, set up to organise and carry out the Madrid attacks, was placed under the authority of Abdelkrim El Medjatti, nicknamed Bin Laden’s Moroccan. This regional emir is the head of several networks in the Euro-Mediterranean war emirate of al-Qaeda. Before the Madrid attacks, his name had already been mentioned in the investigations into the attacks in Casablanca, Istanbul and Riyadh (see details in the chapter on al-Qaeda‘s global redeployment plan). The coordinating agent who served as a link between Medjatti and the Madrid networks would be a Moroccan activist, member of the GICM (Moroccan Islamic Fighting Group), by the name of Ammer Azizi.
[xiii] The authors have published several surveys and interviews on this subject, notably in the pan-Arab magazine Al Majalla, No. 1258 of 27 March 2004, in Marianne, No. 278 of 19 August 2002 and in Figaro Magazine No. 18539 of 20 March 2004.
[xviii] In a letter dated 30 August 1998, addressed to Béchir Ben Yahmed, director of the magazine Jeune Afrique, Carlos wrote: “The attacks in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam are in the historical continuity of ours, begun a quarter of a century ago on land, sea and in the air against the Zionists in East Africa”.
[xx] A Palestinian Islamist, he was the spiritual guide of the “Arab Afghans” and created the Services Office in Peshawar to welcome and supervise volunteers for the anti-Soviet jihad. He was assassinated in Peshawar on 24 November 1989.
[xxiii] Paradoxically, the same General Lamari, who had “given” Carlos, intervened on several occasions in his favour, to obtain passes to people who wanted to meet him in prison. The white father Michel Lelong thus obtained regular visiting rights allowing him to meet Carlos once a month. This was also the case for other more controversial and less spiritual characters than Father Lelong, such as the former banker in favour of the Third Reich who edited Hitler’s memoirs, the Swiss François Genoud. Thanks to the intervention of General Lamari, he was able to meet Carlos at the prison de la Santé and discuss the modalities of publication of the memoirs that Carlos says he put in a safe place before his arrest.
[xxv] In an interview given to Al Hayat, published on 11 September 2002, to the question: “If you had a message to give to Osama bin Laden, what would you say to him?” Carlos replied: “I would send him my fraternal greetings, encourage him to continue the struggle and preserve his life, because he has become the symbol of the jihad, and I would ask him to continue the work he started in Khartoum, with a view to developing strategic relations between the jihadist movements and other non-religious anti-imperialist organisations”. This confirms that before the creation of the World Jihadist Front against Jews and Crusaders, Osama bin Laden planned to federate all the anti-American movements in the Middle East, be they Islamist or Arab nationalist, therefore of secular tendency.
[xxvii] The Abu Nidal organisation, also known as the Fatah Revolutionary Council, was behind a number of famous attacks, such as the one on 9 August 1982 at the Goldenberg restaurant on rue des Rosiers in Paris, and the one in December 1988 of the plane over Lockerbie, ordered by Gaddafi.
[xxviii] An audiovisual version of this exclusive interview with one of the authors was broadcast by the leading German television channel ARD on 3 November 2002 as part of its flagship programme Weltspiegel.
[xxix] The first case of rapprochement between the Italian brigadists and the Islamo-Jihadist movements goes back, in fact, to 1995. At the time of the arrest, on 10 May of that same year in Pavia, of Djamel Lounissi, an important leader of the Algerian GIA network based in Italy, the investigators established the existence of contacts which had enabled the Lounissi network to buy back stocks of weapons which had belonged to the Red Brigades and to benefit from the latter’s logistical support in transporting them to the Algerian maquis.
[xxxiii] This anti-American alliance between al-Qaeda and European organisations that have not converted to Islam was confirmed by Abu Mohamed al-Abladj, one of al-Qaeda‘s spokesmen on the Internet, in a letter to the pan-Arab magazine Al Majalla.
[xxxvii] This radical current which provokes clashes with the police forces during anti-globalisation demonstrations is supervised in particular by young ETA militants who put their know-how in kale borroka (street warfare) at the service of the Black Blocks.