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Lawsuit Charges That Iraq Knew of Attacks Before 9/11

The Nation

Court: Papers allege that Baghdad intelligence had close links to Bin Laden's network as early as 1992.

September 05, 2002|JOHN J. GOLDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — A lawsuit filed Wednesday on behalf of 1,400 victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks charged Wednesday that Iraq had advance knowledge that Al Qaeda was planning to launch strikes against targets in New York City and the Washington area.

The court papers alleged that as early as 1992, Iraqi intelligence established "close working relations" with Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization and provided it with training, weapons, supplies, passports and financial support.

"Al Qaeda, backed by Iraq, carried out the September 11th terror attacks with the financial and logistical support of numerous individuals and organizations," the suit brought by Kreindler & Kreindler, a Manhattan law firm specializing in aviation disaster litigation, charges.

"Since the early 1990s, Iraq and Iraqi intelligence have used both Iraqi agents and independent contractors to commit terrorist acts against the United States in revenge for Iraq's Gulf War defeat," the litigation contends. "Al Qaeda was Iraq's favorite partner in crime and terror."

The court action, seeking more than $1 trillion in damages from Iraq and other sponsors of the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, cited an article in an Iraqi newspaper on July 21, 2001.

The newspaper was published in Al Nasiriyah, 185 miles southwest of Baghdad, an area lawyers said contains a military base believed to include a chemical weapon storage facility. The lawyers also alleged Al Qaeda terrorists trained in the area for several years.

Written under the byline Naeem Abd Mulhalhal, the article described Bin Laden as thinking "seriously" about the way "he will try to bomb the Pentagon after he destroys the White House."

The columnist also predicted tragedy in New York City.

"The article expressed Iraqi admiration and support for Bin Laden's plans and its appearance in the newspaper would clearly have to be endorsed by Saddam Hussein himself," court papers charged.

Kreindler & Kreindler cited the claims of a former associate of Mulhalhal that the writer has been connected with Iraqi intelligence since the early 1980s. In another article in the same weekly newspaper on Sept. 21, 2001, Mulhalhal was praised by Saddam and honored for his "documentation of important events and heroic deeds that proud Iraqis have accomplished."

The suit charged that because Saddam's ruling Baath party tightly controls the press and other media, Mulhalhal's article could not have appeared without prior approval by the government.

"Iraq's July 21 public statements also exemplify the Bin Laden pattern of publicly threatening violent strikes against the United States prior to and after committing them," the civil suit says.

"For example, weeks before the August 1998 Al Qaeda attacks on the U.S. embassies in Africa, Bin Laden threatened U.S. civilians and shortly thereafter bombed the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania within minutes of each other, killing 223 civilians," the court papers add.

The firm said much of the content of the suit was collected using investigators who worked with published reports and other information.

The court papers filed in Manhattan say that Israeli intelligence sources verified for the last two years that Iraqi intelligence officers traveled back and forth between Baghdad and Afghanistan.

Lawyers claimed that over the years, Iraqi intelligence officials met with Bin Laden several times in Afghanistan and a group of Al Qaeda operatives from Saudi Arabia were trained in Iraq on techniques to smuggle weapons and explosives into Saudi Arabia and other countries.

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