Third in command: Abu Zubaydah was only behind Osama Bin Laden and the group's
current leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri
The US government have released private diaries of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner thought to be third
in command in terrorist organisation al-Qaida. Translated journals, belonging to Abu Zubaydah, were made public under a Freedom of Information request by Al Jazeera and give a startling insight into the inner workings of the operation.
The diaries start in 1990, span the decade leading up to the 9/11 attack and end just day before Zubaydah is captured in March 2002 in Faisalbad, Pakistan.
Al-Qaida's growth from battling against the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan into the terror organisation that carried out the 2001 attack in New York is tracked through the the six volumes.
Zubaydah changes from student to jihadi over the course of his writings, the Independent writes.
The Saudi-born Palestinian – was a 19-year-old student in computer sciences in Mysore, India, a few months before he travelled to join the Afghan civil war that followed the Soviet departure.
When he was caught by American troops, he was regarded as the third-ranking figure in al-Qa’ida, behind only Osama Bin Laden and the group’s current leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, by the CIA.
Zubaydah was thought to be one of the planners of the 9/11 attacks and also involved in every other major attack perpetrated by al-Qa’ida in the past decade, including the 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa.
The prisoner was one of the first detainees from the terrorist organisation to be subjected to the 'enhanced interrogation techniques' and was waterboarded 83 times at a CIA site in Thailand by officers trying to get information about future terror attacks.
The Bush administration changed its view of how important Zubaydah was when they realised he was not a frontline operative.
EXTRACTS FROM ZUBAYDAH'S DIARIES
6 January 1991
Yesterday, and only yesterday, I decided to go to Afghanistan. I believe that I have talked to you about a plan to go to Afghanistan before, which was unsuccessful. However, this time it is different [the rest of the sentence is crossed out and illegible]. I have decided to visit the place, receive training and come back to conclude my education. The intent is bona fide, God willing. Almost everything is ready except that I am scared of the circumstances. Yet I trust in God. And we seek refuge in Him.
19 January 1991
We arrived yesterday morning; we are in Peshawar.
The system here, as we have learned later on, is as follows:
First: the services office; it is an office that handles jihad matters and Arab mujahedin’s organisation as well as support to both Arab and Afghani mujahedin. From that office branches many houses for the incoming mujahedin from outside Afghanistan, Arabs and others. The spiritual atmosphere here is good.
Some came to train for a short period and go back just to be prepared. Others are here for jihad and until God decides for something to be done.Some are young; their beards or moustache have not appeared yet. Others are old in their fifties or more. Also, the idea of settling here is enticing me and I cannot seem to control it.
1 May 1991
My brother, Mahir, came finally. In short, we sat together and talked. He talked about many things that are somehow frustrating; the mother, the father, the brothers and parents’ obedience and, in addition to few quick fatwas created by his emotions. Anyway, we both do not and will not understand each other.
Also, dear Hani, we sat by the stream that runs through the camp. He was reading my father’s letter to me; I gave it to him to read it. He said, “Read your father’s letter; it is better for you.” He meant what they are suffering from because of me. I smiled and ripped it before his eyes while he is shocked and hurt and his face became gloomy. I tried explaining to him the importance of sacrifice for the sake of the religion and he tried, may God bless him, to explain to me the importance of having the parents’ approval for jihad.
17 May 1991, Khaldan Camp, Afghanistan
Yesterday, the group and I began a special course in explosives. The morning exercise line-up begins at 6am; jogging, fast-pace running, mountain climbing and special exercises. As you notice, most of the ideas I’m dealing with now at the jihad level are practical and they were the same ideas but unorganised and not fully clear. Perhaps, life’s stress and order prevented from enhancing them practically or even from thinking about them; such as caliphate and Islamic principles.
3 July 1991, Gardez, Afghanistan
I, rather, we the explosives group, are in Gardez now at the back line since last Friday. Airplane shelling, and one of the shells landed in the heart of the camp; but praise God, no one was injured. Continuous artillery shells, digging ditches, carrying rocks from the mountain, dirt, sweat and exhaustion; a true mental relaxation, God willing and oh God!
7 July 1991, Gardez, Afghanistan
Today is Sunday and the time now is perhaps 12.30pm.
Place: The big tent which houses more than l5 people. The planes are hovering around us; they strike one time and other times they don’t; however the artillery shells are continuous.
Running to the ditches and face down on the ground, but I am relatively cool and don’t run to the dugout and don’t even go face down on the ground sometimes; as a matter of fact, I don’t know why.
According to Al Jazeera America, the personal diaries were taken by a former US intelligence official who worked with the CIA and FBI on al-Qaida issues.
The journals mention key figures in Al-Qaida including Osama Bin Laden and their contents have been used as evidence to hold some of the 160 prisoners in Guantanamo.
Zubaydah is believed to have written more diaries while he was being held by the CIA and has allegedly detailed his torture.
He was taken to Guantanamo in 2006 and remains there although he has never been charged with any crime.
His diaries have become the property of the Pentagon - something which traumatised Zubaydah.
In March 2007, he told a tribunal that keeping his diaries from him was like 'kidnapping a child' and said he asks '20 hours a day' for their return.
Current leader: Ayman al-Zawahiri is the head of Al-Qaida at the moment
Hierarchy: Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was above Zubaydah