LONDON (AFP) – An Al-Qaeda terror suspect captured by the United States, who gave evidence of links between Iraq and the terror network, confessed after being tortured, a journalist told the BBC.
Iban al Shakh al Libby told intelligence agents that he was close to Al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri and “understood an awful lot about the inner workings of Al-Qaeda,” former FBI agent Jack Clonan told the broadcaster.
Libby was tortured in an Egyptian prison, according to Stephen Grey, the author of the newly-released book “Ghost Plane” who investigated the secret US Central Intelligence Agency ( CIA) prisons that housed terror suspects around the world.
US President George W. Bush confirmed the existence of the network of CIA holding facilities overseas during a September 6 speech defending controversial US interrogation practices.
Libby was apparently taken to Cairo, Clonan told the broadcaster, after being captured in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
“He (Libby) claims he was tortured in jail and that would be routine in Egyptian prisons,” Grey said.
“What he claimed most significantly was a connection between … Al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. This intelligence report made it all the way to the top, and was used by (former US secretary of state) Colin Powell as a key piece of justification … for invading Iraq,” he told the broadcaster.
Powell claimed in a UN Security Council meeting in February 2003, weeks before a US-led coalition invaded Iraq, that the country under Saddam Hussein had provided weapons training to Al-Qaeda, saying he could “trace the story of a senior terrorist operative”, whom Grey alleges is Libby.
“At the time, the caveats to say this intelligence was extracted under torture were not provided,” Grey said.
Grey said that, after being held in Egypt, Libby was transferred to a secret CIA facility in Bagram, just north of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul. The journalist said he had also met other people held in that facility who describe the torture that Libby faced at the CIA facility.
Since then, “he disappeared”, Grey said.
“Like hundreds of other people arrested after September 11, he’s vanished into a sort of netherworld of prisons where astonishingly, President Bush now says the prisons have emptied.