Monday, November 26, 2007

“I advise young Saudis not to go to Iraq.”

In March I wrote a post about an interview with this man.

Ahmad Abdullah Al-Shaie

BURAIDAH, 23 November 2007 — A young Saudi, who was brainwashed to fight in Iraq where he narrowly escaped death and suffered scarring to his face and hands in a failed suicide attack, recently called on young Saudis not to follow in his footsteps and be wary of militant groups in Iraq.

Ahmad Abdullah Al-Shaie, a young Saudi from Buraidah who describes himself as a victim, told Al-Riyadh newspaper that he was brainwashed into going to and fighting in Iraq. "The Iraqis who were supposed to train me and prepare me to fight the occupation tried to kill me by making me an unwilling suicide bomber," said Al-Shaie, who was tricked into driving a truck full of explosives.

In 2005, Al-Shaie went to Iraq to fight American troops. The leader of his group, Abu Abdul Rahman, asked him to drive a gas tank to a place in the Al-Mansour district of Baghdad. The Saudi youngster said he was suspicious why he had been chosen. He had no experience, did not know his way around, and felt an Iraqi would have been better suited.

The young Saudi had arrived in Iraq to undergo military training to take part in the insurgency. "We thought the Iraqis were on our side. I never doubted them, as I used to see them fasting and praying. I thought they were doing jihad and it never crossed my mind that they may want to kill me," said Al-Shaie.

On the day he was to deliver the truck, Al-Shaie was shown how to maneuver it. Iraqi fighters guided him through Baghdad and when they reached a certain point they (the Iraqis) sped off in a waiting car.

Al-Shaie recalls the moment when he was left alone. "I continued driving. After around 500 meters, the truck exploded. It was a nightmare. I couldn't believe what had happened. Twelve people died and many were injured," said Al-Shaie, adding that later he learned that his truck, which was carrying 26 tons of liquid explosives, was aimed at bombing the Jordanian Embassy.

Al-Shaie arrived in Iraq in 2005 after meeting an old friend, who told him about jihad and stories of fighters in Afghanistan and Chechnya. The friend showed him a "fatwa" permitting Saudis to go to Iraq to fight without the approval of their parents and the ruler of the country.

In the last 10 days of Ramadan in 2005, Al-Shaie told his parents he was going camping. "I knew that if I told them about my real intentions they would have objected. We went to Syria where we met a Saudi called Abu Abdullah," he said, adding that all of the people he met used nicknames and never their real names.

In Syria, he was introduced to a Syrian man called Mazin, who arranged for his passage into Iraq. "When we entered Iraq, we met two young Iraqis carrying two Yemenis, who were wounded in Falluja. The Iraqis told us to move on before sunrise, otherwise the Americans would come after us," said Al-Shaie.

In Iraq, Al-Shaie and his group met the leader of foreign Arab fighters. "His name was Abu Aseel and asked us if we wanted to be martyrs. None of us raised our hands because we had all come to fight and not to kill ourselves," said Al-Shaie.

The group was told of the rewards given to martyrs in Islam. However, the group remained unconvinced. Their passports were taken from them and they were handed $100 each and sent to the Al-Anbar province where they joined a group of 40 Arab fighters.

"After one week, we went to Ramadi where we were supposed to be getting training... We complained to the leader of the camp that we weren't getting any training. He just said we would be taken to Baghdad the next day," said Al-Shaie, adding that an explosives expert called Abu Omar Al-Kurdi received the group in Baghdad.

It was in Baghdad under Al-Kurdi that Al-Shaie was tricked into driving the truck on that fatal morning. After the truck he was driving exploded, the young Saudi, having sustained burns, was taken to the Abu Ghraib Prison Hospital.

After one month, US officials handed Al-Shaie and a group of other young Saudis into the custody of the Saudi government.

Al-Shaie says he does not know the fate of his friend, who brought him to Iraq. He believes he may have died fighting. "The conditions in Iraq are very difficult... We were brainwashed and were used by these people," he said.

"Most Saudis in Iraq have gone because of fatwas permitting them to fight. However, we all know that the Kingdom's Higher Scholar Committee has not approved these decrees. Many young Saudis that went to Iraq have been influenced by what they see on websites and hear in cassettes," he said.

"The Iraqis are not happy with foreigners fighting in Iraq. They think we're interfering in their internal business," he said. "I advise young Saudis not to go to Iraq."

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