By B. Raman
Adam Gadahn alias Azzam al-Amriki, an American convert to Islam, headed As Sahab, the propaganda wing of Al Qaeda. He used to produce the video and audio recordings of the periodic messages of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri and have them sent to Al Jazeera for being disseminated. In his capacity as the producer of the video and audio recordings of OBL and Zawahiri, he had direct access to them.
In 2008, there was suspicion that he might be a mole of the CIA because he allegedly escaped a missile attack by a Drone (pilotless plane) of the CIA on a house in North Waziristan on January 29,2008. Fifteen persons were killed, but Madad Khan, the owner of the house, and Adam Gadahn, who was also allegedly present, were not among those killed. This gave rise to speculation that they might have been tipped off by the CIA about the impending missile attack to enable them to escape.
After this incident, Adam Gadahn disappeared from view for seven months. OBL and Zawahiri used to record their messages in Arabic. Gadahn used to provide the English translation and sub-titles. His translation and sub-titles used to have American spellings. During the period Gadahn was missing, the American spellings and expressions disappeared from the translations. No explanation was forthcoming either from Al Qaeda or from the CIA as to what happened to him. There was some speculation in the tribal areas of Pakistan that he had been taken by the Americans to Morocco for the treatment of injuries sustained by him during the missile attack.
Intriguingly, videos and audios purported to have been produced by Gadahn for Al Qaeda started circulating again from October 4,2008. There was no explanation as to where he was during the seven months when he was not disseminating video and audio recordings and someone else, who was apparently not an American, was doing it for Al Qaeda.
According to the BBC, to convince skeptics who refuse to believe that OBL was present in the Abbottabad house, which was raided by the helicopter-borne US Naval commandoes on May2, the Pentagon has released on May 7, five videos which were found in the house by the commandoes.The BBC has reported as follows on these videos: “The tapes show him watching himself on television, and preparing a video message addressed to the US. In the first video, filmed in October or November 2010, Bin Laden is shown wearing a white skullcap and white robes as he speaks to the camera in the style of previous video addresses by the al-Qaeda leader. There is no audio on the film, but Pentagon officials said it was a message to the United States. Three other clips appear to be rehearsals for the video message, says the BBC’s Jonny Dymond in Washington. It is the first such film to emerge since al-Qaeda released a video address from Bin Laden in 2007, says our correspondent. In another of the videos, Bin Laden is shown watching a programme about himself on Arabic language television. He is shown sitting on the floor wrapped in what looks like a blanket or a coat, holding a remote control. As he watches TV he strokes his beard, which appears much greyer than it does in the propaganda video.In one scene, he watches a broadcast showing a picture of himself superimposed on a still image of the World Trade Center in flames after it was hit by hijacked planes. There is nothing in the videos to place Bin Laden in the compound where he was killed.”
If the Pentagon claim that these videos were found in the Abbottabad house of OBL is correct, it is very likely that Gadahn used to visit the house to make the recordings before those were sent to Al Jazeera for telecast. Was Gadahn a mole of the CIA as suspected for some months by some, including me, and did he facilitate the operation of the naval commandoes to kill OBL? If this suspicion proves to be correct, the claim of the CIA that it was actually the surveillance of a Kuwaiti courier of Pakistani origin, which enabled the CIA to establish where OBL was living, might be a cock and bull story to protect Gadahn. The courier and his cousin brother were killed in the raid and would not be able to speak the truth now.
Only Gadahn can clarify the mystery. Where is he? Still with Al Qaeda? Or under the protection of the CIA back in the US?
About the author: B. Raman
B. Raman was Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: [email protected]