Nationality: Ethnic Palestinian born in Saudi Arabia
The story of Abu Zubaydah is a frustratingly complicated one. In this summary I have done my best to avoid unreliable evidence. Fire Dog Lake has done a good job dissecting the apparent contradictions in Abu Zubaydah’s DAB. The introduction to this set of summaries explains some of the terms used below. My sources are cited in the text below, but if any of my sources are inaccurate or misleading, then my summary will be as well.
KSM and Ibn al Shaykh al Libi said that Abu Zubaydah was a member of Al Qaeda. In his book, The Black Banners, former FBI agent Ali Soufan said that Abu Zubaydah admitted to being a high ranking member of Al Qaeda under torture even though he wasn’t a member of Al Qaeda (page 424). KSM and al Shaykh were also tortured by the CIA.
On December 14, 1999 Ahmed Ressam was captured attempting to enter the US with parts that could be used to build explosive devises. He said that he planned to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport on New Year’s Eve 1999.
Abu Zubaydah’s DAB says that Ressam said that Zubaydah encouraged him and helped him facilitate the operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Zubaydah was planning his own US attack.
The Unclassified Summary of Evidence presented at Abu Zubyadah’s CSRT stated that Ressam had said that he trained at the Khaldan militant training camp in Afghanistan. Ressam also said that Abu Zubaydah facilitated terrorist attacks. Ressam said trainers at Khaldan indicated that viable targets included US warships, hotels hosting conferences of VIPs, barracks of US military personnel, commercial and economic targets, petroleum targets, and information technology centers.
At his CSRT Abu Zubaydah said that he was responsible for facilitating the travel of students to Khaldan and to conflict zones, like Chechnya and Bosnia, to fight after they were trained, or back to normal lives.
Zubaydah also said that Khaldan trained Muslims to defend against non-Muslim invaders anywhere in the world. He cited the wars between the Soviet Union and Islamist fighters in Afghanistan, Serbia and Bosnia, Russia and Chechnya, and Israel and Palestine. He says that at Khaldan they taught their recruits to only attack military targets. He said that he disagreed with the decision to attack innocent civilians like those who were in the World Trade Center on 9/11.
The 9/11 commission said that two of the 9/11 highjackers were trained at Khaldan. The British paper The Observer reported that al-Owhali, one of the bombers who participated in the 1998 US East Africa embassy bombings, trained at Khaldan.
At his CSRT Zubaydah said that he believed Khaldan was closed by the Taliban because Bin Laden wanted all of the militants to be trained at his training camp.
At his CSRT, Zubaydah said that he was an enemy of the US government.
“I have been an enemy of yours since I was a child because of your unjust acts against my people, the Palestinians, through your help and partnership with Israel in occupying our land and by killing our men and raping our women and kicking out our people and turning them into refugees for more than 60 years. […] My moral position is not against the American people or America, but against the government which I see as a partner in oppression.”
In 2013 Al Jazeera obtained a copy of the FBI’s English language translation of Abu Zubaydah’s dairy. His diary contained his reaction to the 9/11 attacks.
“Happiness was not enough, as soon as the news came out on the radio, lambs were slaughtered, and juice and sweets were distributed for several days, and then, preparations started for the counter attack… News on the radio reflected American threats and preparation, close to a world war, while we were in a state of elation that only God knows.” (Part 6 page 14)
No mention was made of an opposition to the killing of civilians in the World Trade Center.
His diary also shows how he helped prepare for counter attacks after 9/11.
“I have been in Khost since a week ago, in the setting of the security and military preparations platform which Sheikh Bin Ladin is doing, to confront any American military landing…Work is at its highest degree, buying weapons, arming those without a weapon, storing weapons, preparing locations and lines of confrontation, and preparing ambushes.” (Part 6 page 15)
About a month before his capture in March 2002, Abu Zubaydah described in his diary ways that he wished to, “wage war against America.” These included instigating a war between the races, preparing timed explosives, starting timed fires, simultaneous explosions, and burning fuel and gas trucks. (Part 6 page 89)