Informant says Yemen’s Saleh helped direct al-Qaeda

Yemen President, Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi

Yemen President, Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi

THE government of Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh supported and even helped direct al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), according to allegations made to Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit. 

A former Al-Qaeda operative who says he later turned informant to the Yemeni government made the claim during three days of interviews in a location outside the Gulf. 

Hani Muhammad Mujahid, 38, told Al Jazeera that “many al-Qaeda leaders were under the complete control of Ali Abdullah Saleh,” who was ousted from power in February 2012 amid a popular uprising.

“Ali Abdullah Saleh turned Al-Qaeda into an organised criminal gang,” said Mujahid. “He was not only playing with the West. He was playing with the entire world.”

The claims of the married father of three appear in a new documentary, Al-Qaeda Informant, which airs on Al Jazeera from yesterday at 20:00 GMT. 

Mujahid says he was a member of al-Qaeda from the late 1990s, when he travelled to Afghanistan and trained at Al-Faruq camp, and met the group’s leader Osama bin Laden.

He became an explosives expert and taught other al-Qaeda fighters how to use the materials, losing his right thumb in an accident during that period.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, Mujahid, who went by the nom de guerre Abdul Hakim Jan, along with other al-Qaeda operatives, found themselves under attack by US forces in Afghanistan.

After fighting at Shah-i-Kot in March 2002, and other battles, he crossed the border into Pakistan’s tribal areas, from where al-Qaeda continued fighting.

In 2004, he was detained and interrogated by Pakistani intelligence, as well as by US agents.

Al Jazeera has independently verified Mujahid’s account of his role in Afghanistan, but has been unable to do so for the testimony of his time in Yemen as a government informer who infiltrated al-Qaeda. 

The channel has shown the transcripts of his interviews to intelligence experts.

“It certainly seems that Hani Mujahid is who he says he was when he was in Afghanistan,” says Robert Grenier, a former CIA station chief in Pakistan.

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