A Report by SOAS Professor Jeremy Keenan unveils the role of the Algerian Intelligence Agencies in running al-Qaeda camps in Northern Africa with the knowledge of the CIA, reports Dr. Nafeez Ahmed of Insurge Intelligence
SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. Intelligence agencies are running Al Qaeda camps in North Africa. You heard it right. That is the title of a new article published by award winning investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed and published by INSURGE intelligence. Insurge Intelligence has exclusively obtained an unpublished report by a UN consultant and government advisor which accuses western and Algerian security forces of complicity in Al Qaeda terrorist activity across North Africa. The report particularly focuses on the attacks at the Tigantourine gas plant in the Algerian border town of Amenas between the 16th and 20th of January 2013. The article details everything from conspiracy and coordination between Algerian security services and extremist militant groups as well as collaboration and coverups by western intelligence services. Joining us today is the author of this just released article, Dr. Nafeez Ahmed. Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is a award-winning investigative journalist as I said and an academic. He’s the creater of Insurge Intelligence, a crowdfunded investigative journalism project. I thank you so much for joining us Nafeez. NAFEEZ AHMED: Thank you. PERIES: So Nafeez let’s begin with a number of shocking revelations and allegations in your most recent piece break it down for us. AHMED: So, the upshot is, this report which we obtained exclusively, it’s an advanced copy of the draft that will be published later this month. It’s an academic report which is being published by the international state crime initiative which is run from Queen Mary University of London. The author of the report is one of the most renowned authorities on the Sahara, Sahel region. Professor Jeremy Keenan who is currently affiliated with Queen Mary University. He is a well-known social anthropologist who has studied the region for decades and knows anything you need to know about Algeria especially. He knows it. He’s been there dozens of times. He has intimate contact in the region and this report which he’s put together goes over new evidence relating to specifically the terrorist attack which occurred in January 2013 on an international gas plant that was run by a number of gas companies, energy companies, namely British Petroleum, Norway Statoil, and an Algerian state owned oil company. Now what was quite startling about this report is that it kind of reinvestigates some of the issues that occurred with the London inquest which was the inquiry which took place in relation to the British victims of the attack of the official inquiry here that was essential a government inquiry and really showed that that inquiry deliberately excluded a lot of critical information and when a lot of this public record information is brought in, including some of this information that isn’t so much in the public record but which will be in the public record in detail as a result of this report. What we find is that actually the narrative that western governments have put forward about what’s happening in the region in relation to Al Qaeda doesn’t actually make sense. In fact what Jeremy Keenan has shown startlingly is that the attack that occurred in 2013 was actually orchestrated by the Algerian intelligence services and that this was done because at the time there were concerns within the Algerian government about their relationship with the west due to skepticism about Algeria’s role in counter terrorism and they wanted to very much prove through this devastating attack that they had apparently orchestrated that they had the capability to very quickly clean up terrorism. So, there was essentially kind of a operation to demonstrate their abilities to the west. But apparently according to Professor Keenan it went wrong. Lots of people died and the Algerians were not actually able to do a very clean job and there was kind of a botched cover-up. But what’s worst is that western governments appear to have covered up what happened at this attack and not just what happened in relation to this attack but according to Keenan and the sources that he uncovered and many of the sources are former Algerian government military and intelligence officials, most of them have spoken out in the public record that they’re named individuals using their real names have actually published articles about it. They’ve given interviews about it. What Jeremy Kenan has done with this important report is put together a lot of this information and he’s also drawn on some of his own very sensitive sources, eye witnesses to events that have taken place. Eye witnesses to various terrorist training camps that are being run by intelligence services and he’s put together this alarming picture of a situation where the Algerians government has essentially a secret state within a state run by the military intelligence apparatus which has had these long-standing ties to Islamist Jihadists which have had various incarnations over the years. Their latest incarnations is Al Qaeda and the Islamic [inaud.]. What he shows is that many of the leaders of this terrorist group have had and still have connections to the Algerian military intelligence. He names names. This is a very disturbing picture which really raises questions about why western governments have continued to maintain ties with Algeria on the pretext of counter terrorism. On the pretext of fighting a war on terror when we now have these huge amounts of evidence that the Algerian state has actually been fostering Al Qaeda. PERIES: And what is it that we directly know of the connection between the Algerian intelligence and western counterparts or western intelligence agencies. AHMED: So, there is actually very very close intimate relationship, the details of which are so sensitive that it’s difficult to get full kind of discloser on that in terms of public documents. But what we do know is that there is a very close and intimate relationship in terms of joint counterterrorism operations between the Algerian DRS which is essentially their foreign intelligence service, their foreign secret intelligence service and the agencies whether it’s French intelligence or US intelligence or British intelligence, they work very very closely together. There intelligence sharing mechanisms in place where Algerian intelligence specifically shares information that it has on terrorists and suspected terrorists with its counterparts in the west. And also with its selected contexts vice versa. One of the specific incidents of this that kind of gives an example of what is now emerging and comes out in this report is that for example there has been information revealed by a former Algerian special forces captain. I believe his name is Habib Sawada, I may be pronouncing that slightly incorrectly but he has basically spoken about how the Algerian intelligence services have bene fostering Al Qaeda groups inside Tunisia in order to basically again, this is for various geopolitical purposes in order to pressurize Tunisia and pursue various objectives that they have in this country. What happened very recently in the last few years was there were various Tunisian military operations against some of these jihadists in the surrounding area and some of these jihadists were killed and their sim cards and mobile phones were obtained and analyzed. That analysis revealed that these jihadists had regular and routine telephone contact with senior Algerian secret intelligence officials and that his has been going on for years. That information was according to Sawada, they were passed on to US intelligence as a matter of routine. So that’s one example which shows how information is being shared between different agencies in the region and that the US intelligence is actually been aware of this for some time. PERIES: Do we know what sections of the intelligence services are connected to this in reference to Algeria? You were saying this was a particular group of the intelligence services that are conducting such activity. Then can we extrapolate from that it’s a particular deep agency within say the US intelligence that’s also dealing with this kind of reports directly? AHMED: So again, this is one of those things where the DPU go and it gets quite murky. It’s difficult to kind of determine to what extent agencies had an in depth knowledge or involvement. But what we can do is kind of pick apart some of those tidbits and what we know what’s happening in Algeria is that this is being led and it has been led for decades by the DRS which is their main foreign secret intelligence service. The equivalent of say the CIA in the United States. Now the DRS is working very closely with the State Department as well as with American special forces and the secret agencies inside the United States but what we don’t know with precise detail is to what extent the American agencies are kind of aware of familiar with what’s going on but what we can extract to some extent that there is an awareness from some of this circumstantial evidence that has come out and that Jeremy Keenan in his report has documented. One of those other examples that he points to is some revelations that came out with the Hillary Clinton emails that were published by WikiLeaks earlier this year. Amongst those emails were several emails from her aid Sidney Blumenthal which basically reveals that – Sidney Blumenthal basically sends several emails to Clinton in 2013 which is around the same the gas plant terrorist attack. In those emails he refers to information that he has attained from French intelligence confirming that the Algerian intelligence agencies had a secret agreement with the leader of the attack on the gas plant for several years. That email was actually forwarded by Clinton to her assistant in the State Department. So what this reveals that information again was clearly being shared within the American intelligence system to some extent. To some extent, the State Department had this information in 2013. There was other information that was shared with the Americans by Algerians. For example, there were 3 terrorists who were captured at that attack who actually specifically pinpointed the role of senior DRS official, General Hassan, and identified him as actually supplying them with arms directly. Now that information again, those terrorists were actually, the FBI was able to interview them. I think that was before July 2013. So, there was a lot of this information going on and that was because the DRS was kind of leading this kind of operation of liaising with these terrorist groups civilian state, although they were evidence of them which were involved in this by in large there seems to be they were not entirely aware of what the DRS was doing and in fact they had some intonations of what the DRS was doing but not the details. So, that was why there was efforts by parts of the army and parts of the Sunni government to actually pass on this information. PERIES: We’re going to continue our discussion with Nafeez Ahmed. Please stay tuned for segment two.