FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Pakistan, Anne-Isabelle Tollet, entered the tribal zones situated along the porous border with Afghanistan, where she met a man who said he was active in Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network. Here is her exclusive report.
A full month of daily negotiations was required to obtain the interview, until word of my request ended up reaching a source based in the tribal zone of Khyber (north-west Pakistan). This person served as an intermediary, since he knew al Qaeda militants based in the region. He passed my inquiry on to them, carefully omitting the fact that the interview would be conducted by a woman.
We left for the tribal zones on November 1. There were four of us in the car: three men and myself, cloaked in a burqa I had worn in Peshawar so as not to attract attention. Foreigners are not welcome there. In Khyber we entered into a lawless zone controlled by insurgents. The day before, in that very area, a man had been kidnapped and then murdered. Shortly after our passage, an all-girls school was blown up. The tension in the car was palpable; the men were armed with Kalashnikov rifles.
In the middle of the mountains, the road came to an end and we had to continue on foot.
We didn’t know the exact location of the meeting place, as directions were given to us bit by bit over the phone. Alone, just a few kilometres from the Afghan border, we stopped. One of the men continued on to deliver a warning that the journalist was, in fact, a woman.
On the other side of the hill, two armed men, their faces almost entirely concealed by a headscarf, were waiting for us. One of them was in charge of the chief’s security, while the other one was keeping an eye on us. In those areas, no one trusts foreigners.
I asked our guest to introduce himself: “My name is Abdullah. I come from Afghanistan and I work for al Qaeda,” he said.
Abdullah is a militant known by Pakistani journalists as a member of the group "Najam Ud Din Hayuf-Group of Uzbecs.” His chief, Najam Ud Din, was killed by an American drone strike in Waziristan in 2008. American intelligence services considered him an al Qaeda terrorist.
During the interview, Abdullah said bin Laden was “still alive" and explained that he would return to Afghanistan at the end of winter to continue the jihad. Until then, he intends to aid the Taliban in South Waziristan fight off an offensive by the Pakistani army.
Date created : 2009-11-03