|Most of the Arab youth [who] went there to Afghanistan ... were encouraged by
their own respective government[s]. Most of these governments thought that
these individuals, after their victory in Afghanistan, they had [a] spirit of
being more fundamentalist, and they thought that they were looking forward to
establish a fundamentalist or radical Islamic government in their own
respective countries. Their presence was unwanted in their own respective
countries. It happened at that time Sudan was open to all Arabs. They didn't
need a visa to enter Sudan. As well as the Islamic Sheik of the government in
Sudan [had] encouraged them to come to Sudan and enter and settle here.|
So they were heroes as long as they were fighting somewhere else but they
were unwanted then at home.
Of course they were unwanted in their own countries. Their presence in
Khartoum has its own merits and reasons, but this, of course, did not give them
the license to work here from Khartoum to destabilize their own countries or
government. They didn't have a license to do that. ...
But a number of the people who have been charged in the United States, Osama
bin Laden, Wadih El Hage, and two others who lived here and worked here in
Khartoum--they have been charged in the Nairobi bombing. It would seem that
they were doing or planning or inclined to do these things.
... What we are sure about is that when they were in Sudan, they were not
conducting any activity like that. Actually when we are asked, asked to send
[Osama bin Laden] outside the country by the Saudis and others, we told them
that it would be better to keep Osama bin Laden in Khartoum because here it is
not [worried that he is going] to conduct any activity. He is busy with his
own business. We can keep an eye on him ... .
But didn't the United States tell you that we had evidence in the United
States that he was involved in acts in Yemen, that he was possibly linked to
the bombings in Riyadh? That he was doing things.
All these accusations after he left Khartoum, because the bombing of Riyadh,
everything, after he already left Sudan. Even the bombing of Riyadh.
Well, Riyadh was in '95.
'96, '96. We are sure that all this is after he left. Before that he didn't
have any activity. Only when there was some tension between ... Sudan and
Saudi Arabia. He just started doing some political leaflets against the
government in Saudi Arabia. This is the only activity he conducted from inside
Sudan. After that we had some contacts with the Saudi government. Even those
what we called paper activity has been stopped after that agreement with the
Saudis, before we sent him out of the country.
But, you know, in 1993 when the United States added you and Sudan to the
terrorism list, the allegation is in the official statement that you provided
a home base for all of these terrorist organizations. For bin Laden, for
Hezbollah, for Hamas, because that is what you did. You helped them all,
giving them a home.
As I said, we had what they called the Afghan Arabs who were staying in Sudan.
This has brought all this problems. But when we speak about parties like Hamas
or Hezbollah, we don't deny that we had a relation with them. But all these
parties, they don't need to stay in Sudan. For example, Hezbollah is a
legitimate party in Lebanon. Is part of the parliament, is working there, its
activities [are] in the southern part of Lebanon and they don't need the safe
haven in Sudan.
So you are not the place where everyone conspires to kill Americans?
We don't have any interest to make enemies with America or kill Americans. On
the contrary, we would like to have good relations and would like to bring
Americans to work with us in Sudan. ...
Help me understand or help us in the United States understand. You met with
Osama bin Laden?
What kind of person is he?
He is a very normal person and he is very religious. He believes in Islam and
he believes in changing the state and the political Islam. The period that he
spent in Afghanistan might have affected his personality to believe that he
could change ... politically by military means.
And he had some of his fellow veterans here in Khartoum with him?
Most of those were, or all of those were around him here. They were mainly
working with him on his own projects and they didn't have any other activity
other than those business projects that he was doing in Sudan. ...
But you see, at the same time in the United States, they are investigating
the bombing of the World Trade Center and when they are investigating that
bombing, they find money flowing from Osama bin Laden to some of the people who
were involved in that bombing. And now they find many of those people they
have charged in the Nairobi bombing. So from our perspective, it looks like
he was here involved with people in the United States who were involved in
terrorist acts and then he leaves, but then he and his friends do more.
... I guess I am asking, I am asking you if you can help us understand
how they went from Afghanistan to here to apparently being involved in various
terrorist acts either in the United States or in Kenya in Dar es Salaam?
Of course I don't have relationship with him to tell you exactly how he acts,
but what I know that when he was in Sudan, he didn't have any activity.
The reason I am asking is that the United States then says ... you are
involved. You are providing aid and support.
Of course the legal principle that the accused is innocent until you prove
otherwise. I don't think the American and the US administration is working
with this principle. In other countries the accused is convicted, unless
otherwise he proves that he is not guilty.
And is that what happened to you when the cruise missile showed up in
We are very sure of ourselves to the extent that which made us be astonished
that how come a big power like the United States came not to know that this
factory is only a pharmaceutical factory. This has led us to think that we
believe that they know that this plant is innocent. They know that this does
not produce any chemical weapons. And it was just bombed for other political
But you know, you do sit and you tell us he wasn't involved in any terrorist
acts or planning while he was here in the Sudan. ... You tell us that you have
no knowledge of him or his associates since then, and then we go to the US
government and they say he was involved while he was here in Yemen. He was
involved, they say, in Riyadh. He involved in sending money to people like
Ramzi Yousef, who was involved in the World Trade Center bombing. This is what
the US government says. And the US government says, in documents, I don't
know if you have seen them, that are put out by the US Congress, say that you
were involved with Iraq in chemical warfare. So it is almost like, to you, the
sun is shining and to the US government, it is dark and evil.
We are in the conviction that the United States knows that this information is
false and all this informations are fabricated and the sources of this
information, also they need to fabricate this information. The sources are
Egypt, ... Uganda ... . All of them they have their own problems
with Sudan. They are in need of the United States. They find it the easiest
way to beat the Sudan and give false information. ...
You say when Osama bin Laden was here he was not involved in any terrorist
activities. You kept a close watch on him.
Today, in the United States, in court there is a document that says that one
of his people, Mahmoud Salim, was here in Khartoum, that he was involved in
obtaining explosives, weapons production, that he was involved in getting
communications equipment for your intelligence services, working with them.
First of all, all our information confirmed that all the accusations against
the Mahmoud Salim are false accusations. I think that the American
administration has failed to track the perpetrators of the operation of Dar es
Salaam and Nairobi. And we think that they tried to convince their own
citizens that they are doing something, but they did not hit the real thing
about all this matter. We know that Salim used to work with Osama bin Laden but
we know that he left Osama bin Laden a long time ago. It doesn't mean that
anybody who knew Osama bin Laden, worked with him a certain time, that ... he
is involved in anything that Osama bin Laden does. ... Until now we didn't have
any information that links anybody related to Osama bin Laden doing anything
from inside Sudan. And we do not want to defend Osama bin Laden, but even we
believe that there is nothing concrete until now against Osama bin Laden.
Okay. Let me change the subject. The other area that is mentioned in the
State Department is the attempted assassination of Mubarak by Egyptian radicals
and that some or one fled to the Sudan and that your security service got
involved in this.
From the first day that we got the information that one of these people entered
Sudan, we checked our records at the airport and we made sure that this man
really entered Sudan.
And did he enter Sudan?
He probably entered Sudan.
We found records that he entered Sudan through the airport after the attempt.
But after that you could not trace him. ... Someone would say Mubarak is not
one of your favorite presidents.
We don't deny that we used to have problems with President Mubarak but it is
known that we, as Sudanese, we have never been involved in such acts of
assassination in Sudan. We don't have this history, even in our own
oppositions, we didn't have this history of assassinations. We don't think that
assassinating President Mubarak will solve any problem. ...
The New York Times reported that in February of 1997 that you sent President
Clinton a personal letter to allow US intelligence and counter-terrorism
people to come here to the Sudan, to have access to anything they wanted, to
That is true. I have sent a letter like this to President Clinton, until this
moment we did not get any response to that.
You have ambassadors in the United States. Have they asked?
It is our ambassador who took the letter and handed it there and tried to
follow-up the matter with the White House ... . But nothing came and it was
See the difficulty for us is that if we listen to you, then everything the US
government is putting out, this information, is false.
We assure you that all of it is false. And we are ready for any kind of
investigation or fact finding, and we already asked for fact finding about Al
Shifa. Even now we are ready to receive any group from the American
intelligence to work on these matters ... . As I said ... I wrote to President
Clinton asking for cooperation. That means we were ready to accept any team
from the FBI or CIA or whatever to come here and work with out people and
investigate. But they refused. That means they were not interested in the
truth, in the facts. They were interested in passing their own false
accusations. If they were interested in the truth they would have sent people
to come and investigate. ...