Son of Al Qaeda
ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE: He grew up in
Afghanistan with the children of Osama bin Laden.
KHADR: He had issues with his kids. The kids aren't listening. The kids aren't doing this and that. He's a father and he's a person.
ANNOUNCER: He was trained to be a terrorist.
KHADR: Three times, my father himself tried to
get me to become a suicide bomber. He was, like, You know, you be our pride. In this family, you be our pride.
ANNOUNCER: But he was different.
KHADR: I don't believe in blowing myself up,
killing innocent people. I just
don't believe in that.
ANNOUNCER: And after September 11th, he turned
against bin Laden and became an informant for the CIA.
ABDURAHMAN KHADR: They said, "You'll go to Cuba. You'll be working for us there, talking
to other detainees and telling us what they tell you and stuff."
TERENCE McKENNA, FRONTLINE Correspondent: Is it possible that you gave them any
information which ended up-
ANNOUNCER: -correspondent Terence McKenna tells
the inside story of this Son of al Qaeda.
KHADR: My dad told me, "If you ever betrayed
Islam or if you ever sell out on us, I will be the one to kill you."
McKENNA, FRONTLINE Correspondent: [voice-over] After September 11th, 2001, Osama bin
Laden and other senior figures in al Qaeda left the city of Jalalabad,
Afghanistan, and fled south to the tribal areas that straddle the
Pakistan-Afghan border. For years,
these areas have been self-governing and self-policing, and the tribal leaders
here were happy to give sanctuary to al Qaeda members and their families in
exchange for cash.
have been sporadic military offensives to look for them ever since. One such operation by the Pakistan army
took place on October 2nd, 2003. Senior al Qaeda members were reported to be holed up in a house in the
province of Waziristan on the Pakistan side of the border. The Pakistan army surrounded the house
and demanded a surrender. An
intense firefight broke out. Two
Pakistani soldiers were killed.
OFFICER: They are putting up stiff resistance,
and the fight is still going on.
McKENNA: The battle raged on for hours, but
finally, a Pakistani helicopter gunship shelled the house. Eighteen prisoners were taken and eight
bodies were pulled out of the rubble. The Pakistanis were disappointed not to find Osama bin Laden, but they
did find the body of another man long identified as a senior leader of al
Qaeda, a 57-year-old Canadian citizen named Ahmed Said Khadr, who was born in
story of this mysterious figure provides a window into the inner workings of al
Qaeda and a rare look at some of the secret aspects of America's war on terror.
new information comes from the 21-year-old son of Ahmed Said Khadr. His name is Abdurahman. He recently returned to Toronto after a
stay at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo, Cuba. He calls himself "the black sheep of the Khadr family" and
says he is now prepared to tell his family's full story for the first time.
KHADR: I want to show people that I'm a person
that lived all my life as Ahmed Said Khadr's son, a person that, you know, was
raised to become an al Qaeda, was raised to become a suicide bomber, was raised
to become a bad person, and I came out to- you know, I decided on my own that I
do not want to be that, and I do want to be a Muslim that's so loose, that so
want to be Western. I want to be a
good, strong, civilized, peaceful Muslim.
McKENNA: Abdurahman's father was trained as an
engineer in Egypt. He emigrated to
Canada in 1977, where he met and married Maha, a Palestinian Canadian who grew
up in Ottawa. They eventually had
six children. In 1993, when Abdurahman
was 11, his family moved from Canada to Afghanistan, where his father ran a
charity organization devoted to the feeding and schooling of Afghan
orphans. By the late 1990s,
however, allegations emerged that Ahmed Said Khadr was also involved in al Qaeda. The family has always denied it until
KHADR: Until now, everybody says that we're al
Qaeda-connected family, but when I say this, just by me saying it, I just
admitted that we are an al Qaeda family, you know? We had connections to al Qaeda. My family in Pakistan, they will never admit this at
all. Why? Because they're totally- you know, they
are what they are, and they deny it. They'll never admit this.
McKENNA: When we tracked down the rest of
Abdurahman's family in Islamabad, Pakistan, we found a slightly different
story. Abdurahman's mother and
sisters are still Canadian citizens, but they have lived most of their lives in
a completely different world.
ELSAMNAH KHADR, Abdurahman's Mother: We
believe that death come when God have planned it before he created the
McKENNA: His mother, Maha, on the left, and
sister, Zaynab, deny that the family was ever officially part of al Qaeda, but
readily admit they are sympathetic to the bin Laden organization. Maha is proud that her husband died
fighting for Islam. She considers
him a Shaheed, a martyr.
ELSAMNAH KHADR: So I just accept it. It hurt-
KHADR, Abdurahman's Sister: And we believe
that dying by the hand of your enemy because you believe in the-
ELSAMNAH KHADR: Because you [unintelligible]
KHADR: -because you're doing it in the way of
God, of Allah, that it's the best way to die. And my father had always wished that he would be killed, he
wouldn't just die in his bed, that he'd be killed for the sake of Allah. I remember when we were very young, he
used to say, "If you guys love me, [unintelligible] for me that- pray for me that I get Shahaded, which is
McKENNA: [on camera] Become a martyr.
McKENNA: [voice-over] A few miles away from Islamabad, in the
military hospital at Rawalpindi, was Abdurahman's 14-year-old brother, Karim,
who was shot in the spine in the same battle that killed his father. He was a prisoner and paralyzed from
the waist down. Abdurahman's
17-year-old brother, Omar, was shot three times in a firefight with American
troops two years ago in Afghanistan and lost the sight of one eye. He is now in the U.S. military prison
in Guantanamo, accused of killing an American soldier with a grenade.
camera] You son, Omar, in Guantanamo, is
accused of killing an American soldier, a medic, with a hand grenade. If that is true, are you proud of him?
ELSAMNAH KHADR: Of course, he defended himself. He just did not give any- you know, I-
I thought they were really simple kids, but it turned to be they are not so
KHADR: If you were in that situation, what
would you have done? I'd like to
ask everybody that, actually.
ELSAMNAH KHADR: I hope you don't say, "I would bow
down" or "No, no, no, please"-
KHADR: [unintelligible] put my hands in the
air. Excuse me. I- he was bombard for four hours. Three of his friends who were with him
had been killed. He is the only
sole survivor. What did you expect
him to do? Why is it- why does
nobody say, "You killed three of his friends"? What does everybody say he killed an American soldier? Well, big deal.
McKENNA: [voice-over] We also found Abdurahman's 22-year-old
brother, Abdullah, hiding in Islamabad. He agreed to an interview only if we concealed his face because he is
still considered a wanted al Qaeda fugitive in Pakistan.
camera] Did your father ever talk to you about
the desirability of becoming a martyr for Islam?
KHADR, Abdurahman's Brother: Dying- dying for Islam is hope for every Muslim, to die for Islam, every
Muslim's dream of being a Shaheed to Islam.
McKENNA: A martyr.
KHADR: Yeah. Like you die for your religion. Everybody dreams of this. Even a Christian would like to die for his religion.
McKENNA: [voice-over] How is it that a Canadian family ended
up in the inner circle of al Qaeda? It all goes back to the Afghanistan war in the 1980s, when Muslims from
around the world volunteered to go to Afghanistan to fight a jihad, a holy war,
against the Soviet invaders. Ahmed
Said Khadr from Canada was one of those volunteers, and that's when he became a
close friend of the most famous of the foreign fighters in that war, the
wealthy Saudi Osama bin Laden.
KHADR: They're friends. They're old friends. They're one of the- my father is one of
those really old people. And it's,
like, have buddy- you know, you're having buddies from your school and
stuff. So they're old friends.
SAID KHADR, Abdurahman's Father: I'm Canadian.
McKENNA: Abdurahman's father gained prominence
in 1995 when he was arrested in Pakistan and accused of complicity in a
terrorist bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, a bombing which killed
SAID KHADR: I am 100 percent innocent person.
McKENNA: He went on a hunger strike and was
interviewed by reporters in an Islamabad hospital. After an intervention on his behalf by the Canadian
government, Ahmed Said Khadr was released from prison in the spring of
1996. That is when he moved his
family into a large compound of houses near Jalalabad, Afghanistan. And it was there that young Abdurahman
Khadr met Osama bin Laden for the first time. He says he recognized him from a picture he had seen in an
KHADR: A magazine. And i had seen this person that was the- America's most
wanted, and then the next thing I know, he's in front of me, you know? So I'm- I'm amazed. I'm, like, "Wow. This person, he's big," you know? But I would say he's- he's a normal
human being. He has issues with
his wife and he has issues with his kids, financial issues, you know, the kids
aren't listening, the kids aren't doing this and that. So comes really down to he's a- you
know, he's a father and he's a person.
KHADR: It was very important for him to sit
with his kids every day at least for two hours in the morning after their Fajr
prayer, morning prayer. They'd sit
and read a book, at least. It
didn't have to be something religious. He was- he loved poetry very much. So he tried to encourage them to read, memorize or write poetry.
ELSAMNAH KHADR: And he loves sports and- how-
KHADR: Yeah, he loved playing volleyball and
he loved horse riding. And he'd do
it- I mean, amongst people, he was not Osama bin Laden, he was just Osama-
ELSAMNAH KHADR: Just the first-
KHADR: He was just a sheikh, just- and kids
played around him. Kids would go
shake his hand. He played
volleyball with them or just horse race with them. Just- he was just a [unintelligible] person. When
they'd go shooting, he'd go with them. And if he missed his shot, they'd laugh at him and stuff like that.
McKENNA: These are three of Osama bin Laden's
youngest children. There is Hamza,
who likes to recite poetry, Khalid and Laden. Mohammed is an older son from an earlier marriage.
KHADR: Osama has three wives. I think he has four, but I don't know
so much about the fourth wife. I
know that he has three wives. From
one wife, the first one, he has mostly all of his children, which I think are
seven or eight. And then the
second wife, there is, like, two or three. And the third wife, there is two or three from her,
too. They- they lived all in the
same house, his family.
Life in bin Laden's compound]
McKENNA: This severely bomb-damaged compound
near Jalalabad is where Osama bin Laden lived with his numerous wives and
children and the families of his close friends, including the Khadr
family. During the years of the
Afghanistan war against the Soviets in the 1980s, Osama bin Laden learned to
live simply, in caves. Later, in
the 1990s, as he transferred his hatred from the Soviets to the Americans, he
banned all American products and even modern conveniences in his presence.
KHADR: He was against any American
products. And I can tell you
this. He was against using ice,
and he actually forbidded it on the people that lived around him. Even if the people smuggled it in, but
he had forbidded it. He had
forbidded electricity, even later he knew that they needed it. But he didn't want them in any way to
be spoiled because with some thing, that's how it starts, he says.
KHADR: He didn't allow them to drink cold
water, not because he didn't believe in using- in modern- because he wanted
them to be prepared that one day, there's no cold water, they'd be able to
survive and it wouldn't be so difficult for them. But-
ELSAMNAH KHADR: He did not like soft drinks, like Coca-
KHADR: He didn't like to buy these American
soft drinks, Coke and Pepsi and all that. But his kids sometimes would buy them. And he liked them to live more natural life.
KHADR: His idea is, "I can live anywhere. I'll live anywhere. The important thing is my cause, it's
not me or where I live." And
that's why he lived in a mud hut. I can tell you that. He
lived in a mud house, he and his family.
KHADR: He never jokes. Very quiet person, very polite. He can be a saint, something like a
McKENNA: [on camera] You- you see him as a saint?
KHADR: I see him as a very peaceful man.
McKENNA: [voice-over] Abdurahman says that in the beginning,
his relationship with the bin Laden family centered on horses. He loved horses, and so did the bin
KHADR: Their father had promised them that he
would get them a horse if they memorized the Quran. So they were so anxious to finish memorizing it so they can
get a horse, which shows you that they're normal children, too, you know? So yeah, and me, too, you know? Me- actually, because, you know, my
father got me- I had insisted that he get me a horse, too, so he got me a
horse, too. So our, you know,
friendship between me and his kids was mostly the horses.
McKENNA: The young boys in the bin Laden
compound were signed up for military training camps. Abdurahman and his older brother, Abdullah, were sent off to
the al Qaeda camp at Khalden, Afghanistan. Training sessions continued on and off for years.
KHADR: OK, the first time I went to training,
I was 11-and-a-half years old. I
was 11-and-a-half. I remember
that. My brother was 12. And we went to Khalden. Since '92 until 2003, I've been to
Khalden, like, five times. I took
assault rifle course, explosive-making course, snipers, pistols and Pet CC,
which is a course that includes all of these.
KHADR: Anyone who wants to get trained can get
trained in Afghanistan. Afghanistan, if you want to fire a Kalashnikov, it is like going-
learning hockey. Anybody can do
it. A 10-year-old boy can fire a
Kalashnikov in Afghanistan. So
it's not a big deal.
KHADR: I am famous in these camps. I got the most punishments in these
camps. I was always trouble- you
know, not doing my homework, you know, running off, speaking to the Afghans,
being given punishment and not finishing off the punishment, you know? So I've always had that rebelliousness
in me. There was trouble for them
because everybody, you know, in these camps are very strict. They're military camps, you know? They didn't like me, but because of my
father, they kept me.
ELSAMNAH KHADR: Yeah, for Abdurahman, it was mainly to
teach him discipline and to keep him off the road- for Abdurahman. And he was almost kicked out. Maybe he told you that. Nobody ever accepted because he never
listened and he never followed the rules and regulation. He never wakes up on time. He never memorizes Quran.
KHADR: And my father would get him in the car,
say "Abdurahman, we're going back," and then take him back. In a couple of days, he'd be back. It was just back and forth all the
ELSAMNAH KHADR: He could never be-
KHADR: He tried to put him in school, he'd run
away. He put him all the way in
Karachi in a Quran school. He came
back on a bus.
ELSAMNAH KHADR: Tried to get him a job in Kabul again. He's never on time.
McKENNA: The rebellious behavior of Abdurahman
became increasingly distressing for his father. There were intense arguments between father and son about
Osama bin Laden.
KHADR: "Why do you not act like the rest of
the kids, so Osama can- you know, can, you know, always mention you and you
could be commander of a training camp or you can be something," you know? "Why are you different," you know? And I would tell him, "You know
what? Being Osama is not going to
heaven, OK, and being Osama is not being, you know, like a movie star," you
know? "It's not the top of the
McKENNA: In the madrassas, the religious
schools, young men were trained to be devout Muslims. Many boys in al Qaeda received instruction from radical
Islamic scholars who told them that suicide bombing was sanctioned by Islam.
KHADR: Three times my father himself tried to
get me to become a suicide bomber. He sat me down with the al Qaeda scholar. He sat me down with the- you know, the person to train
people to become suicide bombers. He sat me down with these two people and tried to convince me to become
a suicide bomber. He's, like, you
know, "You'd be our pride. In this
family, you'd be our pride," you know, "if you do this." But I was totally against it. I was, like, "I believe in fighting,
you know, someone on the ground and he shoots me and I shoot him," you know? But I don't believe in blowing myself
up, killing innocent people. I
don't- I just don't believe in that.
McKENNA: [on camera] How do you look back at your father
doing that to you?
KHADR: Well, I just see that he really
believed in it, and he wanted me to believe in it, too.
McKENNA: [voice-over] This is rare video footage of
Abdurahman Khadr at age 17. He had
become a wild teenager- smoking, drinking and chasing girls. He was recklessly antagonistic towards
al Qaeda and the Taliban regime. His father was ready to disown him.
KHADR: My father always considered me the
cancer in their body, and that's why he kicked me out of the house more than
once. He said, "You are like the
cancer in this- in this house, and I have to cut you out right now or you're
going to infect the rest of the family. You are the one that smokes, drinks, wants to- wants to, you know, work
his own mind. And you're going to
make your brothers like this, so I don't want to keep you because I want your
brothers to be good Muslims and all."
McKENNA: Abdurahman says that he tried to run
away from his family and al Qaeda numerous times. He would disappear with friends in Pakistan for weeks on
end. His father became suspicious that
he might betray the bin Laden organization.
KHADR: Well, my dad told me, "If you ever
betrayed Islam or if you ever sell out on us for anyone else, I will be the one
to kill you. If you do something
wrong, in Islam law, you're supposed to be killed. Before anyone else, I'll kill you."
McKENNA: Osama bin Laden formally declared his
war against the United States in February, 1998. He announced a fatwa, a religious decree, authorizing the
killing of American civilians. Six
months later, in August, came the simultaneous bombings of the U.S. embassies
in Kenya and Tanzania. On that
day, Abdurahman says, he was in an al Qaeda guest house in Afghanistan when the
news of the bombings came in.
KHADR: The leader of the guest house went
outside and brought juice for, like, everybody, jugs and jugs of juice. He was just giving it out. "Celebrate, everybody." And people were
even making jokes that we should do this more often, you know, we'd get free
McKENNA: As Abdurahman watched the video reports
of the African embassy bombings, he says he did not feel like celebrating. When he heard that the bombing killed
over 220 people, 12 of them American, and injured over 5,000, he began to have
severe doubts about al Qaeda's methods.
KHADR: I thought it was horrible. True, the other people thought it was OK because the other people that
were killed, lots of them Africans, were around the embassy. I was, "No, it was Muslims. Those Africans, or whatever they were-
they weren't even Muslims. They
were innocent people." I didn't
have- I don't- I didn't think they had any right to kill all those people.
ELSAMNAH KHADR: We've been crushed for a long
time. Can't you see any-
McKENNA: Abdurahman's mother and sister saw
things differently. They say that
Osama bin Laden attacked the U.S. embassies for a good reason.
KHADR: First of all, we thought, "Why Kenya
and Tanzania?" And then they said,
"Well, it's the biggest CIA" whatever-
ELSAMNAH KHADR: Military action- [unintelligible]
KHADR: -in the Middle East, mainly.
ELSAMNAH KHADR: To be honest with you, we hate the
Americans goofing around in our country and [unintelligible]
KHADR: And he said- before he did that, when
he asked so many times for the Americans- he said, "Look, every American will
become a target."
McKENNA: On August 20th, 1998, two weeks after
the African embassy bombings, the U.S. government retaliated. Cruise missiles were launched from U.S.
warships in the Arabian Sea. One
of the targets was the bin Laden training camp near Khost, Afghanistan. Abdurahman says he was in the camp when
the cruise missiles arrived.
KHADR: I noticed something in the sky. There was something that was like
lightning, and you know, flashing. So I just watched it. And
there was, like- there was, like, three, four camps around the area. I was in the Farouk, which was, like,
second to the Americans, to hit second. Jihad Wel was the one they thought Osama was in, so they started bombing
know, there was just explosives going around everywhere. After everything was done, I was the
one that drove the injured people because there was, like, almost five, six
injured people. I drove them back
to Khost, took them to the hospital.
McKENNA: The 1998 cruise missile attacks
temporarily brought Abdurahman Khadr back into the fold of al Qaeda true
KHADR: That was the day- I really hated
Americans that day, when we were bombed. All these people were killed. And we were up on the mountain with guns, and we were just waiting for
American soldiers to come down the mountain. I was, like, just waiting for them. We're going to shoot as much of them as
we can, you know? We've been
bombed, and we felt that, you know, we- you know, we wanted them to come
because they wanted to have an American to kill, or an American to kill them,
because kill an American, good thing. Get killed by an American, you're a Shaheed, you know, a martyr in
McKENNA: In the year 2000, al Qaeda's war against
the United States intensified. First came the suicide bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 American
sailors. Then in 2001, those close
to Osama bin Laden began to hear that big plans were in preparation for a major
al Qaeda attack against the Americans.
KHADR: He always used to say, "There are
people outside who are working and just"-
ELSAMNAH KHADR: Make [unintelligible] for them. Pray for-
KHADR: Yeah, "Pray that they are protected,
that no harm should befall them." But we'd always say, "When? What is going to happen?" And he'd always say, "I don't know. I know something is happening, but I don't know what and I
don't know where."
McKENNA: Al Qaeda's elaborate plans were finally
revealed on September 11th.
KHADR: The thing itself was very amazing. It was very wild to see a person seeing
a building in front of him, and he's going 900 kilometers per hour straight in
McKENNA: [on camera] So you felt admiration for the people
who did this.
KHADR: Yes, because they did some things that
stunned the entire world. Everybody, for entire- like, for months was only talking about that.
KHADR: When I saw the video, I was, like,
looking at it and all, and everybody was smiling, laughing, and I was just
looking at it, you know? And I saw
this person jumping out of the building. And I didn't think it was funny, you know? I didn't think it was smart. I was, like, more thinking about it. What was going through that person's
mind when he did it, you know?
so my father was, like, "What's your problem?" I said, "I don't know. This was not right," you know? "I don't think this was right, and this is going to cause a lot of
trouble." He's, like, "Well, you
know, we hit America." I was,
like, "Well, you hit so much people that were in that building that didn't have
anything to do- "Well, they pay taxes, and taxes get guns and the guns kill
Muslims. We're hitting the
American economy, and there is collateral damage." I just didn't understand it. They explained it in a hundred ways, I couldn't understand
McKENNA: How did you react to the September 11th
attacks when you saw them?
ELSAMNAH KHADR: To be honest with you, since I am Palestinian
and I know the Americans are helping the Israelis so much, I said, "Let them
have it. It's time- it's time that
they"- I don't want you to think I- maybe I am- maybe I am-
KHADR: Not the people themselves. You don't want to feel happy, but you
just sort of think, "Well, they deserve it. They've been doing it for such a long time, why shouldn't
they feel it once in a while?"
McKENNA: [voice-over] All the al Qaeda people around Osama
bin Laden in Afghanistan knew that the September 11th attacks meant that
American bombs were on the way and that American soldiers would likely
follow. In al Qaeda households all
over the country, possessions were packed up. Families prepared to flee.
the Khadr family prepared to hide out in the hills along the Pakistan-Afghan
border, Abdurahman made a fateful decision. He would try to get away from his family and get back to
KHADR: If you go back to your family, what are
you going to get? All you're going
to get is running up and down hills, valleys, staying in mud huts, running for
the rest of your life until you get shot. And I didn't want that anymore. I was sick of it. I was- I
had had enough of it. I just
wanted it to stop.
McKENNA: Two months after the World Trade Center
attack, Abdurahman was in Kabul. The Taliban were fleeing the capital, which was being taken over by the
Northern Alliance, backed by the United States and Britain. In the chaos, Abdurahman became
separated from his family. At that
time in Kabul, any Arab was suspected of affiliation with Osama bin Laden. The Americans were offering a bounty
for al Qaeda members. Arabic-looking foreigners were being rounded up. Abdurahman Khadr was arrested and
released several times but ended up in an Afghan prison. After six weeks, he was handed over to
the American forces.
KHADR: When the Americans started
interrogating me, that's when I realized that there is no way out of this
except to, like, you know, tell them, you know, OK I'll cooperate with them
because this is, this was their only way. They said, you know, "You work with us, or you know what? We can keep you here. We can take you to Cuba. We can do anything with you. Right now, no one in the world cares
McKENNA: Abdurahman says that he was
interrogated extensively by two American agents, one from the FBI and one from
the CIA. He says that they became
much more interested in him when they realized how close he had been to the
very center of al Qaeda.
KHADR: In a week or two, they started trusting
me more. And you know, then they
asked me, "Would you like to work for us? Would you like to go with the troops that are in Afghanistan to the
front lines and work for us there," and you know, to- you know, "tell us who
the people we capture are." And
you know, at the very beginning, it was my first time in, like, this situation,
and I was scared of jail. And I
said, "You know what? I'll do
McKENNA: For several months, Abdurahman says he
traveled regularly around Kabul with American investigators are visitors.
KHADR: There was this tour. They called it Abdurahman tour. I was famous for that. I took, like, the people from the-
people from the CIA, the FBI, the military. We'd go around in a car in Kabul. I'd show them the houses of al Qaeda people, the guest
houses, the safe houses, where houses were. You know, this was the guest house they used before, this
was the guest house they used later. This is the safe house they used after September 11, you know, just show
them the houses. So there was that
tour. And otherwise, I just told
them what I knew.
McKENNA: Abdurahman says he lived for nine
months in a CIA safe house near the American embassy in Kabul. In the summer of 2002, he says, he
received a financial offer from the CIA.
KHADR: They brought me a paper. They said, "$5,000 bonus for you being
very cooperative. And from now on
just by, you know, working with us, just answering our questions, you get paid
$3,000 a month until you stop working for us." The paper said I would get paid until someone found out
about this. Now, the account was
under my name. It was a CIA
account somewhere. I don't know
where. But the money went to my
account. And whenever I want my
money, I can ask for it.
McKENNA: [on camera] Did the paper say that- say Central
Intelligence Agency? Did it say
who you'd deal with?
KHADR: Yes. You'd be working for the CIA.
McKENNA: [voice-over] During the months that Abdurahman was
in the CIA safe house, suspected al Qaeda members were being rounded up all
over Afghanistan. Hundreds of the
prisoners were put on planes and flown to Cuba, to Camp X-Ray at the U.S. Naval
base at Guantanamo. The world
could see that the prisoners were being treated harshly, but Abdurahman says he
didn't know any of that when the CIA proposed a new plan to him. They would plant him as one of their
spies in the prison population and he would funnel information to them. He says the plan was explained to him
by his favorite CIA agent.
KHADR: She said, "Well, you'll go to
Cuba. You'll be working for us
there, talking to other detainees, you know, meeting other detainees and stuff,
and telling us what they tell you and stuff." I said, you know, "How much- how long is it going to
be?" She told me it would probably
be from three to six months. I
said, Well, you know, faster. So I
McKENNA: Abdurahman says he was told that he
would have to be treated like any other prisoner on the way to Guantanamo to
avoid suspicion. He was taken to
the Bagram air base near Kabul, where the Americans had built a processing
center for suspected al Qaeda captives. Here he began what he calls the longest and most painful ordeal of his
life. He had no idea what he was
KHADR: They took off my clothes and
everything. And they started
taking pictures of me, pictures, like, of my face and then pictures of my- my private
parts, like my- my back, you know, my- my penis, my- you know, just taking
pictures of every part of my body. And they-- you know, they check your- your- you know, your anus. They put their fingers inside to check
it out. You know, all of that is
humiliation to any person, you know? They put me in the orange suit, and then they took me into a room and
they put me on the ground- again, hands, legs, everything cuffed, and my face
covered. And I was kept on the
concrete with nothing but that orange suit for 24 hours.
I stayed in Bagram for 10 days, and you could not move. You could not move your back, so you
couldn't bend or straight. There's
one position, you stay in it. If
you move, they hit you or they push you. So they tell you not to move. After that, they put us in a truck for an hour or two, the same
position. Then they took us out of
that to the plane. They tied us up
in the plane, cuffed us up and everything in the plane.
McKENNA: After 10 days of captivity in Bagram,
that plane trip to Cuba would last more than 15 hours. By the time the aircraft landed,
Abdurahman says, he was a broken man.
KHADR: There was points, you know, I just- in
my heart, I just wished to God, I wished to God that one of these MPs would go
crazy and then shoot me, just get up and shoot me. I was so depressed. I was so sick of anything. It was the only time in my life that I really wished for a bullet. You know, I was, like, "Please, God, do
something, but just take away my life," you know?
McKENNA: Like all other prisoners, Abdurahman
spent his first month in Guantanamo in complete isolation. He says he was occasionally told by his
jailers that they knew he was on a CIA mission. It was barely enough to restore his hope. And then he was moved into the prison's
KHADR: Their hopes was, when they take me into
Cuba, they could put me next to anyone that was stubborn and that wouldn't
talk, and you know, I would talk him into it. Well, it's not that easy, first thing, because lots of
people won't talk to anyone because everybody in Cuba is scared of the person
next to him.
McKENNA: By this time, Camp X-Ray had been
replaced by the newly constructed Camp Delta, which was designed to be more
comfortable and secure. At one
point, Abdurahman heard that his younger brother, Omar, was just 50 feet away
in a neighboring yard. They could
yell to each other in Arabic.
KHADR: So I asked him, "How are you? How is everything?" And he told me, you know, "Just stay
with the original story. We have
an organization and all." I said,
"How is your health?" And he said,
"It's OK. I'm just losing my left
and eye and all. They don't want
to operate on it."
McKENNA: [on camera] Omar said to you, "Stick to the
original story." What does that
KHADR: Original story, we have an
organization. We don't have
anything to do with al Qaeda. We
don't have anything to do with al Qaeda members and all. We just stick with that story.
More on Guantanamo]
McKENNA: [voice-over] The U.S. Army conducted public
relations tours to exhibit the cells at Camp Delta. Each prisoner was provided with a Quran and a Turkish
toilet. Despite the more comfortable
conditions, suicide attempts by the prisoners became a common occurrence. Abdurahman says that he once came close
to that himself and demanded to be removed from the prison population.
KHADR: After three months of being in the
general population, I just couldn't take it anymore. I said, "You know what? You have to move me out of here now."
McKENNA: Abdurahman says that by mid-2003, the
CIA realized that their plan was not working out very well. They agreed to remove him from the
prison population, even though he was now talking to other prisoners, and
transfer him to more luxurious quarters.
KHADR: Normal rooms split into half. Half of it is a bedroom and the
bathroom, and the other half is a living room and a kitchen and TV. And they moved me into this room. I was kept in this room for five
months. During that period, they
had people- psychiatrists come to see me, doctors, other- a lot of people from
McKENNA: Abdurahman says that once he was
released from the detention area, the CIA and the military people he dealt with
were very nice to him. He says
that one day, they even took him down to the beach, where no other inmate was
ever allowed, for a swim and a barbecue. He says he told them it had been a huge mistake for the U.S. military to
offer large cash rewards for the capture of al Qaeda suspects because the vast
majority of the inmates in Guantanamo didn't belong there.
KHADR: There's only, like, a 10 percent of the
people that are really dangerous, that should be there. And the rest are people that, you know,
don't have anything to do with it, don't even- you know, don't even understand
what they're doing here.
story, the famous story, I remember- two, actually. One is the father that was brought by his own son. The son gave him a gun and took him up
to an American base and gave him up there and took $5,000 for him. That's one story. The second story is of a drug user, a
person that, you know, was sitting next to me, not worried about being in jail,
not worried about what's going to happen to his family, not worried about what
he's going to get. All he's
worried about and every time he asks the MPs to come around, asking them for a
smoke, asking them for some hashish, for- you know, for marijuana, something
like that, you know? Not even- he
doesn't even know what he's doing here. Truly a drug addict, not al Qaeda at all.
McKENNA: Abdurahman says that he spent five
months in his Guantanamo guest quarters near the prison. He says the CIA considered moving him
to several international destinations to gather information about Islamic
radicals. Finally, the focus shifted
to al Qaeda activity in Iraq. By
that time, the U.S. had occupied Iraq for six months and desperately needed
more intelligence about the insurgents.
September, Abdurahman says, the CIA provided him with a training course in
undercover work, a course given by one of the most experienced trainers in the
KHADR: He lived in Morocco and Algeria, so he
spoke Arabic. He liked Arab
culture. We started training with
the normal things, mostly how to, like, do a dead drop or to- like, where you
go and you check out a restaurant or a location to meet someone, if you're,
like, an agent, to meet your officer, or if you're an officer and want to check
out a place to meet an agent, so how you'd go. You go inside, you check the tables, you check the streets
outside, you check, you know, the exits, the bathrooms, the location, the table
exactly where you're going to sit, what the weather is going to be that time
when you go to meet this person. Then the cultures of that area, people, do
they shake hands, do they talk, are they nice, are they rude, do they like
jokes? So to find out everything
about this place you're going to. And you go to a meeting at one time, and then you just- you know, you
drop that place and go to the next place.
McKENNA: Abdurahman says that at the end of the
training course, he was told that he would be leaving Guantanamo soon. He says that his CIA handlers gave him
a tour of the base, that he was issued a guest pass and checked in and out
through the visitors' gate. Then
he was told that his next stop would be Bosnia. He says the CIA gave him a false passport.
KHADR: They made me a Moroccan secondhand
passport, a forged passport. And
they said, "When you go to Bosnia, when you get in the pipeline, you just use
this passport. You say, you know,
'I got this passport when I was coming. I got it in Turkey, and I paid $200 for it, and I want to use it to get
back into- to, like, Iraq.' "
McKENNA: Abdurahman says that on the day he left
Guantanamo, CIA officers took him for a tour of the harbor by speedboat. Then, he says, he was taken to the
airstrip and that a CIA agent put him on a small jet aircraft.
KHADR: I asked him what was it, and he said it
was a Gulfstream IV. So he told
me, "Just take your bag. Go
McKENNA: [on camera] How many people were on board?
KHADR: On board were four security people, was
the higher-up, the person- the CIA one, and there was an officer and the
pilots, two pilots, I think, or three pilots.
McKENNA: [voice-over] Abdurahman says that he spent nearly 14
hours on the CIA jet. After a
refueling stop in the Azores in the mid-Atlantic, he landed at an American base
not far from Sarajevo. Bosnia is
well known in intelligence circles as a major center of al Qaeda activity. Many former fighters from the
Afghanistan war and other conflicts have settled here. The Americans believe that Bosnia had
become the pipeline for al Qaeda volunteers who wanted to join up with the
resistance in Iraq.
says that the CIA asked him to blend in with the transient Muslim population in
KHADR: You meet people. You sit with them and you- you watch
them. You see how much people are
working with them, what they're doing, they're buying weapons, they're selling
weapons, they're recruiting people. You know, information, just any information at all.
McKENNA: Abdurahman says the CIA asked him to go
down to one of the largest mosques in Sarajevo, the King Fahd mosque, which
they believed was a beehive of al Qaeda activity. He became friendly with a suspected recruiter for al Qaeda
operations in Iraq.
KHADR: I took his name and all and gave it to
them, and they said, "Well, this is a very good contact." They were very happy that I made this
contact. They told me just to stay
in touch with him and go slowly on him, and then in due time, a week or two,
tell him that you want to go to Iraq, you know, that you changed your mind
about going back to Canada, you want to go to Iraq.
McKENNA: [on camera] If al Qaeda people in Bosnia found out
about you, what do you think would have happened?
KHADR: They would have shot me.
McKENNA: Was this not at the back of your mind?
KHADR: It was always in the back of my mind,
and that's what I always told the CIA. "You know what? You're
bribing me money, and you think it's a lot, but you know, there is that risk
that I'll get shot," you know? "So
don't think you're doing me a big favor by giving me that money. I'm doing you a big favor by working
for you because if I have a million dollar and I'm dead, I can't use those
McKENNA: [voice-over] Abdurahman was in Bosnia in the fall of
2003, when news arrived of the military attack in Pakistan which killed his
KHADR: My reaction was, as my father, I love
him and I will always love him as my father, but not as what he did. But you know, I've gone through so much
that when they told me about it, I didn't even- you know, there was no
reaction. There was no
emotion. I don't know why because
I've seen so much people get killed in front of me in Afghanistan, so I've been
through so much with- you know, I reacted with lots of people that totally no
emotions were left.
McKENNA: [on camera] Is it possible that you gave them any
information which ended up in your father being killed?
McKENNA: Why do you say that?
KHADR: I didn't know anything about my
father. For two year, I didn't
talk to him. I didn't communicate
with him at all. So how could I
know anything about him or where he was staying?
McKENNA: [voice-over] After his first week in Bosnia,
Abdurahman says that the CIA asked him to actually go into Iraq with al Qaeda
forces so that he could provide information to the American military. They told him it would be dangerous.
KHADR: They really trusted that I would do
this for them. But really, when-
later, they suggested that, "You're going to be in a gun fight. You're going to be in the middle of the
storm. Do you understand what
you're going through?" And that's
when I thought, "You know what? Stop this. This is a good
time to stop."
McKENNA: Once he decided to get away from the
CIA, Abdurahman made a call to Toronto, to his grandmother.
GRANDMOTHER: I said, "Is this Abdurahman?" He said yes. "Where are you?" And he said, "I'm"-
McKENNA: He told her that he desperately wanted
to come back to Canada. He told
her to tell the media that the Canadian government was not helping him.
GRANDMOTHER: They said, "Go. Anyway, we don't care about you."
McKENNA: Abdurahman felt that going public with
his story would force the Canadian government to allow him to return to
Toronto. After the news about him
broke in Canada, Abdurahman says that he was brought to a CIA safe house in
Sarajevo. He says the Americans
agreed to let him go back to Canada, and he promised he would not tell anyone
of his relationship with the agency. He says the CIA never paid him the promised monthly salary, that they
took away his false Moroccan passport and then dropped him off at the Canadian
he arrived back in Canada in November, he was met by his grandmother. Shortly afterwards, he held a press conference
and told lies about what happened after his release from Guantanamo.
KHADR: OK, from Afghanistan - I was released
there - the American authorities-
McKENNA: He stuck to the story he says was
dictated to him by the CIA.
KHADR: I don't have any connections to al
Qaeda or to any of those people.
McKENNA: A month later, he began telling us the
camera] Why are you telling this story now?
KHADR: Why am I telling this story right
now? Because I do not want to keep
this in my heart anymore. I cannot
keep it in my heart anymore. I got
to tell the people I- you know, I lied to them in the beginning, and I want
this to go out. I want- I want the
people to learn that I lied for a reason and I'm sorry to have lied then, and I
want to tell them the real story, what really happened.
Read the extended transcript]
McKENNA: [voice-over] FRONTLINE officially asked the
CIA to confirm or deny Abdurahman Khadr's story. The agency declined to comment.
had mentioned that he was twice subjected to polygraphs - lie-detector tests -
by the CIA. We asked him if he
would submit to another series of polygraph tests for us, and he immediately
POLYGRAPHER: Regarding your activities with the U.S. intelligence, do you intend to
answer truthfully each question about that?
McKENNA: The professional examiner asked him
about working for American intelligence in Guantanamo, being paid for it and
being flown on a small jet to Bosnia for his mission there. On all major aspects of his story, he
passed the polygraph.
Toronto this winter, as thousands of Muslims gathered for prayers to mark the
end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Abdurahman Khadr was among
them. He was volunteering at his
local mosque and looking for a job. He wanted to be an accepted member of the Muslim community here, but he
was worried about what the reaction would be when his story was eventually
broadcast, especially the reaction from his own family.
day in Islamabad, his mother, Maha, would carefully fold up a treasured family
heirloom, the partially burned, blood-spattered vest her husband was wearing
when he was killed last October. Abdurahman's family did not yet know the full story of his cooperation
with the CIA. They had told us
that they would be deeply ashamed of him if he collaborated with the enemy.
KHADR: They will dread me. My mother, especially, she will dread
me for doing this. She will
totally dread me for doing this.
McKENNA: [on camera] What will she say?
KHADR: She'll say, "You left us. You sold out on your father. You sold out on your people." You know, "You told a story." "You," you know, "worked with the
CIA. You did this and you did
McKENNA: "How could you do such a thing?"
KHADR: "How could you do such a thing?"
ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of The National.
NEWSCASTER: Tonight, al Qaeda family. A
Canadian man admits his family's ties to al Qaeda and-
McKENNA: [voice-over] After the broadcast of his story in
Canada, Abdurahman's grandmother kicked him out of the house, and he was
disowned by the rest of the family. He feels ostracized by most of the Muslim community here, some angry at
him because he was part of al Qaeda, others because he cooperated with the
weeks ago, his mother returned to Toronto with his paralyzed younger brother to
seek medical attention. The family
has now begun to reconcile. Abdurahman is trying to start a new life. He says that one day, he would like to write a book about
his personal journey from Osama bin Laden to the CIA.
OF AL QAEDA
Department of Defense
PRODUCER, CBC NEWS
DIRECTOR, CBC NEWS
2004 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation production for WGBH/FRONTLINE
EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION and CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION
is a production of WGBH Boston, which is solely responsible for its content.
ANNOUNCER: There's more to explore at FRONTLINE's Web site, where
you'll find in-depth interviews with Abdurahman Khadr, his mother, sister and
brother, a closer look at members of the extended Khadr family and the glimpse
it offers of the world and mindset of al Qaeda followers, a chance to view this
program on line in streaming video and more. Then join the discussion at pbs.org.
time on FRONTLINE: In 1999,
Texas governor George W. Bush had a revelation.
VOICE: He said, "I believe that God wants me to be president."
ANNOUNCER: FRONTLINE follows the president's
GEORGE W. BUSH: Faith can change lives. I know because it changed mine.
ANNOUNCER: And how his religion has rallied the
VOICE: My God, you could win the White House with nothing but evangelicals.
ANNOUNCER: The Jesus Factor. Watch FRONTLINE.
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