son of al qaeda
abdullah khadr
abdullah khadr

Twenty-three-year-old Abdullah Khadr is the son of Ahmed Said Khadr. He is considered a wanted fugitive in Pakistan and only agreed to be interviewed if his face were concealed. Abdullah has been accused of the January 2004 suicide bombing that killed a Canadian peacekeeper in Kabul -- a charge he denies. He has also been accused of having run an Al Qaeda training camp, which he also denies. In this interview, Abdullah describes his relationships with his father and his brother Abdurahman. He also maintains that he is not a member of Al Qaeda but that he is sympathetic to its goal of a Muslim state. This interview was conducted on Feb. 23, 2004.

Anyone who wants to get trained can get trained in Afghanistan. If you want to fire a Kalashnikov it is like in Canada going and learning hockey.

… So what have you been doing since Sept. 11 2001?

Before the fall of the Taliban, we were just living our lives normally and not doing anything much, just orphans running around schools. And that's it, almost. Had a problem in a girl's school so we were running around a lot at that time. After the fall, also running around, trying to keep safe at least until we crossed the border.

When were you separated from your brother Abdurahman?

Exactly the day after fall. Before that I know he was around. The Thursday of the fall. One of his friends came and told us that some of his friends in Kabul told the Northern Alliance people that this is an Arab. …

How did your father react to the news that Abdurahman might have been captured?

He was sad. He told me not to tell my mother so she won't get worried. Only told her that we don't know where he is right now and he's fine. Because we know he's fine.

We tried to make contact to the Northern Alliance people to get him out. Because [my father] used to help the people so he used to know some of them. … He sent for them but they said, "It's not in our hands." The person who had him sent us a letter that "We want $10,000 or we will release him." … That's the last we knew about him and then we heard he's in Guantanamo.

When was the last time you saw your father?

Maybe before he was killed, by a month or so.

What's your memory of that? What was your last conversation with him?

… [He] had enough from what he saw in this world, all the problems between the people, the killing. What was going on was a family half here, half there. Some of the people used to joke with him that you had two years here with your children. If the Americans caught you, you should have two years with Omar in Guantanamo and with Abdurahman. So not [that] he lost hope, he had enough.

Did you have a sense from him that if there was an attempt to capture him that he would rather die than be captured?

What can you say? If you done nothing, I think you prefer to die. Because you don't know where you're going, but best -- it's like the end of the line and a start of a new life. But if you got captured you don't know what's going to happen. And jails are not a place for free men. …

How was your relationship with your father?

I am quiet person. I can live in a house with 20 people in it and they wouldn't know that I am in the house. So I usually just lock myself in the room and sit by my computer, play games, watch movies. Do anything. I don't like sitting around with people.

That's how you got along with your father?

Oh fine. Other than the NGO work. Because I used to tell him that he spent most of [his] time with the orphans not with [his] family. Most of his life was for the poor, than for the family. He said, "You're living okay. You have your father you have your mother. I will be the father and the mother of someone who doesn't have."

That would make you angry sometimes?

Yeah. Because he's not giving us enough time.

So what was your reaction when you heard that there had been this military attack on Oct. 2?

Sad.

Did you think right away that he had died?

From the news that came to us, yes. Because I kept asking and asking for about one week. Everybody that would go, would then come back. And if I called, say "they are fine, they will be fine." And they wouldn't give me anything else. So I was expecting it.

Your mother and sister talked about how in some ways they felt good for him because he died as he would've wanted to have died as a soldier of Allah. Did you have that feeling?

To us Muslims, it is better to look to go to the other side. Because for us, life is only the beginning. It is a test. It is the hard part. But if you cross the other side, it is the easier part.

So yeah I'm happy now for him. First because he was tired. Because I would like my father to be happy. And I know that what he wanted to be.

So what has your life been like in the last few months? Whenever your name appears in the newspapers you're often described as an Al Qaeda fugitive, a former camp commander, a commander of Al Qaeda. What's your reaction to all that?

… Trainers, we always had trouble with Al Qaeda because we are Canadians, we are somewhat different from them. More open to the people. Most of our life and work is not for the cause they are working for. We are working for the poor. They have their own causes. Maybe sometimes our causes will cross, like helping in Afghanistan. If Al Qaeda wanted to help in Afghanistan sometimes our causes cross, but usually we have problems with them. …

Camps in Afghanistan -- there is Al Qaeda, there is lots of groups that in what they think are different than Al Qaeda. Some people think only to work in the land. The Egyptians, they want only to work in Egypt, Al Qaeda's the only international group. They say they want to work against everybody.

Anyone who wants to get trained can get trained in Afghanistan. If you want to fire a Kalashnikov it is like in Canada going and learning hockey. Anybody can do it. A ten-year-old boy can fire a Kalashnikov in Afghanistan. So it's not a big deal.

Did you go through the Khalden camp?

Before it was called Khalden camp, yes I went to Khalden camp.

You're saying it's like a hockey camp in Canada. This is a standard thing.

Yeah like going camping in Canada. It is exactly the same thing to go to a training camp. In America there is training camps for kids. You can go to army training camps. They're all over there. …

So in the camps did it start off with, you have religious training at the beginning and then--

No. … No you go, the weapons training, and it is the usual things you have to do to be a Muslim. That's it.

So what kind of weapons did you learn how to use?

Small weapons. Guns, Kalashnikov and stuff.

There was this story that came out a couple of weeks ago that you were the suicide bomber who killed the soldier in Kabul. What was your reaction when you heard that story?

Editor's Note: A Feb. 4, 2004 Agence France Presse story quoted a Taliban spokesman who suggested that Abdullah was the suicide bomber who killed a Canadian soldier in Kabul in January 2004.

First, if I was the suicide bomber I wouldn't have been doing the interview now. And second of all my father almost was the only purpose that [no terrorists] worked in Canada. Because my father kept telling them that Canada didn't do anything to the Muslim world. But you do anything against Canada.

I think CSIS [Canadian Security Intelligence Service] know about this because they used to come and visit him the house. Some guy, I think his name is Michael, something like that. [My father] used to tell him, "Don't put yourself between the Muslims and the Americans. If the Americans have problem with the Muslims you shouldn't have the same problem with the Muslims too." And until now they haven't done anything to Canada. And we are the only reason, because like we are holding them back from working inside Canada.

But Canada like pushed itself in the war. And my father told them lots of times, "Don't put yourself in this position that you'd have to put yourself between all the Muslims."

He said this to Canadians?

Yes. CSIS. The Canadian intelligence, I think some guy his name is Michael or something like that.

Who came to interview him?

Yes.

In Canada, or?

In Canada.

Here as well?

No, in Canada. He used to come to my father every weekend. Like visiting.

Did you read the Agence France Presse story which said that a Taliban spokesman had identified as the suicide bomber and but it gave all your families names correctly and your father's name. All of that.

I never went to Kabul after the fall of Taliban. Never went to Kabul. If you saw me, then you're photographing a fake.

So is the common occurrence that the Taliban would put out a false story to--

Either, if maybe it is the Taliban maybe it is someone else. Anybody could have put the name of Abdullah and the people just brought the front, the beginning and the end with it.

Did your father ever talk to you about becoming a martyr for Islam?

I never had this idea in my mind. I don't believe in this idea. Shaheed yes but not suicide. Every Muslim dreams of being a shaheed for Islam.

A martyr.

Like you die for your religion. Everybody dreams of this, even a Christian would like to die for his religion.

But not as a suicide bomber you say.

No, never. I never was convinced by it.

What's the difference? Did your father ever talk to you about the desirability of becoming a martyr for Islam?

Dying for Islam is hopeful for every Muslim to die for Islam. Everybody loves to die for his religion. But how is different. Suicide never. I thought of it. Because I think it is harder to do it. Then the same thing like it's hard to see this running, like you run to death. It is harder than death coming to you. I never thought of doing it. I never believed in the way of doing it.

Did your father ever discuss the possibility of becoming a suicide bomber with you?

No.

Were there other kids in these camps that would talk about that?

My age, I never heard of. The last time I end up at training camp was, what '95? I was 14, so I guess going camping, I never thought of it and nobody ever talked to me about it. …

A lot of the kids who went to those camps ended up going off to fight for Al Qaeda or fight in the fight against the Northern Alliance. Did you ever do that?

No, never.

You didn't want to?

I didn't believe in Muslims killing Muslims, even if it is wrong or right. I don't think like that. I think Muslims are killing Muslims, not my style.

What do you want to happen now?

Just live a normal life again. Prove my innocence and live [as a] normal human being.

Could you go back to Canada now if you chose to do that?

No guarantees. …

What do you think would happen if you tried to go back to Canada?

I would probably end up in somewhere I wouldn't want to be -- Guantanamo Bay. Bagram. And maybe some place that nobody would ever hear where I am. There is lots of people, innocent people we know of. America says that say they are out, and their families say that "we don't have any information." …

Have you asked the Canadians if they have anything against you, if they would arrest you?

No. I don't think the Canadians have anything against me solid. But I don't think the Americans care if it's solid or not. Maybe Canada, they still a little bit care about what the people say and if the proof is solid or not but the Americans don't care anymore. They'll just catch anybody.

And why do you think the Americans would arrest you? Is it because of who your father was?

Yeah probably that. What the people are saying more than me. I don't know who brought the stories about me, but yes.

This story that you are a camp commander.

Yeah, a camp commander, and suicide bomber of two Canadian officers in Kabul.

Where do you think this story came from that you were a camp commander?

Have no idea. Completely no idea where it came from. … I was pretty young then, maybe 14, 15 something like that. Then they didn't need us. And the Al Qaeda people don't like us that much.

In Afghanistan you have contact with everybody. We had contacts with foreigners, with Arabs, work in foreign NGOs and most people from the other side. In Afghanistan, you knew everybody. The foreign people are mostly a hundred in Kabul -- or 200, so it is easy to know 200 persons.

If anybody would see you going with someone it's easy to say, "oh he's working with a white man." Then you are an agent for America, for Canada, and that's what this was said about us. And if you're working with a dark man, "oh you're working for Al Qaeda now." So it is a really easy story to make up in Afghanistan. You can make up anything in Afghanistan.

Were you ever sympathetic to Al Qaeda?

To what they do? Building a homeland for Muslims, yes. Their way, not that much.

Why?

Because there is lots of other ways to do it.

What was wrong with the Al Qaeda way?

They were, let's say, taking it too fast even for the West. For the people itself, the Muslim world itself, it was too fast. The Muslim people weren't yet ready. …

I wonder, what was your reaction to the African embassy bombings? This was the first major Al Qaeda military operation.

From what I heard, they weren't embassies, they were intelligence offices and buildings. And mostly they were CIA and the Mossad offices in that buildings. Even the Americans say it now that was only civil buildings, embassy buildings, but the people say no, they're mostly agencies and they were running all the conflicts in Africa.

Everybody knows that CIA is running most of the conflicts in Africa for keeping the continent for themselves. They can run the continent now. If peace come to the continent they wouldn't be able to run it.

So did you approve of the African embassy bombings?

Approve or not approve. It's a hard question. Sorry for the people dying and not that much sorry for the Americans, because you can see they cause enough deaths, even if they say "no, we didn't." Like they killed I think enough people in Vietnam, they killed enough people in Lebanon, even if they got killed. But they used to kill people.

Almost all the conflicts in the world, America can stop it from the beginning. But they don't stop it, except after the massacre is done. In Bosnia, they could have stopped it from all the way from the beginning. But they waited until 17,000 women were raped and murdered. After that they start working.

I think even a lot of Muslims saw the hundreds of people were killed in the African embassy bombings and only 12 of them were American.

This is one side of view. Some people say "no most of them were Americans and Jewish." And they said it was a Friday. So most of the Muslims would be probably praying, Friday prayers. But I cannot tell you more than that because I wasn't there.

What was your reaction to Sept. 11?

Like, I think 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 the building. That was very hard to believe. If you believe in something very hard you can do that…

So you felt admiration for the people who did this.

Yes. Because they did some things that stunned the entire world. Everybody for entire, like months, was only talking about that.

I heard, I was watching TV and they brought some person from China, I think. China, Taiwan, something like that. And they asked him, he said that this is good for America to know that it is not always the superpower that can hit, that weak people have ways too to call the world for the world to listen to them, what they are saying, what do they want.

Once again, almost 2500 people were killed in the World Trade Center, almost entirely civilians.

I feel sorry for those killed. But Americans kill civilians in Afghanistan. Nobody said anything to them. They killed about 100 persons in a wedding caravan and other place they had they killed about same thing, 100, 115 in a wedding. Nobody blamed them for doing it. And they have I think the most advanced technology in missiles and controls. So you cannot say they missed because they knew they knew what they're hitting. If their planes couldn't see it, the satellites couldn't see it, then it's not a superpower, they shouldn't start hitting everybody. Accusing everybody of anything if they can't see.

What were your impressions of Osama bin Laden? I guess you saw him for the first time as a young boy. What were your impressions of him?

He was very quiet person. He would eventually get his respect. You would respect what he says. If he talks, he talks slowly. He never jokes, very quiet person, very polite. He can be a saint, something like a saint.

You see him as a saint?

I have my respect for him. I don't say that he doesn't do anything wrong. But I see him as a very peaceful man. In his daily doings, I never saw him shout at anybody. Never would you hear that Osama shouted at anybody. You never would've heard that he hit anybody. You never have heard that he got angry, some day. He's always smiling whatever happens.

Did you talk to him personally?

No, I never. No. If I saw him far away I would always get shy.

Why?

I don't know. Like if you would see the Canadian prime minister. I saw him in '96. The most I said is, "How are you?" I couldn't say more.

You met Jean Chretien. What did he say to you?

He told me that "once I was a son of a farmer. And I became prime minister. Maybe one day you will become one." That was a nice compliment.

How do you feel about Osama bin Laden now? He decided to launch this great war against the United States, against as he calls them, "the war against the crusaders and Jews." How has it turned out to your view?

"Crusaders" -- Bush said it in the first day. It's a crusade. But if he said sorry he didn't mean it, he is doing it. Like they're having Iraq, they are in Saudi, the Gulf. They are in all the Muslim countries. They're in Afghanistan. They control the three-quarters of the planet. … So when you go up a mountain you eventually come down. You cannot always stay on top.

So you think the United States should be pushed out of all Muslim countries?

I think that Americans should only rule America. Not the entire planet.

How did you get along with your brother Abdurahman while you're growing up?

He's a joke, troublemaker. You sit with him, sometimes [we] fight and sometimes [I] couldn't hold myself from what he used to do from laughing. He is nice-hearted. Whatever he does he is good-hearted. He's not evil.

But he was a troublemaker in the camps.

He was troublemaker all over the place. You get along for two days and you fight for one and then get along for a week then you fight for another two weeks and just like this. This is how he lives his life. He doesn't care about anything. …

He told us this story about always getting into trouble in the camps. What's your memory of that? Was everybody mad at him all the time? Was he getting kicked out?

No. He used to get kicked out for sleeping late, not waking for prayer, fighting with someone. Being messy. Dirty clothes. Not obeying orders. Stuff like that. Just usual teenager that wants total freedom.

But at the same time he made you laugh.

Yeah and some stuff you'd laugh. We'd go into hotel and [he would eat the] food of six persons. What can you do? He's about six feet tall and fighting with a three-year-old kid over nothing, piece of chocolate, give me my chocolate back.

How did he get along with your father?

There were in opposite direction. He wants total freedom and my father wants obedience. But they eventually got along. If he's busy, if my father give him anything to do, then he's very happy. If I got the work to do he get jealous and that's where the problem is, so because he's one year different age, so he says what's different between him and me. …

Did you play with the bin Laden children? Did you get to know them very well?

Very well no, but know them yes. They had horses, we had horses. So eventually met in horse market. We buy horses they buy. Just like any children. …

Mohammed [bin Laden] used to go hunting. He had a car. I was more than them, I like cars more than horses. And the rest of my family, Omar and the rest of them liked horses, so we got along both ways. Those who like cars get along with one who like cars and the one who likes horses and animals. …

But did you ever see [Osama] with his sons? I'm just wondering what his relationship was like with his own children? What he was like as a father?

He was a father to everyone. I never heard them complain of him. I never heard anybody complaining. Maybe complaining from his friends, from the people who worked with him but never of him.

If you were given a passport and a safe passage tomorrow, would you go back to Canada?

Tomorrow? It's a hard question. It's like this: I would like to go to Canada, see Canada. But living in Canada, I was here from since I was four years old. And now I'm 23, so 90 percent of my life was here. I know Pakistan more than I know Toronto. Though I can go along in Toronto living but, it is traditions, way of life. …

What would you like the Canadian government to do for you?

Clear my name. Let me live like a human being. Like a normal human being.

You feel you're not living like a human being now?

I don't know -- something worse than Gypsies. Like I don't have a house, don't have friends, and the friends I have, I can't see them. I can't stay in any place. Like a Gypsy knows that he has to at least travel twice a year. I have to travel 360 times a year. …

Because you're worried you'll be arrested if you stay in one place.

Yeah, something like that.

How do you feel about Al Qaeda now?

It is still there. Like people always say that you cannot fight a belief. You can fight a people, you cannot fight a belief. You know, of making a homeland for Muslims and telling America to go out of their Muslim countries, the simplest Muslim would like to do that. So the Americans want to destroy Al Qaeda, [they] would probably have to put one and a half billion Muslims in Guantanamo Bay. Is only way.

You see the vast majority of Muslims as sympathetic to Al Qaeda?

It is sympathetic about the way, the cause, that America should only rule America, not rule Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, and leave the Muslims their land. What did America have against Afghanistan except Al Qaeda? Why did they destroy the entire country? Why did they destroy Taliban? Taliban and Afghanis, and they rule Afghans. So why don't they go and fight North Korea, they're doing the same thing. I hear they're doing worse, not the same. Like they were hurting only women, in Korea they're killing women and children and men they are killing anybody that goes against their way of life. …

In recent days the reports [are] that they're closing in on Osama bin Laden which we've heard quite a few times. Do you think that Osama bin Laden could be taken alive?

Alive, it is very hard. Taken maybe after he is dead. And I don't think that would be an easy task to do. Because the people who are around him they are wiling to sacrifice their self for him. People around Saddam didn't sacrifice, they hid him in a basement and they left him to rot inside until the American caught him. But if you're living with people who are wiling to sacrifice for you, not willing to take $50 million just to tell where you are. Which is a very hard thing to do.

What do you think would be the reaction in the Muslim world if Osama bin Laden is captured or killed?

There would be lots of anger. Because he's a hero for the poor and for the Muslims. Not only Muslims but he's also a hero for anybody who's poor and he seen unjust done to him. …

Why did you decide to talk to me tonight?

It's a brother's advice. Abdurahman told me "they're nice people, talk to them." And I just wanted to prove that I'm not dead and I didn't do [the suicide bombing]. Because if I'm dead I wouldn't be here. …

 

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posted april 22, 2004

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