son of al qaeda
abdurahman khadr
abdurahman khadr

Osama bin Laden

Sept. 11, 2001

The training camps

Working for the CIA

Guantanamo

Bosnia

Return to Canada

In this interview, Abdurahman Khadr recounts his journey from Osama bin Laden to the CIA. He speaks of growing up alongside bin Laden and his family in Afghanistan and attending the terrorist training camps there; he tells of his capture by the Northern Alliance in Kabul after 9/11 and his work for the CIA as an undercover informant in Guantanamo and Bosnia; and he reveals why he decided to leave the CIA, return to Canada and go public with his story. This transcript is drawn from three interviews conducted by correspondent Terence McKenna in January 2004.

Three times my father tried to get me to be a suicide bomber I don't believe in blowing myself up, killing innocent people. I just don't believe in that.

Just tell me a bit about what kind of man your father was, your memories of him growing up and what your relationship was like with him.

My father was the normal person that was studying in Canada and all. … And someone somewhere told him something about Islam and that what he was doing, which is living as a normal Muslim in Canada and feeding his family, was not good enough for Islam. … [That] made him think himself over and what he wanted to do with his life.

That's when I think he met someone at HCI [Human Concern International] and they got together and they decided he was a good person to go [to Afghanistan]. He volunteered or something. He went to Afghanistan. He started working. He was very committed to relief work, my father. He met lots of people. He raised a lot of funds. And he started working and doing projects.

Anyways, when he got to Afghanistan he surely met some people, because then, you know, there was a relief organization but they were still helping lots of the people that were in the jihad. During that, you know, he surely met some people and they talked to him and so he started having a double life.

Osama bin Laden

Do you know when he met Osama bin Laden the first time?

I don't know when, but I'm sure it was around '88, '89, in the war. He met him and they became friends. Everything then was just about the Russian war. That's how he met him and that's how he got himself, you know, into the circumstance, which is … being not only a relief worker but a mujahedeen too.

So what was your first impression of Osama bin Laden?

After the '95 Egyptian bombing in Islamabad, my father was arrested and there was the whole media thing that came out and the Canadian prime minister came to Pakistan and my mother and my brothers got to meet him.

Anyway, after my father was released, he came back to Canada. And when we were coming back from Canada, you know, I was looking through a magazine. I saw [bin Laden's] picture. And next thing I know, we're in Pakistan. My father's telling us we're going to a place and we're going to meet this person. I thought it was just like we're going to meet some people.

So we went to Jalalabad after a little bit. We got a house in Jalalabad. And one day he put us all in the car and he drove off. We drove off road for almost half an hour or more and then we came up to a compound. We went inside, and they took us into a big sitting room and we sat there and waited. And then the next thing I know, he's coming through the door.

You had seen him in a magazine?

In a magazine and I had seen this person that was America's most wanted and then the next thing I know, he's in front of me. So I'm amazed. I'm like, wow, this [is a] person who's big, you know?

What were your impressions of him?

I watched him. I was a child then. But I would say he's a normal human being. He's done lots of bad things and all of that and there's lots of human beings that have done a lot of bad things. But when you get really down it, he's a 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 it, he's a father and he's a person.

How well did you get to know his family and his children?

His sons, again, they're normal children that, you know, want more. They love horses and 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 could get a horse, which shows you that they're normal children, too.

I had insisted that [my father] get me a horse, too, so he got me a horse. So, you know, our friendship between me and his kids was mostly the horse, [how] the horses were fed, how they were cleaned and stuff like that.

Just describe his living situation a bit. How many wives and children were there? How big was his circle?

Osama has three wives. I think he had four, but I don't know so much about the fourth wife and then 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's two or three from her, too.

They lived all in the same house, his family -- like, a big house but in different, you know, inside houses. Other than that, there were people around him that just lived by being around him. They do nothing but living around him. People that came to Afghanistan all the way in the beginning when governments were supporting the war against the Soviets. So they came as doctors or engineers and then when they went back they were told they would be arrested and stuff, so they just had to hang around. So no one would pay them or anything. They didn't have jobs or anything. So they just, you know, hanged around Osama.

What were your relations with him?

I'm my father's son. My father is very big and he knows a lot of people. He knows Osama and all these people, but I'm again, the Canadian son because, you know, our family is not so strict in itself. So I like watching movies, as a normal kid, you know, but that wasn't okay with them. That's why there was always conflicts.

His sons were very strict. They wanted a horse but they didn't listen to music, they didn't want to talk about, you know, music or movies or anything.

How about using American products?

When we were living there, one day I went down to the city of Jalalabad, the bazaar, and I bought hot sauce and I brought it back. I was sitting in the big place where everybody was sitting in the house. That's how they ate. They would sit all and the big plates of rice and meat and we'd all eat together, you know. Anyways, I take it out and I spill some and I'd hide it again because I knew they were against any American products -- Pepsi, Coca-Cola or any of that.

Osama didn't want any American products around?

He was against any American products and I can tell you this. He was against using ice and he actually forbidded [sic] it on the people that lived around him. Anyhow the people smuggled it in but he had forbidded it.

He had forbidded electricity even if he knew they needed it, but he didn't want them in any way to be spoiled because with some things, that's how it starts, he says. It starts with ice and then something a little more and then a more and more and more and so he restricted. … Lots of the people around him wanted stuff that, you know, were not American, but just pleasures of life that you need every day. But he was trying to keep them as close to him and as close to his way of living as he can.

Do you think the idea was he might have to live again as he had done during the Afghan war?

Yeah, well, his idea is "I can live anywhere. I'll live anywhere. The important thing is my cause, is not me or where I live." That's why he lived in a mud hut. I can tell you that. He lived in a mud house, he and his family.

How would you characterize the relationship between your father and Osama?

Between my father and Osama, I could say they're friends. They're old friends. My father is one of those really old people. It's like buddies, you know, you're having buddies from your school and stuff. So they're old friends. My father really respects Osama and Osama really respects my father.

They had been through the war together.

Yeah.

Did Osama attend your sister's wedding?

The second wedding. He attended the wedding.

So describe the scene to me. Do you have a memory of that? How was he dressed or what was he--

He was dressed in normal clothes, which, you know, he's dressed in on TV and stuff. His turban, his salwar kameez, the Afghani clothes, and his coat. And with his stick. And his small AK-47.

He came after we already started. There was a big circle with people sitting around and stuff and they started singing. There was only talk and whatever. So I remember him coming, sitting down, listening to the singing. …

How do you feel now about the choices your father made?

My father was a normal person and we should all understand that he was a normal person. When he went to Pakistan, he was with good intentions. He went to Pakistan to help the orphans. And he always had that part of him that was always working with orphans. Now that doesn't mean what else he does should be forgiven because he was helping orphans. But he was, you know, he went from Canada with good intentions. He went to help the Afghans, you know. And then there he met someone and he started believing in something…

My father made the choices, whenever he made them, in the very beginning for himself because then his children were kids and his wife didn't know anything about it. And then slowly people get involved in whatever the man of the house was in, you know. So the wife does and then the kids start getting into it too. …

Sept. 11, 2001

Let's start from Sept. 11. Where were you? What do you recall? What went through your mind?

Well, that day I was in Jalalabad with my father. My father had left to go to Al Qaeda compound up north a little bit of Jalalabad. I was sitting at the office listening to the radio and I was looking for some music or something on the VOA, which is the Voice of America. And it came on, you know, when they started talking about it, I couldn't understand what's happening. I thought it was some kind of commercial or something, something was wrong. I couldn't understand it. You know, maybe I heard it but it didn't register. A little later, my father came back, an hour or two later, and he told me, you know, what happened. … It didn't register.

The next day we left [for] Kabul. When we left [for] Kabul we got to see on TV in Kabul. That's when instability period started in Kabul for all the Arabs that were living there and lots of Afghans, too. They were, you know, moving out of Kabul. So we started moving our stuff out of Kabul, too. There was a truck and we just kept on moving stuff slowly out of the house. [When] the bombing started, we totally moved the family out of the house. We'd still come to Kabul to pick [up] the stuff. It goes on like this until there was very little stuff left in the house, but we used to still come to the house… to stay for the night or something.

Anyway, Nov. 11 is [the] day the Taliban left. On that day my dad asked me to hire a truck with a driver. I went and hired a truck. I came back. We loaded up the truck. And it was the last truck and he was insisting that I not come back. I wanted to come back to Kabul. I wanted to see some friends and he was insisting that I don't come back. So I said, anyways, you know, I'll try. We left with the truck, me and my smaller brother Omar. We went to Logar. We unloaded the truck and the driver wanted his money so I had to come back with him. …

Why did you come back [to Kabul] from Logar?

Because, first thing, I am a kid that likes to watch movies. I want the nightlife. In Logar there's no electricity, so I can't watch movies. When we were living in Logar I always used to come back, find a car and come back for two nights. One night just to go back because I knew there is electricity and I can watch a movie there somewhere, listen to music, you know. So … that's why I came back -- one thing. …

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 any more. I was sick of it. I had had enough of it. I just wanted it to stop. …

Tell me where your mind was at.

My mind was always, the whole period that I was living with my family in Pakistan and Afghanistan, it was -- I wasn't comfortable with that living. I don't know why. It was just that I didn't get along very with the people that I was living with, which were Al Qaedas and you know, the Arabs that lived in Afghanistan. I was just not comfortable with those people. So twice I tried to run away from that life, from my family and to get back into Canada. But twice, these two times I tried they failed. … So I went back.

Right at that very day when I came back to Kabul, I can't say, you know, I was running away from my family. No truly it was about the money, about going back to Kabul to, you know, hang out in Kabul for that night.

But now there was the hope of if I get captured, if I get captured by the Afghans or by anyone, after everything, they're going to give me back to the Canadians. And they're going to take me back to Canada. So I was thinking, you know, I should just stay in Kabul, even if I'm arrested. Wait in Kabul for a month or two until the embassy opens up and then just go into the embassy and stay in there. And tell them, "you know what, I'm going nowhere until you take me to Canada." But that very day it was, you know, just going back to Kabul. …

Coming back to Kabul I saw all these cars leaving Kabul. The truck I was in was the only truck going towards Kabul. Every other car or truck or whatever was leaving Kabul. So we got to the city and we kind of realized that something was going on.

They tried to stop us but we just went on. So the truck driver asked me to go and stay in his house for the night. In the morning we got up, we got in a taxi and we drove and, of course, there was nothing, there was nobody. … There was no Talibans, there was no Northern Alliance. There was nothing. It was six in the morning and the first car of the Northern Alliance that got to Kabul was at 7:30.

So, we got to the round-about my house was close to. We got out of the taxi and we were walking to my house. And that's where some former Talibans that had, you know, turned now into Northern Alliance, taking off their turbans and putting on karakol [hats], which is like a symbol for people there in Afghanistan. They stopped me and they told, "You're an Arab." I said I wasn't, I was an Afghan. They said, "Yes, you are an Arab." Anyways, they said to just, you know, sit on the side.

I waited for almost half an hour or something until this Northern Alliance car came by. They put me in the car and the driver was, like, "What are you?" I was like, "Well, I'm an Afghan." He's like, "Why are you arrested?" I said, "I don't know." He said then get out. And he told me to just leave. I got out of the car and … this former commander of the Northern Alliance was driving by. He stopped. He saw us and someone from the people that arrested me told him that this is an Arab. So he came up to me, I think he had two, three other people with him with weapons and stuff. And they told me to get in the car. So I said okay. I got in the car. They said where is your house? I said my house is not here. They said no, show us where your house is. Somewhere around there, because everybody knows me, told him that his house is down there. We went up to my house and we went inside. There was no one. No one at all, but I could see the tires prints left on the ground so I knew that my father and my mother, which was the last people left in the house when I left with the truck, had left.

Anyways, we went inside. They looked all over the place for stuff. There was nothing. So they got me back outside. They put me in the car and they said okay, now, this is it. …

[Editor's Note: Over the course of the next six weeks, Abdurahman says he was arrested and released several times. Finally, he is arrested again and put in an Afghan prison, where he is interrogated by Canadian and American officials.]

In the morning they arrested me and put me away. It was the Interior Ministry's, you know, like lock-up. And I was kept there for a month and a half and that was when I first had people interview me, British people. They came to interrogate me. …

Why would the British come and see you?

Well this is after I was put in jail, you know. … I don't know, they told me, "Well there's no Canadian embassy so we are responsible for any Canadians here in Kabul under detention." …

Then they moved us from that jail to another jail which was the Afghani intelligence jails. There is a lot of them but the third intelligence directorate jail. They kept us there and that's where the Americans first interrogated me and then Canadians, the RCMP. They kept me there for a month and a half and then they moved us from there … to another jail.

The other jail is the second directorate jail. They kept us there for a month and a half and then they moved me into a house. Of course, while in the third directorate's jailhouse, 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, okay 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 about this." …

[What were the questions the Americans asked you?]

The questions: Where have you trained, in which camps? Who do you know in those camps? The trainers, where do you think they are? Did you know about Sept. 11? Did you not? Did your father know? Who does your father know? How does he know Osama? Are they friends? Is he an officer? Have you trained in Al Qaeda training camps. Have you trained in training camps? Your brother, Abdullah, what does he do? Where did he train? The people that you know, your brother-in-law, what is he? How did he meet your sister? The people that you know, how much do you know about them, their families? Are they Al Qaeda? Are they other groups like jihad or Egyptian groups or Libyan groups? And in those groups what are they? Are they big people in those groups or small people?

Why were you so willing to cooperate with them?

After all that had happened, you know, Sept. 11 and all, after we were put away in jail and stuff, I started registering stuff more as a normal person. Well, actually not a normal person -- a person totally against Al Qaeda. My mentality changed from an anti-American, anti-Northern Alliance to an anti-Al Qaeda in that period, in the period I got to jail. …

I was, you know, being as cooperative as I can. In a week or two they started trusting me more and, you know, then they asked me, "Would you like to work for us? Tell us who the people we capture are."

And, you know, the very beginning, it was my first time in this situation and I was scared of jail. I said, "You know what? I'll do anything." So I was willing to do anything. …

They said okay and then from that second directorate they took me out to a safe house. They kept me in a safe house for nine months. During these nine months they had their people come to see me. They had six guards on me, by the way, in the house. And during these nine months there was always people coming to meet me and ask me questions and stuff. …

When the Canadian officials came to interview you, what did you tell them about your father?

I told them everything I knew -- that my father met with Osama, that he was in my sister's wedding. … My father and Osama always met, you know. But I really wasn't in any meeting that they talked about something serious so I wouldn't know. … They asked me about my father. "He brings money from Canada. Where does he take that money?"

What did you tell them about your brother Abdullah?

We get back to the point where I told you that I was very pro-American, you know, pro-Canada. And I wanted to do my best to get back to Canada. So I made up a lie, which was that he is a leader of a training camp, which he's not. This was all the way after Sept. 11. He was taking, you know, like he was taking materials to there like rice, stuff like that. And I thought, you know, by just telling them that he's a leader of that, you know, they couldn't prove otherwise and it would be a good point that, you know, I'm really showing good faith, which was a lie.

Later in 2003, before I was released, I told the American that was a lie. It was just, a show to try to really get you to like trust in me. But since I said it someone put it up there on the board. It's not true. It's totally not true. My brother was never a leader of any training camp. He trained, like me he trained more than five, six times but he was never a leader of any camp.

The training camps

What did you tell them about your training?

I told them everything. Where I trained at, how much courses I had, the times of the courses as accurately as I can.

Tell me a bit more about that in terms of the detail you gave them.

Okay, the first time I went to training I was 11-and-a-half years old. … My brother was 12 and we went to Khalden. We took the first course, which is the assault rifles course. We stayed in the course for two months and then we went back to Pakistan.

And then since like, I could say since '92 until 2003 I've been to Khalden like five times. I took an assault rifle course, explosive-making course, snipers, pistols, and … a course that includes all of these.

How did you like this camp experience?

Well again this comes back to the part where I was always the rebel. I got the most punishments in these camps. I am famous in these camps. If you ask anyone he'll know me. Anybody that seen me or didn't see me in the 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 always had that rebelliousness in me. That was trouble for them because everybody 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.

[What is your memory of the night President Clinton sent cruise missiles to attack the training camp after the African embassy bombings?]

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 Al Farooq, which was like second to the Americans, to hit it second. Jihad Wel was the one they thought Osama was in, so they started bombing it. They started bombing it, right away I ducked and I stayed on the floor, on the ground. And then they just started, you know, hitting all the camps and they hit our camp too. And you know, there were 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 back to Khost. …

When you were going to these camps, was there ever a time that you kind of believed in bin Laden and believed in the Al Qaeda organization?

The day I really believed in it was the day we were bombed in the training camp. 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 wanted them to come. We wanted a fight, you know.

Al Qaeda always wanted them to come and that's why the biggest wish of Al Qaeda after Sept. 11 was that American troops attack Afghanistan. That was their biggest wish. They knew when it would be bombs, but their biggest wish was like they were like wishing America, begging America to send troops, you know, ground troops.

[Why?]

Because they wanted to have an American to kill, 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 Islam. So they really wanted it.

And you believed in that for a while?

At that very point, I was so frustrated. That was the day I really hated Americans, that day when we were bombed.

In terms of the religious training that you got in Al Qaeda camps or around your father, how [did] they regard non-believers and the duty to fight and jihad?

In Islam, there is a saying by the prophet that there will always be a group of Muslims, very little, but these are going to be the group of Allah. These group are always going to fight for Islam. There's always going to be this group. They're going to be very little, very disgraced by people, everybody [will] try to kill them. But if you are with this group, this is the group that will go straight to [paradise]. This is the right group, if you're around that time, try to get to that group.

So they believed they were that group of people. They believed that they're on the right way, what they're doing is right and any Muslim in his right mind should get into this group.

And you believed that at some point?

Yes. Some days, I just believed that, you know, this is the right path and I'm with the right people and I should really do this.

But you know, at no point did I believe in suicide bombing. Two or three times, I'm not sure, but two times, I'm sure now, 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 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 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. But I don't believe in blowing myself up, killing innocent people. I don't. I just don't believe in that. …

How do you look back at your father doing that to you?

Well, I just see that he really believed in it. And he wanted me to believe in it too.

Did your father ever tell you, if you threaten this family or if you threaten this organization, you'll have to die?

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 house. And I have to cut you out right now or you're going to infect the rest of the family." He always referred to me like this. This is what I told the people I worked with in the CIA too. He always referred to me as like cancer in a body. That "you are the one that smokes, drinks, 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." …

[What was your reaction when you found out about the African embassy bombings?]

We found out the same day, right when it happened. I was in the guesthouse and people started talking, you know, there was two bombings. And like in four or five hours, there's a video. Someone … puts it on the big TV in the guesthouse so everybody can watch it. So we found out right away.

What was your reaction?

I thought it was horrible. … Those Africans or whatever they were, they weren't even Muslims. They were innocent people. I didn't think they had any right to kill all those people.

So most everybody else was celebrating?

Yeah, everybody was celebrating. It's a hit to America even if another thousand people, innocent people, got killed. It's just "we hit America, that's it. That's all that matters." …

We were sitting in a guesthouse and the leader of the guesthouse went outside and brought juice for like everybody. Jugs and jugs of juice, 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 juice. …

Would you argue about [Al Qaeda attacks] with your father?

Oh yeah, I argued about it, about this and about Sept. 11. We talked about it a lot. So when I saw the video [of the Sept. 11 attacks], I was like looking at it and all and everybody was smiling, laughing. I was just looking at it, you know.

I saw this person jumping out of the building, you know, committing suicide, from the building because of what he's going through. 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?

And 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 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 100 ways. I couldn't understand it. …

Working for the CIA

[Tell us about your first contact with the CIA.]

The first contact with the CIA … it was the meeting where, you know, they started asking me questions. They told me that we know you've been talking to the British and you were very cooperative. And can you help us in this place, can you help us in that? I said well I've already told this to the British. I'll help you anyway. I just want to get out. …

What kind of information were you providing? What were you telling them about? …

When I was in the safe house, there was this tour. They called it Abdurahman tour. It was famous for that. I took like the people from the CIA, the FBI, the military. We'd go around in a car in Kabul and show them the houses of Al Qaeda people, the guesthouses, the safe houses, where houses were, you know. This was the guesthouse they used before, this was the guesthouse they used later. This is the safe house they used after Sept. 11, you know. Just show them the houses. So there was that tour. And otherwise, I just told them what I knew. …

[Tell me about the agreement you signed with the CIA.]

This was in July. I remember because it was July 4, right around that time. They brought me a paper, they had me sign it. … 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.

Did you tell them where you thought your father might be hiding?

They asked me where do you think he is. I know last time I know where he was, he was in Logar. After that I don't know where he is. The stuff that I didn't know I just told them straight in the face that I don't know.

They must have been particularly interested in Osama bin Laden. What did they ask you about him?

Well they asked me about his personal life because I don't know a lot about his professional life. I told them that he was in my sister's wedding when we were in Jalalabad in the compound. We lived in the same compound. …

But all I know, all I know about him is him, you know, socially. I don't know anything about his work and that's all I told them. I know he plays volleyball. He plays soccer. The people around him are devoted to him. I don't know why, but they're just so devoted to him that they will not take any, you know, any doubts in him or anything.

You said he even played volleyball?

Yeah he played soccer and volleyball all the time. He was a server in the volleyball. …

Okay, so to go back over something: From your point of view, what was your deal with the CIA?

The CIA wanted me to work for them. They found me very good with people, very good with languages, with cultures. I can fit in anywhere in a very fast time. I can find people to become friends with. … So they found that I was a good person to work for them.

So from your point of view, what was the deal? They would pay you every month?

They would pay me monthly. The money would go to my account until I stopped working for them, and then that account, I could go and take my money out of the account, or they can send it to me in Canada, or something like that. So I didn't have any control over the account. I didn't know where the account was. That was one of the things I always brought up when they mentioned money. I said I don't know if I have a penny. You're saying I have that much and I'm counting the money I have in your account, but I don't know if I have a penny. Because it's not in my hand. I don't know anything about it.

But they said you would give up the money if?

The money would be gone if I told anyone. It just goes. It disappears if I tell anyone. …

Guantanamo

Now when this idea came up of you going to Guantanamo, what did they tell you your mission would be in Guantanamo?

Well, it would be to spend time with people, you know, put [me] next to people that are not talking. Tell us about them, talk to them, find what they know and tell us what they know, you know. So just find information from people. …

[Tell us about your trip to Guantanamo.]

One day they brought me, they tied me up, they covered my face and everything. Locked my hands, my legs, my face, covered it up, put me in a car and we drove and drove and drove and they told me you're in Bagram now and they opened the door, they got me out of the car and they just dropped me on the ground.

Two other people came and got me by the hands and took me inside and that's where they took off my cover and stuff and they took off my clothes and everything. And they started taking pictures of me. Pictures, of my face and then pictures of my private parts, like my back, you know, my penis, you know, taking pictures of every part of my body.

Then they took me inside. They got me an orange suit. 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. My ears and everything covered. They put me on the ground and I was kept on the ground, on the concrete with nothing but that orange suit for 24 hours. I was not even allowed to move. If I moved, there was a … MP outside and he would, like, scream at you and then he could give you punishment.

Twenty-four hours passed. They took me downstairs to general populations. General populations is like a camp inside this metal factory or something. There's a camp and every small compartment or whatever, there's 12 people. Twelve to 18 people. Now, nobody was allowed to talk. Nobody was allowed to share food. Nobody was allowed to communicate in any way. Everybody was on his own. You were in a place with other people but you were not allowed to talk to them, to touch them, to, you know, in any way communicate with them. …

I stayed in Bagram for 10 days and then they took us, they showered us, they put us in new orange suits. The cuffed us up -- hands, legs -- to the stomach and they put us in a room. They had us sit cross-legged on our ass for eight to nine hours. 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 -- and they took us out of that to the plane. They tied us up in the plane, cuffed us up and everything in the plane. And we were sitting in our chairs for almost 15 or more hours and then they landed us in Cuba. Another two hours in the truck and then another two hours in the sun and then they took us inside into a clinic and they took off our orange suits, got us new orange suits, washed it, or washed us up and then they started taking our names, got us hand numbers and stuff. Then they put us into isolation.

In Cuba we were kept in isolation for a month. Anybody that comes new stays in isolation for a month. We had to scream to talk to the person next to you. And after a month they put me in the normal general population. Of course, no one, when I was in Bagram, some of the people in the military intelligence stopped me and they told me, you know what, you're going to be sent on a plane and stuff. So they kept in contact with the people from Kabul.

But after 10 days [in Bagram] -- I mean, what must have been going through your mind at that point in time?

The worst part of these 10 days is the flight. Since they took us out from our rooms, washed us up and put us on the ground. There was points, you know, I just … in my heart 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. You lose hope sometimes of everything, you know. You go to Allah, you just try everything around you and then you lose hope of everything. … I just wished for a bullet. … I was like, please God, do something but just take away my life, you know. It was a horrible experience. …

Did they warn you it was going to be a bit harsh?

They never told me it would be as harsh as it became. The day I was in Cuba, they told me, "You're going to be picked up by some people and then checked out." and stuff. But they never told me you're going to be on concrete for 24 hours and if something went wrong, you're going to be on concrete again for 48 hours. They never told me any of that.

How did they explain that bad treatment that you received?

Well, they wanted me to look like any other detainee. First, so when I get out, I can tell people that yeah, I've been treated like this and that. So the people around you in the cellblocks in Cuba, when they ask you about how was the flight, you know, you say well, oh the flight was bad. I hate the Americans. Look at them, they're treating us like shit. They say there're human rights but they don't have any of that. Just to, you know, put an expression in my heart that you know I have hate for Americans like you do. Tell me what are you, tell me this, tell me that. So you know, you can make them talk to you, give you information. …

When we got to Cuba, after two hours they took us into the clinic. They wrote us up and did all the handprints, pictures, everything and then they took us to isolation. They took us into isolation for a month.

The month went by and then they took us out to general population. In general population we were kept with the other people in cellblocks. So you could see the person next to you, you could touch him but you could, like, only touch his finger or something because of these cages.

For three months I was in general population. Their hopes was when they take me to 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.

And I was feeling depressed. At one point I just started hitting the wall of the cage and tried to hang myself. I wasn't going to hang myself, but I just threatened to do it. I just was thinking, you know, I did everything to get out of this mess and this is what I get. You know, I did everything that I could to get out of this mess and this is what I get. And it took me, when I banged my head against the wall, they took me, they cuffed me up and they took me into the insane people's block. Then they brought me back to general population. After three months of being in general population, I just couldn't take it any more. I said you know what, you have to move me out of here now. I cannot stay in these blocks any more.

They moved me into another area of Guantanamo. Normal rooms split to half. Half of it is a bedroom and a bathroom and then in 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 the period they had psychiatrists come to see me, doctors, other, a lot of people from the CIA. After five months, they said, "you know what, we're going to move you out of here." …

What's your impression of Guantanamo? Do a lot of people belong there? What's your impression of the inmates?

They asked me always this question. I told them in 100 percent there is 80 percent of people that went to Afghanistan, like people that can't do anything. They've had enough. If you put them back in their countries they won't do anything. That's in 80 percent.

Among those 80 percent there is almost 60 in those 80, 60 that are people that haven't done anything. People that worked in a project in Pakistan, an old man that his son brought him, you know, just to sell him for $5,000. Drug dealers, people that didn't have anything to do with Al Qaeda were put there for no reason but because someone brought them there or someone thought of getting thousands for them, whoever captured them that they were Al Qaeda.

The rest, the 20 percent from the whole 100 percent, there's 10 percent of them that should be kept there and 10 percent of them if they go out and they catch up with Al Qaeda again they might go back to being Al Qaeda. But there's only like 10 percent of the people that are really dangerous, that should be there and the rest are people that don't have anything to do with it, don't even, don't even understand what they're doing here.

Just explain the bounty hunting, how people ended up there. That they paid a bounty.

At the very beginning, after Americans took over Afghanistan, they needed to show the American public that you know, we have got people. So there was normal Afghans would catch normal Arabs, normal small Arabs and go to the American base and tell them, you know what, we have a big commander. The American would say yes okay and they would just buy him.

If the Americans were paying large bounties, a large amount of money they would have ended up with a lot of innocent people there, don't you think?

Yes, a lot of innocent people. I told you the one 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 up there and took $5,000 for him. That's one story.

The second story is a drug user, a person that 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 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. …

Bosnia

The plan to move you from Guantanamo to Bosnia, how did that come out? How did you find out about it and what did they tell you about it?

Well it started with, "where are we going to take him? Are we going to take him to the States, and then we'll give him the training there and then we take him to Bosnia?"

Anyway, there was so much talk. They decided "well, we're just going to take him to Bosnia. We'll take him to Bosnia and get him in the pipeline there. There's lots of Arabs in the Bosnia from the war that was in Bosnia. And those Arabs must know something about what's going on, where the pipeline is from Europe. We want him to meet some Arabs there and tell them his story, tell them who his father is and from there, go to Iraq." So it just came like this, you know, and one week before it, they told me I'm going to go to Bosnia and then, you know, the thing happened.

You found out just a week before?

Yeah. There was a long two-month period of planning -- where should I go, to the States, to this, to that, and then, you know, in one week, they told me you're going to Bosnia and in one week, we left.

What can you tell me about the CIA training course? …

They had [a] trainer, which is a very senior trainer, I found out from the CIA, come down to Cuba and he was with me for a week, I think, a week or two. Anyway, we started training with the normal things, mostly how to like do a dead drop. Or 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 your officer wants 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. The weather it's 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 meet one time and then you just, you know, you drop that place and go to the next place.

You did it every day for a week or 10 days?

For a week or 10 days, yes. He'd come in the morning and then we'd stay until afternoon and then he'd give me homework or assignments. …

[Tell me] the details of the plane trip [to Bosnia.] How did this come about?

They came and they told me, well we'll be leaving soon, you know, in a week or something. They bought me clothes, they bought me everything. And then the day we were leaving, they told me the night that you'll be leaving tomorrow morning. Took my stuff, put it in the car and they covered my face and all. We left with the cars. We drove for almost 15 to 20 minutes. We got out of the car. There was a speedboat. We got in there. They told me we'd take a little tour because the plane is going to be a little late. So we went on this tour, an island, you know, I saw you know the spots and it was a really nice place.

So this kind of a harbor tour in Guantanamo?

Yeah. Around. They took me around. We did even some fishing, you know. Anyways, after the one-and-a-half-hour, two-hour tour in the speedboat, they took me to another place where we stopped, got out of the boat. We got into a car. Now they didn't cover my face anymore. Got to the guard. Drove off for like 5, 10 minutes and then stopped in the car. And we stayed in the car and we waited for the plane. We waited for almost half an hour. Kept on getting calls that he was going to be late and was coming, and then it landed. It was a private jet. …

How many people were on board?

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.

What did they tell you was your mission in Bosnia?

In Bosnia, they said just go to a mosque. They told me about this one mosque in Bosnia which is very famous for Arabs going there. It's a big mosque, [the King] Fahd Mosque, built by the Saudis. They said to go there. It was still Ramadan, so they said go in the mosque, meet some people, find someone and get contact.

So I did go to the mosque every now and then. I went to it like every two days or something, sit in the mosque until I found someone. I started talking to him, became friends. He was really, like really out, you know, outgoing and talk to me. He's really talking and all. 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 change your mind about going back to Canada, you want to go to Iraq. And that's when it all broke down and everything went wrong.

Did they give you money?

They gave me money every now and then, yes. When I was in Bosnia, they rented me a house. They bought me a cell phone. The first day I got to Sarajevo, we went around shopping and we got some stuff for me, you know. And they gave me money every now and then, cash, to just you know buy stuff, if you need money, just for expenses.

When you went shopping, what did you buy?

When we went shopping… they had two people from the Bosnian intelligence worked for them with me, you know. So he was going around with me, so I bought a suit, I bought belts, you know, I bought everything. I bought a Walkman, I bought a cell phone, you know. I just bought anything I wanted to. And so we bought some, you know, some clothes and shoes and stuff.

… How did the deal come apart?

Well this was right after I met this Arab person at the mosque and I told them about it, and they were really happy and they gave me money. And they told me, "you know what, you know, you can go enjoy yourself and stuff. You've been good, and don't waste it. Don't show anyone that you're celebrating but just go enjoy yourself and stuff, you know, and just stay in touch with this person."

I took the money and I went and I sat down and I was thinking about it and I just thought, you know what, I can't take this anymore. I don't want to go on living like this. I want a home. I want a family, you know. At points, I was in apartment in Bosnia, at points, for five or six days, I was alone. There was nothing, there was no one to talk to, there was no one to sit with. So I was alone and I just don't want this living. I just, I'm not a person that can live like this, you know. You know, and I thought you know what, I can't do this anymore. So I went [and] I called my grandmother.

If Al Qaeda people in Bosnia found out about you, what do you think would have happened?

They would have shot me.

No question in your mind.

No question in my mind. …

Was this not at the back of your mind?

It was always in the back of my mind and that's what I always told the CIA. "You know what, you're paying 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 million dollars." …

Return to Canada

In Bosnia you made this call to your grandmother. What happened?

When I met [the CIA] I told them I talked to my grandmother last night and she told me that she was going to talk and she was going to say everything. So they said let's see what happens.

So in the morning the news started coming out and we met again the next night. So he told me yeah, it's out in the Washington Post and in this and that. You need to move out of the house, the apartment you're living in. We're going to move you out today. They moved me out of there. They had two people stay with me until we moved all the stuff in the car and then we moved into a house. They were waiting to find a house we could stay in, a safe house. They found a safe house and I stayed in that house for two days and two nights until Saturday morning when I went out, when I went out to the embassy.

Why are you telling the story now?

Why am I telling the story right now? Because I do not want to keep this in my heart anymore. I cannot keep it in my heart anymore. I've got to tell people. I lied to them in the beginning and I want this to go out and I want the people to learn that I lied for a reason and I'm sorry to have lied [to] them and I want to tell them the real story, what really happened. …

That is all the truth there is to it. I couldn't make up a story so complicated and so complex like this and I wouldn't need to anyways. And I wouldn't need to go on TV and say, you know. But this is the real story of what happened to me from Sept. 11 until now. And now you know. I want Canada to know, I want my family to know, I want everybody to know because I just want to let go now since I told this story.

Since I said this story I know there's going to be people after me. My family is going to hate me, you know, my relatives. Why do you think I would do all of this if it was just a lie? Now would I just make up a story like this so I can have another, you know, 10 or 20 people from Al Qaeda being me? I'm not making up the story. It's the truth.

What are the consequences of you telling this story?

First of all my grandmother and my grandfather, where I stay right now, they're going to kick me out of the house. They will never admit what our family has gone through, what our family was and what we are. They will never admit it, first. 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 will never admit this.

Here in Canada, lots of people are going to still be thinking, you know, this person is still lying. I don't want them to believe me, you know. It's just up to them. I'm telling you my story and that's all I can do. You know, I can only tell you what happened to me, the true story of my life. And after that it depends on you. I cannot prove any of what I said except I can give you really detailed story, but I cannot prove it.

What do you think would be the reaction to your story in the Toronto Muslim community and the Canadian Muslim community?

Well, to the Canadians I will just say this: The Muslim community here in Toronto, there is a lot of people that are happy that I'm back, you know, just as a Muslim. And there is people that will not understand and will totally deny me, hate me for telling the truth. Well, I will just tell you this, that I said the truth and I'm saying it right now because I never believed in what Al Qaeda did. I believe Islam is a very peaceful religion and that's why I started working for them anyways in the very beginning, because I think Islam is very peaceful. I think Islam doesn't call [for] the killing of innocent people. Islam is very peaceful. I think we can have a respected Islamic nation or state that believes in its religion, believes in its culture and believes in being peaceful, loving your neighbor, doing what you have to do, but in the same time not hurting the people around you.

What was your reaction when you were first told that your father had been killed?

My reaction was, he's my father. There is now no change to that. So as my father I love him and I will always love him as my father but not as what he did. So when they told me he was dead, you know, I was sad because my father was dead, you know. My father had just been killed. I'm so sad that he was killed because he's my father and I don't have any other reaction to it, you know.

I mean through this two years I've seen so much. The day they told me -- it was CIA -- after I was released and the first time I got to Bosnia in the base they told me that your father was killed. We're going to show you some pictures, but they never had the chance to. But you know, I've gone through so much that when they told me about it 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. People, you know, the place I went to, that cell room where I was in the prison where you had to sit and you couldn't move and anything. So I've been through so much with, you know, I reacted with lots of people that totally no emotions were left. …

Is it possible that you gave them any information which ended up in your father being killed?

No.

Why do you say that?

I didn't know anything about my father for two years. 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? …

How do you feel about the CIA agents that you dealt with? How do you look at them now?

I could tell you one thing, they did their job and they would do anything for their job. They didn't care about the person that was in front of them. If it was me or anybody, you know, this is something they admitted, that there is a million other people like you out there. With the same money we can buy, you know, we can get anything, Canadian, we can get Arabs, we can get all kinds of people. We need you because you know, you're special in your own way but we can find someone else. …

Your mother and your sister, how do you think they will react to your story?

They will totally deny it. They will totally deny it. They will totally be against it. They will dread me. My mother especially, she will dread me for doing this. She will totally dread me for doing this.

What will she say?

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 know, you worked with the CIA, you did this and you did that."

"How could you do such a thing?"

"How could you do such a thing?" And I mean for, you know, for my mother or for my family, you know, I don't care for a million because if I lose my family, a million dollars, a billion dollars, it's nothing. So just to tell those people out there that doubt me that I'm just doing this because it's the truth, not for money or not for anything else. …

What's going to happen to you now? Are you going to settle down?

I'm going to try to get back to my life, and that's what I'm trying to do right now. Again, there's the issue of my past is still hung on my back, so there's going to be a lot of, you know, pressure on me. And since you know, after this, there's going to be double that pressure on me because I still live with family. My family, as much as they do, they will always be my family. So when they find out that I've done all of this, that my thoughts are so different from theirs, you know, they're always going to be my mother and they're always going to be my grandfather and my sister and whoever. But this will change their mentality of me. They might deny me at all, get me out of the family. They might kick me out of the house, you know.

But I am willing to do this because -- you know, I'm one person, right? I'm one person here in Canada. But I want to show people that I'm a person that lived all my life as Ahmed Said Khadr's son. A person that was raised to become an Al Qaeda, was raised to become a suicide bomber, was raised to become a bad person, and I decided on my own that I do not want to be that. I do not 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. And that means I can study, that means I can work with people next to me, whatever those people are -- black, white, Christian or Jew, whatever they are, just live peacefully with them and practice my religion.

How do you feel about your brother now? Apparently he got a bullet in the spine and is paralyzed.

Again, another part of our family story. One brother was put away, which is me. One other brother was in a house and that house was bombed and he was almost killed. Another brother was shot in the spine. To my father and to my mother, this is the ultimate in being an Islamic family because to them, dying all of us in the war against America, you know, is just being the top family because we all died in a way, you know, in fighting against American you know. Can you ask for more than that?

The death of martyrs.

Yeah, you know. To me, it's just the story of a Canadian family that was normal and that, you know, somewhere, something gone wrong and then the family, the father gone, the kids gone and the whole family put through all this misery for no reason because you didn't do anything.

Editor's Note: FRONTLINE asked the CIA to confirm or deny Abdurahman Khadr's story but the agency declined to comment. However, Abdurahman did submit to a polygraph examination at FRONTLINE's request, in which he was asked about his work for U.S. intelligence, being paid for it and being flown on a small jet to Bosnia for his mission there. On all major aspects of his story, Abdurahman passed the polygraph.

Abdurahman's mother and brother Karim returned to Canada in April 2004 to seek medical attention for Karim, who was paralyzed in the attack that killed his father. The family has now begun to reconcile.

 

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posted april 22, 2004

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