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The Surveillance Tapes
Police in Milan had Rabei Osman El Sayed Ahmed under surveillance for several months after his phone number was found in the address book of a suspect in the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings. Here are excerpts from the Italian police transcripts, which came from both phone taps and microphones placed in Rabei's apartment. [Note: Recorded in May 2004, the conversations were conducted in Arabic; the Canadian Broadcast Corporation received the Italian translations and translated them into English.]

This first excerpt, from May 26, is a face-to-face conversation between Rabei and Yahia Ragheh, a 21-year-old Egyptian whom Rabei is grooming to become a suicide bomber. The two men listen to tapes about jihad and martyrdom. Rabei tells Yahia of a potential female suicide bomber, who had been captured, but says he has another who is ready to go. Then Rabei reveals, "The Madrid attack was my project and those who died as martyrs, they are my very dear friends."

Rabei: Listen, you'll see, and start studying for the jihad, for the jihad and for martyrdom.

Yahia: Also, is there any audio material that concerns this?

Rabei: There is everything, but I think that for you it is best to read, so that each page goes inside of you and lets you know its meaning. There are about 2,000 pages that can explain to you what is the meaning of the jihad, and then you can listen, look at me, I always have the martyrdom tape. I always listen to it.

Yahia: Do you have it here?

Rabei: Yes, I have it here now, "The Martyr's Strength." I also have other ones that talk about martyrdom, many more. But listen to me, you must start watching the videos, too. Watch and learn. There are about 300 tapes of mujahedeens' actions in Chechnya, in Afghanistan, in Algeria, in Kashmir and in other countries. Technically they are very interesting tapes. You learn many things there, they are special tapes.

Yahia: Can I listen to this one? So that I can start memorizing it?

Rabei: Please.

He turns on the stereo and they listen to an audiotape in which the speaker praises the jihad and martyrdom.

Rabei: These are very special tapes. They indicate the direction to the martyr. These will facilitate everything when you listen to them. They enter your body, but you must listen to them constantly. I listen to them constantly, even now that I am working. During breaks I use both the CD and the tapes, while for you it's better if you listen first to the tapes and then to the CD…

Yahia: Good.

Rabei: In particular, this tape has an indescribable voice. It enters your veins. This one -- in Spain, they all learned it by heart. It gives you a lot of confidence and peace. It takes your fear away…

Yahia: Give, give, give me one of them, so that I can learn it.

Rabei: Yes, but you must learn it by heart.

Yahia: No, no, I will learn it by heart.

Rabei: You cannot not fight in the name of God. It is a duty to do charity, both monthly and yearly. It depends on how much you earn. If you are employed you can give 50 Euros, otherwise whatever you can.

Yahia: Even an employed person can give yearly between 300 and 400 Euros. It depends on his honesty and his devotion to God. To sacrifice oneself in the name of God is the most beautiful thing, something you cannot describe.

Rabei: If one has the desire to sacrifice himself in the name of God, he must be ready. It is a shame we young people must be the first ones to sacrifice ourselves, like, for example, Muhammad, because God tests all of us and makes us tired, because he tests the faith in all of us, tests our soul. The solution is only one: be part of Al Qaeda. Here we are sleepers. It is one of our duties to go first to the jihad. Here they are torturing us and making us tired. Think, we come from our country far away to come to the non-believers' country. We made a mistake, but it's never too late, because our destination should be, for example, Chechnya, Kashmir, etc. We see death every day. Let's wish that God will give us the courage to win. The reward for those who choose death is limitless. Why one has to stay like this, then they catch you and you go to prison? Why not "tak, tak, tak" and you're a martyr, serve God.

Yahia: Stay always by my side. Unfortunately I was stopped from the beginning, but stay by my side and you'll see how I rise, with God's strength, and I'll go in.

Rabei: It takes a blow and then it's over. You see what they are doing to our brothers in Iraq; you see what they do to Arabs; you see the prisons; you see the humiliation. Isn't it better to die rather than to stay in prison there? What do the Americans believe, that they can stop us? There are other methods, they'll see. Do you remember that woman of whom I talked to you about, do you remember? That one whose name is Hotaf? I have bad news -- she was uncovered, but Islam will have the victory. I am sorry. There are other women … she is not the first one and she won't be the last one. … I am sorry that the tactics of the first one did not go well, that she was uncovered. Now we have Amal, she's ready. God is great. I am very sincere with you, you need to know that. Listen carefully to me, I am sincere. Know that I have many friends who died as martyrs in Afghanistan, who also died in jail. There is something that I don't hide from you -- the Madrid attack was my project and those who died as martyrs, they are my very dear friends.

Yahia: Ah!

Rabei: I am the thread of Madrid. At the time of the event I was not there, but I tell you the truth, before the operation, on the 4th, I had contacts with them. Do not open your mouth. I move alone, they work in a group.

Yahia: All died as martyrs?

Rabei: Five died as martyrs and eight were arrested. They are the best of friends. They are friends of the heart, of faithfulness. Already on the 4th I started to plan, to plan at a high level. I had wanted to plan so that it would be an unforgettable thing, including to me, because I was ready to blow up. But they stopped me, and we obey to God's will. I wanted a heavy burden but I did not find the means. This project took me a lot of studying and a lot of patience. It took me two and a half years. Do not mention anything and do not talk to Jalil, in any way, not even on the phone.

Yahia: Not even with the calling card?

Rabei: No, nothing. In any way, know that this information that I gave you, nobody in the world knows it. All my friends are dying one after the other. There are those who blew up in Afghanistan and there are many people that I know that are ready. I can tell you that there are two groups ready for martyrdom. The first group leaves the 25th, the 20th of next month for Iraq, through Syria. There are four ready for martyrdom. You cannot say anything, not even to Muhammad, even though he knows everything, and he knows those who are leaving on the 20th, but you don't know anything, okay?

Yahia: Okay, and Ahmed?

Rabei: Yes, he's there.

Yahia: The passports?

Rabei: Everything is ready, the passports are not a problem. They are already ready.

Yahia: Egyptian passports?

Rabei: Egyptian passports are not good. In Spain they were already bought for 200, 300 Euros, it depends on the color. French, Moroccan, Syrian, English and Pakistani passports, they are on the market, it is not a problem. Listen, your brother Muhammad knows everything, but I repeat myself, this is the first lesson that I give you, I've been wanting to tell you this for a long time, on the phone, nothing.

Yahia: Even at the call centers?

Rabei: Nothing, nothing. When the moment arrives, you can't use anything. It's the first lesson, if you have a phone card, throw it away.

Yahia: Isn't my passport good for anything?

Rabei: No, the Egyptian passport is not good.

Yahia: I am ready to sacrifice myself.

Rabei: Brother Yahia, I praise you for your enthusiasm, but stay calm. Consider yourself as being already in paradise, just for the fact that you are already ready to sacrifice your life.

[They recite verses from the Quran.]

Rabei: You need to know that the jihad has several mechanisms, several components. There is knowledge, information, studying. Why don't you deal with obtaining information on the embassy and on the movements of its officers and employees? Try to meet someone from the embassy, because it's always useful to us if our brothers want to go in and out. Know that our brothers need information about the consulates in Europe. We have to talk more about this subject. Anyway, if you commit, you can't forget that you have made a commitment with God. I have met several brothers of the jihad, may God bless them, and they don't have any documents, nothing. They are ready for the jihad. They don't have any money, they have nothing. Oh my God, oh my God, know that in Holland there was a group who was ready to go, then, for different reasons, the knot was untied and now there is only one who's ready. He's agitated, he just got out of jail, but everything at its time. Know also that I met other brothers … before they were drug dealers, criminals. I introduced them to the faith and now they are the first ones to ask me when is their moment for the jihad. Some of them went to Afghanistan and others are praying and waiting. …

The second excerpt is from a May 28 face-to-face conversation between Rabei, Yahia and another man called Hussam. Rabei describes how when he lived in Germany, he hid his nationality, pretending to be Palestinian, and used techniques to disguise his fingerprints so the authorities couldn't keep track of him.

Hussam: Have you been to Germany?

Rabei: Yes, I lived in Germany.

Hussam: Is Germany nice?

Rabei: Yes, they are organized. If you work or study and they are not around you, they respect you. It is a population who wakes up early. They are hard workers. At eight o'clock they are already at work, do you understand, Yahia? But unfortunately half of my friends (in Germany) were arrested. If you have the documents you live well in Germany. I also had many Palestinian friends. It's easy for them to obtain the documents; they ask for political asylum, I also lived with them, in a detention center (for immigrants). The police there are very tough, especially since they've started to take fingerprints.

Yahia: Did they fingerprint you?

Rabei: Yes, once I scratched my fingers, once I used the transparent glue and still another time, when I was in the detention center and I pretended to be a Palestinian, I used a product, there is a special product that modifies fingerprints. I drove them crazy. In Germany I had to be ready because every two or three months they would fingerprint you and therefore you had to have the product with you.

They laugh.

Rabei: This way they can never find you. You make them confused. They are not able to know your nationality.

They laugh. … Later, Hussam leaves and Rabei and Yahia watch a video of the decapitation of American contractor Nicholas Berg, who is believed to have been killed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Rabei: Come close. Watch closely with your own eyes. This is the policy we need to follow, the policy of the sword. Come and see our brother Abu Musab [al-Zarqawi].

At this point, we can hear the sound of a computer keyboard. The two men are now viewing the video of Nicholas Berg's decapitation, the American kidnapped in Iraq by Islamic militants.

Rabei: We need to be very firm, the decision is the decision.

We can hear the voice of the individual who reads the announcement and, immediately after that, Nicholas Berg's excruciating scream. Rabei is excited by the scene he's watching and teases the kidnapped man.

Rabei: This is the policy. God is great, God is great. God is great. Go to hell, God's enemy. Kill him, kill him. Yes, like that, slaughter him well, cut his head off. God is great, God is great.

Yahia: Isn't that a sin?

Rabei: Who said that? It's never a sin! It's never a sin for the cause. Everyone must end up like this. This is the truth, this is the truth. This is the final decision everyone. We wish that their parents also end up like this dog. Everyone, everyone. We only need to be sure in making the decisions. Yahia, are you scared? Are you shocked?

Yahia: No, no, I think it's a sin. I'm only thinking that it's a sin.

Rabei: When you are part of a movement, it is never a sin, because there is a cause, the Islamic cause. Everyone ends up in hell, everyone. This is the end for those who hurt Islam. Every thing that is done for Islam is a right thing. Every action is right -- the important thing is that you obtain results. …

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posted jan. 25, 2005

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