The Strange Deaths That Followed Abu Zubaydah's Confession

by Leonardo Salvaggio. We would like to thank investigative journalist Robbyn Swan, co-author of "The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden", for her consultancy. The Italian version of this article is available here.

In March 2002, US forces, in collaboration with Islamabad's intelligence, captured in Pakistan Saudi terrorist Abu Zubaydah who at the time was considered the third in command in the al-Qaeda hierarchy. He was, on the contrary, as explained by former CIA officer John Kiriakou, a person who happened to have the same name, but the captured man nevertheless had close ties to bin Laden and had knowledge of the planning of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah was interrogated by the CIA with unorthodox techniques by American agents who pretended to be Saudis, and during these interrogations the terrorist revealed that he had taken part in various meetings between Osama bin Laden and Saudi prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud (who at the time was the head of Saudi intelligence), in which the latter offered secret funds to al-Qaeda as long as the terrorist committed not to carry out attacks in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi funds reached al-Qaeda through three princes: Turki himself, Ahmed bin Salman Al Saud (whose telephone number Abu Zubaydah had with him), and Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir.

According to Abu Zubaydah's testimony, this backdoor deal also included a high-ranking officer of the Pakistani air force, Mushaf Ali Mir, who offered weapons and protection to al-Qaeda in agreement with the Saudi crown.

After obtaining this information, the CIA passed it on to the Pakistani and Saudi intelligence agencies, and within a few months both the three Saudi princes and the Pakistani air officer lost their lives in strange circumstances.

Partial schema of the Saudi royal family

The first of the three Saudi royals to lose his life in unclear circumstances was Ahmed bin Salman Al Saud, third son of the then governor of Riyadh and current king of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Born in 1958, after a military career he worked in media and communications, becoming in 1999 the chairman of the Saudi Research and Media Group (a Saudi state-backed media company) and owner of 80% of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat. Prince Ahmed bin Salman died of heart failure following an abdominal surgery in Riyadh on July 22, 2002. He was also actively involved in horse racing and the news of his death was also reported by the sports news network ESPN. On September 11, 2001, he was in the United States and was one of the first to leave the country to return to Saudi Arabia as soon as flights resumed.

The next day, on July 23, 2002, Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki bin Abdullah Al Saud, son of the king's sister Luluwah bint Abdulaziz Al Saud, also lost his life in an atypical situation, as he was returning to the capital from Jeddah to attend his cousin's funeral. Information about this incident is very scarce, the little available is reported again by ESPN. The man was involved in a car accident and was taken alive to the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, the same one where Ahmed had died the day before, where he did not survive his wounds. The two cousins had one funeral for them both and were buried together.

The following week, on July 30, 2002, Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir died of thirst at the age of 25 while traveling in his Rolls Royce in the desert of the Rimah governorate in the summer heat of over 47 degrees, apparently after getting lost. This time, no other details are known.

The series of strange deaths following Abu Zubaydah's confession does not end with the three Saudi princes. After them, Mushaf Ali Mir also lost his life in an accident when the Fokker F27 on which he was traveling from the Chaklala air base to the Kohat air base, both in the north of the country, crashed into a mountain in the Kohat district. Sixteen other people were traveling with him, including his closest coworkers. An anonymous source reported to journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai that the accident was caused by human error and adverse weather conditions; a parliamentary investigation instead established that the cause was a malfunction of the aircraft, excluding in any case that it was sabotage. The investigation found that the plane had already been indicated as dangerous and faulty in 1993 by the Navy, which the following year passed it to the Air Force.

Source: Air Power Asia

These four events may, of course, be unrelated and indeed accidents. In the case of Ali Mir, at least an official investigation has been conducted, and it is perhaps the least mysterious of the four. But it is at least strange that these people, and especially the Saudi princes, died in accidents, in such unlikely conditions, weeks after Abu Zubaydah revealed to the CIA that they had "under the rug" deals with al-Qaeda. We can only suspend judgment in the hope that a government investigation will shed light on the links between al-Qaeda and the Saudi royal family. Otherwise, it will forever remain one of the darkest aspects of 9/11.

  • "Why America Slept" di Gerald Posner, 2003
  • "The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden" di Anthony Summers e Robbyn Swan, 2011

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