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Berlusconi testifies in Abu Omar rendition case

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By See-Dubya  •  May 14, 2008 02:11 PM

Abu Omar.

Heard of him? Here’s a quiz:

Abu Omar, also known as Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, was:

A– An Egyptian imam whose abduction by the CIA and rendition to Egypt in 2003 led to an ongoing trial in Italy and an outcry in the world press, or
B– An Egyptian imam suspected of recruiting terrorists to fight America in Iraq when he was kidnapped from Milan in February 2003, a month before we invaded Iraq, suggesting yet another connection between Saddam Hussein and terrorists.

You don’t have to pick one. They’re both correct, though you wouldn’t know it. As I wrote here a year ago, the worldwide news media is incessantly framing this as a debate about rendition. They rarely mention the most interesting aspect of the case, which is that this guy was one of those Saddam-terror links that polite society likes to pooh-pooh.

Today’s NYT piece, for example, sums up the reason for Abu Omar’s CIA snatch in one sentence:

At the time of his disappearance, Nasr was also under investigation in Italy for suspicion of involvement in international terrorism.

True? Yeah. Descriptive of the actual significance of Abu Omar? No.

The CIA is keeping quiet about the case, but I’m really surprised that no one in government wants to get this story out.* Or maybe they do, and the press doesn’t want to help them? Fortunately, there is one MSM reporter who keeps letting the cat out of the bag about Abu Omar, and I’m very grateful for her doing so.

A year ago I relied on an old Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article that mentioned Abu Omar’s Iraqi activities, which has since disappeared from the web. But googling around, I’m starting to think that text originated with Los Angeles Times reporter Tracy Wilkinson on June 25, 2005. That article is archived here, and here’s the text about Abu Omar:

Italian authorities suspected Abu Omar of helping to build a terrorist network in Europe, of recruiting volunteers to fight in Iraq on the eve of the U.S. invasion, and of possibly plotting a bombing. He was a veteran of wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Afghanistan and was using his pulpit in Milan to raise money for the jihadist cause, Italian officials said, citing information from wiretaps, including one at a mosque where he preached.

According to court papers, he was recorded in numerous conversations with other terror suspects who have since been prosecuted. In one, he is heard praising a man later accused of recruiting suicide bombers for his success in reaching out to “the youth.”

The article points out that Abu Omar was nabbed on February 17, 2003–more than a month before we invaded.

Tracy Wilkinson mentions the Abu Omar-Iraq connection again in a Dec 30, 2005 article (archived at the moonbat site CommonDreams):

Abu Omar had received political asylum in Italy because of his claims of being persecuted in Egypt. But Italian investigators who were trailing him in Milan suspected the bearded cleric of helping to build a terrorist network in Europe and of recruiting volunteers to fight in Iraq. He was a veteran of wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Afghanistan and was using his position as imam in Milan to raise money for the “holy war” against the West, according to prosecutors who cite wiretaps of Abu Omar’s telephone conversations.

Again, not just the CIA but also the Italians believed Omar was recruiting terrorists to fight for Saddam. And here’s something I haven’t seen before about that. Abu Omar had a connection to Al-Qaeda bigshot Abu Musab al-Zarqawi before the war started. This is from the Observer, the weekly magazine of that neo-con Zionist warmonger rag, the Guardian:

Zarqawi is believed to be in Iran or Iraq. However European investigators have discovered that one of his key lieutenants is an Iraqi Kurd known only as Fouad, a cleric based in Syria, who handles the volunteer suicide bombers sent from Europe to launch attacks in Iraq.

Italian investigators made the first breakthrough in the hunt for Zarqawi’s operatives. Just after 10pm on the evening of 15 June, 2002, an unidentified Arab visitor from Germany – believed to be a senior figure in the militants’ network – arrived at a mosque in the Via Quaranta, Milan. He began by warning the mosque’s Egyptian imam, Abu Omar, about increased surveillance. He was unaware that Italian police were listening to his every word.

Transcripts obtained by The Observer reveal that the visitor spoke of a project needing ‘intelligent and highly educated people’. Already, the visitor said, that ‘where the jihad part is concerned there was a battalion of 25 to 26 units’. It is these ‘units’, believed by investigators to mean potential suicide bombers, that the authorities knew they had to find.

The visitor then began a review of recent developments. He stressed that ‘the thread begins in Saudi Arabia’, where the bulk of funds apparently still comes from. ‘Don’t ever worry about money, because Saudi Arabia’s money is your money,’ the visitor says. He then refers to recent ‘confidential’ meetings in Eastern Europe with Islamic militant leaders.

Rendition is an ugly, illegal, and desperate thing. But so is war, and with the invasion scheduled for a month away, we didn’t have time to wait for the wheels of Italian justice to work. We needed to know what Abu Omar knew about the terrorist network in Iraq. The Bush administration gets knocked for underestimating the strength of the Iraqi insurgency. Well, they certainly did their homework on Abu Omar. Whatever you think of rendition, whatever you think of the war, and whatever you think of the CIA, that’s an important perspective right there, and it’s one the MSM keeps missing.

When you hear about the Abu Omar trial and only about the shocking, shocking rendition of an Egyptian cleric, remember you’re only getting half the story.

*This Chicago Tribune story (where I got the front page photo of AO) might suggest a reason for some official reluctance–the CIA had allegedly worked with Abu Omar before.

_____________________

{Post by See-Dubya}

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