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Bush's Secret War

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Bush's Secret War

By Rory Carroll

The Guardian - UK

8-21-3

When security agents took away her husband in the middle of the night they did not tell Ellah Ulusam that Washington had just opened a new front in its war against terror. They said he would be back the next day. Arif Ulusam vanished along with four other Muslim men, all arrested at home, handcuffed and bundled into a car for a bizarre odyssey which has not yet ended.

This is a part of George Bush's war which does not make it on to television news, for it is waged on a front so remote few know it exists. In less eventful times what happened would be considered extraordinary. As it is, their story has been barely reported.

On June 22 Malawi security agents seized five men in Limbe, outside Malawi's commercial capital Blantyre, and spirited them out of the country on suspicion of belonging to al-Qaida, earning praise from the US ambassador.

Relatives were distraught. "Taking Arif away was a big loss to me. I was stranded. I didn't know what was going on," says Ellah, 27, cradling her daughter Kardelen, not yet three. "Kardelen misses her father so much, she puts on his shoes, kisses his shirts."

Following the script from Afghanistan and other countries where terror suspects have been snatched, it seemed these were more Muslims destined for orange jumpsuits, their guilt or innocence to be decided at a future date by a US military tribunal. Except a funny thing happened on the way to Guantanamo - they were released.

Some details remain murky but enough is known to illuminate dark corners of Washington's anti-terror tactics: Without telling their own embassy, US intelligence agents appear to have bullied the Malawi government into a swoop which triggered Muslim riots. The abductions were illegal and also, it seems, a blunder.

Malawi is a small land-locked country in southern Africa. Extremely poor, it was nonetheless peaceful, stable and a fledgling democracy. A fifth of its 10 million people are Muslim but no one pointed the finger when al-Qaida attacked in Tanzania and Kenya.

That changed in the early hours of June 22. Dozens of security agents arrested five suspects and carted away their files, books, mobile phones, photographs, floppy discs and computers in black bin-liners.

The men lived and worked in Limbe but were foreigners: Arif Ulusam, owner of Istanbul, a fast food restaurant, is Turkish; Ibrahim Itabaci, headmaster of the Bedir international school, is also Turkish; Mahmud Sardar Issa, coordinator for a charity called the Zakaat Fund Trust, is Sudanese; Khalifa Abdi Hassan, a scholar at the Muslim Association of Malawi, is Kenyan; Fahad Ral Bahli, director of the Malawi branch of Registered Trustees of the Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Special Committee on Relief, is Saudi Arabian.

"They said Arif would be released the next day," said Mrs Ulusam. "But when we went to the police station he wasn't there and nobody could tell us anything." All organs of the Malawi state refused to say why or where the men were taken.

Their relatives hired a team of lawyers led by Shabir Latif, who practised at the bar in the UK. "Malawi has the best constitution south of the Sahara and guarantees basic rights which were denied my clients," he said. A high court judge issued an injunction barring deportation, ordering the authorities to charge the men or release them on bail.

It made no difference. The five were spirited abroad. "Who can I produce in court now? Their ghosts?" Fahad Assani, Malawi's director of public prosecutions, asked the court in exasperation. "These people are out of reach for us. It's the Americans who know where they are."

Amnesty International noted the irony of the men being transferred on the day the state department released a report about US efforts to promote human rights worldwide. Colin Powell also recently lectured African leaders on respecting the rule of law. "I've never been as depressed on a case as this one," said Latif. "No evidence was ever produced."

The closest the US came to admitting custody was a statement from its ambassador, Roger Meece, praising Malawi as a partner in the fight against terrorism. It was said the men were accused of channelling money to al-Qaida and had been on the CIA's "watch list" since the 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

Nothing more was heard until July 24 when lawyers heard that Fahad Ral Bahli had surfaced in Riyadh and the other four in Sudan, all free men. Hub-Eddin Abbakar, a colleague of the Sudanese suspect, said they had been handed over to their respective embassies in Khartoum after the CIA decided they were innocent.

To end up in a country on Washington's terror list is only slightly more bizarre than reports that the Air Malawi plane chartered by the US stopped off in Zimbabwe on the way to a third country, possibly Djibouti or Uganda, where the men were questioned for a month.

US officials declined interview requests, but one western diplomat said the state department had been kept in the dark by the CIA and that the ambassador's praise for Malawi was an attempt to save face.

Malawi's Muslims are furious, said Altaf Gahi, president of Blantyre's Muslim Jamaat, and some are likely to become radicalised. The resort town of Mangochi erupted in rioting which wrecked Christian churches and the offices of the US aid agency Save the Children, and left several people wounded. "It was like doomsday to us. I ran away with my family, the mob could have killed us," said Meleka Thom Phiri, pastor of the Assemblies of God church.

Three theories try to explain the fiasco. Malawi officials distrusted foreigners who mobilised Muslims, even for good works, and persuaded the US to intervene. "The US intelligence is too well equipped to make such a mistake. Somebody must have cooked the evidence for them," said Hub-Eddin Abbakar.

Others say that the CIA knew the men were innocent but wanted to disrupt Malawi's Muslim organisations, with skills and money coming from Arab countries, before it risked being infiltrated by Islamist terrorists. The same principle of pre-emption used to justify attacking Iraq, but on a micro-scale. "The work these guys were doing won't resume," predicted one Muslim businessman.

The third theory is of a cock-up. The day before the arrests, the Sudanese man and both Turks were questioned about stolen cars by men who said they were from Interpol. Ibrahim Itabaci had recently bought a second-hand car, according to Ellah Ulusam, which the detectives suspected of having been shipped from South Africa. Some of the Malawi officials investigating the cars were spotted among the agents who arrested the five men.

An impoverished country. Muslim men with money and means. Stolen vehicles. Al-Qaida active in the region. From the CIA's viewpoint it could have added up to something sinister. It seems the agency was wrong. But for Malawi, now a land of kidnappings, riots and religious tension, that is exactly how things have added up.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,1026199,00.html

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at it again I see, 10 articles from reputable sources such as the guardian. Do u realize how redudant you sound. Why not post something that doesnt make u look like a complete partisan wack job.

Another US war crime? where was the first? this crap? Honestly, get over it. Bush is in power, blair is in power, sharon is in power. Live with it. I can see y no responds to you.

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hmmm...probably as redundant as you sound. over and over and over again. but i bet you wouldn't think of it that way. :laugh:

i :heart: the guardian

if you don't like the articles, here's a word of advice: DON'T READ THEM. no one is forcing you.

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Originally posted by alivak

I can see y no responds to you.

well, a response on one of sassa's threads really wouldnt' be a response to him/her persay, at least not from what i've seen... he/she posts a thousand articles a day and never comments on any of them until someone else takes a position...

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Originally posted by PFloyd40

well, a response on one of sassa's threads really wouldnt' be a response to him/her persay, at least not from what i've seen... he/she posts a thousand articles a day and never comments on any of them until someone else takes a position...

ok :blank:

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Originally posted by alivak

um, u telling me, someone with 10,300 posts that i am redudant is actually funny. By the way, good thing for those smiley faces because what else would have play with

why do you care how many posts i have? considering i've been posting here for over 3 years...:blank:

just stop diverting the topic with your hating and talk about the subject on hand. no one cares how many posts i have or what smilies i use. why do you? :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

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Originally posted by alivak

well if u learn to read you'll see why i mentioned how many posts you have. And I am far from hating, actually reading your posts, you seem to be hating and angry quite a bit.

stick to the topic. i do not care. enough of your unnecessary, petty comments, please. :rolleyes:

i know how to read very well, thank you.

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sassa, i am picking up on the fact that no one responds to your comments, stop saying stick to the topic - u only have one topic, anything and everything that has to do LECTURING us on how bad this country is. By the way, those editorial cartoons, or whatever they are - quite old - try something new

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Originally posted by alivak

[b By the way, good thing for those smiley faces because what else would have play with

I don't know but there is something really obnoxious about this smiley face ---->:rolleyes: I hate it so much :mad:

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Originally posted by alivak

sassa, i am picking up on the fact that no one responds to your comments, stop saying stick to the topic - u only have one topic, anything and everything that has to do LECTURING us on how bad this country is. By the way, those editorial cartoons, or whatever they are - quite old - try something new

aye, aye capitan!!!

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Originally posted by alivak

at it again I see, 10 articles from reputable sources such as the guardian. Do u realize how redudant you sound. Why not post something that doesnt make u look like a complete partisan wack job.

Another US war crime? where was the first? this crap? Honestly, get over it. Bush is in power, blair is in power, sharon is in power. Live with it. I can see y no responds to you.

Dude, the Guardian IS a reputable source.

"Living" with and "dealing" with things that one sees as unfit is NOT the American way. If everybody had just "lived" with it under British rule, America would not be here today.

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sassa, for someone who begs people to stay on topic, you dont seem to say much, other then bullshit taunts.

BTW - anything is reputable if u want to believe it. Someone posted here the other day that that the bush family was part of the nazi party - I am sure it was from a reputable sources as well.

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Originally posted by alivak

at it again I see, 10 articles from reputable sources such as the guardian. Do u realize how redudant you sound. Why not post something that doesnt make u look like a complete partisan wack job.

Another US war crime? where was the first? this crap? Honestly, get over it. Bush is in power, blair is in power, sharon is in power. Live with it. I can see y no responds to you.

Hmm..my post disappeared...

anyway, I don't understand...are you saying the Guardian is not a reputable source. Because, I believe its one of the the major national newspapers in the UK.

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there is nothing wrong with it - its a left leaning tabloid. thats why i compared it to the NY Post which is a right leaning tabloid. You take it for what it is worth - they like to sensationlise things.

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