Al Qaeda leader targeting UN workers
The shadowy leader of a powerful al Qaeda group fighting in Syria sought to kidnap UN workers and scrawled out plans for his aides to take over in the event of his death, according to excerpts of letters.
Baghdad: The shadowy leader of a powerful al Qaeda group fighting in Syria sought to kidnap UN workers and scrawled out plans for his aides to take over in the event of his death, according to excerpts of letters.
Iraqi intelligence officials offered today The Associated Press the letters, as well as the first known photograph of the Nusra Front leader, Abu Mohammed al-Golani, the head of one of the most powerful and feared bands of radicals fighting the Syrian government in the country`s civil war.
The photograph showed a man with light olive skin and large brown eyes who had a scruffy, unshaven face.
The officials said they obtained the information about al-Golani after they captured members of another al Qaeda group. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren`t authorised to speak to journalists.
"I was told by a soldier that he observed some of the workers of the UN and he will kidnap them. I ask God for his success," read an excerpt of a letter given by officials from Iraq`s Falcon Intelligence Cell, an anti-terrorism unit that works under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
It was not immediately clear when the letters were written, or what else they may have contained. The intelligence officials did not provide more excerpts.
The officials said other letters planned the kidnapping and killing of other foreigners, and Syrian and Iraqi civilians.
One UN worker was kidnapped for eight months in Syria and was released in October. Another two dozen UN peacekeepers were briefly held this year. It`s not clear if those abductions had any relation to al-Golani`s letters.
They said the letters particularly focused on Shiite Muslims. Hard-line Sunni Muslim extremists particularly loath Shiites, seeing them as heretics for practicing a different style of Islam.
Another letter excerpt scrawled out rough plans for succession should al-Golani be killed.
The Nusra Front is mostly composed of Syrian fighters, but has some foreign fighters.