Iraqi sources confirm Syrian assitance in arresting former Iraqi intelligence chief
An Iraqi source confirmed to Al Bawaba press reports about the arrest of the former head of Iraqi intelligence, Farouq Hijazi, whom Washington accuses of being behind an attempt to assassinate the former US president, George Bush Sr. while on a Kuwaiti visit in 1993. Meanwhile, another source confirmed Syrian assistance with the arrest.
The spokesman of the Iraqi National Congress, the largest Iraqi opposition group, told Al Bawaba, “US forces arrested the former Iraqi intelligence chief, Farouq Hijazi, on Thursday night near the Syrian border.” “Farouq Abdullah Yahya al-Hijazi, previously dubbed as Muwaffaq Abdullah al-Yahya (Abu Harb), was born to a Syrian mother and Saudi father who worked as a policeman in the Saudi Kingdom,” said Nabil al Musawi, the INC’s spokesman. He added “Hijazi’s father moved to Iraq with his family due to problems he faced in Saudi Arabia whilst Farouq was still a child.”
Musawi said he secured the information from an Iraqi citizen who was a former colleague and a close acquaintance of Hijazi. He described the arrest of the former intelligence chief as the “greatest event in the hunt for the toppled regime.” “Hijazi was one of the very few who were allowed to oversee the assassination orders that targeted political opposition leaders inside as well as outside Iraq,” said Musawi, adding that “he [Hijazi] was involved in dozens of operations that victimized Iraqi opposition leaders and innocent people inside and outside the country.”
In the same context, a separate Iraqi source confirmed to Al Bawaba that Hijazi’s arrest was achieved through cooperation with the Syrian authorities, which have recently become more active and cooperative in handing over former Iraqi officials that fled to Syria.
Published reports suggest that Hijazi is of a Palestinian origin and that his parents immigrated to Iraq where they became Iraqi nationals. The Iraqi source, however, denied these reports and confirmed that he is actually from Saudi origin. The official, who requested anonymity, said Hijazi appears to have fled to his uncle’s tribe in Syria, however he did not mention the tribe’s name. Last week, US officials accused Syria of harboring Hijazi, whose latest posts have included Iraqi ambassador to Canada, Turkey and Tunisia.
The US had accused Hijazi of masterminding a failed attempt at assassinating former US president George Bush Sr. in an official visit to Kuwait in 1993. The former CIA chief James Wolsley, as cited by CNN, said the ‘agency knew the man was involved in the [assassination] attempt along with al-Qaeda.” Another CIA official described the arrest as one of the most important arrests the American forces have achieved in Iraq.”
During his service as Iraqi ambassador to Turkey in 1998, US officials said Hijazi traveled to Afghanistan and met al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, which they describe as ‘evidence’ about links between the toppled regime and the al-Qaeda network. US officials also accused Hijazi of meeting Mohammad Atta, leader of the group of hijackers that carried out the 9/11 attacks in Washington and New York. US officials stated that a meeting took place in the Czech Republic’s capital city of Prague on April 2001, few months prior to the attacks.
However, prior to the war, officials of the now-toppled Iraqi-regime repeatedly denied these accusations, and for that matter, any other accusation linking them to al-Qaeda. Additionally, following US accusations [of Hijazi’s links with al-Qaeda], Baghdad withdrew Hijazi from Ankara upon his request and appointed him Iraqi ambassador to Tunisia, where he stayed until he was arrested Thursday night near the Syrian border. (Albawaba.com)