Afghanistan: Terror-training videos found in al Qaeda camp
By Richard S. Ehrlich
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
MIR BACHEH KOWT, Afghanistan
Al Qaeda videotapes captured after the fall of the Taliban last year show the terrorist organization training followers from across the Muslim world in sophisticated techniques for assassinating, kidnapping and bombing their enemies.
Many of the techniques appear to have been borrowed from U.S., British and Israeli commando forces, according to the former Green Beret soldier who is now in possession of the tapes.
The ex-soldier, who has served for the past three months as an adviser to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance but declined to allow his name to be used, provided a tour of the al Qaeda training compound where the tapes were made in this town 15 miles north of the capital, Kabul.
"Look over here, you see the round bullet holes? This is where they had targets," the adviser said, wandering through several rooms where men in the videos had fired weapons during training.
Other features of the compound are clearly identifiable on the videos, which are being offered to American television networks for broadcast.
A U.S. Defense Department spokesman confirmed the identity of the former Green Beret and said he was aware of the tapes.
In several scenes, the videos show armed men disguised as janitors or golfers learning how to murder and seize hostages.
Dozens of men of various races and ethnic origin fire Kalashnikov assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades while yelling and shoving others who pretend to be hostages.
In some scenes, an instructor uses drawings of cars, streets and gunmen to teach his charges how to attack a motorcade.
"Arabic interpreters and also Afghans who viewed the tapes were able to identify the different dialects, and we know for a fact there were Kuwaiti, Iranian, Iraqi and Libyan guys here," the former Green Beret said.
"We were also able to spot some North Africans. We are guessing that they are Somalian. They look Somalian."
The American adviser said several techniques seen in the videos appear to be cribbed from Western security forces.
He pointed out a scene in which a man dressed as a janitor enters a building through a parking garage carrying a duffel bag with concealed weapons, then sets to work sweeping the floor in an upstairs hallway.
"When the hostage thing started, he pulled out a hand gun," the adviser said, suddenly drawing his own black pistol to re-enact the scene.
"This is a procedure that is used in the United States all the time.
"The FBI, the Secret Service and U.S. marshals will go into a place, put a guy in as a janitor, put a guy in as a maintenance man and smuggle the weapon in with his maintenance equipment," he said.
"Certainly [al Qaeda members] have been following our tactics. They've had access to our manuals.
"The guys controlling the hostages with their handguns, their shooting techniques are a composite of Israeli, British and U.S."
One scene shows assassins disguised as golfers on the camp's dirt field, with their weapons hidden in white golf bags.
When a gunman signals by teeing off, the guerrillas open fire with assault rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade, obliterating dignitaries depicted by a cluster of targets.
Other tapes show nervous men in camouflage outfits being taught to leap with ropes from the roof of the compound's two-story main building and to jump through open windows.
In a session on how to negotiate with authorities, the trainees threaten to shoot a hostage and throw him off the roof.
The American adviser, who said the original Hi-8 video tapes "are destined to go to a U.S. intelligence agency," said it was clear that the videos were not intended to be shown publicly.
While most of the principal trainees have their faces hidden by balaclavas, the camera occasionally pans to show other guerrillas watching with faces uncovered. A few of the men appear to be Caucasian, perhaps from Chechnya.
Also found in the compound -- which is now controlled by Afghan security forces -- were U.S.-made mortar shells, still in their packing tubes, and Russian-made claymore mines.
One building was littered with metal tips that had been pried off of machine-gun bullets, presumably so the powder could be used for some other purpose.
The former training camp was originally a school set amid pine trees in this village in the Shomali Valley just north of Kabul, where the decisive battle for the capital was fought.