Al-Qaeda Family: The firefight at Waziristan
CBC News Online | November 8, 2005
Reporter: Terence McKenna
Producers: Nazim Baksh, Michelle Gagnon, Alex Shprintsen
Editor: Avi Lev
After Sept. 11, 2001 Osama bin Laden and other senior figures in al-Qaeda left the city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan and fled south to the tribal areas that straddle the Pakistani-Afghan border.
Osama bin Laden
For years these areas have been self-governing and self-policing, and the tribal leaders here were happy to give sanctuary to al-Qaeda members and their families in exchange for cash.
There have been sporadic military offensives to look for them ever since.
One such offensive by the Pakistani army took place on Oct. 2, 2003. Senior al-Qaeda figures were reported to be holed up in a house in the province of Waziristan on the Pakistani side of the border. The Pakistan army surrounded the house and demanded a surrender. An intense firefight broke out and two Pakistani soldiers were killed.
The battle raged on for hours.
Finally a Pakistani Cobra attack helicopter shelled the house.
After the attack, 18 prisoners were taken. Eight bodies were pulled from the rubble. The Pakistanis were disappointed they had not found Osama bin Laden. But they did find the body of another man long identified as a senior leader of al-Qaeda a 57-year-old Canadian citizen named Ahmed Said Khadr who was born in Egypt.
In late February 2004, in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, Ahmed Said Khadr's wife, Maha, and 23-year old daughter, Zaynab, agreed to sit down for their first television interview since his death.
Ahmed Said Khadr
They have always claimed that Ahmed Said Khadr was not a terrorist. But now they say that he was proud to die as a shaheed, a martyr, a soldier of Islam.
"We believe that death comes when God had planned it, before He created the humanity, it's planned, so I just accept, [but] it hurt," Maha said.
"We believe dying by the hand of your enemy because you believe in
you're doing it in the way of Allah, that it's the best way to die," Zaynab told CBC. "My father had always wished that he would be killed
he would be killed for the sake of Allah. I remember when we were very young he would say, if you guys love me, pray for me that I get jihaded, which is killed."
At the Pakistani defence ministry in nearby Rawalpindi, Maj.-Gen. Shaukat Sultan has no doubt about the true identity of Ahmed Said Khadr.
Ahmed Said Khadr's wife, Maha, and 23-year old daughter, Zaynab
"So he was certainly a terrorist
he did not surrender voluntarily on the offer that was made earlier before the operation went in," Sultan said.
"This man did not surrender. That was one. Number two, the firefight started and the firefight lasted almost for 12 hours. And those people who were killed they were certainly those who were fighting thoroughly with the army troops."
Ahmed Said Khadr's 14-year-old son, Karim, lies in the military hospital in Rawalpindi, shot in the spine in the same battle that killed his father. He is paralysed from the waist down.
Maha would be happy if her children died the same way. "You know we are promised that we go to heaven," she says.
Zaynab says, "I'd love to die like that. I'd love my daughter to die
even if [it is] simple, very simple, na´ve," Maha says.
"Yeah it's heaven. It's heaven, you know," Zaynab says.
Ahmed Said Khadr's 22-year-old son, Abdullah, escaped the fighting that day because he was away from the house running an errand.
He agreed to an interview only if we concealed his face, because he is still considered a wanted al-Qaeda fugitive in Pakistan. He says his father talked about becoming a martyr.
"Dying for Islam is
hopeful for every Muslim," Abdullah says. "Everybody loves to die for his religion," he says. "Every Muslim dreams of being a shaheed for Islam
like you die for your religion. Everybody dreams of this, even a Christian would like to die for their religion."
Two years ago, in Afghanistan, another of Ahmed Said Khadr's sons, Omar, now 17, was shot three times in a firefight with American troops.
Omar lost the sight of one eye. He is now in the infamous U.S. military prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, accused of killing an American soldier with a grenade.
Maha is proud of Omar. "Of course. He defended himself," she says. "He just did not give any you know, I thought they were very simple kids."
"If you were in that situation what would you have done? I must ask everybody that," Zaynab says.
"I hope you don't say, 'I would bow down.' No, no, no," Maha says. "Wouldn't you like your Canadian son to be so brave to stand up and fight for his right?"
"He'd been bombarded for hours. Three of his friends who were with him had been killed. He was the only sole survivor," Zaynab says. "What do you expect him to do, come up with his hands in the air? I mean it's a war. They're shooting at him. Why can't he shoot at you? If you killed three, why can't he kill one? Why is it, why does nobody say you killed three of his friends? Why does everybody say you killed an American soldier? Big deal."