by Florian Flade
Can the dead speak? Sometimes they can, and they are happy to do so. Latest example: al-Qaeda operational figure Fahd Muhammad Ahmad al-Quso. The Yemeni militant is accused of having played a major role in the suicide bombing on the American Navy destroyer USS Cole in Aden on October 12th 2000. Seventeen US sailors died that day when a boot packed with explosives was rammed into the ship and detonated.
Al-Quso was put on the FBI´s Most Wanted-List for his involvement in the attack planning and of being a senior al-Qaeda figure who was trained in Afghanistan and had been in contact with some of the 9/11 hijackers. A 5-Million US Dollar-Bounty was on his head.
In 2003 al-Quso was arrested by Yemeni security forces but escaped prison, only to be re-arrested in 2004 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the USS Cole Bombing case. US officials were shocked when Yemeni authorities decided to grant Fahd al-Quso an early release in 2007. As expected, the al-Qaeda member rejoined the organization and in late 2009 gave an interview to Al-Jazeera after an airstrike targeted a village in which al-Quso reportedly had stayed in.
The last time al-Quso appeared in public was when al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released a propaganda tape in May of this year, praising the failed Underwear-Bomber Omar Farouq Abdulmutallab. Wearing a camouflage military uniform, al-Quso spoke in the video and threatened more attacks on Western targets.
By October the wanted al-Qaeda man had travelled to Pakistan and joined al-Qaeda´s network in the Waziristan area – at least that´s what media and Pakistani officials said. In October German Press Agency DPA quoted Pakistani intelligence sources as saying a CIA drone attack on a car in North Waziristan had killed Fahd al-Quso and other al-Qaeda commanders.
„According to a Deutsche Presse-Agentur report, the Yemeni terrorist – who is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list for his role in al Qaeda’s October 12, 2000, bombing of the USS Cole that killed 17 U.S. sailors – was recently killed by a U.S. missile in Pakistan. Terrorism experts, however, doubt the report, and it’s more likely that Quso is still operational in Yemen.“
As it turns out, DPA was dead wrong on the not-so-dead terrorist. Fahd al-Quso is alive and he lived in the mountains of Yemen´s Shabwa Province. Yemeni journalist Arafat Mudabish of Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq al-Aswat met al-Quso in his mountain hideout where village tribesmen are protecting the al-Qaeda man from the barely-in-control Yemeni military. A picture printed by the newspaper shows Fahd al-Quso alias „Abu Hudaifa“ sitting next to Mudabish, wearing again the military uniform he also wore in the May propaganda tape.
Asked what he thinks about the rumors of his death in a Waziristan drone attack, al-Quso said these reports surprised him given „the situation in Yemen, which is similar to the situation in Pakistan.“ If the Yemeni government ever presented him with the offer to surrender, the journalist asked al-Quso. Surrendering would mean giving up religion and everything al-Qaeda fights for, the terrorist said. That´s why this manner will never be discussed.