Translated from French by Ragnar B. Johannessen
The story that you are about to read is a true one. It’s a story about the kidnapping of a 39 year old Eyptian on February 17, 2003, by a team of CIA agents. This happened in the middle of Milan.
Nasr Oussama Mustafa Hassan (alias Abu Omar), who was a native of Alexandria, had obtained political asylum in Italy in 2001. He had been arrested in Egypt in 1993 for political reasons. He had wrongly been assumed to be an imam of the Islamic center on the Jenner boulevard in Milan, and had simply been noticed because he had led the prayers at the other mosque, on Quaranta street in Milan. His kidnapping was followed by an”extraordinary rendition” to the Egyptian secret services in Cairo (Mabahith Amn Al Dawla). We have not heard from Abu Omar in over a year. At worst, he is dead. At best, he languishes in an Egyptian prison.
This kidnapping is not the first one that has been committed by the CIA after September 11, all over the world. But it is the only one to have resulted in a judicial process. Whatever we know in this case, is based on a dossier written by the Milanese examining magistrate, Chiara Nobili. At the end of June 2005, she issued a warrant for the arrest of 13 CIA agents, identified after an investigation by the Italian anti-terror police (DIGOS). The two district attorneys Armano Spataro and Ferdinando Pomarici had demanded the arrests of all the 19 CIA agents. Two months passed, and none of the arrest warrants had been put into effect. The agents guilty of kidnapping, torture and likely complicity in an extrajudicial execution have gone into hiding somewhere on this planet. The commander-in-chief, Robert Seldon Lady (nicknamed “Mister Bob”), former head of the CIA station in Milan, has probably fled to his native Honduras. This very serious case means that the CIA doesn’t hesitate to use the same methods that it was using in Central and Southern America from the fifties to the eighties. At the time the enemy was communism. Today it is Islam. The cavalier way the the US secret services have treated their Italian allies in this case reveals the yankee contempt for their “coalition partners”. Something to think about...
Suddenly one day in Guerzoni Street...
Milan, Italy. Monday, February 17, 2003: Abu Omar leaves his home in 18 Count Verde street. He say to his wife Nabila: ”I’m going over to the mosque.” This mosque is situated less than a kilometer from them (in a straight line), in boulevard Jenner. He wears a white tunic and walks up the street against the one-way traffic. He notices a white delivery van slowing down as it was coming closer. He continues into Ciaia St. In the meantime the van turned around the block and was waiting for Abu Omar in Giuseppe Guerzoni St., a street where the cars can go both ways. There are public gardens on both sides and there also is a mueum, la Croix Violette. This is where the ambush by a dozen CIA agents takes place. Two cars block both ends of the street. When Abu Omar passes number 23, one of the two men that came out of the white van went up to him. This guy holds a cellular in his hand, speaks Italian, says he is a police officer and wants to see Abu’s identity card. Suddenly he empties a spray can in Abu’s face.
The unknown man and his assistant threw themselves over him, but he resisted and screamed loudly. At this moment a young Egyptian woman and her children were just coming out of the public gardens. Abu Omar shouts to her that they are kidnapping him. He then disappears into the van, which sets off. Tires screeching.
On Thursday, February 20, Nabila and the woman that had witnessed the kidnapping handed in a complaint at the Cenisio police station. Friday 21, the imam at the Jenner boulevard mosque makes an appeal to the people present to come forward in case they have seen or heard anything that has to do with Abu Omar’s disappearance. On March 3, the CIA ”informed” the Italian government that ”according to verifiable information, Abu Omar might possibly be in the Balkans”. Silence again. It would last for 13 months.
On April 20, 2004, Nabila gets a phone call. It’s her husband calling her from Egypt. He reassures her, asks her to send him 200 Euros and not to talk to the press. On May 1, the Egyptian imam Mohammed Ridha of the Quaranta St. mosque also receives a call from his friend Abu Omar. They agree to talk again on May 8. This is when Abu Omar tells him the following:
”The two men who kidnapped me looked like Italians, but I’m not so sure they really were. They thought I was unconscious because of that spray, but I wasn’t, and when the van started again, I could raise myself up a bit. They had gagged me with some tape, but I could still see, and they had forgotten to take my wristwatch. We drove for five or six hours. By the time the van stopped and they had opened the door, it was sundown. It must have been between five and six in the afternoon. I got a feeling that I was at an American military base, because I recognized the signs on the tail fins of some of the airplanes. The two men took me to an appartment and left me there. After about four hours, four other men arrived. They interrogated me till 3 in the morning. In the beginning they tried to speak Italien, but they spoke it badly, and changed to English. They insisted on the same point all the time:
”You are spreading propaganda against the American intervention in Iraq. You want people to hate the Americans, right? Is it true that you are recruiting fighters to go to Iraq?” I answered no, that this wasn’t true, but they went on and on. Then they showed me a poster that I had written, in which I denounced the atrocities of the Italians in Libya and Somalia. Suddenly their blows rained down on me. It went on for hours. At about 3 in the morning they took me to a small plane. The trip lasted four hours.
At dawn we made a stopover at another American base. I believe that it is situated near the Red Sea. The plane took off again, and in an hour we arrived at the civilian airport in Cairo. When I came out of the plane, I was taken in care by Egyptian officers. They blindfolded me and brought me to Lazoughli (the center of the Egyptian secret services), and let me into a small secure cell. Later they brought me to the Interior Ministry. They didn’t beat around the bush: ”If you want to go back to Italy, you can do it in less than 24 hours. On one condition: that you work for us.”
Torture at Mazra’at Tora.
Abu Omar refused. He was then taken to the Mazra’at Tora prison, and the torture sessions began. He says: ”The questions may have been simple, but the torture was hard. They locked me up in a cell that was freezing cold. It must have been 20 degrees below zero, because it felt like my bones were crumbling. When I was completely frozen, they dragged me to a room that was burning hot, where the temperature must have been near 50. Another time they made me lay down on a wet floor, on which there were electrical cables. The shocks that I got paralyzed my legs and a part of my back.”
The questions they asked seemed unimportant to them. But what the torturers really were interested in, was a list of names. First: Mohamed Ridha. Second: Abu Emad, imam at the Jenner boulevard. Third: Abu Omar (my name). They told me that if I wanted to get out of there, I had to rat on them.
Abu Omar was to spend 14 months in Mazra'at Tora. Then one day they came and told him he was free. -On one condition: ”If you want to leave on your own two feet and not in a coffin, don’t tell anybody what happened to you. You will only say that you went to Egypt of your own free will, and on a ticket bought in Italy.” Abu Omar signed on that. He got out of prison on April 19, 2004.
But the telephone calls that he made to Italy and the content of which were leaked to the Italian press, were picked up by the secret services, and he ended up in prison again. On May 12, 2004, he was arrested again, at his home in Alexandria. After this date nobody has heard from him again. -Unless one is to count in a letter sent to his first wife, who lives in Albania, in which he simply says: ”Now I am living in Alexandria”.
The Italian investigation.
In the meantime the Italian legal system had not been idle. The prosecutor Armando Spataro had got things going. The DIGOS people had been investigating. It wasn’t difficult to find out what had happened. Actually, the CIA team that had committed the kidnapping, had thrown all caution overboard, no doubt because they were so sure of their impunity. It now seems almost clear that the CIA did not inform their colleagues at SISMI (military secret service) and DIGOS of the operation, but it is likely that there has been some contact on a political level between Washington and Rome, for the operation to go ahead.
During the three months preceding the operation, the CIA agents were using mobile phones and not walkie-talkies. What more is, these phones belonged to the American embassy in Rome and one of them was used again later by an employee of the embassy, after the kidnapping of Abu Omar!
Based on the data files containing the numbers that were used and where they were used, as well as the phone bill paid for by credit cards, the investigators found the five star hotel where the team had stayed before the operation. They also found the car rental service where they had hired the white van, and the cars used by the commanding unit. In this way the police obtained photocopies of the identity cards of the members of the unit.
These are the names, real or fake, of the 12 suspected CIA agents, for whom the the Italian Department of Justice has issued arrest orders:
Robert Seldon Lady, department manager at the CIA station in Milan, who led the entire operation and probably accompanied Abu Omar to Cairo, to assist at the interrogation;
Monica Adler (or Courtney), 32 yrs., born in Seattle, resident of Virginia;
Cynthia Logan, 45 yrs., born in Maryland, address unknown;
Pilar Rueda, 44 yrs., born in California, address unknown;
Gregory Asherleigh, 50 yrs., born in Maryland, resident of Washington, DC;
Lorenzo Carrera, 34 yrs., born in Texas, speaks Italian and Spanish fluently;
Chamming Drew Carlyle, 40 yrs., born in New York;
John (or Kevin) Duffin, 53 yrs., born in Illinois, resident of Pennsylvania;
Raymond Harbaugh, 66 yrs., born in Alaska, address: a post box in Virginia;
Ben Amar Harty, 61 yrs., born in Iowa, of Arab origin, speaks Arab fluently;
George L. Purvis, 46 yrs., born in China, resident of Virginia;
Joseph Sofin, 52 yrs., born in Moldavia, resident of Virginia.
Michalis Vasiliou, 43 yrs., born in Greece, address unknown.
The six other people, whom the Italian Justice Department wants to interview, have been identified as: Eliana Castaldo, Victor Castellano, John Thomas Gurley, Liliana Brenda Ibanez, Anne Lidia Jenkins and Joseph L. Romano. The latter has been clearly identified: he is colonel in the US Army, currently employed at Pentagon and Washington. At the time of the events, he was the one who, being in charge of security at the base, gave the security clearance to the CIA team that entered the US military air base at Aviano near Venice, from where the plane that carried Abu Omar took off.
The commander-in-chief, Robert Seldon Lady, is 51. He was born in 1954 in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, where his father, ”Mister Bill”, died in 2004, ending a well rounded career as a busybody. As an owner of a big property close to the border with Nicaragua, Mister Bill undoubtedly must have been a CIA operative, notably in the period when the agency was training the ”contras”, at which time it was fighting the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. Bob begins his career in New York, where he infitrated left wing groups. Later he joined the CIA, and worked all during the eighties in Honduras, no doubt with the notorious Batallion 316, the death squadron created by the CIA at the heart of the Honduran army, to torture and execute without any due process people suspected of ”communism”. In 1994 the whole unit got their fingers burned: the traitor Aldrich Ames revealed their identities to the KGB. ”Mister Bob” then began a period of readjustment. We know that he took up a post in Panamá, while still a resident of Abita Springs, near New Orléans in Louisiana.
Later, at the beginning of 2001, Mister Bob starts in his new job at the CIA station in Milan, Italy. Officially he is a ”politico-miltare” officer at the consulate. But he is the only US empoyee in foreign service ever to have been equipped with such a title. It seems that he is connected in some way to the disinformation campaign mounted by the hawks in the White House and in Downing Street to justify the attack on Iraq (”Nigergate”). A document forged by Rocco Martino, an old (Italian) SISMI agent recruited by the French DGSE, had served to lend credibility to the (false) proposition that Iraq had bought uranium from Niger.
Lady also had been involved in another scandal earlier: Irangate. Manuchar Ghorbanifar, an Iranian ”freelance” agent, had organized the secret arms deal with Iran. The money obtained this way were used by Colonel Oliver North to buy arms for the Nicaraguan ”contras”, notably to Mister Bob.
Bob and his wife Martha bought a villa in Penango. -No doubt with the money gained from the kidnapping of Abu Omar. This was near Asti, in the Italian Piedmont, halfway between Turin and Milan. They relocated in September 2003. Bob, who had excellent relations with his Italian collegues in anti-terrorism, often invited them for boozy dinners in this villa.
One day at the end of May 2005, Martha, who had been under surveillance by DIGOS from April 2004, receives a call from Bob from Honduras. After this call, she goes to Honduras. When she later returns to Penango, she was told by Bob that a warrant of arrest had been issued for him. The police officers who raided their house on June 23 didn’t find ”Mister Bob”, but in the garage, they found a list of the hotels used by the command unit in the kidnapping of Abu Omar and harddisks with information. Interesting, no doubt.
During a telephone conversation with Bob a few days later, Martha told him that she had tried to destoy this material, but that the police came there first.
Judge Nobili had refused to issue arrest orders on the six minor characters in the operation. Prosecutor Spataro then adressed the Appeals Court, who decided on July 25, 2005, that they were to be arrested as well.
”Mister Bob” and the 18 bastards, will they ever answer for their crimes in Italy? Abu Omar, if he’s still alive, will he ever resurface again? Prosecutor Spataro will, according to the latest news, seek his extradition from Egypt, but it is hardly likely that this process will go anywhere.
Abu Omar isn’t the only martyr in the yankee crusade against terrorism. Two weeks earlier another moslem suspected of terrorism disappeared, victim of a similar kidnapping. Jamel Elmenshaoui was a pediatrician living in Graz (in Styria, Austria). His kidnapping had been planned in Austria for when he was leaving for Jordan to go to Saudi Arabia on a pilgrmage to Mecca with his family. He was kidnapped on the Saudi-Jordanian border, and ended up in Lazoughli too. After this, no one has heard from him again.
Mohammed Morgan is an Egyptian and lived in Vigevano, near Milan. In 2003, he complained to his brothers that he was being shaddowed all the time. At the end of 2003 he said he wanted to return to Egypt. In fact, he was the victim of blackmail. Upon arriving in Cairo, he was taken to the Mazra’at Tora prison. After that, nothing.
(Translated from French by Ragnar B. Johannessen)
November 18, 2005 The author of this article is an independent journalist, author and editor. He is the president of the Guantánamo Collective in France. He may be contacted at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org http://quibla.net/