A LEADING al-Qa'ida strategist once married to a Sydney mother has sanctioned an orchestrated campaign to kidnap foreign civilians, including Australians in Afghanistan, in retaliation for the capture, detention and torture of al-Qa'ida and Taliban prisoners by the US and its allies.
The directive has been issued by veteran al-Qa'ida adviser Mustafa Hamid, also known as Abu Walid al-Masri, who was married to Australian Rabiah Hutchinson in Afghanistan in 2001.
Hamid has been detained in Iran since 2003 but remains an influential figure in the militant movement and has maintained contact with his followers through jihadist websites, despite his imprisonment.
In an edict titled "The US Soldier in Afghanistan - the first step for the release of all prisoners of the war on terror", Hamid argues that the capture of an American soldier by Taliban forces earlier this year should be used as a precedent in a campaign of abducting Western civilians to use as bargaining chips to negotiate the release of Taliban and al-Qa'ida detainees.
In the document uncovered by former Australian Federal Police senior counter-terrorism intelligence analyst Leah Farrall, Hamid argues that the US has "changed the rules of the game" on the treatment of prisoners of war by its detention and torture of inmates at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. He says it is now time for the Afghan mujaheddin to "change the rules" and "accept the principle approved and implemented by the enemy - the abduction of civilians who have nothing to do with the battle".
Hamid writes that soldiers from foreign countries such as Australia are fair targets.
"Governments that send armies to fight against our people in Iraq and Afghanistan bear full responsibility and they can therefore be exposed to the effects of any change in the special laws on prisoners. Force is the only thing that is respected by the West, and without it what has been taken will never be returned to its owners, and no prisoner will be returned to his family."
The document was discovered by Ms Farrall, formerly a senior counter-terrorism intelligence analyst with the Australian Federal Police, who is currently completing a PhD on al-Qa'ida at Monash University and specialises in unearthing al-Qa'ida documents.
"This is one of the most important things I've seen for a very long time," she said. "I have not (previously) seen any senior militant figure sanction a targeted campaign in direct response to American detainee policies and I find this extremely concerning."
Rabiah Hutchinson, who was married to Hamid - who she refers to as Abu Walid - until they separated in Iran in 2003, has not seen the document but said it sounded like his work.
"Abu Walid is one of the most pragmatic people I have met in my life. To him it would be just a strategy," she said.
"I could quite see Abu Walid saying, without emotion, 'What's good for the goose is good for the gander'.
"He would be saying 'OK, we're in this situation now, what are our priorities?' And his priority would be to save the Muslim lives who are now in the hands of the Americans."
Ms Farrall said Hamid's edict was all the more significant because he has historically been "the voice of restraint" within al-Qa'ida, renowned for his "moderate" pragmatism.
She argues in an opinion piece in The Australian that his treatise demonstrates the damage done by the US policies on detention and torture of detainees, which may now seriously undermine the mission to restore peace in Afghanistan.
Hamid advocates that mass abductions should be carried out under the direction of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar in areas of Afghanistan that his troops control.
"If we want, our liberated territories can absorb thousands of prisoners, and we have enough men to guard them and also to take care of them until the time is suitable for exchange."
He says prisoner exchange must proceed on the basis of "all for all". "By 'all for all', I mean the exchange of all their prisoners for all our prisoners, for the whole period of their war against terrorism (from) when they said the rules of the game had changed."
Sally Neighbour is a senior contributor to The Australian, reporter for ABC's Four Corners and author of The Mother of Mohammed
Source: The Australian