24 May 2010

Nasser al-Bahri

I just finished reading Yemen: Dancing on the Heads of Snakes by Victoria Clark. I wanted to read it because of all the recent news stories involving Yemen, plus two of my PC friends had visited there, and told me really interesting stories related to their experiences and the culture.

With this book, however, I was a little disappointed, because instead of the look at the culture through anecdotes of the author's experiences there, like I thought I would be getting, I got a long, and a little bit dry, history of the country. Granted, I respect her travel and her experience, and enjoyed her simple yet academic writing style, but I had a lot of trouble concentrating on the mostly military and political history.

Anyway, it was a useful book to provide me some context for all the news articles I read about Al-Qaeda (though not much info about AQIM, Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghrib, in which I am most interested, being that I am going back to live in Morocco aka the Maghrib).

One interesting tidbit that I got from it was figuring out the names of some of the major players in the chess game between the "West" aka the US and the "terrorists" aka mainly Al-Qaeda. And recently, in one of the English, online newspapers from Morocco that I read, there was a translated interview with Nasser al-Bahri, the (moderately) famous ex-bodyguard of Osama bin Laden. I've put the link to the entire interview as the subject of this blog post, but here is the introduction for your consideration:

Nasser al-Bahri spent several years working as Osama bin Laden's bodyguard, fighting alongside the al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan and helping him enlist and indoctrinate youth from Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Following a disagreement with bin Laden, al-Bahri left al-Qaeda and returned to Yemen in 2000, where he was imprisoned for 18 months and then released as a reformed jihadist. Al-Bahri today is still reaching out to youth, albeit for a different reason: to dissuade them from choosing the path of violence. In interviews with media outlets, al-Bahri acknowledges "ideological differences with the West", and speaks of "injustice" committed against Muslims. However, the man who started his jihadist career in Bosnia, and had short stints in Somalia and Tajikistan before joining bin Laden in Afghanistan, now says that dialogue, not violence, is the answer.

Interesting how he seems to think YOUTH DEVELOPMENT is the answer. I knew I was working in the right field.