Mahfouz Ould al-Walid
|Mahfouz Ould al-Walid
محفوظ ولد الوليد
|Other names||Abu Hafs al-Mauritani
Mafouz Walad al-Walid (different transliteration)
|Known for||Islamic scholar and poet affiliated with al-Qaeda until the September 11, 2001 attacks.|
Mahfouz Ould al-Walid (Arabic: محفوظ ولد الوليد), kunya Abu Hafs al-Mauritani, is a Mauritanian Islamic scholar and poet previously associated with al-Qaeda. A veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, he ran a religious school called the Institute of Islamic Studies in Kandahar, Afghanistan from the late 1990s until the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Al-Walid was on the shura council of al-Qaeda and was the head of the sharia committee.
Along with Mustafa Hamid, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, Saeed al-Masri and Saif al-Adel, al-Walid opposed the September 11 attacks two months prior to their execution. Under interrogation, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said that al-Walid had opposed any large-scale attack against the United States and wrote Bin Laden a stern letter warning against any such action, quoting the Quran.
Al-Walid fled from Afghanistan to Iran after the American invasion and was held there under house arrest from 2003 until April 2012. At that time, Iran extradited him to Mauritania, where he was held in prison until his release on July 7, 2012. He was released after renouncing his ties to al-Qaeda and condemning the September 11 attacks.
The publisher of the magazine Al-Talib (The Student), al-Walid wrote poetry that attracted the attention of Osama bin Laden, and was invited to give spiritual lectures to mujahideen at Afghan training camps. Some time in late 2000 or early 2001, bin Laden was videotaped reciting al-Walid's poem "Thoughts Over al-Aqsa Intifadah".
It was later suggested that he had traveled to Iraq in early 1998 in an attempt to meet with Saddam Hussein, but was turned away as the leader did not want to create problems for his country. The United States considered him a person of interest following the 1998 embassy bombings.
Later in 1998, the United States learned al-Walid was staying in Room 13 at the Dana Hotel in Khartoum, and President Bill Clinton sought to have him killed or preferably renditioned to a friendly country for interrogation. When a plan was finally made to capture him using another country's officials, he has already left the Sudan.
In 1998, Germany began monitoring Mohamedou Ould Slahi's accounts, and it was noticed that al-Walid had asked him to spare some money twice, resulting in a DM8,000 transfer in December and one other situation in which he sent him money. In January 1999, al-Walid telephoned Slahi using a monitored satellite phone he borrowed from Bin Laden. He was initially labeled as being the same person as Slahi by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, who amended their list in June 2007 to distinguish the two people, and it was later suggested they were brothers-in-law, cousins or cousins-in-law. The confusion seemed to stem from the fact that al-Walid's wife and Slahi's wife were sisters.
Both Slahi and al-Walid worked for El-Hijra Construction and Development. In mid-2000, al-Walid was approached by Ahmed al-Nami and Mushabib al-Hamlan who asked him about becoming suicide operatives.
Ayman al-Zawahiri has credited al-Walid's book Islamic Action Between the Motives of Unit and the Advocates of Conflict as being one of the driving forces behind convincing al-Qaeda to merge with Egyptian Islamic Jihad in June 2001. On April 11, 2011, Mauritania armed forces announced they had successfully extradited al-Walid from Iran and placed him under arrest. al-Walid's family confirmed the report of his capture and announced they it was better for him to be in Mauritanian custody rather than Iranian.
"War on Terror"
In November 2001, al-Walid became only the second al-Qaeda leader to give a public interview, in which he agreed with Osama bin Laden's earlier comments stating that the terrorist organization was not responsible for the September 11th attacks. However, he said that other Islamic scholars had justified the attacks: "many clerics have issued clear religious rulings [in this matter] and explained them by means of the Koran and the Sunnah, and with the words of the clerics of the [Islamic] nation, and have proved that if this act was carried out by Mujahedeen Muslims, then it was an unblemished act of Jihad."
It is believed that the American invasion of Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks by Bin Laden actually drove al-Walid away from al-Qaeda, and that he and a number of other discontent former members moved to the south to avoid connection with the ongoing fight.
The United States accused him of entering Iraq again in an attempt to get Hussein to negotiate, but state that he was rebuffed in identical terms as his first visit. He was reported killed twice, the second time following a January 8, 2002 airstrike in Zawar Kili, outside of Khost.
When Shadi Abdellah was arrested in 2002, he cooperated with authorities, but suggested that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden were not as closely linked as previously believed, in large part because al-Zarqawi disagreed with many of the sentiments put forward by al-Walid for al-Qaeda.
By mid-2002, media in Thailand suggested that al-Walid, Abu Zubaydah and Saif al-Adl had traveled to North Africa as part of their exodus from al-Qaeda, while American media suggested the three were in Mashhad, Iran. Nevertheless, al-Zawahiri continues to speak positively of the role al-Walid played in encouraging Pan-Islamic peace and cooperation.
Media in Gambia suggested he returned to Mauritania in 2006 to set up a militant group. However, the Magharebia news website believed he was killed in a Pakistan airstrike. Libyan Islamist Nomam Benotman also indicated in a letter to Bin Laden that he, al-Walid and Al Qaeda security official Abu Muhammad al-Zayat opposed the 9/11 attacks.
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