Saturday, February 8, 2014
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — An Iraqi man convicted of trying to ship arms and cash to Al-Qaida in Iraq doesn't consider himself a terrorist for his time battling U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Instead, he compares himself to the Americans who fought for independence from British colonial rule in the 1770s.
In a letter to The Associated Press, Waad Ramandan Alwan, 33, also lashes out at President George W. Bush, who organized the multinational coalition that invaded Iraq in 2003 to oust Saddam Hussein.
"There is a resistance in Iraq; they are not rebellions," Alwan wrote from a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. "If what happened in Iraq had happened in America you would have done what I did in resisting the conquest."
Alwan, who prosecutors described as an experienced terrorist, is serving a 40-year prison sentence. He and 26-year-old Mohanad Shareef Hammadi pleaded guilty in 2011 and 2012 to taking part in a plot to ship thousands of dollars in cash, machine guns, rifles, grenades and shoulder-fired missiles from Bowling Green, Ky., to al-Qaida in Iraq in 2010 and 2011. The pair was working with an FBI informant who squelched their plans and affected their arrests.
Hammadi is serving a life sentence at a maximum security prison in Florence, Colo. Hammadi did not respond to multiple letters from The Associated Press.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Louisville and Alwan's public defender each declined to comment on the letter.
The letter, written in Arabic and translated into English, marked the first time Alwan has communicated publicly since his arrest.
The letter was in response to an interview request by the AP. Alwan declined to answer specific questions about his activities in Kentucky, saying to do so would put him in danger.
"I confessed that I am guilty because I worked with the Iraqi resistance in Iraq," Alwan wrote.
Prosecutors said Alwan worked with the Mujahidin Shura Council, a violent group that claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, torture and deaths of two soldiers with the Fort Campbell-based 101st Airborne Division and the death of a third soldier from the same unit while they were patrolling about 60 miles south of Baghdad in June 2006.
Prosecutors linked Hammadi to Jaish al Mujahidin, also known as the Mujahidin Army, a group that claimed responsibility for shooting down American helicopters in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.
Alwan and Hammadi arrived in the United States in 2009. Both were admitted as refugees under a program to resettle Iraqis displaced by the war. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services lists 84,902 people admitted to the country as of April 30, 2013, the last figures available. Alwan said the federal government sent him to Bowling Green — it wasn't a city he chose.
Federal investigators became aware of Alwan after realizing he had been held in an Iraqi prison. Later, investigators linked Alwan's fingerprints to a previously unidentified print found on an unexploded IED found near Bayji, Iraq, in 2006.
Both admitted to the FBI that they took part in insurgent activities in Iraq in 2005 and 2006. Prosecutors said federal authorities became aware of Alwan when they found out he had been held in an Iraqi prison in June 2006 for insurgent activities.
Alwan's letter meanders at times from the conditions of his solitary confinement in prison where he spends time reading the Quran to his hopes of one day returning to family in Iraq to anger over the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of his home country.
At times, Alwan expresses his regret at taking part in the arms to Iraq scheme and violent resistance to U.S. troops in Iraq. Other times, Alwan lashes out at Bush, whom he says "destroyed the Iraqi people worse than Saddam did."
"The soldiers are not liberationist but rather destruction forces," Alwan said. "It is not only me, but all Iraqis look at them as conquests."
Alwan said he is being held in segregation and out of the prison's general population as he awaits a transfer to another maximum security facility. The confinement leaves him cut off from his family in Iraq, contact with other inmates and any visitors.
"I do not have any freedom," Alwan said. "I am just like an animal in a cage."
Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Edmund Ross declined to speak about the terms of Alwan's confinement. Speaking generally about inmates held in isolation, Ross said the agency will remove a prisoner from the general population for a variety of reasons, including the safety of the inmate or a pending transfer to a more secure facility. Once placed in segregation, an inmate's file is reviewed periodically, Ross said.
"It's to make sure an individual is not there any longer than they're supposed to be," Ross said.
Even though he doesn't have visitors and faces deportation to Iraq upon his release in March of 2046, Alwan is still concerned about his image.
"You and all Americans are looking at me as a terrorist, I am not a terrorist," Alwan wrote. "I am a conquest resister."
Follow Associated Press reporter Brett Barrouquere on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBarrouquereAP