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Abu Hafs the Mauritanian

Al-Qaeda Theologian

Abu Hafs the Mauritanian

LocationIran7, 10
Full Given NameMahfouz Ould al-Walid
NationalityMauritanian4, 6
Alias(es)Khalid al-Shanqiti1, 2, Mahamedou Ouid Slahi2, Abu Hafs5, Abu Hafs al Mauritani
Alias(es)Abu Hafs Mauricni3
Alternate TransliterationMahfouz Ould Walid, Mafouz Walad Al-Walid
Date of BirthJan. 1, 19751
Place of BirthMauritania4, 6
Narrative and Notes
  • Abu Hafs the Mauritanian has been ascribed several roles within al-Qaeda: spiritual leader, legal scholar and operations planner. His assets were frozen by the U.S. government shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.
  • He gave an interview to al-Jazeera's Kandahar, Afghanistan, correspondent, on Nov. 30, 2001. He denied al-Qaeda responsibility for the attacks but praised them all the same, and predicted the destruction of the United States. Asked about al-Qaeda's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons capabilities, he responded, 'if such a weapon is at Al-Qaeda's disposal, then it is a deterrent weapon, and not for initiating an action. Let the Americans fear the worst possible scenario when they use any unconventional weapons. We are lying in wait for them, Allah willing.' 1,6,7
  • He may have opposed the Sept. 11 attacks within al-Qaeda, although he gives only praise for the strikes during his al-Jazeera interview a few months later. Three detainees, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and two unidentified prisoners, said Abu Hafs opposed the strikes and even wrote a letter to bin Laden, citing the Koran, to this effect. The interrogations of these detainees took place in 2003 and 2004.9
  • In May 2003, American officials said they were uncertain of Abu Hafs' whereabouts. His last reported location at that time had been Iran. Iran denies providing any refuge to al-Qaeda leaders.
  • Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said 'the principal cooperating witness in the 1998 embassy bombings' -- presumably Jamal al-Fadl or Mohamed Odeh -- told investigators Abu Hafs the Mauritanian advocated an al-Qaeda alliance with Iraq, presumably sometime in the 1990s.
  • Wolfowitz said a former Iraqi ambassador to Sudan confirmed this. Wolfowitz further alleged Abu Hafs made a secret trip to Iraq but said he did not know what happened. He suggested but did not say outright that Abu Hafs met with Iraqi intelligence.
  • Abu Hafs may be connected to Ahmed Ressam, convicted for plotting to blow up Los Angeles International Airport around New Year's Day, 2000. He possibly served as bin Laden's chief in Sudan. Also possibly tied to East Africa embassy bombings in 1998.10,11
  • American officials reported Abu Hafs was killed on Jan. 8, 2002, by a U.S. airstrike at Zawar Kili. Some months later, they contradicted this, saying he was alive and believed to be in Iran.8
    1 President Bush's Executive Order 13224, Sept. 23, 2001.
    2 U.N. Press Release AFG/150, Oct. 8, 2001.
    3 L'Houssaine Khertchou, USA v. bin Laden et al transcripts, Day 8. AKA is author's speculation based on similarity in names.
    4 Presumed from name
    5 Finnish suspects list issued after Sept. 11, 2001.
    6 Interview given by Abu Hafs to al-Jazeera, Nov. 30, 2001.
    7 Lumpkin, John J. 'Reports: al-Qaeda Operating in Iran.' Associated Press: Aug. 28, 2002.
    8 Graham, Bradley and Edward Cody. 'U.S. captures, questions two senior al-Qaeda fighters.' Washington Post: Jan. 8, 2002.
    9 The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 251-2, and chapter 7, footnote 183.
    10 Lumpkin, John J. 'Higher Alert Blamed on al-Qaeda in Iran.' Associated Press: May 22, 2003.
    11 Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, 'Remarks at Aspen Institute.' July 16, 2004.
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