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Friday, Mar. 14, 2003 at 11:29 PM
Sabah Khodada was a captain in the Iraqi army from 1982 to 1992. He worked at what he describes as a highly secret terrorist training camp at Salman Pak (see Khodada‘s hand-drawn map of the camp), an area south of Baghdad. In this translated interview, conducted in association with The New York Times on Oct. 14, 2001, Khodada describes what went on at Salman Pak, including details on training hijackers. He emigrated to the U.S. in May 2001
Question: You say that this is a secret camp. But what was it like? Was it something you drove by and could see on the highway? Did you need special clearance to go there? How would you describe this place, this location?
Answer: If you‘re driving on those farm roads, you could probably see the edges of the camp, but you wouldn‘t realize this is a special camp. The camp is huge. And the locations for the training are far from anybody can see them from the outside. But even when we have visitors, even at the level of a minister, or even higher than a minister in the Iraqi government, they will have to drive around the camp or be driven in the camp inside very specific type of a vehicle. They will sit on the back seat, for example, of this vehicle and they would have ... in addition to the shaded windows, they will have to pull down curtains and they snap those curtains on the bottom, to make sure nobody can see anything outside this vehicle while they‘re driven around.
Question: This is even government officials [who] are not allowed to see this kind of training?
Answer: Yes. At the very highest level, they cannot see this training.
Question: What kind of training went on, and who was being trained?
Answer: Training is majorly on terrorism. They would be trained on assassinations, kidnapping, hijacking of airplanes, hijacking of buses, public buses, hijacking of trains and all other kinds of operations related to terrorism.
Question: The people being trained were Iraqis in one group, and non-Iraqis, or foreign nationals, in another?
Answer: Non-Iraqis were trained separately from us. There were strict orders not to meet with them and not to talk to them. And even when they conduct their training, their training has to occur at times different from the times when we conduct the Iraqis our own training.
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