Ahmed al-Darbi

darbi flip 8 copy

I met Ahmed al-Darbi on 20 September 1997 inside an al Qaeda front company in Yemen. I was an international field service technician installing new machinery and he was the maintenance mechanic of the factory building I was working in.

Five years after our meeting al-Darbi was arrested in Azerbaijan before being transfered to US custody and Guantanamo Bay military prison in August 2002. In 2014, after turning state witness, al-Darbi plead guilty to al Qaeda membership and participating in terrorist attacks. This led to his transfer to Saudi custody in 2018 where he is expected to serve a four-year sentence in a rehabilitation centre before his final release.

Details of my 1997 meetings and conversations with Mr. al-Darbi

The first task of my six day installation visit to Yemen was to unpack the shipping crate and install the machine, about 1½-days work. When I arrived at the factory on Saturday 20 September someone had already completed that first task - the complex machinery had been setup perfectly, an impressive task for anyone not familiar with it. The machine operators who I was to be training for the next few days told me the factory mechanic had set the machine up. I spoke with the mechanic just long enough to confirm that everything was correct and to compliment him on his technical ability. We weren’t formally introduced and he said very little. Although appearing pleased with my praise regarding his machine installation he didn’t linger and soon left to attend to other matters.

My next meeting with al-Darbi was on Wednesday 24 September; I’d finished training the machine operators and had asked to spend sometime with the mechanic, showing him the routine maintenance tasks and some fault finding techniques. As the operators handed over to the mechanic they introduced him as Dino, whilst laughing between themselves. The mechanic looked put-out by this and so I asked him what I should call him; he said "Call me Dino” but with more than a hint of resignation in his voice, as though accepting an insult.

I spent 2-hours alone with Dino. There was no small talk or general conversation, we spoke only of the techincal details of the machine and its maintenance. Dino displayed a very subtle, dry sense of humour and working with him was a pleasure. When the two machine operators returned the four of us chatted for a few minutes. The operators were demeaning to Dino, joking at his expense in front of me, initially about Dino’s young age - he was only 22. Dino made clear that he was "only the factory mechanic” which prompted the operators to mock him again, with the suggestion that he was low level worker. The operators highlighted that the company name YemPak was an abreviation of Yemen/Pakistan and then belittled Dino further because they were Pakistanis and Dino was not, as though that connection elevated them in some way. Dino didn’t react to this provocation but I did; I interupted the operators to tell them that from what I’d seen that week, Dino was the brightest and most technically able person in the company. I liked Dino and I was happy to stand in his defense. My interjection stopped their barracking of him and Dino took the chance to make his excuses and return to whatever he was doing.

Dino had been working in a seperate section of the factory, the brick built offices that occupied one end of the building. The offices were marked out of bounds the entire week I was there, due to installation work I’d been told and so I asked Dino what he was doing. He told me that he was installing scanning and laser etching equipment used to manufacture printing plates, kit I was familiar with and was interested in seeing. But Dino told me that it was too dangerous” for me to see, following that with an explanation of there being “wires everywhere”, an explanation that appeared to raise a smile with the operators. I thanked Dino for his time and we bid each other goodbye.

I saw Dino once more, on Friday 26 September. I was trying to get my machine acceptance forms signed before leaving for the airport and my flight home, but the customer had their own agenda that morning. I waited in the factory before being taken to another building, the main office block in the compound.

with Dino and the  

And with that Dino left

was vague about his nationality; he certainly didn’t identify himslef as Saudi to me. 

Darbi was convicted of masterminding al Qaeda's 2002 bombing of the French registered Limburg oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden. An explosive ladened dingy struck the ship, killing one crew member and spilling 90,000 barrels of oil.

Me KSM Dinoksm new master compare a

Despite very compelling circumstancial evidence Darbi  appears not to have been connected to the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden harbour 2-years earlier. 17-US sailors were killed when an explosives ladened boat struck the ship whilst it was at anchor in Aden harbour.

I can show beyond all reasonable doubt that when I met him in 1997 Darbi was already engaged with al Qaeda as a senior mechanic and technician.

I can show he was developing al Qaeda's bomb making capabilities with the Engineer (Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) inside the YemPak factory at PO Box 5302 Taiz.


1998 US Embassy Bombings
 & the Smoking Gun

© TQM 2016