From: Robert Stuart
Sent: Thu 17/08/2017 16:14
Subject: BBC Panorama team embedded with jihadi group co-founded by senior bin Laden courier
I have been researching the BBC Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children since it was broadcast in September 2013.
It was recently noted that a vehicle in the convoy transporting BBC reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway bore the logo of Salafist jihadi group Ahrar al-Sham. I have written about the matter, including images and full references, here.
In December 2013 The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) reported that a “leading figure” in Ahrar al-Sham (its co-founder according to Stanford University) was Abu Khalid al-Suri, real name Mohamed Bahaiah. The FDD report observes that Spanish authorities had identified Bahaiah as Osama bin Laden’s “chief courier between Europe and Afghanistan” and “think he may have delivered surveillance tapes of the World Trade Center and other American landmarks to al Qaeda’s senior leadership in Afghanistan in early 1998.”
According to Human Rights Watch Ahrar al-Sham was, along with groups including Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, one of “the key fundraisers, organizers, planners, and executors” of an attack in the Latakia countryside on 4 August 2013 in which at least 190 civilians were killed and over 200 – “the vast majority women and children” – were kidnapped. Filming for Saving Syria’s Children commenced on 23 August 2013, less than three weeks later.
Saving Syria’s Children’s credited Fixer/Translator Mughira Al Sharif, filmed at the wheel of Ian Pannell’s convoy car on 26 August 2013, described the armed men accompanying the Panorama team – presumably Ahrar al-Sham members – as “friends“. It is entirely possible that these men had participated in the mass slaughter and kidnap of civilians in Latakia twenty-two days earlier.
As my Member of Parliament, please will you ask the BBC to explain how its personnel came to be ensconced with an organisation which the corporation’s own reports describe as a “hardline Islamist” group? Was Ahrar al-Sham paid for its services with BBC licence fee payers’ money? How does the BBC justify its employment of Fixer/Translator Mughira Al Sharif, who is reported as wishing to “help bring down the Syrian regime”, has been photographed proudly bearing the standard of an armed opposition faction and has posted numerous gloating images of weaponry on social media?
Address and telephone numbers supplied
- I sent this follow-up email on 20 September 2017
- Update 3 October 2017: Emily Thornberry has now responded – her letter is reproduced below and discussed here.