Egyptian Businessman Yasser Salem Followed Al-Qaradhawi Fatwa, Sponsored Algerians to Go Fight Coalition Forces in Iraq

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Special Dispatch Series – No. 1824

January 24, 2008

No. 1824

Egyptian Businessman Yasser Salem Followed Al-Qaradhawi Fatwa, Sponsored Algerians to Go Fight Coalition Forces in Iraq

The following are excerpts from a report on Yasser Salem, an Egyptian businessman involved in financing Algerian jihadists. The report aired on Al-Arbiya TV on January 4, 2007:

To view this clip on MEMRI TV visit:

To view Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi’s MEMRI TV page, visit:

Presenter: “Yasser Salem is an Egyptian citizen who has been living in Algeria for more than 13 years. He is a well-off 45-year-old man who sells medical equipment. He has never faced any security charges, and was never involved in political activity in Egypt, which he left more than 20 years ago for Libya, and later for Algeria, where he got married. Then he got involved in this affair. Our correspondent in Algeria, Ahmad Harzallah, interviewed a man who had connections to Yasser Salem. He spoke with amazing frankness about the activity of Yasser Salem, who sponsored young Algerians and recruited them to the extremist groups.”


Elias, friend of Yasser Salem: “It all began in 2001. I was one of the people who were active and knew other people in the mosque. He would come pray in the mosque, sit in a corner, and observe the people. He chose me, out of several people. He contacted us in order to evaluate our importance, and to use us as links to others, whom he would recruit for the operations.


“We started talking about jihad, and nothing else: about the Muslims in Iraq, Kashmir, Burma, the former Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Somalia. We talked about things. I did the talking, and he just listened. He asked me what I thought about various things. Then he asked me what I thought about the jihad in Algeria. I told him that personally, I didn’t think there should be jihad in Algeria – from a strategic, not religious, perspective. From a strategic perspective, I don’t think there should be jihad in Algeria because people are wasting their time. They are failures. It would be better if they laid down their weapons.

“He was very impressed by my views. To be honest, I didn’t come up with anything of what I told him. I had read it all beforehand on the Internet. His problem was that he was not up to date. I had an advantage over him because I was on top of things. I kept telling him things I had read on the Internet, and he was dazzled by my abundance of knowledge.”

Interviewer: “So this was all a scam attempt?”

Elias: “Why an attempt? It was a complete scam. To be honest, this was something new for me. I wanted to know how… Being adventurous, I wanted to go on this adventure, and see where it would take me. To be honest, I did not take it seriously. I thought that this man had nothing better to do. I thought he was trying to make fun of me, and I would outdo him, and we would see where this would take us.”


Interviewer: “Did he really recruit Algerians to fight in Iraq?”

Elias: “I am getting to that. I reached an understanding with brother Yasser. I said to him: ‘I must know about everything you do, and vice versa. If I arrange a meeting with anyone, I will tell you, and if you arrange a meeting, you will let me know. After all, we are working together. You like me, and I like you. Fine. You have the money, and I have the ideas. We can start a business with Allah, but we must be honest with each other. I will consider anything you do behind my back to be a betrayal, and in such a case, we will dissolve our partnership. If necessary, I will dissolve the partnership by killing you.’ This was an explicit threat: ‘If you get me in trouble with the security agencies, I will dissolve our partnership by killing you.’ He agreed in the beginning, but later, he started doing things behind my back. Among other things, he recruited people, or to be precise, he sponsored people who went to Iraq.”


Yasser Salem’s lawyer, Mutasir Al-Zayyat: “The story of Yasser Salem is like that of any young religious Arab or Muslim, who is emotionally affected by the media reports on what is going on in Iraq and Palestine. These young men are influenced by the media and by the fatwas of the clerics. Yasser Salem told me more than once that he was extremely influenced by Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, who called to donate money for the sake of Allah. He said: ‘I responded to the fatwa of Al-Qaradhawi, and donated money for the sake of Allah.’ Some Algerian guys asked him to help them go to Iraq, in order to defend Iraq, in order to wage jihad in Iraq. Yasser is accused of helping five Algerians, by giving them tickets and $100 each.”


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