Al Qaeda Gathers for New Terror Onslaught

A freshly-carved hole in an underground passageway next to the US embassy on Via Veneto in Rome was one of several ominous signals that the al Qaeda terror network has resumed its terror offensive against the US and Europe.
According to debkafile ‘s intelligence sources, counter-terror authorities have been on the lookout in the last two weeks for an unknown number of terrorist squads known to be on their way to West Europe and the Middle East from bases in Iran, Yemen, Pakistan and the CentralAsianFerghanaValley. Their routes west took them through Turkey.
At the end of January, two top terror masters dropped out of sight at the same time: Imad Mughniyeh, the Iranian-Lebanese arch-terrorist who is one of bin Laden’s top operations officers, was reported to have passed through the Lebanese Beqaa Valley and disappeared; and Shamil Basayev, the Chechen operative who liaises between the rebel movement and bin Laden’s group, left Chechnya for an unknown destination.
Both have long records as organizers, planners and innovators of large-scale terror plots in the name of radical Islam. Their disappearance triggered alarums in both sides of the Atlantic.
Saturday, February 23, in Lakewood, Colorado, the FBI went on the alert after sensitive information about roads at Hoover Dam – an engineer’s identification badge and computer hard drives – was stolen from a Federal Highway Administration Office. Situated thirty miles east of Las Vegas, Hoover Dam is the largest man-made reservoir in America.
The hole found near the embassy in Rome confirmed the direst fears of the FBI and Italian police working together of an al Qaeda plot to launch a chemical attack on the city, focusing on the centrally-located US embassy.
The potential assault was apparently aborted by the arrest in Rome last Tuesday, February 19, of four Moroccan men, members of the extremist Algerian Islamic Armed Group – GIA, associated with al Qaeda. Found in their possession were 4 kilos of cyanide, 10 kilos of explosives, maps of the water, electric and gas networks around the US embassy building and 100 false identity papers.
At first, Italian officials claimed the cyanide was harmless. Later, it transpired that an explosion turning the cyanide compound into a toxic gaseous cloud would have caused many deaths – first in the US embassy, then spreading through the tunnels under the center of Rome. The Moroccan cell numbered altogether seven suspects. Three, in addition to the four arrested, were originally charged with possession of forged identity papers. When the Rome police sought to increase the charges to include association with terrorist groups, two of the three suspects were found to have flown. One was picked up in an intensive search; the second is still missing.
Italy is especially susceptible to terror strikes. Since September 11, 20 people have been arrested on suspicion of having links with Islamic terrorist groups. According to US investigators, Milan’s Islamic culture center is al Qaeda’s main logistics base in Europe. Surveillance of the four Moroccans arrested last week revealed connections to four Tunisians, fellow members of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, which operates outside Algeria on behalf of al Qaeda. These Tunisians were sentenced in Milan Friday, February 22, to five years in jail on terror-related charges – criminal association for trafficking in arms, explosives and chemicals as well as forging identity papers.
One of the four, Essid Sami Ben Khemais, who is the suspected leader of the al Qaeda’s European network, was involved in a previous failed bombing of the US embassy in Rome in 2001.
The trial was closed to the media and public. But the Milan police released evidence of a far-flung terror conspiracy: transcripts with references to attacks in Europe, gathered as part of a joint Italian-German investigation before the September 11 attack.

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