Al Qaeda Goes Regional: Basra, Riyadh Bomb Blasts Coordinated with Thwarted Chemical Strike in Amman

The horrifying homicide bomb blasts that hit four police facilities and two school buses in the British-controlled south Iraqi port of Basra and the Saudi General Security building in Riyadh on Wednesday, April 21 were part of a wider al Qaeda plot. In Basra, many children were among the 68 killed and hundreds injured, 5 of them British soldiers. From Riyadh, there are no official figures. Most reports speak of 9 to 12 killed and 125 injured. The combined death toll cannot be far short of 100.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources reveal that for the first time since the September 11 attacks in the United States, Osama bin Laden’s network is operating on a regional scale. Its original plot included Amman and the Adam border crossing from Jordan into Israel and the West Bank. These two targets were singled out for al Qaeda’s first chemical attack, which Jordanian security authorities foiled earlier this month when they intercepted one of the pickups loaded with explosives and poison gas containers after it crossed in from Syria. That capture led to more team members being apprehended.
In Amman, government buildings, a luxury hotel, the US embassy and thousands of lives were saved. The second part of the hit-team was to have attempted to cross into Israel through the Adam terminal. If it failed to pass through, the suicide terrorists were to blow themselves up and release the poison gas in the middle of the crowds of travelers and tourists to and from Israel that normally crowd the facility.
Jordan’s second anti-terror coup in less than a month took place almost unnoticed on Tuesday, April 20. A tip-off led security forces to a villa in the swank Upper Hashemi district of Amman. Three occupants opened fire on the officers and were shot dead. The bare facts of this incident were disclosed, describing one of the three terrorists as Jordanian and the other two as foreigners. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources reveal exclusively first that not all the suspects were killed; between five and seven were captured, and second they were Iraqi guerrilla fighters.
This is the first time Iraqi insurgents have been captured outside their country on a suicide mission for al Qaeda.
If this discovery were not chilling enough, the information Jordanian interrogators gained from their Iraqi captives set alarm bells jangling in Washington, Jerusalem, Amman and every Western capital alive to the threat of non-conventional, multiple-casualty terrorism.
What they learned was:
1. The cell captured Tuesday belonged to the team that entered Jordan from Syria three weeks ago with three booby-trapped trucks loaded with explosives and poison gas containers. King Abdullah and his intelligence chief General Kheir estimated that their cargoes were sufficient to massacre 20,000 human beings.
2. The multiple strikes in Amman were planned for Wednesday, April 21, to coincide with the Basra and Riyadh bombings. But that was not all.
3. At the same time, toxic gas attacks were plotted for Israel or the Adam border terminal. There is no certainty that one last death truck is not still at large.
4. The most disturbing discovery for the Americans and Israel was al Qaeda’s new division of labor revealed by the chemical bomb team. It showed the network had departed from the methods familiar to US, Jordanian and Israeli intelligence. The terrorists who drove the trucks across the border from Syria into Jordan were not suicide bombers. Their job was to deliver the trucks to the Iraqis in the villa, who would then drive them on to targets and blow them up. Asked where they got their orders, the Iraqis replied from Saudi Arabia.
Instead of operating on a local scale with the help of local terrorist affiliates, Osama bin Laden’s network is for the first time striking simultaneously in a number of different countries using imported operatives. Their orders and tactics are dictated from inside Saudi Arabia; the technology, bomb cars and non-conventional substances rigged in Syria; the homicide teams, Iraqis. This new mode of operation extends the area of the Iraq conflict into other Middle East countries, including Israel, and provides the fundamentalists with a broad, regional war theatre.

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