In times of tight security and intelligence surveillance over world air travel, the organizers of the new jihad were faced with the problem of moving many thousands of recruits between training centers and their home countries to set up new terror networks.
In the 1950s, before the Arab and Islamic terror became rampant, Gemal Abdel Nasser fomented coups to “unite” the Arab world under his leadership. For the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden had the use of international airlines to import recruits who flew on tickets or chartered planes paid for from deep American and Saudi pockets.
In 2005, with no sponsor to pay for the tickets and no way of passing the recruits through security screens to their destinations unnoticed, al Qaeda’s organizers hit on an ingenious plan: to hitchhike on the mass pilgrimage to Mecca.
Many millions stream to the Saudi shrines throughout the year from all corners of the globe to perform the injunction for every Muslim at least once in his lifetime. DEBKA-Net–Weekly‘s counter terror sources reveal that al Qaeda has made the hajj the backbone of its recruiting machine. The process starts at the medressas, universities and sports clubs in various countries, where al Qaeda operatives gently prod young men to make the hajj. Their journeys are paid for by the many Muslim charities. Little do the young pilgrims know that their names, places of origin and the identities of the groups that send them on the pilgrimage are meticulously transferred in code by Internet to al Qaeda’s recruiting agents who are planted in the Saudi hajj bureaucracy.
Can any intelligence body keep track of the human river in Mecca?
No counter-terror intelligence agency in the world is capable of keeping track of all the millions of pilgrims, registering all their names, addresses and communities as they enter and depart Mecca. Many of the flights, ships and busses carrying the masses to Saudi Arabia are chartered from thousands of small firms that spring up ahead of the hajj and then disappear. They are required to submit passenger lists to the Saudi authorities, but no one checks to see if the lists represent the real number of passengers of if their names are genuine.
While performing the rites in Mecca and Medina, this vast mass of humanity is constantly on the move from station to station, all garbed in the same two white cloths and living in tent cities unobserved by any official eye. The ceremonies take place in an atmosphere of extreme religious exhilaration, which generates the perfect ambience for al Qaeda’s recruiting agents.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources report that some of the new recruits never return home to their families or studies. They go straight to Iraq. Others are sent to medressas used as fronts for training facilities, in North Africa, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and some of the Gulf emirates.
In the early months of 2005, the flow of volunteers remaining in Saudi Arabia or shipped overseas for military training was counted in hundreds, whereas now the flow has swelled to many thousands. Some of the medressas complain they are full up. Young Muslims are kept hanging about in Mecca for weeks for the signal to move and the tickets and funds to take them to their destination.
A glut of suicide bombers in Iraq
Even in Iraq, Zarqawi is suffering from a manpower glut, according to DEBKA-Net–Weekly’s counter-terror sources. This influx of fresh fighting men to his ranks has enabled the head of al Qaeda’s Iraq wing to move ahead on three planes:
- To expand the area under his control in western Iraq’s Anbar province.
- To enlarge his pool of suicide bombers. The new recruits are eager for self-sacrifice and inexperienced. The suicide bomber requires little special training and his commanders therefore deem the eager new batches of fighters more expendable than seasoned fighters.
- To increase the number of trained terrorist operatives he is exporting from Iraq to new arenas and replace them with the new intake.
Thus, Saudi Arabia finds itself willy-nilly becoming for the third time in the last decade a central recruiting ground for al Qaeda and its main depot for the dispatch of fresh new fighters to join the Jordanian terrorist’s forces. Neither the Saudis nor any other force is capable of stemming this flow.
This expanding terrorist conscription apparatus demands large sums of money to sustain it and a quick system of monetary transfer from place to place. Because these days Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf emirates scrupulously supervise their official and halawa banking systems, al Qaeda has gone farther afield and uses the services of an Indian halawa network to transfer the funds needed to activate its new recruits.
This way, the movement of funds escapes they eyes of Western and Arab intelligence services.
Our sources report the Indian halawa network was first exposed as a source of terrorist funding by the London blast on July 7 in which 56 people were killed and 700 injured. Al Qaeda was seen to have enlisted India’s vastness to mask its money route, just as it exploits the vast masses of pilgrims in Saudi Arabia to conceal its conscription machine.
Earlier this month, when President George W. Bush received India prime minister Manmohan Singh to discuss their advancing strategic and nuclear collaboration, neither took notice of the burgeoning money route that is now pivotal to al Qaeda’s latest terror and Iraq offensives.