In two of three attacks this week – in Casablanca, Algiers and Baghdad – al Qaeda’s suicide bombers passed through batteries of security, fences, checkpoints and scanners and planted death deep inside well-fortified seats of government.
Explosions were detonated in the Iraqi parliament cafeteria inside the Baghdad government compound known as the Green Zone and the entrance of the Algerian prime minister’s office.
In Baghdad, at least eight people were killed, including two Iraqi lawmakers. Suspicion quickly fell on the bodyguard of a Sunni deputy as the suicide bomber.
Common to all three bombing attacks were ominous advance signals that al Qaeda had penetrated key security systems and was heading out to pile violence on violence.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources’ timeline shows how some of these events unfolded in Algeria.
Wednesday, April 11, two suicide bombers killed 30 people and injured more than 220 at the prime minister’s office and international airport in Algiers.
Prior to this attack –
March 12, the US embassy in the Algerian capital issued a warning that the al Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb, formerly known as the dreaded Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) was planning to attack airliners carrying Western passengers.
In the second half of March, the same group successfully conducted attacks in Algier's most secure suburbs.
Fierce gunfights then erupted east of the capital causing main highways to be blocked.
Tuesday, April 10, for the tenth day running, national route 75 between Amizour and Bejaia remained closed and traffic on national route 12 linking Bejaia and El Kseur was severely snarled as a result of these battles.
Al Qaeda’s Maghreb leader Abdel Malek Droukdal then ordered Wednesday’s deadly strike in central Algiers.
The security situation in Morocco is marginally better than in Algeria. However, the running fights between government authorities and the local Al Qaeda Maghreb Commandment are getting worse.
Ousted from Anbar, Al Qaeda activates double agents in the Green Zone
Wednesday, April 11, three suicide bombers blew themselves up and three more were shot dead from government helicopters chasing them through the alleys of Casablanca, evidence of the Islamist group’s new offensive in Moroccan cities.
At the beginning of the week, Moroccan security agencies were warned of 12 al Qaeda suicide bombers on their way to a series of coordinated strikes in Casablanca’s crowd centers. They set out in pursuit, in which half of the group died and the rest are still sought.
The situation in Iraq is the gravest.
In recent weeks, Al Qaeda forces were finally pulled out of their long-held strongholds in the western Iraqi Anbar province; they regrouped in Diyala province in the east. The jihadists were put to flight by the local Sunni Arab tribes, whose chiefs had been enlisted by American and Iraqi commanders for this objective. They also managed to alienate Iraqi Sunni insurgent chiefs, such as the Islamic Army and the 1920 Revolution Brigades and, finally, al Qaeda’s grip on the city of Baghdad was dislodged by the concentrated US-Iraqi joint offensive to flush them out of the capital.
Even in the face of these major setbacks, al Qaeda was able to intensify the violence of its attacks and double their number by the extensive use of bomb cars and trucks.
Thursday morning, April 12, hours before the explosion in parliament, al Qaeda blew up one of the arterial bridges over the Tigris River, al-Sarafiya, which connected the two halves of Baghdad. At least 10 people were killed on the spot, but more were drowned when their vehicles tumbled into the river.
Al Qaeda earlier resorted to chemical warfare against Iraqi civilians, by blowing up trucks carrying canisters of chlorine gas; their choking fumes killed dozens and sent hundreds to hospital.
The US Iraqi command was braced for al Qaeda to follow up its “successes” with toxic environmental terrorist attacks with the bombing of oil pipelines, installations or even oil wells. Thousands of American and Iraq troops had therefore been diverted from Baghdad security tasks and fanned out to guard the oil regions.
Thursday afternoon, April 12, the jihadists struck Iraqi parliament.
This attack demonstrated the depth of al Qaeda’s penetration of the innermost heart of Iraq’s political, security and parliamentary life.
DEBKA-net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources report that US intelligence experts have known from the beginning of this year that al Qaeda had planted double agents, would-be suicide bombers and components of high-powered explosive devices deep inside the Green Zone, seat of most of Iraq’s government ministries, the US high command and foreign embassies. They realized that it was only a matter of time before one of these agents assembled a bomb or an explosive vest and used it.
Tuesday, April 10, two days before the deadly blast, two bomb belts were found in a parliament building.
A western security official told DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources after the attack: “Al Qaeda comes and goes in Baghdad and enters its most sensitive locations with far greater ease than it does in Kabul.”