On April 13, 2005, Kamel Bourgass was convicted of a plot to spread ricin and other poisons on the streets of Britain, but eight other men were cleared. When police raided a seedy flat in a north London suburb on January 5, 2003, they thought they had discovered a factory producing the deadly poison ricin for an Islamic terror gang. Castor oil beans from which ricin is made and equipment and containers for crushing the beans were found at the flat. The plot was quickly tied in with al Qaeda, especially when a police officer was stabbed to death during a raid on another flat in Manchester a few days later.
In February 2003, the then US secretary of state, Colin Powell, spoke to journalists about the al Qaeda threat and said: “When the British unearthed a cell there just last month, one British police officer was murdered during the disruption of the cell.”
Two years later, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources publish the sequel of this episode.
Iyad Said Salah, a Palestinian from the northern Sinai town of El Arish, who headed the Sinai al Qaeda cell, was shot dead by Egyptian forces last April in the central Sinai mountains.
We can report exclusively that anti-terror agencies are taking a hard look at the late Salah, having come to suspect that he was the source of the castor oil beans found in London. Tracking down this source will solve the mystery which has long baffled Western intelligence as to the origin of the large quantities of ricin poison American forces found in sacks in Afghanistan caves in 2001, two years before the poison turned up in London.
It was only when the July Sharm-el-Sheikh bombing attacks were probed, that it was discovered that Said Salah had for the past five years owned and managed a castor oil farm in El Arish.
This farm was used as a command center and sanctuary for al Qaeda commanders in Sinai. According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources, the farmhands were all recruited to al Qaeda and all committed to joining its terror operations.
This information was passed to the Egyptian security authorities who used it to break the gatekeeper of the farm and make him talk. He accordingly described how his late master had ascertained that all his hired hands were Palestinians and Bedouin belonging to northern Sinai tribes – never from the south. After the Taba attacks last October, they were safe because the Egyptian probe focused on the tribes of southern Sinai.
Since the farm never kept a record of its shipments, it is practically impossible to determine their destinations. Investigators are trying to find out now who put up the money for Salah to buy the farm and pay wages to 20 farmhands.
One of their discoveries is that the dead al Qaeda cell leader was of Algerian descent and an al Qaeda high-up who acted as a connecting hub between al Qaeda networks in Iraq, Egypt and Sinai and linked them to the organization’s cells in North Africa and Europe.
Investigators are now trying to pin down his connections with gangs of smugglers in Sinai and find out how he shipped the castor oil beans to al Qaeda networks in Europe and other parts of the world.