While the Bush administrations prepares a troop buildup in Iraq, al Qaeda is engaged in the elaborate logistic process of shifting 1,000-1,200 terror combatants out of Iraq and getting them ready to fight on new warfronts. Everything is done in total secrecy. The terrorists are first repatriated to their countries of origin and provided with new passports and identities, before going on to join networks in Europe and the Middle East.
Reporting exclusively on these surreptitious movements DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Al Qaeda and counter-terror experts estimate that the terror group has already kicked off its new offensive. The coordinated bomb blasts on three London Tube trains and a bus on July 7 was one of its initial strikes – although not the only one – and there are more are to come.
Our experts also name the targeted countries:
Europe: Britain, Italy, France, Denmark, Russia – with the UK and Italy at the top of the list.
The Middle East: Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel – with the Jewish state heading the list after Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
At least two major attacks already carried out herald the new terror offensive:
London Blasts, July 7
This atrocity did not come out of the blue, as British home secretary Charles Clark claimed. It followed a scenario that should have been predicted. French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy drew heated denials from Clark when he let the cat out of the bag Wednesday, July 13: “It seems that part of this team (of suicide bombers) had been subject to partial arrest… in spring 2004,” the French minister said, adding that Clark was keen to let the men go free so they could be monitored.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources explain why Sarkozy’s remark was so uncomfortably close to home. The British security authorities had established a secret armistice with the jihadist Muhajiroun networks, one of al Qaeda’s operational branches in Europe. In exchange for letting some of its radicals go free, the radical Muslim group undertook not to carry out terrorist attacks in the UK. This deal held up until orders came from the higher al Qaeda command. They then reneged on their agreement with British security without warning and launched the first suicide operation in Europe on July 7.
Damascus Massacre, July 4
The Syrian authorities have never released any figures or details of this attack. Scores are believed to have died and hundreds injured, including holidaymakers from Gulf Arab states, when a busload of armed men opened fire on the teeming cafes and restaurants of the Mount Qassioun resort overlooking the Syrian capital. DEBKA-Net-Weekly reveals here for the first time that it was the work of a Jordanian crime mob known as the Semadi Gang. They were aided by several al Qaeda adherents who were resting in Syria from their terrorist activity in Iraq.
Our counter-terror experts describe the Mount Qassioun attack as a landmark in al Qaeda methods as well as marking the onset of its Middle East offensive.
Muhammed Sharif Semadi who planned the operation has a lurid past. He spent time in a Jordanian prison where he got together with inmates associated with al Qaeda. After his release, he took his mob to Iraq and joined up with a fellow Jordanian, the master terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The head of al Qaeda’s Iraq wing was persuaded to introduce a new angle to his operation: to press Jordanian criminal elements into service for the first time as terrorists. This influx would boost the terrorist network’s ranks while making use of the gang’s far-flung connections with crooks across the Middle East and Europe.
This experiment work so well, that DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror experts find three more large Jordanian crime outfits employed by Zarqawi.
One is the Jerabiya Gang, which based in the south Jordanian town of Maan, a notorious stronghold of Muslim extremists. Another is the Mustafa Abu Roman Gang from Salt and a third is a mixed Palestinian-Jordanian group called the Kuwait Returnees, which engages in criminal activities to support adherents, but whose basic philosophy is religious and extremist.
Most of its members are Palestinians deported from Kuwait in 1992 after the Gulf War for collaborating with Saddam Hussein. One sub-faction calls itself “Disappointed with the Palestinian Revolution” and is dedicated to overthrowing Mahmoud Abbas. The military commander of this gang is called Abu Anas al-Shemi. Its spiritual mentor is Abu Muhammed al Maqdasi, who is also Zarqawi’s own spiritual guide. But the two have fallen out (as reported in a separate article in this issue.)
Ambitious attack in Jordan this week – foiled
This was to have been Zarqawi’s crowning venture. The scheme had four parts: One, to blow up the Iraqi-Jordanian oil pipeline from Kirkuk to Zarqa; two, to torch the hundreds of American and Jordan tanker trucks waiting outside Jordanian pumping stations including H4. The Jordanian-Iraqi border terminals were to have been attacked at the same time and the villages around the terminals and oil pipeline set on fire.
Four would have emanated from the first three: the cutoff of the main energy lifeline from Jordan to the US army in Iraq and Baghdad.
Jordanian intelligence got wind of the danger in time and aborted the multiple attacks.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s anti-terror sources reports that Zarqawi placed one of his lieutenants, Abu Abd al Raham al-Afghani in charge of this operation. His real name is believed to be Ismail Abu Awda. The man on the ground in Jordan was to have been Fahd Faiqi, a Saudi Arabian aged 26, who lives in Jordan and acts as Zarqawi’s main contact with Jordanian crime gangs.
Jordan and Syria in al Qaeda’s sights
It was not the only success chalked up by Jordan’s intelligence services. However, the information elicited from the dozens of detained members of Zarqawi’s networks and the frequency of the major attacks thwarted – an average of one every three or four weeks – shed a sinister light on the Jordanian master terrorist’s intentions.
He and al Qaeda are edging the focus of their operations out of Iraq into new arenas. Jordan is high on their list of targets.
The extensive operational network al Qaeda and its top-flight operations chief have laid down in Jordan is matched in Syria. This organization, according to our sources, goes under the name of The Organization of Syrian Fighters” (Tanzim Jund al Shem). Many of its Syrian members fought in Afghanistan in the late 1980s and early 1990s and have joined the terror war against US forces in Iraq.
Al Qaeda-Syria has two commanders: Abu Rida al Shemi, a Syrian extremist close to Zarqawi. He was falsely reported killed in battle in the west Iraqi Anbar Province; and Abu Huzeifa, about whom nothing is known.
All Qaeda’s Syrian logistical infrastructure depends largely on pacts its Iraq commander struck with elements of the two Iraqi tribes, the Rawi and the Dulaim, which straddle the two countries and whose sub-groups are scattered around the Middle East.
The next two articles will explore two central issues:
1. Faced with the formidable and relentless US military effort in Iraq, where does al Qaeda find the additional resources for operations in other parts of the Middle East?
2. How do the Middle East networks tie in with the European wings and the bombing attacks in London?