Is Al Qaeda Plotting to Strike the US-England World Cup Match?
2010 FIFA World Cup Soccer Match 5 takes place between the US and British national teams at 20:30, June 12 at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa.
The event would undoubtedly be an attractive draw for many jihadist terrorist organizations. An attack would be witnessed live by a worldwide television audience and it would target not one – but two – of the leading Western powers fighting Islamist terror in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, the Middle East and Europe.
It would become the most talked-about terrorist outrage since the Palestinian Black September murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Rustenburg ("Town of Rest" in Afrikaans and Dutch), where the Royal Bafokeng Stadium is located, is a city of nearly half a million inhabitants situated at the foot of the Magaliesberg mountain range in the North West Province of South Africa, close to Phokeng. It is there that the England national football team is setting up base camp.
This too could be a possible terrorist target.
The US team' chose Irene Country Lodge, between Johannesburg and Pretoria and a twenty-five minute drive from Johannesburg International Airport, for its base camp because it offers better protection against attack than the locations chosen by the other 31 teams taking part in the tournament.
A notorious Al Qaeda mastermind surfaces
Irene Country Lodge is a lot like the Camp David US presidential retreat and has served as such for a number of South African leaders. Surrounded on three sides by forests and gardens, its façade overlooks a large lake. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's counter-terrorism sources report the site is already off-limits to guests and visitors. South African security services are guarding the grounds, while US security is responsible for the site's interior and training facilities.
Meanwhile, several Western intelligence agencies took anxious note of the release of a US report on May 13, under the caption: "Iran eases grip on Al Qaida." The report reveals how Al Qaida operatives detained in Iran for years are quietly making their way in and out of the country, suggesting that Iran is loosening its grip on the terror group to let it replenish its ranks.
What most worried the agents engaged in combating Al Qaida was the following paragraph:
"Most recently, the concern (of the U.S.) focused on Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian-born confidant of Osama bin Laden, who is on the FBI's most wanted list in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In the past year or so, intelligence officials circulated a bulletin saying al-Adel, one of al-Qaida's founding fathers, was traveling to Damascus, Syria. The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for his capture.
The Damascus connection ultimately was disproved but, underscoring the difficulty of monitoring the men, U.S. intelligence officials are divided on whether Saif has been allowed to travel in the region. The senior counterterrorism official said there's no clear evidence Saif has left Iran."
Al-Adel suspected of plotting World Cup attack
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's counterterrorism sources suspect, like the other Western officials, that US intelligence agencies inserted this paragraph for fear that Saif al-Adel was on an al-Qaida mission to organize a terror attack at the World Cup match between the US and England, or possibly, one of their base camps.
Our sources note that Al Qaeda has chosen him to orchestrate from inside Iran every politically-oriented wave of terror of major significance, with the exception of the 9/11 attacks in America.
In 2003 and 2004, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri put Saif al-Adel in charge of organizing a series of devastating strikes in Saudi Arabia against the Royal Family and American and British targets in the kingdom. Their objectives were to topple the throne – or at least enfeeble it, and eliminate the Western and pro-Western presence in Riyadh and other major Saudi cities, including entities linked to the oil industry.
Some of those attacks, which took three years to curb, focused on gated Western residential compounds.
Al Qaeda experts in US, Saudi and Egyptian intelligence identified Saif al-Adel as the live wire behind this outbreak of terror. They knew he was working out of a headquarters in Iran.
Tehran, of course, denied this outright, but did not refuse to negotiate terms with Saudi and Egyptian secret service chiefs for his extradition. Typically, the Iranians did not engage in diplomacy for the sake of results – any more than they do in the dialogue on their nuclear violations – but rather as a tactic for squeezing political or economic concessions, while buying time to keep going – in this case, with their policy on Al Qaida.
The Pentagon: Iran is behind deniable attacks against US and Israel
Ex-CIA officer Bruce Riedel, a top American expert on Al Qaeda, whom President Barack Obama often consults on Bin Laden's organization, Afghanistan and Pakistan, admitted recently: "What exactly is the level of Al-Qaida activity in Iran has always been a mystery. This has been a dark, black zone for us."
The US Department of Defense was more definite in its "Unclassified Report on Military Power of Iran" of April 2010, to Congress: "We assess with high confidence that over the last three decades, Iran has methodically cultivated a network of sponsored terrorist surrogates capable of conducting effective, plausibly deniable attacks against Israel and the United States."
The suspicion that Saif al-Adel was back at his old game was prompted by reports surfacing in early April of a deal struck last year by Tehran and Al Qaeda for the release of an Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Pakistan's tribal areas in 2008.
It was carried out in two stages. First, Iran freed Osama's daughter, Iman bin Laden, in December 2009. She was kept waiting at the Saudi Embassy in Tehran until March, before being allowed to be reunited with her mother and some of her brothers in Syria.
Then, on March 30, the Iranian press reported a heroic Iranian Special Operations Force had liberated the kidnapped diplomat held in Pakistan's Tribal Areas.
A few weeks later, a message from Mustafa Hamid – better known as Abu'l-Walid al-Masri the father-in-law of Saif al-Adel – appeared in an Iranian blog.
This was taken by Western counterterrorism officials as a signal that Iran had freed a batch of high-profile Al Qaeda operatives, including Saif al-Adel, in exchange for the Iranian diplomat. It was a straight trade; there never was an Iranian operation in Pakistan.
Whereabouts of The Fridge – a mini-nuke – is unkown
The same officials perked up again when shortly after this incident, small groups of jihadis were spotted on their way to Europe to set up attacks. They took it to mean that al-Adel, notorious for his high-speed reflexes, had hardly gained his freedom when he was again activating the Al Qaeda sleeper-networks under his exclusive control.
The Al Qaeda mastermind's freedom to resume his jihad against the West aroused another pressing concern.
According to intelligence reports, when al Adel arrived in Iran in December 2001, after Kandahar fell to the US-led NATO forces, he was described as having with him a nuclear device called "The Fridge" – a version of the infamous "suitcase nukes," whose existence Washington and Moscow have denied a thousand times.
The Fridge is essentially a mini-nuke with the explosive equivalent of 6 kilotons of TNT. Reports still persist that several Soviet-made "nuclear suitcases" did in fact reach the hands of Al Qaeda.
Would it still be operable after a decade or more? The experts say yes.
One Western nuclear source reckons they can survive for many years if wired to electrical power. They also have battery backup. If this runs low, the weapon's transmitter sends a coded alert to its owner.
The possibility can therefore not be ruled out that the Al Qaeda ace, now on the loose, may be plotting to hit the 2010 FIFA World Cup with a nuclear device or dirty bomb.