US intelligence agencies fighting al-Qaeda have launched a manhunt in the US, Mexico, Canada and elsewhere for Midaat Mursi, the Egyptian who, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources, is chairman of al-Qaeda’s WMD committee. He is believed to be traveling with one or two other people, carrying dirty bombs.
The exploits of Mursi, also known as Abu Khabab, and his companions are one of the main immediate triggers for the raising of the terror alert in the US from elevated (yellow) to high (orange) at the end of December. The alert was again lowered to yellow last week, but our terror experts say that this does not mean that the danger is gone. Rather, it means that the Americans are not sure these days whether Mursi is in North America, Europe or the Middle East.
But reports about him being sent by his commander, al-Qaeda’s number-two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to carry out radioactive attacks in a big Western city are being confirmed by intelligence sources. To avoid jeopardizing the manhunt now in process, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources can’t reveal all the details about where this information comes from.
What we can say at this stage is that American special forces are engaged in a number of operations inside western Europe, Chechnya, and in Palestinian cities and refugee camps in the Middle East. In addition, for the first time, there have been secret raids inside the US itself.
These undercover operations have netted several dozen of Mursi’s collaborators and accomplices who were arrested and moved to undisclosed places where they are under interrogation. In the past few days, these interrogations have revealed more details about the radioactive attack that was planned for New Year’s Eve.
They have also produced evidence of Chechnyan and Palestinian involvement with al-Qaeda – the first direct link to be discovered between Chechnyan and Palestinian terrorists at the operational level.
On November 17, 2001, DEBKAfile wrote in the article entitled Entire Taleban-al Qaeda heads for mountain refuge:
“Our intelligence and military experts also discount the ‘documents’ discovered in a base south of Kabul which claimed to bear instructions on how to build nuclear weapons and missiles. Crude red herrings, the instructions turn out to be translations of material available in any bookshop or internet site. The only member of the al Qaeda network aside from its top leaders who knows the truth about the group’s weapons of mass destruction resources is a chemical engineer called Midhat Mursi, or Abu Khabab, a member of the Egyptian Jihad Islami.
“At the Tora Bora base near Jalalabad called Al Badr or Abu Kebab Camp, less than 20 km east of Kabul (Ed. rebuilt on the site of a camp first constructed by the CIA in the early 1980s; the whole complex surrounding the camp known as Darunta), Mursi built and managed the network’s facilities for the manufacture of nuclear, chemical, biological and toxic weapons and trained agents in their use. In Western terms, Abu Kebab (variant spelling) may be regarded as the director of bin Laden’s nuclear program.
“As of September 9, two days before the suicide attacks against the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the facility was evacuated and Mursi transferred to a hideout near bin Laden in the Hindu Kush Mountains.”
Mursi’s name surfaced when the US captured the Darunta camps in October 2001.
On March 1, 2003, Khalid Sheik Mohammed was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, in a house owned by Abdul Quddos Khan, a Pakistani biologist who had access to biological, chemical, and nuclear production materials. Quddos managed to escape. In the rooms of his house, American special forces found hand-written documents and computer hard drives to do with al-Qaeda’s efforts to build dirty bombs. In some of these documents, the name of Abu Khabab was mentioned.
On Friday, January 9 2004, we got a glimpse of the complexity of the al-Qaeda terror machine and how everything, people and events, are interconnected from back in the pre-September 11 period. In a laconic official announcement, the Swiss federal police said that they had arrested eight people in connection with terror attacks on westerners in Saudi Arabia last May. They say that those arrested are being held on suspicion of providing logistical support to criminal organizations.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror and intelligence sources report that the arrests were made from information gathered from hundreds of Swiss phone cards used in Rawalpindi from Khalid Sheik Mohammad’s apartment. After US special forces found these cards, a secret investigation began to find the people who Sheik Mohammad spoke to from Rawalpindi. It took 11 months to unearth those in Switzerland.
According to our intelligence sources, the January 9 raid on five Swiss cantons by Switzerland’s federal police supported by a state police task force, led to 20 Arabs being investigated, of whom eight were detained, seven of them Egyptian and one Saudi. According to our sources, they formed the main logistical body that supplied intelligence, explosives, money and forged documents to the al-Qaeda cells operating inside Saudi Arabia as well as to Midaat Mursi and his people.
Our sources understand that the center of the network worked from at least five different houses in Lucerne. In addition, the Swiss authorities, following an American request, seized active bank accounts belonging to al-Qaeda. In one of them, they found 50 million Swiss francs.
A thorough investigation of the eight detainees is now going on in an urgent bid to extract from them all they know about Mursi and his people. American terror experts believe that at least one of the eight detainees should know something about his recent movements and destination.