The netting of upward of 50 al Qaeda master terrorists this month uncovered an astounding seven active al Qaeda networks active in 11 countries. A large crop of important senior commanders is now in custody and undergoing interrogation, and the circle is widening. Almost all are of Moroccan origin. They all reported their organizations had been given major terrorist assignments – some directly by Osama bin Laden from his base in Afghanistan. Their instructions had been delivered by couriers or coded mails through the Internet. Some of the networks interacted through collaboration and shared logistics. Another common factor was the long shadow Abu Musab al-Zarqawi cast over their activities.
Many of their members were involved in one way or another in combat against US forces in Iraq before joining the regional commands. Some took part in attacks on American troops in Iraq; others recruited volunteers for Iraq in the Muslim communities of West Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, and organized their transfer to its battlefields. A third group of these detainees fought the Russians in Chechnya.
Khalid Abu Basir
The overall commander of al Qaeda networks in continental Europe, with the title “Emir of al Qaeda in Europe,” Khaled Abu Basir of Moroccan descent was arrested in Brussels. He is suspected of being the strategic planner of the 2004 Madrid rail bombings in which 191 died and the July 7, 2005 blasts on London underground trains and a bus that left 52 dead. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources reveal in March 2005, Zarqawi ordered Abu Basir to set aside sections of the seven networks in his charge for the use of the al Qaeda branch in Iraq which he heads – for terrorist attacks outside Iraq, recruiting new volunteers, the purchase of weapons, intelligence and funding.
Mohammed Behar was arrested as Abu Basir’s operations chief and his go-between with the Iraqi radical group Ansar al-Islam and al Qaeda cells in Saudi Arabia
The military leader of al Qaeda’s European wing, Khalid Azig was also detained in Brussels, his base of operations. Azig is a Moroccan with Belgian citizenship. The interrogation of Basir and Azig yielded most of the revelations appearing in this issue of DEBKA-Net-Weekly. Brussels, headquarters of the European Union and NATO, was also the secret headquarters of al Qaeda for West Europe and Morocco until it was smashed this month. When arrested, they lost no time in spilling the beans on their close contacts with Osama bin Laden, how they ran their organizations and their methods of operation.
Commander of al Qaeda networks in the Arabian Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania). Mohammed R’ha was captured in Rabat and is undergoing interrogation in Sale’ prison near Rabat. R’ha, like Azig, is of Moroccan birth and a Belgian citizen. The pair worked closely together.
Khalid Salibi aka Abu Za’im
His role as the group’s kingpin was exposed by the terrorists rounded up so far, but he remains at large. As Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s principal middleman in Damascus, Salibi of Moroccan origin handles the logistical requirements of the war of terror in Iraq for fighters, weapons and funds. He also coordinates the activities of Zarqawi’s operatives outside Iraq. Abu Za’im holds the key to Zarqawi’s communications with bin Laden and network commanders in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Salibi can carry out all these functions because he enjoys complete freedom of movement in Damascus and between the Syrian capital and other destinations.
Samir Azuz at 19 is the youngest of al Qaeda’s network chiefs to be captured to date. Yet he was the senior commander of al Qaeda’s Netherlands organization. He was caught in Antwerp where he is undergoing interrogation.
Hassan al Haski
Commander of al Qaeda’s network in Spain, Hassan al Haski is the long-sought mastermind of the Madrid railway bombings. Haski was captured in Alicante. His questioning continues.
Little is known about Abu Ahmad or the circumstances of his arrest excepting his code-name and his Tunisian origin. His detention prevented him from taking up the new post of al Qaeda’s military commander in North Africa.
An anonymous Iraqi – identity unknown
All the interrogators have been able to dig out about this mysterious Iraqi terrorist is that he is one of Zarqawi’s senior lieutenants who joined him after relocating from a West European country. He has also been named as Samir Azuz’s boss in the Dutch network. He is described as having had both his hands amputated.