In his latest audio-taped message to al Jazeera TV, Osama bin Laden Jan. 24 said he was responsible for the failed Detroit-bound airliner attack on Dec. 25 and vowed America would have no peace as long as there was "no security for the Palestinians" and the US supported Israel.
Saudi Arabia deepened its involvement on two Yemen fronts: Its forces chalked up a major victory by engineering the Jan. 15 "mystery explosion" at an al Qaeda bastion just over its border in Yemen, killing killed three of bin Laden's key operatives.
Saturday, Jan. 23, Dep. defense minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan said captured weapons bore out Iran's support for the Houthi revolt against the Yemeni government.
debkafile's military sources note that the Saudis cagily avoided directly owning up to the "mystery explosion," for one of two reasons:
1. Saudi intelligence is truly at sea about how the explosion occurred;
2. But more likely, their covert operatives managed to infiltrate the al Qaeda stronghold and detonate a bomb they had planted.
Riyadh did announce its possession of the DNA of three of the al Qaeda leaders killed in that very blast. How to account for this unless Saudi agents were present at the scene?
And indeed all three appeared on Saudi Arabia's 65 most wanted terrorist lists as high-value targets. (The Saudi most-wanted list originally featured 75 suspects. Ten have been killed).
They were identified as Fahd Saleh Sulaiman Al-Jatili, aged 27, an ex-Guantanamo Bay inmate who was repatriated to Saudi Arabia for "reeducation." Last September, Yemen claimed falsely he was killed while fighting in the ranks of Houthi rebels.
The second was Muhammad al-Rashed, codenamed Abu Salman in al-Qaeda, who supervised preparations to blow up the kingdom's biggest oil and port facilities in the Eastern Provinces.
The third was possibly the most high-profile of the three, although the Saudis identified him only as Radi Utaybi, codenamed Abdallah al-Makuni.
debkafile's counter-terrorism sources disclose that Utaybi was recruited by al Qaeda in Damascus as far back as 2006, and was trusted enough by his superiors to be appointed chief treasurer of the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) organization. In this capacity, he would have handled the details of the botched operation for the Nigerian Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab to blow up a US airliner on Dec. 25 for which bin Laden claimed responsibility Sunday, Jan. 24 and must therefore have been in direct communication with him.
He was also slated for promotion as new AQAP commander-in-chief, which is what brought him to the Yemeni-Saudi border bastion.
Riyadh therefore had good reason to crow – albeit discreetly – about eliminating this high-value al Qaeda leader.
Sanaa, in contrast, loses credibility each time it claims a successful strike. Wednesday, Jan. 20, Yemeni spokesmen announced the targeting of attacked Ayed al-Shabwani, in the Maarib province east of the capital, the same al Qaeda operative they claimed to have killed in an air strike a week earlier.
Over last weekend, governments on three continents scrambled to fortify their counter-terror security against Islamist threats, including those of al Qaeda, not confirmed in person by Osama bin Laden.