Call it another first for Osama bin Laden’s terror network.
Almost two years after the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, Al Qaeda has published a glossy 76-page, photo-packed booklet showcasing its “achievements” and explaining for the first time why it carried out the deadly May 12 bombings against foreigners’ compounds in Riyadh.
Why now? Al Qaeda never before packaged its operations – even the first bomb attack on the World Trade Center and the “Blackhawk Down” battle against US troops in Mogadishu, Somalia – both in 1993. So what brought on a slickly-produced annual report at this time?
The answer is found in the booklet. It contains a defense for the triple suicide attacks on Riyadh.
Osama bin Laden’s group struck at the heart of their commander’s homeland. They found it necessary to justify their action and do so by accusing the Saudi royal family of being in league with what they call the “Black House” in Washington and of practicing a lifestyle that flies in the face of Islam.
Since the Saudi princes and US leaders have become soul-mates, both equally deserve to be punished until they are destroyed.
Some of this rhetoric is familiar, but a new vein runs through the publication.
The martyrs of Riyadh are identified as the men who fought alongside Osama bin Laden in the Tora Bora cave complex of Afghanistan. Today, they are continuing their mission by battling US troops in Iraq.
The day before it was published, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's counter-terrorism experts report, the Ansar al-Islam group that had its beginning in northern Iraq, admitted for the first time to being an operational arm of Al Qaeda and claimed responsibility for the devastating bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on August 19th.
Our terror experts link the two events as part of a supreme effort by Al Qaeda to prove the fundamentalist network had fully covered from its rout in Afghanistan in 2001 and proclaim the opening of its next front in Iraq.
Under the caption “Al Qaeda mobilizes for all-out war against the Americans in Iraq”, DEBKA-Net-Weekly on August 22 laid bare the three routes – Iranian, Saudi and Syrian – through which bin Laden’s men infiltrate Iraq.
We can now disclose that the jihad movement rolling towards Iraq is gathering its first non-al Qaeda Muslim fighters. They are coming from India, Bangladesh and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Others are setting out from Indonesia and Malaysia, adherents of sects or branches of militant Islamic movements that identify ideologically with Al Qaeda but are not part of its organization.
It looks as though Bin Laden’s latest slogan of “Iraq Tumadikum!” – We March on Iraq! Has caught on in outside the circles of Afghan war veterans and Al Qaeda fighters and is percolating through the radical Muslim world.
Recent electronic message traffic and money transfers show that Al Qaeda has appropriated for its Iraq jihad a large chunk of the Muslim donations circulating round the money markets of the Gulf, Pakistan and the Far East. The funds have been diverted away from their traditional donees, such as the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and Muslim fighters in Bosnia, Kosovo and even Chechnya.
Bin Laden has thus been enabled to reactivate the recruitment system he created and used to raise anti-Soviet fighting strength for Afghanistan in the early 1980s – at the behest of the American CIA.
Only 25 Indian Muslim fighters have so far reached Iraq. It is therefore too soon to make sweeping assessments of the volume of the new jihad movement. But if the flow of fighters and funds continues at the current pace, the United States will be confronted with a new kind of war, an Al Qaeda-orchestrated Muslim jihad unrelated to Iraq’s unique problems.
Should this war spread, it would represent a new departure in the global war against terrorism. President George W. Bush may have been correct in assuming that two-thirds of Al Qaeda’s leaders and fighters have either been captured or killed. But what he said applied to the first generation of bin Laden’s movement. Since the defeat in Afghanistan, new terror cells have been formed and are up and running. For the jihad threatened for Iraq, Al Qaeda’s impressive intelligence apparatus will be put through its paces after repeatedly throwing Bin Laden hunters off-track and carving out safe passages for its members’ clandestine movements around the world.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources report that the prevention of a new jihad ranks high on US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s agenda for his visits to Iraq and Afghanistan this week.
One of the keys to prevention would be the sealing off of Iraq’s borders. Washington has been pressuring Saudi crown prince Abdullah, Syrian president Bashar Assad and Jordanian king Abdullah to tighten their border controls and stop the flow of Muslim fighters to Iraq. The United States has seen few concrete results. The Syrians moved three divisions toward the Iraqi border, but contrary to their promises to Washington they have not mounted air patrols to spot groups of fighters crossing the frontier. The Saudis also moved forces to the Arar region near the Iraqi border, but the lengthy, porous frontier makes interdiction a mission impossible.
The Jordanians took a different tack. Their forces have been carrying out spot inspections along highways and small roads leading into western Iraq in a bid to intercept these Muslim intruders.
But while the three countries are making some attempt to seal their respective borders, Iran is doing nothing to choke off the flow of armed men across its 100 miles of frontier into Iraq.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's counter-terrorism sources report that on Wednesday, September 3, Ansar al-Islam chief Hassan Shafi – whose name is revealed here for the first time – relayed a circular to its members informing them the battle against America had been relocated from the Ansar base in northern Iraq to the country’s center.
Ansar al-Islam fighters and other Muslims taking up arms against US troops in Iraq now feel empowered by the mullahs of Teheran to move further away from the Iranian frontier and infiltrate deep into central Iraq.