The Swedish investigation into the country's first suicide bombing Saturday, Dec. 11, quickly found that the bomb car which exploded during a shopping rush in the heart of Stockholm was part of a well-planned, sophisticated terror operation, prepared several months in advance to inflict a large number of casualties. The Swedish media reported that Iraqi-born Taimour al-Abdaly was loaded down with three sets of bombs, one of which was a dozen miniature pipe bombs strung together as a belt.
Still, the suicide bomber was the only fatality. Two others were slightly injured.
Al-Abdaly's operation was therefore a near-failure, recalling Faisal Shahzad's failed bombing attack in Times Square, New York of May 1, although its planners, al Qaeda, are reported by debkafile's terror experts to have learned from that miss.
The Islamist terror group has turned to multilateralism in the planning, setting up and execution of operations methods to baffle national counter-terror intelligence agencies in the West, our Islamist terror experts report.
The Stockholm strike was accordingly broken down into segments, each taking place in a different country – Pakistan, Iraq, Sweden, Jordan and the UK. American and European cities may find themselves confronted in future with more attacks on those lines.
Al Qaeda's hand in the latest attack surfaced quite soon. Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 13 and 14, Al Qaeda-linked Internet sites showered praise on the Iraqi-born Taimour al-Abdaly as a brave martyr who obeyed orders from Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, commander of Al Qaeda in Iraq, who had sworn to avenge the cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad cartoons drawn by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks. Al-Abdaly is reported to have visited Jordan last month to secretly meet his Iraqi handlers.
Iraq has thus joined Pakistan and Yemen as the source of al Qaeda attacks in the West. Found on the body of Al-Abdaly was a note saying: "Europe, here we come."
The Swedish Prosecutor for Terrorist Cases Tomas Lindstrand reported Monday, Dec. 13, that the terrorist had been carrying not one but three sets of bombs – the pipe-bomb belt, a backpack containing a second bomb and a hand-held device that looked like a pressure cooker. Abdaly's final destination was not known, whether the city center which was packed with pre-Christmas shoppers or the Stockholm subway. In either case, hundreds of Swedes had a lucky save.
In the northern English town of Luton, meanwhile, police carried out searches at the home where Al-Abdaly had lived for ten years with his wife and three children and his college, Bedfordshire University. His wife denied knowing about his illicit activities or noticing any special preparations for his suicide attack.
Our counter-terror sources add that, like Faisal Shahzad in New York, the Stockholm planners parked a vehicle carrying gas canisters rigged with explosives for remote detonation in the most crowded part of the city.
But unlike the New York operation, from which Shahzad escaped after he failed, Al-Abdaly's mission did not rely on a single incident. He was a walking bomb arsenal with devices for following up the initial car blast. After detonating the rigged car, he was to have strewn the small but powerful pipe bombs and the two larger devices with which he was loaded around key points in the city. Using a cell phone he was to have triggered them all for a coordinated, chain of blasts across central Stockholm. Al Qaeda would have achieved widespread death and devastation with a single suicide bomber.
But the plan did not work out. The car bomb exploded only partially, giving the alarm, and Al-Abdaly, instead of carrying on, killed himself by detonating one of the pipe bombs in his belt.
Al Qaeda's Stockholm fiasco is the last in a series which all demonstrated a fault in the explosive mechanisms designed by its bomb-makers. They all ignite prematurely causing small fires and smoke but failing to detonate the explosives – fortunately for their intended victims.
This is what happened on Dec. 21, 2001 to Shoe Bomber Richard Reid, who failed to blow up an American passenger plane, the Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab exactly eight years later, and again in the attempt to plant exploding ink cartridges on air freighters three months ago.
Al Abdaly, it turns out, had been the subject of at least one year's planning for his operation. He was supported by at least three teams of helpers working together in Sweden and Britain. The first was responsible for surveillance, scouting targets in Stockholm and transport to the scene. The second, also in Sweden, prepared the assorted explosive devices. The third instructed Al Abdaly in the use of explosives. The Swedish police allege that he had been "radicalized" in Britain.
Our counter-terror exports note that this was the first time multilateral methods had been superimposed on home-grown terror. It is bound to make the solving of this form of Islamist terror that much harder.