The Rich Jihadi Proved Western Anti-Terror Measures Don’t Work
The horrendous sight of another Western airline crashing over the US on Christmas Day 2009 was averted by a fluke and the resourcefulness of passengers and cabin crew – not by the anti-terror agencies' high-tech gadgets, vast budgets and airport security measures.
Six months ago, Umar Faroul Abdulmuttallab's father warned the US Embassy in Lagos of his 23-year old son's alarming extremist Muslim activities. Yet he was granted a US visa. On Dec. 25, he sailed through Schiphol international airport with 80 grams of PETN (pentaervthritol) high explosive and liquid detonators in his underpants after landing from Lagos and caught the Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit.
If the British Richard Reid goes down in terror history as "the shoe bomber" who failed to crash a US airliner over LA in 2001, Abdulmuttallab may be remembered as the Rich Jihadi, the son of a wealthy Nigerian banker and ex-minister, the second millionaire-terrorist to follow in the footsteps of the first, Osama bin Laden.
Saturday, Dec. 26, the US government filed the following charge: "Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, a Nigerian national, boarded Northwest Flight 253 in Amsterdam, Netherlands on December 24, 2009 and had a device attached to his body. As the flight was approaching Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Abdulmutallab set off the device, which resulted in a fire and what appears to have been an explosion. Abdulmutallab was then subdued and restrained by the passengers and flight crew. The airplane landed shortly thereafter, and he was taken into custody by Customs and Border Patrol officers.
Terrified passengers told the FBI investigators that twenty minutes before landing, the suspect went to the bathroom. On returning to his seat, he complained of a stomach ache and covered himself with a blanket, from which pops, smoke and flames soon emerged. Jasper Schuringa, a Dutch passenger, tackled the suspect and helped the cabin crew put out the fire and restrain him. Abdulmuttallab himself, hospitalized with burns, is quoted as admitting to links with al Qaeda and claiming to have received the explosives in Yemen after a month's training.
This contradicts earlier US attempts to play down the incident by claiming he was a loner.
Indeed, al Qaeda's record since its first attempt to blow up New York's Twin Towers in 1993, is remarkably consistent; its planners have deviated very little from their methods of operation or their targets and remain fixated on their primary goal of smashing America as the Western world's superpower.
To this end, Al Qaeda has forged ahead steadfastly for 18 years undeterred by failures:
After the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, the fundamentalist terrorists took a break before striking Madrid trains in 2004, London transport in 2005, and trying to down a dozen transatlantic airliners with liquid explosives in 2006. This last plot copied the terrorist Ramzi Yusuf's failed bid in 1991 to hijack 12 airliners taking off for the US from Asian airports and crash them over American cities.
Just as stubbornly, Western counter-terror agencies, while armed with the most advanced especially developed technology for fighting terrorists and astronomical budgets, persist in playing down al Qaeda's potency and resolve and glossing over two essential facts:
1. The fundamentalist school of Islam, Sunni and Shiite, has declared a perpetual war on Western culture. It is not rooted in political or social differences, such as the gap between the have-not Muslim peoples and the affluent West, or even in various world disputes like the Israel-Palestinian conflict, which are often held up as symbols of injustice. These extremists simply loathe everything the West stands for: religious orientation, philosophy, way of thinking and mores, and are willing to lay down their lives to extinguish it.
2. Al Qaeda holds to the belief that devastating attacks on big US cities are the key to smashing America's wealth and strength as the leading Western superpower.
For its activists, the jihadists, civilian airline jets are the preferred weapons of mass destruction because of their vulnerability and because Western security is full of holes and easily misled by its own preconceptions.
Most of the Western media covering the failed attempt to blow up the Delta airline over Detroit mulled in wonder over the discovery that the bomber was no wild man from Tora Bora or Waziristan or poor boy from a wretched Baghdad, Cairo or Karachi slum, but the scion of a rich and privileged Nigerian family, who could afford to send him to the prestigious London College University to study engineering and allow him the freedom to choose what he wanted to do with his life.
Why he chose to martyr himself as a terrorist defied most Western pundits, showing that very little has been learned from the way al Qaeda evolved from 1987, when Osama bin Laden debuted in the Pakistani town of Peshawar as leader of an organization no one had ever heard of called al Qaeda, despite a background very much like that of the young Nigerian. He too belonged to one of the wealthiest families in Saudi Arabia and opted for the life of an extremist terrorist.
Western agencies appear to find the real objectives and the roots and the motives governing the Islamist organization's choice of targets and weapons beyond their understanding, when in fact Al Qaeda's methods are brutally simple, even primitive.
The two elements working for them are good intelligence and patience.
Having achieved its first major objective, obliteration of the iconic New York Trade Center in 2001, al Qaeda's planners are working on their next goal, which has so far proved elusive: knocking the transatlantic air traffic connecting America to the world out of the skies.
debkafile's counter-terror analysts are in no doubt that Osama bin Laden will not rest until he attains this goal, which means that the war on terror will not be resolved in the battlefields of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan or Palestine, but in the Pentagon, Washington and the authorities safeguarding international civilian air travel.
Al Qaeda is in no hurry. Seven years elapsed between the first attempt to destroy the Trade Center and the final calamity. Therefore, the jihadis will patiently repeat the young Nigerian's failed attempt until they succeed.
Taking this into account, US and British law enforcement authorities must now confront their own deficiencies and put them right without delay. But first they must answer some tough questions:
For instance, although he was placed on a US watch list, Umar Abdulmutallab never made it to the no-fly category.
And on top of America's abundant sophisticated gadgets, satellites, drones and electronics which failed to put its security agencies on guard for the threat to Northwest Flight 253, they had two known pieces of human intelligence to hand which they ignored:
The UK refused the young Nigerian an entry visa after he ended his engineering studies at the London College University in 2008 – which should have alerted the Americans, if they were informed; and his own father cautioned the US ambassador in Lagos about his son's extremist proclivities.
Finally, although the German BND intelligence service passed on its suspicions of a dynamic, youthful al Qaeda network evolving in Western Europe, Abdulmuttallab easily passed through two airports' screening arrangements carrying an explosive device, and boarded a transatlantic airliner with a valid US visa.