Three Continents Tense for al Qaeda Action to Mark 4th Anniversary of 9/11

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While the Bush administration wrestles with the distress, turmoil and fury of Hurricane Katrina, US security and intelligence agencies, like their counterparts in Europe and the Middle East, are tensed nervously for some al Qaeda action to mark next Sunday’s fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
The places believed most prone to attack are New York and Washington – again – as well as London, Paris, Rome, Warsaw, Moscow, Sofia, Cairo, Riyadh and Tel Aviv.
But debkafile‘s counter-terror sources caution against predicting al Qaeda’s next moves. Osama bin Laden’s jihadists rarely strike when and where they are expected; more often than not, they catch their victims by surprise.
Nonetheless, a number of manifestations point to an imminent terror operation:
1. Intelligence data trickling out of Iraq in the past month depicts al Qaeda’s commander in the “Land of the Two Rivers” as spending most of his time preparing a terrorist spectacular. Most intelligence experts calculate that a strike, if masterminded by Zarqawi, will take place in Europe or the Middle East rather than the United States.
2. In the last few days, there is a fresh upsurge of coded electronic correspondence among the various al Qaeda branches which reflects an anticipatory buzz ahead of the anniversary. But what is afoot? Is it a ritual celebration or a death-dealing operation? This is not known.
3. Intelligence experts predict that the trouble besetting the Bush administration over the Katrina hurricane disaster will predispose al Qaeda to make a special effort to add to American suffering. A hint of this intention was found in Zarqawi’s communique of September 4. He thanked Allah for harnessing the elements of nature against America and swore to carry on from there.
But a sense of alarm was struck in the West earlier by a strange notice appearing on al Qaeda’s internal electronic network on August 24. DEBKA-Net-Weekly 219 ran the notice on Aug. 26 after it was picked up by its al Qaeda experts:
Osama bin Laden, referred to in some sites as Sheikh Abu Abdullah, was reported injured in his left leg while taking part in an attack on a Spanish military base in Afghanistan. A four-hour long videotape of the expedition was promised and the faithful asked to pray for the Sheikh’s recovery.
The videotape was never aired.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s experts on al Qaeda offered these comments:
Osama bin Laden never fought Spanish forces in Afghanistan and therefore suffered no leg injury. Why then did al Qaeda publish this tall story, when the organization normally takes care to guard its credibility?
There are two optional explanations.
One, the great Osama bin Laden cannot show himself as less of a hero than his Iraq commander Abu Musab al Zarqawi who, after he was wounded in a US attack on al-Qaim region last June, continued to lead the faithful into battle against the Americans and is currently masterminding a terrorist offensive striking at points in Europe and the Middle East. To polish his image and dispel the impression that he is a fading force, bin Laden is disseminating the tale of an injury in battle. It is intended to show al Qaeda’s leader in the same glorious light as Zarqawi whose popularity in al Qaeda’s ranks threatens to rival his own.
Two, it may be Bin Laden’s way of informing his adherents that he has recovered from an injury sufficiently to launch a fresh round of jihad operations. The message, seen in this context, would presage high-profile attacks – personally commanded by the leader himself or his close lieutenants, who would pass onto him the kudos for their success.
This second rationale would account for the timing of the communique in the third week of August, shortly before the Sept 11 anniversary. Even if that date comes and goes without a terrorist attack, the whole of September must be deemed a high-risk month.

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