US Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller held a news conference in Washington Wednesday, May 26, to ask the public to watch out for al Qaeda terrorists believed plotting a large-scale attack in the United States this summer. Of special concern is the possibility that these terrorists may possess and use a chemical, biological or radiological weapon to strike at high profile events and attempt to influence the US presidential election.
The publication of 13 names of suspects may have alarmed the public, but it also calmed any anxieties entertained by the terrorists. Certainly videotaped by their organizers, the conference demonstrated that the information in the hands of US intelligence on al Qaeda, its plans and its leading lights, is outdated.
Take for example two of the wanted terrorists, Adnan G. El Shukrijamah and Karim El Mejjati.
On November 7, 2003, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 132 carried an article under the heading ‘One-Man “Dirty Bomb” Cell Sought in US and Canada’, in which Khaled Sheikh Mohammed was revealed as divulging after his capture in Karachi in March 2003 the existence of a “one-man cell trained to build from scratch radiological bombs capable of environmental contamination.” The one-man cell was called Adnan Shukrijamah. We also reported he had been admitted to McMaster University’s experimental atomic reactor laboratories in Hamilton, Ontario in Canada, in the guise of a nuclear engineering student. His mission was to steal radioactive materials for building dirty bombs.
Five weeks later, the counter-terror sources of DEBKA-Net-Weekly 137 described how another of the wanted men, Mejjati, formed secret al Qaeda cells in Tangiers and the Spanish North African colonies of Ceuta and Melilla, some for smuggling nuclear substances, others for planting as undercover agents in the household staffs of Saudi royal palaces in Morocco.
But two years earlier, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 33 dated 12 October 2001,showed how al Qaeda was making free of the southwest Mediterranean – Gibraltar as well as Tangiers, Ceuta and Melilla, to traffic in nuclear materials suitable for making radiological bombs. This was published just one month after more than 3,000 Americans died in al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Those North African locations continued to serve as forward bases and sanctuaries, most recently for the al Qaeda operatives including Mejjati who orchestrated the Madrid rail attacks of March 2004, in which 201 people died and 2,000 were injured. (DEBKA-Net-Weekly 150 March 19, 2004)
None of the masterminds have yet been apprehended.
The point of listing these disclosures is to pose a hard question for US counter-terror authorities:
What took them so long to lay hands on the information they presented at their May 26 news conference? For four years, Karim El Mejjati has been moving around freely between North America, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf and Europe, plotting attack after attack. What does this say about the war on global terror?
And for two years, Shukrijamah has been at large in North America, the while in direct satellite telephone communication with Midaat Mursi, aka Abu Khabab, a member of the radical Egyptian Jihad Islami and one of al Qaeda’s top radiological bomb experts.
Mursi runs several terrorist rings assigned with making their way through Canada into the United States for a dirty bomb attack.
Our counter-terror sources now reveal that in the last two weeks the Bush administration has finally lay hands on solid evidence of the Syrian Assad regime’s direct dealings with al Qaeda. Fundamentalist terrorists captured in Iraq disclosed in detail how Syrian intelligence on orders from the president is maintaining an air-sea corridor jumping al Qaeda fighters trained in guerrilla warfare from the Horn of Africa, mainly Somalia, to Damascus en route for Iraq. These fighters gather at a pickup point from across the continent, including Ethiopia. Some of these al Qaeda prisoners were found with two satellite phones in their possession – one a Syrian model manufactured by Sirtel and the second made by Thuraya.
What would a lowly terrorist need with two satellite phones?
Our sources discovered that the Sirtel model works in Syria but not in Iraq, while the Thuraya telephones work in Iraq. News correspondents in Iraq are obliged to use Thuraya telephones, just like al Qaeda terrorists.
The two-phone users all entered Iraq from Syria where satphones are not on sale to any casual buyer. To buy one, a special permit is needed from Syrian security. Therefore, their ownership by al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq gives away the connection. If that were not a smoking gun, then the numbers listed in the instrument’s memory are. They belong to two regions: Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and Damascus, Syria.
With the evidence of Bashar Assad‘s collusion with al Qaeda in hand, the US administration is reported by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Washington sources, to have asked the Syrian government for an explanation. None has been forthcoming. But, according to the Washington Times, reporting on the passage of guerrillas forces to and fro across the Syrian-Iraqi border, the Bush administration has had enough of Assad’s involvement in this illegal traffic and is getting ready for action.