The long reach and ambitions of al-Qaida, Tenet book details chilling plots to kill Gore, acquire nuclear weapons
(MSNBC) NEW YORK – Former CIA Director George Tenet’s defense of his agency’s performance in the lead-up to the war in Iraq will echo from now through Election Day next year, but other disclosures in his new book are equally sobering and, in laying out the scope of al-Qaida’s ambitions, sometimes far more frightening.The book, “At the Center of the Storm,” which is being published Monday, reveals that al-Qaida or groups affiliated with it have undertaken several other operations aimed at equaling or even surpassing the carnage of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.The operations, which either were thwarted by authorities or were canceled for one reason or another, included efforts to assassinate Vice President Al Gore with anti-tank missiles during a trip to Saudi Arabia, release cyanide in the New York subway system and procure weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, from Pakistani nuclear scientists.In one especially chilling assertion, Tenet reveals that several intelligence sources were indicating in fall 2001 that a small nuclear weapon may have been smuggled into the United States.The plot to kill Gore
Tenet discloses that in 1998, Saudi officials foiled a plot by Abdel Rahim al-Nashiri to smuggle four Sagger anti-tank missiles from Yemen into Saudi Arabia a week or so before Gore was scheduled to visit the kingdom. But their reluctance to let the United States know what was going on created significant tension between the two nations.Tenet writes that it was reasonable to have expected the Saudis to pass the information along as soon as possible, but they did not.After low-level discussions failed to produce a sense of urgency among the Saudis, Tenet flew to Riyadh to meet with Prince Naif, the interior minister and the man in charge of the Saudi secret police.Tenet describes meeting with Naif in an opulent palace in Riyadh. He was accompanied by two colleagues, Deputy Director John McLaughlin and John Brennan, director of the CIA’s National Counterterrorism Center. Naif, by contrast, was joined by dozens of Saudi officials.Tenet said he struggled to remain polite as Naif filibustered. Eventually, he had enough. He edged toward the prince, put his hand on his knee and asked, “Your royal highness, what do you think it will look like if someday I have to tell the Washington Post that you held out data that might have helped us track down al Qaeda murderers, perhaps even plotters who want to assassinate our vice president?”Tenet told the prince he would be coming back each week to make sure intelligence flowed both ways.Overall, however, Tenet makes it clear that he had warm relations with Saudi leaders. He says King Abdullah was instrumental in breaking logjam of the flow of intelligence and cites Naif’s son, the Saudis’ counterterrorism chief, as one of Washington’s best friends in countering al-Qaida.Al-Qaida’s WMD plans
Tenet’s most frightening chapter is on al-Qaida’s plans to develop weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. It is titled “They Want to Change the World.”Tenet writes that U.S. intelligence agencies “established that Al Qaeda had clear intent to acquire chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons to cause mass casualties in the United States.”According to Tenet, intelligence officials learned that Saudi extremist elements were planning to conduct a cyanide gas attack on the New York subway system in fall 2003 using a homemade device. But first, they requested permission from al-Qaida leaders.“Chillingly, word came back from Ayman al-Zawahiri in early 2003 to cancel the operation and recall the operatives who were already staged in New York ‘because we have something better in mind.’ ”Al-Qaida’s nuclear ambitions
It is the story of al-Qaida’s efforts to acquire weapons or weapons technology from Pakistan that anchors the most chilling part of that section. The terrorist network made two separate efforts to persuade Pakistani scientists to provide it with nuclear weapons from their stockpile of about 50 nuclear weapons, highly enriched uranium and plutonium, and vast weapons infrastructure. In 1998, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida’s leader, was rebuffed, for unclear reasons. About two years later, he had better luck when al-Qaida reached out to a charity for Afghan refugees run by Pakistani nuclear scientists. Although some of the details of this effort have been previously reported, the extent of the effort went much further than what was publicly known. In 2000, Tenet writes, the charity’s founder, Sultan Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood, and others at Pakistan’s nuclear weapons agency agreed to help Mahmood in his effort to share weapons of mass destruction with the Taliban leaders of Afghanistan. In fact, Tenet said, U.S. intelligence learned that bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban’s leader, had met with Mahmood and an aide in August 2001 in Afghanistan.Tenet describes the initial Pakistani investigation as “ill-fated” and writes that the Pakistanis treated the charity officials with deference in their interrogations. Showdown with Musharraf
So he went to Pakistan and met with Musharraf, warning about the outrage that would explode if it emerged that Pakistan was allowing nuclear scientists to help bin Laden acquire nuclear weapons. Musharraf pooh-poohed the concerns, arguing that bin Laden and his associates were “men living in caves” who could not possibly take possession of such weapons, Tenet writes. Under interrogation, however, Mahmood subsequently confirmed the details of the August 2001 meeting with bin Laden.At the same time, in the fall of 2001, Tenet writes, U.S. intelligence began picking up rumors from several reliable sources that a small nuclear device had been smuggled into the United States, for probable use in New York City. The Energy Department sent detection equipment to New York, he adds.Tenet concludes that a nuclear detonation in a U.S. city is al-Qaida’s ultimate goal.“I’m concerned this is where UBL and his operatives want to go,” he writes. “If they can arrange to set off a mushroom cloud, they make history. … My deepest fear is that this exactly what they intend.”
Maliki’s office is seen behind purge in forces, Some top commanders who were removed, arrested had pursued militias
(The Washington Post) BAGHDAD – A department of the Iraqi prime minister’s office is playing a leading role in the arrest and removal of senior Iraqi army and national police officers, some of whom have apparently worked too aggressively to combat violent Shiite militias, according to U.S. military officials in Baghdad.Since March 1, at least 16 army and national police commanders have been fired, detained or pressured to resign; at least nine of them are Sunnis, according to U.S. military documents shown to The Washington Post.Although some of the officers appear to have been fired for legitimate reasons, such as poor performance or corruption, several were considered to be among the better Iraqi officers in the field. The dismissals have angered U.S. and Iraqi leaders who say the Shiite-led government is sabotaging the military to achieve sectarian goals.“Their only crimes or offenses were they were successful” against the Mahdi Army, a powerful Shiite militia, said Brig. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commanding general of the Iraq Assistance Group, which works with Iraqi security forces. “I’m tired of seeing good Iraqi officers having to look over their shoulders when they’re trying to do the right thing.”The issue strikes at a central question about the fledgling government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: whether it can put sectarian differences aside to deliver justice fairly. During earlier security crackdowns in Baghdad, Maliki was criticized for failing to target Shiite militias, in particular the Mahdi Army, which is led by hard-line Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, one of Maliki’s political supporters. Before the most recent Baghdad security plan was launched in February, Maliki repeatedly declared he would target militants regardless of their sect.Conflicting loyalties
Iraqi government officials denied that security force commanders have faced political pressure and said that Maliki is committed to targeting all criminals equally.Sadiq al-Rikabi, a political adviser to Maliki, said the first two months of the Baghdad security plan show that Maliki “is not working on any agenda but the national agenda.”“The Baghdad security plan is working on a military and professional basis without any regard for any sect or ethnic group or any political factors,” he said.But some U.S. military officials say politics remains among the greatest hindrances to the development of the Iraqi security forces — a top priority for Americans in Iraq. Col. Ehrich Rose, chief of the Military Transition Team with the 4th Iraqi Army Division, who has spent several years working with foreign armies, said the Iraqi officer corps is riddled with divergent loyalties to different sects, tribes and political groups.“The Iraqi army, as far as capability goes, I’d stack them up against just about any Latin American army I’ve dealt with,” he said. “However, the politicization of their officer corps is the worst I’ve ever seen.”At the national level, some U.S. officials are increasingly concerned about the Office of the Commander in Chief, a behind-the-scenes department that works on military issues for the prime minister.One adviser in the office, Bassima Luay Hasun al-Jaidri, has enough influence to remove and intimidate senior commanders, and her work has “stifled” many officers who are afraid of angering her, a senior U.S. military official said. U.S. commanders are considering installing a U.S. liaison officer in the department to better understand its influence.“Her office harasses [Iraqi commanders] if they are nationalistic and fair,” said the U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity out of concern over publicly criticizing the Iraqi government. “They need to get rid of her and her little group.”A senior Iraqi army official said he plans to seek assistance from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, in limiting the office’s interference in the daily duties of the military. “We need his help to stop these noises,” the official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.Dubious resignations, firings
Officials close to Maliki denied that Jaidri or her office were influencing or removing leaders in the security forces. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said no political pressure was being placed on any military or police officers, and that U.S. military officials were “exaggerating” Jaidri’s role in the government. “She has no connection with the Ministry of Defense,” he said.Jaidri could not be reached for comment Sunday.But according to documents and U.S. officials, political interference appears to have affected some of the most senior Iraqi officers.Maj. Gen. Abdulla Mohammed Khamis al-Dafi is a Sunni who commands the 9th Iraqi Army Division, based in Baghdad, and is responsible for eastern Baghdad, home to such predominantly Shiite districts as Sadr City. On April 23, he told U.S. military officials he was determined to resign because of repeated “interference” from the prime minister’s staff, according to portions of a report on the situation that was read to The Washington Post.Maj. Gen. Husayn Jasim Abd al-Awadi is a Shiite who was “assessed as combating militia influences” in his work with the national police, but three Iraqi generals said he would be replaced and all “agreed that Dr. Bassima played a role in the decision to fire” him, according to a separate U.S. military document marked secret.Another national police battalion commander, Col. Nadir Abd Al-Razaq Abud al-Jaburi, has been “known to pass accurate and actionable intelligence” about the Mahdi Army, the report said, adding that U.S. military officials describe him “as professional, non-sectarian, and focused on gaining support of the populace.”Yet he was detained April 6 under an Interior Ministry warrant for allegedly supporting Sunni insurgents, the document said.The report also outlines the case of Lt. Col. Ahmad Yousif Ibrahim Kjalil, a Sunni battalion commander in the 6th Iraqi Army Division, based in Baghdad. He was allegedly fired by Jaidri but reinstated with another general’s help. “He eventually resigned after at least five attempts on his life and one attempt on his children,” the report said.Col. Ali Fadil Amran Khatab al-Abedi, a Sunni who leads the 2nd Battalion, 5th Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Army Division, was ordered arrested by the prime minister’s office on April 17, the report said. Lt. Col. Emad Kahlif Abud al-Mashadani, a Sunni commander with the 1st Iraqi National Police Division, was detained April 15, the report said.After the massive bombing in Baghdad’s Sadriya market this month, Maliki ordered the arrest and investigation of a Shiite army battalion commander responsible for security in the area. A U.S. official said the commander was subsequently released and has fled.A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which oversees the national police, said his agency removes only officers who have committed crimes or whose political and sectarian leanings influence their work. An estimated 14,000 Interior Ministry employees have been purged for criminal behavior or ties to insurgents or militias, according to the spokesman, Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf Qanani.“Any officer whose allegiance to a political party or sect we have proved will be kicked out of the ministry,” he said. “Working for a Sunni or Shiite sect, this is not appropriate at the Ministry of Interior. One should work only for Iraq.”
(The Guardian) A grand coalition of anti-government forces is planning a second Iranian revolution via the ballot box to deny President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad another term in office and break the grip of what they call the “militia state” on public life and personal freedom. Encouraged by recent successes in local elections, opposition factions, democracy activists, and pro-reform clerics say they will bring together progressive parties loyal to former president Mohammad Khatami with so-called pragmatic conservatives led by Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani.The alliance aims to exploit the president’s deepening unpopularity, borne of high unemployment, rising inflation and a looming crisis over petrol prices and possible rationing to win control of the Majlis in general elections which are due within 10 months. Parliament last week voted to curtail Mr Ahmadinejad’s term by holding presidential and parliamentary elections simultaneously next year. Though the move is likely to be vetoed by the hardline Guardian Council, it served notice of mounting disaffection in parliament. But opposition spokesmen say their broader objective is to bring down the fundamentalist regime by democratic means, transform Iran into a “normal country”, and obviate the need for any military or other US and western intervention. Rightwing political and religious forces, divided and dismayed by Mr Ahmadinejad’s much-criticised performance, are already mobilising to meet the threat. The movement amounts to the clearest sign yet within Iran that the country is by no means unified behind a president who has led it into confrontation with the west over the nuclear issue, while presiding over economic decline at home. “The past two years have been a very bitter time for Iran,” said Mohammad Atrianfar, a leading opposition figure with ties to Mr Rafsanjani, the former president now emerging as a likely future kingmaker in Iran. “Ahmadinejad has done everything upside down – politics, economy, foreign policy – putting all our achievements at risk. He has done a lot of damage at home and abroad.” Mr Atrianfar said that a majority in the Majlis was now critical of the president and would certainly impeach him but for the support he enjoyed from the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. According to Ali Alavi of Siyasat-e Ruz newspaper, some 150 political activists, governors-general, former administration officials and dissident MPs drew up a coalition “victory strategy” at a secretive conference last month presided over by Mr Khatami. The strategy envisaged “aggravation of the differences among the fundamentalists” and “constant criticism of Ahmadinejad” by “presenting a dark image of the country’s affairs,” Mr Alavi said. Opposition sources said that a future reformist-pragmatist government would continue to maintain Iran’s claim to nuclear energy and other “national rights” but would seek to settle disputes through talks. Iran wanted a “normal” relationship with the rest of the world based on mutual respect, the opposition sources said. In an oblique swipe at Mr Ahmadinejad, Mr Rafsanjani told the weekly Friday prayer meeting in Tehran that the nuclear issue should be settled by negotiations “conducted in a rational atmosphere”. Mr Atrianfar said the economy was the battleground on which Iran’s political future would be decided. The president has faced mounting criticism in recent weeks over high unemployment, especially among younger people, rising inflation and escalating housing costs. Significantly, for a major oil producer, heavily subsidised petrol prices are due to rise next month, hitting poorer people hardest in a country with poor or non-existent public transport. “They are playing with fire. Nobody wants to take responsibility for this. It’s going to blow up in their faces,” said Hussein Dirbaz, a resident of Narmak, the Tehran suburb where Mr Ahmadinejad was brought up. In an unusual intervention, Grand Ayatollah Yusef Sa’anei, one of Iran’s most respected Islamic scholars, has attacked Mr Ahmadinejad’s government for failing to tackle social ills such as youth unemployment, drug addiction, and gender inequality. In a rare interview with a western newspaper at his office in the holy city of Qom, Mr Sa’anei said: “The government should be at the service of the people. But it is putting too much pressure on the people. “It bans newspapers, sends people to jail, segregates boys and the girls at the universities, makes noise about hijab.” A senior government official said the rising tide of criticism directed at Mr Ahmadinejad was unwarranted. “People say we don’t care but that’s not true. We’ve created more credit, more jobs. “It’s too soon to say [Ahmadinejad] has failed. It’s too soon to say the reformists will win.” Observers claim that a power struggle is inevitable. “A very big battle is coming. It’s unavoidable,” a western diplomat said. “There’s a widening gulf between the two sides. There are profound divisions about which way Iran should go. It’s going to get very rough.” The looming power struggle could decide whether Iran continues on a path of confrontation with the west or comes in from the cold, the diplomat said.
(Ntarc News)-Qaida-linked plotters hoped to reproduce the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, planning to send suicide pilots to military bases and attack the oil refineries.Targets that drive the economy of Osama bin Laden’s homeland, the government said Saturday.Revealing new details of the purported plot, a government spokesman said some of the 172 attackers trained as pilots in an unidentified “troubled country” nearby, hoping to use the planes to carry out suicide attacks.The spokesman, Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, would not say where the training took place: “It could be
Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, there are so many troubled regions in the world. I can’t specify.”The militants allegedly wanted to use planes “like car bombs … to use the aircraft as a tool to carry out suicide operations,” al-Turki told The Associated Press by phone from this capital city. Targets included Saudi military bases that militants had no other way of reaching but by blowing up an aircraft, he said.“The last group (we) rounded up are carriers of al-Qaida ideology, working on achieving al-Qaida goals, which is to take over the society,” al-Turki said.The monthslong roundup of alleged Islamic militants from seven terror cells was one of the biggest terror sweeps since Saudi leaders began an unrelenting offensive against extremists after militants attacked foreigners and others involved in the country’s oil industry seeking to topple the monarchy for its alliance with the U.S.But analysts say al-Qaida followers are determined to stay active in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.“This is the heart of Islam, the birthplace of Islam. Saudi Arabia has a huge psychological value for al-Qaida. … Despite the crackdown, al-Qaida will keep trying to establish itself in Saudi Arabia,” said Mustafa Alani, director of security and terrorism studies at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center.Along with the planned suicide attacks, authorities said the latest arrests also thwarted plots to mount attacks on the kingdom’s oil refineries, break militants out of prison and send suicide attackers to kill government officials. The Interior Ministry also said some targets were outside the country, which it did not identify.Al-Turki did not elaborate or specifically say those detained were al-Qaida members, but his comments marked a rare mention of the terror network by Saudi officials, who customarily refer to the organization as a “deviant group.”Saudi Arabia’s long alliance with the United States has angered Saudi extremists, especially bin Laden, who was born in Saudi Arabia. Fifteen of the 19 airline hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks were also from here.An austere strain of Islam known as Wahhabism is followed by the country’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population, and militant groups have attracted Saudi recruits with extremist leanings.Militants have attacked foreigners living in Saudi Arabia and the country’s oil industry, which has more than 260 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, a quarter of the world’s total. Bin Laden also has urged such attacks to hurt the flow of oil to the West.The four-year U.S.-led war in neighboring Iraq has also provided a training ground for al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters. U.S. officials have warned it could become a regional base for extremists planning attacks elsewhere in the region.Saudi’s ruling family has pursued an aggressive campaign against militants since the May 2003 suicide attack on three housing estates for foreigners in Riyadh. The kingdom’s security forces have managed to kill or capture most of those on its list of the 26 most-wanted al-Qaida loyalists in the country.Sheik Majed al-Marsal, a religious adviser to the Saudi Interior Ministry, told the independent Al-Watan newspaper that he believes Iraq has become the new
Afghanistan.Terror groups “are exploiting the situation in Iraq, recruiting young men, equipping them and training them and then sending them back to work inside their home countries just like what happened in Afghanistan,” the cleric was quoted as saying. It was unclear how much al-Marsal knew about the latest arrests.Faris bin Hizam, a Saudi writer and expert on terror groups, said not only has Iraq been “fertile soil” for young militants, but al-Qaida itself has morphed over the years from a centralized organization to a network of loosely organized terror cells that follow its ideology.“Al-Qaida which means ‘the Base,’ has turned from a solid base to a liquid one” that can spread more easily, bin Hizam said. “This is more dangerous simply because you can’t put your hand on someone and say this is al-Qaida. You can’t hunt down an idea.”
LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s attempts to secure the extradition of Rashid Rauf, a suspect in a terrorist plot involving the explosion of US-bound passenger jets, from Pakistan are stalling because of Pakistani demands, The Daily Telegraph reported on Monday. Citing unidentified officials from both countries, the paper said that Pakistani demands for greater “reciprocity” have hampered negotiations to secure the 25-year-old Rauf.“Britain has not fulfilled its side of the bargain,” a senior Pakistani official told the paper.“Over the years lists of wanted people have piled up … England is harbouring all sorts of terrorists and criminals.“The problem is that we find there are double standards. Terrorism is terrorism whether in Pakistan, London or Madrid.”According to the Telegraph, Pakistan has presented demands for eight suspected members of the Baluch Liberation Army, which is fighting an insurgency in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan.Pakistan’s foreign ministry denied this month reports that Rauf would be extradited in exchange for separatist leaders.Rauf’s arrest in August by Pakistan sparked a worldwide security alert and arrests in Britain amid fears of a conspiracy to blow up airliners flying from London to the United States.Unidentified British officials in Islamabad also confirmed to the Telegraph that Pakistani demands for the separatists’ extradition had “come up in the same conversations as Rauf.”They also said that “innuendos and hints were dropped,” but apparently insisted that there was no possibility of an exchange.Rauf faces charges including impersonation, carrying a fake identity card and fake documents, which he denies.In December an anti-terrorism court dropped terror charges against Rauf but its order was suspended when the provincial Punjab government appealed to a higher court.
(Times Online) Condoleezza Rice held out the prospect yesterday of direct talks with her Iranian counterpart this week in what would be America’s most significant contact with the Islamic republic since ties were severed almost 30 years ago. The US Secretary of State was speaking shortly after Iran said that Manouchehr Mottaki, its Foreign Minister, would on Thursday attend talks in Egypt on the future of Iraq. “I will not rule out that we may encounter one another,” Dr Rice said in a series of interviews with Sunday talk shows. “This isn’t an opportunity to talk about US-Iran issues. This is really an opportunity for all of Iraq’s neighbours to talk about how to stabilise Iraq.” The State Department has been more forthcoming, saying that there is a strong likelihood of bilateral talks in Egypt.Although Colin Powell, Dr Rice’s predecessor, found himself embarrassingly seated next to Iran’s Foreign Minister at a dinner in 2004, there has been no meaningful dialogue between the two nations since the US introduced sanctions after the storming and occupation of its embassy in Tehran by revolutionary students in November 1979. But President Bush has come under pressure to rekindle diplomacy from Democrats in Congress, the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group and allies such as Tony Blair. Yesterday, asked what she would say to the Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr Rice provided a substantial agenda of items for discussion. “I think we want to talk about how we can all take actions, and Iraq’s neighbours can take actions, to help the Iraqis secure themselves,” she said. Senior US and Iraqi officials have blamed Tehran for using its money and influence to arm and organise Shia militias inside Iraq, including those who have been attacking British troops in the south. Dr Rice said: “We need to stop the help to militias that then go out and kill innocent Iraqis.” But she ruled out talks on Iran’s nuclear programme, about which Mr Bush has said there will be no direct discussion until Tehran has suspended uranium enrichment activities. Ali Larijani, the chief Iranian negotiator, arrived in Baghdad yesterday to discuss his country’s participation in the summit that is due to be held in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. It will be chaired by Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, and Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General. Fears that Iran would boycott this week’s conference had increased after claims that the US had gone back on a deal to release five Iranian detainees. But Dr Rice said that they would be “dealt with” through the normal process and there was “no guarantee” on their release. Mr al-Maliki suggested to Mr Larijani yesterday that the persistent attacks in Iraq were also a threat to Iran. “Terrorist operations targeting Iraq will affect all countries in the world that are supposed to be supporting the US in its war against terrorism,” he said. Dr Rice confirmed that the US would conduct an evaluation of the success of its surge strategy – and Iraq’s cooperation with it – in September, but insisted that this week Mr Bush would veto any congressional spending Bill that punished Mr al-Maliki’s Government for failing to meet benchmarks for progress. — Faye Turney, one of the 15 Navy personnel and Marines seized by Iran last month and held for a fortnight, is thought to be returning to her ship. The MoD said that several sailors would return this week to HMS Cornwall in the Gulf.
RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has arrested more than 170 suspected al Qaeda-linked militants, some of whom were training as pilots to carry out suicide attacks on oil facilities in the kingdom, the Interior Ministry said on Friday. The ministry, in a statement read on state television, also said police seized weapons and more than 20 million riyals ($5.33 million) in cash, from what Al Arabiya television said were seven armed militant cells. “Some had begun training on the use of weapons, and some were sent to other countries to study aviation in preparation to use them to carry out terrorist operations inside the kingdom,” the statement said. “One of their main targets was to carry out suicide attacks against public figures and oil installations and to target military bases inside and outside (the country),” it added. It said the suspects, mostly Saudis, had been “influenced by the deviant ideology”, a reference frequently used by Saudi officials to refer to al Qaeda. Islamic militants swearing allegiance to al Qaeda launched a violent campaign to topple the U.S.-allied Saudi monarchy in 2003, carrying out suicide bomb attacks on foreigners and government installations, including the oil industry. The television showed agents digging in desert areas and searching inside buildings and seizing weapons, including rocket propelled grenades, computers and stacks of Saudi riyals. Militants in February killed four French expatriates working and living in Saudi Arabia in the latest attack on foreigners in the pro-Western kingdom. Saudi Arabia warned foreign embassies last month that a group blamed for the killings could strike again. Militant Islamists have said they want to drive “infidel” Westerners out of Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and home to its holiest sites. Tough security measures and a powerful publicity campaign helped crush the violence but analysts and diplomats have said the underlying drives of radical Islamic ideology and anger at Western policy in the region remain strong.
(The Houston Chronicle) Federal prosecutors have added charges against a Houston-raised college student charged in connection with an alleged terrorist plot to aid the Taliban.Syed Maaz Shah, 19, was indicted last year on two counts of being an alien in possession of a firearm.The new charges make the same claim, but also allege that the Pakistani student was in the United States illegally.All four counts charge Shah with unlawfully possessing a semiautomatic weapon.“They just added (the counts) to cover a question about his status in the country,” said Shah’s attorney, Frank Jackson, of Dallas.Either way, a student visa holder or someone who has an expired visa and is here illegally cannot have a gun, prosecutors allege.Nancy Herrera, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, declined to elaborate on the new charges.Jackson said he’ll argue that his client was entrapped by a confidential informant and undercover FBI agent who gained Shah’s trust at a Muslim camp site in Willis. “There is no terrorist implication to what he has done except some words he might have used.” Jackson said. “They’re probably going to bring in some issues about conversations that he had with undercover agents reflecting some opinions about how the world is.”
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Pentagon said Friday it has custody of one of al-Qaida’s most senior and most experienced operatives, an Iraqi who was attempting to return to his native country when he was captured. Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said the captive is Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi. He was received by the Pentagon from the CIA, Whitman said, but the spokesman would not say where or when al-Iraqi was captured or by whom. The Pentagon took custody of him at Guantanamo Bay this week, Whitman said. Whitman said the terror suspect was believed responsible for plotting cross-border attacks from Pakistan on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and that he led an effort to assassinate Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. “Abd al-Hadi (al-Iraqi) was trying to return to his native country, Iraq, to manage al-Qaida’s affairs and possibly focus on operations outside Iraq against Western targets,” Whitman said, adding that the terror suspect met with al-Qaida members in Iran. He said he did not know what time period al-Iraqi was in Iran. The Pentagon said al-Iraqi was born in Mosul, a city in northern Iraq, in 1961. Whitman said he was a key al-Qaida paramilitary leader in Afghanistan in the late 1990s and during 2002-04 led efforts to attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan with terrorist forces based in Pakistan.
(CNN) — An explosive device “which could have caused substantial harm” was found Wednesday in the parking lot of an Austin, Texas, women’s clinic where abortions are performed, authorities said. “It was configured in such a way as to cause serious bodily injury or death,” Austin Police Assistant Chief David Carter told reporters Thursday. An employee reported the suspicious device at the Austin Women’s Health Center, and Austin police responded at about 2:15 p.m. The employee also notified the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as per clinic protocol, police said.Southbound lanes of nearby Interstate 35 were closed as bomb technicians detonated the device, and the clinic, an insurance agency and an apartment building behind the clinic were evacuated.“[Officials] came in banging on the doors, telling us to get out. I got home from work early today and said, ‘Are you serious?’ and they starting taping off the area,” one resident told News 8 Austin.After the detonation, “closer examination of the package revealed an unknown powdery substance in the device,” police said. Field analysis showed the substance was an explosive powder, but not a biological hazard, authorities said.Austin police spokesman Kevin Buchman said there are no reports thus far of anyone suspicious in the vicinity at the time the package was found, but said authorities were canvassing the area for potential witnesses.The clinic does have cameras in its parking lot. Asked whether that might aid police in their investigation, Carter said, “Time will tell.” Carter said the device was in a “carry-all type bag”, but Austin police and the FBI would not provide more details on the device and its makeup. The Joint Terrorism Task Force was investigating, Carter said. Authorities were also making contact with other clinics in the city.
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