by Florian Flade
“The Mujahideen are coming to you!” – German al-Qaeda fighter
Groups of armed men wearing explosive devices on their bodies, attacking German train stations, the subway system of Paris, London Hotels and Italian Museums, killing hundreds of civilians and causing mass media attention over days . Bloodshed in the heart of Europe, nine years after 9/11.
Was that the scenario al-Qaeda had planned for several European countries in a terror plot now uncovered and possibly foiled by Western intelligence agencies?
Let´s start where the rumors and unconfirmed intel whistle started. Two major U.S. newspaper, The Wall Street Journal and New York Times both reported recent increase in U.S. drone attacks on the Pakistani tribal areas of North Waziristan is the result of intelligence gathering suspecting terror networks in that region are planning major simultaneous Mumbai-style attacks on European cities.
Al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network of the Taliban operating out of Pakistan, are both involved in the Euro-Plot, targeting especially the UK, France and Germany. To prevent the terror networks, whose plans were in the early stage, from organizing the “Who”, “Where”, “How” and “When”, the CIA boosted the drone hunt in North Waziristan. This led to an all time record in missile attacks on terror targets in the Pakistani tribal with more than 20 drone operations causing 70 casualties on the militant´s side in September 2010 – previous record was January with just 13 such attacks.
Drones killed fairly high-ranking al-Qaeda militants in recent days, including al-Qaeda´s Afghanistan-Pakistan Emir Egyptian Sheikh Fateh al-Masri, the Saudi AQ military commander of Afghan province Kunar, Abu Abdallah Omar al-Qureishi and a Kuwaiti bomb expert named Abu Atta.
In the course of this week, other media outlets in Europe and North America were reporting what their sources in government, anti-terror units and intelligence revealed about the suspected “Euro-Plot”.
The terrorist were planning to strike European cities with assault commando-style attacks similar to the ones that were carried out in Indian Mumbai at Luxury Hotels in November 2008. Groups of armed men attacking civilian “soft” targets like train stations, hotels, museums, tourist places or the subway system in several European countries.
The major source for the intelligence leading to unravelling al-Qaeda´s plot, is a German-Afghan citizen who was arrested in Kabul, Afghanistan, in July.
Ahmad Wali S., a 36-year old Islamist and resident of Hamburg, had left Germany in March 2009 as part of a Eleven-Person-Group, to travel to Pakistan and join with the terror group “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.”
S. was a regular worshipper of the Masjid Taiba, formerly known as “Al Quds Mosque” in St.Georg quarter of Hamburg. This was the mosque were Mohammed Atta and the other hijackers of the Hamburg cell of the 9/11 attacks met and prayed.
Ahmad Wali S., had worked for a cleaning company at Hamburg airport and was very close with the 9/11-Hijacker´s Moroccan helper Mounir al-Motassadeq who still lives in Germany. Both went on vacation together some years ago.
While in Hamburg, S. became part of a group known as the “Club of 50”, radical Salafi members and mosque visitors who were supporting violent Jihad.
Eleven people out of the fifty radical jihadis from Hamburg travelled to Pakistan via Iran, Qatar, Dubai and Turkey in spring of 2009. While most of the extremists reached their final destination, the training camps of “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan” (IMU), at least two men were arrested and sent back before they joined the terror group.
Ahmad Wali S., his brother and his Indonesian wife entered Pakistan´s tribal region and joined IMU. Why he travelled to Kabul, where S. was arrested by U.S. forces in July, is not known. Some German officials believe he was about to return to Germany.
In U.S. military prison at Bagram, Afghanistan, S. was interrogated by the Americans. He presented them useful information about the activities of the terror groups in Waziristan. S. was reluctant to speak, some sources say, telling the interrogators about an alleged plot by a joined-alliance of Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani network, IMU and al-Qaeda. This plan to sent out commando-units to Europe, Ahmad S. claims, was approved by al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
Because of the information given by the arrested Hamburg jihadi, the CIA was able to identify several of the plotters and start a precise hunt in North Wazirstan using the deadly unmanned drones.
Meanwhile information from Pakistani officials indicate that the plotters of the attacks in Europe, were in fact themselves European. Two British brothers of Pakistani origin and eight German nationals are at the heart of the al-Qaeda plot, unconfirmed reports say. A North African is rumored to be the chief-planner.
Abdul Jabbar, one of the British jihadis, was possibly killed in one of the recent U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan.
British officials said they believe at least 15-20 British nationals are receiving terror training in al-Qaeda camps in North West Pakistan.
In Germany, intelligence monitors very closely who from the German radical Islamist community is traveling to terror camps and who is returning. Around 220 German nationals have been trained in Jihadi terror camps since the 1990s (73 are confirmed). Of those suspects who have returned since, few are behind bars, most of the returnees are monitored by police and intelligence.
Even though German officials have warned about the increase in Jihadi tourism from Germany to Waziristan, the trend in recent months was a different one. Intercepted e-mail exchange and phone calls made from Pakistan to Germany indicated a growing despair and hopelessness by the German militants.
Life in the terror camps of the IMU, the Islamic Jihad Union and it´s break-away group “German Taliban Mujaheddin” is hard and almost unbearable, the reports from Pakistan suggested. The groups lacked money and food and the rise in drone attacks was grueling on the jihadi´s will to combat. They felt desperate, German intelligence concluded, many wanted to go home.
A prime example of the situation in the terror camps was presented in form of Rami M., a German-Syrian national originally from Frankfurt but residing in Hamburg. M., a former drug-dealer and low-profile criminal had turned to radical Islam and became the leader of the Hamburg Jihadi group. He was the one urging other young men to join the Mujahiddeen in Waziristan.
Rami M. travelled to Waziristan in March 2009 and joined the IMU. Just about one year later, in June 2010, Rami M. contacted the German embassy in Pakistan, telling them he wants to surrender and return to Germany. Problem was, Rami M. told the officials via phone, he had lost all his ID documents including his passport and driver´s license. The German embassy officials talked to intelligence and police in Germany, asking them what to make of M.´s case.
While most in the German intelligence community regarded Rami M. as a desperate young men, some experts were on alert. Could Rami M. be the next “Abu Dujana al-Khorasani”? A Jordanian al-Qaeda man had killed a team of CIA experts in Khost, Afghanistan, just a few months before in a suicide bombing.
German embassy in Pakistan arranged an appointment with Rami M., sending him documents he could use to pass checkpoints and reach the consulate in Islamabad.
German police were convinced Rami M. was planning an attack on the German embassy, so they called their Pakistani colleagues telling them about the “high-value terror target” coming to a checkpoint in Bannu, near the tribal areas.
Indeed Rami M., dressed in a white Burqa, was arrested on June 21th, then held by Pakistani´s ISI and later handed over to German officials. On August 26th he returned to Germany and is in prison now.
In addition to Rami M.´s case, there is also the development of three German jihadis arrested at an airport in Istanbul in early September.
Berlin convert Thomas U., his pregnant convert wife and a German-Turkish national wanted for financial support to terror groups in Pakistan, were on their way back from Waziristan to Germany. Thomas U. and his wife planned on taking a flight from Istanbul to Copenhagen and cross the border to Germany via car. Why they returned? Probably because the pregnant woman was not willing to give birth to their child in a dirty Pakistani hut. No indication the couple was sent back to carry out a terror attack. Thomas U. had sent e-mails to his family in Berlin, decribing to them the situation in the IMU camps.
“I don´t know if I will be alive next summer”, Thomas wrote in December 2009.
So what to make of the reports saying it was a German-Jihadi-dominated plot the Europeans and Americans were tracking?
Fact is: there are dozens of German nationals training in Waziristan. Convert Eric Breininger, German-Afghan Javad S., German-Turkish Ahmet M., Berlin convert Danny R. and maybe even al-Qaeda spokesman Bekkay Harrach alias “Abu Talha the German” became “martyrs” in the past 12 months, most of them killed by Pakistani security forces. It is possible German nationals are involved in an international terror plot. Maybe the increase of drone attacks on Waziristan and the number of casualties have resulted in a growing eagerness to carry out revenge attacks in Europe.
If true, a cooperation between al-Qaeda, Pakistani groups like Lashkar e-Toiba, IMU, IJU, German Taliban Mujahideen, the Haqqani network and Tehrik e-Taliban could very well result in a devastating terror assault on European cities. Nevertheless more groups being involved also means more people are talking, sending e-mails, calling others, so the chance of the plot being uncovered by Western intelligence is huge. And: why no mention of Ilyas Kashimiri, the AQ chief of operations who must have had his hands on this plan?
Does al-Qaeda want to strike Europe? YES. France and Belgium banned the Burqa, Germany, UK and Italy are part of the Afghanistan-occupation, Denmark and Sweden have insulted the prophet, Netherlands are home of Geert Wilders – the list of reasons for al-Qaeda to attack the continent is growing. And so is the number of terror recruits coming to Waziristan.
Still the word of most European intelligence officials: “No imminent threat”.