World Terror Watch - News and Discussions


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
B.C.C.I.: The Dirtiest Bank of All

"I could tell you what you want to know, but I must worry about my wife and family -- they could be killed."
-- a former top B.C.C.I. officer
"We better not talk about this over the phone. We've found some bugs in offices that haven't been put there by law enforcement."
-- a Manhattan investigator probing B.C.C.I.
Bank-fraud cases are usually dry, tedious affairs. Not this one. Nothing in the history of modern financial scandals rivals the unfolding saga of the Bank of Credit & Commerce International, the $20 billion rogue empire that regulators in 62 countries shut down early this month in a stunning global sweep. Never has a single scandal involved so much money, so many nations or so many prominent people.
Superlatives are quickly exhausted: it is the largest corporate criminal enterprise ever, the biggest Ponzi scheme, the most pervasive money-laundering operation and financial supermarket ever created for the likes of Manuel Noriega, Ferdinand Marcos, Saddam Hussein and the Colombian drug barons. B.C.C.I. even accomplished a Stealth-like invasion of the U.S. banking industry by secretly buying First American Bankshares, a Washington-based holding company with offices stretching from Florida to New York, whose chairman is former U.S. Defense Secretary Clark Clifford.
But B.C.C.I. is more than just a criminal bank. From interviews with sources close to B.C.C.I., TIME has pieced together a portrait of a clandestine division of the bank called the "black network," which functions as a global intelligence operation and a Mafia-like enforcement squad. Operating primarily out of the bank's offices in Karachi, Pakistan, the 1,500-employee black network has used sophisticated spy equipment and techniques, along with bribery, extortion, kidnapping and even, by some accounts, murder. The black network -- so named by its own members -- stops at almost nothing to further the bank's aims the world over.
The more conventional departments of B.C.C.I. handled such services as laundering money for the drug trade and helping dictators loot their national treasuries. The black network, which is still functioning, operates a lucrative arms-trade business and transports drugs and gold. According to investigators and participants in those operations, it often works with Western and Middle Eastern intelligence agencies. The strange and still murky ties between B.C.C.I. and the intelligence agencies of several countries are so pervasive that even the White House has become entangled. As TIME reported earlier this month, the National Security Council used B.C.C.I. to funnel money for the Iran-contra deals, and the CIA maintained accounts in B.C.C.I. for covert operations. Moreover, investigators have told TIME that the Defense Intelligence Agency has maintained a slush-fund account with B.C.C.I., apparently to pay for clandestine activities.

But the CIA may have used B.C.C.I. as more than an undercover banker: U.S. agents collaborated with the black network in several operations, according to a B.C.C.I. black-network "officer" who is now a secret U.S. government witness. Sources have told investigators that B.C.C.I. worked closely with Israel's spy agencies and other Western intelligence groups as well, especially in arms deals. The bank also maintained cozy relationships with international terrorists, say investigators who discovered suspected terrorist accounts for Libya, Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization in B.C.C.I.'s London offices.
The bank's intelligence connections and alleged bribery of public officials around the world point to an explanation for the most persistent mystery in the B.C.C.I. scandal: why banking and law-enforcement authorities allowed the bank to spin out of control for so long.
In the U.S. investigators now say openly that the Justice Department has not only reined in its own probe of the bank but is also part of a concerted campaign to derail any full investigation. Says Robert Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, who first launched his investigations into B.C.C.I. two years ago: "We have had no cooperation from the Justice Department since we first asked for records in March 1990. In fact they are impeding our investigation, and Justice Department representatives are asking witnesses not to cooperate with us."
B.C.C.I. was started in 1972 with the putative mission of becoming the Muslim world's first banking powerhouse. Though it was incorporated in Luxembourg and headquartered in London, had more than 400 branches and subsidiaries around the world and was nominally owned by Arab shareholders from the gulf countries, B.C.C.I. was always a Pakistani bank, with its heart in Karachi. Agha Hasan Abedi, the bank's founder and leader until his ouster last year, is a Pakistani, as are most of the bank's former middle managers. And it was in Pakistan that the bank's most prodigiously corrupt division was spawned.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the resulting strategic importance of neighboring Pakistan accelerated the growth of B.C.C.I.'s geopolitical power and its unbridled use of the black network. Because the U.S. wanted to supply the mujahedin rebels in Afghanistan with Stinger missiles and other military hardware, it needed the full cooperation of Pakistan, across whose border the weapons would be shipped. By the mid-1980s, the CIA's Islamabad operation was one of the largest U.S. intelligence stations in the world. "If B.C.C.I. is such an embarrassment to the U.S. that forthright investigations are not being pursued, it has a lot to do with the blind eye the U.S. turned to the heroin trafficking in Pakistan," says a U.S. intelligence officer.
The black network was a natural outgrowth of B.C.C.I.'s dubious and criminal associations. The bank was in a unique position to operate an intelligence- gathering unit because it dealt with such figures as Noriega, Saddam, Marcos, Peruvian President Alan Garcia, Daniel Ortega, contra leader Adolfo Calero and arms dealers like Adnan Khashoggi. Its original purpose was to pay bribes, intimidate authorities and quash investigations. But according to a former operative, sometime in the early 1980s the black network began running its own drugs, weapons and currency deals.
"I was recruited by the black network in the early 1980s," says an Arab- born employee who has ties to a ruling family in the Middle East and has told U.S. authorities of his role in running one of the black units. "They came to me while I was in school in the U.S.; they spoke my language, knew all of my friends and gave me money. They told me they wanted me to join the organization, and described its wealth and political power, but at first they never said exactly what the organization did."
This operative -- call him Mustafa -- underwent a year of training that began with education in psychology and the principles of leadership and proceeded into spycraft, with lessons in electronic surveillance, breaking and entering, and interrogation techniques. "Then the nature of our advisers changed," says Mustafa. "The pleasantness was gone, and we moved to Pakistan, where we trained with firearms." Mustafa's first operational assignment took him to London. "They gave us passports and identification, and we moved a shipment of ((unidentified)) goods. In England they had more I.D. waiting for us, because customs and immigration are strict, but when we moved many places, into India or China or Latin America, matters were taken care of, and we just slipped through borders. We would be met. It was always all arranged."
A typical operation took place in April 1989, when a container ship from Colombia docked during the night at Karachi, Pakistan. Black-unit operatives met the ship after paying $100,000 in bribes to Pakistani customs officials. The band unloaded large wooden crates from several containers. "They were so heavy we had to use a crane rather than a forklift," says a participant. The crates were trucked to a "secure airport" and loaded aboard an unmarked 707 jet, where an American, believed by the black-unit members to be a CIA agent, supervised the frantic activity.
The plane then departed for Czechoslovakia, taking the place of a scheduled Pakistan International Airlines commercial flight that was aborted at the last minute by prearrangement. The 707's radar transponder was altered to beep out the code of a commercial airliner, which enabled the plane to overfly several countries without arousing suspicion. "From Czechoslovakia the 707 flew to the U.S.," said the informant, insisting that none of the black-unit workers had any knowledge of what was in the heavy wooden crates. "It could have been gold. It could have been drugs. It could have been guns. We dealt in those commodities," Mustafa told U.S. authorities.
Other informants with details about the black network have come forward as the banking disaster has unfolded. "B.C.C.I. was a full-service bank," says an international arms dealer who frequently worked with the clandestine bank units. "They not only financed arms deals that one government or another wanted to keep secret, they shipped the goods in their own ships, insured them with their own agency and provided manpower and security. They worked with intelligence agencies from all the Western countries and did a lot of business with East bloc countries."

In Lima, where a probe of B.C.C.I.'s stewardship of Peru's central-bank funds is under way, local investigators are trying to trace what happened to money in an aborted B.C.C.I.-brokered deal to sell French-made Mirage jet fighters to the impoverished nation. Sources in the clandestine arms trade say B.C.C.I. eventually sold the planes to Pakistan and India.
U.S. intelligence agencies were well aware of such activities. "B.C.C.I. played an indispensable role in facilitating deals between Israel and some Middle Eastern countries," says a former State Department official. "And when you look at the Saudi support of the contras, ask yourself who the middleman was: there was no government-to-government connection between the Saudis and Nicaragua."
As an equal-opportunity smuggler, the bank dealt in arms from many countries. "It was B.C.C.I. that financed and brokered ((Chinese)) Silkworm missiles that went to Saudi Arabia," the former official says, "and those were equipped with sophisticated Israeli guidance systems. When you couldn't use direct government transfers or national banks, B.C.C.I. was there to hot- wire the connections between Saudi Arabia, China and Israel." The bank also helped transfer North Korean Scud-B missiles to Syria, a B.C.C.I. source told TIME.
Yet the bank's arms business was benign compared with the black network's other missions. Sources say B.C.C.I. officials, known as protocol officers, were responsible for providing a smorgasbord of services for customers and national officials: paying bribes to politicians, supplying "young beauties from Lahore," moving drugs and expediting insider business deals.
When it came to recruiting and persuading, the black network usually got its way. "We would put money in the accounts of people we wanted to seduce to work for us," says Mustafa, "or we would use terror tactics," including kidnapping and blackmail. "The Pakistanis were easy to terrorize; perhaps we might send someone his brother's hand with the rings still on it." Adds Mustafa: "We were after business cooperation or military or industrial secrets that we would use or broker, and we targeted generals, businessmen and politicians. In America it was easy: money almost always worked, and we sought out politicians known to be corruptible."
The black network was the bank's deepest secret, but rumors of its activities filtered through the bank's managerial level with chilling effectiveness. Senior bankers voice fears that they will be financially ruined or physically maimed -- even killed -- if they are found talking about B.C.C.I.'s activities. High-level bank officers know what happened to a Karachi-based protocol officer whom the black network suspected of unreliability last year. "They found he had been trying to liquidate his assets and quietly sell his house," says Mustafa. "So, first they killed his brother, and then they sent brigands to rape his wife. He fled to the U.S., where he is hiding." U.S. investigators confirm the account but have little hope he will volunteer any secrets if he is located.
Businessmen who pursued shady deals with B.C.C.I. are just as frightened. "Look," says an arms dealer, "these people work hand in hand with the drug cartels; they can have anybody killed. I personally know one fellow who got crossed up with B.C.C.I., and he is a cripple now. A bunch of thugs beat him nearly to death, and he knows who ordered it and why. He's not about to talk." Currently the black units have focused their scrutiny and intimidation on investigators. "Our own people have been staked out or followed, and we suspect tapped telephones," says a New York law-enforcement officer.
The black unit's mission eventually became the pursuit of power and influence for its own sake, but its primary purpose was to foster a global looting operation that bilked depositors of billions of dollars. Price Waterhouse, the accounting firm whose audit triggered the worldwide seizure of B.C.C.I. assets earlier this month, says the disarray is so extreme that the firm cannot even put together a coherent financial statement. But investigators believe $10 billion or more is missing, fully half of B.C.C.I.'s worldwide assets.
How did it happen? B.C.C.I.'s corporate structure allowed the bank to operate virtually without regulation all over the world. The bank's organizational web consisted of dozens of shell companies, offshore banks, branches and subsidiaries in 70 countries. It was incomprehensible even to its own financial officers and auditors. The bank's extensive use of unregulated Cayman Islands accounts enabled it to hide almost anything. The bank's complex organization and unique method of accounting -- longhand in paper ledgers, written in Pakistan's Urdu language -- make it unlikely that most of the missing money will be traced. Nor is it likely that anyone will ever know just how much Abedi, who has incorporated a new bank, called the Progressive Bank, in Karachi, stole from the rest of the world.
B.C.C.I.'s downfall was inevitable because it was essentially a planetary Ponzi scheme, a rip-off technique pioneered by American flimflam man Charles Ponzi in 1920. B.C.C.I. gathered deposits, looted most of them, but kept enough new deposits flowing in so that there was always sufficient cash on hand to pay anyone who asked for his money. During the years of its most explosive growth in the late 1970s and mid-1980s, B.C.C.I. became a magnet for drug money, capital-flight money, tax-evading money and money from corrupt government officials. B.C.C.I. quickly gained a reputation as a bank that could move money anywhere and hide it without a trace. It was the bank that knew how to get around foreign-exchange rules and falsify letters of credit in support of smuggling. Among its alleged services:
-- In Panama, according to a little-known racketeering suit that the country brought against B.C.C.I., the bank systematically helped Noriega loot the national treasury. B.C.C.I. allowed the leader to open secret offshore accounts under the names of the Panamanian National Guard, the Panamanian Defense Forces and the Panamanian Treasury, to transfer national funds into those accounts and then to tap the funds himself.

-- In Iraq, B.C.C.I. became one of the principal conduits for money that Saddam Hussein skimmed from national oil revenues during the 1980s. According to investigator Jules Kroll, who is tracking Saddam's fortune, B.C.C.I. helped the dictator move and hide money all over the world.
-- In Guatemala the collapse of B.C.C.I. has triggered a government probe into a $30 million loan that the bank extended to the country in 1988-89. Government officials told TIME they suspect that some of the money may have gone to pay bribes to stifle a four-year-old investigation of a major B.C.C.I. client, coffee smuggler and arms merchant Munther Bilbeisi. "If the $30 million was given to corrupt public officials and that can be proved, then the loan should be wiped out or reduced," says Fernando Arevalo Reina of the Guatemalan Attorney General's office. (Bilbeisi has denied any wrongdoing.)
As B.C.C.I.'s influence grew, a corrupt core of middle management evolved, described by bank employees as "100 entrepreneurs," usually branch officers in foreign countries who were free to pursue their own agendas. One such was Amjad Awan, the B.C.C.I. officer who was convicted in Florida for the money- laundering services he provided for Noriega. As long as these remote managers kept on gathering deposits, they were given wide latitude to do as they pleased, which increasingly meant serving a core clientele of what investigators estimate to be some 3,500 corrupt business people around the world.
The more B.C.C.I. became a conduit for such money, the more deposit gathering became the bank's chief goal. At annual meetings, founder Abedi would harangue his employees for days on the importance of luring deposits. That was probably because billions of dollars were vanishing. At the highest levels, B.C.C.I. officials whisked deposits into secret accounts in the Cayman Islands. These accounts constituted a hidden bank within B.C.C.I., known only to founder Abedi and a few others. From those accounts, B.C.C.I. would lend massive amounts to curry favor with governments -- as in its $1 billion loan to Nigeria -- or to buy secret control of companies.
U.S. regulators discovered recently that such loans had enabled B.C.C.I. to buy clandestine control in three American banks: First American Bankshares in Washington, National Bank of Georgia (later purchased by First American) and Independence Bank of Encino, Calif. The latter two were bought officially by Abedi's front man, Ghaith Pharaon, the putative Saudi tycoon who received an ) estimated $500 million in B.C.C.I. loans in the 1970s and '80s. Those loans were secured only by shares of stock in the companies Pharaon purchased, which meant that they were never to be repaid.
What Abedi got in return for such loans was de facto ownership of three American banks, since he held their shares as collateral for the unrepayable loans. More important, this "nominee" shareholder arrangement meant that B.C.C.I. itself remained invisible to U.S. banking regulators. Following its discovery earlier this year that B.C.C.I. owned both First American and Independence Bank, the Federal Reserve ordered it to sell them off.

B.C.C.I.'s deposits also disappeared through the black network, which used the money to pay bribes and conduct its weapons and currency deals. According to a former officer, B.C.C.I. bought virtual control of customs officials in ports and air terminals around the world. In the U.S. millions of dollars flowed through B.C.C.I.'s Washington office, allegedly destined to pay off U.S. officials.
The bribes and intelligence connections may offer an explanation for the startling regulatory inaction. The Justice Department has hindered an investigation by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, whose Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations was the first to probe B.C.C.I.'s illegal operations. According to Kerry, the Justice Department has refused to provide documents and has blocked a deposition by a key witness, citing interference with its own investigation of B.C.C.I. To date, however, the Justice Department investigation in Washington has issued only one subpoena. "We have had a lot of difficulty getting any answers at all out of Justice," says Kerry. "We've been shuffled back and forth so many times between bureaus, trying to find somebody who was accountable. These things are very serious. What's shocking is that more energy hasn't been expended. Somebody consciously or negligently took their eyes off the ball in this investigation." According to Jack Blum, Kerry's chief investigator in 1988-89, the lack of cooperation was so pervasive and so successful in frustrating his efforts to investigate B.C.C.I. that he now says he believes it was part of a deliberate strategy. Says Blum: "There's no question in my mind that it's a calculated effort inside the Federal Government to limit the investigation. The only issue is whether it's a result of high-level corruption or if it's designed to hide illegal government activities."
The Justice Department denies any reluctance to investigate. Said spokesman Dan Eramian: "We believe there has been good cooperation between law- enforcement ((agencies)) in this investigation. We're often accused of dragging our feet, and part of that we believe is partisan in nature." Yet the evidence of a cover-up is mounting:
-- In one of the most mysterious events in the case, B.C.C.I. bank records from Panama City relating to Noriega "disappeared" in transit to Washington while under guard by the Drug Enforcement Administration. After an internal investigation, the DEA said it had no idea what had happened to the documents.
-- Lloyd's of London, which is enmeshed in a racketeering lawsuit against B.C.C.I., has fruitlessly made offers to provide evidence of bribery and kickbacks and has made "repeated pleas" to U.S. Attorneys in Miami and New Orleans to seize B.C.C.I. records. Lloyd's accuses B.C.C.I. of taking part in smuggling operations and falsifying shipping documents. The insurance underwriters offered the results of their voluminous research into the bank's illegal activities. The Justice Department attorneys ignored the offers, Lloyd's says.

-- The U.S. Attorney General has assigned only a handful of FBI agents to its Washington grand jury investigation of B.C.C.I.'s relationship to First American Bankshares. The department's main probe of B.C.C.I. itself is being handled by a sole Assistant U.S. Attorney in Tampa, who has recently been assigned another major case. Similar understaffing is evident in a Miami grand jury probe of the relationship between B.C.C.I. and the CenTrust savings and loan, whose failure is estimated to cost taxpayers $2 billion. This may help account for the fact that a 16-month investigation has yielded no indictments.
Just as perplexing is why the Bank of England and other authorities took so long to intervene. Britain's main financial regulator waited more than a year after seeing a Price Waterhouse audit that raised serious questions about B.C.C.I.'s viability before seizing its 25 branches in Britain. One explanation: the Bank of England was conducting extended negotiations with Abu Dhabi authorities, apparently hoping that B.C.C.I.'s current owner, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, would shore up the bank. But more suspicious experts raise questions about B.C.C.I.'s links to Western intelligence agencies. Leaders in Parliament have expressed outrage at the regulatory failure, which among other things has endangered deposits from as many as 45 municipalities and four utilities.
As authorities sift through B.C.C.I. subsidiaries around the world, they are trying to cope with potentially massive losses of depositors' money. The Pakistani press spoke of "panic withdrawals," and one paper added that "smugglers and drug barons" were desperately trying to rescue their offshore accounts. In such countries as Nigeria and Botswana, officials were worried that central-bank deposits at B.C.C.I. might be lost.
Still to be probed, with potentially explosive results, is B.C.C.I.'s Washington office. Sources have told TIME that one of B.C.C.I.'s Washington representatives distributed millions of dollars in payoffs to U.S. officials during the past decade. If that is true, the banker's black book may be the single hottest source since Deep Throat in the Watergate investigation. U.S. authorities are searching for the Washington representative and other B.C.C.I. protocol officers, but most have fled to Pakistan. In this investigation, many roads lead to Karachi, where the infamous black network is enduring its most desperate hour. As it falters, the testimony by once fearful witnesses is likely to yield a succession of startling details about one of history's most ornate and ruthless frauds.

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Oct 8, 2009
BCCI was a classic case of how the US covert ops used shady financial institutions to fund their activities. Thefact that it was HQed in Karachi just shows the amount of co-operation between the covert agencies in both the US and Pakistan.

BCCI was finnally shutdown in 1991, once the USSR had crumpled under its own weight. Too bad Pakistan got used then thrown away once again in this case. Something they still havent learnt.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Parcel explosives reflect low-tech trend by al Qaeda

WASHINGTON: The use of parcels containing explosive materials against US targets matches a growing trend by al Qaeda and its allies toward low-investment, high-impact attacks difficult for intelligence agencies to detect.

Two US-bound packages from Yemen containing explosive material were intercepted in Britain and Dubai on Friday, and US officials said al Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate was top of the list of possible suspects.

Parcel bombs, which 'Unabomber' Ted Kaczynski used to terrify Americans in the 1980s and 1990s, pale in comparison to the horrifying spectacle of hijacked jets ramming into the Pentagon and New York's World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

But US officials and intelligence analysts say al Qaeda is increasingly drawn to less sophisticated attacks that require less communication and, in turn, are harder to spot.

They also generate a tremendous amount of attention, even when unsuccessful – this time just ahead of heated US congressional elections on Tuesday.

"There are indications that al-Qaeda and its affiliates are growing less attached to the kinds of spectacular attacks they once seemed to prefer," a US official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"They're looking more and more to less sophisticated, less costly, and perhaps less detectable operations."

The package scare caused broad disruptions on Friday, with the US scrambling fighter jets to accompany a passenger jet and mobilizing explosive experts to search cargo planes.

Obama sees credible threat

President Barack Obama addressed the nation, acknowledging what he saw as a "credible terrorist threat" using packages to target two Jewish places of worship in Chicago.

Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and one of its leading figures – American-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki – increasingly have become priority US targets since the group took responsibility for a failed plot to blow up a US passenger jet on Christmas Day last year.

Awlaki has also been tied to an Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 soldiers in a November 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas – another simpler, "soft-target" attack.

Analysts say part of the draw to literally mail-in an attack to the United States is the potentially disruptive impact it could have on commerce. One of the packages was mailed via UPS and the other through Fedex.

Paul Pillar, a former CIA officer, noted militants may be coming to the realization US authorities simply cannot search all inbound mail or cargo.

"Just as a matter of scale, (it is) impossible to do comprehensive inspections of everything," Pillar said.

"So we should not be surprised that terrorist thinking of ways to cause harm within the United States would explore this as one of many possible channels."

White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan said al Qaeda has attempted to "adapt" to US security measures in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, which have largely focused on commercial – not cargo – aircraft.

"Clearly they are looking for vulnerabilities in our system and take advantage of those vulnerabilities," Brennan said, adding that AQAP was "the most active operational franchise" of al Qaeda outside its Pakistan and Afghan traditional base.

Bruce Hoffman, a counter-terrorism expert and director of Georgetown University's security studies program, called the attacks a possible form of "terrorism theater" meant to create fear and anxiety ahead of Tuesday's congressional election.

"It certainly fits into terrorist groups' strategy to overwhelm us with a variety of different threats at different levels," Hoffman said. – Reuters


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Yemen arrests woman suspected in mail bomb case

SAN'A: Yemeni authorities on Saturday arrested a woman suspected of sending two mail bombs found on cargo planes and are searching for more suspects believed linked to al-Qaeda, Yemeni security officials said.

The officials said the woman was detained as part of the manhunt as authorities search for a number of suspects believed to have used forged documents and ID cards that played a role in the plot that was thwarted Friday.

US investigators have said the mail bombs were headed to two synagogues in Chicago, raising fears of a new al-Qaeda campaign against Western targets. The Yemeni officials said the suspects were believed linked to the terror network's faction in Yemen.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told reporters in the capital, San'a, that the United States and the United Arab Emirates had provided him with information that helped identify the woman as a suspect. He said security forces had surrounded a house that was believed to be holding the woman.

Two security officials later told The Associated Press the woman had been arrested, although they did not specify where she was detained.

One of the officials, who is a member of the country's anti-terrorism unit and is close to the Yemeni team probing the case, said the other suspects had been tied to al-Qaida's faction in Yemen.

Several US officials also have they were increasingly confident that al-Qaeda's Yemen branch, the group behind the failed Detroit airliner bombing last Christmas, was responsible for the plot. — AP


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Terror investigators examine more packages

WASHINGTON: Yemeni authorities are checking dozens more packages in a search for the terrorists who tried to mail bombs to Chicago-area synagogues in a brazen plot that heightened fears of a new al-Qaeda terror attack.

Authorities on three continents thwarted the attacks when they seized explosives on cargo planes in the United Arab Emirates and England on Friday. The plot sent tremors throughout the US, where after a frenzied day searching planes and parcel trucks for other explosives, officials temporarily banned all new cargo from Yemen.

Several US officials said they were increasingly confident that al-Qaeda's Yemen branch, the group behind the failed Detroit airliner bombing last Christmas, was responsible.

President Barack Obama called the coordinated attacks a "credible terrorist threat." The bombs were discovered just days before the US national elections.

A Yemeni security official said investigators there were examining 24 other suspect packages in the capital, San'a. He spoke on condition on anonymity because he was not authorized to release information and refused to provide more details.

Authorities were questioning cargo workers at the airport as well as employees of the local shipping companies contracted to work with FedEx and UPS, the official said.

In Dubai, where one of the two bombs was found in a FedEx shipment from Yemen, police said it contained a powerful explosive and bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda.

The white powder explosives were discovered in the ink cartridge of a computer printer, said a police statement carried by the official state news agency WAM. The device was rigged to an electric circuit, and a mobile phone chip was hidden inside the printer, the statement said.

The police said the bomb was prepared in a "professional manner."

Yemen promised to investigate the plot. The US has FBI, military and intelligence officers stationed in the country to conduct an inquiry. There are only a handful of international shipping locations in the impoverished Arab nation, but US officials worried that record keeping would be sparse and investigators would have to rely more on intelligence sources to identify the would-be bombers.

The other package was found at an airport in central England. Preliminary tests indicated both packages contained PETN, a powerful industrial explosive and the same chemical used in the attempted Christmas attack, US officials said.

In San'a, there was no visible security presence Saturday at the UPS and FedEx offices, which are located on the same street.

An employee at the UPS office said they had been instructed not to receive any packages for delivery for the time being. He refused to be identified by name because he said he had been instructed by authorities not to talk to reporters.

No explosives were found on an Emirates Airlines passenger jet that was escorted down the coast to New York by US fighter jets.

"The forensic analysis is under way," Obama's counterterror chief John Brennan said.

"Clearly from the initial observation, the initial analysis that was done, the materials that were found in the device that was uncovered was intended to do harm."

While Obama didn't specifically accuse Yemen's al-Qaeda branch, Brennan called it the most active al-Qaeda franchise and said anyone associated with the group was a subject of concern.

That would include the radical US-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who now is in hiding in Yemen. He has been linked in the Christmas attack and has inspired other terrorists with his messages advocating violence. Also hiding in Yemen is Samir Khan, an American who declared himself a traitor and helps produce al-Qaeda propaganda.

The terrorist efforts "underscore the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism," Obama said.

The Homeland Security Department said it was stepping up airline security, but White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Americans did not need to change their travel plans. Obama was not canceling his weekend campaigning plans that included stops in Philadelphia and Chicago.

After a day of searches in Philadelphia, Newark, New Jersey, and New York City, no explosives were found inside the United States, though the investigation was continuing on at least one suspicious package late Friday night.

Intelligence officials were onto the suspected plot for days, officials said. The packages in England and Dubai were discovered after Saudi Arabian intelligence picked up information related to Yemen and passed it on to the US, two officials said.

Most of the officials spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the ongoing investigation.

US intelligence officials warned last month that terrorists hoped to mail chemical and biological materials as part of an attack on the United States and other Western countries. The alert came in a Sept. 23 bulletin from the Homeland Security Department obtained by The Associated Press.

Since the failed Christmas bombing, Yemen has been a focus for US counterterrorism officials. Before that attack, the U.S. regarded al-Qaeda's branch there as primarily a threat in the region, not to the United States.

The Yemen branch, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has since become a leading source of terrorist propaganda and recruiting. Authorities believe about 300 al-Qaeda members operate in Yemen. — AP


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Terrorism expert Max Abrahms says Dubai plane crash may be linked to Yemen bomb plot

AN international terrorism expert has urged authorities to "connect the dots" between a recent UPS cargo plane crash in Dubai and the Yemen bomb plot, saying the two incidents have too many similarities to ignore.

Yemeni investigators today questioned a woman suspected of posting parcel bombs on two US-bound flights in an alleged al Qaeda plot that sparked a global air cargo security alert on Friday.

As forensic analysis continued on the bombs, leading US terrorism expert Dr Max Abrahms called for investigators to re-examine the cause of a UPS 747 cargo plane crash on September 3, the Gulf News reported.

The plane crashed after a fire broke out on board shortly after takeoff and its two pilots struggled to land the plane at Dubai.

The initial investigation into the crash, which killed the two pilots on impact, identified lithium batteries on board as being potentially to blame.
However Dr Abrahms, a fellow at the ****ey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College and on the Empirical Studies of Conflict project at Princeton University and the Hoover Institute, said authorities should consider it was caused by an explosive device similar to the ones found Friday.

"I think it would be very prudent to connect the dots in this incident," Abrahms told the Gulf News.

"It seems like common sense now and clearly there are similarities between the crash and this latest incident."

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported the two bombs concealed inside cargo packages shipped from Yemen were expertly constructed and unusually sophisticated.

Unnamed officials told the Times the bombs, which were intercepted Friday in Britain and Dubai, were further evidence that al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen was steadily improving its abilities to strike on US soil.

The Washington Post and Britain's Sunday Telegraph reported that investigators believed the mastermind behind the plot was a Saudi bomb-maker who last year sent his brother to his death in an effort to kill a Saudi prince.

Ibrahim Hassan al Asiri, a 28-year-old who is on Saudi Arabia's most-wanted list, introduced a PETN-based bomb in a body cavity of his younger brother, Abdullah, who pretended to be turning himself in, The Post reported.

The bomb killed his brother and wounded Mohammed bin Nayef, a top counterterrorism official and Saudi royal.

Asiri, who is based in Yemen, is also believed to have built the underwear bomb of Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian man who was trained in Yemen and attempted to blow up a commercial aircraft approaching Detroit last December.

The news reports follow the detention of a medical student by Yemeni investigators in connection with the latest plot.

The woman is studying medicine at Sanaa University and her father is a petroleum engineer, a Yemeni security official told AFP. She was held, along with her mother, after her mobile phone number was found on the receipt for the parcel bombs, the official added.

Investigators said that the bomb discovered at the Dubai airport was concealed in a Hewlett-Packard desktop printer, with high explosives packed into a printer cartridge to avoid detection by scanners, The New York Times reported.

"The wiring of the device indicates that this was done by professionals," the paper quoted an official involved in the investigation as saying. "It was set up so that if you scan it, all the printer components would look right."

The bomb discovered in Britain was also hidden in a printer cartridge, the newspaper said.

US officials have said the packages were addressed to synagogues in Chicago.

US President Barack Obama made it clear he suspects the involvement of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) - the Yemen-based branch of Usama bin Laden's extremist network - and vowed to wipe out the organisation.

Both bombs found on Friday were addressed to synagogues in the Chicago area, contained PETN - a highly explosive material which could have brought down the planes.


Senior Member
Jun 23, 2010
Country flag
Belfast International Airport bomb 'there for a year'

It is understood a pipe bomb found in a car at Belfast International Airport may have been there for up to a year.

Army bomb experts were called to examine the suspicious vehicle which was discovered in the long-stay car park at about 1430 BST on Saturday.

Police have said they are now investigating the possibility the car had been there since 2009.

The airport parking firm Q Park said "it was confident that car had not been there for a year".

However, the firm said it had not pre-booked and as such was not subject to its automatic number plate recognition software.

In a statement on Monday, a spokesperson for the airport said: "The PSNI are continuing to investigate the exact circumstances around the incident at Belfast International Airport on Saturday 30 October.

"As the incident is the subject of an active police investigation, the airport will not be adding to what the police have already said.

"Speculation as to the events surrounding the incident are unhelpful at this time."

Meanwhile on Monday, Sinn Fein assembly member Mitchel McLaughlin said he "would find it incredible" if the car containing the bomb had been in the car park at the airport for a year.

He said that if there was a viable device "left in a vehicle in such a public place for such a long time, then the implications of that are almost too horrible to imagine".

The alert ended at 0200 BST on Sunday.

The pipe bomb was only discovered because the car was about to be towed away.

Flights were not affected, but some passengers were forced to spend the night in local hotels because they were unable to get home without their cars.

Suspected flammable liquid was found along with the viable device, police said.

It is believed the incident was not linked to bombs left on US-bound cargo planes.

Dissident republicans
Detectives are investigating a link to dissident republicans as one line of enquiry.

A 40kg bomb was also found on Friday in Lurgan, County Armagh, and Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland said both devices "had the potential to cause injury and damage".

"They were left in places used by the public and with no regard for the public; it is thanks to the vigilance of individuals that no serious harm has been done," he said.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009


( Based on open source information )

Q.What materials for assembling an improvised explosive device (IED) have been recovered by the authorities of the Dubai airport and the East Midlands airport of the UK from the cargo planes of the FedExpress and the UPS respectively which were searched on a reported tip-off from the Saudi security agencies?

A.Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) - an explosive favoured by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). PETN belongs to the same chemical family as nitroglycerin. Explosives experts have been quoted by the media as saying that six grams of PETN are enough to blow a hole in the fuselage of an aircraft. The AQAP had used the same explosive in its failed attempt to have an American North-West Airlines plane bound for Detroit in the US blown up on Christmas Day last year through a Nigerian student Abdul Mutallab. That attempt had failed because an alert passenger intervened and overpowered the Nigerian before he could cause the explosion. The CNN affiliate ITN has quoted Col. Richard Kemp, former Chairman of the UK's COBRA intelligence group, as saying that 'the quantity of PETN in these devices was about five times the volume used at Christmas." Abdul Mutallab was alleged to have been carrying about 80 grams of PETN.The Dubai Police told WAM, the local official news agency, that the explosive materials were "professionally" loaded and connected using an electric circuit to a mobile phone chip tucked in a printer cartridge. According to the CNN, the device was packed in a toner cartridge of a laser printer and designed to be detonated by a cell phone. The package found at the East Midlands Airport contained a "manipulated" toner cartridge and had white powder on it as well as wires and a circuit board. The media has quoted a source associated with the investigation as saying that the detonating substance was Lead Azide, a standard substance in detonations.

The CNN quoted Olivier Clerc, described by it as a hardware application engineering manager for a large U.S.-based cell phone parts manufacturer, as saying as follows on the basis of a study of the images of the neutralized IED carried by the media: " The electronic component visible in a law enforcement image of an intercepted suspicious shipment from Yemen appears to be a printed circuit board from a disassembled cell phone. This size and the shape of the PCB (printed circuit board) are typical to a handset cell phone type device. The component on the top right part of the device seems to be a digital camera sensor. The area with a rectangular grey material [held] a display that was removed. On the left of the device, under the two metallic shield cans are most likely the baseband processor or the display controller. A baseband processor is critical to the function of a digital cell phone. There is as well a coin type cell (which) is a backup battery, and 2 Board to board connectors. On one of these connectors is plugged a keypad that was as well removed. Another metallic component on the top left of the electronic board (partly hidden under a screw) seems to be a small vibration component, used on cell phones (when vibrate mode is enabled). So this board is very likely to be the main electronic board of a cell phone device."

The CNN further added: "A Google search for the numbered markings on the printed circuit board produced several links to the Bird D736 mobile phone. The D736 is a similar shape to the circuit board. The D736 is a Chinese-brand GSM two-band phone that allows the unit to work in most countries in the world, including the United States. Clerc cautioned, however, that "it was not obvious that this board is the D736 phone." In the law enforcement photo, the cell phone circuit board is crudely mounted with screws, metal and plastic fragments to what appears to be a stout metal case. Wires lead from the circuit board out of the frame. Sources familiar with the investigation tell CNN that the suspicious shipments from Yemen contained computer printers. The metal case on which the circuit board is mounted would be consistent with the frame of a laser printer." ( My comment: It is not clear whether the printer cartridge modified to conceal an IED was dispatched alone to the synagogues or whether it was in a printer in a consignment of printers sent to the synagogues. Was or were the printers ordered from Yemen or Dubai by the synagogues? If so, was the cartridge of one of the printers in the consignment modified to conceal an IED? Answers to these questions are not available )

Q.Were the IEDs designed to explode mid-air or on reaching the two synagogues in Chicago to which the packages were addressed?

A.There are contradictory versions in answer to this question. According to the British Prime Minister David Cameron as quoted by the BBC: "We believe the device was designed to go off on the aeroplane. We cannot be sure about the timing when that was meant to take place. There is no early evidence that that was meant to take place over British soil, but of course we cannot rule it out." According to the CNN: "Officials weren't certain whether those behind the plot, who likely would have used cell phones to trigger the devices, wanted to detonate them while the planes were in the air or at their destinations, two synagogues in Chicago, Illinois." CNN reported that UK Home Secretary Theresa May said authorities do not believe the perpetrators would have known the location of the device had they detonated it.

Q.Are there previous instances of planes being blown-up mid-air using mobile phones?

A.On August 24, 2004, there were two explosions on board two aircraft which had taken off from a Moscow airport which led to the disintegration of the planes and the death of 90 persons, including all the passengers and the members of the crew. The Russian authorities claimed to have established that two Chechen women from Grozny had a role in the explosions. It was suspected that they had checked in their baggage containing IEDs with mobile phones as triggers and traveled by the flight and that the IEDs were activated after the planes had taken off by sending mobile signals. Please see my article of September 6,2004, titled TERRORISM: THE RUSSIAN ORDEAL at

Q.What has been the progress of the investigation so far?

A.According to the BBC, security forces in Yemen have arrested a female medical student suspected of posting bombs found on two cargo jets in Dubai and the UK. She was held at a house in the capital, Sanaa, after being traced through a phone number left with a cargo company. According to the AFP news agency, the unnamed young Yemeni woman, described as a medical student and the daughter of a petroleum engineer, was arrested at a house on the outskirts of Sanaa. Her mother was also detained but was not a prime suspect, the arrested woman's lawyer said. ( My comments: It is possible she was used as an unconscious cut-out by the AQAP. If she was a conscious cut-out who was aware of the nature of the contents, she might not have left her correct telephone number with the courier company )

Q.Any additional security precautions required for the forthcoming visit of President Barack Obama to India the coming week?

* Trace all packages that might have been received in India from Yemen in recent weeks and have them examined. Question their recipients.
* Suspend all parcel movements from Yemen till the visit is over.
* Suspend all flights from Yemen to India till the visit is over.
* Step up surveillance of Yemeni and Nigerian nationals studying in India .
* Strengthen physical security for all Jewish establishments in India. If Obama plans to visit the Jewish establishment in Mumbai which was attacked by the Lashkar-e-Toiba during the 26/11 terrorist strikes, strengthen physical security for it. ( 31-10-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: [email protected] )



From the sketchy details available so far regarding two packages containing materials for explosive devices found on October 29,2010, on two cargo flights reportedly emanating from Yemen and bound for Chicago via Dubai and East Midlands airport in the UK, the following preliminary observations are possible:

"¢ Normally, courier companies do not accept closed packages. The packages have to be kept open at the time of handing them over so that their contents could be checked for any suspicious material. The fact that the suspicious materials were not detected at the time of handing over the packages would indicate the possible complicity of some employees of the two courier companies.
"¢ It is not clear whether the materials for the two explosive devices had been assembled and made ready for detonation at the targeted places. It has been reported that the two packages were meant to reach two Jewish places of worship. The explosive devices----if the assembly was complete---- were not meant to explode during the flights. The effect would have been limited since the two were courier aircraft with no commercial passengers. The terrorists do not appear to have intended to cause mass casualty incidents during the flights similar to the explosions on board an aircraft of Air India (Kanishka) off Ireland in 1985 and an aircraft of Pan Am off Scotland ( Lockerbie) in 1988.
"¢ Presuming the packages had reached their destination in Chicago undetected, how did the terrorists intend to activate them? Were they meant to explode through spring action or other such device as the packages were being opened or did they intend causing an explosion through a mobile telephone before the packages were opened?
"¢ It has been reported that the Saudi authorities had alerted the security agencies of the UK and the US about the presence of the suspicious packages and that was how these were detected and deactivated. How did the Saudi authorities come to know about it? Through moles in Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), whose hand is suspected or through informants in the courier companies, who had knowledge of the packages?
"¢ The AQAP seems determined to carry out a terrorist strike directed against targets associated with the US. It is likely that the focus of the attention of the Indian security agencies, which would be responsible for making security arrangements for the forthcoming visit of President Barack Obama to India, would be on likely threats from India and the Af-Pak region. It is important to pay equal attention to likely threats from Al Qaeda elements outside the Af-Pak region such as the AQAP, Al Qaeda in Somalia and Al Qaeda in Maghreb.

2.This may please be read in continuation of my following articles:

(a). Article dated July 7,2010, titled Singapore and Al Qaeda: International Terrorism Monitor --- Paper No. 662" at\papers40\paper3910.html

(b). Article dated December 29,2009, titled "Obama: Al Qaeda Comes Home Calling - International Terrorism Monitor --- Paper No. 597" at\papers36\paper3575.html

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: [email protected] )



Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Pakistan al Qaeda Aids Yemen Plots

Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders are believed to be providing strategic and philosophical guidance from Pakistan to Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, the group Washington believes was behind last week's attempt to ship bombs in packages to the U.S.

Increased communication and collaboration between al Qaeda militants in Yemen and the group's central leadership have fueled alarm about terrorist plots which U.S. and European officials first detected months ago and which they believe remain active despite efforts to thwart them.Some officials said the release of a bin Laden audiotape last week might have been the signal for AQAP to set the package-bomb plot in motion, though others said it was too soon to tell whether there was a direct connection.

Seen as al Qaeda's most active and ambitious affiliate, AQAP has at times sought the blessing of Mr. bin Laden on leadership decisions. Direct command-and-control for terror operations is believed to rest chiefly with the local affiliate, officials said.

Officials say their knowledge about suspected ongoing plots in Europe is limited. Security concerns have been heightened further by a spate of mail-bomb attempts this week that appeared to target European leaders and institutions, and the disclosure that Britain arrested a member of AQAP earlier this year for allegedly plotting a U.K. attack.

U.S. officials have kept in place a broad travel alert issued on Oct. 3 advising Americans to show vigilance when traveling in Europe. One of the plots of concern, officials say, is a potential al Qaeda attack in the U.K., Germany or France modeled after the siege on Mumbai in 2008 that killed over 160 people.

"Nobody thinks last week was the whole enchilada," a senior counterterrorism official said of the cargo-bombing plot. "There are still things in play."

Officials said counterterrorism operations in Pakistan don't appear to have disrupted the multiple plots, in part because sleeper cells may already be in place in European cities. European authorities have launched an expanded manhunt for individuals who may be involved.

Officials say it is unclear how the various threat streams were connected. Officials say militant groups appeared to be looking for targets aligned with bin Laden's objectives.

"Everyone is playing in concert with his larger guidance," a senior U.S. official said. "This is part of their long-term strategy."

Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House intelligence committee, said senior al Qaeda leaders hiding in Pakistan rely increasingly on affiliates like AQAP to carry out operations because U.S. pressure has made it harder for them to act unilaterally.

"As things have gotten tougher for them, it makes sense for them to work more closely together," Mr. Hoekstra said. They are "communicating more with each other, influencing the direction of each other and coordinating activities."

Mr. Hoekstra said al Qaeda and its affiliates appeared to be ramping up their activities, possibly in advance of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. He called the multiple threat environment "our new reality."

Rep. Jane Harman of California, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, said it was her assumption that militants could follow the cargo-bomb attempt by activating commando-style attack plans for Europe, though the U.S. has only generalized information about when and where that might occur. "These guys," she said of al Qaeda, "they can walk and chew gum at the same time."

In recent months, the U.S. focus on AQAP has been concentrated on capturing or killing American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who officials have described as a driving force behind AQAP's decision to start attacking U.S. targets, beginning with a failed plot to blow up a Detroit-bound passenger jet on Christmas Day.

But former fighters and al Qaeda experts in Yemen say other leaders play a more vital role in the group's day-to-day terrorist operations. Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the emir of AQAP, is a young protégé of Mr. bin Laden, whose father was also Yemeni.

According to Yemeni estimates, AQAP has roughly 400 members in the country, with Mr. bin Laden's former personal secretary among its leaders.

Al Qaeda watchers and former jihadists in Yemen say that Mr. Wuhayshi has built his branch along the same lines as Mr. bin Laden, with a central committee of Islamic scholars and experienced military figures, and it is unclear how high Mr. Awlaki is in the structure.

Mr. Wuhayshi was anointed leader of al Qaeda in the region by top bin Laden lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri in November 2008.

—Julian E. Barnes and Hakim al-Masmari contributed to this article.


New Member
May 10, 2010

The West can only contain not defeat militant groups such as al-Qaeda, the head of the UK's armed forces has said.

General Sir David Richards, a former Nato commander in Afghanistan, said Islamist militancy would pose a threat to the UK for at least 30 years.

But he told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper a clear-cut victory over militants was not achievable.

The BBC's Frank Gardner said the comments reflect a "new realism" in UK and US counter-terrorism circles.

Our security correspondent said such an admission five years ago might have been considered outrageous and defeatist.

Gen Richards, 58, took over as chief of the defence staff last month, after a spell as head of the British army.

'Secure lives'
He is due to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in London later as part of the UK's Remembrance Sunday commemorations.

In his Sunday Telegraph interview, Gen Richards expressed confidence that al-Qaeda could be contained to such an extent that Britons could lead secure lives.
Gen Richards said: "In conventional war, defeat and victory is very clear cut and is symbolised by troops marching into another nation's capital.

"First of all you have to ask: do we need to defeat [Islamist militancy] in the sense of a clear-cut victory?

"I would argue that it is unnecessary and would never be achieved."

Gen Richards added: "But can we contain it to the point that our lives and our children's lives are led securely? I think we can."

He said the best weapon in the battle against al-Qaeda was the use of "upstream prevention" and the promotion of "education and democracy".

He drew similarities between militant Islam's "pernicious ideology" and that of Nazi Germany.

Gen Richards also admitted the Afghan people were beginning to "tire" of Nato's inability to follow through with its promises to the country.

Britain has lost 343 soldiers in Afghanistan since 2001 but Gen Richards said their sacrifice had been worth it.

Security lapse
He said he saw no reason for Britain to intervene militarily in other countries like it had in Iraq and Afghanistan but added: "It would be barmy to say that one day we wouldn't be back in that position."

Gen Richards comments came as the Foreign Office apologised to a group of MPs after a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan had to be called off because of a security lapse.

Next week's visit by members of the Commons defence select committee was cancelled after an unencrypted e-mail was sent out by an embassy official in Kabul, prompting fears that the MPs' safety may have been compromised.

The Foreign Office said it would be trying to rearrange a visit for the MPs.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We have offered our apologies for this regrettable lapse in our procedures and have assured the committee that we will do all we can to arrange a successful visit in the future."


Veteran Hunter of Maleecha
Senior Member
Apr 7, 2010
Country flag
^^^^^^ LOL pussy Brits.....they cannot make Mullahs angry in UK. UK is on the path of destruction due to multi-cultuarism and forced integration....better submit to Al-Qida. why wait :)


Senior Member
Jun 23, 2010
Country flag
Al Qaeda Unlucky Again in Cargo Bombing Attempt

The Oct. 29 discovery of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) inside two packages shipped from Yemen launched a widespread search for other devices, and more than two dozen suspect packages have been tracked down so far. Some have been trailed in dramatic fashion, as when two U.S. F-15 fighter aircraft escorted an Emirates Air passenger jet Oct. 29 as it approached and landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. To date, however, no other parcels have been found to contain explosive devices.

The two parcels that did contain IEDs were found in East Midlands, England, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and both appear to have been sent by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda's jihadist franchise in Yemen. As we've long discussed, AQAP has demonstrated a degree of creativity in planning its attacks and an intent to attack the United States. It has also demonstrated the intent to attack aircraft, as evidenced by the failed Christmas Day bombing in 2009 involving Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to detonate an explosive device concealed in his underwear on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

A tactical analysis of the latest attempt suggests that the operation was not quite as creative as past attempts, though it did come very close to achieving its primary objective, which in this case (apparently) was to destroy aircraft. It does not appear that the devices ultimately were intended to be part of an attack against the Jewish institutions in the United States to which the parcels were addressed. Although the operation failed in its primary mission (taking down aircraft) it was successful in its secondary mission, which was to generate worldwide media coverage and sow fear and disruption in the West.

Tactical Details...::
The details that we have been able to collect so far concerning the configuration of the devices is that both were camouflaged in parcels and both contained a main charge of pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) that was to be detonated by a primary explosive charge of lead azide. PETN is a military-grade explosive commonly found in detonating cord and some plastic explosives. PETN was also the primary explosive in the underwear bomb used in AQAP's failed Christmas Day attack as well as its attempted assassination of Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef using an IED concealed inside the attacker's body. Lead azide is a common primary explosive used in detonators, and it can also be used to effectively detonate an explosive such as PETN. According to media reports, the two devices contained 10.58 ounces and 15.11 ounces of PETN, both of which are larger charges than the 2.8 ounces contained in the Christmas Day device and more than the amount believed to have been used in the attack on Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

The device discovered in East Midlands appears to have been hidden inside an ink toner cartridge hidden inside a computer printer, and from photographs it appears to have been designed to be detonated by a cell-phone motherboard altered to serve as an initiator. Taking the cell-phone motherboard out of its case and affixing it to the body of the printer made it appear to be part of the printer itself if the device was scanned. The addition of the cell-phone motherboard indicates the device was likely intended to be detonated when a call or message was received by the phone. We are unsure if the phone was utilizing the GPS feature some phones have to track the location of the device, but it is a possibility.

Photos of the Dubai device suggest that, while it was also camouflaged inside the toner cartridge of a computer printer, it may have had a different design. It also appears to have included an appliance timer. (We have been unable to determine if there was a similar timer in the East Midlands device.) If both a cell phone and a timer were involved in the Dubai device (and possibly the East Midlands device), it is possible that the timer was intended to provide a secondary fail-safe firing chain to detonate the device in case the cell phone failed, or that it was added to provide a minimum arming time before the device could be detonated using the cell phone. A minimum arming time would prevent the device from detonating prematurely.

Either way, based upon this construction, the devices do not appear to have been intended to explode when the parcels they were contained in were being opened, like most parcel and letter bombs. This means that the two Chicago-area Jewish congregations the parcels were addressed to were not the true intended targets of the devices and that, in all likelihood, the devices were intended to target aircraft and not Jewish institutions. The devices were likely addressed to Jewish institutions because the bomb-makers needed some target inside the United States, and listing Jewish institutions would be sure to create panic and fear should the devices fail to function as designed or be discovered during a security check. The attackers probably intended to destroy the aircraft carrying the packages out over the Atlantic Ocean or perhaps over the U.S. coastline as the aircraft came into cell-phone range.

As would be expected, the two packages appear to have been shipped using a fraudulent identity. The person whose name was used, Hanan al-Samawi, a 22-year-old computer engineering student at Sana'a University, was arrested by Yemeni authorities Oct. 30 and released the next day after the shipping agent told authorities that she was not the woman who signed the shipping manifest.

Consistent Themes...::
As we've noted before, some jihadist groups have a fixation on attacking aviation targets. In response to this persistent threat, aviation security has changed dramatically in the post-9/11 era, and great effort has been made at considerable expense to increase the difficulty of attacking passenger aircraft. Changes made in the wake of the Christmas Day attempt in 2009 have made it even more difficult for AQAP to get a suicide operative on board an aircraft. The pressure the group is under in Yemen is also likely making it harder for it to interact directly with potential suicide bomber recruits who are able to travel, like Abdulmutallab. Indeed, AQAP has been telling aspiring jihadist operatives from the West not to try to travel to Yemen but to conduct simple attacks at home.

There has long been an evolving competition between airline security policies and terrorist tactics as both are adapted in response to the other. Because of recent developments in aviation security, AQAP apparently has tried again to re-shape the paradigm by moving away from suicide-bomber attacks against aircraft and back to a very old modus operandi — hiding explosive devices in packages and electronic devices.

Explosive devices concealed in electronic items designed to be loaded or carried aboard aircraft go back to Palestinian groups in the 1980s such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and, of course, to the Libyan operatives behind the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing. With measures to track luggage with passengers instituted in the wake of Pan Am Flight 103, terrorist planners changed their tactics and began utilizing modular IED designs that could be carried on board aircraft and left behind or initiated by suicide operatives. They also began to explore the use of cargo carried on board passenger airplanes as an alternative.

After the original Operation Bojinka was derailed by an apartment fire in Manila that exposed the plan and caused operational planner Abdel Basit to flee the country, Basit (commonly known as Ramzi Yousef) returned to Pakistan and began plotting again. Since word of his modular baby-doll devices had leaked out to airline security personnel, he decided instead to use air cargo carried aboard passenger aircraft as a way to destroy them.

As in the attack against Philippines Airlines Flight 434 in December 1994, Basit wanted to conduct a test run of his parcel-bomb plot. He constructed a parcel-bomb package that contained cutlery as well as liquid explosives in order to confuse X-ray screeners. He also instructed one of his followers, Istaique Parker, to ship the package from Bangkok aboard an American airliner to the United States. Basit's plan failed when Parker got cold feet. Instead of carrying out the assignment, he gave Basit a bogus excuse about needing an exporter's license that would require a photograph and fingerprints to ship items to the United States. Basit and Parker returned to Pakistan where, motivated by greed, Parker turned Basit in for the reward money, and U.S. agents then moved in for the arrest. Had Basit not been arrested, there is very little question that he eventually would have tried to set his parcel-bomb plan in motion. At the time of his arrest he had several wristwatches in his possession that had been altered to function as IED timers.

All of which is to say that, even though this latest parcel-bomb plot was foiled, militants will continue to seek alternate ways to smuggle IEDs and IED components aboard aircraft. AQAP in particular has demonstrated that its operational planners carefully study security measures and then plan the type of IED to employ in an attack based upon those measures.

In an article posted in February in the group's online magazine Sada al-Malahim, titled "Secrets of the Innovative Bomb," the AQAP author noted that the group pays attention to X-ray machines, metal detectors and detection equipment intended to pick up explosive residue and odors and then seeks vulnerabilities in the system that it can exploit. Camouflaging an IED inside a computer printer was apparently successful in bypassing screening measures, though it is interesting that nobody seems to have asked why such an item was being shipped from Yemen to the United States instead of the other way around, or why someone in Yemen was shipping such items to Jewish institutions in the United States. It appears that even after the initial alert went out, authorities in the United Kingdom missed the device the first time they inspected the parcel, highlighting the effectiveness of the AQAP camouflage job.

Like the Bojinka plot, the latest AQAP parcel-bomb operation may have included a proof-of-mission trial run. There was a crash of a UPS flight in Dubai on Sept. 3 that stands out as suspicious, given the circumstances surrounding the crash and in light of these recently recovered IEDs. UAE authorities said Nov. 1 that there was no sign of an explosion in that accident, although the damage done as a result of the crash and subsequent fire may have made it difficult to uncover such evidence. Undoubtedly, U.S. and UAE authorities will be taking another careful look at the incident in light of the Oct. 29 case. Other recent cargo-aircraft accidents in the region will likely be re-examined as well.

Also like the 1995 Bangkok plot, this recent attempt may have been thwarted by an insider. There have been several recent defections of AQAP personnel to law enforcement authorities, such as Jabir Jubran al-Fayfi, who recently turned himself in to Saudi authorities (although AQAP claims he was arrested in Yemen). If al-Fayfi did indeed surrender, he might be cooperating with the Saudis and may have been able to provide the actionable intelligence authorities used to identify and thwart this plot, though it is unlikely that he provided the exact tracking numbers, as noted in some media reports, since the packages were shipped after he surrendered. If the Saudis did indeed provide the exact tracking numbers to their American counterparts, the intelligence had to have come from another source.

In the end, this AQAP attack failed to achieve its immediate objective of destroying aircraft. The planners of the attack probably hoped that the parcels would be shipped on passenger aircraft, and it appears that they were aboard passenger aircraft for at least some of their journey. However, like the failed assassination of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and the Christmas Day attack, this attempt was successful only in its secondary objective, which was to generate global media coverage and sow fear in the West. Given the low cost and low risk associated with such an attack, this is quite an accomplishment — although the failed attack will certainly cause the U.S. government to turn up the heat on Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to do something about AQAP. Saleh has long played a delicate balancing act of using the jihadists as allies against his enemies in the country's north and south and has resisted launching an all-out offensive against AQAP. The U.S. government may also expand its unilateral operations against the group.

As long as AQAP's operational leaders and its bombmakers — like Ibrahim Hassan Tali al Asiri, brother of the suicide bomber in the Prince Mohammed bin Nayef attack — remain free, they will continue trying to exploit security vulnerabilities and attack U.S. and Saudi targets. So far, the group has come close to pulling off several spectacular attacks but has suffered unlucky breaks that have caused each attack to fail. However, to paraphrase an old Irish Republican Army taunt, they only have to get lucky once.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Al-Qaeda ideologue held in Syria

By Syed Saleem Shahzad

ISLAMABAD - The al-Qaeda ideologue responsible for formulating strategy in the South Asia war theater, and who also instigating a rebellion against the Pakistani armed forces among Pakistani tribesmen and jihadi militants in the cities, has been languishing in a Syrian prison for the past several months.

Seventy-year-old Egyptian Abu "Amr" Abd al-Hakim Hassan, popularly known as Sheikh Essa, was arrested in Syria in 2009 and, according to high-profile intelligence sources, is in a poor state of health.

His presence confirms that a sizeable number of al-Qaeda leaders have now moved to the Middle East to turn neighboring Iraq into their strategic backyard and to ensure that the insurgency there flares up once again.

Essa's presence would normally be sufficient to launch a movement for a revolution in any country, but today he is sick and contained in a dark and small detention center in Damascus, where he was arrested, a senior Pakistani security official told Asia Times Online on the condition of anonymity.

Islamabad was officially informed about the arrest by Syrian authorities of the most-wanted person in Pakistan who had turned the pro-Pakistani jihadi establishment against the state of Pakistan. Essa had succeeded in giving the slip to the Pakistani security apparatus after a brief arrest and then he moved to Lebanon to prepare new battlegrounds for the al-Qaeda-led revolution in what the Arabs call Balad-e-Sham (Lebanon-Syria and Palestine).

By sending the elderly Essa to the Middle East, rather than a military commander, al-Qaeda revealed once again that the aims of the group are to set ablaze the whole region by instigating a khuruj (revolt-like situation in Arab states) and to turn the region of Syria, Lebanon and Yemen into the strategic backyard of the Iraqi resistance. Recent incidents reflect that al-Qaeda appears to have had some success in this regard.

Iraq, known as The Land of Two Rivers ( the Tigris and Euphrates), responded fiercely to the foreign occupation in 2003. Compared to Afghanistan, where the Taliban's rag-tag militia dispersed in the face of the invasion of 2001, Iraq's tribal-based insurgency was led by the Ba'athist leadership, and al-Qaeda was nowhere in the picture as the two - Ba'athists and al-Qaeda - are sworn enemies.

However, the situation changed when most Ba'ath leaders were rounded up by 2004 and the rest took refuge in Syria, Yemen and Jordan. They tried to keep up the insurgency by remote control, but it never worked.

At the time, al-Qaeda had no roots or strong alliances in Iraq, compared to those in Pakistan. The organization went to Iraq only in 2003, and a leadership void at that time in the insurgency allowed them the space to take charge. By 2006, al-Qaeda was calling the shots and by 2007 it had taken the insurgency to new heights.

There were difficulties, though. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (now killed), a new al-Qaeda affiliate who was a minor commander of a sectarian organization and had never been a member of al-Qaeda, proved incapable of fully commanding the resistance.

The most trained and visionary eyes of the then-commander of US forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, were quick to spot this weakness and things started to go badly for al-Qaeda after the Americans opened lines of communication with the tribal insurgency, especially through the Sunni "Awakening Councils" that were sponsored to take on al-Qaeda.

From late 2007 to late 2008, al-Qaeda had become a virtual outcast and no longer relevant on the Iraqi scene; the anti-American resistance had turned into a sectarian battle and there was major in-fighting between the tribal resistance and al-Qaeda.

However, the situation then took a turn for the better for al-Qaeda, which had brought some of its veterans into Iraq and surrounding areas, such as Syria and Lebanon. But in the process it did lose some of its key leaders, such as Hadi al-Iraqi, who was arrested while crossing into Iraq.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's deputy Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri has written about Essa:
He was arrested and tortured in Egypt, which he endured patiently. He graduated from the College of Commerce and then from al-Azhar's College of Theology. His scholarly and scientific efforts are copious. Among the works he produced were the books
in three parts, Jihad in the Path of God: Etiquette and Rules in two parts, and Guiding the Mujahids to the Commission of the Trustworthy Prophet , which is a book explaining the Prophet's (peace and blessings be upon him) commission to listen and obey those in authority.

He emigrated to Afghanistan twice - the first during the jihad against the Russians [in the 1980s], the second time during the time of the Islamic Emirate [the Taliban - 1996-2001]. He was the supervisor of the journal Signposts of Jihad, which was a quarterly scholarly journal that used to be published by the al-Jihad group. He established the Salah al-Din Center for Proselytizing and taught lessons which were not suspended [even] along the frontiers and battlefronts.

When America launched its Crusader invasion on Afghanistan [in 2001], he lined up with the mujahids, educating them, issuing them fatwas [decrees], and adjudicating between them. The sheikh has a website on the Internet that contains his valuable publications and fatwas. We beseech God to bless his righteous work, his health, and his life and to provide for us, for him, and for [all] Muslims constancy upon the truth and a good end.
The one-man army
After the US invasion of Afghanistan, Essa crossed the border to the North Waziristan tribal area in Pakistan. There, with the help of two prominent clerics, Sadiq Noor and Abdul Khaliq Haqqani, he turned the sympathies of the tribal areas, previously loyal to Pakistan, against the military.

However, he did not limit himself to the tribal areas and found allies all over the country. Masood Janjua (detained by the security forces several years ago and still missing) was his first adherent and in a matter of a few years Essa had a huge following in Pakistan.

The most prominent of these were the prayer leaders of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad that became a pro-militant sanctuary. Essa's literature and teachings convinced a sizeable number of Pakistani jihadis of the "heresy" of the Pakistani rulers and persuaded them to press ahead with a fully-fledged revolt.

All high-profile attacks on the Pakistani security forces in Rawalpindi, Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi were the handiwork of his adherents. To reduce the influence of his literature, the security forces established a special cell in a detention center where militants were treated to undo Essa's "brainwashing".

Essa and other al-Qaeda members traveled frequently across the country to convince religious leaders to launch a revolt. On one of these trips in 2008 he was arrested in Faisalabad, but because of his age he convinced security officials that he was an ordinary Arab religious cleric and not the al-Qaeda operator they were looking for; this gave him the breathing space to escape and go to Lebanon and then on to Syria.

Just as he had been when he arrived in North Waziristan, he was alone, but he wasted no time in in approaching Islamic networks and trying to get them to rebel against the Ba'athist rulers. Then came his arrest last year.

Al-Qaeda sending Essa to the Middle East reflects how the group had seriously pondered its failures in Iraq and neighboring countries - mainly as a result of the serious disorientation of local leaders fighting under al-Qaeda's flag.

Zawahiri wrote several dispatches to these "franchises" in Iraq expressing his dismay over their lack of vision and understanding of how an al-Qaeda resistance should operate. Hence, the need to send out ideologues like Essa, and there are many others like him.

This is one reason the situation in Iraq has flared up in the past months. And if, as expected, the United Nations-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon implicates Hezbollah in the murder of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri in 2005, tensions will certainly mount in Lebanon, and by implication in Syria and Iran.

Al-Qaeda, with a new force of ideologues in the region, will exploit the situation, much as Essa did in Pakistan.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief and author of upcoming book Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban 9/11 and Beyond published by Pluto Press, UK. He can be reached at [email protected]


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Apr 11, 2010
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A Special Look at Counter Terrorism

With London preparing for the Olympic Games, the potential for terrorist attacks is heightened. We investigate the measures being taken to protect various venues from security risks.

Recent events, including the developments in air freight bomb threats originating from possible Al-Qaeda involvement in Yemen, have once again thrust counter-terrorism efforts to the forefront of national security measures.

We speak to delegates from the upcoming Counter Terrorism and Security conference in London, UK, to find out how venues can prepare themselves for and deter potential terrorist attacks.

As terror threat levels continue to rise and cause alarm across Europe, Arena's Counter Terrorism and Security conference, at the Britannia International Hotel in London, will focus on how the private and public sectors aim to improve strategies in detecting, responding to and defeating terrorism.

Several key themes are on the agenda for discussion, with special attention to be paid to the importance of special sports and entertainment events security and counter terrorism strategies, with the London Olympics quickly approaching.

The O2 Arena, previously the Millennium Dome, has become one of the leading entertainment venues in the UK

With an allocated budget in excess of £600m, including a substantial contingency fund, the costs of security and anti-terror measures are largely expected to spiral in and around the city of London in the lead up to the Olympic Games, and it is important that lessons be learned from those already responsible for ensuring the safety of equivalent arenas.

Effectively protecting venues

Counter-terrorism and security measures have become prevalent in recent years, and a range of enhanced security measures have since been integrated into the design and build of new venues as well as within existing venues, says Richard Lyall, AEG Group Facilities Director of the O2 Arena in London, who has presided over various strategies and counter-terrorism measures in order to guarantee the safety of visitors to the attraction.

"These important changes have been made in direct response to what has been learned from specific incidents and attacks that have occurred, as well as the level of threat we now face."

"I'm a firm believer that the development of an integrated security strategy, which links physical and procedural security measures with available technologies, is key to ensuring a robust response and hardened profile which, in turn, reduces the risks posed by terrorism," he adds.

An effective preparedness programme

Since the Millennium Dome reopened as the O2 Arena in 2007, a number of high-profile events have been staged at the venue and key steps have been undertaken to identify and minimise major threats and vulnerabilities.

An integrated approach that includes regular risk and vulnerability assessments and operational strategies to minimise potential risks are undertaken by the venue as part of its effective "preparedness" programme. The programme itself is supported by effective regular training of staff and the continual examination of operating procedures.

"We are constantly reviewing our operations and ensuring the experience gained from operating a site, which is constantly open and sees over 7.5m visitors each year, is used effectively to support our security strategy.
"Part of this involves rehearsing our specific procedures and working with our staff, suppliers, tenants, local council and emergency services in maintaining our preparedness as well as our ability to respond effectively to any situation that may pose a security risk," said Lyall.

The act of deterring terrorism can often be viewed with equal importance as actively attempting to stop it.

The O2 adopts physical and technological deterrents in order to support the arena's security strategy.

These enable the management to guard the site from potential terrorist threats and use active personnel to ensure constant vigilance against any plausible attack.

With the 2012 Olympic Games to be hosted in various venues across London, there has been an increased importance placed on the active deterrence and policing of potential terrorist threats.

Police in London face the unenviable task of ensuring the public's safety during the Olympics in 2012.

This is an area where Richard Lyall feels the O2 Arena and those involved with ensuring its safety can offer valuable experience and examples to those tasked with securing venues across London.

Passing on the experience

"I have no doubt that our practical knowledge of running a venue, which continues to provide a great experience for our customers in a safe and secure environment, by using the tried and tested operating procedures, will prove invaluable to our Olympic colleagues in preparing for the Games," Lyall said.

Also speaking at the event are Millennium Stadium Manager Gerry Toms, who has overseen a wide variety of high-profile sporting events held at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, and a senior representative from the Home Office, revealing the best methods of preparation for the policing and security challenges associated with hosting the Olympic Games.

Discussed in these sessions will be the importance of adopting an integrated approach to security and planning involving the community and business, using the Vancouver Olympics as a recent case example.

London is preparing to host the Olympic games in 2012, and could learn valuable lessons in countering terrorism from existing venues

Also covered will be the inclusion of the police, armed forces and privately contracted security teams to ensure that transport and hospitality sectors are not considered a soft target for terrorist organisations.

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