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Al-Qaeda's Operational Ties With Allied Groups
Jane's Intelligence Review | February 1, 2003 | Rohan Gunaratna

Posted on 02/11/2003 9:24:59 AM PST by Stand Watch Listen

Al-Qaeda has been forced to disperse and decentralise, with its emissaries playing multiple roles as messengers, operatives and technical experts. Rohan Gunaratna examines recent evidence about how they organise, operate and communicate.

As Al-Qaeda disperses and fragments after the loss of its Afghan safe haven, the self-styled 'pioneering vanguard of the Islamic movements' is relying on other Islamist groups around the world to pursue its agenda.

Among them are the Abu Sayyaf Group; Moro Islamic Liberation Front; Kumpulan Militan Malaysia; Laskar Jundullah; Jemaah Islamiah (JI); Al-Takfir wal-Hijra (Anathema and Exile); Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat); Egyptian Islamic Jihad Group; Islamic Group (Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya); Al-Ittihad al-Islami; Tunisian Combatant Group; Libyan Islamic Fighters Group; and Al-Ansar Mujahidin in Chechnya.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Al-Qaeda provided such local and regional Islamist groups with a universal ideology, finance, training, weapons and direction, primarily through its bases in Afghanistan. In the 1990s Al-Qaeda provided training to JI members in the Philippines at Camp Hodeibia, Camp Palestine and Camp Vietnam in the Abubakar complex; in Indonesia at camps in Poso in Sulawesi, and Balikpapan in Kalimantan; and in Afghanistan. It also encouraged the group to develop training exercises in Malaysia - at Negri Sembilan and other locations - and Australia - in the Blue Mountains and other locations.

With the removal of its main Afghan base in October 2001, Al-Qaeda's leadership is now looking to associated groups to advance their territorial aims, as well as support Al-Qaeda's universal jihad. To this end, its organisers, trainers, financiers and human couriers have dispersed and are moving around the world to provide support to these groups.

To illuminate the operational links between Al-Qaeda and the associate groups, JIR has investigated the joint Al Qaeda-JI plans and preparations to strike Western, Israeli and other targets in Southeast Asia after 11 September 2001, and has traced in detail the movements of one of Osama bin Laden's emissaries, Mohammed Mansour Jabarah.

Jabarah's trail

Before arriving in Afghanistan, Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a 21-year-old Canadian citizen of Kuwaiti origin, and his brother had proved their commitment to the Islamist cause by generating support in Canada for the Chechen Mujahideen.

In Afghanistan, he underwent weapons training and served in the frontline in the 055 Brigade. As a result of a generally high standard of training, battlefield performance, excellent command of English and clean North American passport, Jabarah convinced Osama bin Laden in July 2001 of his potential to operate outside Afghanistan.

In mid-August 2001 he was sent by Bin Laden to Karachi, Pakistan, where he met with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, head of Al-Qaeda's military committee. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a Pakistani citizen of Kuwaiti birth, introduced himself to Jabarah as MP - 'Mohammed the Pakistani'.

At a house in Karachi, Jabarah underwent a two-week intensive course on how to survive in an urban environment. The training emphasised operational security, including measures and countermeasures to be followed by Al-Qaeda operatives during travel, when living in a city, and when interacting with others including operatives.

During a session on secure communication, the Al-Qaeda operatives were trained in a simple telephone number coding system called the '0-5 method'. This simple method requires all digits to add up to 10. Therefore, nine becomes one, seven becomes three, and so on. If the original number were 0092-3009-223-850, the coded number would be 0018-7001-887-250. All e-mail and phone numbers were coded before being sent out.

The commercially available Pretty Good Privacy encryption program was used for communication. Al-Qaeda operatives were trained to use code words to describe actual events, places and activities. For example:

- wedding = any event such as date of departure, arrival or even an operation;

- book = passport;

- market = Malaysia;

- terminal = Indonesia; and

- hotel = Philippines.

As Al-Qaeda operatives suffered periodic arrests, the group did not subscribe to a universal code sheet. Each operational cell developed its own code words and changed them periodically. Due to the risk of interception, those who travelled for Al-Qaeda were instructed not to carry laptops or other data storage devices but regularly used internet cafés. With the increased threat of being searched after the 11 September attack, Al-Qaeda has enforced the code for its human couriers of travelling clean by memorising or storing compromising data on the internet.

Plans in Southeast Asia

After this period of training in Karachi, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed introduced Jabarah to the JI operational commander, Riduan Isamuddin, known as 'Hambali'.

Hambali fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan from 1987-1989, and served with Al-Qaeda until 1991, before arriving in Malaysia to infiltrate JI, establish new groups and form an alliance, the Rabitat-ul Mujahidin, to co-ordinate Al-Qaeda activities in Southeast Asia. Hambali also organised and attended the first planning meeting of the 11 September operation that was attended by two hijackers and nine Al-Qaeda members in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in January 2000. Later in the same year, Hambali hosted Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called twentieth hijacker, who wanted to learn to fly at the Malaysian Flying Academy in Malacca.

Hambali had visited Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Karachi and discussed a range of targets to be struck in a joint Al-Qaeda and JI operation. They had agreed plans to conduct suicide attacks against the US and Israeli embassies in Manila, and Al-Qaeda's role was to provide trained drivers as suicide bombers and the funding to procure explosives for the operation.

Hambali met Jabarah, presenting himself as Azman, a Malaysian, at an apartment in Karachi maintained by Hambali's Pakistani wife - one of his four wives. At the meeting Hambali provided Jabarah with the details of the JI operational cell tasked for the Manila mission. Jabarah's points of contact once he entered Southeast Asia were to be Faiz bin Abu Bakar Befana, JI's treasurer and number three; Fathur Rahman al-Ghozi, a trainer and explosives expert with extensive experience in the Philippines; and Zulkifli Marzuki, owner of a private security company in Kuala Lumpur and JI's secretary.

An FBI report states that after providing Jabarah with US$10,000 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told Jabarah to "make sure you leave before Tuesday", meaning that Jabarah had to ensure that he left Pakistan by 11 September, 2001. On 10 September, Jabarah left for Hong Kong, where he stayed for three days to secure a Malaysian visa.

On arriving in Kuala Lumpur, Jabarah first telephoned and met Faiz Befana who presented himself as Mohammed Ibrahim, and thereafter Zulkifli Marzuki who presented himself as Azzam at the premises of his security business. Jabarah was accompanied by Al-Qaeda suicide bomber Ahmed Sahagi.

From Kuala Lumpur, Jabarah then travelled to Manila. By e-mail, Al-Ghozi, a fluent Arabic speaker, communicated with Jabarah before and after he arrived in Manila in early October 2001. After Jabarah accessed his yahoo account using the password 'hotmail' at an internet café, he received Al-Ghozi's telephone number. Both Jabarah and Ahmed Sahagi met with Al-Ghozi in the Horizon Hotel in Makati and thereafter at the invitation of Al-Ghozi, Jabarah travelled in a taxi to the target location and reviewed the US and Israeli embassies in Manila. Al-Ghozi received $500 from Jabarah.

After 10 days, Jabarah returned to Kuala Lumpur, where he received an e-mail from Zulkifli Marzuki that Al-Ghozi had arrived in Malaysia. From then on they did not travel together and as the operation progressed were cautious not to meet in JI members' premises.

Jabarah, Al-Ghozi, Faiz Befana and Zulkifli Marzuki met in a car in Kuala Lumpur and drove around the city discussing the operation. As the US embassy in Manila was too far from the street and there were only a couple of Israeli citizens working at the Israeli embassy, Al-Ghozi said that the targets in Manila were too hard to hit. As the security of the US embassy in Manila was tough, a land operation was likely to fail, and therefore Jabarah said the only way to destroy it was to conduct an airborne attack using a commercial plane. Since the Al-Qaeda-JI intention was to kill as many Westerners as possible, Faiz Befana then suggested targets in Singapore.

On 16 October 2001 Jabarah arrived in Singapore by bus and Al-Ghozi received and introduced him as 'Sammy' from Canada to the members of designated JI operational cell in Singapore: Mohammed Nazir bin Mohammed Uthman, introduced as Max; Mohammed Ellias alias Mohammed Khan, introduced as Simpson; and Adnan bin Musa, introduced as Alex. The next day Jabarah joined Alex, Max, Simpson and Al-Ghozi to mount surveillance on intended targets: the US, Israeli and, British embassies, Caltex Oil company, the GCL Tower (Bank of America office), American International Assurance, the American Naval Shipyard and docks and the American Club.

On the sixth day, Al-Ghozi told Jabarah his operational financial requirement: $15,000 for each ton of TNT. Al-Ghozi had already procured four tons of ammonium nitrate and 300kg of TNT from the Philippines. As the operation was deemed cost effective and within Al-Qaeda's budget, the operation progressed. The exteriors of the targets were videoed by Jabarah, and the images transferred onto CD-Rom by Max. Al-Ghozi took this CD-Rom to Malaysia.

After watching the video in Zulkifli Marzuki's office at his security company in Kuala Lumpur, the group decided on seven targets: the US embassy, British embassy and consulate, Israeli embassy, American Club, Bank of America and the US Naval Shipyards. Al-Qaeda, prepared to pay $160,000 for Al-Ghozi to procure 17 tons of explosives, dispatched Al-Ghozi to the Philippines to make the purchase. From the Philippines, a consignment of firearms was to be transferred by ship to Indonesia and explosives to Singapore. Al-Ghozi instructed Max, Simpson and Alex to video the US naval docks and discussed with Azzam the possibility of using explosives-laden boats.

In the prioritised list of targets, based on the amount of explosive available, the US and Israeli embassies were at the top. Two tons of TNT was to be used on each. While the Bank of America and the British embassy received a lower priority, Canadian and Australian targets were not discussed.

As Jabarah had to prolong his stay, he rented an apartment in Kuala Lumpur in November 2001 and attempted to contact Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for another $50,000. He failed to reach him by phone but left a message. Shortly after, Jabarah received an e-mail with a phone number in Kuala Lumpur stating that he should identify himself as 'Iqbal in Karachi'. Jabarah called, spoke and met a financier called 'Youssef' at a mall on or about 7 November 2001. 'Youssef' provided $30,000 for Jabarah - $10,000 at the mall and, two days later, another $10,000 and, thereafter, a final $10,000. The money was provided in bundles of $100 bills, tied by elastic bands.

During the last 10 days of Ramadan, Zulkifli Marzuki and Hambali visited Jabarah in his Kuala Lumpur apartment. Jabarah apparently asked if Abu Hafs had really been 'martyred' in Afghanistan, but was told only that Abu Hafs wanted an operation conducted really quickly, faster than the planned plot in Singapore. As the Singapore operation was going to take time, Hambali decided in early December to revert back to the Philippines plot.

They determined it would be easier to transfer the explosives to Manila rather than to the other countries. Although Al-Ghozi had organised to purchase 10 tons of explosives, he had purchased only one ton and 1,600 metres of detonating cord due to a lack of funds. Al-Ghozi's plan was to purchase three more tons of TNT - two tons for the US embassy and two for the Israeli embassy.

The plot unravels

Soon after, the plotters received information that one Singaporean JI member from the operational cell had been arrested, further prompting the Al-Qaeda-JI focus to revert to Manila. Hambali said JI and Al-Qaeda should continue to develop the Philippine operation while JI would conduct some small operations on its own. Then Jabarah received an e-mail from Zulkifli Marzuki entitled 'Problem', stating that Faiz Befana had been arrested, he knew everything about the planned operations, and that everyone else was being rounded up in Singapore.

Hambali and Zulkifli Marzuki immediately travelled to Bangkok, and Jabarah moved into a hotel, took a bus to Hatiya in southern Thailand and thereafter a train to Bangkok. He reached the Thai capital by the end of December 2001 and spent the New Year period in Thailand. After 10 days in Bangkok, Jabarah received an e-mail from Zulkifli Marzuki with a phone number for Hambali. Jabarah met them at their hotel the next day. Because the regional press might publish his photo, they advised Jabarah to leave and that they would take care of the rest. Hambali said: "It will be a very big hit for us if you're arrested."

While in Thailand in mid-January 2001, Hambali ordered Muklas, alias Gufron, his deputy in JI, to plan to attack nightclubs, bars and cafés frequented by Westerners in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. Ironically, before the Bali bombing, the US intelligence community communicated this specific threat to Southeast Asian security and intelligence services on 22 August, 2002. However, the Southeast Asian services failed to develop the 'contact' or 'ground' intelligence essential to detect and disrupt a terrorist attack.

Jabarah tried to take a bus from Bangkok to Myanmar, but lacked a visa and was denied entry. He went to Chiang Mai and called the UAE embassy in Thailand for a visa. From Chiang Mai he flew to Bangkok and transferred on to Dubai.

While in Dubai, he informed Khalid and Hambali, using his own e-mail address - with the password frfoosh - that he was safe. Hambali did not reply. When Jabarah phoned Khalid, he was out of Afghanistan but two days later he received an e-mail with a new contact number. Jabarah sent him a copy of an article from the Toronto Star that linked Jabarah to the Singapore plot. Two days later, Jabarah called Khalid and told him he wanted to perform the hajj. Khalid promised to send money but Jabarah was unable to get a Saudi visa.

Jabarah then travelled to Oman to assist Al-Qaeda operatives travelling through Oman to Yemen. Jabarah and the suicide bomber Ahmad were arrested in Oman in March 2002.

Lessons learned

Detecting the intermediary is always difficult but is the key to preventing future terrorist attacks. Using forged, adapted and fraudulently obtained genuine passports as well as 'clean' Western passports, Al-Qaeda operatives - trained to operate below the intelligence screen - continue to move.

Even after the international security and intelligence community develops a worldwide terrorist tracking system, Al-Qaeda will study the system and move its operatives across international borders. Nonetheless, by constantly studying Al-Qaeda's methods of operation, law enforcement officers can increase the rate of detection of their targets.

Jabarah's experiences also indicate Al-Qaeda's continued ability to communicate, direct and transfer funds for operations, and its flexibility when confronted by difficulties. On the other hand, the above account suggests that operations can be disrupted through the arrests of even low-level cell members.

It is also noteworthy that the bulk of Al-Qaeda members in detention have co-operated, including senior, middle and junior level functionaries - Abu Zubaydah, director of external operations; Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Jabarah have all provided information on Al-Qaeda's organisation. The mental framework of Al-Qaeda functionaries is not as tough as many public and government policy/decision-makers think. When Jabarah was waiting for his Malaysian visa in Hong Kong, he began to have doubts about his participation in the operation. However, Jabarah felt that he had been personally chosen out of many by Osama bin Laden. Therefore, he felt the need to accomplish the mission. Similarly, when Khalid, who is constantly formulating plans to strike targets, e-mailed Jabarah to return to Pakistan if the operation was going to take a long time, Jabarah went to the Pakistani embassy to get a visa. As Jabarah had no work permit in Malaysia, a requirement for a Pakistani visa, the embassy sent his request to Islamabad where a visa was refused. Jabarah had no option but to execute the plans.

With this in mind, governments should attempt to accurately grade the strengths and weaknesses of Al-Qaeda members and invest in 'exit strategies' to facilitate their desertion.

Dr Rohan Gunaratna is a terrorism specialist at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs

1 posted on 02/11/2003 9:24:59 AM PST by Stand Watch Listen
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To: Peach; Stand Watch Listen


2 posted on 06/22/2004 9:55:47 PM PDT by First_Salute (May God save our democratic-republican government, from a government by judiciary.)
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To: First_Salute

Thanks for the ping; will read later today.

3 posted on 06/23/2004 5:37:39 AM PDT by Peach (The Clintons pardoned more terrorists than they ever captured or killed.)
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