Saturday, July 16, 2005

War on Terror: Connections

London, Pakistan, Egypt, Jamaica, Newark, Cleveland, Las Vegas

The July 8th analysis has proven to be correct in nearly all of the substantive points with a few exceptions. The BBC has provided a round up of the essential pieces of the story. Information is flowing in and at a pace where it is difficult to keep track of the story points and put all of the information together in a time line or evaluate their connectivity. However, some information appears to not only connect these men with each other or with terrorist groups, but also with previous thwarted or identified terrorist plots and targets.

The Four Bombers

  • Three bombers have been to Pakistan within the last two years
    • Khan December 2004: cover story was to visit or care for his ailing father or his business
    • Hussain July 2003: for "religious studies"; information supports studying at a madrassa run by the Lashkar e Talib (also spelled Lashkar e Tayyabe)
    • Tanweer January 2005: for "religious studies"; information supports studyng at madrassa run by the Lashkar e Talib (unknown if it was the same as Hussain)

  • Three bombers were born British citizens of Pakistani descent
  • Fourth bomber, Lindsey Germaine, was placed on the US Terrorist Watch list within the last six months over the course of another investigation (links to be reviewed shortly)
    • Germaine was born in Jamaica, a British Commonwealth member
    • His placement on the terror watch list due to his name appearing during an investigation of another plot was probably compounded by trips to Pakistan or Afghanistan.
    • US officials note that he had traveled to the US, specifically Cleveland, OH in 1999 and one other destination
    • Information on this suspect is scarce and may be so for reasons of an ongoing investigation in the US to his links and possible conspirators here

    The question remains, aside from all of them living in Leeds area, how did they become connected?

    Meeting Places

  • Hamara Muslim Youth Center, Leeds: local witneses indicate that Khan, Hussain and Tanweer were seen going in and out of the center and, when inside, would "close" the center with a sign indicating "out to lunch"
    • Computers were taken from the site as well as other material

  • Bookstore, Leeds: Sold Islamist books, pamphlets and other materials
    • This was executed simultaneously with the Hamara raid which tends to lead to separate information making each of these a site of interest instead of one place leading to the other (for instance, since Hamara was raided simultaneously, it is unlikely that material there led to the bookstore)
    • Information that led to bookstore was probably generated by one or more of the following:
      • Receipts or tranactions recorded on one or more of the suspects "cash cards"
      • Materials found at bombing site with name of bookstore on it
      • Materials found at homes of suspects with name of bookstore on it
      • Information from relatives or friends about places the suspects frequented or talked about

    • Aside from selling "Islamist" documents and possible "frequenting" of similar places, investigation may be leaning towards bookstore as a communication hub for other possible cells or outside resources
      • Expect to see computers, email accounts, customer lists, shipping manifests and ordering slips to be investigated to evaluate connections outside of the four bombers

  • Apartment in Leeds, rented by Nashar, the suspected bomb maker and/or procurer, was the "bomb factory"
    • Reports indicate Germaine was staying at this address

    Bringing the Cell Together

  • Hamara Youth Center
    • Mohammed Saddique Khan had keys to the Hamara Youth Center
      • Most likely had long standing relationship with the center
      • Expect to see investigation of any board members, activity leaders and other known characters at this site for widening circle of potential support, recruitment and procurers

    • Hussain went to Pakistan "first"
      • Hussain became "religious" first and was probably approached at the Hamara center sometime in early 2003 (before the Iraq war?)
      • Recruited by Khan? or another member or person that "hung out" at the center?
      • Information says he was unable to complete what equates to a "high school diploma" requirements for neither secondary schooling nor a trade school and had been in trouble with the law prior to and just after he began his "religious training". Probably points to his anger and disillusionment with the system.
        • Other would be recruits and documentaries point to "recruiters" find young men (and women) who have problems, emotional or familial, such as anger, dissapointment, sadness or a basic desire to become "better" and convince them to turn "more closely to Allah". They operate very similar to recruiters for other well known cults who base their abilities on giving the person a sense of purpose, accomplishment, membership, goals and rewards.

      • Most likely recommended to a contact in Pakistan before traveling there or was sent with a "letter of introduction" or other form of recommendation to study with the Lashkar e Talib
        • Reports regarding other "jihadist" traveling to Afghanistan and Pakistan all the way back to the Russian-afghan war in the 80's indicate that "recruits" are often told where to go and who to ask for when they get there

    • Tanweer was Hussain's "friend"
      • Most likely recruited into the circle by Hussain who introduced him to Khan
      • Khan most likely did the same for him as for Hussain and recommended who and where to go

  • Nashar and Germaine
    • Nashar studied Chemistry at the Universtiy of North Carolina in the United States for one semester in 2000 (appx 6 months)
    • Nashar had an apartment rented near the campus for 13 months
      • Investigation trying to establish what he was doing for seven months in between.
      • Very likely that it was at this time he was recruited into an Islamist group.
      • Would check North Carolina U for known Islamist groups on campus and associations with Nashar
      • Outside chance that he was recruited prior to studying in NCU and sent there for the specific purpose of learning chemistry for advanced bomb making
        • Missing seven months may indicate that he was working with another cell or helping to train and set up a cell for future attacks
        • Highly Speculative: May have been the consult on the September 11 attacks regarding volatility, explosive and incendiary nature of jet fuel. Original video of Osama celebrating attacks seemed to indicate that they did not expect the buildings to fall but had expected very large explosions and a lot of fire
        • Other information from Mohammed Shiekh Khan, alleged mastermind of attacks, was that, while a cell was being set up in 1999, approval for attacks did not come until late '99 or 2000 as there were still questions about the viability of such attacks
        • Speculative and more likely, his time in country coincides with travels of Lindsey Germaine, linked to plan to blow up Brooklyn Bridge. It is likely that Nashar was recruited as the bomb maker or was the person that taught these men how to make said bomb.

      • Change in venue indicates that he was either recruited at NCU and was recommended to leave there for Leeds in order to avoid observation or that he was there temporarily as part of another cell or plan, using NCU as his cover, transfering to Leeds on orders from an operations officer to assist with planned attacks in England
        • Expect investigation to show Nashar has long standing relationship with known Islamist groups but has managed to stay under the radar by not being directly involved or in coming into places and leaving long before operations to insure "plausible deniability" as he is attempting to do with his trip to Egypt two weeks prior to the operations in London. He has probably traveled on the context of "doing business" for the Egyptian center he belongs to or for "seminars" in completing his doctorate.
        • Expect to investigate connections to Jihad al Islamiyah, the Egyptian Jihad organization that Zawahiri blended with Al Qaida in 1998 and is most likely how Nashar became attached to an Islamic group and was moved to the US for operations purpose, likely to have played a support role in multiple cells, both interdicted and still active within the US

      • Nashar moved to Leeds area in October 2000

    • Lindsey Germaine

    All Roads Lead to Pakistan and Al Qaida

    Based on all information, traveling and relationships, it is apparent that the men were being directed by an operations officer outside of England who may have even been only a secondary link to the main operations officers and planners in Pakistan. At least three men traveled there directly and the fourth man, Germaine, had relationship with a Pakistani terrorist in Ohio who was fingered by KSM, a Pakistani and Chief Operations officer of Al Qaida. It is likely that Nashar has the most contact with operations planners and probably has a lot of information about prior and on going terrorist plots in the US and Europe in particular as he appears to be a floating "support" person.

    Germaine most likely laid low somewhere until he could contact Nashar or another operative and be put in touch with Nashar. Of the other three bombers, Khan was also the likely "senior" contact with an outside operations officer and it was this operations officer that brought Nashar and Khan together. Khan then proceeded to recruit Hussain and Tanweer to fill out the cell with "foot soldiers". During Tanweer's visit to Pakistan, Pakistani intelligence believes that he was in contact with an operative responsible for the 2002 bombing of a church near the US Embassy in Pakistan.

    Further connections, though only mentioned briefly, was that Hussain may be distantly related to a man arrested in the 2004 round up of 13 men suspected of planning to bomb the transit system in London. This cell and its plot were uncovered after the arrest of Mohammed Noor Khan in Pakistan in late 2003, the suspected "computer expert" for OBL who was accused of maintaining a website, acting as the electronic "messenger" between leaders and operatives. The men arrested were found on Khan's "address list" and identified as he made contact with them for several months after his capture on behest of the Pakistani Intelligence agency.

    According to information, he acted as a collater and "clearing house" for information on possible operations from field officers. On his computer, intelligence officers found plans for attacks on London, the Prudential Financial building in Newark, NJ, and casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada. Which led to the increased terror alert in September 2004, prior to the elections. Democrat party members and news sources were quick to point out the information was "old" based on dates of the video and other documents as being at least three years old at the time. They portrayed the raising of the terror alert as part of a strategic move by President Bush to influence the elections.Three of the men arrested in the British sweep of 13 men in 2004 were charged in April 2005 with conspiring to attack the Prudential Financial building and other landmarks.

    Videos found in Madrid in 2002 regarding Las Vegas were collaborated by the info on Khan's computer as were videos from an ongoing Detroit terror cell case. The Detroit four were convicted in June 2003 but the convictions were later thrown out stating exculpatory evidence was withheld and that key witnesses lied on the stand. The, arrests, trials and convictions were accomplished prior to Khan's capture. The verdicts were thrown out before the information from Khan's computer was deciphered and collaborated with other investigations.

    The details from the August 2004 arrest of and subsequent detention of 8 of the 13 arrested appears to show surviellance of Heathrow Airport, the transit system and other targets that are dated as far back as 2000 and 2001.

    Al-Nashar, being held in Cairo on suspicion of involvement in the July 7th, 2005 London attacks, arrived in England October 2000.

    According to authorities, an "al Qaeda operative" arrived in England two weeks before the bombing and left several hours prior to the operation. Based on eye witness reports and the time lapse between the three train bombings and the bus explosion, authorities are speculating that Hussain, who blew up the bus, originally had as his target King's Cross North Line Train. They believe his plan was thwarted when he discovered that the train line had been shut down. According to information the line had been closed since at least October 2004 due to a train derailment in the "tube" which means that the surveillance information used to perform the operation was "old".


    Tom said...

    Very comprehensive summary. I like your use of bullet points as they make it easier to folllow. I tend not to follow these things in such detail like you do so I found this quite informative.

    All Roads Lead to Pakistan and Al Qaida"

    The Pakistan connection makes sense, and it's disturbing. I've always suspected that Musharraf hasn't done much to reign the Madrassas and this is the price we're paying.

    The situation regarding Pakistan is difficult. It was ideally situation as a base for initial operations into Afghanistan. Given that OBL is hiding either in the border region between the two countries, or in Iran, we need Pakistani cooperation to keep a search going. Bottom line is that we need Pakistani help.

    But as you point out about Mohammed Noor Khan, radical Islamists are powerful within Pakistan. The ISI (their CIA/FBI) is rife with them. And the Madrassas preach hate.

    What to do? Immediate elections, even in the unlikely event Musharraf agreed to them, would possibly bring an anti-US government. Looks like we've got to work with "our son of a bitch" for the time being. But it looks like we need to work a lot harder.

    Indigo Red said...

    I'm not surprised that all roads lead to Pakistan and al-Qaida. Whan al-Qaida was formed in 1989, it was in an al-Qaida owned hotel in Pakistan.

    The organization owns a string of hotels across the ME and travel agencies in various parts of the world, including Mexico and Central America.

    They also are invested in honey distribution throughout the ME. Honey is the sweetener of choice in the region. It also is perfect for smuggling cocaine as it completely covers all scent of the drug.