Archive for the ‘al-Qaeda’ category

The Bin Laden Files Reveal Growing Terrorist Threat to U.S.

November 5, 2017

The Bin Laden Files Reveal Growing Terrorist Threat to U.S., PJ MediaMichael Ledeen, November 4, 2017

(Please see also, Did Obama Inc. Block Bin Laden Doc Release to Protect Iran Deal? — DM)

It seems clear that our picture of al-Qaeda has been erroneous in the past, and may still be. CIA director Mike Pompeo, whose critical views of Iran are beyond doubt, was not a forceful advocate of releasing the documents. The impetus seems to have come from the president’s office. In any event, we can hope that they will put an end to the very damaging notion that Sunnis and Shi’ites don’t work closely together.

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At long last, most of the files captured when U.S. Special Forces killed al-Qaeda’s leader in May 2011 have been released. Although bits and pieces have dribbled out, they should have been public long since.

The best short discussion of the files is in The Long War Journal, written by Bill Roggio and Tom Joscelyn, my colleagues at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. They, along with Stephen Hayes at The Weekly Standard, have long advocated the release of the archive.

The files are very important. They provide invaluable insight into the growing terrorist threat to the United States, document AQ operations well beyond the Middle East, and show remarkable patience in the use of media. Bin Laden is gone, but his blueprint for his organization’s long-term strategy remains active.

Why has the intelligence community been so reluctant to release the files? It took so long because a lot of the story they tell is at odds with the official narrative, according to which AQ had been gravely weakened, and bin Laden himself largely marginalized, by the time of the attack. Other files document the details of the oft-denied cooperation between AQ and the Tehran regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Still others document relations with Pakistan and with other governments and regimes in the region.

General Michael Flynn, whose DIA experts had access to the whole archive and had analyzed key parts of it, wrote in a best-selling book I co-authored (“The Field of Fight”) that

When (Obama) and his supporters were assuring the American people that al Qaeda was broken and on the run, we learned that their strength had roughly doubled.

Flynn wrote,

One letter to bin Laden reveals that al Qaeda was working on chemical and biological weapons in Iran.…Others speak of Mumbai-style attacks on European cities….The story of the bin Laden documents is just one of many…

That’s why another top American general has called the bin Laden files “the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever,” and why the suppression of the documents is so serious. It will take time for public debate to reveal the full significance of the archive, and some of it remains classified. This massive release will help, but we must not ignore the fact that the CIA did what it could to prevent an informed debate all along.

It seems clear that our picture of al-Qaeda has been erroneous in the past, and may still be. CIA director Mike Pompeo, whose critical views of Iran are beyond doubt, was not a forceful advocate of releasing the documents. The impetus seems to have come from the president’s office. In any event, we can hope that they will put an end to the very damaging notion that Sunnis and Shi’ites don’t work closely together.

Curiously, we were smarter when we knew less. In 1998, when the U.S. government indicted bin Laden and al-Qaeda for the first bombing of the World Trade Center, the indictment said

Al Qaeda forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in the Sudan and with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group, Hezbollah, for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States.

Back then, it wasn’t hard for us to acknowledge that AQ Sunni bombers worked with Shi’te terrorists in Hezbollah and elsewhere in the Iranian regime. Then we got more sophisticated, to our misfortune. Let’s hope the bin Laden documents help our understanding, and eventually help shape a winning strategy.

Bin Laden Heir Breathes New Destructive Energy Into Al Qaeda

September 25, 2017

Bin Laden Heir Breathes New Destructive Energy Into Al Qaeda, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Abigail R. Esman, September 25, 2017

Nicknamed the “Crown Prince of Terror,” Osama bin Laden’s favorite son “grew up with a fervor for jihad and a determination to follow in the footsteps of his notorious father,” according to an investigative report by Ali Soufan and published in Newsweek. After bin Laden’s 2011 death, Hamza swore revenge on the U.S. in the name of his father and “those who defended Islam.”

“We will continue striking you and targeting you in your country and abroad in response to your oppression of the people of Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and the rest of the Muslim lands that did not survive your oppression,” he pronounced in a speech.

To be sure, Al Qaeda is not the only group that has quietly strengthened while the world has focused on the Islamic State. Hizballah also continues to be a threat, especially from South America: “The threat is coming from everywhere,” Shaikh wrote. “When Americans talk about the Muslim threat from the Mexican border, it’s not all hyperbole. That laptop ban, for instance, was not based on nonsense: in Somalia, a Shabaab bomber blew himself right … out of the airplane.” But Al-Qaeda, he believes, may pose the biggest danger.

“AQ is playing the Long Game,” he said. “We’re not. That’s our problem.”

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Since the start of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has sworn to destroy ISIS, threatening to be “nasty” and to “annihilate” the terrorist group and its leaders by “bombing the s*** out of them.”

But is he missing the larger threat?

“We need to start preparing for a big comeback by al-Qaeda” former FBI terrorism expert Ali Soufan told PRI earlier this month. The author of Anatomy of Terror: From The Death of Bin Laden To the Rise of the Islamic State, Soufan is one of many who warn of an Al-Qaeda resurgence, likely to take place under Osama bin Laden’s charismatic 28-year-old son, Hamza.

Canadian counterterrorism expert Mubin Shaikh agrees. “The thing that everyone keeps getting wrong about Al Qaeda is because of what AQ’s Al Suri said long ago,” he wrote in a recent e-mail. “Al Qaeda is a system, a methodology, not a group per se.”

Indeed, as ISIS loses territory in Syria and Iraq, Al Qaeda’s influence and power is growing. Some experts have speculated about a potential ISIS-Al Qaeda merger. Others point to the demise of ISIS as a motivation for Al Qaeda operatives to strengthen their recruiting efforts, and as reason for newly-inspired would-be jihadists to turn to Al Qaeda in its place.

An extensive guide to targeting trains for attacks that Al Qaeda published last month may have paved the way to the Sept. 15 London Underground bombing. Now French officials also warn of potential train-based attacks inspired by the Al Qaeda guidebook.

That guide may have marked the beginning of the terror group’s comeback, as Hamza bin Laden is seen as taking on more power in the organization. Nicknamed the “Crown Prince of Terror,” Osama bin Laden’s favorite son “grew up with a fervor for jihad and a determination to follow in the footsteps of his notorious father,” according to an investigative report by Ali Soufan and published in Newsweek. After bin Laden’s 2011 death, Hamza swore revenge on the U.S. in the name of his father and “those who defended Islam.”

“We will continue striking you and targeting you in your country and abroad in response to your oppression of the people of Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and the rest of the Muslim lands that did not survive your oppression,” he pronouncedin a speech.

Hamza, according to Soufan’s extensive biography of the younger bin Laden, has been “groomed to lead” from a young age. But unlike his father, who served as a kind of wise elder figure in inspiring recruits and followers of his jihad, Hamza has a different advantage: his youth, which makes him better suited to attract the kinds of younger jihadists and aspiring jihadists who have been more recently attracted to ISIS. He is, in fact, just two years older than your average jihadi recruit. He “gets” social media. If Al Qaeda has historically been credited for its planning expertise and ISIS for its recruitment, a Hamza bin Laden-led Al Qaeda has the potential to excel at both.

The Al Qaeda he is poised to lead is also different than his father’s organization, having quietly strengthened itself in the shadows while the West focused its energies and intelligence on ISIS. In addition, a Vox report points out, while ISIS has been shrinking in Syria and Iraq, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate, has expanded to become “one of the most effective fighting forces in the Syrian civil war,” in part through its alliances with other anti-Assad groups in the region.

It has proved to be a clever strategy: Al Qaeda can now call on those groups for support as it focuses its sights elsewhere. And while Vox observes that it’s “unclear how interested many of these al-Qaeda affiliates are in attacking America at this particular moment,” the threat of such an attack is undeniable. That the group is already publishing manuals encouraging train derailments in Western countries and other maneuvers – even noting that such attacks will not end in “martyrdom” – indicates that it is turning its focus back in our direction.

Hamza has also called for Muslims worldwide to “join arms” against the Western crusaders. In an undated video cited by Al Arabiya, the young bin Laden declared that, “In order for the people of Syria to resist the Crusader, Shiite and international aggression, Muslims – all Muslims – must stand with them, support them and give them victory.”

It is this kind of rhetoric that Shaikh believes is working in Al Qaeda’s favor. Unlike ISIS, he says, “they did not go all barbaric Sharia Law on people, because they realized the problems they would face in brand management, and that this was the problem IS faced. They are working to win hearts and minds in Syria, and they are succeeding.”

Not everyone agrees, however. “Hamza’s messages have barely registered in jihadi and Islamist spheres,” argues Hassan Hassan, a senior fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Public Policy, and “senior jihadis in Syria have dismissed Hamza’s leadership prospects.” Nor does Hassan see much chance of collaboration with ISIS. Nonetheless, he notes, Al Qaeda appears to be trying ” to position itself as the true heir of bin Ladenism and the unrivaled leader of global jihad.”

To be sure, Al Qaeda is not the only group that has quietly strengthened while the world has focused on the Islamic State. Hizballah also continues to be a threat, especially from South America: “The threat is coming from everywhere,” Shaikh wrote. “When Americans talk about the Muslim threat from the Mexican border, it’s not all hyperbole. That laptop ban, for instance, was not based on nonsense: in Somalia, a Shabaab bomber blew himself right … out of the airplane.” But Al-Qaeda, he believes, may pose the biggest danger.

“AQ is playing the Long Game,” he said. “We’re not. That’s our problem.”

Al-Qaeda Targets D.C. to Boston Line, Hazmat Cargo Trains in DIY Derailment Guide

August 15, 2017

Al-Qaeda Targets D.C. to Boston Line, Hazmat Cargo Trains in DIY Derailment Guide, PJ MediaBridget Johnson, August 14, 2017

Amtrak K-9 unit officer Michael Szczawinski and Billy perform a routine patrol along a platform before Amtrak’s Acela train leaves bound for Washington, D.C., on Feb. 19, 2008, at South Station in Boston. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole)

The latest issue of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s English-language Inspire magazine names Amtrak’s D.C. to Boston Acela Express and several other passenger rail lines in the United States as prime targets for their new focus on train derailment operations that the group says has been more than a year in the planning stages.

Inspire, which contains vivid picture instructions on how to build devices used for jihad, has served as an instructional guide for American jihadists who don’t necessarily claim allegiance to al-Qaeda, including Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The article focuses on metro trains operating within cities, regional routes serving population-dense corridors, and long-distance trains with remote tracks that are impossible to fully police. Trains can be attacked by targeting the cars, the stations or the tracks; the article focuses on the last, stressing that the method makes suicide operations unnecessary and the same person can return to strike more lines if not captured, once again this is why it is recommended to have a
one sure hgv insurance covering you.

“America’s railroads are estimated to be a 1/3 of the world’s railway. So how can they protect 240,000 km of railroad … it is practically impossible. The same goes to Britain, with 18,500 km and France, with 29,473 km. It is a daunting and almost impossible task to protect the long railroad length, and yet one of the easiest to target. That may result to great damage and destruction on different levels,” al-Qaeda’s “Lone Jihad Guidance Team” wrote, adding that “it is time that we instill fear and make them impose strict security measures to trains as they did with their Air transportation.”

“We have to expose more of their vulnerabilities in their security. And when they spend millions of dollars to tackle a vulnerability we should be ready to open a new [front]…  we expect that there will be no effective solution to the security gaps that may be caused by these types of operations that target the train system.”

The magazine includes 17 pages of step-by-step, pictorial instructions to make a “derailment tool” of rebar, reinforced concrete, rubber and sheet metal to clamp onto a track a suggested 10 minutes before a train is scheduled to pass.

The Acela is singled out as a high-speed route that the terror group anticipates would see higher casualties and damage from the use of the derailment tool.

“This is the most suited condition for a successful train derail operation. When a train reaches high speed then it has to be reduced to around 100 km/h. This is because a train at a very high speed is hard to control or manage using brakes. For example America’s high-speed train ‘Acela’ requires a whole mile so that it can come to a halt, this is because of the train’s very high speed. Another reason is that the train losses weight and stability when it is at high speeds,” the article states. “Therefore a Mujahid must be aware of areas where the train increases its speed and places where the train moves at a high speed.”

The Inspire issue details, in photos, the specific types of derailments that jihadists can aim for, including a train coming off the tracks and striking a mountain to “attain the desired result,” striking man-made structures including buildings and bridges, and falling from elevated tracks.

“Dual operations” are also emphasized, in which a train carrying hazardous materials can derail in a populated area — “an issue that makes the different security agencies sleepless.”

“The transportation committee in America drafted a report after the events of 9/11 , in which they mentioned the reality of this breach and how difficult it is to control. They declared that 83 million tons of hazardous materials is annually transported by trains in America. And that these trains pass through major U.S. cities and thousands of small towns which are located across the railroad tracks,” the article continued. “Information concerning the transportation of these hazardous materials can always be found on the public domain; or by observing and surveilling the movements of these Hazmat trains.”

The article includes a map of rail lines from the U.S. Department of Transportation, including Amtrak, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, BNSF and CSX.

Specific U.S. passenger lines discussed in addition to the Acela Express are the Amtrak Cascades in the Pacific Northwest, the Cardinal from New York to Chicago, the Carolinian from Charlotte to New York City, the City of New Orleans from Louisiana to Chicago, the Coast Starlight from Seattle to Los Angeles, the Crescent from New York City to New Orleans, the Empire Builder from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest, the Pacific Surfliner from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, Calif., the Palmetto from New York City to Savannah, Ga., the Silver Meteor and Silver Star from New York City to Miami, the Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles, the Sunset Limited from New Orleans to Los Angeles, and the Texas Eagle running from Chicago to San Antonio to L.A.

Editor Yahya Ibrahim’s note at the beginning of the Inspire issue says the development of the derailment ops was “extensively researched” by the terror group for more than a year before releasing the DIY instructions. Ibrahim said the terror group considers it “to be among the most important issues of the magazine.”

Chief AQAP bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri, a 35-year-old Saudi, wrote an extensive article for the magazine issue on targeting transportation in general and giving lone jihadists “the ability to carry out a large scale operation using these types of small resourced operations.”

“The U.S. laid a fifteen-year plan in which it raised the debt, lowered interest rates and reduced military expenditure, which will continue for many years to come. America today is refreshing its efforts to revive its economy,” he wrote. “And we should continue to focus our efforts against it until the world gets rid of this international system led by America.”