Al Qaeda Is "Selling Wolf Tickets"
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Thu Sep 8 10:19:28 MDT 2005
Report Warns of Terrorists' 'Great Ramadan Offensive'
By Sherrie Gossett
CNSNews.com Staff Writer
September 8, 2005
(CNSNews.com) -- Al Qaeda's plans for a series of spectacular
terrorist strikes in October, targeting American interests as well
as U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East and said to be
coordinated by Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenant in Iraq -
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- are the subject of a non-public report
issued by terrorism experts this week.
The attacks, planned to coincide with the Muslim observance of
Ramadan and dubbed the "Great Ramadan Offensive," are designed to
create a "fateful confrontation" with the U.S. and Israeli forces
in the Middle East, according to a May 30 letter from Zarqawi to
bin Laden. The contents of the letter are referenced in the report
written by Yossef Bodansky, the former director of the U.S.
Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare.
The Sept. 2 report is accessible only to government officials on
the Global Information System (GIS) database. Cybercast News
Service obtained the report on the same day as its release. It
warns of planned attacks in Western Europe, Russia and perhaps the
continental U.S. The specific targets are believed to include
airports at Schiphol in the Netherlands and Fiumicino in Italy.
Italy remains on high alert and barricades have been placed around
Rome's Colosseum. "Terrorism is coming home," the GIS report
quotes one unnamed German senior official. "And it's coming home
to those countries whose governments may have believed they were
immune from terror because for years they have provided safe haven
to notorious Islamic extremists."
An associate of Zarqawi named Abu Abdul Rahman al-Jazaeri, was
said to be in Italy, but could not be located by authorities,
according to Bodansky, who added that Jazeiri was believed to have
recently received from a Zarqawi messenger "the definitive mandate
to plan and carry out a major terrorist operation in Italy."
In late August Italy announced that it was at an elevated risk for
a terrorist attack. The country expelled 700 suspected militants
and arrested 141 others. News organizations reported that locks to
the entrances of 49 subway stations had been changed and metal
barricades erected around the 2,000-year old Colosseum in Rome.
Piecing it all together
Details of the planned attacks were pieced together from
intercepted communications between top al Qaeda leaders in the
latter part of August, analysis of what counter- terrorism experts
described as a dramatic increase in the volume of communication
among jihad forces and the observation of an unprecedented
movement of jihadists and messengers around the world apparently
Zarqawi, linked to numerous bombings and the beheadings of several
Western hostages in Iraq, reportedly titled his letter to bin
Laden, "A Message from a Soldier to His Commander." According to
the GIS report, Zarqawi's letter to bin Laden alluded to "the
forthcoming grand offensive comprised of escalation in the Middle
East and a series of spectacular terrorist strikes" meant to
overshadow the impact of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist strikes in
New York City and Washington, D.C.
The letter also indicated Zarqawi was expecting bin Laden to
approve and authorize the escalation: "I think that the plan for
the next stage that was drawn up has reached you or is on its way
to you. O God. Make the expedition of Osama proceed toward its
goal ... We await your orders as to the next stage of the plan,"
An Aug. 8 televised message from bin Laden's overall
second-in-command -- Ayman al-Zawahiri - is now viewed as the
approval Zarqawi was anticipating. "What you have seen, O
Americans, in New York and Washington and the losses you are
having in Afghanistan and Iraq, in spite of all the media
blackout, are only the losses of the initial clashes ... You will
see the horror that will make you forget what you had seen in
Vietnam," Zawahiri said.
The al Qaeda official's threat, according to the report, wasn't
delivered until the jihad forces were organized and ready to
The GIS report also cites an Aug. 21 message recorded by Zarqawi,
which references the next phase of the terrorist jihad. "The
[mujahedeen] in Iraq, have, praise be to God, moved the battle
from the ground (in Iraq) to the land of the cross."
Zarqawi's message claimed that "[J]ihadist units have been founded
in all of Western Europe, to defend the powerless within the
nation. For the crimes the Crusaders have committed against the
Muslims, they will reap in their own homes, God willing."
A few days later, according to GIS, a doctrinal statement from
Zarqawi emerged, which stressed the priority of al Qaeda in Iraq
establishing "another base that will export jihad to all parts of
the world the same way the mother al Qaeda in Afghanistan was."
'The heart and lair of the Great Satan'
Bodansky's report states that "concrete preparations for the
consolidation of Islamist-jihadist springboards against the heart
and lair of the Great Satan are being completed -- for Western
Europe in the Balkans, for Russian and Eastern Europe in Chechnya,
and for the United States in the tri-border area in Latin
Widespread anticipation throughout the Muslim world of the Great
Ramadan Offensive was being picked up by intelligence analysts in
August and then was reinforced by a slew of theological statements
-- all buttressing what the GIS report calls "a forthcoming,
well-coordinated global onslaught."
The marked increase in the volume of communication, both encrypted
and open, exceeded that of the months prior to September 2001, the
Bodansky said there is a growing awareness among Western European
intelligence services of the "chatter" and activation of jihadist
units, led by veterans of Iraq and Chechnya. In early August 2005
Pakistanis arrested a senior operative called Osama bin Yussaf who
had detailed maps of Italian, German and British cities stored in
Germany faces the challenge of second and third generation
immigrants inspired by the idea of a global jihad, the GIS report
notes. Such young jihadists often hold down a regular job, have
European passports and are valued assets due to their low profile,
and easy mobility.
Bodansky also points to the Aug. 23 decree by Islamist rebels in
Chechnya establishing an "emergency government." Details of the
decree, not previously reported, inidcate that a "war leadership
council" was established and would likely "implement the next
cycle of terrorist strikes against Russia" as part of the
coordinated global attacks.
Hurricane Katrina's message
Terrorist leaders may also have taken the devastation wrought by
hurricane Katrina as a symbol that God is pleased with their plans
to launch the "Great Ramadan Offensive," according to the GIS
"Allah has punished America with winds and water," said one imam
quoted in the report. America is under "the curse of the Jews,"
"It's clear the jihadists regarded Katrina as a sign from God
they're doing the right thing," said Gregory R. Copley, president
of The International Strategic Studies Association in Washington,
In a separate analysis, Christopher Brown, research associate with
the Hudson Institute's Transitions to Democracy project, warned of
the strategic opening that the hurricane aftermath offers
"If this attack is launched soon, the devastation to the American
economy alone could easily far exceed that of the September 11th
attacks and could be equivalent in terms of economic impact to the
detonation of a small nuclear device on American soil," Brown
He also suggested that the timing of Zawahiri's past video
messages indicates a terrorist attack may be imminent.
His first messages, on Sept. 9 and Nov. 9 of 2004, preceded the
Dec. 6, 2004 attack on the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Feb. 20 and June 17, 2005 video messages by Zawahiri preceded the
July 7 series of bombings in London. A third set of messages - on
Aug. 4 and Sept. 1 - also creates cause for concern, Brown
"If the pattern that has been outlined holds true," says Brown,
"then al Qaeda is very likely about to launch a new major or
series of major attacks within the next month."
Copley agreed, telling Cybercast News Service that, "I think
Europe is going to be a prime target, but I think there's no
question the U.S. is very much on the schedule.
"There will be big things happening over the next few months," he
Ramadan, a religious observance which includes a period of
fasting, is scheduled according to the Islamic calendar. This year
it is scheduled from Oct. 4 to Nov. 2. Muslim soldiers on the
battlefield are exempt from Ramadan.
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