Zarqawi was something of a maverick who did not always coordinate with Al Qaeda Central, so it is not known whether the Amman plot had been sanctioned by Bin Laden and his cohorts, or whether Mursi was involved. But it was the kind of spectacular that Bin Laden sought as a follow-up to 9/11. The Jordanians claimed that Zarqawi’s plot could have killed up to 80,000 people, mostly from a poisonous toxic cloud created by the bomb explosions. That projected death toll, nearly 30 times greater than the 9/11 carnage, was considered in many quarters to have been highly inflated for propaganda purposes by the Jordanian authorities. On 7 November, 2006, Dhiren Barot, an Indian-born Hindu who converted to Islam, was sentenced to life imprisonment at Woolwich Crown Court in London for plotting unprecedented carnage on both sides of the Atlantic, including detonating a “dirty bomb” laced with radioactive material to cause massive contamination in heavily populated urban centres. State prosecutor Edmund Lawson said Barot planned “to strike at the very heart of both America and Britain, and to cause the loss of human life on a massive scale”. Barot, who was arrested on 3 August, 2004, while having a haircut at his local barber in London, was considered Al Qaeda’s top operative in the United Kingdom. According to British intelligence, he was controlled by senior Al Qaeda figures in Pakistan’s tribal belt, including the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohammed before he was captured in Pakistan in March 2003. Barot, a former airline ticket clerk who contacted Al Qaeda in 1995, was convicted of planning to blow up major London hotels such as the Dorchester and the Savoy, and railway terminals such as Waterloo and King’s Cross. The most developed plot was one he called the “Gas Limos Project” which involved packing three limousines with
explosives and gas cylinders and blowing them up in the basement car parks of the target buildings. He also planned to bomb iconic US buildings such as the New York Stock Exchange, The World Bank in Washington and the Prudential building in Newark, New Jersey. But Barot was also obsessed with constructing “dirty bombs”, known as radiological dispersal devices (RDDs). He and his seven-man cell planned to use one in London. The range and sophistication of his planning chilled British police when they decoded his meticulous computer files, which included research on “dirty bombs” hidden in files entitled “Brad Pitt” and “radioactive children”. In October 2004, the CIA said in a voluminous report that another Iraqi group, Jaish Al Mohammed (Mohammed’s Army), largely made up of former military and intelligence personnel from Saddam Hussein’s regime, hired two chemists to develop crude chemical or biological weapons. But in the seven months before the group, known as the Al Abud network, was uncovered in June 2004 it failed to produce even a rudimentary weapon. The exhaustive 960-page report was the work of Charles Duelfer, the CIA’s chief weapons investigator in Iraq and a former deputy chairman of the United Nations Special Commission that hunted down Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in 1992-98. Duelfer’s report said the Iraq Survey Group, the largely CIA unit tasked with tracking down Saddam’s WMD programmes following the 2003 invasion, stumbled across the insurgent chemical and biological warfare operation in March 2004 after US troops raided a laboratory in Baghdad. They discovered an Iraqi chemist who had produced small quantities of ricin, made from castor beans and one of the deadliest known toxins. Duelfer said Jaish Al Mohammed had begun working on CBW in December 2003 in Fallujah, a city that became an insurgent
stronghold, when it recruited “an inexperienced Baghdad chemist” to help them produce tabun, a lethal nerve agent. The CIA report said captured Jaish operatives told interrogators from Duelfer’s group that they planned to fill mortar shells and other munitions to use against the occupation forces. The chemist was not able to produce tabun, but the rebels filled nine mortar rounds with another poisonous mixture he concocted. Duelfer’s team deemed those shells useless as CBW weapons because the explosions on impact would incinerate the poison. The Al Abud network switched to working on mustard gas in early 2004, but again failed to produce a deployable weapon. However the scientists were able to produce ricin cake, which can be converted into ricin poison. Duelfer’s team concluded that the chemists could produce ricin in small quantities, but were “not capable of facilitating a mass-casualty ricin attack”. Still, ricin was involved in jihadist plots in London, Paris and Rome soon after. All were thwarted before they could be carried out. Duelfer noted that the insurgents’ efforts to produce rudimentary CBW capabilities caused great alarm in the US-led coalition because the group had been able to recruit scientists from Saddam’s secret weapons programmes and to fund their efforts. If the Al Abud network had not been rolled up, he maintained, “the consequences … could have been devastating to coalition forces”. The leaders and financiers of the network “remain at large and alleged chemical munitions remain unaccounted for”. The report concluded that Al Abud “was not the only group planning or attempting to produce CBW agents” and cautioned that the “availability of chemicals and materials dispersed throughout the country, and intellectual capital from the former WMD programmes increases the future threat to coalition forces.” n
Bin laden’s method of operation... incrementally increase the pain that attacks cause the US until it is forced to change its polities towards Israel and the Muslim world
10 The Middle easT May 2008
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