View Full Version : London Terror Inquiry Heads Secretly to the African Sahara

07-18-2005, 01:22 PM

From DEBKA-Net-Weekly 214 Exclusive Updated by DEBKAfile

July 18, 2005, 3:05 PM (GMT+02:00)

The British authorities have mounted a tremendous publicity effort to emphasize that Pakistan and Egypt are the central areas of interest in their investigation of the July 7 transport bombings that killed 55 Londoners. This is a diversionary tactic.

Much of the intelligence offered to the media is irrelevant to the inquiry. There is nothing that was not known to British and US intelligence from early 2004 in the fact that three of the four bombers were of Pakistan origin and some studied at medressas run by Muslim extremists linked directly to terrorism. Even the fact that they visited Pakistan last year or were in contact with Muslims in Queens, New York, does not lead to the masterminds who sent them to their deaths on July 7. Even terrorists phone or visit relatives. As for the Egyptian biochemist Magdi Mahmoud al-Nashar from Leeds, the Egyptian security authorities who are not known for their gentle handling of al Qaeda suspects have found no ties between him, al Qaeda and the London bombers. There was seemingly nothing to find beyond the fact that he rented them his apartment after a meeting at a local mosque. Yet British detectives are in Cairo day after day waiting to be allowed to interview the scientist.

The British government is feeding the public with a daily dose of suggestive, diversionary data for two purposes. One is to stop the mouths of Tony Blair’s enemies and throw off their efforts to link the attacks to Britain’s involvement in Iraq alongside the United States. This ploy was set back Monday, July 18, when the influential Chatham House came out with a report claiming Britain had been placed at magnified risk of terror attack by its role in Iraq and cooperation in the worldwide US-led offensive against al Qaeda. This contention was fiercely contested by the British defense and foreign ministers.

The other purpose is to deflect attention from the leads followed by the inquiry to the real source of the attacks.

Last Friday, July 14, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 214 (Al Qaeda’s Zone 9: The Blue-faced Men of the Sahara) revealed that a top-secret gathering took place Wednesday, July 13, in one of the most out-of-the-way towns in the world, Nouakchott, capital of Mauritania. It was attended by linchpins of the services responsible for the war on al Qaeda, the American Central Intelligence Agency, the British domestic and foreign secret services, MI5 and MI6, and the security chiefs of Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Last week too, a senior British official who specializes in intelligence and terrorism Kim Howells was dispatched to Morocco.

Add these moves to the earlier DEBKAfile finding that the explosives came from Serbia and it is clear that the real investigation is focused on West Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East – not Pakistan and Egypt.

The Nouakchott meeting was indeed called by British anti-terrorist services after their experts concluded that the team of terrorists that blew up three Tube trains and a bus in London on July 7 received their orders, explosives and operating funds from al Qaeda’s West Africa arm.

Very little is known about this remote wing of the Islamist group known as the West African Jam’a functions from deep inside the Sahara Desert under the command of Mukhtav bin Mukhtar, known also as the Blind One because he is one-eyed.

Al Qaeda refers to this area of operations as Zone 9 and it is one of the most remote, bizarre and hazardous of all its sectors.

West African Jam’a members live in hiding among the strange Tuareg tribes, no more than a million strong, of the Sahara desert. Predominantly nomadic, these Berber-speaking people roam mostly through the northern reaches of Mali near Timbuktu and Kidal. The Tuareg are often referred to as the Blue Men of the Desert for their men’s indigo-dyed robes and blue face veils.

These tribesmen have many uses for the fundamentalist terrorists.

1. They range across seven African countries: Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, northern Benin, large parts of Niger, Nigeria and Mauritania. Al Qaeda operatives traveling with the Tuareg have access to terrorists and smugglers away from prying eyes. In all these places, except for Algeria, security is lax.

2. For a terrorist moving around in northwest Africa, the blue veil is the perfect disguise.

3. Al Qaeda agents have learned some of the Tuareg tribes’ Berber dialects and use them as a form of internal code to guard their secrets from Western ears.

The West African Jam’a stages terrorist attacks only very rarely. Al Qaeda experts believe that even those few are carried out to divert attention from their main missions in the Sahara, which are the smuggling of arms, money and drugs.

For instance, al Qaeda’s drug shipments from Afghanistan to Europe, a primary source of funding for terrorist attacks, are routed by the West Africa Jam’a through the Sahara. Some people in counter-terror agencies believe that if anyone knows where al Qaeda has stowed its nuclear materials, it would be bin Mukhtar, who rules the West African wing of the terror organization and is also exceptionally well-connected with Russian, Central Asian, Balkan and Persian Gulf mafias.

Because of Its functions and connections, the West African Jam’a is al Qaeda’s operational arm in the international crime world.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly reports that British intelligence has mapped the route by which the explosives used in London reached the British Isles in the last two years:

Stage One

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, or another senior terrorist planner located in the Middle East, employed Jordanian, Syrian or Lebanese crime mobs to relay the money for purchasing explosives to the Serbian Mafia in Belgrade, which specializes in the acquisition of illicit weapons. Al Qaeda transferred directives to the London bomb team by the same route.

Stage Two

The purchased explosives – only a part of the consignment was used, in the view of British investigators – were shipped from the Balkans to West Africa and conveyed by local smugglers to al Qaeda agents of the West African Jam’a living among the Tuareg.

Stage Three

The explosives were divided into small packages for dispatch to the UK. Some of the merchandise was carried by smugglers boats sailing from Africa to Spain or Gibraltar, some through Algeria or Morocco.

DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources add the British authorities have not traced the unused portion of the explosives and are trying to find out if they are still in Britain, stored ready for fresh terrorist attacks, or have been sent on to other parts of Europe. The two communiqués claiming Qaeda responsible for the London blasts specify that Italy and Denmark are next in the terrorists’ sights. Terrorism experts deduce that the missing explosives as well as funds were destined for those countries by the same route as they reached the UK – another indication that the London attacks were not an isolated incident but like the Madrid bombings last year, part of a general al Qaeda European offensive mounted from Muslim Africa and possibly masterminded from the Middle East.

Atlhough the Nouakchott conference delved into the mystery surrounding the identities of the masterminds who directed the bomb blasts and the intelligence teams which prepared them, the British have no clues as to who they are. None of the intelligence experts present doubted that the commander had visited London to inspect and approve the bomb sites some time in 2004 or even late 2003. Surveillance teams would have followed him and taken many trips on the underground to test timetables and select routes for synchronized targeting.