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August 5, 2004
Al-Qaeda Takes Body Blows, Shifting Direction?

Pakistan's capture of Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan continues to roll up both terrorists and their operational plans, as the AP reports this morning. Using the data recovered from Khan and Ahmed Ghailani, the UK has arrested a number of suspected Islamofascists based in part on surveillance data of Heathrow airport and other recovered data:

Pakistan gave British authorities images of London's Heathrow Airport and other sites that were found on the computers of two arrested al-Qaida fugitives, intelligence officials said Thursday. ... Several news reports in Britain said that one of the suspects arrested in a sweep against militants late Tuesday, variously identified as Abu Eisa al-Hindi or Abu Musa al-Hindi, was believed to be a senior member of al-Qaida, and had been plotting an attack on Heathrow.

Britain's Metropolitan Police refused to say whether al-Hindi was among those arrested, and Pakistani officials contacted by The Associated Press had no information about the link.

Maps, photographs and other details of possible targets in the United States and Britain were found on computers belonging to Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani a Tanzanian indicted for his role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa and a Pakistani computer expert identified as Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, said two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The British reports said al-Hindi, using the code name Bilal, had been in contact with Khan.

Nor is that the only news from Pakistan on the Khan/Ghailani arrest. Their security forces acknowledge holding three significant AQ operatives, one with a US bounty of "several million dollars" on his head, but are not ready to release his name publicly. The Pakistanis also revealed that the South African nationality of several detainees was no mere coincidence, and that maps and surveillance of Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Pretoria were discovered with the suspects. It looks like AQ had decided to attack South Africa as well, a significant decision given the peripheral nature of Mandela's government to the West and to fighting Islamofascists.

Why attack South Africa? It's hardly a Western colony any more, and while it's true that it isn't an Islamic state, it would seem to be a diversion from AQ's mission against the West. It could be that enhanced American and British security has convinced them to take their attacks elsewhere, or at least to attack Anglo-American assets overseas rather than try anything domestically. But the risks don't necessarily decrease when targeting secondary or tertiary locations while the payoffs obviously do, which tells me that AQ may have some problems with operational capabilities in the US or UK now. Their South Africa planning obviously exposed key portions of their infrastructure, as the final part of the article hints. The AP somewhat cryptically holds off the best part of the story for last, and leaves it to the readers' imagination:

South African newspapers quoted unidentified police sources there as saying that key landmarks in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria were among the likely targets, though those reports were strongly denied by South African officials.

The South African suspects were identified as Feroz Ibrahim and Zubair Ismail.

"They had some terror plans for South Africa," Hussain said. They are believed to have arrived in Pakistan on a flight from the United Arab Emirates just days before their arrest [emph mine -- CE].

Coincidence? I don't think so. Somehow the Pakistanis (or someone else) managed to get inside the Khan network and waited for an operation to prepare its launch to strike. As Mitch Berg said on our Northern Alliance Radio show last Saturday, no war has ever been won on the defensive, and it looks like not only are we on the offensive, but that the enemy may more vulnerable now than ever.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 5, 2004 7:16 AM

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