Al Qaeda On the Up?

The two bombs that went off last week in Damascus, killing 55 people, suggest that Al Qaeda is out and about, not on the verge of defeat as appeared after the death of Osama Bin Laden.

The movement that claimed to be responsible, Al Nusra Front, whilst independent, almost certainly has ties with Al Qaeda. In an 8-minute video released in February Ayman Zawahiri, who took over from Ben Laden, urged Muslims to help “brothers in Syria with all that they can”.

According to US intelligence, Al Qaeda in Iraq responded by establishing terrorist cells in Syria. This is one reason why the US and NATO do not want to get militarily involved in Syria. They have at last learnt that it would radicalise more people and push them towards Al Qaeda. (Besides, the situation is not as straightforward as it was in Libya, with one all-powerful strongman, one dominant religious sect and a fairly united armed opposition.)

In Iraq, Al Qaeda is active; it killed 132 Shiite pilgrims in January. In Yemen, it is in control of several southern provinces. It also nearly perfected, before the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia and the US got to know of it, undetectable, explosive-filled, underpants to be worn by a suicide bomber intending to board a US airliner.

Al Qaeda is the main supporter of Al Shabaab in Somalia, which has wrecked much havoc although it is now losing strength. It is also increasingly active in North Africa, with its influence reaching as far south as Nigeria. There appear to be connections with Boko Haram, the militant Islamic group in the north of the country that conducted many bombings of churches as well as UN headquarters in Abuja, but also killed many Muslims. Some observers believe that once US and NATO troops leave Afghanistan, in 2014, the Taliban will invite Al Qaeda back in. Others, however, believe the organisation has now distanced itself from Al Qaeda and will continue to do so.

Al Qaeda’s reach depends on its franchise system. Without central control, only advice, these autonomous groupings could well increase in number. However, it is important to note that there has not been a serious bombing in the US since September 11 and in Europe since the horrendous bombing of four commuter trains in Madrid in 2004. (In this case the connection with Al Qaeda was tenuous.)

Added to the positive list is the effect of the Arab Spring, which has brought nonviolent change to Tunisia and Egypt and in Syria infuses the majority of protesters who are nonviolent. The protesters and the democratic movements they have catalysed are largely insulating their countries from Al Qaeda proselytising.

Perhaps the biggest worry about Al Qaeda should be under-reported Bosnia. I am convinced of this after reading the scholarly book “Islamic Terror in the Balkans” by Shaul Shay, head of the Israeli army’s department of history. Perhaps, although he does not say this, there are Al Qaeda sleeper cells right inside Europe in a country that could in some years’ time join the European Union.

Al Qaeda and other Muslim warriors went to Bosnia, he writes, when it was at war with Croatia and Serbia. They were involved in a number of atrocities carried out by the Bosnian army. Also, a number of the suspected September 11 bombers had been active in Bosnia.

After the war ended with the Dayton Accords in 1995, the Mujahedeen fighters were either recognised as legal citizens, following marriage to local women, or were granted citizenship as a reward for their help. Some of them were given senior positions in the administration, police, the army and the legal system.

Over 1,000 Mujahedeen fighters remained in Bosnia. Most of them are still there. According to Washington Post correspondent Jeffrey Smith, there are 100 Mujahedeen families living in one village alone, with the women wearing black and the men bearded — highly unusual in Europeanised Bosnia, largely Muslim though it is.

There are also militant cells in Muslim Albania, the Muslim parts of Kosovo and Macedonia. Al Qaeda was very active in Kosovo.

Bosnia got off lightly in Western reporting of the war in ex-Yugoslavia that, in a lopsided way, concentrated on the attacks and massacres by Serbian and Croatian forces. It was usually overlooked that Bosnia’s leader, Alija Izetbegovic, had encouraged young Muslims to fight with the SS-Waffen divisions during World War II. Later Izetbegovic had no scruples about inviting in the Mujahedeen, some of whom had joined Al Qaeda, to help the fight against Serbia and Croatia. That was overlooked too.

Are they sleepers? It is an important question that should be given more attention than it is.

7 thoughts on “Al Qaeda On the Up?”

  1. Show The Truth said:

    Experts Warn of Al Qaeda Biological Weapons Threat
    Experts warn of “grave danger” to global security over Syrian bioweapons; say Al Qaeda may already possess lethal agents.
    AAFont Size
    By Ari Soffer
    First Publish: 10/16/2013, 8:57 PM

    Illustration: WMD antiterrorisim drill
    Illustration: WMD antiterrorisim drill

    As international attention in Syria focuses on efforts to dismantle the Assad regime’s chemical weapons stockpile, British experts are warning of another, potentially more lethal threat.

    Experts from the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) have issued a stark warning over what they say is the “clear and present danger” of Al Qaeda gaining possession of the Assad regime’s stockpile of biological weapons, claiming to have substantial evidence that Al Qaeda-linked groups may already have possession of toxic agents.

    Unlike chemical weapons, which utilize chemical agents to poison victims, biological weapons make use of diseases, toxins and other contagious agents. Biological weapons have the potential to kill far greater numbers, and are also far harder to detect or protect against.

    Both are banned under international treaties, but the Syrian government possesses active programs in both fields. However, whilst the use of chemical weapons during the Syrian civil war has been seen on numerous occasions – most notably, but by no means exclusively, during the August 21 attack which killed more than 1,000 people in a number of Damascus suburbs – biological weapons have not been used by either side.

    That is likely because bioweapons are notoriously difficult to control or contain.

    But the HJS report, released on Tuesday, says that jihadists in Syria are actively seeking to gain control of the regime’s biological weapons’ stockpile and, chillingly, suggests they may already have done so.

    The report claims that the Assad regime is losing control of its bioweapons arsenal, in part because it was never centrally-controlled in the way the country’s chemical weapons stockpile has been.

    “Unlike chemical weapons, maintained in military designated stockpiles which are generally identifiable and which Assad maintains command and control over, the structure of Syria’s biological warfare programs are latent, compartmentalized and spread across its remaining bio-pharmaceutical infrastructure. The programs are designed to be highly agile to allow swift production if required.”

    Worryingly, the report suggests that the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front may already have possession of “biological pathogens or weaponized agents either of which would pose a threat to the international community.”

    It points to the widespread looting of bio-pharmasuitical laboratories throughout the country, and cites a “credible eyewitness” as claiming to have personally witnessed “a looted pharmaceutical laboratory,” near Aleppo, where Syria’s biological weapons program is concentrated, “which was probably a cover for a biological weapons production site.”

    The fact that a Malaysian Al Qaeda operative named as Yazid Sufaat, identified as “Al Qaeda’s primary biological weapon expert”, was arrested in February as he attempted to enter Syria, was said to indicate the clear interest that the group has in developing such a program in the country.

    Other Al Qaeda branches, most notably in Yemen and North Africa, have previously attempted to obtain such weapons, and the group’s founder, Osama Bin Laden, had expressed an interest in them prior to the infamous 9/11 attacks.

    While the report does not cite any clear and definitive evidence of Al Qaeda physically possessing biological agents, the circumstantial evidence paints a fairly alarming picture.

    On the other hand, analysts will find some solace in the fact that neither Al Qaeda nor any other terrorist group has successfully manufactured and deployed biological weapons to lethal effect.

    But HJS’s Associate Fellow Dr Bellamy van Aalst, a former EU and NATO bio-defence consultant, warned against complacency, in light of the relative availability of already-weaponized and readily-deployable biological weapons in Syria.

    “Establishing the extent to which Assad may have developed biological WMDs is extremely difficult, given that their production is indistinguishable from benign biological lab processes.

    “But this is certainly a risk to which we should not turn a blind eye. If Assad has been developing biological weapons, as the evidence suggests, and if those weapons fall into the hands of extremists, global health security could be in grave danger.”


  2. Show The Truth said:

    HRW accuses Syria jihadists of ‘execution’ war crimes

    Rights group reports at least 67 of 190 civilians from Alawite minority were executed or unlawfully killed.

    Middle East Online


    DAMASCUS – Jihadists in Syria were accused Friday of war crimes over the killing of 190 civilians from President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite minority, in the largest atrocity attributed to rebel fighters.

    Human Rights Watch said another 200 people — the vast majority women and children — were taken hostage in the operations that took place in August and are still being carried out.

    The report, which urged an arms embargo on groups suspected of war crimes or crimes against humanity, said at least 67 of the victims were “executed or unlawfully killed”.

    It comes as NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he sees no military solution to the 31-month conflict in Syria, which has killed more than 115,000 people.

    HRW said the killings began on August 4, the first day of the Eid Al-Fitr holiday ending the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in a sweep of villages in Latakia province, an Alawite stronghold.

    “These abuses were not the actions of rogue fighters,” said HRW’s Joe Stork. “This operation was a coordinated, planned attack on the civilian population.”

    The 105-page report, based on interviews with 35 survivors, emergency personnel and fighters on both sides, said at least 20 groups were involved, but that five “are responsible for specific incidents that amount to war crimes”.

    It named them as Ahrar al-Sham, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Al-Nusra Front, Jaish al-Muhajireen Wal-Ansar and Suqur al-Ezz.

    HRW said that, in some cases, opposition fighters executed or gunned down entire families, or killed the elderly or infirm who had been left behind by those who fled.

    HRW also said “some of the opposition atrocities… had clear sectarian motivation”.

    In one village, it said fighters intentionally damaged an Alawite maqam, a site where a religious figure is buried, and “appear to have intentionally damaged and dug up the grave”.

    It said they had also abducted and executed Sheikh Bader Ghazzal, the area’s Alawite religious leader, quoting Al-Nusra as saying he had been executed because he supported the regime.

    OPCW wins Nobel prize

    Meanwhile, HRW quoted opposition forces, including an officer involved in negotiations, as saying ISIL and Jaish al-Muhajireen Wal-Ansar are holding 200 hostages, mostly women and children.

    It called for them to be treated humanely and released immediately, urging countries with influence over the groups to press for their liberation.

    It quoted sources as saying funding for the operation had come “from individuals in Kuwait and other Gulf countries”. It also said Turkey should do more to “prevent the entry of fighters and arms” to groups implicated in “systematic human rights violations”.

    “We have documented abuses by opposition forces before, but never on this scale,” HRW researcher Lama Fakih said.

    “Violators on all sides should be sent a message by the UN Security Council” which should refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

    The opposition National Coalition expressed “deep concern” about the reported atrocity and distanced itself from those who perpetrated it.

    “The incident reported by HRW in today’s report does not represent an effort by the true Syrian opposition, but rather a shameful one-time attack by outlier extremist groups that thrive under the hand of the Assad regime,” it said in a statement.

    Russia, meanwhile, accused Syrian rebels of receiving chemical weapons training in lawless parts of Afghanistan and planning attacks on the territory of Iraq.

    In Athens, NATO’s Rasmussen “there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria”, emphasising a political solution was required to end it.

    On the ground, a second team of inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons arrived in Damascus on Thursday to help supervise the destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal under the terms of a UN resolution.

    At the same time, the Security Council backed a plan by UN leader Ban Ki-moon for a joint mission of up to 100 experts with the OPCW to destroy the weapons, diplomats said.

    The council agreed that the UN and the OPCW were doing “a great job,” said France’s UN ambassador Gerard Araud, while Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin noted “good cooperation by the Syrian government”.

    The OPCW was on Friday named this year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, in what French President Francois Hollande called a “vindication” of its work in Syria.

    Shortly after the announcement, a six-vehicle OPCW convoy left its Damascus hotel on its first
    mission since the announcement of the award.


  3. Show The Truth said:

  4. Show The Truth said:

    SYRIE : Le traitement inhumain des civils par les terroristes salafistes d’Al Qaïda


  5. Show The Truth said:

    -18 Syrie: Prêtre catholique syrien décapité par des rebelles à Gassanieh


  6. Which side should the US support?

    Have we not learned our lesson in Egypt? How is replacing a dictator with another a smart thing? Mubarak may have been a dictator but he kept the peace in the Middle East and he FED HIS PEOPLE. He also allowed certain amount of democracy, not to mention religious freedom for Coptic Christians!!!

    Assad maybe a dictator but millions of Catholics and Christians were able to enjoy their religious freedom under Assad & his father. Does anyone think that it’s really smart to support Al Qaeda affiliated rebels?

    Al Qaeda is the sworn enemy of the US!!! I urge Obama to support Assad now!!! Assad is fighting against the perpetrators of 911.

    Shame on you Obama for not supporting Assad.


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