Saudis Financed al Qaeda Escape
Vol: 4 Issue: 31 Thursday, January 31, 2002
According to Western intelligence reports, the Saudis financed the escape of some 4,000 al Qaeda fighters to Lebanon. The German daily Die Welt, quoting CIA and Western intelligence sources, said the operation is meant to provide the Palestinian Authority with trained combatants to fight in the war against Israel. The sources were quoted as saying that Saudi Arabia has offered $5,000 for each al Qaeda member who resettles in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.
Already 4,000 al Qaeda insurgents have fled from Afghanistan to Lebanon, with many of them being harbored in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein Hilwe. Die Welt also reported that the Saudi intelligence service paid Iran $10 million to buy weapons for the Palestinian Authority.
The weapons were confiscated in wake of the capture by Israel of the Karine-A freighter on Jan. 3 in the Red Sea. Last week Western diplomatic sources in Ankara confirmed a report in the Turkish Daily News that Bin Laden agents are seeking to escape to the Palestinian Authority.
Terror Documents Name Potential Targets
Documents found in Afghanistan suggest that both Washington’s Space Needle and a six-block area of Los Angeles were [or are] targets of al Qaeda. “I was made aware several days ago by the FBI that a photograph of the Space Needle was on a computer system,” Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske told The Associated Press. “We are taking it seriously, but we don’t believe there’s any reason for undue concern.” Gov. Gary Locke said the FBI had assured him that “based on its current information Washington state is not a target of terrorist attacks.” The document mainly pictures or maps with circled locations. Since the documents did not make any reference to dates, methods of attacks or a specific attack, government sources do not consider the new information a high-level threat.
Nuclear Plants At Greater Risk
A detailed warning issued to US intelligence agencies within the past two weeks says Islamic terrorists are planning another spectacular attack to rival those carried out on September 11. One target was a U.S. nuclear power plant or one of the Energy Department’s nuclear facilities. The warning outlined several specific areas of concern.
1. A bombing or airline attack on a nuclear power plant or other U.S. nuclear facility, such as a weapons storage depot, designed to cause mass casualties and spread deadly radiological debris.
2. A bombing against a U.S. warship in Bahrain, headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, where some 20 ships are based. The attack would be similar to the October 2000 suicide bombing attack on the USS Cole.
3. Another airliner attack on a building using a hijacked commercial jet as a suicide bomber.
4. A vehicle bombing in Yemen.
No public announcement has been made of an impending terrorist attack based on recent assessments. But the information related to a potential new attack first came to the attention of intelligence agencies last week.
Syria Smuggling Military Components To Iraq
Iraq is using Syria for the smuggling of military systems and other banned material to the regime of President Saddam Hussein. Western intelligence sources said Iraq is smuggling components for tanks, armored systems and anti-aircraft batteries as well as material for weapons of mass destruction through Syria. The sources said the smuggling began more than a year ago and has increased over the last few months. The main Syrian port employed for goods smuggled to Iraq is Tartous. The Iraqi smuggling route has led to a sharp increase in traffic at Tartous.
On Tuesday, the London-based Al Hayat daily reported that the U.S. Sixth Fleet stopped two Syrian merchant ships in the Mediterranean over the last week. The daily said the ships were taken to Cyprus and searched for unspecified weapons and materials. Nothing was confiscated from the Syrian ships.
Egypt To Press Arafat
As we reported last week, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak undertook a tactical decision to throw his support behind the West’s war on terror and refuse membership in the developing Saudi-Iran-Iraq alliance.
Following a meeting with Israeli Defense Secretary Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Mubarak announced he was going to apply “very heavy pressure” on Arafat on behalf of the Israelis. The Egyptian leader also promised to return an ambassador to Tel Aviv, “the moment there is the beginning of any movement toward a peace process.”
The Egyptian tone appeared to have changed following the Karine A episode, Israeli defense officials said.