February 21st, 2013
09:03 PM ET

UK trial reveals new al Qaeda strategy to hit West

By Paul Cruickshank

The trial of three Birmingham men convicted Thursday of plotting to launch a "catastrophic" suicide bombing attack in the United Kingdom revealed that al Qaeda has developed a new strategy to target the West.

The new strategy involves a teacher-training approach in which a select few Western operatives are taught bombmaking and other aspects of terrorist tradecraft in the tribal areas of Pakistan and are then instructed to return back to the West to "spread the knowledge" to a larger body of Islamist extremists keen on launching attacks.

The new approach is a response to the growing toll of drone strikes which have made travel to the tribal areas increasingly perilous for Western recruits and significantly diminished al Qaeda's ability to orchestrate terrorist plots from the region.

The trial revealed that terrorist groups in Pakistan are actively dissuading Western militants from making the trip.

Two of those convicted Thursday - Irfan Naseer and Irfan Khalid - received 40 days of terrorist training in the tribal areas of Pakistan in the spring of 2011, mostly inside houses in the valleys of Waziristan.

In conversations bugged by British police, the plotters described being handled by al Qaeda operatives and having attended a training camp run by Harakat al Mujahideen, a Pakistani terrorist group closely affiliated with al Qaeda.

The recordings revealed that like other Western militants before them, they were provided detailed instruction in the tricky and potentially hazardous methods to make bombs out of substances readily available in the West, and practiced detonating them. Their instructors included Arabs and Pakistanis.

They also were taught how to put poisons in face creams.

And their teachers emphasized they should put nails inside their bombs, to act as razor-sharp shrapnel.

Naseer, a pharmacy major and the plot's alleged ringleader, was heard recalling how one of their trainers had said the July 7, 2005, London bombers had missed an opportunity to kill more people by failing to put nails in their devices.

Naseer commented on how they were given so much information that they had accumulated 30-40 pages of notes.

They were told the smaller the cell they recruited the better, illustrating al Qaeda's move away from spectacular attacks on the 9/11 scale toward smaller strikes that have a better chance of getting through.

In the recordings played in court, Naseer said his cell should keep the numbers launching the attack in the United Kingdom to around half a dozen. The recordings, however, indicated the cell's plans grew increasingly ambitious with talk of launching an attack bigger than the 2005 London bombings.

The need for less ambitious attacks was previously stressed by two senior American al Qaeda operatives: al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Adnan Shukrijumah, an operative believed to be still at large in Pakistan.

An internal al Qaeda strategy document, authored in around 2009, and recovered in 2011 from a Berlin operative, had called for a greater emphasis on low-cost low-tech attacks by Western militants, whom it said should be quickly trained in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Teaching Westerners to teach back home

In Pakistan, Naseer and Khalid's al Qaeda handlers had a new "command" for them: go back and teach others.

Naseer is heard talking with an associate, keen on traveling to Pakistan, that he and Khalid wanted to stay in the United Kingdom to participate in the plot.

"AQ's main aim is... the knowledge that they give us, [they] want more and more people [to] have [the knowledge] in Europe. So they can start whacking [attacking] there, yeah, do you understand?

Analysts say that if al Qaeda manages to put into practice their new teacher training model, it will raise alarm bells with Western security services because it would reduce the need for Western militants to travel overseas for terrorist training.

"This seems to be a product of al Qaeda's desperation to try to get an attack through, but it's a potentially scary development," Raffaello Pantucci, a senior fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, who closely followed the trial, told CNN.

While Islamists militants have access to many bombmaking recipes online, analysts say they often contain potentially fatal errors and have been seen by militants as a poor substitute to hands-on training by an instructor schooled in the art of bombmaking.

Security services fear the presence of such instructors on Western soil could be a game changer.

Message from al Qaeda: Stay Put

The Birmingham case revealed that al Qaeda had begun actively dissuading recruits from going to Pakistan.

"They told me don't send anyone [more to us]," plot ringleader Naseer said in one of the recordings.

In a June 2011 video "You are Only Responsible for Yourself," released around the same time the Birmingham duo trained in Pakistan, al Qaeda's leadership in Pakistan had urged Western militants to stay home to launch attacks.

Khalid, in one conversation recorded by British police, pointed out that Inspire magazine - the online English publication of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen - had the same advice: "we don't want people to be traveling cos it's getting risky." In 2011 Samir Khan, an American member of the group, urged followers to launch attacks in the West rather than travellng to Yemen.

Naseer and Khalid painted a dim picture of the tribal areas of Pakistan in their attempt to stop their associate from traveling there.

"[Waziristan] hasn't got no more camps now... the brothers used to be in the mountains [but] the drones just get them straight away, they just bomb the camps, so ... they taught us inside houses," Naseer is heard telling the associate in the recordings played in court.

He described how he had had to cower for several hours in 100-degree heat when a drone circled above. "That day was bad ... it's a nasty situation to be in, man," chipped in Khalid.

Khalid described how the drones restricted movement for fighters in the region: "They were restricted to one place most of the time: One place to eat, sleep, go to toilet and do everything."

Terror training on UK soil

Naseer and Khalid implemented the new al Qaeda strategy when they returned to the United Kingdom. Just days before their arrest on September 18, 2011, Naseer provided Ashik Ali, the third Birmingham man convicted Thursday, with hands-on instruction in how to make explosives.
According to expert witnesses consulted in the trial, Naseer had acquired the correct knowledge to teach recruits how to make viable bombs. The recordings suggested their planned attacks were still months away.

In one of the bugged conversations, Naseer is heard suggesting that the restrictions on training in Pakistan meant it was just as effective training recruits in the West.

"[In the tribal areas] you get bit of an experience in fighting - but you know the rest of the stuff that could be taught - they taught us in a room."

At one point, Naseer warned Ali that if he hit or rubbed the explosives in a certain way it could explode and potentially kill him; just one of the many lessons he passed on from his training in Waziristan.

In the days before their arrest, Naseer experimented and tinkered with potential bombmaking chemicals in a Birmingham apartment, including the chemicals inside sports injury cold packs. The recordings revealed that his instructors in Pakistan had taught him that ammonium nitrate- – a potentially high powered explosive - could be extracted from such packs, demonstrating al Qaeda's continued inventiveness.

Pantucci told CNN the Birmingham case illustrated that despite intensified drone strikes in Pakistan, Western militants were still finding ways to connect with al Qaeda in the region, providing the terrorist groups opportunities to attack the West.

He said al Qaeda's new emphasis on training Westerners to in turn provide terrorist instruction in the West reflected the group's looser control over plots than just a few years ago.

Unlike the 7/7 bombers, and other recent terrorist conspiracies like a plot to attack Manchester in 2009, the Birmingham plotters do not appear to have been in touch with their handlers in Pakistan after returning to the United Kingdom.

Pantucci says the pressures on al Qaeda have resulted in a shift toward a new model of "fire and forget."

The March 2012 Toulouse terrorist shootings provided further evidence of looser control by al Qaeda of terrorist plots in the West. The perpetrator of the attack - Mohammed Merah - was encouraged by the group to return to France to launch an attack during a short stay in the tribal areas of Pakistan in September 2011 but planned every aspect of the operation himself, including which targets to strike.

soundoff (1,051 Responses)
  1. Rebffiple

    cialis daily https://rcialisgl.com/ cialis w/dapoxetine

    May 16, 2021 at 11:54 am | Reply
  2. Aika Download

    http://jp.local.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=aikareborn.com/

    May 16, 2021 at 11:06 am | Reply
  3. Aikaonline

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon everyday. It will always be interesting to read articles from other writers and practice a little something from their web sites.

    http://gvomail.com/redir.php?k=1560a19819b8f93348a7bc7fc28d0168&url=http://aikareborn.com

    May 16, 2021 at 9:57 am | Reply
  4. Jebgreext

    international pharmacy [url=https://pharmacylo.com/ ]Nimotop[/url] Remeron

    May 16, 2021 at 6:05 am | Reply
  5. Hel Networks Aika

    https://ffatsearch.com/search/rank.cgi?mode=link&id=9636&url=https://aikareborn.com/wiki/warlock_superior/

    May 16, 2021 at 5:18 am | Reply
  6. Seo Marketing Help

    I have to thank you for the efforts you've put in writing this site. I really hope to check out the same high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own, personal website now 😉

    http://www.balloonhq.ru/bitrix/rk.php?id=45&site_id=ru&event1=banner&event2=click&event3=2+/+5B455D+5Btop5D+C3AFC2BFC2BDC3AFC2BFC2BDC3AFC2BFC2BDC3AFC2BFC2BDC3AFC2BFC2BDC3AFC2BFC2BD&goto=http://affordableranking.com

    May 16, 2021 at 1:28 am | Reply
  7. Internet Marketing Programs

    Greetings, There's no doubt that your site might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your web site in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it's got some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to give you a quick heads up! Aside from that, great website!

    http://www.acuite.fr/journee_evenementielle_redirect?url=http://affordableranking.com/

    May 16, 2021 at 12:05 am | Reply
  8. Local Marketing Programs

    bookmarked!!, I love your site!

    https://ybp.ideaventurepartners.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 15, 2021 at 9:35 pm | Reply
  9. game aika online

    This web site truly has all of the info I needed about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

    https://aikareborn.com/members/isabelaf.54435

    May 15, 2021 at 9:17 pm | Reply
  10. Kickass

    Do you have a spam issue on this blog; I also am a blogger, and I was curious about your
    situation; many of us have created some nice practices and we are
    looking to trade methods with other folks, please shoot me an email if interested.

    May 15, 2021 at 8:30 pm | Reply
  11. Maserati Usa

    http://www.ztjysp99.com/link.php?url=http://www.club-maserati.com/

    May 15, 2021 at 6:14 pm | Reply
  12. Arizona Vision

    Hello there! This blog post could not be written much better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept talking about this. I most certainly will send this post to him. Pretty sure he's going to have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

    https://cdek-calc.ru/go.php?url=http://arizonasvision.com/

    May 15, 2021 at 4:13 pm | Reply
  13. rv water leak repair

    I could not refrain from commenting. Well written!

    http://wwwnuevo.jus.mendoza.gov.ar/c/blogs/find_entry?p_l_id=29236&noSuchEntryRedirect=https://fleetservicerepairshop.com/

    May 15, 2021 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  14. house for sale athol idaho

    https://home.guanzhuang.org/link.php?url=https://meganleary.com

    May 15, 2021 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  15. Maserati Lease Price

    http://www.mnop.mod.gov.rs/jezik.php?url=https://club-maserati.com/

    May 15, 2021 at 12:49 pm | Reply
  16. property for sale rathdrum

    https://www.imp.mx/salto.php?va=http://meganleary.com

    May 15, 2021 at 9:40 am | Reply
  17. property for sale rathdrum idaho

    http://home.guanzhuang.org/link.php?url=https://meganleary.com

    May 15, 2021 at 9:20 am | Reply
  18. Orthokeratology Near Me

    http://www.foodprotection.org/a/partners/link/?id=79&url=https://arizonasvision.com/

    May 15, 2021 at 8:04 am | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6

Leave a Reply to Tracee Cantua


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.