Friday, July 31, 2009

Al Qaeda’s Training Changes In Response To US Strikes

Via CNN (h/t National Terror Alert) -

The interrogations of two accused Westerners who say they trained and fought with al Qaeda in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region provide an inside view of the terror group's organizational structures.

Arguably, they shed more light on the state of al Qaeda than any material previously released into the public domain.

The documents reveal training programs and the protective measures the terrorist organization has taken against increasingly effective U.S. missile strikes.

Bryant Vinas -- a U.S. citizen who says he traveled to Pakistan in September 2007 to fight against Americans in Afghanistan -- stated that between March and July 2008 he attended three al Qaeda training courses, which focused on weapons, explosives, and rocket-based or -propelled weaponry.

During these classes, attended by 10-20 recruits, Vinas was taught how to handle a large variety of weapons and explosives, some of them of military grade sophistication, according to his account.

Vinas stated he became familiar with seeing, smelling and touching different explosives such as TNT, as well as plastic explosives such as RDX, and Semtex, C3 and C4 -- the explosive U.S. authorities have stated was used in al Qaeda's attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Vinas also learned how to make vests for suicide bombers.

Vinas stated he was also instructed how to prepare and place fuses, how to test batteries, how to use voltmeters and how to build circuitry for a bomb.

According to his account, al Qaeda also offered a wide variety of other courses including electronics, sniper, and poisons training. Instruction in the actual construction of bombs, he stated, was offered to al Qaeda recruits who had become more advanced in their training.


Othmani provided interesting new details about the training facilities being used by al Qaeda in the tribal areas.

His group trained in a small mountain shack, a far cry from the large camps al Qaeda had run in Taliban-era Afghanistan, when it had been able to operate with little danger of being targeted by military strikes.

Othmani's account made clear that al Qaeda has had to decentralize its operations in Pakistan in response to the growing effectiveness of U.S. Predator strikes.

However the wide number of training courses described by both Vinas and Othmani suggest that al Qaeda has been able to adapt well to the new security environment.


Vinas stated that when they completed their training, Al Qaeda instructors did a written evaluation of their performance. Vinas had been judged qualified to participate in missile attacks against U.S. and NATO bases in Afghanistan, according to his account.

That suggests al Qaeda has maintained its capacity for administration and paperwork even in a harsher security environment.


He is believed to be still at large in the Pakistan-Afghan border area. Vinas was told that the training course that Hafith set up focused on kidnapping and assassination, including instruction on the use of silencers and how to break into and enter a property.

The revelations raise the possibility that al Qaeda was developing a program of targeted assassinations. Though al Qaeda has carried out some assassinations in the past, most of its attacks in the West have not targeted any particular individuals but crowded areas, such as mass transport.

According to Othmani, al Qaeda fighters totaled between 300-500 in Pakistan's Tribal Areas - spread out in groups of 10. Such decentralization was a function of the growing deadliness of U.S. Predator strikes.

Hicham Beyayo, a Belgian jihadist volunteer, said the group moved around a lot because such strikes were known to be "very effective," his lawyer Christophe Marchand, told CNN.

The loss of an increasing number of operatives, stated Othmani, prompted an order from al Qaeda's top command for fighters to remain inside as much as possible. In order to keep in touch jihadists operated a courier service across the region, according to the Frenchman's testimony.

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