Monday, November 1, 2010

Cargo Plane Bomb Plot: Saudi Double Agent 'Gave Crucial Alert'

Via The Guardian UK -

The plot to place bombs on US-bound cargo planes was foiled as a result of a long-running and heavily financed Saudi operation to infiltrate al-Qaida in Yemen, Gulf security experts said today.

The operation is part of a concerted attempt by the US and its allies to destroy al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap) before it gets a stranglehold on Yemen. The impoverished country is fast emerging as the second major front in the battle with al-Qaida, alongside the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Yemeni officials said today that the critical tip-off had come from Jabir al-Fayfi, a Saudi jihadist who defected to the authorities in Riyadh last month. However, security professionals said the 11th-hour Saudi tip, including parcel tracking numbers, that led to the interception of the bombs on Friday appeared to be based on far more recent, up-to-the minute intelligence.

Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA counter-terrorism chief with longstanding ties with Gulf spy agencies, said Saudi intelligence had succeeded in placing a number of double agents within Aqap.

"Aqap found out about one of them, who they assassinated," Cannistraro said, adding that at least one Saudi agent survived and was the source of the key tip-off. "There is current stuff coming out from Aqap which is more specific than [Fayfi] could provide."

Sami Alfaraj, head of the Kuwait Centre for Strategic Studies, agreed that Fayfi was unlikely to have been the sole source for the Saudi warning. "There are many factors in an operation like this," Alfaraj said. "The officials involved who I am talking to are saying that the Gulf intelligence agencies are finding it easier to penetrate al-Qaida cells. They are not as impregnable as they once were. They recruit from a limited pool, looking for engineers for example, and that concentration on a limited pool makes it easier for the intelligence agencies."

Alfaraj added that jihadists who are acquitted by courts or leave rehabilitation programmes and return to Yemen are now more easily tracked due to better surveillance techniques and equipment.

Intelligence officials would not comment on the Saudi operation, but several sources confirmed that Saudi Arabia had considerably expanded its counter-terrorism operations against Aqap in recent years, particularly after an assassination attempt against the head of that programme, Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, in August last year.


Last year, AQAP laid out it's desire to use electronic devices in plots, according to Evan Kohlmann of Flashpoint Partners....!/IntelTweet/status/29279676498
In October 2009, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (Yemen) published an article advising how to build, conceal, and use explosive devices.!/IntelTweet/status/29279732466
AQAP: Construct bombs disguised as "any electronic device like a stereo... or a picture frame, a paper folder, or a letter envelope."!/IntelTweet/status/29282213815
AQAP: Use bombs to target "airports in Western crusader countries... on their planes, or in their residential complexes, or their subways."

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