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Interesting details on AQ and Taliban efforts to bring down chinook in Afghanistan – amoung other stuff I also ramble about

06/15/2011 5 comments

There is some truly fascinating material floating around on the forums at the moment. Maybe it’s because I’m only just starting to get back looking at this stuff in more depth than my usual daily hour or two wander through the internets. But there’s a lot of movement afoot in quite a few different areas.

And rather curiously there seems to be a lot of reporting on al-Sham operatives in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan.

This could just be because clearly one of them is on active on the forums at the moment and pushing out some stuff.

Some of it is old, like the martrdom of the Jordanian born  (or Jordanian citizen if memory serves?) Palestinian Mahmud Abu Rida (see here for a useful summary on this guy by Florian Flade http://ojihad.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/the-story-of-mahmoud-abu-rida/)

Short version he was UK based for many years, jailed at Belmarsh, under a control order ( I think) and then ended up in Afghanistan, where he was reported killed late last year. He had longstanding links to AQ, with some reporting suggesting that he was the person to who al-Zawahiri tasked distributing his book–although to my knowledge this has never been confirmed.

What is interesting is that there is some new information that has appeared about how he died and what he was involved in as well as some photos. Curiously, this detail was released by the same gent who put out the pictures of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi’s brother I posted on a few days ago.

You can find the new account of Mahmud Abu Rida and pictures on an open forum here http://www.paldf.net/forum/showthread.php?t=824555

This account confirms Mahmud Abu Rida was AQ (no surprises there) but it also  intimates that As Sahab may do something on him later. I wouldn’t be surprised if it does, since the propaganda value of  Mahmud Abu Rida is high, given his background and detention in the UK etc. He also reportedly asked for a martyrdom operation and the way he died would from AQ’s view give it a new spin on martydom ops.

It is interesting that the photos and details have taken a while to surface (or have I missed them earlier?)

Anyway, this posting  claims Mahmud Abu Rida was killed in an operation to bring down a US chinook (at least I think it was chinook), in which four Turkish militants also participated (if I am understanding this correctly)

Some other interesting details (and please correct me if I am wrong) but according to this the Taliban and al Qaeda had a join unit to hunt planes.  Maybe someone can match up the details with known crashes or strikes on aircraft?  I was up to my eyeballs in thesis last year time so I missed a bit of news. Anyway, according to this account villagers complained and so the militants organised an operation. Presumably this is where the Taliban fits in, since the account places Mahmud Abu Rida and four Turkish brothers as the ones who carried out the operation.  Although it does say that the Taliban militants tried to attract the Americans by talking on their cellphone, and when that did not work Mahmud Abu Rida got on the phone and started talking Arabic. Not sure about this in terms of credibility, but nonetheless it is interesting. It has some details about what weapons were used but I’m not well versed in that stuff, more the IED side of things so I’ll leave that to someone else to write about. Anyway according to this the attack caused the aircraft to crash land and then more aircraft came and those who perpetrated the attack were killed. The account highlights that the militants carried out this attack with relatively rudimentary weapons, and seems keen to reinforce this point. Again, I’m not great on weapons so will leave that to someone else to write about in terms of veracity.

So, anyway, my take away from this, among other things,  which is not new, but nonetheless interesting, is that there allegedly exists a special unit tasked with trying to bring down aircraft. And that they’re claiming a success.

More interesting to me, however, is that whoever is posting this or passing it to the person posting (but I think it is the former rather than the latter) clearly has significant links, at some level and degree into AQ media/op nexus. He has operational details, awareness of unit sections and photos as well as knowledge of  media plans so it seems.  Intriguing–especially given the very old old school links in al-Sham networks that are becoming a little more visible in OS material like this of late. He also carries authority in terms of his postings, so I’m following all of this with great interest.

Anyway, these are the photos of Mahmud Abu Rida he provided, allegedly from an AQ training camp and cropped for security reasons.

UPDATE: Thanks very much to a valued reader in N America for providing the following information on the photos.

The first picture was taken around 28 Feb 2010.  The second one was taken on 19 Feb 2010 but modified on 10 April 2011.

Also interesting is that the same forum poster who put up this information has in the past day or two also released  an announcement of the martyrdom in Afghanistan of a senior Jordanian operative, Abu Thar/Zar, which has no date. So I’m not sure if this is related either by unit or event or network or pedigree, or just selling the al-Sham aspect in the forums  or if it is even related at all. He is hitting up pretty heavily the lions of tawhid narrative, but that could just as easily be in relation to Afghanistan as to the al-Sham angle; I’ve seen it used for both.

Anyway, there are pictures to follow in another posting or announcement presumably.  This name is of interest to me, since it rings a bell from a long time ago, both in terms of internet forums and real world stuff. The post acknowledges his role in old school forums,  but I’ll have to do some more digging to see if it is the person I am thinking of who was involved in  training related activities and had real world links via this. If it who I think it is,  he also had some links to old school AQAP folks and AQ external operations folks too, and handed out some fairly detailed guidance on how to do surveillance etc circa 02-04, if memory serves, but I digress. Anyway, you can read more about this here http://www.aljahad.com/vb/showthread.php?p=19911

Lastly, for reasons I’m not inclined to expand upon I think if one digs deep enough one would find that the gent posting all this stuff  would show links to Abu Dujana al Khurasani (who was the AQ suicide bomber who struck the CIA base in late 2009) among other people…

So anyway, I just found all that quite interesting, particularly in terms of what it shows about AQ unit set ups, nationalities and involvement in various areas and the discrete movements in relation to this, as well as  the nexus between media and ops and of course the AQ Taliban cooperation outlined in his report of Mahmud Abu Rida’s death.

As an aside also in relation to stuff on the forums:

There’s a quite a few old school names popping up again.

There’s some new manhaj related material on the way.

There’s a new edition of the mujahid’s book bag released ( I tweeted the link earlier http://www.archive.org/details/Haqeeba3  you’ll also maybe need to download extra fonts http://www.megaupload.com/?d=CANPC0O5 ) So we’re now up to edition three. All 1.5 gigs of it.

And there’s something apparently coming from AQ soon.

Coffee time for me now. More to come later. Thanks for the folks sending in info in relation to IMU post, I will get around to posting that a little later, and will also try to plough through the security manual.

The role of frustrated ambitions in driving plotting for homeland attacks

05/06/2011 1 comment

This jumped out at me in relation to the recent bombings in Morocco.

“The individuals were absorbed by jihadist ideology, and had allegiance to al Qaeda and had already made several attempts to join some of the hotbeds of tension, especially Chechnya and Iraq, before deciding to carry out terror in the homeland,” the ministry statement said, according to MAP.

Time and time and time and time again you see this. Frustrated ambitions to go and fight and when this doesn’t materialise turning the focus inward. It’s a big problem for several reasons. First, if you do as we do here, and take away people’s right to travel if this intention is known, you cause this process to accelerate and then need to dedicate more resources to monitoring those folks.  Second, leaving it go, and not actively intercepting runs the risk of volunteers being diverted by groups they come into contact with, which is how AQ gets most of its recruits for external operations.  It’s a big headache for those in CT and not likely to change anytime soon.

Some thoughts on the printer plot and AQAP

11/01/2010 12 comments

Regular readers of this blog will know that AQAP has been an obsession of mine for years and that  my view of AQAP differs somewhat to conventional wisdom.

In January this year after the undie bomber episode, I had a little rant in which I explained why I find it frustrating that AQAP is viewed as a new and organizationally distinct entity from AQ core and  I stand by this analysis. In fact, since then I’ve found even more things to bolster the case I made there, which I really looking forward to releasing in the thesis, which is creeping ever so much closer to being sent off for examination.

What I wrote in January and what I demonstrate in my thesis is that AQAP is a branch of AQ. It is  not an affiliate, not a franchise, and not a network. Rather it is  an operating branch of AQ, which means that while it may have authority  for attacks in its area of operations (the Arabian Peninsula), it comes under AQ’s strategic command and control for external attacks outside of this area of operation.  And it has always done so, right back to 02.

In other words AQAP cannot launch operations against the US without approval from HQ in the Afghanistan/Pakistan borderlands.  This practice also extends to franchises more generally but it is particularly relevant to AQAP because it is a branch of the organisation rather than a franchise. This means it is held by a tighter set of what you might call operating instructions and requirements.

So, this plot is quite fascinating to me because it gives us the opportunity to look more closely at the nature of how branch and HQ interact and the degree of operational autonomy AQAP has as a branch. In particular, it gives us the opportunity to determine whether blanket approval is provided and then the branch left to its own devices, or whether additional permissions are required when expanding the target sets and tactics used . It also gives us the opportunity to delve into what degree of cooperation occurs, and to what extent is HQ briefed into operations from this branch. So, when I picked up on this snippet of information I was particularly fascinated:

The alert was triggered by intelligence from a unit of GCHQ surveillance experts stationed in Afghanistan, the Sunday Express can reveal. Operating from a converted shipping container in Helmand, the team picked up the words “A wedding gift is being delivered”.

It’s rare to see this type of leak or acknowledgement of the role of what comes across the wires in starting operations, despite this often being the case, and I’m surprised to see that this leak may have originated with the Brits, since they are usually watertight and the unsung heroes of this type of work, particularly in that neck of the woods.

Of course this report could be wrong, but I suspect not, for reasons I’m not inclined to expand upon here. The report is also a little murky, particularly in relation to when and how the Saudis got in the game and via which type of exploitation, which is not surprising for a number of reasons, and which again I’m not inclined to expand upon here.

However, this snippet has me very interested because it suggests there is a greater level of cooperation going on than I had thought between branch and HQ.  It also leads to me ask a number of questions as to whether or not keeping HQ in the loop so to speak is novel to this particular plot or whether it is standard practice.

In the current threat environment and with things reportedly on the boil from HQ in terms of its own external operations believed to be targeted at Europe,  I think it raises a number of important questions and warrants a closer look at external operations planning and coordination, particularly in relation to strategic objectives. On the basis of that I think it is dangerous to view this plot in isolation. I’d also make the same remark in relation to viewing AQAP in isolation  too.

Having said that lumping everything together as one homogeneous whole is also problematic. As is all of the rubbish being spouted about Awlaki in relation to this plot and his status in relation to AQAP more generally (ie the new OBL, ugh what a load of rot)

What that snippet tells me (and with the caveat in place that it could be wrong) is that comms networks between branch and HQ are resilient and also dynamic. The comms channel picked up  appears to have been  new, hence extra assistance was required to contextualise and operationalise the raw intel, which led to the plot being uncovered and disrupted.

This is why historical knowledge is important and why we need to work to fill gaps in our understanding. Clearly there are some contours in the relationship between branch and HQ that we do not fully understand yet, as well as parts of each elements’ operational trajectory.

As I said, this info could be wrong, but even so, on the basis of AQAP’s status as a branch of AQ, I’d argue seeking answers to these questions and further investigation into AQ’s external operations coordination are worthwhile activities, particularly in the current climate.

Quick thoughts on the bin Laden audio

10/28/2010 1 comment

Very quick…

I do not think this should be dismissed.

The turnaround time for this tape was quick. A fast turnaround time when drone strikes are heightened means there is a strategic purpose for this tape that makes risking a fast turnaround worthwhile.

I’m still pondering whether his warning to France relates to the Euro plot in an operational context ie pre-attack warning and here I return to yesterday’s article about those plots and what Noman Benotman had to say about OBL’s consistency in issuing warnings.  On the basis of past OBL releases , a solid case could be put forward for this proposition.

Alternatively it could just be an attempt to ferment more unease. However, OBL warnings generally have a very specific purpose and coming at this time make me a bit jittery.

Am curious to see if any more messages come to light in the next little while.

Hostage takings for prisoner release in Europe

10/27/2010 1 comment
the plan consists of storming buildings in Germany, France and Britain at the same time and holding the people inside hostage with the aim of forcing the release of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind 9/11 who is now sitting in jail in the United States awaiting trial for the attacks.
I’m not sure that AQ could convince others to participate on the grounds of releasing KSM, but there are other compelling reasons others might cooperate.
Chief among these is the opportunity to target NATO countries, particularly since getting at the US is more difficult. Anger at the upswing of drone attacks which have taken out key members of several groups could also be a driving factor in forging greater cooperation.
And while the objective of such an attack might be ostensibly to release KSM, it would put inordinate pressure on the military coalition in Afghanistan, and also plans for withdrawal.
In short there are numerous reasons why such an attack is plausible and it would meet a number of AQ’s strategic objectives.

Some news on AQ EO and Al-Shabaab

08/22/2010 2 comments

Two news pieces of interest

1. Foreign militants in Al-Shabaab

Just a quick excerpt. The rest can be found here

Eleven insurgent militiamen were killed by their own bombs when they went off prematurely in Somalia’s capital, the government said on Saturday.

“They are three Pakistanis, two Indians, one Afghani, one Algerian, and two Somalis, (and) a leader who was in charge of praying for suicide bombers before they were dispatched,” the ministry said in a statement.

Not sure of the veracity of this, but nonetheless very interesting.

2. AQ External Operations

Entirely unsurprising to see that AQ’s External Operations modus operandi remains the  same, as I outlined in my Jane’s piece last year. Below excerpts are from a news piece that can be found here

Passport photographs of Ibrahim Adam, 23, who has been on the run for three years, have been discovered after British intelligence began unraveling one of the biggest terrorist networks discovered since September 11.

Adam, 23, is the younger brother of Anthony Garcia, one of the men arrested for plotting to blow up the Ministry of Sound night club or the Bluewater Shopping Centre with a fertiliser bomb in 2004.

Adam’s passport photographs were discovered in an apartment in Oslo after undercover Norwegian security service officers broke into the flat.

Members of all four cells were in Pakistan at the end of 2008 and there are fears that there could be other sleeper cells that remain unaccounted for.

All the groups except the Belgian cell communicated with a more junior commander, who calls himself Sohaib, Ahmad or Zahid and is now in Pakistani custody, according to security sources.

Two questions for me. Have we seen the last of the 08 alumni? I suspect there’s a few more floating around. But more importantly, where is the 09 class?

As for the guy in detention, there’s *always* more than one doing the coordination and liaison.

I was wondering when some more EO trainees would turn up

07/09/2010 Leave a comment

Norway, was not,  however, a location that immediately came to mind. So there you go.

Wish I had the time to comment on this more generally but sadly still in midst of mad edits/referencing/and general tearing out of hair.

However, one thing I think is important is to bear in mind with this news is the time frame. From what has come out so far we’re talking links back into 08.  I’m not sure that particular  EO  cycle  is all done yet, nor that this is everyone who went through training around that time.  However, thus far the disruption record is looking good. UK, US and now Norway.

Pity, however, about media apparently forcing the  hand of Norwegian authorities.  How disheartening for them. I hope being forced into action by media doesn’t totally screw their chances of getting a successful prosecution or have flow on affects into other investigations.

Will be contemplating this and all manner of things when I return back to blogging, hopefully in the next two months or so.

First off the deck will be the mother of all posts on things in the past year I screwed up, got wrong, and/or misjudged, or totally contradicted myself on,  since it’s always nice to look back and learn. Served alongside of this will be the requisite (and I might add rather large) plate of humble pie. Then, it will be onto doing all those things I said I would, and wanted to focus on, but have slipped in the priority list while I finished thesis. Speaking of which, it’s back to the edits and referencing checks for me. Cheers.

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