Qaeda may have plotted new attack at Wana meeting
* Military spokesman denies report
* Al Hindi met Naeem Noor in Lahore in March
NEW YORK: US and Pakistani authorities fear Al Qaeda is plotting a new major attack after a March “terrorist summit” in Pakistan, Time magazine reported.
Authorities discovered what President General Pervez Musharraf described as a “second string” of terrorist leaders that met in South Waziristan in March 2004, the magazine reports in its Monday issue.
“The personalities involved, the operations, the fact that a major explosives expert came here and went back,” Gen Musharraf said, “all this was extremely significant”.
However, army spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan played down the report, saying there was no summit. He said Shakai in South Waziristan was used as a training area for Al Qaeda until militants and tribal allies were forced out by the military in June. According to Gen Sultan, President Musharraf told Time that Pakistani Al Qaeda operative and computer engineer Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, captured last month, had met “discreetly” in Lahore with Musa al Hindi, arrested this month in Britain.
Khan had also met an unnamed weapons expert, Gen Sultan said, possibly a reference to Adnan el Shukrijumah, identified by Time as a bombmaker and commercial pilot.
A US official described the participants of the reported summit as “cold-blooded killers who are very skilled at what they do and have an intense desire to inflict an awful lot of pain and suffering on America”.
Some US officials fear the meeting could have been a key planning session ahead of a major attack, according to the magazine, similar to the way a 2000 meeting in Kuala Lumpur was ahead of the September 11 attacks in the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people. The participants of the “terrorist summit” included al Hindi, the Indian surveillance specialist living in Britain; Shukrijumah, who is of Arab-Guyanese origin; and Mohammed Junaid Babar, a Pakistani-American who arrived at the summit with cash, sleeping bags and ponchos, the magazine reported.
Al Hindi is currently under arrest in Britain, and Mohammed Babar was arrested in New York in April. Others, including Shukrijumah, 29, are still at large.
Shukrijumah “speaks English and has the ability to fit in and look innocuous,” an FBI agent told Time. “He could certainly come back (in the United States), and nobody would know it.”
Shukrijumah was born in Guyana and raised in Florida, where his late father, a Saudi-Yemeni cleric, preached hard-line Wahhabism at a small mosque.
Shukrijumah reportedly holds passports from Guyana and Trinidad, and may also have Canadian and Saudi passports. He can easily pass for Hispanic and authorities fear he may cross the Canadian or Mexican borders, US officials told the magazine.
FBI agents told Time that Shukrijumah could be the next Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian ringleader of the September 11 attacks.
In Washington, US Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, praised Gen Musharraf in an interview with NBC television network.
“President Musharraf is an absolute hero, along with the intelligence folks that he has,” Roberts said. “And they’re lashed up with our CIA. They’re doing a very good job.”
He refused to discuss the Time magazine report, but did say the terrorists are likely “going to go back to heavy motorised vehicles and explosions, because that’s what we they do best. Maybe airplanes. And then you get into a whole panoply of all sorts of possibilities: ports, cyber attacks, agro-terrorism, so on and so forth.” agencies