March 3, 2003 Special Alerts No. 8

London Islamists Anticipate Large Operation by Al-Qa'ida to Coincide with the War in Iraq

March 3, 2003
Iraq | Special Alerts No. 8

Today, the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that Islamist sources in London believe Al-Qa'ida is preparing "a large attack" on American targets that will coincide with the expected war on Iraq. These sources have refused to reveal the precise location of the attack but said it is expected to take place in Asia.[1] The following are excerpts from the report:

"These [Islamist] sources have said that beside the leader of Al-Qa'ida, Osama bin Laden, the high command of Al-Qa'ida, and those who will be carrying it out, no one knows that the attack will be in line with what happened on September 11 in the United States. [As was the case of September 11] no one knew about the timing and location of the attack but five persons in addition to bin Laden and Muhammad Atta, the leader of those who committed suicide in carrying out the terrorist activities."

An Electronic Message Concerning a Forthcoming New Operation by Al-Qa'ida

"A London Islamist referred to an electronic message he received from Asia which calls for the glad tidings [Istibshar] of a forthcoming new operation by Al-Qa'ida. He indicated that the operation could be [against] American military forces in Afghanistan, whose purpose would be "to mess up" the American plans and to incite Islamists everywhere to carry out suicide activities against the Americans at the outbreak of the war against Iraq."

"Another Islamist told the newspaper by phone that there was more than one indicator about the proximity of a new operation (which will be huge and no smaller than the September 11 operation). Islamist sources said bin Laden will take advantage of the boiling situation in the Arab street to direct an attack against an American target. He added this will not stop at incitement only… it is likely that the operation will be outside the organization [Al-Qa'ida] and that bin Laden will participate only in its financing."

Al-Qa'ida is Still Capable of Carrying Out Some Qualitative Operations

"The sources pointed out that in many instances members of Al-Qa'ida may be arrested in a particular country, which caused an operation to be foiled, but the security agencies would never know if a big operation was foiled. Despite the arrests of some Al-Qa'ida activists like the Yemeni Ramzi ibn Al-Shibah, the coordinator of the September 11 operation, and the Palestinian abu Zubaida, a senior aide to bin Laden, both arrested in Karachi, Pakistan, Al-Qa'ida is still capable of carrying out some qualitative operations."

"…It is not necessary that those who carry out future operations be direct members of Al-Qa'ida, but they could be in agreement with bin Laden's principles, and it is likely that bin Laden has provided them with financial support without necessarily connecting them with Al-Qa'ida."

Operations to be Carried Out by "Sleeping Cells" in the Al-Qa'ida Organization

"The discussion among Islamists revolves around threats to be carried out by "sleeping cells" in the Al-Qa'ida organization against targets in the United States or in the [Persian] Gulf where thousands of American soldiers who would invade Iraq are stationed."

Bin Laden Possibly Hinting at a Suicide Operation

"The Islamist denied that the poetic verses which were included in bin Laden's tape which was read in Birmingham [U.K.] would indicate the place of the future attack. One of the Islamists added that bin Laden loves poetry and he often recited poetry in front of his supporters in Qandahar [Afghanistan]."

In a recent sermon, bin Laden quoted a 7th century Arab poet[2] and said: "I urge myself, as I urge my Muslim brethren, to set their faces towards Jihad for the sake of Allah, with the words of the poet:"

"I am leading my horse and casting him and myself this year into one of the battles"

"O Lord, when death arrives, let it not be upon a bier covered with green shrouds"

"Rather, let my grave be in the belly of a vulture, tranquil in the sky, among hovering vultures"

"I shall be a martyr resting among a group of young men whom death will overtake in a terrible ravine"

"Horsemen of [the tribe of] Shayban, whom piety united, brave warriors alighting from their mounts [to fight face to face] when the two armies advance to meet each other"

"When they leave this world they will leave behind suffering and attain that which is promised in the Quran"[3]"The Islamists suggested that, based on their reading of the poetic verses, the American intelligence [services] have concluded that they were facing 'a suicide operation to be carried out by the supporters of bin Laden' who have been asked 'to use airplanes to carry out their suicide operation.' However, observers of Islamist affairs view bin Laden as 'following his ancestors who prayed to Allah not to turn their bodies into graves in the earth,' meaning that they should be consumed by birds of prey until they are joined again together in the Day of Judgment. What has filled the American hearts with fright, they suggest, is the reference to 'my grave will be in the belly of an eagle,' which may have been used by Al-Qa'ida's leader to botch the plans of the Americans and force them to think the unthinkable."

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, February 28, 2003.

[2] MEMRI will soon be releasing a full translation of bin Laden's sermon delivered on February 11 and published in the internet site al nida on February 16, 2003.

[3] The poet was Al-Tirrimah Al-Ta'i (660-743) AD.

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