Saturday, July 09, 2005

US official sees Zarqawi spectre in London attacks

Top News Article |

BG: I wondered how long before Zarqawi's name would be involved bin Ladan is so 2001 fashion....

US official sees Zarqawi spectre in London attacks
Fri Jul 8, 2005 3:27 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The series of bombings in London highlight U.S. concerns about a "two-way pipeline" moving Islamic militants between Europe and al Qaeda chief Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's insurgent network in Iraq, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said on Friday.

The bombings that killed more than 50 people and wounded 700 in London's deadliest peacetime attack bore all the hallmarks of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, which was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, on New York and Washington, authorities say.

U.S. counterterrorism experts believe European-born militants recruited by Zarqawi for Iraq's insurgency could be behind the bombings.

"We are concerned about the possible involvement of Zarqawi's network," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the investigation in London.

"We know that there has been direction given by bin Laden to Zarqawi to look to the West and to carry out attacks in Europe and other areas," the official told Reuters in an interview.

"When we look at the U.K. and other areas, there is a concern that those individuals who went to Iraq to fight may, in fact, now be going back at the direction of Zarqawi and others."

A classified CIA report issued in May warned that Iraq was becoming an urban-terror training ground for Iraqis and foreign Arab nationals who are expected to return at some point to their home countries, including Europe.

But Zarqawi's group may already be sending European-recruited insurgents back to the West to carry out attacks, the counterterrorism official said.

"It's essentially a two-way pipeline," the official said.

"Given that Zarqawi is interested in having people carry out attacks in the West, they can be turned around because they come with documentation and credentials where they can be redirected back into the continent of Europe."

The idea of Zarqawi involvement in the London bombings was greeted with skepticism by some experts in Britain.

A London-based security consultant said Zarqawi's involvement was highly unlikely and suggested the Jordanian militant would have gone for something on a bigger scale in his first big attack in the West.

Zarqawi, who has claimed responsibility for some of the bloodiest attacks in Iraq since U.S. forces ousted Saddam Hussein, was asked in February by bin Laden to look at staging attacks on the U.S. homeland, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials.

At the time, some questioned whether Washington was exaggerating Zarqawi's reach.

But European experts say Zarqawi already has a history of activity stretching from Afghanistan to Iraq via Jordan and Germany.

"It's true Zarqawi is dangerous, it's true he has a network in Europe...That is naturally capable of being reactivated," a top European intelligence official said in a recent briefing.

A cell directed by Zarqawi was broken up in Germany in 2002 and its members accused of plotting to bomb Jewish targets in Berlin and Duesseldorf. One man was convicted in 2003 and four others are still on trial.

Another U.S. official said the early claim of responsibility for the London attacks by an unknown al Qaeda group could suggests the bombings were not directed by bin Laden or his top leaders in Central Asia.

"Look back at some of the attacks al Qaeda central has staged, and you typically haven't seen a public claim. The exception has been the Zarqawi branch," the official said.

No comments: