Documents found on body of Al Qaeda leader detail chilling plans for kidnapping, attacks
A cache of intelligence found on the body of Al Qaeda’s African leader, and inside the bullet-ridden Toyota truck he tried to ram through a Somali government checkpoint, provides a chilling look at the global aspirations of Somalia’s al Shabab.
Obtained exclusively by the Toronto Star, the meticulously prepared documents that detail plots for a kidnapping and attacks on the prestigious Eton College, Jewish neighbourhoods and the posh Ritz and Dorchester hotels in London, were uncovered last year when senior Al Qaeda leader Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, 38, was shot dead by Somali forces.
Fazul was indicted in the United States for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya that killed 224. He was a close ally of Osama bin Laden and considered the key link between Al Qaeda’s top leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Shabab, the terrorist group that has grown out of Somalia’s decades of chaos.
Born in the Comoros Islands off the coast of Mozambique, the elusive militant who spoke five languages had a $5-million reward on his head and travelled on a variety of forged documents. Before his death in June 2011, the FBI’s website stated that he “likes to wear baseball caps and tends to dress casually. He is very good with computers.”
Somalia’s Shabab, which has reigned in parts of the country through a terror campaign of suicide bombings and a restrictive interpretation of Islamic law, is now at its weakest since it formed in late 2006, thanks to the loss of senior advisers like Fazul, infighting among the leadership, and the military offensive by joint African forces, which has pushed the group into strongholds in Somalia’s southern port town of Kismayo and the Galgala Mountains in Puntland.
But according to various senior intelligence, security and law enforcement officials — all of whom spoke to the Star on the condition of anonymity — there is evidence the group continues to plot large-scale attacks outside Somalia, despite being bogged down in military battles.
Kenya has been bracing for such an attack since its forces entered Somalia in October, and some fear that one is imminent as a fight for Kismayo nears.
But as the Fazul documents show, the group’s ambitions go beyond the Horn of Africa. When found last year, they gave intelligence officials the clearest picture yet of some of these foreign goals, prompting the U.S. and the U.K. to increase security around sites that were named as targets. Intelligence officials fear that such plans did not die with the Al Qaeda leader.
News leaked last year that the Eton school, Ritz and Dorchester were on the list of intended targets found in the documents with Fazul, but no details were given at the time.
The documents are chilling, both in the level of terror they describe and in their tone. They were written with a business-case formality that analyzes the pros and cons of proposed attacks. It is not clear who authored the reports.
“Our objectives are to strike London with low-cost operations that would cause a heavy blow amongst the hierarchy and Jewish communities,” begins the document labelled “International Operations.”
“These attacks must be backed with a carefully planned media campaign to show why we chose our targets to refute hypocrites, clear doubts amongst Muslims and also inspire Muslim youth to copy.”
The next two pages show specific plans for the hotels, for Eton school on opening day and for London’s Stamford Hill and Golders Green neighbourhoods, which are populated with “tens of thousands of Jews crammed in a small area.”
“The plan is to hit the hotel when it’s fully booked to ensure maximum casualties . . . key players from all around the world stay in these hotels.
“We plan to book in advance,” the document continues, “and take plenty of petrol with the brother and then set the 1st, 2nd, 3rd floor on fire . . . while we block the stairs so no one can run down.
“The martyrdom seeker would then make his way to the exits and start killing any one fleeing the area.”
Other scenarios are laid out, including one where a fire alarm is pulled and as guests emerge, attackers would “shower them with petrol bombs and gunfire.”
Under “general summary of mission,” the report states that the attackers should be trained in Somalia for two months and that the operatives alone would know their mission.