|Yazid Sufaat||Yazid Sufaat||al-Qaeda||Southeast Asia||20031208|
|Yazid Sufaat||InFocus Tech||Southeast Asia||20031208|
|Yazid Sufaat||Jemaah Islamiyah||Southeast Asia||20030302|
|Wife to stand firm behind Yazid Sufaat|
|[NST.MY] Yazid Sufaat's wife is going to stand by her man no matter how long it takes.|
"Stand by yer man,"
She was adamant that he had done nothing wrong since his release from detention under the Internal Security Act in 2008 and has been spending all his time with his family.
"Give him two arms to cling to"
"I do not know what he did before his arrest under the ISA but I do know that he was always with me and our children since," said Chomel Mohamad,
"And somethin' warm to come to "
adding that her family are prepared for the long trial ahead.
"When nights are cold and lonely "
She further added that since his release, Yazid had always remained by her side, helping her at their drinks stall in the court cafeteria. Commenting on his arrest, the 48-year-old said she and Yazid had returned from the market and was packing cakes at their stall when she spotted the officer that had previously detained her husband in 2001.
"Yazid! It's da cops! Quick, under da lemonade box!"
"There were at least 15 plainclothes policemen surrounding the stall,
"Dey got us surrounded, Yazid!"
and our assistant (Mohd Hilmi Hasim) was immediately handcuffed.
"Put the cuffs on him, Mahoney!"
"My husband was washing his hands at the sink when the police just grabbed and handcuffed him," Chomel told reporters outside the Ampang court complex, here, today.
"Look like yer doin' somethin' innocent!"
Chomel said Yazid asked the police repeatedly why he was being arrested but no one answered him.
"Yez got nuttin' on me, coppers! Nuttin'!"
When asked her opinion on why her husband was arrested, Chomel said that her husband had mentioned the name "Fikrie" (Mohd Noor Fikrie Abd Kahar). Fikrie, 26, was a member of the Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), who was shot dead by security forces in the Philippines last December.
"Fikrie! Dey got Fikrie!"
Chomel said police then took Yazid to their home in Taman Bukit Ampang, where they searched the premises for four hours. She was also there, accompanied by lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri.
"I ain't sayin' nuttin' widdout me mout'piece!"
"They took away several Islamic books, the Internet modem and laptop," said the mother of four.
"My emails! Da secret plans! Da codes! Dis don't look good!"
Chomel's stall at the court complex was operating as usual today.
"Lemonade! Lemonade! Have some nice Islamic lemonade!"
His son, Zufar Arif, 21, was handling the business with several workers. Zufar, the second of four siblings, said he only knew of his father's arrest on Thursday afternoon while he was driving back to the city from a public university in Dungun.
|2 Malaysians Charged With Promoting Terrorism|
|[Ynet] Malaysian prosecutors have charged an al-Qaeda-linked former army captain and a woman with inciting terrorist acts that could have involved violence in Syria.|
Yazid Sufaat, who previously spent seven years in detention without trial, and Halimah Hussein face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Yazid's been romping around for awhile in Malaysia, one those connect the dots kind of guys. He was the host of a meeting attended by several al-Q bigs, including at least two of the 9-11 hijackers -- Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. He helped provide cover for Zacarias Moussaoui in his wanderings. He was jugged in, I think, 2002, when he came back from Afghanistan. He's a biochemist by training and had been an instructor at al-Q's Derunta biowarfare training camp. He was held until November, 2008. He was released because he promised to be good:
"We released him as he had shown remorse and repentance after almost seven years of rehabilitation,"said Malaysian Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan.He was one of the major links between al-Q and Jemaah Islamiyah, being BFFs with Hambali. Malaysia didn't take that sort of thing nearly as seriously as Indonesia ended up taking it after the Bali bombings. Had he been in Indonesia, he probably would have ended up with some serious jug time, if not a death penalty.
|Yemen to Hold Six Returned Detainees Indefinitely|
The arrangement, however, has done little to blunt calls from both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill for the White House to freeze the repatriation of any of the roughly 90 Yemeni nationals still being held at the U.S. detention facility in Cuba, due to fears they could resort to terrorism.
"All transfers of Yemeni detainees should stop," said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) He said he will ask Defense Secretary Robert Gates for an explanation of how the U.S. tracks Guantanamo detainees after they are released and for an accounting of what happened to the six Yemenis recently released to Yemen.
Obama administration officials said this weekend that the U.S. reached an agreement with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to ensure that the six Guantanamo Bay detainees released last month will remain in the Sana'a government's custody for the "foreseeable future."
"We wouldn't transfer these detainees unless we were comfortable with the security arrangements," said a U.S. official.
"Some of these individuals are going to be transferred back to Yemen at the right time and the right pace and in the right way," the White House's counterterrorism chief, John Brennan, said on CNN's "State of the Union."
"We continue to work with the Yemeni government, and we do this in a very common-sense fashion because we want to make sure that we are able to close Guantanamo," he added.
Political debate over Mr. Obama's plans for shutting Guantanamo has gained new momentum following the Christmas Day attempt to bomb a U.S. airliner on its approach to Detroit. The Nigerian man arrested in the incident, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has told U.S. law-enforcement authorities that he was trained and armed by Islamic militants based in Yemen. Al Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has publicly claimed responsibility for the plot and pledged to launch more strikes against U.S. interests.
U.S. counterterrorism officials say some of Al Qaeda in Yemen's top operatives are former Guantanamo Bay detainees who were released in recent years. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's deputy commander, Said al-Shihri, was repatriated to Saudi Arabia in 2007 to take part in a government-run rehabilitation program, according to these officials. The group's chief cleric, Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish, also was repatriated by the Bush administration to Saudi Arabia before crossing the border into Yemen.
One of those released, Ayman Batarfi, is a Yemeni doctor who told Pentagon interrogators that he had twice met Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and endured the U.S. military assault on the Tora Bora mountains in late 2001, according to Pentagon documents. Mr. Batarfi also said he had assisted a Malaysian microbiologist, Yazid Sufaat, in seeking to purchase equipment for a medical facility in Kandahar, Afghanistan. U.S. officials have subsequently accused Mr. Sufaat of seeking to produce anthrax and other biological weapons on behalf of al Qaeda. Mr. Sufaat was arrested in Malaysia, but never charged there.
Mr. Batarfi and the five other Yemenis released last month all denied ties to al Qaeda or the Taliban and pledged not to pick up arms against the U.S., according to Pentagon documents. But a growing number of Democratic and Republican lawmakers are saying that the national-security risks posed by repatriating more Yemenis has grown too great given the high rate of recidivism among Guantanamo Bay detainees.
"When you look at the bios and the case histories of the men returned last month, you'll see they're very dangerous people," said Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.), who received a classified briefing on these detainees' files.
Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat who heads a House Homeland Security intelligence subcommittee, said many of the remaining Yemenis should probably be detained at a new federal penitentiary the Obama administration is building outside Chicago.
Obama administration officials have said in recent days that the six Yemenis released last month had passed through an extensive interagency review process before being released. They also said the White House has received no information that any of the roughly 42 Guantanamo Bay detainees released by the Obama administration in the past year have returned to the fight.
|Malaysia: 9/11 terror suspect freed in north|
|(AKI) - The Malaysian government has released five terror suspects, including Yazid Sufaat, who was accused of aiding terrorists during the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States. Interior Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Sufaat, allegedly linked to the Jemaah Islamiyah militant group, was released from the Kamunting detention centre in the northern Malaysian state of Perak.|
"He was considered a threat to public security in Malaysia because he was part of Jemaah Islamiyah, trying to establish an Islamic government within the region," said Albar. "Yazid Sufaat and four others were released on 4 December".
However, Malaysian Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said Sufaat was released with another Malaysian on 24 November. "We released him as he had shown remorse and repentance after almost seven years of rehabilitation," said Hassan quoted by Malaysian English language daily The Star.
Oh. Well. I guess it's okay then.
"He was released on several conditions. He has to report to the police regularly and cannot leave Selangor without police permission. Our officers will also be monitoring him as well as several others who have been released over the past years to ensure they do not go back to their old ways,'' he said.
And let that be a lesson to ya, me boy. Get on home now...
Sufaat, arrested in December 2001, is accused of having housed several of the terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks when he lived in the United States. The terrorists allegedly used his house as a meeting place for Al-Qaeda members. Among those who visited his house were 9/11 attackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. Both were named by the American FBI as the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon in Washington.
Sufaat was also accused by US authorities of helping convicted 9/11 conspirator Zacharias Moussaoui.
The other suspects that were released include two Thai separatists and two Malaysians suspected of aiding foreign intelligence groups.
Jemaah Islamiyah is widely considered South-East Asia's most dangerous terrorist organisation and responsible for the Bali bombings that killed 202 people in 2002.
|Moussaoui distrusted by KSM, regarded as crazy by Hambali, but favored by Binny|
|Zacarias Moussaoui was an Al Qaeda operative who had numerous problems within the terrorist organization but was supported by Osama Bin Laden despite numerous concerns of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, according to testimony Monday at his death penalty trial.|
Monday afternoon, the jury heard a summary witness report from information that was provided by Khalid Sheik Mohammed. The summary witness substitution was read to the jury since Shaikh Mohammed is in detention and not able to appear in court.
The report, which was agreed to by both the defense and the prosecutor, was filled with additional details about Shaikh Mohammed 's planning for the 9/11 attacks which included the revelation that 34 men knew about the 9/11 or "planes operation" before the strikes.
According to statements from Shaikh Mohammed, provided to interrogators, Shaikh Mohammed acknowledged that Moussaoui was to be part of a second wave of attacks after the initial 9/11 operation. "Moussaoui was recruited as part of a second wave of attacks," a member of the federal public defender read to the jury.
Moussaoui during his nearly 3 hours of testimony detailed how he had "personality problems," with Al Qaeda members. According to the report, Shaikh Mohammed said Moussaoui had "a problematic personality" and was "a problem from the start."
The report from Shaikh Mohammed contradicted testimony provided by Moussaoui earlier Monday that he was to fly a plane into the White House as part of the 9/11 operation.
According to the statement Shaikh Mohammed said that the original 9/11 plan called for the use of Arab operatives and the second wave of attacks was to include Al Qaeda members with French, Malaysian and Canadian passports so they would draw less scrutiny.
Potential targets for the second wave of attacks included hitting the tallest building in California and potentially the Sears Tower, as well as a subway attack and a strike against a nuclear powerplant.
Shaikh Mohammed said planning for the second wave was difficult because he was surprised by the security response of the U.S. officials after the attacks.
He further realized the use of Malaysians would be more difficult since the home address and true name of a Malaysian national, "Yazid Sufaat" was found in Moussaoui's possession when Moussaoui was arrested in August 2001.
Sufaat provided a letter to Moussaoui saying that he was an employee of Infocus Tech.
The report said that the 9/11 mastermind was frustrated that Moussaoui called senior al Qaeda planners over the phone numerous times in August of 2001 and that he also sent Shaikh Mohammed a detailed email about how his flight training was going.
This included eight calls to Ramzi Binalshibh in Germany who lived with several of the 9/11 hijackers in Hamburg, Germany and wired money to Moussaoui in Oklahoma.
Moussaoui's problems with Shaikh Mohammed began in 2000 on a three-week trip he took to Malaysia. During this trip, he met several members of the southeast Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah, a group linked to Al Qaeda and mentioned to one of their members, Faiz Bafana, that he wanted to fly a plane into the White House. When Shaikh Mohammed and Mohamed Atef, Al Qaeda's military chief found out that Moussaoui told Bafana about this, they were upset.
Moussaoui further outraged Shaikh Mohammed since he was freelancing operations in trying to secure four tons of ammonium nitrate for Jemaah Islamiah. Moussaoui told the jury that after a "review" by senior Al Qaeda members he was recalled to Afghanistan and ended up in an Al Qaeda school in Pakistan, "Then I was approved." he said.
"At that point Bin Laden put you back in as the pilot of the fifth plane?" lead prosecutor Robert Spencer asked Moussaoui. "That's correct." Moussaoui responded.
Asked by defense Attorney Gerald Zerkin if he was in contact with other members of his crew for the operation Moussaoui said: "Because of what happened in Malaysia, I lost a lot of time … I was in a hurry."
Intelligence summaries and depositions from some Al Qaeda members have shown that Moussaoui acted strangely.
Hambali, a Jemaah Islamiah leader met Moussaoui in Malaysia and "concluded that based on his conduct Moussaoui was crazy. "Cuckoo," a defense brief filed in 2003 and read to the jury noted.
During the Malaysia trip, Moussaoui sought $10,000 for flight training from Hambali and Faiz Bafana. Both men are currently in detention overseas. The two men eventually decided to give Moussaoui $2,000 so he would leave the country.
"I discussed with Hambali, and Hambali said, 'Just give him $2,000… And let him leave Malaysia,'" Bafana mentioned in a deposition which was showed to the jury in the first week of the trial.
Shortly after he left Malaysia, Moussaoui began to make plans to head to the U.S., despite this according to Shaikh Mohammed, Moussaoui "would never have been a replacement [for 9/11] even if one of the hijackers had pulled out of the operation."
Although he was arrested three weeks before 9/11 Moussaoui did practice secrecy which prosecutors say led to the 9/11 attacks.
The prosecution is contending that if Moussaoui had not lied to the FBI the attacks may have been prevented. A line in the 9/11 Commission report concluded of Moussaoui, "Moussaoui can be seen as an al Qaeda mistake and a missed opportunity."
|Singapore hosts bioterrorism workshop|
| Hot weather. Crowded communities. Weak public health systems. The vulnerability of much of Southeast Asia to infectious diseases such as SARS and bird flu suggests that a bioterror attack could be devastating, experts say.|
While the likelihood of an attack is considered low, the alleged interest of some regional Islamic militants in acquiring disease-causing agents or toxins means it cannot be ruled out. Any nation allied with the US is a potential target, intelligence analysts believe.
This coming week, Interpol hosts a workshop in Singapore on the threat of bioterrorism for senior police and government officials from 37 countries around Asia. A similar conference was held in South Africa in November, and another is to be held in Chile later this year.
Starting on Monday, the delegates in Singapore will discuss lab security, forensic work and laws designed to prevent bioterrorism, as well assess how to respond to a simulated bioterrorist attack.
The US, which adopted a Bioterrorism Act in 2002 after anthrax sent through the mail killed five people, wants Asian nations to craft similar laws that mandate tighter controls on access to biological agents and toxins.
So far, militants in Southeast Asia have used conventional terror weapons. Jemaah Islamiyah, a group linked to al-Qaeda, is accused of deadly bombings, including blasts on the Indonesian resort island of Bali in 2002 and 2005.
The Abu Sayyaf group also carries out bomb attacks and kidnappings in the Philippines.
But detained suspects include Yazid Sufaat, a former Malaysian army captain and a US-trained biochemist linked to al-Qaeda's attempts to produce chemical and biological arms. Yazid was arrested in late 2001 as he returned to Malaysia from Afghanistan.
A Jemaah Islamiyah manual discovered in the Philippines in 2003 indicates interest in acquiring chemical and biological agents for use in a terrorist attack, said Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert based in Singapore.
"It demonstrates serious intent, but not capability," Gunaratna said.
Terrorists need expertise to acquire pathogens from nature, and transform them into a potent weapon. Japan's Aum Shinrikyo group, whose homemade sarin chemical agent killed 12 people in 1995, was unable to isolate a virulent strain of anthrax.
But more Asian countries are pursuing biomedical research, which can lead to new treatments, and concern is growing that laboratory materials could fall into the wrong hands.
"The central problem of preventing bioterrorism is, how do police do what they have to do without getting in the way of legitimate bioscience? If somebody's working with anthrax, are they a good guy or a bad guy?" said Barry Kellman, a weapons control expert at the DePaul University College of Law in Chicago.
Kellman said Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam are among countries that need to reinforce laws to cope with the threat of bioterrorism.
A weak regulatory environment in China has raised US concerns about proliferation of technologies that could be used to make biological weapons. Washington says North Korea has a biological weapons program, though concern about proliferation by the communist country has focused on nuclear activities.
Southeast Asia would be vulnerable to an attack because many countries are prone to the fast spread of infections and epidemics, according to health officials. Anthrax is not contagious, but smallpox is. Agents can be spread by food contamination, or by infected mosquitoes and rats.
Singapore, a close US ally, views its 2003 fight against SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, as preparation for a bioterrorist attack. Experts used computers to track people who might have had contact with patients of the disease, which spread from Asia across the world, killing nearly 800 people.
Last year, Singapore passed a law that imposes life in prison on anyone who uses biological agents and toxins for a "non-peaceful purpose."
But placing controls on "dual use" technology makes it hard to prevent terrorists from seeking equipment to make biological weapons, said Manjunath K.S. of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in New Delhi, India. For example, he said, a machine that ferments molasses to produce beer could also be used to make deadly toxins.
"You can have industries that unintentionally give it out to customers, who may have other designs," he said.
|Malaysia extends Sufaat's detention|
|Malaysia has extended by two years the detention of a Malaysian suspected of aiding al Qaeda hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, his lawyer said on Friday.|
Yazid Sufaat, a 42-year-old former army captain, is accused of having provided lodging in the Malaysian capital to two of the hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, who were aboard the airliner that hit the Pentagon in 2001.
Malaysia has held Yazid under its strict Internal Security Act, which allows detention without trial, since 2002.
"The detention has been extended for another 2 years from Jan. 31," lawyer Edmund Bon told Reuters. "No reasons were given."
Police say Yazid, who holds a degree in biochemistry from a U.S. university, was also the local contact for Zacarias Moussaoui, who is being tried in the U.S. for conspiracy in the attacks blamed on Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
FBI agents had interviewed Yazid in his cell in 2002.
Malaysia is due to decide by Feb. 22 the fate of 36 other suspected militants being held together with Yazid.
"We will know on Feb. 23 if their detentions are being extended as well," Bon said.
|Malaysia holding members of the would-be West Coast terror cell|
|Malaysia is holding several members of an al Qaeda suicide cell that U.S. President George W. Bush says planned to launch a Sept. 11-style attack on Los Angeles, a security official familiar with the case told Reuters.|
The plot to hijack a plane and fly it into Los Angeles' tallest building was set in motion a month after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, and was thwarted in early 2002, according to Bush.
A Southeast Asian intelligence official said at least three members of a Southeast Asian cell earmarked to carry out the attack on the West Coast were being held in Malaysia under the Internal Security Act, which allows detention without trial.
"One guy was given money to go for pilot training," said the official, who has proven reliable in the past.
He said the would-be pilot, Zaini Zakaria, was arrested in 2002, and the others were probably chosen to play supporting roles in the hijacking.
Members of the cell fled to Malaysia from Afghanistan after the United States began bombing al Qaeda and Taliban forces there in October 2001.
"They were told to... await instructions. They were supposed to meet up again to carry out a second (suicide airliner) operation," the official said.
Diplomats say security agencies in mostly Muslim Malaysia were very cooperative in sharing counter-terrorism intelligence information with their U.S. counterparts after Sept. 11, 2001.
Malaysia is holding 66 detainees suspected of links to al Qaeda and and its Southeast Asian branch, Jemaah Islamiah.
The Malaysian government declined to comment.
"We don't comment on detainees or divulge information concerning detainees," a spokesman for the office of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said.
According to Frances Townsend, Bush's homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, the West Coast plot was initially to have been part of the Sept. 11 attacks.
But al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden decided to focus on the East Coast as it was too difficult to get operatives for both.
The planned attack on Los Angeles was hatched by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and is in U.S. custody.
The hijack team was recruited by Jemaah Islamiah commander Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, who was arrested in August 2003 near Bangkok and is also in U.S. custody.
The hijackers were to use bombs hidden in shoes to breach the cockpit door of an airplane before flying it into Los Angeles' 1,017-feet (310-metre) high Library Tower, now the US Bank Tower.
The cell was broken and the arrests made between 2002 and 2003.
"It was a legit plot," said Ken Conboy, a Jakarta-based security expert who has written several books on defence, intelligence and security issues. "Whether they would have been able to get these guys actually in the States is another deal.
"It was envisioned as a second wave after 9/11, and he (Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) wanted to use Southeast Asians because he thought they could get into the U.S. and hijack the planes more so than Arabs because the U.S. would be more on alert to Arabs after 9/11," Conboy said.
In December 2001, Malaysia made its first breakthrough against al Qaeda in Southeast Asia with the arrest of Yazid Sufaat, a former Malaysian army captain, who recently returned from Afghanistan.
Sufaat hosted two of Sept. 11 hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, when they passed through Kuala Lumpur almost a year before the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
He is also believed to have supplied money and travel documents in Malaysia to Zacarias Moussaoui, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent who was arrested in the United States before the Sept. 11 attacks.
Moussaoui denies he was to have participated in the Sept. 11 strikes but says he was part of a broader conspiracy to conduct subsequent attacks.
|Terror Networks & Islam|
|Totally in the dark on al-Qaeda|
|The WMD commission also blasted the intelligence community's failings on the al Qaeda terrorist organization. It was only after the invasion of Afghanistan, the panel says, that analysts understood the scope of Osama bin Laden's programs to develop biological and nuclear weapons.|
The analysts' most weighty prewar judgment--that al Qaeda lacked a nuclear device--was "made in the absence of any hard data." But most troubling, the report suggests, is the lack of knowledge about a biological weapon referred to in the unclassified version only as "Agent X," which sources tell U.S. News was a strain of anthrax. Hints of al Qaeda experimenting with anthrax have been reported before, but the report reveals an official assessment that the group "probably" acquired "at least a small quantity of this virulent strain and had plans to assemble devices to disperse the agent." The program was based at several sites in Afghanistan, two of them stocked with commercial lab gear and staffed by operatives "with special training." At the center of the activity, sources say, was Yazid Sufaat, a former Malaysian Army captain who had studied biochemistry at a state college in California. Sufaat allegedly created several front companies for al Qaeda and its Malaysian affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah.
Ominously, the report warns that questions remain about al Qaeda's WMD efforts that can be answered only by improving spy operations. But the commission also says that counterterrorism efforts could be jeopardized by a "bitter" bureaucratic turf battle between the new joint FBI-CIA National Counterterrorism Center and the CIA's own Counterterrorism Center. Amid confusion over responsibilities, the two agencies have competed for resources and issued overlapping, sometimes inconsistent, warnings. The report concludes the new national intelligence director "will have to force the nation's counterterrorism organizations to concentrate more fully on fighting terrorists, rather than each other."
|JI Suspects Beaten Up in Prison|
|Eight alleged militants have been beaten up by authorities in a Malaysian detention camp for terror suspects, a day after a clash that left 20 people injured, their lawyer charged yesterday. Twelve inmates and eight wardens at the Kamunting detention center in northern Perak state were injured in a scuffle Wednesday after detainees tried to prevent a spot check which turned up a cache of home-made weapons, officials said. The search was conducted in a block occupied by 12 militants allegedly involved with the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terror network. A day after that fracas, lawyer Edmund Bon said a group of 50 officers armed with shields and tear gas stormed another block occupied by 24 alleged JI members including ex-army officer Yazid Sufaat who has alleged links to the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers who attacked New York and Washington. "At least eight detainees were beaten up. Yazid was handcuffed, spat at and forced to strip. His head and beard were shaved off," Bon said.|
|Islamic Suspects in Malaysia Claim Abuse by Muslim Police|
|Alleged members of an al-Qaida-linked extremist group jailed in Malaysia were routinely stripped naked, slapped, kicked and subjected to sexual abuse by police interrogators, according to a human rights document obtained by The Associated Press. Security officials have said the questioning produced information about plots by Jemaah Islamiyah to bomb U.S. and other Western interests in Singapore and other extremist operations in Southeast Asia. Information also was gained about Malaysia's role as a meeting point for senior al-Qaida operatives involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, the officials said. Malaysia routinely shares intelligence about Jemaah Islamiyah with Washington and in 2002 let the FBI question a key al-Qaida suspect at a prison camp. There has been no allegation the FBI was involved in any abuses in Malaysia, although some rights activists have questioned whether the U.S. government turns a blind eye to mistreatment of terror suspects by its allies in exchange for information. |
|Al-Qaeda's chemist and the quest for ricin|
|Menad Benchellali, thin and bearded, was known among his Arab friends as "the chemist" because of the special skills he learned at al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. When he returned to his native France in 2001, according to investigators, he set up a laboratory in his parents' spare bedroom and began to manufacture ricin, one of the deadliest known substances. |
Working at night with windows open to dissipate fumes from the process, he blended ingredients in a coffee decanter and spooned the doughy mixture onto newspapers to dry. The final product was a white power that Benchellali stored in small glass flasks and old jars of Nivea skin cream -- to be used, as he later told police, "in the event I became involved in the jihad."
Today, exactly how many jars of ricin the 29-year-old Benchellali may have produced -- and their whereabouts -- is an urgent question for European governments facing a wave of terrorist attacks and threats. Last year, investigators say, similar containers turned up in Britain, in the possession of North Africans who were allegedly planning an attack. At least one other jar is known to be missing, and French investigators suspect that still others exist.
The story of Benchellali's laboratory offers a glimpse into a secret world of suspected terrorists and their quest for biological and chemical weapons. According to European investigators, a string of incidents in recent months points to a particular interest in ricin, the highly lethal toxin that comes from castor beans.
So far, no poison attacks by al Qaeda-related groups have been carried out, and many experts say they believe that terrorist groups still haven't mastered the skills needed to make an effective weapon. But they clearly are trying. Lacking facilities for making advanced chemical or biological arms, investigators say these groups are seeking toxins that can be easily bought, stolen or manufactured in an ordinary kitchen using common ingredients.
Al Qaeda's interest in biological and chemical arms is well documented, although the group's ability to produce such weapons is believed to have been crippled by the loss of its sanctuary in Afghanistan. Invading U.S. forces in 2001 discovered and destroyed two production centers that were preparing to manufacture cyanide and the botulinum and salmonella toxins, and possibly anthrax.
Since then, investigators believe al Qaeda has become more diffuse, transforming itself into a loose-knit collection of underground cells. They say that Benchellali, who has been in prison in France since December 2002, may be one of hundreds of specially trained graduates of al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan who have shared their skills with a new generation of recruits.
"Biological and chemical weapons are more important than ever to al Qaeda, but the new emphasis is on the simple and the practical," said Roland Jacquard, a French terrorism expert and author of a forthcoming book, "The Third Generation of al Qaeda," which describes the evolution in tactics. "This is the kind of terrorism that interested Benchellali's group. If they had been allowed to continue, they probably would have succeeded."
In the past 21/2 years, ricin-making equipment or traces of the toxin have been discovered during police raids on al Qaeda-affiliated cells in Britain, France, Spain, Russia, Georgia and Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. In each case, police also found manuals or papers containing detailed instructions for making and using ricin.
CIA Director George J. Tenet, in testimony in March before the U.S. commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, cited the manuals in warning of a "heightened risk of poison attacks" in the near future. "Extremists have widely disseminated instructions for a chemical weapon using common materials that could cause large numbers of casualties in a crowded, enclosed area," Tenet said.
Ricin is not well suited for a weapon of mass destruction. At least a half-dozen countries, including the United States and Iraq, have sought to weaponize ricin and failed. The toxin's jumbo-sized molecules are heavy and tend to clump together, and bioweapons scientists found they needed tons of ricin to deliver lethal doses to a battlefield.
For would-be terrorists, however, ricin is appealing for a single reason: accessibility.
"The technology for making it is low enough that literally any crank working in his basement can create a ricin preparation of some sort," said Jonathan Tucker, a biological weapons expert with the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. "You can't do that as easily with anthrax."
The raw materials for ricin are cheap. The toxin naturally exists in castor beans, which grow wild in many parts of the world, including the United States, where the plants are prized by gardeners and landscapers as an ornamental shrub. Brazil, China and India grow industrial quantities of the colorful, plump beans to make castor oil, which is used in products ranging from laxatives and shampoos to lubricating oils. A single castor bean, if chewed, contains enough ricin to kill a child. Al Qaeda's interest in ricin dates to at least the late 1990s. Two terrorism manuals seized from al Qaeda operatives in several locations contain detailed instructions on making and using the toxin. One was found by British journalists in November 2001 at a deserted al Qaeda safe house in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Another was titled, "The Encyclopedia of Jihad," and commends ricin as one of the "poisons that the holy warrior can prepare and use without endangering his health."
Many of the details of Benchellali's ricin experiments -- including how much he made and how he intended to use it -- remain unknown. But after a year-long probe, French investigators have pieced together a chronology of his activities. This account is based on interviews with investigators, a family member, neighbors and French journalists, and the transcripts of police interrogations of Benchellali.
The son of an Algerian-born Muslim cleric, Benchellali grew up in a gritty Lyon suburb, Les Minguettes, notable for its thickets of towering public housing complexes and 30-percent unemployment rate. As a boy, he witnessed his father's confrontations with the French government over laws banning Islamic head coverings for school girls. Although he developed a fondness for nice cars and clothes, he saw few opportunities for obtaining them, or for gaining full acceptance as a Muslim and Arab in France, according to family acquaintances.
"As an Arab living here, the only area of society where you are truly accepted is religion," said Mustapha Kessous, a Lyon journalist and radio talk-show host who has written extensively about the Benchellali family and Lyon's immigrant community. "To anyone meeting you on the street, you are a Muslim and an Arab first, not a Frenchman."
Police are uncertain how Benchellali first connected with al Qaeda. In the late 1990s, according to U.S. and French intelligence officials, he traveled to Afghanistan to train in one of several camps that the group established for foreign recruits. On one of his later trips he was accompanied by his younger brother Mourad, who eventually was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and is now being held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
U.S. officials believe Menad Benchellali may have received advanced training at al Qaeda's Derunta camp, near the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad. The camp housed one of al Qaeda's labs and a school for a select group of recruits who studied the use of toxic chemicals and biological toxins, including ricin, U.S. intelligence sources say.
The instructors included at least two scientists: Yazid Sufaat, a U.S.-trained biochemist who is now in custody in Malaysia, and a Pakistani microbiologist who U.S. officials have declined to name. At Derunta, U.S. forces discovered castor oil and equipment for making ricin. "There is a lot of evidence of crude attempts to produce ricin," at Derunta, said a U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition he not be identified by name.
After al Qaeda lost Afghan camps to invading U.S. forces in late 2001, Benchellali's chemical training shifted to the Pankisi Gorge, a lawless area in Georgia that borders Chechnya, the separatist republic in southern Russia, French authorities say. The existence of makeshift laboratories and training camps in the mountainous region has been documented by the Georgian government, which moved to close the camps early last year. Benchellali told police he had planned to join the Chechen rebels but was thwarted in his attempts to cross into Russia. He decided instead to return to France, taking with him new skills and a network of contacts spanning most of Western Europe.
The apartment in suburban Lyon to which Benchellali returned two years ago is small but tidy, its thin green carpet and modest furnishings showing meticulous care. The dominant feature is a wall-length bookshelf filled with handsome brown leather volumes with titles in gold Arabic script. A young girl who answered the door recently explained that the dwelling had been nearly empty for weeks: Since early January, three members of the family -- both parents and a brother -- have been jailed pending trial on charges they aided Menad Benchellali's attempts to make ricin.
The lab was located in a spare bedroom that doubled by day as a sewing room. French police say Benchellali, fresh from training camp in the Pankisi Gorge, would lock himself in the room and work through the night on his mysterious projects, the nature of which he kept to himself. In fact, French police say, he was experimenting with a variation of one of the recipes he learned abroad: a ricin concoction laced with the toxin that causes botulism. While extremely toxic, ricin can be extracted using rudimentary kitchen equipment and can be handled without danger if a person takes basic precautions.
Family members acknowledged to police that they sometimes ran errands for Benchellali, picking up lab equipment and bottles of acetone from a local market. Acetone is used in the processing of the castor beans. "Menad would tell me what he needed, and I would make a list," one of his sisters told police, according to a transcript of her interrogation, which was relayed by a French investigator.
Benchellali's mother, Hafsa, told police she became concerned after finding strange potions and liquids scattered around her sewing room following one of her son's all-night sessions. But when she confronted her son, he warned her to stay away. "He said it was dangerous," the woman said, according to the transcript, "and it was better if I didn't know what he was doing."
The experiments ended abruptly in December 2002 when Benchellali was arrested along with three others in connection with an alleged plot to bomb the Russian Embassy in Paris with conventional explosives. Months passed before terrorism investigators became fully aware of the ricin experiments and the extent of Benchellali's possible ties with al Qaeda's biological and chemical programs abroad. On Jan. 10, 2004, police raided the family's apartment in a search for weapons and equipment, but by then any traces of ricin that might have existed had vanished, French officials said.
Relatives and neighbors contend that the government's claims about Benchellali are wildly exaggerated. Jacques Debray, a lawyer representing the Benchellali family, said he believed that France's arrest of the parents was partly a pressure tactic to extract confessions -- including possible new leads to assist the U.S. government in its prosecution of Mourad Benchellali, the son held prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. "Such information could clearly improve relations with the United States," Debray said.
French terrorism officials, however, are convinced that the arrests halted a terrorist attack and likely saved lives -- and not just in France. But the details of such plans for an attack are not known.
"Members of this group had training in chemical and biological weapons," said a senior French terrorism investigator who spoke on the condition he not be identified by name. "We know they wanted to develop poisons and use them to create panic. It was to be one tool among many."
In January 2003, prompted by French discoveries in the Benchellali case, British police raided apartments in London, Bournemouth and Manchester and apprehended 13 North African men suspected of ties to al Qaeda and an affiliated terrorist group, Ansar al-Islam. In one of the London apartments authorities found castor beans, traces of ricin and equipment for making the toxin. Later that month, Spanish police arrested 16 North Africans and seized additional equipment, chemicals and false passports.
French officials believe the Spanish, British and French cells were communicating with one another and coordinating their activities, especially those related to obtaining toxins and poisons. Members of all three groups had spent time at the same Pankisi Gorge camp. Yet, more than a year after Benchellali's arrest, European and U.S. counterterrorism officials are not convinced that all members of the network have been identified.
The Bush administration has said it believes more than 100 militants were part of the same cluster of terrorist cells that allegedly included Benchellali. It also contends that members of the network took orders from Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born Palestinian terrorist believed to have organized recent suicide bombings in Iraq. While other governments are less certain about the command structure, there is wide agreement among counterterrorism officials that additional sleeper cells continue to operate in Europe, Asia and possibly North America.
"They are honing their skills and awaiting instructions," said Jacquard, the French terrorism expert. "They make what they want and they raise their own money. Some may not be sophisticated. But they communicate with more professional and trained individuals who are operating under the last orders they received from leaders of al Qaeda."
Terrorism experts say an attack with ricin probably would not cause massive casualties, though it could kill or sicken dozens or even hundreds under the right conditions. Even a small-scale attack could cause panic and disrupt commerce and government services, as was illustrated two months ago when the discovery of ricin traces on a mail-sorting machine shut down Senate office buildings for several days.
"These are toxins that, if released in a enclosed space, could cause extreme harm," said Jeffrey M. Bale, an expert on chemical and biological terrorism at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. "There's no doubt that the groups we're seeing today could carry out such an attack. What surprises me is that that they haven't already done so."