Al-Qaeda's airport bomb plot
convicted al-Qaeda bomb-maker serving a jail sentence in Northern Ireland carried out dummy runs for a potential terrorist plot at Dublin and Knock airports, The Observer can reveal.
Last Tuesday the expelled Islamist cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed was seen exhorting young British Muslims in an online broadcast from Beirut to target Dublin because he incorrectly believed US troops used the airport as a transit centre on the way to Iraq and Afghanistan. Now it has emerged that key al-Qaeda bomb-making expert Abbas Boutrab visited both Dublin and Knock airports. Information on the airports was found at his north Belfast flat three years ago, according to evidence at his trial in Belfast Crown Court last November.
Boutrab lived in the Irish Republic for four years after successfully applying for political asylum using a fake identity. He left Lucan, Dublin, in 2002 after becoming the main suspect in a knife attack on an asylum seeker and moved to Belfast, where he lived under another false ID.
He was arrested after a joint MI5-PSNI operation in 2003 and information on his PC showed he had advanced a method of adapting ordinary electronic devices - including a cassette recorder - to detonate explosives in an aircraft.
Boutrab was convicted of possessing information on bomb-making and sentenced to six years' imprisonment. Evidence given at his trial stated that he was part of the al-Qaeda plot to smuggle the bomb on to an aircraft and detonate the device as it circled over a major American city.
While Boutrab lived in Lucan, under the alias 'Yocef Djafari', he attracted no suspicion. Papers discovered in Belfast showed that he entered the Republic unchallenged and successfully applied for asylum status in 2001.
It was also discovered that he stole a passport in Dublin airport in September 2001 from an Italian tourist named Fabio Parenti, and had used this in Northern Ireland.
The origins of Boutrab have yet to be established, though it was discovered that his first trace in Europe was in 1992 when fingerprints matching his were found in Holland belonging to a man travelling under the alias Maured Benali. When he was arrested in Belfast three years ago he was found to have nine separate sets of identity papers.
Al-Qaeda's presence in Ireland became apparent last August when the Garda seized a DVD with lectures on how to construct detonators and bombs while it was on its way to Britain. One senior officer in the Garda Siochana described the content of the training DVD as 'brilliant and terrifying'.
Posted by: tipper 2006-11-19