Sunday, February 3, 2008

Al Qaeda continues with its WMD plans

No, it's not an alarmist story from Debka, but from The LA Times.

Given the problems with previous U.S. intelligence assessments of weapons of mass destruction, officials are careful not to overstate Al Qaeda's capabilities, and they emphasize that there is much they don't know because of the difficulty in getting information out of the mountainous area of northwest Pakistan where the network has reestablished itself.

But they say Al Qaeda has regenerated at least some of the robust research and development effort that it lost when the U.S. military bombed its Afghanistan headquarters and training camps in late 2001, and they believe it is once again trying to develop or obtain chemical, biological, radiological and even nuclear weapons to use in attacks on the United States and other enemies.

For now, the intelligence officials believe, that effort is largely focused on developing and using cyanide, chlorine and other poisons that are unlikely to cause the kind of mass-casualty attack that is usually associated with weapons of mass destruction.

So, Al Qaeda appears to be working on something small scale that would nonetheless strike terror because of the unknown.

If you travel on the New York subway system, you may not want to read the following passage.

Nevertheless, Zawahiri tapped Abu Khabab in 1999 to head an unconventional weapons program code-named "Al Zabadi," Arabic for fermented milk. Within months, he had made "significant progress," according to Al Qaeda computer files found after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

U.S. authorities found materials at the Darunta complex and elsewhere in Afghanistan that showed that Al Qaeda was aggressively pursuing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear and biological devices, and that it was only a few years away from developing an anthrax weapon. By 2002, Abu Khabab is believed to have fled to Chechnya or the Pankisi Gorge region in Georgia to resume training militants in the use of chemical weapons, before ending up in Pakistan.

In December 2002, Al Qaeda allegedly dispatched a strike team to New York to use a device called a mubtakkar -- or "invention" -- to disperse cyanide gas in subway cars, potentially killing dozens of people, the senior intelligence official said. Several officials said they suspect Abu Khabab played a role in its development.

But Zawahiri scuttled the plot, saying, "We have something better in mind," former CIA Director George Tenet wrote in his 2007 autobiography. Five years later, the U.S. government still does not know what "better" device Zawahiri was referring to, said Quillen and the senior U.S. intelligence official.

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