Al Qaeda is hurting a year following the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of a US special forces unit in Pakistan.
But it isn't done by a long shot.
Terrorists continue to try to plan attacks, and they are using all kinds of methods to spread word of their plans.
One such plan and communications methods was intercepted just days after bin Laden was killed. A 22-year-old Austrian named Maqsood Lodin was being questioned by police in Berlin after recently traveling to Pakistan via Budapest, Hungary. Law enforcement discovered memory cards and a digital storage device.
On it were pornographic videos, but upon closer inspection they found that there were embedded documents hidden in the porn.
Several weeks later, after laborious efforts to crack a password and software to make the file almost invisible, German investigators discovered encoded inside the actual video a treasure trove of intelligence -- more than 100 al Qaeda documents that included an inside track on some of the terror group's most audacious plots and a road map for future operations.The documents turned out to be the biggest trove of intel gathered outside those captured in the bin Laden raid. It shows a terror group continuing to look for high profile attacks and the means to carry them out.
Future plots include the idea of seizing cruise ships and carrying out attacks in Europe similar to the gun attacks by Pakistani militants that paralyzed the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008. Ten gunmen killed 164 people in that three-day rampage.
Terrorist training manuals in PDF format in German, English and Arabic were among the documents, too, according to intelligence sources.
U.S. intelligence sources tell CNN that the documents uncovered are "pure gold;" one source says that they are the most important haul of al Qaeda materials in the last year, besides those found when U.S. Navy SEALs raided Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a year ago and killed the al Qaeda leader.
One document was called "Future Works." Its authorship is unclear, but intelligence officials believe it came from al Qaeda's inner core. It may have been the work of Younis al Mauretani, a senior al Qaeda operative until his capture by Pakistani police in 2011.
The US will be putting those bin Laden files online for the public to view, and they shed light on the man who was behind the most violent and deadly terror attacks in history. They show bin Laden as a micromanager who thought that he could overcome a series of failures with another spectacular attack on a 9/11 scale to force the US to change its policies.
Bin Laden and the al Qaeda leadership understood that they were in serious danger from the UAV airstrikes that had begun in 2008 and accelerated/intensified thereafter. They were doing real damage to the al Qaeda network in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He also realized that affiliated and like-minded terror groups were heaping more attention on themselves by claiming alliances or an al Qaeda name:
On August 7, 2010, bin Laden wrote to Mukhtar Abu al-Zubair, the leader of the brutal Al-Shabaab militia in Somalia, telling him that Al-Shabaab ("the Youth") would be better off if it did not declare itself publicly to be part of al Qaeda. Bin Laden advised, "If asked, it would be better to say there is a relationship with al Qaeda, which is simply a brotherly Islamic connection, and nothing more."In fact, Bin Laden was considering changing the terror group's name to make it more difficult for the US and others to claim that they were not waging war on all Muslims but only on terror groups that had perverted Islamic doctrine for their jihad.
Bin Laden explained to the Shabaab leader that al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq had attracted many enemies by adopting the al Qaeda name. He also pointed out that it would be better for fundraising purposes if Shabaab didn't identify itself as being part of al Qaeda, because businessmen in the Arab world "who are willing to help the brothers in Somalia" would be more likely to do so if they thought they were not supporting al Qaeda directly.
Al Qaeda, "the base" in Arabic, was the name that the group had given itself when it was founded in Pakistan by bin Laden in 1988. Now the leader of al Qaeda was advising his followers to steer away from using the term.
Among the terror plots being concocted by bin Laden prior to his death besides the cruise ship plot was an assassination of President Obama. While he was ordering subordinates to provide him with new plots on a regular basis, he lacked the capabilities to act on them.
It was a terror group that was on the run and whose capabilities were vastly diminished from just a few years before. But diminished doesn't mean that the threat is completely gone or mitigated.
Terrorist groups affiliated with al Qaeda or which have similar outlooks and agendas are still dangerous, and they're looking at a whole range of new tactics, including ingesting explosives (or implanting explosives within the body itself) to avoid detection.
Labels: Al Qaeda, anniversaries, law enforcement, Osama bin Laden, spycraft and analysis, terrorism