Monday, February 20, 2006

The Mysterious World of an al Qaeda Bomber

Louai Sakka's true identity only became apparent after a bomb malfunctioned in his apartment and blew out the windows on August 4, 2005. Authorities converged on his building in Antalya and they arrested Sakka two days later. His arrest, and subsequent interrogations revealed much about al Qaeda's operations in the Middle East and their ongoing designs to commit mass murder.
The attack, just 48 hours away when the chemicals ignited, was intended to crown a wide-ranging career in terrorism. Sakka played a role in the so-called millennium plot to attack hotels in Amman, Jordan, on Dec. 31, 1999. Turkish prosecutors also describe him as the planner of the 2003 truck bombings that killed 57 people in Istanbul, financed with $160,000 in al Qaeda funds.

Between attacks, according to his attorney, Sakka provided false passports and other means to help Islamic militants through the web of paths that U.S. military officials call rat lines. The routes crisscross Turkey to and from Afghanistan, Chechnya and, since 2003, Iraq, where Sakka traveled after the Istanbul bombings. Insurgents say Louai al-Turki, as he was known there, played a prominent role in major attacks on U.S. bases and commanded insurgent forces in Fallujah when it served as the militants' headquarters.

"He's been involved in this for 15 years," said the attorney, Osman Karahan.

The significance of Sakka, who was 32 at the time of his arrest, was slow to emerge. But he spoke at length to Turkish interrogators, admitting his role in past plots and describing Iraq as a training ground for terrorists comparable to Chechnya and Bosnia in the past, according to people who have read a summary of his statement. Sakka, who remains in a jail in Istanbul, declined to sign the account, however, on the advice of his controversial attorney.

"Actually, he does not deny his past activities," said Karahan, who subscribes to the same militant vision of Islam as many of his clients. "We are people who work for justice, so we want to tell the truth. Things need to be taken out of the shadows." Investigators have pressed Sakka to provide evidence against Karahan.
Sakka's been connected to bombings throughout the Middle East, including in Turkey and Iraq. Here's where things get interesting:
Sakka, who told Turkish interrogators he learned bomb-making in Iraq, volunteered to strike the Israeli cruise ships that regularly call on Turkey's southern coast, Karahan said. The attorney said Sakka believed U.S. soldiers used the vessels for R & R and that his own days were numbered because his surgically altered face had appeared on an insurgent video of a downed American drone in Iraq. Turkish doctors had detected a nose job and scars suggesting Sakka might also have altered his chin and eyebrows.
What isn't so clear is when Sakka learned bomb-making. Was that while Saddam was in power, or after the US invaded in 2003? The article doesn't quite expound on that detail. However, the article notes that Sakka was implicated in the 1999 Millenium bombing plot in Jordan. Curious.

If that's the case, this would further butress the claim that al Qaeda was working inside Iraq well before the 2003 invasion and would support US Administration claims that going into Iraq was part of the larger Global War on Terror.

There's far more than meets the eye with this case, and I'm sure that investigators are withholding key details because of national security implications (both in Turkey and in the US).

Austin Bay relates the declassification of an al Qaeda planning document, which outlines broad strategic goals.

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