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Al Qaeda warns Germany


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The banner announcing Bekkay Harrach's latest video.

A senior al Qaeda leader has threatened to attack Germany just days before the nation will go to the polls to choose a new Chancellor.

Bekkay Harrach, alias Al Hafidh Abu Talha al Almani, resurfaced Friday in a chilling new video produced by al Qaeda's al Fajr Media Center and distributed across the major jihadi Web forums. Dressed in an ill-fitting black blazer, blue tie, and shoulder-length greased hair - looking more like a teenager dressed for his first job interview - he slammed Germany for its military presence in Afghanistan and warned that if Chancellor Angela Merkel is reelected on Sept. 27, Germany will be directly attacked.

His previous warning to Germany, on Jan. 17, 2009, coincided with a massive car bomb attack on the heavily guarded German embassy in Kabul that was orchestrated by the notorious Haqqani Network. Four Afghan civilians and an American soldier died in the attack.

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Bekkay Harrach, alias Al Hafidh Abu Talha al Almani, from his latest video.

"The vote on September 27 is more than a choice between a man and a woman," he warned in the new video, which was acquired by the Long War Journal. "As an old aphorism says, 'Security is foremost.' In the democratic system, only the people can return the soldiers to their homeland. If the people insist on continuing the war (in Afghanistan), they sentence themselves to retaliation and clearly show the world that civilians in the democratic system are not innocent people."

He addressed Germany's Muslim community and said "(S)tay clear of all that is not necessary in the two weeks of the elections if the German people did not decide to withdraw its soldiers from Afghanistan. Keep your children near you at this time. Ask God to bless you and your children."

"The city of Kiel," he continued inexplicably, "will remain a safe city no matter how long the conflict in Germany. This is a promise from me."

He reminded viewers of the attacks in Madrid and London and, addressing the German chancellor, asked "Lady Merkel, what is the logical outcome earned by British Conservatives and the Spaniards for their support for the Iraq war? Why is Germany involved in the war on Afghanistan? The Afghan people did nothing to the German people and the Mujahideen have not done anything to the German people." At one point in his speech he also mentioned the Mumbai attacks, but it is unclear if his reference relates to the 2008 siege or to the bombings in 2006, which like those in Madrid and London targeted the city's busy railway.

"God commands us in the Qur'an - Al-Anfal, verse sixty - that we must do what we can to force our enemy to surrender," he stated. "But if the enemy can find a peaceful solution... the Holy Qur'an commands us to forgive." According to his statement, Germany's only option to avoid an attack is to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan.

If Germany does so, he said, al Qaeda will withdraw from Germany. "This is a promise from al Qaeda. This is the tolerant Islam that the West knows well and praises so much. The German people can now take advantage of this tolerance and use the appropriate time. Al-Qaeda is ready according to its constitution, the Qur'an, to turn a blind eye on Germany. It is now in your hands and your hands alone."

Germany cannot count on the United States for protection, he said. Germany does not have the benefit of the Atlantic Ocean as a buffer against al Qaeda fighters as the US does. As evidence, he pointed to the disruption of the Sauderland Group, which plotted attacks on Ramstein Air Base and Frankfurt International Airport but was discovered in September 2007. Four members of the cell, who trained with the Islamic Jihad Union in Pakistan, are now on trial in Germany. "The Sauerland cell was not detected until after German security was alerted by the Americans. The Americans cannot always save the Germans. German security does not have the power to protect the Germans at all."

This is Harrach's third propaganda address since January. His previous statements were produced by As Sahab, the main studio for al Qaeda senior leadership, a sign that suggests he has taken on an increasingly senior role in the terror organization. German authorities unmasked him in the press after he appeared hidden behind a black turban in his first video, "Rescue Plan for Germany."

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Bekkay Harrach, alias Al Hafidh Abu Talha al Almani, from a video released at the beginning of the year.

Bekkay Harrach, al Qaeda's new external operations chief?

Harrach is a 32-year-old Moroccan whose family emigrated to Germany when he was two years old; he became a naturalized German citizen in 1997. According to reports, the Sept. 11 attacks on the US energized him on Islamist causes. In 2003, he traveled to the West Bank and was injured during a skirmish with Israeli troops. Authorities believe that he traveled twice to Iraq in an attempt to join al Qaeda. An effort was made to recruit him to spy for Germany but failed. He took university courses in laser technology and business mathematics but dropped out in 2004. He then worked part-time at the Muhadshirin Mosque in Bonn, where he ultimately met al Qaeda scout Aleem Nasir and received a letter of recommendation that opened doors to the terror network's training camps.

In 2007, using Nasir's letter, Harrach followed smuggling routes to Waziristan through Turkey and Iran and was finally assigned to train under the network's then-operations chief for global strikes, Abu Ubaidah al Masri. He narrowly escaped an airstrike in February 2008 that targeted Ubaidah. Ubaidah survived the strike but later died from complications due to hepatitis.

Since that attack, Harrach has become a rising star in al Qaeda's new generation and is reportedly on its shura council for global strikes. Reports suggest that his travels are tracked by intelligence agencies, however, according to Spiegel Online, he is directly protected by Siraj Haqqani and his deadly network.

Harrach is rumored to excel at planning major attacks. "If we want to do something," a source in the Haqqani Network told Spiegel, "we always ask the German for his opinion." The Haqqani Network is blamed for the attack on the German embassy in Kabul that coincided with Harrach's initial video. Its ties with the Islamic Jihad Union, which is implicated in the foiled 2007 attack on Ramstein and is suspected of maintaining a presence in Germany, are strong.

Although unconfirmed, his high-profile appearances in al Qaeda propaganda suggest that he may have succeeded Abu Sulayman Jazairi as al Qaeda's operations chief for global strikes. Jazairi was killed in a May 2008 airstrike in Pakistan.

The latest video by Harrach is most striking because its themes and packaging are targeted almost exclusively for a Western audience. Speaking softly in fluent German, without the usual militant or religious props featured in past al Qaeda messages, he stares directly into the camera and only occasionally looks down to turn over the pages of his speech. He never wags his finger or raises his voice. The video carries no subtitling in Arabic. The only visual hint to the nature of the tape - other than the obligatory title screen and occasional nasheeds that espouse militancy - are the dark circles under his eyes. Mirroring his previous messages, German economic problems are offered as an argument for heeding his call for a troop withdrawal. He does not dwell on religious justifications for the attack.

Harrach acknowledged assistance he has received from German authorities over the years and explained that his warning was in return for their acts of good faith. "I thank Germany for its assistance quickly to get me out of prison in Syria," he said. "I thank Germany for its help me when my injury in the city of Hebron in Palestine. I thank Germany for it did not hurt my family after my trip to Afghanistan, nor prevent them from traveling (to rejoin me), despite long-term surveillance. Since the reward for good in Islam is charity, today I will show my gratitude."

The increasing tempo of propaganda messaging specifically directed at Germany has alarmed authorities. The militant Web forums have been buzzing for months with talk about a "German 9/11," and statements from other jihadis have been published or released in German. The timing of his previous threat with an actual attack against German interests is not comforting. The Interior Ministry acknowledged the "increased threat situation" immediately following the release of the tape and announced that "adjusted security measures in particular at airports and stations" are now in effect.



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READER COMMENTS: "Al Qaeda warns Germany"

Posted by Ayamo at September 19, 2009 12:23 PM ET:

This won't change the outcome of the election a bit!
The train stations and the airports are being heavily guarded by now and I doubt al Qaeda's capability of launching a huge attack on German soil.

The German Army will not leave Afghanistan as the political parties didn't even touch the Afghanistan subject during this (extremly boring!!!) campaign.

My opinion is that the Great Coalition (which is not great but a total desaster) will continue it's "work" and will stall on the Afghanistan subject.

The message from al Qaeda is strictly symbolic.

Posted by Sam at September 19, 2009 1:56 PM ET:

Any ideas as to why 'Kiel will remain a safe city'?

Posted by Nissonic at September 19, 2009 6:13 PM ET:

This man reminds me of an arab living in Denmark.
I dont recall his name but he was well hated.
He was conducting a Jihad against the danish society and people.
He wanted to recruit other arabs in Denmark to join his cause and to spread hate against the danish people that would eventually lead to violent acts...

The ironic thing to make it even more clear...HE LIVES IN DENMARK! LOL!!!

Posted by KaneKaizer at September 19, 2009 8:18 PM ET:

Threats won't have nearly as much effect on the election as an actual pre-election attack would.

Posted by kp at September 19, 2009 8:55 PM ET:

He appears a little unclear on who is in power in the UK and has been since the mid-1990s.

"Lady Merkel, what is the logical outcome earned by British Conservatives and the Spaniards for their support for the Iraq war?"

The Labor party has run the country since before 9/11 and supported the US in Afghanistan and Iraq (and elsewhere).

I think if they try something it will be a transportation attack (perhaps the U-bhan and S-bahn in Berlin with a local Muslim community for support). It worked in Spain.

Does he have a thing for the Kiel Canal? The German Navy?

I'm pretty sure this guy is now very high on the HVT drone list.

Posted by Xavier at September 19, 2009 9:33 PM ET:

Nissonic,

I happened to meet another Muslim from India. He was so full of hatred for US as well as India. Just after 9/11 when I talked to him he was openly glorifying bin Laden. He hated these countries so much that at the time he was about to marry a Saudi girl so that he could get Saudi citizenship.

For him it was intolerable to live in a non-Muslim society. I sincerely hope he left US and not returned to India. I hope he returned o the holy desert.

Such a bad job from US consulate in India not performing any background check on such radicals.

Posted by TLA at September 19, 2009 9:56 PM ET:

If Kiel is like Hamburg, then it has its share of 'undesirable' immigrants.

One has to placate the German civilian population when it comes to acts of violence. I was based there for several years, and had the 'distinction' of being the Brigade's Anglo-German Relations officer.

Smile nicely at them when you roll through their villages Herrach....

Posted by DrMack at September 21, 2009 5:38 PM ET:

An attack on the German civilian population runs the risk of once again awakening the spirit of bewegungskrieg, the hallmark of the German way of war. It has lain dormant for seven decades but has never been extinguished.

Posted by Libertyship46 at September 21, 2009 7:40 PM ET:

This reminds me of the attack al-Qaeda made on Spain during its elections, which allowed Zapatero, the socialist, to beat the conservative. I wouldn't just blow off this threat. Nothing succeeds like success, and al-Qaeda probably thinks they succeeded in Spain by forcing the Spanish people to withdraw from Iraq. Al-Qaeda probably views Germans as a soft, spoiled, hedonistic bunch of cowards who would rather hide in comfort in Berlin than actually have to do some heavy lifting (or fighting, for that matter) in Afghanistan. And you know what? I think al-Qaeda is probably right. I'll bet you that if the Germans were attacked they would fold just like Spain did. I have no faith in most (notice I said most) of our NATO "allies."

Posted by Neo at September 22, 2009 12:33 AM ET:

So the sniveling little nurd wants to be a big man and push countries around. I get the distinct impression that Harrach is part of the new generation of radicals that have been introduced to radical Islam through the many Internet hate sites. Getting pushed around by Islamists is bad precedent, getting pushed around by radicalized youth is even worse.