Report: Osama bin Laden ordered Mumbai-style attacks in Europe


A screen shot of Osama bin Laden, from his latest audiotape. Image from AP/SITE Intelligence Group.

Osama bin Laden personally ordered the recently discovered plot against multiple cities in Europe. The terror master wanted al Qaeda and its affiliates to carry out an attack similar to the terrorist attack on Mumbai, India in 2008. The news confirms that the al Qaeda chieftain is still relevant, and that he commands respect across a number of terrorist organizations based in Afghanistan and Pakistan that work hand-in-hand with one another.

NPR reported on Thursday that “bin Laden used couriers to send a message to” al Qaeda’s “affiliates and partners.” He wanted them to emulate a “Mumbai-style attack” in the United Kingdom, Germany and France. NPR also reported that US intelligence officials are currently investigating the possibility that the US was a target as well.

News of bin Laden’s personal involvement in the plot comes at the same time that an audio message from al Qaeda’s CEO has surfaced on the web. The SITE Intelligence Group broke news of the tape, saying it is entitled “Pauses with the Method of Relief Work.” In the tape, bin Laden does not threaten attacks, but instead criticizes relief efforts inside Pakistan in the wake of the massive flood that has hit the nation hard. The authenticity of the tape has not yet been confirmed.

Bin Laden and other al Qaeda operatives have increasingly sought to turn the Pakistani public against their government. A series of tapes from Ayman Zawahiri, Adam Gadahn (al Qaeda’s American spokesman), Abu Yahya al Libi (a chief ideologue), and now Osama bin Laden himself have criticized the Pakistani government in a variety of ways.

Multiple organizations involved

The recently foiled plot against Europe demonstrates, yet again, that al Qaeda works in concert with a number of like-minded jihadist organizations based in Pakistan and Afghanistan. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda is the tip of the jihadist spear.]

This is best illustrated by the path of Ahmed Siddiqui, the German citizen of Afghan descent who was captured in Afghanistan and revealed the plot while in detention at the US base in Bagram.

Siddiqui’s path to jihad began at the Taiba mosque in Hamburg, which was closed down by German authorities just weeks after Siddiqui was arrested in July of this year. [See LWJ report, 9/11 hijackers’ mosque tied to recent terror plot against Europe.]

The mosque, formerly known as the Al Quds mosque, was a core part of al Qaeda’s international terrorist network prior to the September 11 attacks. The suicide pilots for the 9/11 operation attended the Hamburg mosque regularly before being sent off to receive training in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Siddiqui knew members of the Hamburg cell. According to NPR, Siddiqui knew lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. And Der Spiegel reported in September that Siddiqui is close to the family of Mounir el Motassadeq, who is serving a 15-year sentence in a German prison because of his involvement in the 9/11 plot.

In addition, the Taiba mosque was run by an imam named Mamoun Darkazanli, a Syrian-German who is a longtime al Qaeda operative and was heavily involved with the Hamburg cell.

Siddiqui and his co-conspirators followed a similar route to the Hamburg cell – traveling from the mosque to Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they received terrorist training. It is possible that the mosque delivered fresh recruits for al Qaeda’s latest international operation, just as it did for 9/11.

According to NPR, Siddiqui was sheltered by the Haqqani Network in Pakistan. The Haqqani Network has longstanding ties to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, and the Taliban cooperate in attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan. Siraj Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani Network, is a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis.

In Afghanistan, Siddiqui became a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), an al Qaeda affiliate that has primarily fought alongside the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The IMU is known as a guerilla-style fighting organization. But in keeping with bin Laden’s vision of folding local organizations into his international jihad, the IMU contributed to this latest plot by accepting Siddiqui into its ranks and possibly doing more.

The plot itself was supposed to be modeled after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, which were carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET). The LET was originally founded by the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment to fight Indian forces in Kashmir. It currently assists the Taliban and al Qaeda in operations in Afghanistan and has an international presence, including inside the US.

Al Qaeda has long worked closely with the LET. In March 2002, for example, top al Qaeda terrorist Abu Zubaydah and other al Qaeda operatives were captured in a LET safe house in Pakistan.

Ilyas Kashmiri, a Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI) commander who is now a top al Qaeda leader, is believed to have been involved in the Mumbai assault. Kashmiri is a former member of the Pakistani Special Forces and a highly-skilled commando. It remains to be seen if Kashmiri was involved in the latest plot against Europe, but it is certainly possible, if not likely. In the recent past, Kashmiri has been involved in plotting attacks in Europe with David Coleman Headley, according to the FBI.

Connecting the dots, all of the following entities were involved in the Osama bin Laden-ordered plot against Europe to some degree: the Taiba mosque, the Haqqani Network, the IMU, and possibly HUJI and the LET.

The “syndicate”

Speaking to students at Duke University at Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained that the US-led coalition’s enemy in Afghanistan “is increasingly an unholy syndicate of terrorist groups working together: al Qaeda, the Haqqani network, the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban and groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba.”

“A success for one is a success for all,” Gates explained, according to an account of the talk published by Reuters.

Gates’ remarks echo the recent testimony of other senior US officials. For example, in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Sept. 22, National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Director Michael Leiter explained that al Qaeda works closely with the same organizations listed by Gates. [See LWJ report, US official explains National Counterterrorism Center’s view of the enemy.]

As evidenced by the recent plot against Europe, this cooperation is not confined to the fight for Afghanistan. Al Qaeda draws support from numerous like-minded jihadist groups based in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Paul says:

    Sorry, but you know we have officially lost Afghanistan, when the propaganda of Bin Laden is unleashed.
    I just heard about a 2nd supply-line attack?
    Losing Pakistan is the story.

  • JaMo says:

    Wait… what??? Bin Laden propaganda is nothing new or exciting, nor is it an indicator of a lost Afghanistan.
    Closed border crossings aren’t any more indicative of losing Pakistan. PakGov and PakMil like our cool toys and our money enough to continue to work with us. If anything, this is a symptom of the ongoing political posturing as Zardari’s regime lives out its last days. Politicians (as they scramble to make a power play for the executive office) want people to know that despite an inability to address the flood issues, they can at least stand up to the hated US military.
    LWJ is an outstanding resource. Please keep up the awesome work.

  • Oswald says:

    Too bad Gates left off the ISI and Pakistani military, but I suppose he would not have been allowed to mention their support to the insurgency in Afghanistan.

  • Shaun says:

    Well, Kashmiri finally has been mentioned in reporting about this plot.
    He is spoken about in video. Also, CBN News say that there are already 12 teams in Europe and in US ready to strike. CBN reporter says that his intelligence source is very credible but I’m not so sure.–terrorist-teams–spread-out-across.aspx

  • ArneFufkin says:

    @Paul: We’ve “lost” in Afghanistan? How? We’ve finally got the full “surge” force in place and it appears to me we’re kicking major butt there and we’re in the process of the vital “hold” and “Build” mission.
    It’s like General Conway said: “Af-Pak’s a battlespace where we can either win slow or lose fast. We’ll win slow.”

  • kp says:

    I rather doubt that CBN blog info: 12 *teams*? Given about four people per team this seems a bit odd. But 3 teams of four people seems more likely with one in each country (given other leaked info).

    Mostly Pakistani? In Britain yes. But compared to other info we have (UAV strikes on IMU in particular) it would seem that mixed ethnicity would be more likely including Arab (given the Hamburg links), German and German-Turkish in Germany. And perhaps something Francophone in France (North African Arabs from AQIM?). I note the French boots on the ground in North Africa after AQIM this summer: is that just for the hostages or looking to disrupt an AQIM training side of the plot? The problem for all of these is how do they get rifleman training and remain “clean” to move in and out of Europe. A more difficult task than just “mules” to carry out a suicide bombing.

    These report sounds almost like Chinese whispers … a mishearing of a mishearing.

    One thing that’s interesting is these reports keep appearing in the media. Sometimes with more detail (“two Pakistani brothers” is a useful amount of opposition to know if you’ve been detected). Is this random talk by people who should know better (this info should be all top secrete codeword stuff) or is there a calculated risk in “leaking” this sort of info to try to stimulate communication between the participants (some of whom are already been watched)? Or is this security info provided downstream to police that leaking from there? People seem to be “too chatty”.

  • kp says:

    And then there’s this link on the LWJ “news roll”

    “French terrorism suspect arrested in Italy”

    “The man is 28 years old, of Algerian origin and suspected to be a member of al-Qaida. Il Mattino said the arrest took place two weeks ago but only became public during a closed-door hearing in Naples that approved the suspect’s extradition to France”

    Another links with an SAS officers evaluation of a Mumbai style attack in London makes for chilling reading.

    “What makes such an attack so dangerous is that it could be launched with no warning and without requiring a UK-based terrorist cell or stash of weapons, via the exploitation of the open maritime flank – in this case the Thames estuary – that effectively links a failed state/terrorist heartland and its suicidal terrorists, directly with London’s financial centre.

    A paramilitary threat that would overmatch any Thames-based or land-based police forces. The question for the NSC is: what should the MoD be doing about this clear and present danger? And what does this say about the direction of the SDSR?”

    Both officers believe that such a threat could be countered in part by the creation of an armed reservist marine force equipped and trained to intercept and search every suspect vessel entering the Thames which could block “this avenue of attack”.”

    So does the intel indicate that they would try another amphibious attack. From where? A boat offshore? A ship that would taken then directly to the target from North Africa or Middle East? That would remove the logistics problem of getting “foreigners”, guns, ammo, grenades and explosives into the country. This is an interesting problem.

    BTW, another 9/11 attack number of casualties (~3000) by just firearms (and even with grenades) is rather difficult to do. Carrying the ammo is a problem. Even Mumbai had 173 killed with 10 attackers: that’s “only” 17 per attacker. If each of the 10 carried ten 30 round magazines (that’s quite a load) each would have to make every round count. They would need caches to replenish ammo which is why they liked hotels in Mumbai. That would make a “big financial office building” attack a bit more difficult.

    One immediate countermeasure for this is to put SF “scramble” in place. Deploy troop carrying and reconnaissance and command helicopters and associated weaponry in a state of readiness to defeat the attack in any major city in the UK. Same with police armament: the CO-19 squads should be carrying 5.56mm assault rifles in addition to their 9mm MP5 to engage these guys at range.

    Still I don’t envy them their planning for this. But I wonder how much “we” now know about the attack and it’s methods?

    As we’re seeing defeating this sort of attack “At the source” is the best method. And our “ally” Pakistan should be informed that they will be held responsible for an attack originating from their “sovereign” territory and we will put boots on the ground in Pakistan to fight these people. Duplicity will no longer be an option.

  • DaveB says:

    Pay attention, Paul. Now the surviving Taliban want to negotiate. That means they’ve lost on the battlefield. The Afghan way is to invite them to the negotiating tent … and feed them poison food.

  • Lakshmanan says:

    Unless Osama is living comfortably in Pakistan he cannot plot European ventures. Pak intelligence is involving Osama bin laden to shift the blame on him. It signifies the covert Pak Army’s war against the NATO.


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