(by Eli Lake, NYSun.com) WASHINGTON – Al Qaeda’s second in command yesterday taunted President Bush on the eve of his State of the Union address, saying the American leader should send more troops to Iraq so that terrorists could kill more Americans.
In a video released on the Internet, Ayman al-Zawahiri asks, “Why send 20,000 only? Why not send 50,000 or 100,000?” He adds, “Aren’t you aware that the dogs of Iraq are pining for your troops’ dead bodies?” according to a translation from the SITE Institute, which monitors Al Qaeda-affiliated Web sites.
Al Qaeda sent the message to jihadist Web sites as ABC News and The New York Sun confirmed that coalition forces had disrupted a new Al Qaeda plot last summer to launch multiple attacks on American cities.
The plot was uncovered during a summer raid on a Qaeda safe house following the elimination of Al Qaeda in Iraq’s deposed leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. According to one American intelligence official, the raid broke up a plan to send 19 terrorists to America on student visas to carry out conventional bombing attacks, though chemical munitions were considered.
ABC News reported yesterday that the plot would have involved between 10 and 20 people.
The plot was in its early stages, the official, who requested anonymity, said. While Google Earth images of potential targets were found, the plotters had yet to do on-site surveillance in America. At the same time, the operation had received approval from Al Qaeda’s Shura Council, now based in the Pakistani province of Waziristan, on the border with Afghanistan.
“I would say had we not found out about this, the attack would have been scheduled for sometime in the summer or September 2007,” the official said.
The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, General Michael Maples, told both the House and Senate intelligence committees this month: “Documents captured in a raid on an Al Qaeda in Iraq safe house in Iraq revealed AQI was planning terrorist operations in the U.S. The disrupted plots underscore both the accomplishments achieved in union with our partners in the war on terrorism and the continuing danger posed by Al Qaeda. Despite being forced to decentralize its network, Al Qaeda retains the ability to organize complex, mass casualty attacks and inspire others.”
The testimony from General Maples marks the first time a senior American official has stated publicly that Al Qaeda in Iraq has ambitions to attack America.
When asked about the general’s testimony yesterday, a spokesman for the Directorate of National Intelligence, Ross Feinstein, said his organization “agrees with the statement for the record General Maples made on January 18, 2007, about current and projected national security threats to the United States.”
While the intelligence community appears to concur on the basic facts of the disrupted Al Qaeda plot, the FBI said yesterday that the specific intelligence did not indicate a threat to America.
“The FBI has been aware of the information cited by the DIA. Various streams of threat information are evaluated on a regular basis by the FBI in conjunction with our intelligence community and law enforcement partners,” Special Agent Richard Kolko said.
Reprinted here with permission from The New York Sun. Visit the website at NYSun.com.
1. a) Who is Ayman al-Zawahiri?
b) What did he say in his latest video message, translated by SITE Institute? (Visit the website at siteinstitute.org.)
2. What do you think of al-Zawahiri’s message to President Bush and America?
3. a) How was a new Al Qaeda plot to launch multiple attacks on American cities uncovered?
b) What was Al Qaeda planning to do, according to an American intelligence official?
c) Should this affect the ability of young Middle Eastern men to acquire student visas for the U.S.? Why or why not?
4. a) Who is General Michael Maples? (Visit the DIA website at dia.mil.)
b) What did Gen. Maples tell the House and Senate intelligence committees this month?
c) Why is this significant?
5. How did a spokesman for the Directorate of National Intelligence react to Gen. Maples’ statements?
6. Why do you think the FBI reacted differently to Gen. Maples’ statements?
7. Consider al-Zawahiri’s message, and the Al Qaeda plot to launch multiple attacks on American cities. Do you think that the U.S. should attempt to negotiate with this and other terrorist organizations? Explain your answer.
For background on al-Qaeda, go to the Terrorism Knowledge Base website at tkb.org. (You can also do a search at this website for biographies on terrorists including al-Zawahiri and al-Zarqawi.)
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