Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UPI) Jan 18, 2011
Al-Qaida is reported to be forging ahead with plans to infiltrate white Westerners, all converts to Islam, into their home countries "to spread the flames of the South Asian war theater to the West."
The Westerners include 12 Canadians who are said to be undergoing terrorist training in jihadist camps in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. Others reportedly include Americans, Britons and Germans.
Asia Times Online quoted "well-placed Taliban sources" as saying the Canadian group is led by a 30-year-old known as Abu Shahid. He converted to Islam in 2007.
ATO's Pakistan Bureau Chief Syed Saleem Shahzad, who has access to senior Islamist circles, reported that the Canadians initially joined Jihad al-Islami, a militant Egyptian group, which helped them get to Afghanistan in February 2010.
"After nine months, al-Qaida's leaders decided to send them to North Waziristan," Shahzad wrote. The group arrived at the al-Qaida base at Darpakhel in North Waziristan in November, where they remain awaiting infiltration back to Canada.
There was no way to independently verify Shahzad's report and it may be deliberate disinformation by the jihadists at a time when U.S.-led intelligence on the militants has greatly improved, with a score of senior chieftains killed in missile attacks by drones in recent months, but his reporting of Islamist activity in the past has proved to be reliable.
He quoted one militant leader at Darpakhel as saying that in Afghanistan the Canadians "received basic jihadi training, while currently they're busy doing some special courses.
"Their main learning is how to use sophisticated weapons and how to connect to local smuggling networks in North America.
"They're also learning how to use ordinary material like sugar and basic chemicals to make powerful explosives," he said.
"These militants will then return to their country to execute al-Qaida's plan of targeting big cities in Canada."
Shahzad, again quoting sources, named some of the Canadians as Jean Paull, known locally as Sadiq Ullah; Leman Langlois (Sana Ullah); James Richard (Abdur Rehman); Otto Paul (Abu Usman); Thomas (Abdullah) and Paul Gall (Hafuz Ullah). None of these could be independently verified.
Other Western militants undergoing training included converts from the United States, Britain and Germany, as well as militants from Central Asia and the Arab world, he reported.
Shahzad noted that eight Westerners were killed in a U.S. drone attack in October.
A senior German militant known as Abdul Ghaffar was slain in a drone strike in September, while two Britons identified as Stephen, aged 48, and Darry Smith, 25, were killed in another strike Dec. 15 in Darpakhel.
The reports of Western converts being mustered in North Waziristan in preparation for attacks in Europe and North America follow a recent flurry of intelligence warnings that such operations were likely.
No major jihadist attack has actually been mounted, so far as is known, but the ATO report underlined the growing threat Western governments perceive from renegades recruited by al-Qaida.
The report also supported the belief among Western intelligence services that the focal point of this threat is Pakistan, now the major battleground in the war against al-Qaida.
The increase in such activity observed in recent months has occurred at a time when al-Qaida has been re-energized by the gathering of a new field leadership comprising veteran commanders drawn from other regions, many with their eyes on hitting the West hard.
These include such notorious figures as Mohammed Ilyas Kashmiri, a 45-year-old Pakistani who fought the Indians in Kashmir for years and now heads Osama bin Laden's Lashkar-e Zil, or Shadow Army.
Kashmiri, who joined al-Qaida in 2005, is also closely connected to bin Laden's notorious Brigade 313, one of the key components of the Lashkar-e Zil. According to the CIA, "the footprints of Brigade 313 are now in Europe."
Al-Qaida's leadership cadre has also been reinforced by the return of veteran commanders such as Said al-Adel, an Egyptian, and other seasoned jihadists from Iran, where they were reportedly held under varying degrees of restriction since late 2001.
Adel, a former Egyptian Special Forces officer and considered one of bin Laden's most able lieutenants, is reported to be operating in North Waziristan and planning major strikes against the West.
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