'Al-Qaida strike on Israel looming'

Deadly attacks in Amman show threat is getting closer, terrorism expert warns.

osama bin laden 298 AP (photo credit: AP)
osama bin laden 298 AP
(photo credit: AP)
It is only a matter of time before Israel becomes the target of a large scale attack launched by al-Qaida, Dr. Yoram Kahati, senior research fellow at the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies in Glilot told The Jerusalem Post. The well coordinated double suicide bomb and car bomb attack that rocked Amman's hotels on Wednesday night, bear all the hallmarks of al-Qaida, and should be a cause of concern for Israel, he said. "The threat is coming closer. An attack in Jordan should serve as a red light [warning] that an attack in Israel is only a matter of time. Six months, a year, or three, it will happen, it will be large scale and launched in a central, populated area," he said. Al-Qaida's trademark and strategy is to place more than one bomb at the target site to ensure that if one fails there is a backup. Using suicide bombers is also one of its strategies, as there is no danger of the perpetrators getting caught and executed, Kahati added. While Jordan has a good intelligence network, cooperation with Israel in the security intelligence field has existed for many years, mainly to maintain a quiet border between the two countries. According to Kahati, if Israel had any information concerning plans to attack Jordan, it would have informed the authorities. Kahati, who is also a research fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counter-terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, said he could not rule out the possibility that al-Qaida had infiltrated into the Gaza Strip. He bases his assumption on reports in the media by key IDF intelligence officials who assessed that operatives succeeded in entering Gaza via the Philadelphi Corridor during the days following the IDF pullout from Gaza, when the Rafah border crossing was turned into a free-for-all. However, Kahati noted that it is not the first time that al-Qaida cells have attempted to infiltrate Israel. The terrorism expert mentioned that already in June 2000 the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) arrested Nabil Oukal at the Gaza border crossing. Oukal allegedly told investigators that he was recruited by al-Qaida to form a network in the Palestinian territories. According to Kahati, Oukal visited Afghanistan while studying in Pakistan before returning to his native Gaza. In that same year, the Shin Bet also apprehended Jamal Aqel, a Palestinian with Canadian citizenship who likewise planned to set up an al-Qaida cell in Gaza and launch attacks against Israelis and Jews abroad, not just confine them to the Palestinian territories. So far responsibility for the Amman attacks was claimed by the "al-Qaida Jihad" branch in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. According to Kahati, Zarqawi has an open account to settle with Jordan - the country of his origin and where he was imprisoned between 1994 to 1999, then pardoned by King Abdullah, before becoming the leader of the group at the end of 2004. However, Zarqawi also views the region as the ultimate area in which to launch his jihad, and uses Iraq as a springboard for his future plans. He identifies with the Palestinians because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and views the region as the site where the decisive battle between Muslims and infidels will occur. Kahati reported that Zarqawi had previously mentioned that the liberation of Jerusalem, which is considered the third most important place to Islam, is a high priority for him. While the Amman bombings are a painful blow to Jordan and a slap in its face, they will not threaten the stability of the country or its strong regime. Even though Jordanian authorities said Thursday that their security forces apprehended a number of suspects and vehicles, it will take some time before they succeed in tracking down someone from whom they will be able to glean information. "[Al-Qaida] cells operate independently, and while they uphold Osama bin-Laden's vision, they plan and recruit volunteers from all over the world," Kahati said. "Their volunteers are Arab, Muslim and westerners," he continued, "they believe that Jihad is the only effective way to achieve their results." They have the patience to build their support network and plan attacks; their ideology appeals to the young generation, especially those who studied Islam. Persuasion triggers motivation and the belief that it is worthy to die for the cause. Unable to confront the West's modern military technology, al-Qaida has turned the "art" of suicide bombing into an effective human weapon, Kahati says, realizing that terror causes damage, harms economies and creates fear. While such a large network needs funds, Kahati believes that al-Qaida receives the money to finance its operations from so-called charity organizations, either via couriers or banks dotted throughout the world. While no documents have surfaced regarding the network's funding, it is clear that al-Qaida operations cannot continue to operate without funds being made available to purchase weapons and pay those who flock to its ranks.