AUGUST 2012081080AUGUST 2012
ust two 5.56mmbullets ﬁred from a USNavy SEAL Heckler &Koch 416 assault riﬂe– a double tap in thechest and head – endeda more than decade-long manhunt forOsama bin Laden.Within hours of binLaden’s death on May2 last year, astonishingdetails of OperationNeptune Spear beganto emerge: 79 elitecommandos had fast-roped fromstealth Black Hawk helicopters, deepinto the terror mastermind’s lair,before blasting their way up threeﬂoors to kill him.The breathtaking heli-assault –launched from over the border in Afghanistan into a quiet suburb of Abbottabad, Pakistan –
havedecapitated the al-Qaeda menace.But nobody in the shadowy worldof counter-terrorism truly believedthat bin Laden’s death would endal-Qaeda. Put simply: the brandremains bigger than the man.In a back street pub in London’sMayfair, a retired MI5 ofﬁcerexplains: “Bin Laden’s death mayhave killed off al-Qaeda’s ﬁgureheadand avenged 9/11. It even offeredclosure for the Americans. But binLaden was no longer an effectiveguerilla leader. He was an old manwho’d been on the run for years.“However, so much of jihadi belief relates to martyrdom, so bin Ladenlives on in the minds of his followersand inspires fresh recruits. He was of more use to counter-terrorism as anold man with possible kidneyproblems, but now he’s a martyr.”
WHO’S THE NEWBIN LADEN?
Al-Qaeda may be on the ropes, butthe idea lives on. Its new leader Ayman al-Zawahiri – a 61-year-oldEgyptian doctor – may lackbin Laden’s charisma, but heis utterly ruthless and hisloathing of the West hasbeen spurred on by the lossof his wife and three childrenin Afghanistan in 2001.They were killed by a USair strike following 9/11. Azza, al-Zawahiri’s ultra-conservative wife, refused tobe rescued, as the mendigging her out of the rubblewould have seen her face. Al-Zawahiri was appointedsoon after bin Laden diedand the US immediately slapped a $25 million “kill or capture” bountyon his head. He is unable to travel toinspire jihadis and is probably hidingin a Pakistan safe-house. Al-Zawahiri’s lack of mobility isn’tal-Qaeda’s only major stafﬁngproblem right now. Since 2003, theCIA has launched many devastatingair strikes against ﬁghters inmountainous Waziristan, a lawlesstribal area in north-west Pakistanwhere al-Qaeda thrives.More than 300 Hellﬁremissile attacks ﬁred fromMQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1Predator UAVs – unmannedaerial vehicles – have killed2,300 militants, around 300of them mid-level al-Qaeda leaders, and dozens of themsenior commanders.Just a few weeks ago,a US missile strike killed theterror network’s second-in-command, Abu Yahya al-Libi– the biggest score for theCIA since bin Laden’sassassination. Media-savvy,charismatic and adored by hisfollowers, al-Libi was known toCIA spooks as “al-Qaeda’s generalmanager” (if you imagine al-Qaeda asa branch of Tesco, then al-Libi was incharge of deliveries, stock-takes andthe deli counter) and was in charge of inspiring jihadists around the globe– including the UK.British jihadists who’ve managed toslip under MI5’s radar and travel toPakistan for terror-training includetwo of the four who killed 52 andinjured more than 700 by blowingthemselves up with home-made,peroxide-based bombs on the Londonunderground on July 7, 2005. As one British intelligence source,speaking about the carnage of 7/7,told
: “We have to get lucky
. Al-Qaeda only have to getlucky
and look at the result:blood, body-parts, unimaginablehorror on our capital’s streets.”But endless US drone attacks havestruck fear and paranoia deep intothe heart of al-Qaeda – demonstratedby the fact that they’ve almostentirely ceased communicating overthe airwaves and internet.The ex-MI5 ofﬁcer told
suffered. Towardsthe end, bin Laden was contactinghis lieutenants via courier becausethe CIA was so all overcommunications in the region.“Drones have killed key al-Qaeda ﬁgures, and the widespread use of informers has instilled paranoia anddistrust. But although al-Qaeda maybe fragmented, its ideology – that of spreading Islamic fanaticism – isstrong. As with the bin Laden legend,it’s impossible to kill an idea.”The former agent goes on: “That’swhy, a year after bin Laden’s death,London has Rapier ground-to-airmissile launchers in one park, thewarship
will be docked inGreenwich and RAF Typhoon jets areon duty for the Olympics.“In counter-terrorism, we all knowthat it’s not
there will beanother attack against Britain.”
HOW ARE BRITISHINTELLIGENCE STAYINGAHEAD OF THE TERRORISTS?
A young Muslim man, his headbuzzing with stories of martyrdom,dodges through the bustle of Heathrow Airport and approachesTerminal 3 check-in. He fumbles forhis ticket to Karachi, Pakistan, fromwhere he will travel to join theMujahideen ‘holy warriors’ of his
AL-QAEDA 2.0AL-QAEDA 2.0
THE BEST WRITERS ARE IN
Chris Hughes is the
’s defencecorrespondent. Hewas the ﬁrst Western journalist into Iraqpost-9/11 and the ﬁrstreporter into SaddamHussein’s bunker. Hisbook,
Road Trip To Hell
, details his timespent with troops inIraq and Afghanistan.
Anyone can align themselves withthe al-Qaeda ‘brand’, regardless ofwhether or not they have any past in jihad. Any loner with a gripe againstsociety can latch onto al-Qaeda’swarped take on Islam and join itsterror network.Former SAS Warrant OfﬁcerRobert Henry Craft, a counter-terrorexpert at the frontline of specialforces operations against terrorismfor 14 years, says: “Al-Qaeda is adysfunctional franchise. There’s nofocused and effective global commandstructure. But what that means is thatany potential jihadi – any random blokesitting in a bedsit – can declare himselfan al-Qaeda operative just by decidingto become one.“There is a genuine fearthat there are many such‘lone wolves’ out there.The problem is, if they’retruly alone and they’re nottalking to people abouttheir intentions, then theymay avoid being pickedup by the intelligenceagencies until theyattempt to carry out anaction, try to procureequipment, or boastabout their intentions.”
LONE WOLVES:AL-QAEDA’S INVISIBLETERROR TROOPS
WHAT IS A ‘LONE WOLF’ – AND WHY SHOULD I
WORRY ABOUT THEM?
One of the biggest fears for
Britain’s Security Service is an attack by a ‘lone wolf’ – a solo operator who’sunknown to MI5 or their network oftipsters, and therefore capable ofoperating undetected.
BELOW, FROM TOP:AL
ZAWAHIRI AND AL
dreams and return to the UK a trained terrorist.Suddenly, two men in plainclothes ﬂank him and say ﬁrmly,“Police. You need to come with us.”In a back room, two more menintroduce themselves as ofﬁcers fromthe Security Service. Through thehaze of the young man’s confusion,he hears a voice say, “You probablyknow us better as MI5.”Within two hours, the would-be jihadi’s life is pulled sharply intofocus as he’s informed that MI5 know
about him: who hisfriends are, where he’s headed –and why. After being snitched on bya ‘tout’ – a tipster or agent – insidethe Muslim community, he’s beenbugged and followed for months.They tell him that if he were tocontinue his journey to Pakistan,upon his return to he would haveMI5 and the police’s SO15 CounterTerrorism Command on his tail 24/7.He’ll never know if any of this is true,but it’s enough to convince him toabandon his trip. Nor will he know
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP:A
BLACK HAWK, LIKE THEONE USED IN BIN LADEN'SASSASSINATION, PATROLSPAKISTAN'S MOUNTAINOUSTERRAIN; MQ
1 PREDATORDRONES HAVE BEEN VITALIN WIPING OUT AL
QAEDAOPERATIVES; BIN LADEN INHIS ABBOTTABAD HIDEOUT.LEFT: TERROR RECRUITS TRAIN INLEBANON. HERE: TOULOUSE GUNMANAND 'LONE WOLF' MOHAMED MERAH