Details of alleged Norwegian plot

The Associated Press has an interesting story this morning, concerning the recent arrests of an alleged jihadist bombing cell in Norway last month. Three men, Mikael Davud (39), a naturalised Norwegian of Uighur origin, Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak Bujak (37) an Iraqi Kurd and David Jakobsen (31), who was a Uzbek national, are alleged to have been plotting to construct hydrogen peroxide based explosives, but had not chosen a target. Davud and Jakobsen were both arrested in Norway, while Bujak was arrested in Dulsburg, Germany before being extradited.

Apparently the authorities had been aware of the plotters’ intent for some time, having intercepted emails to and from a contact in Pakistan (who may have been al-Qai’da’s chief of external operations, Saleh al-Somali). Unaware that they were under surveillance, the men proceeded to procure the precursor materials for their devices and over a two-week period in August/September 2009 they purchased nail polish remover, a one-liter bottle of 30-percent hydrogen peroxide, citric acid, flour and laboratory equipment, including a scale, gloves and dust masks. However, the authorities had ensured that the pharmacy which sold the men their chemicals in fact sold them a hydrogen peroxide substitute, thereby rendering any device they went on to construct harmless (this is an old counterterrorism trick – in Northern Ireland the police and army were adept at identifying PIRA arms caches and replacing explosives and ammunition with inert or dud substitutes, a process known as ‘jarking’)*.

However, the alleged plotters never got to the point of finding out that their bomb components had been jarked. Apparently Davud was spooked when detained by police on a trip to Turkey in September 2009 – this is said to have made him more cautious; also, it is has been suggested that their al-Qai’da contact in Pakistan may have been killed in a drone strike in December 2009. Finally, one of the cell members, Jakobsen, switched sides and in Autumn 2009 went to the Norwegian security services and began informing on Davud. This appears to be another example of the sort of thing I talked about in this previous post, specifically the downsides to depending upon decentralised amateurs who don’t have access to expertise or resources from a sponsoring organization. This plot was apparently doomed from early due to a lack of effective operational security awareness, which was then compounded by one of the cell member having a change of heart and going to the police.

* For more detail on the use of ‘jarking’ as a means of disrupting attacks see :Urban, M. Big Boys’ Rules: The Secret Struggle against the IRA: Faber & Faber, 1992.

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Alleged Overt logistical supporters go on trial

Abdulla Ahmed Ali

Abdulla Ahmed Ali

Three men went on trial yesterday, accused of assisting the cell of British jihadists who sought to smuggle liquid explosives aboard commercial aircraft with the intent of conducting suicide attacks onboard while in the air (also known as Operation OVERT, the name given to the police operation which interdicted the cell). The trio are Adam Khatib, 22, Mohammed Shamin Uddin, 39, and Nabeel Hussain, 25.

Uddin is accused of helping the plotters by researching how to manufacture explosives using hydrogen peroxide while Hussain is accused of providing financial support. Khatib appears to be accused of having provided general assistance to the plot’s ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali who was convicted in a second trial last month, along with two other accomplices.

This simply reinforces the point that such plots and attacks are not necessarily simple, and beyond the bombers themselves there may be a wider support and logistical infrastructure.

Sri Lanka disrupts suicide assassination plot

ltte_image.jpgIf this story is to be believed, it appears that the LTTE’s former leader might be capable of striking back from beyond the grave. Sri Lanka’s intelligence service claims to have disrupted a plot to use at least one and possibly two suicide attackers to assassinate the island’s defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, who also happens to be the President’s brother.

It is implied that the plot may have been underway for several months, which would be in keeping with previous LTTE assassination attempts. The LTTE had previously been able to put Black Tiger assassins and their supporting elements in place long before the actual attack took place.

This poses the question how many other Tiger cells might still be operating in Sri Lanka, working towards missions assigned to them before their leadership’s demise earlier this year. Presumably as the Sri Lankan security forces interrogate those captured during the final days of Prabhakaran’s leadership, similar plots and cells may emerge.