Muslims charged in Sarajevo with suicide bomb plot in Europe - linked to 40 member 'Internet Al Qaeda' global terror cell
August 27, 2006
A Younger Savvier Terror Cell
By Anes Alic in Sarajevo for ISN Security Watch (06/07/06)
Since October last year, 40 teenagers, several of whom met each other face-to-face or via the internet, have been arrested worldwide and indicted on terror charges in a case in which prosecutors are trying to prove that all suspects were linked in a European terrorism cell.
Though none of the suspects have been connected to any previous terror attacks, prosecutors believe that the group, if indeed it is proved to be a group, was preparing suicide attacks in countries in which they lived.
Prior to their arrests, there is evidence showing that many of the suspects had made contact with each other either face to face or using the internet.
Moroccan national Younis Tsouli, a 22-year-old computer expert, was arrested in October in London. Authorities believe he is the central figure in a cyber-terrorist network that reaches from Europe to North America.
Investigators say they have found in Tsouli's computer files an internet trail linking some of the 39 other terror suspects arrested in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Britain, Denmark, the US and Bangladesh over the past eight months.
An international investigation was launched in late 2004 when the suspects were discussing the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq and the situation of Muslims around the world in a chatroom under surveillance by the FBI and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). According to intelligence reports, the suspects were expressing radical anti-western sentiments.
Prosecutors in each country are trying to prove that the suspects belong to a widely dispersed group of radicalized Islamic militants, most of them very young, who are doing their own recruiting, indoctrination and training - a new breed of terrorists, and a new European cell that prosecutors have since dubbed the "Internet al-Qaida Network."
Prosecutors also believe the investigation into the alleged cell could shed some light on how the 2004 Madrid terrorist attack and the bombing of London's transport system last year were planned and implemented.
In both of attacks, local extremists appear to have managed their own affairs, from recruitment to arming.
From Sarajevo to Toronto
Indeed, on 24 June, FBI director Robert Mueller stated that homegrown terrorists could emerge as a greater threat than groups like al-Qaida. "We have already seen this new face of terrorism on a global scale in Madrid, in London and in Toronto. We have also witnessed this so-called self-radicalization here at home," Mueller was quoted as saying.
In a videotape confiscated during an arrest in Sarajevo, the message was clear: "These brothers are ready to attack and, God willing, they will attack the infidels who are killing our brothers and Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan. This weapon will be used against Europe, against those whose forces are in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Forensic evidence later proved the voice on the tape to be that of Mirsad Bektasevic, a Bosnian national with Swedish citizenship who was living with a family in Bosnia at the time of his arrest.
On 19 October, anti-terrorism police in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina arrested Bektasevic and Cesur Abdulkadir, a Turk national with Danish residence, in a Sarajevo apartment that belonged to the former's cousin. This was the beginning of what is now believed to be an international investigation into a new terrorism cell stretching from Bosnia to Canada.
Some 30 kilograms of explosives, dozens of guns, a suicide bombers' vest and a videotaped last will and testament were confiscated in raids on the three apartments being rented by the suspects in Sarajevo and the surrounding suburbs.
The videotape, a key piece evidence in the case, shows the two men asking God for forgiveness for the sacrifice they were about to make. The two suspects are also shown making bombs, including one planted in a lemon and another planted in a tennis ball.
Though prosecutors have been unable to prove the alleged cell's intended target in Bosnia was, a high-ranking police source close to the investigation has told ISN Security Watch that the targets were believed to be US and British embassies in Sarajevo, or, more likely, the European Union Force (EUFOR) military base in the Sarajevo suburb of Butmir, just 100 meters from the apartment in which the first two suspects were arrested.
Bektasevic and Abdulkadir have denied plotting terrorist attacks, though they were unable to explain the weapons found in their apartment.
Weeks after the arrest, Bosnian police arrested three more people connected to Bektasevic and Abdulkadir. Two of them, indicted for possession of explosives, were later released on bail after agreeing to be key witnesses for the prosecution.
The third, Bajro Ikanovic, a former soldier of the El-Mujaheed unit, which fought against Bosnian Serb forces during the 1992-1995 war, was also indicted for terrorism. Ikanovic was charged as the main supplier of explosives for Bektasevic and Abdulkadir. They all pleaded not guilty, and the trial is expected to start on 20 July.
While in Sarajevo, Bektasevic was in contact with a militant imam in Denmark named Abdul Basit, who is facing terrorism charges in Denmark, according to ISN Security Watch's Bosnian police source .
In the intercepted telephone conversation on 7 October, Bektasevic asked Basit to send him money for the goods they received - goods police believe were the explosives found during the investigation.
"Try to see if we can get more money, because I, thank God, my brother, found some really good stuff, you know," Bektasevic said during the telephone conversation.
Amir Bajric and Senad Hasanovic, charged with selling explosives and released on bail, confirmed to investigators that they had not been paid for the explosives and guns they sold to Bektasevic and Abdulkadir.
Bektasevic is also suspected of being the jihadist recruiter who used the on-line name Maximus. US media reported that Maximus communicated with other key jihadist operatives on the internet, including Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, the late al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, who was recently killed by US and Iraqi forces.
Further boosting the idea that the 40 arrests since October are connected, Bektasevic has been interrogated by half a dozen international intelligence agencies since he was arrested.
On 26 June, during Bektasevic's latest court hearing, his lawyer, Idriz Kamenica, complained that his client had been visited for long periods at a time by officials from Canada, the US, Britain, Sweden and Denmark.
A spokesman for the Bosnian Prosecutor's Office, Boris Grubesic, told local media that during the investigation into suspected terrorist activities last year the office had contacted officials from many countries.
Two days after the Sarajevo arrests, a London raid resulted in terrorism related charges against Tsouli, Waseem Mughal and Tariq al-Daour, whose trials are expected to begin in January.
Officials believe Tsouli was using one of his chat rooms to communicate with radical recruits in Toronto and Atlanta. They also believe his cyber code name was "Irhabi007" (Arabic for "Terrorist007").
According to the Bosnian indictment, Tsouli was in possession of Swedish and Bosnian telephone numbers, Bektasevic's numbers. In the London raid, police discovered both Bektasevic's Bosnian and Swedish phone numbers.
Tsouli was not indicted for any involvement in actual terror attacks. His reputation came entirely from his alleged role as one of al-Qaida's most effective computer hackers and propagandists. He is said to have helped distribute online weapons manuals and videotapes of bombings and beheadings and taught seminars on how to operate undetected on the web and hack into vulnerable web sites.
His seized computer is alleged to contain a presentation on how to make car bombs, various bomb-making manuals, and a digital video clip of Washington monuments. According to British authorities, Tsouli was also allegedly in contact with the Toronto area group.
Soon after the Toronto arrests, British authorities moved to arrest six more locals linked to each other, including one who had recently visited Canada.
Only days later after the London and Sarajevo arrests late last year, police in Denmark arrested six teenagers believed to be linked to those arrested in Bosnia. Denmark police also arrested 21 others, relatives and friends of six arrested, but they were released soon afterwards.
Police said they raided the suspects' homes in the Copenhagen area, seizing computers, computer discs, radical literature, and mobile phones. The identities of the arrested and other details have not been revealed an the investigation is ongoing.
In March and April this year, two young Georgian Muslims, Syed Ahmed and Ehsanul Sadeeque, were arrested and charged with materially supporting terrorism.
Sadequee was arrested on 17 April at the request of the FBI in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka, where his family claims he went to get married. He was extradited to the US later that month.
Just a few months earlier, FBI agents reportedly had interviewed him after finding two suspicious compact discs in his luggage as he was flying out of the US. He told agents he had recently been to Toronto to see his aunt.
He is now charged with lying to the FBI, which says he traveled to Toronto and then Pakistan to learn how to become a terrorist.
According to US prosecutors, in March last year, Ahmed and Sadeeque, traveled to Canada to meet several men who were the target of an ongoing US government investigation.
Ahmed was taken into custody at Atlanta's Hartsfield airport upon his return from Pakistan, where the FBI claims he had gone for terrorist training. Ahmad's family said he had visited Pakistan to attend a religious school.
According to court documents cited by western media, the men discussed attacks against oil refineries and military bases and planned to travel to Pakistan for military training at a terrorist camp.
Ahmed was arrested on charges that he videotaped the Capitol building in Washington and several Atlanta targets. US media reports said it was the same footage found on Tsouli's computer – but those reports have not been independently confirmed.
The most recent arrests believed to be connected to the alleged new cell took place on 2 June in Canada, when 17 suspects were apprehended. A core group of six men have been charged with conspiracy to explode a series of truck bombs in the center of Toronto.
Their targets allegedly included the Toronto stock exchange and the local CSIS headquarters, and prosecutors also say plans were under way to storm the parliament building in Ottawa and to behead the prime minister, Stephen Harper, if he failed to order Canadian troops home from Afghanistan.
Members of the Toronto cell were under close surveillance since at least November 2004, when some of them were identified by Canadian agents monitoring websites sympathetic to al-Qaida.
The alleged ringleader, 21-year-old Fahim Ahmad, is said to have been in contact with other suspects in Britain, Pakistan,and the US, who had visited Toronto last year.
In June 2005, two Somali Canadians, Yasin Abdi Mohamed and Ali Mohamed Dirie, were arrested in Fort Erie, Ontario, and convicted of smuggling three handguns purchased in the US. The investigation showed they had used a car rented by Ahmad.
Following the Canada arrests, the FBI's Meuller praised the operation, saying it was the result of "high-level co-ordination, co-ordination between international law enforcement and intelligence agencies in Canada, United States, Denmark, Britain, Bosnia, Bangladesh and in other countries."
DANISH TURK CHARGED WITH TERRORISM IN BOSNIA
Danish Turk charged with terrrorism in Bosnia
Text of report by Danish radio website on 11 April; subheadings as published:
The prosecuting authorities in Bosnia have decided to charge a Danish Turk, a Swede and a Bosnian with terrorism offences. Two others who were accused in the case have been charged with illegal possession of weapons and the possession of dangerous materials.
The court has to decide within a week whether the charges are sufficient for a court case. Court time will then be allocated to the case. If the three terror suspects are found guilty they risk between one and 15 years' imprisonment.
Terrorist attacks in Europe
The investigations in Bosnia have been underway for almost half a year since Danish Turk CA and Swede MB were arrested and imprisoned in Sarajevo on 19 October.
They are suspected of planning a terrorist attack at an unspecified location in Europe. The Bosnian police found 20 kilograms of explosive, body belts for suicide attacks and something resembling a farewell video in association with the arrests.
According to a source in the prosecuting authorities in Sarajevo no further terrorism charges are being prepared but investigations are continuing.
Evidence from Denmark
During the trial the prosecuting authorities will probably use evidence from Denmark. Deputy Chief Constable Finn Ravnborg and Detective-Inspector Sten Skovgaard of the Glostrup Police, who are investigating the Danish part of the case, were in Sarajevo in December, where they met the Bosnian prosecuting authorities to exchange information and evidence.
The Swede's defence solicitor, Idris Kamenica, does not believe the prosecuting authorities have sufficient evidence to convict his client. However, he has not yet seen the prosecuting authorities' material.