Al Qaeda's New 'Planning Chief' Adnan Shukrijumah Lived for 15 Years in U.S.
August 10, 2010
Al-Qaeda's new 'planning chief' lived in US for 15 years
The FBI has warned that al-Qaeda's new head of "global operational planning" is using his unprecedented familiarity with American society to plot attacks against the United States and other Western countries.
by Alex Spillius in Washington
Investigators believe that Adnan Shukrijumah, 35, is "extremely dangerous" in part because of the experience he can draw on having lived in the US for 15 years.
Shukrijumah has taken over a position once held by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11 World Trade Center attacks, who was captured in 2003.
His role puts him in regular contact with al-Qaeda's senior leadership, including Osama bin Laden, according to an FBI agent.
"He's making operational decisions is the best way to put it," said Brian LeBlanc, a Miami-based counter-terrorism agent. "He's looking at attacking the US and other Western countries."
"He knows how the system works. He knows how to get a driver's licence, he knows how to get a passport," he added. "He out there plotting the attacks and recruiting people."
Shukrijumah is also suspected of playing a role in plots against the London Underground and in Norway that never came to fruition.
The son of a Saudi Arabian imam, he travelled to the US with his parents as a young child and lived in New York and Florida. He assumed his alleged new role in the terror group after two colleagues on an "executive operations council" were killed by suspected US drone attacks, the FBI said.
The suspect's mother, Zurah Adbu Ahmed, who still lives in south Florida, said the authorities were using her son as a scapegoat. She said she had not spoken to her son since the September 11 attacks.
The US authorities believe he left the country in the late 1990s, visiting Trinidad and London on his way to al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan where he started with lowly camp duties.
The FBI has been searching for Shukrijumah since 2003 but moved him up their wanted list when three men accused of plotting suicide bomb attacks on New York's subway system last year named him as their key liaison in Pakistan.
He was "the one that convinced ... them to come back to the United States and conduct the attack here", said Mr LeBlanc.
Mr Le Blanc's warning came as the US State Department released their annual report into terrorist threats. It said that despite suffering the loss of a significant number of senior figures, al-Qaeda's leadership in Pakistan's tribal areas remained the "most formidable" terrorist threat to the US.
The report said that the terror group remained "adaptable and resilient" and continued to plot attacks against America, while building affiliates in Yemen and Africa.
The organisation had retained its ability to attract and train new recruits, including some from Europe and North America such as the Nigerian student behind the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a US airliner en route to Detroit.
The State Department's analysis is likely to boost critics among President Barack Obama's Democratic Party who are concerned about fighting an expensive and lengthy war in Afghanistan when the greatest threat is officially next door in Pakistan.
It underlines how nearly nine years after the devastating attacks on US landmarks, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri remain in command of al-Qaeda and able to communicate with the likes of Shukrijumah and increasingly well organised affiliates elsewhere.
Mr Obama has increased the use of remote-controlled drone attacks on the organisation's safe havens in Pakistan's tribal areas, but, according to the report, that hasn't prevented al-Qaeda from readily training and funding the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, despite some heavy losses among militants and their leaders, the Taliban's "ability to recruit foot soldiers from its core base of rural Pashtuns remained undiminished," the report said.