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Sep 18th, 2008

Deadly Training Ground

Are Al Qaeda fighters returning home from Iraq to launch new attacks against U.S. targets?

Image: Smoke outside the U.S. embassy in San'a, Yemen
Smoke billows from the U.S. Embassy complex in San’a, Yemen, after a deadly car bombing on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008. (Photo credit: Yemen News Agency)

By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball
Newsweek logo
September 17, 2008

The car bombing outside the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, which killed 16 people Wednesday, is the deadliest single terrorist attack on a U.S. government facility since September 11 …

“This is the largest attack against a U.S. facility since 9/11,” a U.S. counter-terrorism official (who asked not to identified by name) e-mailed NEWSWEEK in response to questions. That grim milestone could undercut claims of overall success in the war on terror. Indeed Yemen — as much as Pakistan and Afghanistan — remains a country where U.S. counter-terrorism efforts have been hampered by repeated setbacks. …

“This has all the earmarks of Al Qaeda,” said Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent who spent years investigating the U.S.S. Cole bombing and other Al Qaeda operations in Yemen. “It indicates a new level of sophistication that we haven’t seen by Al Qaeda in Yemen for a while. It also suggests some new expertise — either by people who were in jail and were released or people who have come back from Iraq or were trained in Somalia.” …

More ominous is the prospect that the militants who carried out Wednesday’s attack might have been fighters who had returned from battle in Iraq — a potential harbinger of more operations to come. A Yemeni source (who asked not to be identified because of political sensitivities) said the Yemeni government has been concerned about returning Iraq fighters for some time …

The Yemeni fighters returning from Iraq were coming back having learned new and sophisticated techniques to avoid detection by security forces. They avoided use of cell phones and e-mail. …

Full story


Background context

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat

By Mark Massetti

September 24, 2006

A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks. …

Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,” it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official. …

National Intelligence Estimates are the most authoritative documents that the intelligence community produces on a specific national security issue. …

In early 2005, the National Intelligence Council released a study concluding that Iraq had become the primary training ground for the next generation of terrorists, and that veterans of the Iraq war might ultimately overtake Al Qaeda’s current leadership in the constellation of the global jihad leadership. …

Full story


Governor’s Assistant Killed in Northern Iraq

September 17, 2008

BAGHDAD — Gunmen killed a Sunni assistant to the governor of one of Iraq’s most volatile provinces on Wednesday, the latest in a series of attacks that have marred the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in Iraq.

Shamil Younis, an engineer who handled technical affairs for Gov. Duraid Kashmola, was killed in a drive-by shooting as he was walking home after finishing prayers at a nearby mosque in Mosul, police said. …

Kashmola, who is the governor of Ninevah province, of which Mosul is the capital, himself survived an apparent assassination attempt this summer.

The June 26 car bombing struck near the site where Kashmola was inspecting damage from an earlier explosion that police believed was meant to lure him to the market area in Mosul. At least 18 people were killed in the attack. …

Full story



7 Soldiers die in helicopter crash in Iraq (AP, Sept. 18, 2009) — Seven American soldiers were killed in southern Iraq early Thursday when their helicopter crashed as it was flying into the country from Kuwait, the U.S. military said. … Full story



Gates: U.S. Reviewing Its Afghan War Strategy

U.S. and allied forces face growing and more complex insurgency

Image: Robert Gates in Afghanistan
Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Afghanistan.
(Photo credit: Tech Sgt. Jerry Morrison / AP)

September 18, 2008

LONDON — The Bush administration is looking at possible changes in its war strategy in Afghanistan in light of rising levels of violence and an increasingly complex insurgent threat, Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged Thursday. …

Gates noted that violence has been on the rise in Afghanistan for the past two years, in part because of cross-border attacks from al-Qaida, Taliban and other extremist elements that find refuge in neighboring Pakistan. And he said the nature of the insurgency in Afghanistan has changed, with a wider variety of extremist groups that, while not centrally coordinated, pose an evolving challenge. …

Full story

6 Responses to “Iraq: Terrorist Training Ground”
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