- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2002

A senior al Qaeda leader described as the terror network's chief of operations in the Persian Gulf and a key planner in the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen has been captured and turned over to U.S. officials, law-enforcement authorities said yesterday.
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a confidant of al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, was arrested "a few weeks ago" in an undisclosed foreign country and handed over to U.S. authorities, said a senior U.S. official, and was cooperating during ongoing interrogations.
His capture comes eight months after the arrest by FBI and CIA agents in Pakistan of Abu Zubaydah, al Qaeda's overall operational planner and a top member of bin Laden's inner circle, and the Nov. 3 death of Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, a key al Qaeda operative, killed when a missile fired from a CIA Predator drone hit his car in Yemen.
Al-Nashiri, born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, was among a dozen top al Qaeda leaders actively pursued.
U.S. officials had acknowledged that a key al Qaeda leader was in custody but declined to identify him. On Sunday, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge also said without elaboration that an unnamed terrorist was providing information to his interrogators.
Considered an explosives expert, al-Nashiri is believed by authorities to have directed and arranged financing for the Cole attack and to have made the bomb used to blow a hole in the side of the destroyer while it was tied at the port of Aden in Yemen. The blast killed 17 sailors and injured 39 others.
Al-Nashiri also is suspected in several other al Qaeda terrorist operations, including the Aug. 7, 1998, simultaneous bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed 224 persons, including 12 Americans.
He also is believed to have been a key planner in several terrorist plots aimed at U.S. Navy targets over the past three years, including a scheme in Aden to bomb another destroyer, the USS The Sullivans, nine months before the Cole attack. That plan failed when the suicide boat sank after being overloaded with explosives.
Al-Nashiri, also known as Omar Mohammed al-Harazi and Abu Bilal al-Makki, was a key suspect in a failed al Qaeda conspiracy to bomb U.S. and British warships crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, and in a plot to bomb the U.S. 5th Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain. At least four persons have been arrested in those schemes.
The 5th Fleet is responsible for the Persian Gulf area and exercises command and control over all naval operations throughout the region from a headquarters in Manama, Bahrain. It plays a leading role in the war in Afghanistan, supports the enforcement of the no-fly zone over southern Iraq and is critical to the U.N. economic embargo against Iraq.
Al-Nashiri, said to be in his mid-30s, also was a key suspect in the Oct. 6 attack of the French tanker off the coast of Yemen that killed one crewman. He purportedly oversaw the planning and financing of terrorist attacks, supervised the purchase and transportation of explosives and arranged for safe houses for al Qaeda members.
He was believed to have been in Ghazni, Afghanistan, when the war began in October 2001, although U.S. intelligence officials said he fled to Pakistan after the Taliban fell. The most recent reports have put him in Yemen.
At a trial in New York, four men were convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the embassy bombings in Africa. They are Mohammed Rashid Daoud Al-Owhali, 24, a Saudi national; Khalfan Khamis Mohammed, 27, of Tanzania; Wadih El-Hage, 40, a Lebanese American who lived in Texas; and Mohammed Sadeek Odeh, 36, of Jordan.
Bin Laden also has been indicted in the embassy attacks.
Key evidence in the case was what prosecutors called a terrorist handbook proclaiming a holy war against the United States and U.S. interests overseas. The book, written in Arabic and translated as "Military Studies in the Holy War Against Tyrants," was found by police in the Manchester, England, apartment of an al Qaeda member.
The book is part of an 11-volume manual, each section containing 250 to 500 pages. Its topics include surveillance, resisting and inflicting torture, security, lying to immigration officials, holding a gun, building a bomb, using knives and obtaining phony documents.
It also detailed ways al Qaeda could keep the FBI from learning of its plans by organizing into small groups or cells, none of which would have any idea what others were doing. It said if one cell member was caught, the other cells would not be affected and "work would proceed normally."
The book also suggests that al Qaeda members try not to seem Islamic and not travel with their wives, saying the women "have an Islamic appearance that attracts attention," and encourages members to shave their beards, carry cigarettes, wear cologne and read regular magazines so "no one would suspect they were part of a terrorist organization."


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