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>Israel Faxx Extra
>JN Vol. 10, No. 95A, May 24, 2002

Fresh Mass-Casualty Terror Wave Plotted for Israel and US

By DEBKAfile via Gamla News Service

The word is out in the United States: Al-Qaeda, Hizbullah and the Egyptian and Palestinian Islamic Jihad groups are about to strike.

US intelligence has been leaking information, based on fragmentary intercepts of terrorist transmissions, of impending mass-casualty attacks in the United States, Europe and the Arabian Peninsula, including the Persian Gulf.

DEBKAfile's anti-terrorist sources add the Middle East, including US military and civilian targets and Israel, to the list of targets. In the words of Vice President Dick Cheney, "It is not a question of if but when" the next terrorist attack - dwarfing the Sept. 11 strikes in New York and Washington -- takes place.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke to a Senate committee of the inevitability of terrorists adding nuclear, biological and chemical weapons to their arsenal, if they do not already possess weapons of mass destruction. Syria, Iraq, Libya, North Korea stand ready to supply them. Underlining US bioterrorism fears, the UN's World Health Organization earlier this week reversed a long-standing order to destroy the world's smallpox virus stocks by the end of the year, to allow the manufacture of vaccines and develop treatment for the deadly disease.

The world organization, which seems to be stuck in a pre-9/11 time warp, did not reveal that it was effectively rubber-stamping the secret manufacture of millions of batches of smallpox vaccine by dozens of pharmaceutical factories worldwide. It is being done in readiness for a biological terrorist attack, against which the US government has ordered 500 million doses. Wednesday, May 22, the House passed a $4.4 billion bill to strengthen the nation's bioterrorism preparedness by stockpiling vaccines and boosting imported food inspections.

DEBKAfile's intelligence sources cite spy agencies in the United States, Britain, Russia and Israel as being convinced that sleeper terrorist cells, directly run or supported by the Iranians, Libyans, North Koreans, Syrians and Iraqis, have laid hands on biological weapons, including smallpox.

On another ominous note, the FBI has issued the New York police department with "general warnings" of terrorist attacks over the weekend. Among the possible targets: the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge, which was briefly closed early on Wednesday morning, May 22, in a bomb scare.

According to DEBKAfile's intelligence and counter-terrorism sources, the terror talk emanates from three main sources:

A . Some is linked to the US administration's efforts to explain away the failure of President Bush and the White House to share with the American public warnings registered in August 2001 of imminent terrorist attacks in the US. A month later, hijacked airplanes toppled the World Trade Center and slammed into the Pentagon.

But additional information is flowing in - albeit generalized - on the type, time and place of the next terrorist wave, including a heavy
volume of intercepts that experts have not been able to decode pointing to an attack on a massive scale. History is repeating itself -
officialdom knows something big is in the works, but cannot tell exactly where and when it will happen.

Even if Bush were to sound the alarm, it would be without specifics, such as the nature of a threatened strike on the historic Brooklyn
Bridge and its outcome. (The bridge was marked as a target by Ramzi Yousef and his gang in 1993. See the first article in the series appearing on this page about what Presidents Clinton and Bush knew about terrorist attacks).

B. Some of the alerts derive from al-Qaeda disinformation. Fear, anxiety and confusion are the terrorist's most potent weapons. If they cause millions of New Yorkers to shut themselves up at home over the weekend or longer - as Israelis have been doing for months - the harm to the economy will be tremendous. The terrorists will have achieved one of their primary goals of seriously damaging New York without resorting to a single violent attack.

C . Other threatening data is garnered from the field. It is a lot more specific and pinpointed than A. and B. but the authorities are not
releasing the details for fear of burning intelligence sources, sowing popular panic and tying their own hands. But many counter-terrorism experts confide to DEBKAfile that this approach will have to be abandoned in the face of the seriousness and potential scale of the coming wave of terrorist attacks. Governments cannot combat terrorist organizations without matching their exceptional flexibility.

The US administration and its anti-terrorist agencies take into account that terrorists may set off a radiological bomb to contaminate large urban districts, or other nuclear devices.

DEBKAfile's intelligence and counter-terrorism sources say authorities in several countries are getting set for nuclear terrorist attacks with casualties in the region of 10,000 or 50,000.

Such preparations are underway in the main American cities, especially in Washington, New York and Los Angeles. In Britain, London and large cities in the north, such as Leeds and Manchester, are being prepared for nuclear assault, as are Moscow, Tel Aviv and other Israeli coastal cities. European cities, such as Milan, Paris and Berlin, know they could be targeted.

According to the latest intelligence information in US and Israeli hands, several dozen terrorists - if not more - have managed over the
past few weeks to infiltrate the United States, prompting a wide manhunt. Other international terrorist cells have reached Israel. Neither the Americans nor the Israelis have captured any alive, which leaves the information without direct verification.

Israel engaged some of those foreign cells for the first time in close quarters combat in April, in the course of its large-scale counter-terrorist Defensive Shield operation in the West Bank. None survived battle, denying the intelligence authorities crucial information about the composition of those terrorist cells, the nationalities of their members, their weapons and tactics. The conventional wisdom in the United States and Israel is that not much time is left to figure it all out.

DEBKAfile's intelligence and counter-terrorism conclude from the field investigations that Imad Mughniyeh, the Iranian-Palestinian-Shi'ite Lebanese terror master, is the moving force behind the terror wave in the making. He is widely believed in the US intelligence community to have aided in planning the Sept. 11 attacks.

Shortly before President Bush landed in Berlin Wednesday, May 22, US authorities alerted Berlin and Austria to terrorist threats - especially against tall buildings in the Austrian capital.

DEBKAfile's counter-terrorism experts stress that the terrorists will not necessarily go into action as soon as they arrive at their target destinations. They must first scout out local contacts and pick up their weapons or explosives which will have been delivered in the meantime.

DEBKAfile's intelligence sources can disclose that the Americans recently set up a counter-terrorism base in Cyprus in an attempt to track Mughniyeh's movements and those of his main operatives - but without success.

According to the sources, the Americans and Israelis know that Mughniyeh attended a summit meeting of top terrorist chiefs convened in Lebanon in late April or early May. They met at the Hizbullah's Husseini base in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley, which is occupied by Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen. Present were Iranian intelligence officers and the chiefs of the Lebanese Hizbullah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the PFLP-General Command, including the group's operations officer Jihad Jibril, who was subsequently assassinated in Beirut on Monday, May 20 by a bomb planted in his car. Also there were the heads of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and their operations officers.

Although Mughniyeh is believed to be Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khamenei's personal intelligence and terrorist officer, he was known to have been a member of al-Qaeda's terrorist and operational command, long before Sept. 11, also acting as liaison officer between Khamenei and Osama bin Laden.

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