FILE PHOTO: U.S. TROOPS OUTSIDE FALLUJAH
Anja Niedringhaus  /  AP file
U.S. troops apparently killed two al-Qaida in Iraq members involved in a plan to send terrorist cells outside the country during the battle for Fallujah in late 2004, but recent communiqués by the group indicate the plot may have outlived its planners.
By Terrorism analyst
NBC News
updated 7/25/2006 6:58:36 PM ET 2006-07-25T22:58:36
ANALYSIS

In recent communiqués that have received scant attention from Western analysts, the successors of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi at the helm of al-Qaida in Iraq claim to have deployed highly trained explosives teams outside Iraq and state that “good news” is expected to be forthcoming from these terrorist cells very soon.

The messages, posted in Arabic-language Internet chatrooms frequented by al-Qaida representatives and supporters, suggest that initial terrorist forays into Jordan and Lebanon last year by al-Qaida in Iraq were part of a deliberate and continuing strategy of expanding their jihad into Iraq’s susceptible neighbors.

According to al-Qaida in Iraq, the architect behind current efforts to use Iraq as an engine for international terrorism was a Libyan operative killed during the battle for the Iraqi city of Fallujah in late 2004. Abu Nasser al-Liby — as he was known — had no prior combat experience to speak of, but nonetheless quickly distinguished himself among his comrades. In order to cement his bond with al-Zarqawi’s organization, Abu Nasser teamed up with a veteran Afghan-trained explosives expert from Syria known as Abu Abdullah al-Shami.

‘Rifle powder was his perfume’
An al-Qaida eulogy distributed over the Internet following his death in Fallujah in late 2004, Abu Abdullah was known to “carry a small suitcase with bomb-making equipment and (he) went from one Mujahadeen unit to the next teaching courses and striving to instill the pillars of this art. … The bang of explosions was his music, rifle powder was his perfume, and experimenting with bombs was mere fun and games for him.” 

When Abu Nasser married Abu Abdullah’s daughter in a highly symbolic and secretive ritual inside Iraq, al-Zarqawi himself was reportedly among the groom’s honored guests.

Meanwhile, as U.S. and Iraqi military forces regrouped in mid-2004 for a second advance on the restive, insurgent-controlled city of Fallujah, Abu Nasser and his father-in-law apparently took advantage of the lull in fighting to pursue a special jihadist project.

According to a biography distributed only weeks ago by al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Nasser was during this time “busy… training a large number of brothers on bomb-making and he formed combat units located outside of Iraq.”

Allegedly, Abu Nasser was “able to complete his desired mission” before being subsequently slain during the second assault on Fallujah later that year.

Terrorists hoping for ‘good news’
In addition to identifying Abu Nasser as the key player in forming international terrorist cells on behalf of al-Zarqawi, the group’s media spokesmen have added this chilling closer: “Allah willing, perhaps the Lord will enable us to hear good news from them soon.”

The belligerent tone of the communiqués calls into question early optimistic assessments from some observers predicting that the death of al-Zarqawi would cause an ideological collapse among his followers — pushing them to carry out more targeted conventional insurgent attacks and less indiscriminate violence against civilians, particularly foreigners and Shiites. 

Taken in the context of the lingering dramatic bloodshed in Baghdad, al-Qaida’s latest threats offer further indications that that al-Zarqawi’s successors are just as intent as he was upon continuing the tsunami of executions, assassinations and suicide bombings, and possibly exporting it far beyond the borders of Iraq. 

Evan Kohlmann is an NBC terrorism analyst, a consultant to the Nine Eleven Finding Answers  Foundation and founder of Globalterroralert.com.

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