9/11 Plotter Warned of "Nuclear Hellstorm"

(Apr. 26) -A detainee in September walks through the recreation yard at the U.S. detention center for "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The top al-Qaeda planner of the September 11 strikes on the United States claimed the organization would conduct a nuclear attack if leader Osama bin Laden was captured or killed, according to leaked official documents (John Moore/Getty Images).
(Apr. 26) -A detainee in September walks through the recreation yard at the U.S. detention center for "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The top al-Qaeda planner of the September 11 strikes on the United States claimed the organization would conduct a nuclear attack if leader Osama bin Laden was captured or killed, according to leaked official documents (John Moore/Getty Images).

The al-Qaeda operative who led planning for the September 11 attacks on the United States warned after being captured that the terrorist organization would detonate a nuclear weapon if leader Osama bin Laden was captured or killed, the London Telegraph reported on Monday (see GSN, April 12, 2010).

Statements from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were included in records that detail interrogations of suspected extremists being held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The transparency organization WikiLeaks on Sunday began making hundreds of documents public.

"A senior al-Qaeda commander claimed that the terrorist group has hidden a nuclear bomb in Europe which will be detonated if bin Laden is ever caught or assassinated," one document states. "The U.S. authorities uncovered numerous attempts by al-Qaeda to obtain nuclear materials and fear that terrorists have already bought uranium."

Sheikh Mohammed, who is due to face a military tribunal this year for his suspected role in the 2001 attacks, "told interrogators that al-Qaeda would unleash a 'nuclear hellstorm,'" the record adds.

"The 20th 9/11 hijacker, who did not ultimately travel to America and take part in the atrocity, has revealed that al-Qaeda was seeking to recruit ground-staff at [London's Heathrow Airport] amid several plots targeting the world’s busiest airport," according to a document. "Terrorists also plotted major chemical and biological attacks against this country."

Other would-be attacks against the United States called for dispersing cyanide through air conditioners in public facilities and using gas explosions to destroy apartment buildings, according to interrogation reports (London Telegraph I, April 25).

The files indicate that Libyan national Abu al-Libi "has knowledge of al-Qaeda possibly possessing a nuclear bomb" and could pinpoint the site of the weapon allegedly set to be used in the event of bin Laden's capture or death.

Egyptian detainee Sharif al-Masri was reported to have said that the al-Qaeda members handling the weapon "would be Europeans of Arab or Asian descent."

Al-Qaeda's ability to obtain the material, technology and know-how to carry out a nuclear strike remains deeply in question. Records indicate that U.S. officials conducting the interviews focused heavily on seeking to determine whether the terrorist organization could actually acquire weapon-usable nuclear substances.

Yemeni detainee Salman Yehah Kasa Hassan was said to have asserted that "an associate of his brother was apprehended attempting to see uranium for $500,000." The material was allegedly seized by officials in Yemen and "was rumored to have disappeared in a transaction" with bin Laden, one document states.

When detained in 2003, Afghan "weapons dealer" Mohammad Zahir was reportedly holding a paper that cited "two or three cans of uranium" to be used "for the production of an 'atom bomb,'" another says.

Other documents further indicate al-Qaeda's interest in uranium. The group also looked at chemical or biological strikes, records suggest.

One leading al-Qaeda member talked with others about a "dirty bomb" strike that "would combine a regular explosive with uranium or other radiological material," one document states. Radiation "would be disbursed throughout a limited region due to the blast, exposing all within the area to the radiated material." The hope was to produce "latent illness for most, as well as widespread panic far exceeding the affected area," according to the document (Holly Watt, London Telegraph II, April, 26).

One detainee at Guantanamo Bay said during an interview that another prisoner, 63-year-old Saifullah Paracha, "desired to help al-Qaeda 'do something big against the U.S.," records state. The cite the one-time New York travel agent as talking about acquiring biological or nuclear arms, but being worried that sensors at seaports "would make it difficult to smuggle radioactive materials into the country," the New York Times reported.

The documents released by WikiLeaks again highlight issues of whether Washington's view that detainees at Guantanamo Bay represent a threat to the United States can hold up against the conditions under which they are held.

The records “are rife with uncorroborated evidence, information obtained through torture, speculation, errors and allegations that have been proven false," said American Civil Liberties Union national security project chief Hina Shamsi.

Added David Remes, a defense attorney for Paracha: “The notion that he ever did anything that justified his detention, or ever was or is any kind of threat to the United States, is preposterous. He is a 63-year-old man with a serious heart condition and severe diabetes, and he has been nothing but cooperative with the authorities.”

A leaked document says that Paracha was detained in Bangkok, Thailand, while in possession of a Casio digital diary that "contained references to military chemical warfare agents, and their effects on humans." After being taken to the detention site, Paracha reportedly told officials that he had collaborated with Pakistani nuclear scientist and proliferator Abdul Qadeer Khan (Shane/Weiser, New York Times, April 25).

April 26, 2011
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The al-Qaeda operative who led planning for the September 11 attacks on the United States warned after being captured that the terrorist organization would detonate a nuclear weapon if leader Osama bin Laden was captured or killed, the London Telegraph reported on Monday (see GSN, April 12, 2010).