A top al-Qaida operative believed to have been killed two years ago is now thought to be alive and well and working to develop weapons of mass destruction.
After a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan in January 2006, President Pervez Musharraf and his intelligence officials said that Abu Khabab Masri had been killed.
But U.S. intelligence officials believe that Abu Khabab, an Egyptian-born chemical engineer, was not killed in the raid and has set up labs in remote parts of Pakistan where scientists and researchers can work to develop chemical and biological weapons.
According to recent intelligence, Abu Khabab is “training Western recruits for chemical attacks in Europe and perhaps the United States, just as he did when he ran the ‘Khabab Camp’ at al-Qaida’s sprawling Darunta training complex in Afghanistan’s Tora Bora region before the Sept. 11 attacks,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
Raphael Perl, head of the Action Against Terrorism Unit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said al-Qaida most likely developed chemical weapons years ago, and is “certainly not far” from developing biological weapons.
After the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, American authorities found materials at the Darunta complex that indicated al-Qaida was aggressively seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction, according to the Times.
Abu Khabab’s links to terrorism date back to at least the mid-1980s in Egypt. The U.S. tracked him to Pakistan in June 2004 and offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.
In January 2006, U.S. officials learned of a meeting in Damadola, Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border, that Abu Khabab and other al-Qaida operatives were to attend. The CIA fired missiles at the site from Predator drones, killing as many as 18 people, and soon after Musharraf said Abu Khabab was among the dead.
But according to the Times, the CIA has concluded that Abu Khabab is alive, based on evidence from human intelligence and electronic intercepts of conversations.
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