UAE rolls up al Qaeda cell

For years, the United Arab Emirates appeared to be off the target list for terrorist groups. Its ultramodern city-state, Dubai, has emerged as the Switzerland of the Middle East, a place where Iran, al Qaeda, and neighboring oil kingdoms parked their money in banks that rarely asked and rarely told. After the 9/11 attacks, soft targets in Amman, Riyadh, and Baghdad were hit—as were Egypt’s resorts. But Dubai and the UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, escapedal Qaeda’s wrath.

That looks like it’s changing. On Wednesday, the UAE official news agency reported the country’s security service, working in conjunction with Saudi Arabia, rolled up a terror cell planning attacks for the emirates and other Gulf States. The report made reference to “the deviant group,” the preferred euphemism that state-run media there uses for al Qaeda.

Two U.S. officials confirmed the arrests. One said the cell, which included both Emiratis and Saudis, served as a “support network” for groups with links to al Qaeda, but was not in the final phase of planning a major attack. The UAE state press quoted an official as saying the cell was “planning on carrying out actions that infringe on the national security of both countries and brotherly nations.”

“The reality is the UAE is not immune to terrorism,” said Juan Zarate, a deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism under George W. Bush and a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Zarate, a pioneer in tracking and disrupting the financial networks of terrorist groups, added, “Dubai has always served as a crossroads for the movement of people, goods, and money. It has been attractive to lots of legitimate commercial activity as well as lots of those the United States considers to be enemies, including the Taliban, Iran, and al Qaeda affiliates.”

For years, Dubai’s permissive banking environment gave American spies a rare look into the financial doings of some of its worst adversaries, U.S. intelligence officials said. These days, the city-state is home to a large U.S. consulate from which American spies monitor Iranian actions across the Persian Gulf; the diplomatic outpost also coordinates visas to Iranian academics and former officials seeking to visit the United States for the unofficial talks known as “track two” diplomacy.
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For example, in November 2002, UAE authorities arrested Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the man U.S. authorities say was the mastermind of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. In 2010, UAE authorities played a role in unraveling a Qaeda plot to smuggle bombs onto airplanes by embedding the explosives in printer cartridges. Until this year, the UAE was the primary funder of a Somali counterpiracy force being trained by security contractors in the port city of Bosaso, in Somalia’s autonomous Puntland state.

The arrests Wednesday are not the first time UAE authorities have taken action against al Qaeda-linked groups on its on soil. In 2009, authorities arrested a cell that targeted landmarks in Dubai, but did not announce the arrests publicly.

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Dubai and the UAE are generally first class.  The airport is one of the most modern I have seen and Emirates  Airline is really good if you have to travel to that part of the world.  Dubai is bristling with new office buildings and condo apartments.  The latter can cost over $5,000 a month for a relatively modest space, but employers generally pick up the tab for ex pats whether they are engineers or teachers.

However, if you are going to have sex, you better do it at home because westerners have been thrown in jail for little more than PDAs.

Saudi intelligence is actually pretty good so I am not surprised they learned of the al Qaeda plot.  I put the Saudi's intelligence operations up there with Jordan and Israel.  I suspect the UAE probably relies on them.

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