Al Qaeda's plan to attack Kabul with airliners


It may be one of the more audacious terrorist plots to be hatched in Afghanistan, but it was certainly not the most original. The same al-Qaida masterminds behind 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington planned to commit a similar attack in the capital of the country that once harboured them, according to a file among US military intelligence documents published this week by the WikiLeaks website.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida's second in command, is said to have given the order for a team of 22 to board one or more planes at Kabul airport, hijack the aircraft and steer them toward a number of "important objectives".

The targets were to include Hamid Karzai's presidential palace, Nato headquarters, the British and US embassies and the Ariana hotel – the whole which the CIA rented and used as its station in Kabul.


The report on the alleged hijack plot, recorded by intelligence officers on 23 March 2009, highlights the mixed quality of western intelligence, particularly the large number of "threat reports" fed to coalition forces each day – there are almost 2,500 for Kabul alone in the five-year period covered by the logs.

On the one hand the airline plot report is detailed, naming a number of conspirators, including Afghan or Pakistani generals and a pilot from the Afghan national carrier, who were allegedly involved in providing the hijackers fake IDs and "facilitating anti-coalition training".

Whereas the 9/11 hijackers went to flight schools in Arizona and Florida, the Kabul plotters were due to receive flying lessons at a "private air club in Karachi". Apparently their ideological indoctrination had already begun as they attended a madrasa in Khukitan, in Pakistan's Swat valley.

All 22 were al-Qaida members and included Arabs, Pakistanis, Chechens and Uzbeks with fake Afghan IDs, the report claims. At an unspecified date they would enter Afghanistan and try to obtain Russian, Chinese and Iranian visas to allow them to fly to those countries.

The plot was hampered by the lack of flights leaving Kabul at any given time--there are not very many. I think it is a reflection of the desperation in the al Qaeda leadership to do something that will make them look relevant. That probably want happen until they turn themselves in.


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