Egyptian officials said yesterday they had detained dozens of bedouin tribesmen on suspicion of supplying the explosives for the blasts at the Taba Hilton and at a bungalow beach camp 35 miles down the coast.
As rescuers pulled more bodies from the wreckage of the hotel, Dan Arditi, Israel’s counterterrorism chief, urged tourists still in Egypt to come home, warning that the attacks on Thursday “don’t lessen, even in the slightest, the risk that this will happen again”.
The order to Mossad to turn its attention from Palestinian groups to Al-Qaeda was given by Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, after Israeli intelligence sources said the size of the blasts suggested they were the work of Osama Bin Laden’s network rather than Palestinian suicide bombers.
Confirmation may be provided by fingerprints taken from bomb fragments and DNA obtained from the remains of the suspected bombers.
Arditi had urged Israelis on September 9 to avoid the area because of indications of an imminent terrorist attack. His warning appeared on the front pages of the country’s main newspapers on the eve of the Jewish new year.
“This time Al-Qaeda hit our back yard,” said a security source. “If we don’t focus on them, next time it will be Tel Aviv. After four years of intifada we’ve succeeded in containing the Palestinian terror, but now we’re facing a much more ruthless enemy we can’t ignore any more.”
It is not the first time Al-Qaeda has gone after an Israeli target, or that Sharon’s government has vowed to take it on. The group claimed responsibility for the car bombing in November 2002 of an Israeli-owned hotel in the Kenyan port of Mombasa that killed 14 people, including three Israelis.
After that attack Sharon summoned Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, and ordered agents living undercover in Saudi Arabia and Yemen to hunt down those responsible. Almost two years later the perpetrators remain at large — a reflection, according to the security source, of the agency’s concentration on combating Palestinian operations.
When Mossad was presented with a list of priorities for the current year, Al-Qaeda was not on it. Its main efforts were instead to be directed at Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the activities of Palestinian terrorist groups in Lebanon and Syria.
Israeli intelligence sources said they believed the Taba attack had been masterminded by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian doctor regarded as Bin Laden’s deputy. In a statement broadcast this month on the Al-Jazeera satellite television channel, al-Zawahiri threatened to focus Al-Qaeda’s efforts more intensely on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Nothing is known about how Mossad will carry out its mission, especially against al-Zawahiri, who is believed to be in hiding near the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Intelligence sources said this weekend the organisation — which has no more than 150 agents operating all over the world — would not try to compete with America’s CIA.
It would instead focus on Turkey and Thailand. “We’ll co-ordinate with the local security services, but our main aim will be to protect Israeli tourists in these two locations,” said one intelligence source.
The agency would then work in a more systematic way, by listing top Al-Qaeda activists and trying to kill them in the same way they have done over the past 40 years in operations against various terrorist groups. “To hit an Al-Qaeda leader either in Saudi Arabia, Europe, or even Tehran is less difficult than to act in Damascus,” said one intelligence source. “It’s all a matter of priorities.”
Matti Friedman, former AP journalist, spoke at a BICOM dinner in London on January 26. His speech is an absolute must-read. (h/t Alex) U...
Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون
This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 11 years and over 23,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.
The Jerusalem Report:"A seemingly indefatigable one-man operation, armed only with a computer, chutzpa and stamina."Algemeiner: "Fiercely intelligent and erudite"
Omri: "Elder is one of the best established and most respected members of the jblogosphere..." Atheist Jew:"Elder of Ziyon probably had the greatest impression on me..." Soccer Dad: "He undertakes the important task of making sure that his readers learn from history." AbbaGav: "A truly exceptional blog..." Judeopundit: "[A] venerable blog-pioneer and beloved patriarchal figure...his blog is indispensable." Oleh Musings: "The most comprehensive Zionist blog I have seen." Carl in Jerusalem: "...probably the most under-recognized blog in the JBlogsphere as far as I am concerned." Aussie Dave: "King of the auto-translation." The Israel Situation:The Elder manages to write so many great, investigative posts that I am often looking to him for important news on the PalArab (his term for Palestinian Arab) side of things." Tikun Olam: "Either you are carelessly ignorant or a willful liar and distorter of the truth. Either way, it makes you one mean SOB." Mondoweiss commenter: "For virulent pro-Zionism (and plain straightforward lies of course) there is nothing much to beat it." Didi Remez: "Leading wingnut"