Page 2 of
Guantanamo and Hellfire By
Derek Henry Flood
The repetition of the
mastermind term may give US government officials
the idea that if only they could vaporize Ibrahim
al-Asiri driving along a Yemeni piste with spot-on
intelligence, the world would be able to breath a
sigh of relief that AQAP has been neutralized.
This view emphasizes the thinking that
al-Qaeda in general is a mostly hierarchical
organization that relies on prominent
personalities with high specialized skill sets in
order to perpetuate itself. Kill the man and you
kill the idea. This was likely the rationale
behind the wiping out of Awlaki and Khan last
year. This conventional American wisdom is then
bolstered by the Saudi and Yemeni regimes' own
internal agendas that can be advanced
through quid pro quo
cooperation with Washington.
destruction of AQAP's chief English-speaking
orator and propagandist was perhaps meant to bring
the interest of Anglophone militants in the
peninsular jihad to a halt.
belies the understanding that al-Qaeda in its many
incarnations is more about sustaining itself as a
self-replicating ideology rather than a peculiar
set of jihadi rock stars without whom the movement
would disintegrate overnight if only they could
all be eliminated in a furious barrage of
simultaneous drone attacks.
somewhat unevolved US strategy seems to still be
about smoking 'em out of their caves, this is to
stay the course on a foreign policy tract that
need never apologize, one that feeds into
al-Qaeda's worldview of a global Sunni purist
religious culture that is constantly under threat
from non-Muslim powers who are adept at co-opting
the corrupt local governments in the countries the
The drone pilots and
agents of the ongoing intelligence wars are
assuredly on the hunt for the AQAP bomb-maker.
When he is eventually killed, without trial in all
likelihood, there will be an inevitable successor.
Both sides in this clandestine war see themselves
as being in a desperate race against time.
Back in Guantanamo In
Guantanamo Bay, the one-legged prisoner Walid bin
Attash was trotted into a packed courtroom
strapped to a chair with his prosthetic leg
brought in separately.
Attash, a long-time
confidant of Bin Laden, was instrumental in the
planning of the Cole attack with Quso.
Attash had been involved in a failed attack on the
USS The Sullivans on January 3, 2000. Less
than 48 hours before all of the operatives would
gather at a red brick condo tower outside of Kuala
Lumpur, two al-Qaeda men attempted to motor out
into Aden's harbor to attack the American guided
missile destroyer, but failed when they overloaded
the vessel with so many explosives they could not
reach their intended target.
The dozen or
so al-Qaeda men held a three-day meeting along
with members of Jemaah Islamiyah in the Kuala
Lumpur suburb of Bandar Sungai Long at a
condominium owned by the Malaysian militant and
trained biologist Yazid Sufaat.
The condominium complex of
Yazid Sufaat where the Cole plotters and future
9/11 attackers convened from January 5-8, 2000, in
Bandar Sungai Long, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia's Special Branch intelligence agency
observed al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah members
coming and going during the three day meeting but
did not conduct audio surveillance.
At the request of
the CIA, Malaysia's Special Branch intelligence
photographed and videotaped several of the men
coming and going from the condo complex over the
course of the three days, including making calls
from a nearby pay phone to Aden, Sana'a and
A public pay phone
directly behind Yazid Sufaat's condo where calls
to the al-Qaeda "switchboard" in Yemen and a hotel
in Bangkok were made during the January 5-8, 2000,
summit outside the Malaysian capital. This phone
(or another very nearby) may have been used to
connect operatives in Malaysia, Thailand and
According to former Federal
Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigator Ali
Soufan who interrogated Quso in Yemen during the
Cole investigation, Walid bin Attash (whom
he labels Khallad) utilized a Malaysian pay phone
to contact Quso and future Cole suicide
bomber Ibrahim Thawar (aka Nibras) in Bangkok and
a Yemen-based operative called Abu Saif, Thawar's
Attash traveled to Thailand to meet
Quso, who delivered a large sum of cash to him.
Quso stated the money was for Attash to use at an
Endolite-brand prosthetic limb rehabilitation
center in Malaysia's Selangor state. The amount of
money delivered from Yemen to Attash by Quso was
suspiciously large for its purported purpose of
buying a prosthesis. The money may have been
handed over to the California-bound hijackers who
were en route from Bangkok to Los Angeles.
In August 2010, Asia Times Online visited
the site of the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit in
Bandar Sungai Long to try and identify some of the
environmental elements where the plotters of the
Cole attack and 9/11 briefly intersected.
In October 2011, Asia Times Online
approached Soufan about the idea of having him
look at photos taken of these sites to see if they
matched the three photos that the CIA had shared
with the FBI as described in his recent book
The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and
the War Against Al-Qaeda.
politely but abruptly declined to view the images
as even commenting on them could potentially
violate a strict contractual agreement he had
undertaken with the US government when publishing
Asia Times Online also visited
the Endolite prosthetic clinic in the suburb of
Petaling Jaya where Bin Laden had recommended
Attash and other injured jihadis could receive
artificial limbs with few questions asked.
The Endolite prothesis
clinic in Petaling Jaya, Selangor State, Malaysia
where Walid bin Attash (aka 'Khallad') was
instructed to get a prosthetic leg purportedly by
Osama bin Laden. Fahd al-Quso claimed under
interrogation that the $36,000 he delivered to
Khallad in Bangkok was for Khallad to be fitted
for an artificial leg here.
According to The 9/11 Commission
Report, Attash's visit to the clinic was his
official or initial raison d'etre for being in the
greater Kuala Lumpur area. After ostensibly
acquiring a new prosthetic leg in December 1999,
Attash then began casing flights and testing
airline security measures.
This period in
and around peninsular Malaysia is the early
gestation of the "planes operation" that would
become 9/11 and a key node in the "boats
operation" that was already in motion in Yemen.
Attash traveled to Bangkok, as did 9/11
hijackers Khalid al-Mihdar and Nawaf al-Hazmi.
Attash rendezvoused with a cash-laden Quso and his
accomplice Thawar at a hotel called the Washington
Hotel.  However, it is not clear whether the
Cole plotters ever encountered the 9/11 men
bound for southern California while both pairs
were in Southeast Asia.
appeared in the raucous Guantanamo court scene
alongside Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was the human
link between the Cole operation and 9/11.
Attash was at the center of a nexus that weaved
together Yemeni jihadis involved in the Aden
boat-borne incidents with those Saudis and others
who would later carry out 9/11. Attash was a key
interlocutor for Bin Laden in both plots as well
as the 1998 American Embassy bombings in Dar es
Salaam and Nairobi.
leading to Quso had a $5 million "incentive"
offered by the US State Department's Rewards for
Justice initiative if he could be captured, he was
essentially a dead man walking.
Awlaki, hailed from the al-Awliq tribe on which
both men relied for tribal loyalty and protection
while living for years on the run.
State Department lists one of his aliases as "Fahd
Mohammed Ahmed al-Awlaqi", indicating his tribal
After Quso had been in and
out of Yemeni custody several times, he came to
prominence a decade after the planning of the Aden
attacks were underway.
When the young
Nigerian jihadi Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was
getting ready to proceed with his mission of
downing an American airliner over the continental
United States, he reportedly sought the company
and consultation of Quso. Mutallab, the scion of a
well-known banker, tried to detonate PETN
explosives on a Northwest Airlines flight en route
from Schipol Airport in the Amsterdam suburb of
Haarlemmermeer to Detroit, Michigan. Quso later
appeared in online videos boasting of his exploits
featuring saber-rattling rhetoric threatening the
In both of these severe
paradigms, the definitive narrative and the true
nature of the Sunni Islamist war against the
American homeland can never be actualized due to
the blunt killing of or opaque legal measures
obscuring the remaining non-state actors who were
directly involved in the East Africa embassy and
USS Cole bombings and 9/11.
Notes 1. See Tom
Lasseter, "Guantanamo secret files show US often
held innocent Afghans," McClatchy Newspapers,
April 26, 2011. 2. In much of the literature
related to the background of the 9/11 plot, Attash
is noted as either Tawfiq bin Attash or by his
more infamous alias "Khallad". For examples see:
Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda
and the Road to 9/11, (New York: Vintage
Books, 2006), pp 350, 371-372; Ali H Soufan and
Daniel Freedman, The Black Banners: The Inside
Story of 9/11 and the War Against
Al-Qaeda, (New York: W W Norton and Company,
2011), p 300. 3. Though the hotel where Quso,
Thawar and Khallad met in Bangkok is repeatedly
called the Washington Hotel in some of the
relevant Cole bombing and 9/11 literature,
there is a hotel called Washington Suites which is
the likely locale the aforementioned sources are
Derek Henry Flood
is a freelance journalist specializing in the
Middle East and South and Central Asia and has
covered many of the world's conflicts since 9/11
as a frontline reporter. He blogs at
the-war-diaries.com. Follow Derek on Twiiter
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