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'Osama heading for Iraq'
August 17, 2005 11:12 IST
Last Updated: August 17, 2005 15:27 IST
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is headed for Iraq to boost his network's standing as it embarks on an 'offensive whose scale and importance rival September 9/11', a media report said.
Coded electronic signals intercepted in recent days among al Qaeda's Middle Eastern elements across secret Internet sites carry the message that the terror network's supreme leader has come out of his hiding in Afghanistan and has set out, or is about to set out, for Iraq, Debkafile, a weekly, known for investigative journalism reported.
Some of the signals schedule his date of arrival as the second half of September when Ramadan is estimated to begin, it said.
The signals cap a secret exchange of messages in recent weeks in which the organisation's Iraq commander, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, attempted to persuade bin Laden to leave Afghanistan and take command of the Ramadan offensive in Iraq.
According to Debkafile's exclusive couter-terror sources, Zarqawi is said to have argued that bin Laden's presence in Iraq would boost al Qaeda's standing.
The secret contents of the messages, which the weekly claimed to have been authenticated by its experts, have begun to leak out and set up a huge flap in al Qaeda networks, cells and affiliates in many countries and talk of 'a new jihad to honour the leader', the report said.
Among the possible routes that the terror chief can take is the long way round through Pakistani and Iranian Baluchistan borders and across the border into Iraq, it said.
Another alternative route, which he might find easier because of the organisation's established marine network through Pakistan, is the sea route.
The weekly had earlier reported that al-Qaeda has established a new marine base in the remote Gawatar Bay, a Persian Gulf inlet down the middle of which runs the Pakistani-Iranian border.
Its operatives are said to be active on both shores, on the Pakistani side, using the Baluchi villages strung along the River Dasht which empties into the divided bay as sanctuaries. On the Iranian side, they move around the Baluchi port of Chah-Bahar (Bandar Beheshti).
The global terror network has for months been running a sea corridor of smugglers' vessels into the southern Iraqi port of Basra from both these places, the report said.
If these signals are a true representation of bin Laden's plans and not a red herring, what is planned is a dramatic landmark battle in the global war on terror and the Iraqi conflict.