Al-Qaida Webmaster Tied to Canadian Terror Plot
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.
MADELINE BRAND, host:
And I'm Madeline Brand. The alleged terrorist plot in Canada may have been inspired by a man who goes by the Internet name Irhabi 007. Irhabi means terrorist in Arabic. His real name is Younis Tsouli, and Younis Tsouli was arrested last October in London, accused of running al-Qaida Web sites. The Wall Street Journal says today there may be evidence that Younis Tsouli was communicating with the Toronto cell, as well as with an Atlanta cell. Two suspected terrorists were in Atlanta last March. They are accused of meeting with Islamic extremists in Canada, and discussing locations in the U.S. to bomb. Here to tell us more about these two cells, and about Younis Tsouli, a.k.a. Irhabi 007, is Evan Kohlmann. Evan Kohlmann is an al-Qaida expert. He advises authorities here and abroad about tracking down terrorist suspects. And welcome to the program.
Mr. EVAN KOHLMANN (al-Qaida Expert): Thanks for having me.
BRAND: Well, tell us more about Younis Tsouli. Who is he?
Mr. KOHLMANN: He's actually a fairly fascinating individual. When he first popped up on the scene in 2004, I think there was some debate whether or not he was a serious terrorist or not. I mean, it's hard to imagine that a real terrorist would go around using the name Terrorist 007. It's rather comical, actually. But, in fact, this person assembled quite a reputation for himself as an on-line assistant to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, among other al-Qaida leaders, to the point that Zarqawi's official representative on the Internet actually came out with a statement, thanking Irhabi 007, blessing him. And, you know, saying may Allah protect you. It was reflection of the growing role that Irhabi 007 was playing, or Younis Tsouli was playing, in coordinating al-Qaida media efforts in the Internet.
BRAND: So how is he considered linked to terrorist plots if he's just running Web sites?
Mr. KOHLMANN: Well, this is the thing, is that, you know, the debate about cyber terrorism has always been at the end of the line. Are we dealing with 14-year-old kids that, you know, talk a good game, but when it comes down to it, they're not really doing anything in real life. And I think the same exact question was applied to Irhabi 007, a.k.a. Tsouli, many times. The fact is is that in his spare time, or in the real world, Tsouli was actively engaged - at least as far as we know - in organizing several terrorist cells, spread across Europe, and perhaps even North America now. We know of investigations relating to Tsouli going on now in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Denmark, in Sweden, in the United Kingdom, and beyond. And, in fact, with some of these folks that were in contact with Tsouli, they had gotten to the point that they had build suicide bomb vests, and they had made (unintelligible) videos of themselves, saying we're about to use these weapons. This is the targets we're going to carry out, you know, targeting against, and this is why we're doing it.
BRAND: What does this tell us in terms of how al-Qaida is now organizing itself?
Mr. KOHLMANN: Well, it's interesting. These cells are very different from what I would call the typical al-Qaida cell, at least as what we would think of it. This cell is much more similar to what I would say the 77 bombers were in the sense that you have non-Arabic speakers. You have folks that, in some cases are, you know, English - native English speakers.
BRAND: The 77 being in London?
Mr. KOHLMANN: Right, the 77 bombers being in London, exactly. Most interestingly, and I think this goes to the lessons learned from the Madrid bombers cell - the cell responsible for attacking trains in Spain - that this cell is, again, another case where you have folks that are self-organizing, self-motivating. Do they have connections to al-Qaida? Definitely. Are they in contact with al-Qaida leaders? Definitely. But what they're doing at a local base this year, it's not necessarily being sanctioned by anyone in particular. It's something that they're coming up with on their own. And, you know, it's one thing when you see that in Pakistan, or if you see that in Saudi Arabia, but to see that inside of the United Kingdom and Canada, it doesn't bode well for U.S. National Security.
BRAND: Evan Kohlmann is the founder of Globalterroralert.com. He's also a consultant to authorities here and abroad on terrorism issues. Thanks a lot.
Mr. KOHLMANN: Thank you very much.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.