From ABC News, with thanks to Nicolei:
However big a shock a recent suicide bombing in Doha was to the Qataris, it was far from unexpected in Western capitals, where intelligence agencies had discreetly put out a travel warning through their respective embassies.
The emirate, a key ally in the Bush administration’s war on terror, has been high on the terrorist target list ever since it became home to the U.S. Central Command’s operational headquarters in early 2003. Just five days before the March 19 blast, which killed a British teacher and wounded 12 others, the State Department issued a general warning to all Americans travelling in the Gulf that “extremists may be planning to carry out attacks against Westerners and oil workers” in the region. What did surprise intelligence officials was the name of the group which claimed responsibility for the bombing: Jund al-Sham (“Soldiers of the Levant”).
Although the group said that this was its first statement, Jund al-Sham is the same name as a group started by the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Intelligence officials believe it may be a sign that Zarqawi is beginning to attack targets outside Iraq, and may, in fact, be emerging as a replacement to Osama bin Laden as the operational leader of the global jihad. Analysts are concerned that Zarqawi may now begin to redeploy his cadre of militants who, having gained important combat experience in Iraq, are capable of carrying out deadly missions elsewhere.
According to Jordanian government sources and European intelligence documents, Zarqawi first set up Jund al-Sham in Afghanistan in late 1999 with $200,000 in startup money from bin Laden. The group’s objective was to operate in a geographical area known as the “Levant,” which encompasses Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan where al Qaeda’s presence was deemed too weak. Headed by Zarqawi, Jund al-Sham federated about 150 jihadis, including Jordanian Islamic militants exiled by the Jordanian government earlier that year, as well as various recruits from Syria (some holdouts of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood), and Lebanon (mostly Palestinian refugees of the movement “Asbat al Ansar“). These militants were trained in explosive, guerrilla warfare and chemical weapons techniques at a training facility (“Al Matar Training Camp”) operated by Zarqawi near the Afghan city of Herat, close to the Iranian border.
The group’s stated objective, according to Jordanian intelligence documents, was a compromise between Zarqawi’s obsession to destabilize the Jordanian monarchy and bin Laden’s desire to conduct major terrorist operations in Israel. From Herat and Kabul, where the organization had its headquarters, its members started planning several terrorist operations, including the “Millennium Bombings” in Jordan in December 1999. Most of these plots were fortunately uncovered by the Jordanian intelligence which had sent its own recruits to “join” Jund al-Sham in Afghanistan in 1999. After 9/11 and the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, the organization was visibly disbanded and most of its members, including Zarqawi himself, fled back to their home countries through Pakistan or Iran….
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