NEW YORK (Reuters) – Before his death, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had recruited hundreds of people who received terrorist training in Iraq and then returned to their home countries to await orders, The New York Times reported in Sunday editions.
Citing high-ranking security officials in Jordan, the Times said that in addition to recruiting volunteers and suicide bombers to fight in Iraq, Zarqawi had recruited some 300 people who received terrorist training in Iraq before returning home to
await orders to carry out strikes.
While U.S. counterterrorism officials said they too had seen movement of terrorists from other countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt into Iraq for training under Zarqawi and his associates, they said they believed the number of those trained and
sent home to await orders was probably significantly lower than 300, the Times said.
Not that it takes very many to wreak havoc.
“My sense is that the next step might have been mobilizing his recruitment networks to attack Europeans,” the Times quoted Steven Simon, a former National Security Council staff member now at the Council on Foreign Relations, as saying. “That’s one
reason I think his death makes a difference.”
Perhaps not, in this case, since Zarqawi’s followers have already sworn allegiance to whoever emerges as his successor.
The officials said Zarqawi had managed to set up logistical operations in Syria, Iran and Libya that funneled volunteers into Iraq, and that as the insurgency became increasingly driven by Iraqis, he wanted to spread it global reach and mount a challenge to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri as the leader of a global terrorist war.
German authorities also have arrested 18 suspected members of Ansar al Islam and the Zarqawi network since December 2004, including three Iraqis charged with plotting to assassinate former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi during a visit to Germany