Seeking to “raise the pressure” in Europe with possible attacks on air and rail travel. “Al Qaeda May Be Plotting Holiday Attacks,” by Farhan Bokhari and Sheila MacVicar for CBS News:
Intelligence agencies have been warned that al Qaeda may be planning to attack air and rail travel in Europe in actions that may occur during the busy holiday travel season, CBS News has learned exclusively.
In separate interviews with Arab and other intelligence sources, CBS News has been told that the warnings come from interrogations of al Qaeda suspects who recently left Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“One suspect said plans for repeating the Heathrow attempt (a reference to the failed ‘liquid bomb’ plot interrupted in August) were all prepared. It is now a matter of taking
action,” said one Arab official who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “Al Qaeda’s strategy appears to be raising the pressure in Europe.”
In a move that has been puzzling intelligence agencies, al Qaeda has been withdrawing well-trained Arab fighters from the mountains and battlefields of Afghanistan.
In detailed interviews with Arab diplomats, intelligence sources and Pakistani and western officials, Arab members have been leaving Afghanistan for the past six months while handing over its militant activities in Afghanistan to that country’s resurgent Taliban movement.
The new information helps to shed fresh light on a key mystery at the heart of al Qaeda’s decision, first reported by CBS News in September, to withdraw its Arab members, fighters and logisticians from Afghanistan.
“We believe that today the Arabs are much more useful to bin Laden if they are deployed in their home countries, particularly in the Middle East, to target Western assets, Western interests. Because of that we have seen a shift in al Qaeda thinking and al Qaeda strategy in encouraging members to leave Afghanistan and Pakistan,” says [Rohan] Gunaratna.
There is much more in the full CBS article, linked above, with respect to the al-Qaeda-Taliban dynamic, as well as Iranian involvement in the harboring of al-Qaeda fighters.