London man ran Web sites to recruit al-Qaida bombers
Craig Whitlock and Spencer Hsu
The Washington Post
LONDON — A 23-year-old Moroccan-born computer whiz who helped recruit suicide bombers for the al-Qaida in Iraq insurgent group was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday in the latest case to illustrate Britain’s struggles to contain the spread of Islamic radicalism. Two collaborators also were sentenced.
Younis Tsouli, who described himself online as a terrorist James Bond, pleaded guilty to running a network of Web sites filled with al-Qaida beheading videos and other propaganda from his home in London. Prosecutors accused him of acting as an electronic conduit between al-Qaida’s organization in Iraq and militants from around the world looking for a way to volunteer for missions there.
“He actually served as a kind of travel agent, setting up suicide bombers with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,” a top insurgent leader who was killed in a U.S. airstrike last year, said Evan Kohlmann, a New York-based private counterterrorism analyst who testified at the trial as a consultant for Scotland Yard. “He represents an unusual phenomenon: someone who is homegrown, who lives in the West, and has managed to make that jump into the world of real terrorism.”
Evidence introduced at the trial included transcripts of anonymous chat-room postings, including one from 2004 that read: “We are 45 doctors and we are determined to undertake jihad and take the battle inside America.”
The message referred to using six Chevrolet GT vehicles and three fishing boats and blowing up gasoline tanks with rocket-propelled grenades. As a target, the posting mentioned a U.S. naval base and related strip clubs, singling out the now-retired aircraft carrier U.S.S. John F. Kennedy.
The FBI and the Homeland Security Department on Thursday released a statement saying that the matter “has already been thoroughly investigated,” that hundreds of threats related to the case had been investigated and that they “consider this threat not to be credible.”
A U.S. counterintelligence official said the Web threats are signs of discussions within the radical Islamic underground. “The tactics used by different terrorist organizations are the subject of debate within those organizations,” the official said.
British counterterrorism officials downplayed the possibility of any link between the three-year-old posting and the arrest in recent days of eight doctors and medical workers suspected of plotting failed car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow.
The case illustrates the difficulty facing British police and security services, who have said they are overwhelmed by the task of monitoring the activities of about 2,000 Islamic radicals in the country, a number that has more than doubled in recent years.
Tsouli, the Webmaster sentenced Thursday, is the son of a Moroccan diplomat. He became famous in cyberspace for using the online ID “irhabi007,” a combination of the Arabic word for “terrorist” and the secret service call number for fictional British spy James Bond.