Nytt

Det er Newsweek som forteller dette. Selve kjernen i storyen er tynn, og man har bygget den rundt kjent stoff. Det er forståelig. Å skaffe fakta rundt slike operasjoner er både vanskelig og farlig.

Newsweek fikk åpenbart høre om De 12 under opphold i Afghanistan/Pakistan. At det eksisterer en slik gruppe virker plausibelt. Pakistan er blitt det nye kjerneområdet for Al Qaida. Spesielt etter avtalen som gjorde Waziristan til et friområde for stammer og jihadister. Musharraf-regjeringen lovte å trekke seg ut.

Det er nå det store antallet pakistanere i flere europeiske land, blant dem Storbritannia og Norge, som utgjør et sikkerhetsproblem. Salafisme-retningen og jihadisme tiltrekker seg unge gutter på jakt etter en identitet. Trafikken til Pakistan gjør det vanskelig, for ikke å si umulig, å kontrollere hvem som gjør hva. Det reiser 400.000 bare fra Storbritannia til Pakistan hvert år.

De 12 dro nedover langs den samme undergrunnsruten som jihadister til Irak benytter. De reiste via Tyrkia, Syria og Afghanistan, for å unngå å etterlate spor. Reisen tok en måneds tid. I Waziristan er de blitt skolert ideologisk og våpenteknisk i ett år. De var ferdig i oktober, og ble også sendt med Taliban inn i Afghanistan for å se jihad på nært hold.

De 12 er ledd i en langsiktig strategi fra al Qaidas side. De er ikke ment som levende bomber, men som operatører og planleggere. Al Qaida planlegger å ha slike på plass over hele Europa med tiden.

For the past year, a secret has been slowly spreading among Taliban commanders in Afghanistan: a 12-man team of Westerners was being trained by Al Qaeda in Pakistan for a special mission. Most of the Afghan fighters could rely only on hearsay, but some told of seeing the «English brothers» (as the foreign recruits were nicknamed for their shared language) in person. One eyewitness, a former Guantánamo detainee with close Taliban and Qaeda ties, spoke to NEWSWEEK recently in southern Afghanistan, demanding anonymity because he doesn’t want the Americans looking for him. He says he met the 12 recruits in November 2005, at a mud-brick compound near the North Waziristan town of Mir Ali. That was as much as the tight-lipped former detainee would divulge, except to mention that Adam Yahiye Gadahn, the notorious fugitive «American Al Qaeda,» was with the brothers, presumably as an interpreter.

Another Afghan had more to say on the subject. Omar Farooqi is the nom de guerre of a former provincial intelligence chief for the Taliban; he now serves as the Taliban’s chief Qaeda liaison for Ghazni province, in eastern Afghanistan. He says he spent roughly five weeks this past year helping to indoctrinate and train a class of foreign recruits near the Afghan border in tribal Waziristan, and among his students were the English brothers. The 12 included two Norwegian Muslims and an Australian, along with nine British subjects, says Farooqi. Their mission, Farooqi told NEWSWEEK, will be to act as underground organizers and operatives for Al Qaeda in their home countries—and their yearlong training course is just about finished.

Farooqi says he first met the brothers, all of them in their 20s, soon after they reached Waziristan in October 2005. He recalls one of them, known as Musa, telling him that the 7/7 bombings in London «were just a rehearsal of bigger acts to come.» A few, he couldn’t say how many, had arrived in Pakistan by air, but most had taken a clandestine overland route across Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan, escorted by a network of professional smugglers. As NEWSWEEK has reported previously, Al Qaeda uses the same underground railroad to transport Iraqi bombmakers and insurgent trainers to share their skills with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

TheRegathering Storm