Bin Laden Threat Might Include Advanced Russian Missiles
By Sherrie Gossett Staff Writer
January 23, 2006

( - Advanced Russian missile systems and toxins allegedly procured by al Qaeda from Chechnya may be linked to Osama bin Laden's recent threat against the United States, some analysts say. Others insist the information should be downplayed.

On Oct. 29, 2005, French counter-terrorism officials reported that a group called the "Chechen network," had smuggled Russian-made surface-to-air missiles into Europe as part of a plot to strike down French airplanes. Adnan Muhammad Sadik, alias Abu Atiya, a captured al Qaeda suspect, said during an interrogation by French authorities that the group procured Russian-made man-portable SA-18 Igla missiles from Chechnya along with botulin, ricin, cyanide and other toxins. The weapons were never found. Atiya is currently in Jordanian custody.

During that same time period, the Abu-Hafs al-Masri Brigades, which are headed by Iraqi terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the top terrorist in Iraq, and in charge of al Qaeda operations in Europe and North America, threatened an attack against the "land of the Romans." An Internet statement from the Brigades said the group would attack with missiles and unidentified poisons. The posting was under the name of Saif al-Adel, al Qaeda's top military commander and al-Zarqawi's superior.

Earlier this month, Hudson Institute research analyst Christopher L. Brown told Cybercast News Service that after analyzing available al Qaeda communications, he was "99 percent" certain al Qaeda was planning an imminent attack, and that the U.S. was the likeliest target. He also said it was possible the missing weapons from the "Chechen network" had been smuggled into the U.S.

On Thursday, Brown elaborated : "There is a question of whether they would risk moving the missiles, since the SA-18s are very expensive on the black market, especially considering cheaper SA-7s are available in Central America and would do the same job," he said.

The main reason a terrorist group would choose to use the SA-18 over the SA-7, Brown said, is if the target had countermeasures in effect. Examples of aircraft with countermeasures would be military jets or El-Al Israel Airlines commercial jets.

But other experts have suggested that the "Chechen network" information may not be that significant. Despite the fact that French anti-terrorism expert Judge Jean-Louis Brugiere warned that members of the "Chechen network" were experts in chemical warfare, analyst Dr. Andrew McGregor insisted that it was all a myth developed for political ends.

In December of 2004, McGregor, director of Aberfoyle International Security Analysis in Toronto, Canada, wrote a report published by the Jamestown Foundation, accusing the media of repeating "every unproven allegation from unnamed intelligence sources."

"This house of cards was saluted by Britain, Russia, the U.S. and eventually even the Georgians as it served to advance the interests of each," wrote McGregor.

"The British government was trying to justify an unpopular decision to join the Iraq war, and Russia was able to implicate Georgia in a Chechen-al-Qaeda network of terror, invoking 'the common cause' of the anti-terror coalition in support of their methods in Chechnya," McGregor added.

"The U.S. trained Georgian troops essential for the protection of the two new oil pipelines [were] about to cross Georgia under the cloak of counter-terrorist assistance, while using the Zarqawi chemical threat to drum up support in the United Nations," he wrote.

Some downplayed the missile threat after Oct. 29, 2005, when the French newspaper Liberation (formerly the Communist Party newspaper) quoted an unnamed "judicial source" as saying the information obtained from Atiya was vague and third-hand.

However, on Jan. 14, French reporter Jean Chichizola of Le Figaro reported on the contents of the Atiya file prepared by French anti-terrorism judges, and said the original information about the missile threat was confirmed. He also reported that Atiya claimed to have convinced those involved to use the missiles against the U.S. rather than France, although the latter could not be confirmed.

Olivier Guitta, an international terrorism financing expert, told Cybercast News Service that the Jan. 12 speech by French President Jacques Chirac was related to the missile threat. Chirac warned that France would consider a nuclear response to any state-sponsored terrorist attack on its soil. Guitta said that French anti-terrorism agents believe a major terrorist attack in Paris is imminent and that it is being sponsored by Iran. "They have been on high alert since October," said Guitta, "working non-stop to prevent whatever is coming. They were very scared." Guitta also said that it is believed Iran would use a proxy group such as Hezbollah to launch the attack.

The SA-18 missile represents several advancements over previous models, including extended range and altitude. According to military information posted on the Internet, the missiles carry a 2 kilogram high-explosive warhead and its improved speed allows it to strike faster moving targets.

The SA-18 reportedly has a maximum range of 3.2 miles and a maximum altitude of 11,500 feet. The missile uses a passive infrared homing device designed to give it increased protection against electro-optical jammers. According to published data, the probability of a kill against an unprotected fighter jet is estimated at 30-48 percent, and the used of infrared jammers degrades that to 24-30 percent.