Al-Qaeda number three behind attacks plot: report

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An Al-Qaeda plot to launch Mumbai-style attacks on European cities was planned by the group's number three leader with Osama bin Laden's support, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported Saturday.

The BBC and Sky News reported Wednesday that Western intelligence agencies had uncovered a plot targeting Britain, France and Germany involving commando-style teams of militants seizing hostages and murdering them in a manner similar to the Mumbai attaks two years ago that killed 166 people.

Der Spiegel reported in its issue to hit newsstands Monday that Al-Qaeda number three Sheikh Yunis al-Mauretani had plotted the attacks, and had shared his plans with Ahmad Siddiqui, an Islamist with German nationality currently held at the US-run Bagram Air Base in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Siddiqui was the likely source of information that sparked the recent hikes in Western security threat levels, the weekly said, adding that German intelligence agents were expected to travel to Afghanistan soon to question him.

Siddiqui, 36, met with Mauretani at Mir Ali, in Pakistan's lawless northern tribal regions shortly before his arrest in Kabul in early July.

A native of the northern German port city of Hamburg, Siddiqui has also been reported to know Mohamed Atta, one of the hijackers in the September 11, 2001 attacks, and to have worshipped at the same mosque with him.

According to the Germany weekly Focus, the hike in security threat levels was also based on telephone calls and emails intercepted by Britain's electronic surveillance agency GCHQ.

The contacts between eight Germans and two Britains based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area with people back in Germany and Britain discussed how to obtain weapons and explosives plus safe hideout locations, it said.

© 2010 AFP

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