30 Oct 2006

Abdur Rauf, Al Qaeda’s Microbiologist, at Large in Pakistan

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The Washington Post is reporting a story of the capture in Afghanistan in December of 2001 of documents linking a Pakistani microbiologist named Abdur Rauf to an Al Qaeda project attempting to weaponize Anthrax bacillus.

The documents told of a singular mission by a scientist named Abdur Rauf, an obscure, middle-aged Pakistani with alleged al-Qaeda sympathies and an advanced degree in microbiology.

Using his membership in a prestigious scientific organization to gain access, Rauf traveled through Europe on a quest, officials say, to obtain both anthrax spores and the equipment needed to turn them into highly lethal biological weapons. He reported directly to al-Qaeda’s No. 2 commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and in one document he appeared to signal a breakthrough.

“I successfully achieved the targets,” he wrote cryptically to Zawahiri in a note in 1999.

Despite the evidence in US hands, Pakistan has refused to arrest him, and Rauf remains at large. The Post’s anonymous source said:

We will never close the door, but the chances of getting him into the United States are slim to none,” said one U.S. intelligence official, who, like others, agreed to discuss the case on the condition that he not be identified by name.

Beyond the mysterious reasons for Pakistan’s reluctance to cooperate in this particular case, there is also the question of whether Rauf’s biological weapons research was connected to the US Anthrax mailings in 2001.

U.S. officials are even more reticent in discussing possible links between al-Qaeda’s anthrax program and the 2001 U.S. attacks, which killed five people and briefly shut down the U.S. Capitol. Privately, FBI officials doubt that such a link exists. They note that the attacks came with an explicit warning — a letter advising the victims to take penicillin, resulting in a far lower death toll — but without an explicit claim of responsibility. “It doesn’t fit with al-Qaeda’s modus operandi,” one intelligence official said.

Yet U.S. officials have been unable to rule out al-Qaeda or any other group as a suspect. Earlier this month, FBI officials acknowledged that the ultra-fine powder mailed five years ago was simply made and could have been produced by a well-trained microbiologist anywhere in the world.

Several leading bioterrorism experts still contend that the evidence points to al-Qaeda or possibly an allied group that coordinated its attack with the Sept. 11, 2001, strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. These experts point to hijacker Mohamed Atta’s inquiries into renting a crop-duster aircraft and to an unexplained emergency-room visit by another hijacker, Ahmed Ibrahim A. Al Haznawi, for treatment of an unusual skin lesion that resembled cutaneous anthrax.

The Post’s article references a web site published by a left-wing New York and District of Columbia attorney named Ross E. Getman which extensively discusses the Al Qaeda links to the 2001 Anthrax Mailings, and offers a theory explaining Al Qaeda’s motivations for attacking Senators Leahy and Daschle and the media.

Getman is discussed as one of the amateur investigators of the 2001 Anthrax Attacks in Wikipedia.

The same investigator has also published a shorter article titled, Al Qaeda, Anthrax and Ayman.

I was wondering why an anonymous intelligence community source would be leaking such a story (not attacking the Bush Administration) to the Post, and it occurred to me that the relationship of spooks to certain elements in the media may have grown so cozy that they might actually use a Post leak to rattle the Pakistani government’s cage on a controversial issue currently in contention.


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