Al Qaeda operatives discussed plans to release poison gas inside New York City’s subway system while having dinner on one of Bahrain’s main commercial streets, it has been claimed.
Details of the conversation in an Exhibition Avenue restaurant are contained in a new book authored by Bahraini Aimen Dean, an alias used by a man who was once Al Qaeda’s top bomb-maker and later became a spy for British intelligence.
His new book, Nine Lives: My Time as the West’s Top Spy Inside Al Qaeda, refers to his time in Bahrain after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US.
He said it was then that he met a Saudi in his 30s, identified as Akhil, in Manama.
In an extract from the book, published by CNN, Mr Dean recalls discussing an improvised chemical device called a “mubtakkar”, designed to release lethal quantities of hydrogen cyanide.
“After 9/11, MI6 (British intelligence) was enthusiastic about my moving to the Gulf,” said Mr Dean.
“Bahrain was regarded as an important conduit between Saudi Arabia and Iran, where some in Al Qaeda’s upper echelons had taken refuge.”
He said he met Akhil, a Saudi chemistry teacher, for dinner on Exhibition Avenue where the duo shared grilled lamb and rice – and afterwards the latter asked Mr Dean if he was also known as Abu Abbas Al Bahraini.
“‘Yes,’ I answered. ‘That was the name I took in Afghanistan,’” recounted Mr Dean.
“I had to tread carefully. I hardly knew this man.”
He said Akhil then asked if he was aware of something called a mubtakkar.
“‘Yes, I am,’ I responded, and as casually as I could gave him the barest details about the device.”
He said Akhil described an urgent message from his friends in Saudi Arabia, who had his notes from the mubtakkar but could not understand his handwriting.
Mr Dean was handed papers with diagrams and formulas to check whether they were on track in building the device.
The duo met again at the same restaurant, where Mr Dean was informed a mubtakkar was successfully tested in the desert.
Mr Dean writes in his book that the Saudi teacher described using chemical gas in the ventilation of a subway system, confirming a New York plot dating back to 2009.
“I had to co-operate, to sound as if I, too, wanted to maximise casualties,” said Mr Dean.
“The best approach, I quickly decided, was to provide him a mix of information and disinformation.”
Mr Dean later shared the intelligence with MI6, which is said to have alerted American agencies.
“My information was fed quickly up the chain to the White House,” stated Mr Dean.
“President George W Bush was briefed in the Oval Office; according to one account there was stunned silence when the implications of the mubtakkar were absorbed.”
He added the plot was called off because Al Qaeda’s deputy leader, Ayman Al Zawahiri, was concerned an attack in New York would be used to claim former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein had given Al Qaeda weapons of mass destruction – therefore legitimising the invasion of Iraq.
“On February 13, 2003 as a result of intelligence I provided to the British, Bahraini police stopped a group of men as they drove across King Fahad Causeway,” stated Mr Dean.
“One of those detained was Bassam Bokhowa, an IT technician in his mid-30s.
“On his laptop they found blueprints for the mubtakkar.”
Mr Dean grew up in Saudi Arabia and joined jihadist fighters in Bosnia in the mid-1990s.
From there he travelled to Afghanistan where he personally swore allegiance to Al Qaeda, rubbing shoulders with many of its top leaders.
However, he is said to have grown disillusioned after the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which left hundreds dead, following which he started to work with M16.
He has spoken in a series of interviews since last month about his links to late Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, revealing details about terror plots in Bahrain targeting the US Fifth Fleet in Juffair.
In 2015 he was working as a counter-terrorism expert for Dubai-based Five Dimension Consultants and was reportedly due to attend a family wedding in Bahrain in 2016, but aborted the trip amid fears that he could be the target of an assassination.
© 2018 the Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.