Sunday 16 December 2018

Extremist sketched Israeli embassy floor plan after visit to Ballsbridge office block

Jim Cusack

AMEMBER of an extremist group based in Ireland which supports suicide bombing and is suspected of having links with al-Qaeda members in Britain visited the Israeli Embassy in Ballsbridge over a year ago and then drew up plans of the ground floor reception area, it has been learned.

It has also emerged that gardai discovered diagrams for making bombs during a raid on a suspected terrorist money-laundering, fake ID and credit card scam operation in west Dublin last year. It is not known if the plot to bomb theembassy and the diagrams were connected.

Gardai discovered last year that the member of the suspected al-Qaeda support group, based at the time in Galway, visited the reception of the Israeli Embassy in Ballsbridge on the pretext of being a student looking to get a visa for a year's work on a kibbutz.

The young extremist drew up a rough plan of the reception area of the embassy. The embassy is on the top floors of an ordinary office building in Ballsbridge which it shares with the AIB. The embassy security guards on the ground floor reception are behind blast-proof glass but the garda security and rest of the staff in the building have no such protection.

Following the London bombings, security is finally to be stepped up around the Israeli and nearby American Embassy which has been assessed as one of the most vulnerable US embassies in Europe because of the building's proximity to two busy main roads.

Senior sources have confirmed that the London bombs have, finally, shaken official complacency here which held that foreign terrorists were unlikely ever to mount an attack in Ireland.

The official line was that though there are known al-Qaeda supporters and other extremists living here among the Muslim community, the most they were involved in was raising money and channeling funds to banks and fake charities mainly based in the Gulf States.

It is not a line held by outside security agencies in the United States, Israel and Britain. The Israelis are deeply concerned that men associated with the al-Aqsa Mosque terror group are heavily involved in plotting against Israeli interests.

A key figure in this movement, Jihad Jaara, who arrived in Ireland after the siege at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem three years ago, has been able to travel to Spain and, it is believed, to the North unhampered since coming here. Jaara openly admits to being a leading figure in al-Aqsa which has carried out suicide and other attacks in Israel. His nephew was killed in one such attack.

The FBI is known to be anxious about a number of men living here who had links with al-Qaeda in the United States before the September 11 attacks. One man living in Ballinteer, Dublin has been cited in US Treasury papers as acting as a financier for an al-Qaeda-linked bank in the Gulf States.

Gardai have been sent to Britain to meet their counterparts in the Metropolitan Police in the wake of the London bombs as the British seek to establish details about the movements of suspected extremists between here and Britain.

This meeting coincided with the emergence of information that an Egyptian research chemist, Dr Magdy Mahmound Elnashar, 33, arrested in Cairo in connection with the London bombings, had applied for a job here at Trinity College Dublin.

There is still, however, a tendency in both Government and on the part of the gardai to play down the significance and extent of the growth of extremism and support for terrorism among Ireland's Muslim community.

Gardai have not admitted discovering bomb diagrams though they did confirm last year that fake credit cards had been discovered in a raid in west Dublin.

It was the second time that bomb diagrams have been discovered in raids on suspected al-Qaeda operations here. The first time was at the end of 2000 when they raided offices being used by an al-Qaeda-front charity and discovered a diagram identical to one found at the home of an al-Qaeda member who had attempted to bomb Los Angeles Airport at the millennium.

One senior source said it is now hoped the Government will take the threat of Islamic terrorism here seriously after the bombings in London. He said there was no reason Islamic or Palestinian terror groups would not launch an attack here, especially as Shannon continues to be one of the US military's most important stop-over points for troop movements to and from Iraq.

However, the Government response to reports of terrorist activity has, until now, been that there was almost no threat. The Garda and Army briefed officials last week on both the level of al-Qaeda and other terrorist activity here and have also been urging that Dublin urgently needs a major incident plan like that which swung into action in London where hospital emergency wards were cleared in preparation for the arrival of multiple injured victims.

Senior Garda and Defence Forces figures say that there would be chaos in Dublin's hospitals if we had a serious incident.

Some senior gardai maintain the line that although bomb diagrams have been discovered, much of the material found is easily available off the internet where there are highly sophisticated plans for making bombs for suicide bombers.

One thing that has caused serious concern here is the discovery that the explosives used by the suicide bombers was the highly unstable and dangerous TATP or triacetone triperoxide.

The high explosive is made from easily available ingredients - acetone, which is nail polish remover and used in many other household products, and hydrogen peroxide which is found in a variety of materials from hair dye to disinfectant.

TATP has been used for decades by Palestinian terrorists who refer to it as the 'mother of Satan' because of its instability which has led to the deaths of dozens of bomb makers.

The main concern among military and Garda experts arises from the danger caused by the manufacture of this explosive. Bomb-makers from Palestine frequently blew themselves up, on occasions killing people in adjoining houses. The explosive is also poisonous. The concern is that if some inexperienced bomb-maker here tried to make a bomb he could not only kill himself but take several other innocent neighbours with him.

British military and police experts anticipate the attacks in London, Madrid and the United States are only the opening shots in a jihad or holy way against the west. Much of the growth in terrorism being imported into Western countries is being stimulated by events in Iraq.

Major advances have been made by terror groups in developing improvised explosive devices in Iraq which has seen almost 2,000 such bomb attacks this year alone.

The Iraqi terror groups have already surpassed the Provisional IRA in technical sophistication and have revised and refined suicide-bombing techniques. A reasonable percentage of suicide bombers back out at the last minute and fail to detonate their devices so the Iraqis have begun hiding remote-control detonators in the devices. If the bomber then fails to blow himself up, it is done by a second person monitoring his movements.

Due to this development, the official terminology for suicide bomber is now 'person-borne improvised explosive devices' or PBIEDs. Experts in London are working this week to find out whether or not the fourth bomber, who had come up from the Underground and was seen working at his rucksack on board the Number 30 bus was trying to defuse the device and that someone else detonated it by remote control.

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