US says bin Laden knew of Europe plot
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
BERLIN (AP) — The United States has told Germany that evidence pulled from Osama bin Laden’s hideout shows the terror chief was linked to a plot to attack targets in Europe last year, a senior German official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Two U.S. officials also told the AP that bin Laden had advised Europe-based militants to attack in unspecified mainland European countries just before Christmas. The officials offered no details.
Separately, bin Laden encouraged multiple attacks on Danish targets because of disparaging references to the Muslim prophet Mohammed in Danish media, the U.S. officials said.
European security officials said earlier this month that they’d seen very little of the information from the May 2 raid on bin Laden’s hideout, but the Americans have begun sharing more information with intelligence agencies in Europe.
The German official said U.S. officials had told their German counterparts that information retrieved from the Pakistani house where bin Laden was killed shows that senior al-Qaida member Sheikh Yunis al Mauritania was in contact with bin Laden about the Europe plot.
A 29-year-old Moroccan terror suspect was arrested last month in the German city of Duesseldorf with letters between him and al Mauritania about planned terror attacks in Europe, the official told the AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
He and other European security officials said they have not seen evidence to suggest that bin Laden was involved in planning the attacks.
“We now know he was a lot more operational than previously thought — and there’s some interesting information that has come out on this — but whether this means he was involved in the actual planning or advising remains unclear,” said a European security official who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive intelligence information.
A senior French security official said Wednesday that the U.S. have also shared some of the intelligence collected from bin Laden’s compound with them, but so far he has not seen any evidence linking bin Laden to the 2010 Europe terror plot.
“I don’t know what the Americans are sharing with the Germans,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because his information is privileged.
In September, intelligence gleaned from a terror suspect detained in Afghanistan prompted heightened security in Britain, France and Germany.
Germany raised its security threat level in November after officials said they had received information from their own and foreign intelligence services, including in the U.S., that indicated a sleeper cell of some 20 to 25 people may have been planning an attack somewhere in Europe. Later, Germany also received information on possible separate attacks at Christmas or New Year’s.
Germany eased the threat level this year.