Detained militant in Iraq describes plot vs. World Cup teams
Implies Al Qaeda sought revenge over cartoons
BAGHDAD — An alleged Al Qaeda militant detained in Iraq said yesterday that he had talked to friends about attacking Danish and Dutch teams at the World Cup in South Africa next month to avenge insults against the Prophet Muhammad.
Iraqi security forces holding the Saudi citizen identified as Abdullah Azam Saleh al-Qahtani arranged for an interview with him at an unidentified government building in Baghdad. He said he initially came to Iraq in 2004 to fight Americans and was recruited by Al Qaeda.
An Iraqi security official with knowledge of the investigation said Qahtani was arrested after a joint US-Iraqi operation in April that killed the two top Al Qaeda in Iraq figures — Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.
The official asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to discuss details of the case.
Documents found in the house where they were killed, including a note written by Qahtani detailing a plan to launch attacks at the World Cup, led to his arrest on May 3. Iraqi authorities made it public on Monday.
“We discussed the possibility of taking revenge for the insults of the prophet by attacking Denmark and Holland,’’ Qahtani told the AP. “The goal was to attack the Danish and the Dutch teams and their fans,’’ he added.
“If we were not able to reach the teams, then we’d target the fans,’’ he said, adding that they hoped to use guns and car bombs.
It was unclear whether the militants had the ability to carry out what would have been a sophisticated operation — a complicated attack far from their home base. The Iraqi security official said no steps had been taken to put the plan into motion, such as obtaining bomb-making materials.
Qahtani said the plot still needed approval from Al Qaeda’s chain of command, specifically the group’s number two, Ayman al-Zawahri.
The alleged militant, a mustached man who appeared to be about 30, was wearing an orange prisoner jumpsuit and had no outward signs of injury or abuse. He did not appear nervous or fearful.
Qahtani said he had been captured by US forces in 2007 and held at Camp Bucca until he was released in 2009; a US military official, Keli Chevalier, confirmed some of that information and referred all other questions about Qahtani to the Iraqi government.
In 2006, 12 cartoons of the prophet in a Danish newspaper sparked furious protests in Muslim countries.