Sunday, September 21, 2008

Are Attacks in Sanaa and Islamabad the Start of a Plan?

September 20, 2008 Bomb destroys Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, at least 60 people estimated killed.

September 17, 2008 U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen hit by car bomb, 17 people reported killed.

This analyst believes these two attacks on U.S. interests represent the early stages of some type of larger Islamic fundamentalist plan. Both attacks required extensive advance planning and were clearly meant to send a message about the United States to other nations, or more likely to the United States itself.

Annapolis Marriott 073810

The Sept. 20 bombing in Pakistan was very similar to the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Tanzania, carried out in the 1990's. The perpetrators certainly planned all three attacks to draw the attention of U.S. authorities. Access to the U.S. embassy in Pakistan is so restricted that attackers could not hope to approach the facility, so they picked a relatively softer target. In the past I was under the impression that security in Islamabad, as opposed to Karachi, presented formidable challenges to these types of attacks. The Marriott appears to have been protected with walls, guards using metal detectors, and electronic surveillance, yet the hotel was completely destroyed nonetheless.

Pakistan's Parliament was in session at this time however, according to Pakistani news sources, the security around that government buildings, such as the Prime Minister's residence, would have prevented a truck of the size seen burning just prior to the blast in Islamabad. Some sources are even stating this is exactly what happened. The hotel might have been more of a second choice. In the video released the driver does not appear to have anticipated the amount of speed required to breach the security barrier. A specific plan designed with this exact hotel in mind might have considered that obstacle.

The U.S. Department of Defense has announced that two servicemen were killed in the blast. It would be surprising if foreigners escaped all harm, given the popularity of this hotel with foreign visitors.

It was strange how the top floor of the Marriott appears to have been struck by another bomb at the same time. It is possible that cooking gas containers might have been jarred loose by the massive truck bomb. From what I can tell about the layout of the restaurant facilities at that Marriott location there does not appear to have been a dining area on the top floor.

In any event, if I were advising Marriott officials I would immediately implement additional security measures at their hotel in Karachi. This is not due to any perceived threat to Marriott itself but simply out of concern for copycat attacks or even spontaneous protests against any U.S. presence, anywhere in Pakistan.

At first glance, the bombing of the Marriott in Islamabad appears to stand as a presentation for the incoming president, Asif Ali Zardari. It does look like a response to Pakistan's increased military efforts in the Tribal Areas. There is also a remote but still real possibility of a relationship between this bombing and the July 7, 2008 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Investigations may reveal some connection though this analyst doubts it. The attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul was more likely a response by Taliban elements to increasing support of India for the Afghanistan regime.

When examined in light of the attacks in Yemen and Kabul, Islamabad seems to be more related to Pakistan and U.S. actions in the Tribal Regions. Here they have attacked a U.S. icon (though the Islamabad Marriott was owned by a Pakistani businessman) and very close to Pakistan government operations. News sources in the region are reporting that an attack was threatened in recent statements made by Tribal Region leaders. It would be foolish for authorities to ignore the proximity in time of all three bombings: Kabul, Sanaa, and Islamabad.

All these events absolutely have their roots in extremist sentiments and the communities that support them, in predominantly Islamic nations. Intelligence officials and FBI investigators also must not discount the possibility that these bombings are only the start of a larger effort to strike at soft targets as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan comes to a conclusion. Ramadan ends on September 30th this year. Timing has always been an important part of the statement made by any similar attacks.

Big Ben & House of Lords, London UK

Considering the evidence contained in these two attacks I would suspect that extremist organizations in other predominately Islamic regions are now expected to carry out similar operations, perhaps prior to September 30th. Besides ongoing attacks that must be expected in Baghdad and Kabul, my analysis suggests Jakarta, Cairo, Madrid, Dubai, and Paris would present additional relatively "soft" targets for similar fundamentalist groups to match their brethren in Islamabad and Yemen. I hold no evidence other than years of research regarding populations of disaffected Islamic individuals, government efforts to uncover any existing plots, and distinctive U.S. properties. For example, Riyadh or London are not likely to suffer an attack due to the high level of government efforts to thwart such plans combined with certain restrictions on individual freedoms (CCTV, for example), especially for extremist sympathizers.

Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii 100429

Of course the United States holds no immunity to bombings and has a substantial population of Islamic believers. However any U.S.-based Islamic fundamentalists themselves must be under extreme scrutiny or extremely quiet about where their sympathies lie.

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