The mastermind of the Al Qaeda (AQAP) plot to plant explosive packages aboard US-bound air freighters is identified by debkafile's exclusive counter-terror sources as Ibrahim Hassan Al Asiri, a Saudi Arabian. He is hiding out at the main Al Qaeda fighting base in the Yemeni province of Al Gouf, 140 kilometers south of Sanaa.
Our sources also reveal that Saturday night, Oct. 30, Yemeni president Abdullah Ali Saleh was still refusing to allow Washington to land US special forces in Al Gouf to wipe out the al Qaeda bastion which has so far resisted all the Yemeni army's efforts to root it out. Based there, according to US and Saudi intelligence, is the al Qaeda (AQAP) infrastructure of terror planners and bomb makers who planted the two explosive packages taken off cargo flights bound for Chicago, US, on Friday.
With Yemeni troops falling back against AQAP, US and Saudi forces Saturday stepped up their UAV strikes on the Al Gouf hideouts to keep al Qaeda fighters from escaping to other parts of Yemen. The US drones came from Djibouti and the Saudi pilotless aircraft from Assir just north of Yemen.
Our military sources reveal that US Combined Task Force - CTF 151 has been standing by Yemen's Red Sea coast aboard the Marine amphibious assault ship USS Boxer awaiting the order to land in Al Gouf, while the Marines Expeditionary Unit 26 waits on the USS Iwo Jima, accompanied by additional US warships.
Saudi King Abdullah and senior US and British government officials have been leaning hard on the Yemeni president to allow these forces to land and storm the bastion of al Qaeda's air freight package plotters. Ali Saleh Saturday night still stood by his refusal. To deflect their demands, the Yemeni president Saturday night began to disseminate an assortment of claims and data to show how hard he was working to crack the terrorist freight conspiracy.
Our sources report that even when he ordered Yemeni police to seize up to 30 pieces of suspect freight and arrest a woman and her mother as suspects of planting the explosive parcels on Fedex and UPS air freighters he was acting under duress. Saudi and US intelligence dropped this information in his lap with an ultimatum to take action or else they would take matters out of his hands.
The two women are believed to be no more than couriers at the end of the line who agreed to plant the parcels for a small sum. They are unlikely to have information that goes high up to the hideouts and identities of the planners. However, by locking them up in Yemeni cells, Ali Saleh has shut the door to US and Saudi counter-terror investigators trying to garner even small crumbs of information under questioning, although they are unlikely to accept this refusal without a fight.
Ibrahim Hassan Al Asiri, Al Qaeda's package plot mastermind
"Hevron Sabbath" has ended, and the 25,000 visitors and guests are making their way home after spending Shabbat in the City of the Patriarchs.
The annual event attracts guests even from abroad. Among those who took part this year were Rabbi Chaim Druckman, Tzfat's Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, and MKs Uri Ariel, Ze'ev Elkin, Tzipi Hotobeli, and Gila Gamliel.
The event is held each year on the Sabbath of Parashat Chaye Sarah (Genesis 24 and 25), when the story of the Patriarch Abraham's purchase of the Machpelah Field and Cave is recounted. The three Patriarchs, as well as three of the Matriarchs - Sarah, Leah, and Rebecca - are buried there; the Matriarch Rachel died near Bethlehem, and was buried along the way in what is now Rachel's Tomb.
This year's "Hevron Sabbath" was marked, for the first time in 12 years, by the official opening of the streets of the Kasba – the old city marketplace and former Jewish quarter – to crowds of Jewish visitors. The guests saw 19th-century Jewish homes and institutions, now occupied by Arabs.
"We thank the myriads of visitors," a statement by the Jewish Community of Hevron said, "as well as the security forces and the residents of Hevron and Kiryat Arba who opened their homes and their hearts. We await the day when 25,000 Jews will live in Hevron, and will not be just visitors."