Editor’s note: The following story is adapted from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, the premium, online intelligence newsletter published by the founder of WND. Annual subscriptions are available now for the discounted price of $99 a year, which includes a free copy of Farah’s latest book, “Taking America Back.” Monthly subscriptions are also available to credit card users for just $9.95.
LONDON – Britain’s secret intelligence service, MI6, has established the first proof al-Qaida is playing a major role in the new Cold War between North and South America – with Osama bin Laden’s terror network seeing itself in league with Mexican subversives in infiltrating the U.S. border.
The evidence emerged as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez swash-buckled into London after scoring a win in yet another venomous battle with Washington for influence and economic advantage across the Latin American continent.
Chavez is in London to meet the capital’s anti-Bush mayor, Ken Livingstone, and other prominent British opponents of the war in Iraq. His arrival coincides with the downward spiral politically of Prime Minister Tony Blair – largely over his continued support for Bush.
Downing Street will monitor the Chavez visit closely – not least because he controls the western hemisphere’s largest supply of oil reserves. As oil prices soar, Chavez has used the extra profits to reinforce his position with his electorate. He said last week he would seek “indefinite” re-election beyond the constitutional limit of 2014.
Chavez, a 51 year-old paratrooper, descended on London this week and was boosted by the knowledge that his rapidly expanding clout in Southern America could soon see a dramatic shift of power after elections in Peru, Nicaragua and Mexico.
This would result in a standoff between Western oil companies worried about rising oil prices and South American oil producers’ new-found enthusiasm for threatening foreign companies with a further hike.
In the words of a MI6 memo, the situation “is a new and dangerous threat to stability that is also being exploited by al-Qaida.”
Details of al-Qaeda’s penetration into Latin America emerged from documents discovered during recent anti-terrorist operations in Pakistan to try and locate Osama bin Laden.
The documents included evidence that al-Qaida has established links with the Colombian terror group, FARC, and the Shining Path, SL, in Peru. They also reveal al-Qaida’s links with thousands of Muslim students in the Dominican Republic.
Another Pakistani document shows the links between al-Qaida and Mexico’s Popular Revolutionary Army, EPR. The documents reveal that al-Qaida sees EPR as collaborators in attacks in Mexico on foreign targets – “especially those of the United States and Britain.” It also says that EPR can play a key role in allowing al-Qaida operatives to enter the United States through the busiest land crossing in the world – Tijuana.
Another document reveals that along Peru’s border with Chile “a large Arab community is providing substantial sums of money for al-Qaida.”
But the closest links al-Qaida has are with Venezuela. Exploiting Chavez’s latest tirade against the Bush administration, al-Qaida is firmly entrenched in the country.
Before flying to London, Chavez said: “The axis of evil is Washington and its allies around the world who go about threatening, invading and murdering. We are forming the axis of good.”
The godfather of that axis is Fidel Castro, Cuba’s leader for 45 years. But in support is Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia who last week promised: “I am going to be a nightmare for Washington.”
In coming presidential elections the candidates are Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, Peru’s Ollanta Humala and Andres Lopez of Mexico. The Mexican populist likes to see himself as a mirror image of Chavez and has labelled the country’s outgoing president, Vincente Fox, “a puppy of Bush.”
The documents discovered in Pakistan have become of prime concern to MI6 – given Britain’s substantial holdings in Latin America. These could be seriously damaged by what one MI6 officer called “Chavez and his rogue’s gallery of sinister wannabees and corrupt opportunists.”
Chavez has so far spectacularly avoided Washington’s efforts to curb his ambitions. He has warned Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, “I sting those who rattle me.”
It is over threats like that MI6 analysts try to decipher how far Chavez will allow al-Qaida to be his sting master.
Already MI6 say that Venezuela is now one of the main conduits for trafficking drugs to Europe – and al-Qaida is a major player.
From Venezuela the drugs are taken by high-speed ocean-going boats to Africa’s West Sahara. The cargoes are run ashore north of the town of Dakhia and trucked overland through Morocco into southern Spain. From there they are smuggled into France, Germany and Britain.
Deep inside their headquarters overlooking the River Thames, the MI6 analysts work in a room that is accessed by a swipe card, the codes of which change regularly.
The room houses the Terrorist Attack Assessment Center. Inside its computer-lined walls and state-of-the-art communications, analysts sit at workstations around the clock. TAAC is directly linked to the Pentagon and the CIA. Both have their versions of TAAC.
The MI6 department regularly updates its director general, John Scarlett. He is the quintessential English spymaster. In his customized suits and hand-stitched cotton shirts, he has a touch of the James Bond about his sartorial elegance.
He is taking a close interest in the documents that indicate how al-Qaida sees Latin America as a continent where it can expand its activities.
MI6 analysts have established that the documents are the work of Ayman al-Zawahiri, a founder member of al-Qaida and accepted by Western intelligence services as its prime strategist next to bin Laden.
Al-Zawahiri studied in Paris and London to become a recognized authority in behavioral psychology. After graduating from Cairo University he traveled widely.
An MI6 file confirms a Mossad profile of the heavily bearded psychiatrist – that he is arrogant and takes an obsessive pleasure watching film of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 – when he first emerged from the shadows to sit alongside bin Laden.
Both MI6 and Mossad believe al-Zawahiri made several visits to Latin America during the last decade.
Before the U.S.-led coalition attacked Iraq, the U.S. State Department offered congressional testimony that both al-Qaida and the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah were taking firm hold in “America’s backyard.”
Mark F. Wong, the State Department’s acting coordinator for counterterrorism, told the House International Relations Committee about the threat posed by both groups in Latin America.
Yet, then the matter seems to have been dropped – perhaps for diplomatic reasons, perhaps for political reasons.
But in 2003, G2 Bulletin reported authorities in Silvio Pettirosi International Airport in Asuncion, the Paraguayan capital, reported the arrival of a growing number of visitors carrying European passports, but undoubtedly appearing to be more Middle Eastern than anything else.
Some of these “Europeans” could not even speak the language of their so-called mother land.
There was very little doubt most of these visitors went on to find their way to the triple border region where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet. This region, often described as a lawless area, is nicknamed by some intelligence station agents as “The Muslim Triangle meeting zone.”
Intelligence experts have been warning since the late 1990s they had noticed a tendency among Islamic terrorists to operate from Paraguay, a landlocked country in the heart of South America, with a territory slightly smaller than California, and with geographic extremes perfect for hiding illegal activities.
G2 Bulletin reported in 2003 the terrorists using Argentina are organized in active cells around the country with safe houses in neighboring Paraguay. An Argentinean document seen by G2B describes part of the drug-smuggling trail, as well as that of weapons and people. These elaborate trails run through a web of border crossings pointing also to the complex cooperation between various “smuggling experts.” These belong to jihadi organizations such as al-Qaida, joining forces with local drug lords, developing and oiling their smuggling mechanism all the way to Mexico aiming ultimately to hit the U.S.
The Argentinean intelligence service assessment, privy among others, to European and Middle Eastern agencies, has reached a significant and grave conclusion, according to G2 Bulletin. It claims since 9/11 and the partial success in the war against terrorism, mainly in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Central Asia, the jihadi pendulum is tilting more and more toward South America. The reason terrorist cells in Paraguay, whether active or dormant, can continue to grow and flourish, is because of widespread corruption in South America.
The lawlessness and disorder in Paraguay, enabled operatives of such terrorist groups as al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas to feel safe, even in the heart of Asuncion. These organizations, and probably more, turned Paraguay into a logistical base, as one local journalist told G2 Bulletin: “It’s easy. At this stage our country is not engulfed in a civil war or guerrilla campaign and, therefore, security forces are more prone to financial kickbacks.”
The terrorists even get some official support in Latin America, according to some sources. As WorldNetDaily reported, a Venezuelan military defector claims Venezuela’s Chavez developed ties to terrorist groups such as al-Qaida – even providing it with $1 million in cash after Sept. 11, 2001.
Air Force Maj. Juan Diaz Castillo, who was Chavez’s pilot, told WorldNetDaily through an interpreter that “the American people should awaken and be aware of the enemy they have just three hours’ flight from the United States.”
Diaz said he was part of an operation in which Chavez gave $1 million to al-Qaida for relocation costs, shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
London-based intelligence expert Gordon Thomas is the author of “Gideon’s Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad”and a regular contributor to Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin. This report includes background reports from previous G2 Bulletin dispatches.