A MOROCCAN secret
service agent says that for two years he successfully
infiltrated al-Qaeda before breaking cover last summer
to warn his bosses that the terror group was plotting
“something spectacular” in New York.
Hassan Dabou has told of meetings at which Osama bin
Laden vented his fury at al-Qaeda’s failure to demolish
the World Trade Centre in 1993 and proclaimed his desire
Mr Dabou was not sure what the target was to be, only
that it would be a “large-scale operation in New York in
the summer or autumn of 2001”.
Secret service chiefs are said to have taken
seriously the tip from one of its veteran informants and
immediately passed on the details to Washington.
While the agents were not sure what bin Laden was
planning, they knew from Mr Dabou’s reports that
al-Qaeda had sympathisers in place in several Moroccan
Mr Dabou, who claims to have first worked as an
informer for the secret service in the slums of
Casablanca, was posted to Algeria and Iran. He says that
he infiltrated the terror group after his employers sent
him to Afghanistan, where he posed as an Islamic radical
on the run from authorities in Morocco.
Reports from Casablanca say that Mr Dabou was flown
in secret to Washington, where he was co-operating with
US intelligence agents when the hijackers struck.
Growing evidence of al-Qaeda’s Moroccan links was not
followed up by Western agencies last summer. Informers
and minor figures arrested in Europe had revealed their
associations with a number of Moroccans allied to
radical Islamic groups, but the pattern was ignored.
Just 48 hours before the September 11 attack, the
first link was established when Ahmed Shah Masood,
leader of the Northern Alliance resistance to the
Taleban in Afghanistan, was killed by a Moroccan and an
In their frantic security sweeps since September 11,
intelligence services in Britain, France, Italy, Spain
and The Netherlands have arrested a large number of
Moroccan nationals with alleged terrorist connections.
Morocco, being close to Europe, was an ideal base for
bin Laden. His agents could move around the moderate
Islamic country easily and use well-established
smuggling routes into Spain.
Bin Laden’s agents are thought to have been in place
in Moroccan cities for several years. The three Saudis
being held as part of an alleged suicide bomb plot on
American and British warships were all working in
Casablanca and Rabat and two had followed the al-Qaeda
instruction to marry local women. Al-Qaeda also found in
the slums of Casablanca plenty of willing local
recruits, who were moved to Europe to await their
Some of the volunteers were simply used as couriers.
Some would be involved in counterfeiting credit cards
and other scams to raise money, while a few were picked
for terrorist operations.
Among them was said to be Zacharias Moussaoui, the
former South London university student accused of being
the would-be twentieth hijacker. He was born and raised
in Morocco before moving to France and then Brixton.
Another volunteer was said to be Djamel Ajouaou, who
was among the first group of eight suspected Islamic
militants rounded up by British police last December and
jailed in Belmarsh top-security prison under emergency
laws introduced by David Blunkett, the Home Secretary.
No reason was ever given for their arrest. Western
security agencies were stunned when Mr Blunkett agreed
that Mr Ajouaou could be sent to Morocco in January this
year, even though his alleged terrorist links were
detailed in court.
During a bail hearing, the former London hotel
worker, who had lived in Britain for ten years, was
described by Ian Burnett, QC, counsel for the Home
Secretary, as “an active supporter of various
international terrorist groups, including those directly
engaged in terrorism and those with links to Osama bin
Laden”. Protesting his innocence, Mr Ajouaouo was flown
out of London in secret and was not allowed to take his
British wife and four-month-old daughter with him.
One of the Britons being held at Camp X-Ray in Cuba,
Tarek Dergoul, 24, a former East London care worker, is
the son of a Moroccan baker. When Spanish police broke
up an al-Qaeda cell, known as the “Soldiers of Allah”,
they discovered that one of the ringleaders was a
35-year-old Moroccan, Najib Chaib Mohammed.
Two more of the suspects imprisoned at Camp X-Ray —
Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, 27, and Reswad Abdulsam, 30 —
are Moroccans who were living in Spain before they went
to Afghanistan. A gang of four Moroccans were arrested
in Rome in February this year for allegedly trying to
poison the water supply in the area near the US Embassy.
Another Moroccan, L’Houssaine Kherchtou, told a US
court that he was sent on flying lessons in Kenya by
He became bin Laden’s personal pilot, but was puzzled
when the al-Qaeda leader insisted that he learn to fly
crop-dusters. US Intelligence believes the group was
planning to use crop dusters for chemical attacks, with
Kherchtou as one of the