Documents show Dubai received threats from extremists when it cooperated with West
CAIRO, Egypt – An Islamic extremist group warned Dubai and other sheikdoms of the United Arab Emirates that it would attack the crucial tourism industry if authorities persisted in arresting militants wanted by the West.The threat, contained in a letter dated 2002 and newly declassified by the U.S. military, shows the intimidation Arab countries face if they cooperate with the West. The letter came the same year the Emirates turned over to the United States a suspected mastermind of the deadly bombing of the USS Cole.The UAE has kept making arrests, including the detention and handover to Pakistan in 2004 of a Pakistani suspect who allegedly trained thousands of al-Qaida fighters.However, the issue of whether the country does enough to fight terrorism was at the center of a dispute in the United States over a Dubai company’s plans – since abandoned – to run U.S. ports.The group that issued the 2002 threat, calling itself “Qaida al-Jihad,” or the Qaida (Base) of Holy War, also said in its letter that it had infiltrated the UAE’s “security, censorship and monetary agencies, along with other agencies that should not be mentioned.””You are an easier target than (the Americans); your homeland is exposed to us,” the letter said. “There are many vital interests that will hurt you if we decided to harm them, especially since you rely on shameless tourism in your economic income.”The group’s exact affiliation was impossible to determine, and the U.S. military did not say when or where the letter was found.Officials in the UAE have long feared they would be a target of al-Qaida, especially as cities like Dubai have boomed and drawn large numbers of European and Asian tourists.The Emirates also allows the United States to base U.S. Air Force spy planes and refueling flights on its territory and allows U.S. warships to visit – things that have brought al-Qaida’s wrath on other countries, notably Saudi Arabia.Others believe al-Qaida would be loathe to strike at Dubai because the terror group is thought to use the Emirates’ banks to funnel money. Dubai is the Mideast’s chief banking center and the site of its busiest airport.The letter addressed that, saying “our policies are not to operate in your homeland and/or tamper with your security because we are occupied with others, which we consider are enemies of this nation. If you compel us to do so, we are prepared to postpone our program for a short period and allocate time for you.”UAE officials say their security services are well-run and they fight aggressively to keep al-Qaida at bay through strict financial control laws and a joint U.S. task force that investigates terror funding.Nevertheless, Dubai and its part in the anti-terror fight were at the center of a weekslong furor in the United States over a Dubai-owned company’s acquisition of U.S. port operations. The company, DP World, eventually bowed out of the deal, announcing it intends to sell all its U.S. businesses.Some in Congress said the issue centered on any foreign ownership of sensitive American sites such as ports. But others cited what they called Dubai’s terror ties, especially a 2004 report that found about half of the $250,000 spent on the Sept. 11 attacks was wired to al-Qaida operatives from Dubai banks.The al-Qaida warning letter was among several documents made public late Wednesday on a Pentagon Web site, at the direction of top U.S. intelligence officials, after a public push by U.S. congressmen.A few of the documents were gathered by the U.S. military during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and date from Saddam Hussein’s regime. But most have nothing to do with Iraq, and are al-Qaida-linked documents the U.S. military says were “captured during recent operations.”U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra said many had been gathered in Afghanistan.The release, expected to continue for months, is designed to let U.S. lawmakers and the public investigate what documents from Saddam’s regime claimed about such issues as weapons of mass destruction before the invasion of Iraq.The Web site cautioned the U.S. government “has made no determination regarding the authenticity of the documents, validity or factual accuracy of the information contained therein, or the quality of any translations, when available.”Many of the documents were in Arabic, including one indicating Saddam’s regime was investigating what it called rumors that 3,000 Iraqis and Saudis had traveled unofficially to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks to fight U.S. troops.The Pentagon Web site said the document confirmed the presence of an al-Qaida terror group in Iraq. It described the document this way: “2002 Iraqi Intelligence Correspondence concerning the presence of al-Qaida Members in Iraq.”However, a translation by The Associated Press found the document, a letter from an Iraqi intelligence official, dated Aug. 17, 2002, merely asked agents to be on the lookout for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and another suspect whose picture was attached. The letter cited reports that the two could be in Iraq and directed Iraqi security officials to be on alert as a matter of “top priority.”Attached were three responses in which Iraqi agents said there was no evidence that al-Zarqawi or the other man were in Iraq. Al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, is now the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.—-On the Net:The declassified documents can be accessed at, http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil 1/4products-docex.htm—-Associated Press reporters Donna Abu-Nasr in Beirut, Lebanon, and Bassem Mroue in Baghdad, Iraq, contributed to this report.Vail, Colorado
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