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West worried about Mumbai style attack

Western intelligence officials are extremely worried about a Mumbai-style attack if the Al Qaeda chooses "softer" economic targets after the uncovering of a deadly plan to attack targets across Europe, US security analysts say.

world Updated: Sep 30, 2010 11:30 IST

Western intelligence officials are extremely worried about a Mumbai-style attack if the Al Qaeda chooses "softer" economic targets after the uncovering of a deadly plan to attack targets across Europe, US security analysts say.

Much of the information about the plot has come from a German citizen with suspected links to Al Qaeda who was detained in Kabul in July and handed over to US forces, CNN said citing German intelligence officials.

He has spoken of a plan similar to the 2008 assault on Mumbai, blamed on the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan-based terror group allied with Al Qaeda, and had told interrogators the plan had the blessing of Osama bin Laden, the officials said.

With the Al Qaeda struggling to replicate attacks on the scale of the devastation witnessed Sep 11, 2001 in New York and Washington, security experts believe the Mumbai attack, which gained worldwide publicity, may provide the template for its future operations, CNN said.

"This new plot is perhaps an indication that Al Qaeda is trying to change its strategy," said CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson.

"The high-profile attacks that it has always liked, using explosives, are clearly getting harder and harder to perpetrate.

"The cells are being spotted and it's harder to keep undercover when you're making bombs. Even buying the material to make bombs is getting harder, so many analysts believe Al Qaeda would be unable to mount a 9/11-style attack in the current climate.

"Therefore Mumbai would have been viewed as successful by the Al Qaeda leadership as it killed a large number of people. This type of attack is just as deadly but harder to stop."

Operations by the Pakistani Army have forced the group into a diminishing area; and the much expanded US drone campaign has disrupted its operations and killed senior figures. But enough of the leadership remains at large and it is a supremely adaptive organisation.

This diversification has also meant forging links with groups around the world that share Al Qaeda's anti-western and jihadist ideology, such as al Shabaab in Somalia and Pakistan's LeT.

Despite a number of failed plots, Al Qaeda has retained a command structure -- and has an external operations chief planning operations around the world, CNN said citing US officials.

Evidence of this emerged in the case of Najibullah Zazi, a US resident, who this year confessed to a plot to carry out suicide bombings in the New York City subway, they said.