Profile: Nizar Trabelsi
Nizar Trabelsi was a participant or observer in the following events:
Nizar Trabelsi, who will later be found guilty of planning to bomb a NATO base (see September 30, 2003), attends the radical Islamist Finsbury Park mosque in London. The mosque is run by extremist imam Abu Hamza al-Masri, an informer for the British intelligence services (see Early 1997). Trabelsi is a former professional sportsman, but had drifted into drug dealing before being radicalized. Trabelsi will later go to Afghanistan, meeting Osama bin Laden there. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 226]
The NSA monitors calls between an al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen and one or more operatives involved in a plot to attack the US embassy in Paris. The communications hub in Yemen is run by Ahmed al-Hada, father-in-law of 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, who is also involved in the US embassy bombings (see August 4-25, 1998), the USS Cole bombing (see Mid-August 1998-October 2000), and 9/11 (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). The Paris plot is apparently foiled based on this information, although the details are sketchy. [US News and World Report, 3/15/2004] The name of the operative or operatives who talk to the communications hub in Yemen is unknown. One candidate is Djamel Beghal, who will be arrested on July 28 (see July 24 or 28, 2001) based on a tip-off issued by the CIA to partner agencies on July 3 (see July 3, 2001). Another is Nizar Trabelsi, who will be arrested on September 13, although Trabelsi may be arrested based on information gleaned from Beghal. Both Beghal (see Spring 1998) and Trabelsi (see September 13, 2001) are connected to a plot to destroy an airliner with a shoe bomb, but this is not stopped (see December 22, 2001).
Nizar Trabelsi. [Source: Daily Telegraph]Nizar Trabelsi, an al-Qaeda operative involved in numerous plots, is arrested in Brussels, Belgium. Police find machine pistols, chemical formulas for making bombs, detailed maps of the US embassy in Paris, and a business suit—it appears Trabelsi intended to walk into the embassy with the suit covering a suicide bomb vest and then detonate the explosives. The arrest is apparently due to information gleaned from Djamel Begham, a top al-Qaeda operative arrested in July (see July 24 or 28, 2001). Two of the plots Trabelsi is said to be involved in, an attack on a NATO base in Belgium and the attack on the US embassy in Paris, are thwarted. Trabelsi will later be found guilty in Belgium of planning the attack on the base (see September 30, 2003). [CNN, 10/3/2001] However, a third plot in which Trabelsi is involved—a plot to blow up two transatlantic airliners—is not thwarted. The plot is to be carried out by two al-Qaeda operatives who are in contact with Trabelsi around this time, Saajid Badat and Richard Reid. Reid returned to Europe from Asia in July or August (see July 2001), after which he stayed in Belgium with Trabelsi, who also found him work in hotel kitchens. Badat is also in contact with Trabelsi using phone cards, and analysis of them will help lead to his arrest some time later. The plot will fail when Badat backs out (see (December 14, 2001)) and Reid is unable to detonate the explosives before he is overpowered by fellow passengers and crew (see December 22, 2001). It is unclear why this third plot is not stopped as well after Trabelsi’s arrest. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 229-231] However, his arrest does lead to more arrests in Spain 13 days later (see September 26, 2001).
The arrest of al-Qaeda operative Nizar Trabelsi is revealed in the international press by this date, if not earlier. An article published by UPI on this day names Trabelsi as having been arrested (see September 13, 2001) in connection with the capture of one of his associates, Djamel Beghal, in Dubai (see July 24 or 28, 2001). [United Press International, 9/21/2001] Trabelsi is linked to two shoe bombing plotters, Richard C. Reid and Saajit Badat. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 231] The arrest is also mentioned in subsequent days on CNN and in the Washington Post, for example. [Washington Post, 9/28/2001; CNN, 9/29/2001] Al-Qaeda may well already be aware that Trabelsi has been arrested, as he must have been out of contact for over a week at this point. However, the shoe bombing plot is not canceled and goes ahead, despite the bombers’ link to Trabelsi. One of the bombers backs out later for an unrelated reason (see (December 14, 2001)) and the other is thwarted when he attempts to blow up an aircraft in December (see December 22, 2001).
Saajid Badat. [Source: BBC]Saajid Badat, a radical Muslim recruited to perform a shoe bombing on a transatlantic flight (see November 20, 2001), backs out of the plot. Although he already has a ticket to travel from Manchester to Amsterdam and then to the US for December 21, he sends his handler in Pakistan a short coded message saying he cannot go through with the attack. He hides the detonator and the explosive at his home, but, after his partner Richard Reid is arrested (see December 22, 2001), police will uncover Belgian telephone cards he had used to keep in touch with a local contact they had shared in Brussels, Nizar Trabelsi. The police will arrest Badat in November 2003 and in April 2005 he will be sentenced to 13 years in jail. The length of the sentence will reflect the co-operation he provides to police. [BBC News, 4/22/2005; O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 231-232]
Al-Qaeda operative Nizar Trabelsi is sentenced to ten years in jail in Belgium for his part in a plot to attack the NATO base in Kleine Brogel in the country’s north-east. A couple of hundred US troops were stationed at the base, which was also home to nuclear weapons. The plan was for Trabelsi to pack a van with as much explosive as it could carry, and drive it into the base canteen at lunchtime. Trabelsi admits his participation in the attack and boasts he was to be the first suicide bomber in Europe, but he refuses to give any details about other plots he is alleged to have been involved in, such as a planned bombing of the US embassy in Paris, France. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 227]
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