The key telephone intercept that prompted Washington to close embassies in 22 countries was a conference call between al-Qaida’s senior leaders and several of its jihadist affiliates in the Middle East, according to the Daily Beast.
The website reported that U.S. officials intercepted a conference call that included the leaders or representatives of al-Qaida’s top leadership and affiliates calling in from different locations. All told, 20 al-Qaida representatives were on the call, including the group’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, leader of al-Qaida’s Yemen-based affiliate.
Al-Qaida members included representatives or leaders from Nigeria’s Boko Haram; the Pakistani Taliban; al-Qaida in Iraq; and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
Also on the call were representatives of al-Qaida in the Sinai Peninsula – one reason why the State Department closed the U.S. Embassy in Tel-Aviv.
Al-Qaida officials had mistakenly assumed the conference calls, which enabled Zawahiri to manage al-Qaida from a remote location, were secure.
“This was like a meeting of the Legion of Doom,” a U.S. intelligence officer told the Daily Beast, referring to the villains’ coalition on the cartoon program “Super Friends.”
On the call, Zawahiri announced that Wuhayshi had been promoted to the equivalent of al-Qaida “general manager” – effectively granting him control of the jihadist group’s many affiliates throughout the Muslim world. That was a key factor that led the State Department to close embassies, missions, and consulates throughout the region, the intelligence officer said.
Also during the meeting, al-Qaida leaders mentioned that a team or teams were in place to carry out some kind of pending attack.
For some leading members of Congress, among them Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the revelation that Zawahiri and al-Qaida’s leaders are actively managing and directing several affiliates’ operations from Afghanistan refutes the administration’s claim that the core of the group has been decimated by U.S. drone strikes.
“The core seems to be able to reconstitute itself. The core also seems to be able to coordinate and manage the affiliates,” McCain said. “There was a gross underestimation by this administration of al-Qaida’s overall ability to replenish itself.”
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