In a website posting yesterday the Abu Hafs al Masri Brigade have one more time claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks, in this case yesterdays bombs in London. It should be remembered that this group also claimed the Madrid bombings and the July 7 bombs. Just how much credibility should be accorded to all this?
Well, one thing is clear, at face value this group seem to be somewhat less than consistent in their claims. Amongst other things they claimed responsibility for power blackouts in the US which were not in fact terrorist related. But despite the doubts, there are grounds for thinking that this group cannot be entirely dismissed: the possibility that they are using counter-information to keep us guessing might be one of them. This article has a good summary of the various hypotheses about them. In particular this part stands out:
The only proviso, of course, is the natural concern of security officials over the role of disinformation in the new cyber-conflict. The major question is how much, or if, the confusion surrounding the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades serves the cause of the Mujahideen…….
Is the confusion surrounding the Brigades, therefore, an elaborate double-bluff? The experience of Madrid makes it a difficult call. Last December, al-Qaeda operatives posted a 50-page manifesto, calling for attacks on countries that had allied themselves with the United States in its campaign in Iraq.  With elections approaching, Spain was singled out as a target country that “could not tolerate more than three attacks before deciding to withdraw from Iraq.” The longer term plan behind this focused on the belief that “the withdrawal of the Spanish or Italian forces?would serve as a huge pressure on the British presence which Tony Blair would not be able to overcome?Hence, the domino tiles would fall quickly.” In this case, their prediction was fully vindicated.
Well if the experience of Madrid makes it a difficult last call, the experience of London makes it even more so. Firstly there is the claim from the Spanish newspaper El Mundo that Spanish police identified a website posting from this group on May 29th which seemed to have given the ‘all clear’ for an attack.
Secondly the principal suspect allegedly arrested in Pakistan is a member of Jaish-e-Mohammad and who else is a member of this group, well, Daniel Pearl’s killer Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, is for a start, and what would be the significance of this, well the name Abu Hafs Al Masri was the nom de guerre of Muhammad Atef, a former Egyptian police officer and chief lieutenant to bin Laden who was killed in the US bombing of Afghanistan in 2001. And who was closely associated with Atef, well Ahmed Omar Saeed was apparently.
Non of this is, of course, conclusive, but I think there are sufficient grounds accumulating for not simply dismissing this group out of hand.