Al-Qaeda Mega-Terror Attack Against Israel Thwarted

by DEBKAfile

22 May 2003

The terrorist mega-attack against which Israeli security - like the US, Britain, Australia and other western powers – has been on high alert since Tuesday, May 20, almost happened this week.

On Monday, May 19, Saudi authorities detained three Moroccan al Qaeda suspects at Jeddah international airport just as they were preparing to board a Saudi national airlines plane bound for Sudan. While “Saudi security sources” claimed the next day that the men planned to hijack the Saudi plane and crash it over Jeddah, DEBKAfile’s exclusive counter-terror sources reveal that, under interrogation, the suspected al Qaeda terrorists admitted they had intended flying the captive Saudi airliner over Israel and crashing it over an Israeli city.

That first Saudi announcement claimed the suspects carried knives and their last testaments. The Saudis make it a habit never to mention Israel in the context of al Qaeda’s attacks – even one which they thwarted. Then, Wednesday evening, May 21, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef denied there had been any hijack plot. He said two not three Moroccans had been detained in connection with “previous security cases”.

According to DEBKAfile’s sources, neither Saudi version is correct. The terrorists were not just armed with knives but were loaded with explosives, and there were three of them, not two.

The high alert declared in Israel Tuesday also placed the Israeli Air Force on round–the-clock patrol to guard against hijackers reaching Israeli skies to attack Israeli towns.