Middle East Intelligence Bulletin
Jointly published by the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon and the Middle East Forum
  Vol. 1   No. 12

December 1999 

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Intelligence Briefs: Middle East

Top Egyptian Cleric Calls for Nuclear Deterrent against Israel (18 November 1999)
Senior FIS Official Assassinated in Algeria (22 November 1999)
Iranian Government Foils Assassination Plot (25 November 1999)
Son-in-law of Syrian President Reportedly Shot (29 November 1999)
Assad May Have Leukemia (3 December 1999)
Russia Will Launch Israeli Military Satellite (3 December 1999)
Israel's Anti-Katyusha Missile Passes Critical Tests (3 December 1999)
Iraqi Republican Guard Officers Executed (3 December 1999)
Egypt Orders Release of 1,200 Islamic Militants (6 December 1999)
Iraq Appoints New Military Chief-of-Staff (9 December 1999)
U.S. Uncovers New Year's Terror Plot (13 December 1999)
Syrian Intelligence Arrests Supporters of Rifaat Assad (13-14 December 1999)
Algerian Arrested for Smuggling Explosives into U.S. (13-14 December 1999)

Top Egyptian Cleric Calls for Nuclear Deterrent against Israel
18 November 1999

The Palestinian daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported today that the government-appointed Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Dr. Muhammad Sayyed Al-Tantawi, called for Arab-Islamic world "to acquire nuclear weapons . . . in order to counter the Israeli intransigence which rejects the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty" during a conference at the University of Asyut. Also attending the Nov. 16 conference was a top political advisor to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Usama Al-Baz, who warned that "there will be no real peace nor stability as long as Israel is the only one to possess nuclear weapons in this region."

Senior FIS Official Assassinated in Algeria
22 November 1999

Abdelkader Hachani, the third-ranking official of Algeria's Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was shot to death today. Last month, Hachani had announced his support of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's "amnesty-for-peace" plan. Several members of the militant Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which opposes Bouteflika's peace plan, were later arrested for alleged involvement in the killing.

Iranian Government Foils Assassination Plot
25 November 1999

The Islamic Republic News Agency reported today that 34 members of the Mahdaviyat movement who were planning to assassinate President Mohammed Khatami and two other top officials have been arrested. The Mahdaviyat movement is centered around a renegade Iranian religious leader who preaches the imminent return of the Mahdi, a messianic figure that Shi'ite Muslims believe will briefly appear to restore righteousness prior to the end of the world. The movement was allegedly responsible for a failed attempt to assassinate a senior conservative judge in January and for planning attacks against Iranian Sunnis.

Son-in-law of Syrian President Reportedly Shot
29 November 1999

The French daily French daily Liberation reported today that a son-in-law of Syrian President Hafez Assad was shot earlier this month and is being treated at a military hospital in Paris. According to the report, Assef al-Shawkat, Syria's director of army intelligence, was shot in the abdomen by Maher Assad, one of the Syrian dictator's three sons. The report gave no information about Shawkat's medical condition.

Hafez Assad
Hafez Assad
Assad May Have Leukemia
1 December 1999

According to the Israeli daily Yediot Aharanot, Syrian President Hafez Assad may be suffering from Leukemia. The report cited "Western sources," including a team of French doctors currently treating the dictator, and noted that Assad has recently begun wearing a hat in public appearances, possibly to cover hair loss resulting from chemotherapy. Assad has long suffered from heart disease and severe diabetes.

Russia Will Launch Israeli Military Satellite
3 December 1999

Ha'aretz reported today that Russia will launch an Israeli military satellite into orbit next year. The deal, negotiated during recent talks between Israeli and Russian defense ministry officials, is said to have "met understanding" from the United States.

Israel's Anti-Katyusha Missile Passes Critical Tests
3 December 1999

Israel announced today that a new missile which can intercept incoming Katyusha rockets has passed a a number of critical trials at the White Sands testing range in New Mexico. A Defense Ministry spokesman said that it will not be known when the THEL-ACTD system, a joint Israel-U.S. project that began several years ago, will become operational until additional tests are conducted over the next few months. Hezbollah has made extensive use of Soviet-designed Katyusha rockets in its war against IDF forces in south Lebanon.

Iraqi Republican Guard Officers Executed
6 December 1999

Al-Qabas reported today that five Iraqi officers from the Republican Guard were executed on November 29 on charges of plotting to assassinate Qusay Hussein, the second eldest son of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, during his visit to a Republican Guard training facility in the Hamreen Hills between Kirkuk and Tikrit in October. Lieutenant Colonel Ibrahim Jassim, Major Abdulsattar Khalaf, Captain Ali Hussain, Captain Dawood Mohamad, and Captain Omer Abdulrazaq allegedly placed remote-controlled bombs on a road travelled by Qusay's convoy. A sixth officer, Gen. Mohamad Qassim, committed suicide before his arrest.

Egypt Orders Release of 1,200 Islamic Militants
6 December 1999

Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported today that Egyptian Interior Minister Habib al-Adli has ordered the release of 1,200 members of Gama'a al-Islamiya, the country's foremost militant Islamic group. Gama'a al-Islamiya is notorious for attacks on foreigners, such as the November 1997 massacre of 58 tourists in Luxor. In March 1999, however, the group declared a moratorium on violent activities.

Iraq Appoints New Military Chief-of-Staff
9 December 1999

Iraq's news agency reported today that Gen. Ibrahim Abdelsattar has been appointed chief-of-staff of Iraqi armed forces. Abdelsattar has served as chief-of-staff of Iraqi Republican Guard divisions since 1992. He was among the commanders who spearheaded the Irqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It was also reported that former military chief-of-staff Gen. Abdel Wahed Shannan al-Rabbat has been appointed governor of Baghdad.

U.S. Uncovers New Year's Terror Plot
13 December 1999

A U.S. official said today that around a dozen people suspected of involvement in a plot to attack Americans around the world on or around New Year's Day have been arrested in the Middle East. The suspects have been linked to Osama bin Laden, the official said. "The threat was global," the official said. "This is really a very sensitive, ongoing investigation and the threat has not ended." He declined to specify the locations of the planned attacks or where the suspects were apprehended. A few days earlier, the State Department issued a warning advising Americans traveling overseas to avoid large gatherings during the New Year's celebrations.

Syrian Intelligence Arrests Supporters of Rifaat Assad
13-14 December 1999

Syrian intelligence forces raided several houses in the city of Homs and arrested over 60 alleged supporters of Rifaat Assad, the exiled brother of Syrian President Hafez Assad. The suspects were reportedly blindfolded and transferred to Damascus.

Algerian Arrested for Smuggling Explosives into U.S.
14 December 1999

An Algerian man attempting to transport explosive materials across the Canadian border into the United States was arrested today. The suspect, 32-year-old Ahmed Ressam, was stopped by U.S. customs officials as he arrived by ferry in Port Angeles, Washington from British Columbia. During his questioning by a border guard, he reportedly jumped out of the car and fled on foot before being apprehended. The trunk of his rental car contained enough nitroglycerin and other explosive components to build a massive bomb, according to investigators.

1999 Middle East Intelligence Bulletin. All rights reserved.

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