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Al Qaeda's Anthrax Scientist

Malaysia releases a dangerous terrorist from jail.

8:00 AM, Dec 12, 2008 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Al Matrafi established al Wafa offices throughout the Taliban-controlled parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. And he also established a presence for the group in Iranian cities such as Tehran, Zahedan, Tayyebat, and Meshad. Al Wafa used the mullahs' soil to transport terrorists into Afghanistan. For example, another former Guantánamo detainee was a driver for al Matrafi and would pick up terrorists in Meshad, Iran and then drive them to the westernmost parts of Afghanistan.

This transportation route was not al Wafa's only contribution to al Qaeda and the Taliban, however. Under al Matrafi's management, al Wafa purchased arms and other supplies for al Qaeda and the Taliban. Al Matrafi himself allegedly attempted to purchase a laser guided missile system and missiles. And it is a safe bet that if he had acquired them, these weapons would have ended up in al Qaeda's hands.

Al Matrafi was connected to the highest levels of the terror network. He allegedly met with Osama bin Laden twice, once in late 2000 and a second time in July 2001 at bin Laden's house in Kandahar. Al Matrafi acted as an emissary between bin Laden and Saudi clerics who supported al Qaeda, including one who helped establish al Wafa. According to the U.S. Government's files, al Matrafi also had "numerous conversations with Mullah Omar" and "negotiated a deal that allowed the Taliban to direct al Wafa's activities."

Al Matrafi's ties to these senior terrorists gave al Wafa access to al Qaeda's most sensitive projects, including Yazid Sufaat's anthrax program.

One of al Matrafi's employees, a Yemeni named Ayman Saeed Abdullah Batarfi, is currently held at Guantánamo. It is not clear what the U.S. Government plans to do with him, but Batarfi is allegedly a long-time mujahideen, having first traveled to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the late 1980s. After training in an al Qaeda camp and participating in the first jihad in Afghanistan, Batarfi graduated from medical school in Pakistan and, according to the New York Times, "pursued postdoctoral studies there." Batarfi even became an orthopedic surgeon.

Batarfi used his expertise to become the medical advisor to al Wafa. It was in this capacity, the government alleges, that Batarfi "met a Malaysian microbiologist in Kandahar" while staying at an al Qaeda guesthouse in August 2001. "This microbiologist wanted to equip a lab and train the Afghans to test blood" and "was involved in developing anthrax for al Qaida." Batarfi told another al Wafa member "to purchase four to five thousand United States Dollars worth of medical equipment for the Malaysian microbiologist."

Although the microbiologist is not named in the government's unclassified files, he is most certainly Yazid Sufaat.

Yet another current Guantánamo detainee is, like Batarfi, a Yemeni who was working for al Wafa at the time of his capture. The U.S. government alleges that Jamil Ahmed Said Nassir was identified by a senior al Wafa official as being "a Karachi University microbiology graduate student," who purchased materials for Wafa from a chemical company. Thus, Nassir may have been involved in Sufaat's anthrax program as well. It is possible that Nassir is, like Sufaat, a scientist who wanted to use his training to serve al Qaeda's goals.

So, we have four alleged terrorists all of whom have been detained in the post-9/11 world and at least three of whom were allegedly involved in al Qaeda's anthrax program in some fashion. Two of them, Yazid Sufaat and Abdullah Aiza al Matrafi, have been released from custody. It is up to the Malaysian government to make sure Sufaat does not return to terrorism. And it is up to the Saudis to make sure al Matrafi does not rejoin his al Qaeda and Taliban brethren. Indeed, more than one hundred Saudis are in al Matrafi's shoes--that is, they were once detained at Guantánamo and are now living in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have built a program to rehabilitate these former detainees, but only time will tell if this effort is effective.

The other two, Ayman Saeed Abdullah Batarfi and Jamil Ahmed Said Nassir, currently reside at Guantánamo. Both of them are Yemenis and the Bush administration has had a difficult time figuring out what to do with the approximately 97 Yemenis left at Guantánamo. It is not clear what the new Obama administration will do with them either.