On May 16 last year, a 22-year-old Austrian named Maqsood Lodin was being questioned by police in Berlin. He had recently returned from Pakistan via Budapest, Hungary, and then traveled overland to Germany. His interrogators were surprised to find that hidden in his underpants were a digital storage device and memory cards.
Buried inside them was a pornographic video called “Kick Ass” — and a file marked “Sexy Tanja.” Several weeks later, after laborious efforts to crack a password and software to make the file almost invisible, German investigators discovered encoded inside the actual video a treasure trove of intelligence — more than 100 al Qaeda documents that included an inside track on some of the terror group’s most audacious plots and a road map for future operations.
Future plots include the idea of seizing cruise ships and carrying out attacks in Europe similar to the gun attacks by Pakistani militants that paralyzed the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008. Ten gunmen killed 164 people in that three-day rampage.
Terrorist training manuals in PDF format in German, English and Arabic were among the documents, too, according to intelligence sources.
U.S. intelligence sources tell CNN that the documents uncovered are “pure gold;” one source says that they are the most important haul of al Qaeda materials in the last year, besides those found when U.S. Navy SEALs raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a year ago and killed the al Qaeda leader.
One document was called “Future Works.” Its authorship is unclear, but intelligence officials believe it came from al Qaeda’s inner core. It may have been the work of Younis al Mauretani, a senior al Qaeda operative until his capture by Pakistani police in 2011.
The document appears to have been the product of discussions to find new targets and methods of attack. German investigators believe it was written in 2009 — and that it remains the template for al Qaeda’s plans.
Investigative journalist Yassin Musharbash, a reporter with the German newspaper Die Zeit, was the first to report on the documents. One plan: to seize passenger ships. According to Musharbash, the writer “says that we could hijack a passenger ship and use it to pressurize the public.”
Musharbash takes that to mean that the terrorists “would then start executing passengers on those ships and demand the release of particular prisoners.”
The plan would include dressing passengers in orange jump suits, as if they were al Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and then videotaping their execution.
Lodin and a man called Yusuf Ocak, who allegedly traveled back to Europe with him, are now on trial in Berlin where they are pleading not guilty. Ocak was detained in Vienna two weeks after Lodin’s arrest.