Zazi Shnazi — the standard quality al Qaeda recruitment

Posted in War On Terror at 7:50 am by George Smith

A recent investigative feature from a Denver newspaper goes into the case of Najibullah Zazi, the failed terrorist who wished to make subway bombs from beauty parlor supply store chemicals.

The paper relates the counter-terror operation that nabbed him. The government intercepted e-mails, was quickly on the stick and tailed Zazi all the way to New York City.

The newspaper compares him to Mohammed Atta.

Atta, however, appeared to be no fool. And his efforts actually worked — spectacularly from the point of view of al Qaeda.

Zazi, on the other hand, was like many al Qaeda men who apparently believe everything they read in newspapers about how easy it is to make explosives from recipes found on the net. They reason that since it is in print, it must be so.

Then the real world intervenes:

The bomb-making instructions the FBI recovered from Zazi’s e-mails showed sophistication. According to the FBI, 30 grams of the substance Zazi wrote about would be enough to blow up a concrete block. Zazi’s notes indicate he intended to make up to 10 pounds — enough to blow up subway cars and everyone in them, Olson said.

“These guys were familiar with the New York subway. They knew what trains are most crowded when, and that’s what they focused on.” Olson added. “It would have been catastrophic.”

But he was caught because, starting Aug. 28, 2009, he began trying to make the explosives in the hotel room and failed every time. He frantically e-mailed an al-Qaeda facilitator in Pak istan named Ahmad, and it was those e-mails that the FBI intercepted.

In the end, Zazi’s major undoing was that he was either a bad chemist or took poor notes, Olson said.

DD has long maintained the real world is not interested in the stupid beliefs of counter-terror men and would-be terrorists who think all kinds of insta-mayhem-magic is at their fingertips on the Internet.

However, one can judge the quality of the jihadist by their reliance on such things. And history has show, again and again, that quality is very poor. If one is going to make improvised explosive devices, there’ are shortcuts to be had when trying to acquire a practical capability.

The men in the 9/11 attack did not rely on received wisdoms read in newspapers or Internet recipes.

And, as a side bit of history, they illustrate that if you run through your best soldiers in a kamikaze attack, no matter how spectacular the success, you may not find such resourceful human capital again.

Previously — on Zazi Shnazi.

The entire collection of posts on the beauty parlor supply store bomb plot — from the archives.


  1. João said,

    October 3, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Just remembered from this bit from the monty pytons,

    keep rocking

  2. Floormaster Squeeze said,

    October 4, 2011 at 7:32 am

    More like “Four Lions” funny: