Phone records for Osama bin Laden were released last week, revealing London and the Home Counties as a hot bed of Al-Qaeda activity.
Over 260 calls were made from a satellite phone in Afghanistan between 1996 and 1998 to around 27 numbers in Britain, including calls to terrorist agents and known sympathisers, as well as some inexplicable calls to bizarrely unconnected numbers.
Records which have come to light since the trial of the four Al-Qaeda terrorists accused of bombing US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, show that bin Laden made use of a satellite phone purchased on the credit card of Dr Saad al Fagih, a 45 year-old surgeon who heads the London-based Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia.
The phone in question was a £10,500 Inmarsat Compact M satellite phone with an all weather external antenna and battery and a block of 3,000 pre-paid minutes.
Marketing blurb for the phone claims that the Compact M is the "smallest, lightest Inmarsat satellite telephone available and is the ideal communication tool when you don't know where your travels will take you".
Over 200 calls were made to the London homes of Khaled al Fawwaz and Ibrahim Eidarous, two Al-Qaeda sympathisers now in prison awaiting extradition to the US for their part in the US embassy bombings.
Al Fawwaz kept a note of the satellite phone number in his address book under the name 'Atef'. Muhammad Atef, bin Laden's right hand man, apparently also used the phone to direct Al-Qaeda's operations.
According to The Sunday Times, bin Laden stopped using the phone two months after members of the terrorist body bombed the two US embassies in Africa.
Apparently he suspected his movements were being traced through the phone and possibly switched to another.
One of the more bizarre calls, lasting three minutes, was to a ground floor council flat in Erith, Kent in December 1996. Michelle Urquart, its occupant, is a housewife who lived there with her three children.
After the UK, the countries bin Laden called most frequently were Yemen - where terrorists bombed destroyer USS Cole in October 2000 - Sudan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Italy, where police thwarted a poison gas attack on the US embassy earlier this year. Only six calls were made to the US.
Iraq is noticeable by its absence on the records. Again this may be because bin Laden suspected his calls were being traced.
Calls to the satellite phone number 00873 682 505 331 are met with a "your call cannot be connected" message.
vnunet.com has previously reported that bin Laden and the Taleban were customers of Inmarsat, until their accounts were terminated in 2000.
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