- From the head of Isis to the brain behind Boko Haram, we reveal the new names on the globe’s governmental watch lists.People may be (half) joking about the nuclear threat of a Donald Trump presidency but for now, from kidnappings to suicide bombs, our planet is becoming a more volatile place to live by the day. And these crimes are frequently carried out under the express orders of a select group of deadly and unstable men. Here, we reveal the elusive people currently keeping heads of state awake at night.
5. THE SECRET COMMANDER
Who: Major General Qassem Suleimani – head of Iran’s Quds Force, a Special Forces brigade.
What he wants: To secure Iranian interests across the Middle East.
What he does: Undertakes covert war on the US and Israel, including arming allies, funding militant groups and carrying out assassinations. Largely responsible for intervening in Syria and keeping President Assad in power.
How he can be stopped: His power comes from his close relationship with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, whose own power is based on a huge business empire known as Setad. Sanctions on Setad would disrupt this cosy relationship.
4. THE MASTER BOMB-MAKER
Who: Ibrahim al-Asiri AKA Abu Saleh – Saudi militant and chief bomb-maker for al-Qaida.
What he wants: To mastermind plots along multiple fronts, including renewed efforts to target Western aeroplanes.
What he does: The former chemistry student uses PETN in bombs – a white, odourless powder that X-ray machines struggle to pick up. He is thought to have designed the ‘underwear’ bomb used in an attempt to blow up a US-bound plane in 2009, and printer bombs sent from Yemen and destined for the US. His most significant threat, according to intelligence, is that he is teaching his techniques to al-Qaida apprentices, causing the ‘credible threat’ warnings issued by the US in July 2014 and led to increased security on all direct flights.
How he can be stopped: The US has intercepted al-Qaida transmissions and positioned him somewhere in the mountainous region of southern Yemen. More precise location intelligence will lead to drone strikes without fear of collateral damage.
3. THE MASS KIDNAPPER
Who: Abubakar Shekau – Islamist terrorist and leader of Boko Haram, which translated means: “Western education is a sin”.
What he wants: Establish an Islamic state in Nigeria and introduce Sharia law.
What he does: Bombings and village massacres, with at least 14 attacks already in 2014. The sect came to the world’s attention with April’s kidnapping of 223 Christian schoolgirls who BH say won’t be freed until an “army” of fighters are released from Nigerian jail cells.
How he can be stopped: According to UN analysts, the Nigerian government needs to reduce chronic poverty in BH strongholds and build an education system to gain local Muslim support.
2. THE CYBER SOLDIER
Who: Sun Kailiang – superhacker and captain in the People’s Liberation Army, China.
What he wants: To disrupt the US economy, using cyberwarfare.
What he does: Kailiang – as part of afive-man economic espionage team – has been charged by the FBI of illegally accessing the computer systems of six US companies related to the nuclear industry and controlling computers to steal technical specifications and trade secrets.
How he can be stopped: Counter-offensive virus software has been developed that traces the cyber trail left by attacking malware all the way back to the source server and shuts it down before it can take screenshots of blueprints, copy passwords etc.
1. MR MARLBORO
Who: Mokhtar Belmokhtar – Algerian jihadi and leader of al-Qaida affiliate Al-Mourabitoun.
Where: Maghreb, Africa.
What he wants: To make al-Qaida a global terrorist movement, to mount attacks on western Europe, and operate coast to coast in Africa.
What he does: Recruits foreign jihadis returning from Syria for new terror campaigns, funded by the illegal tobacco trade, hence the moniker ‘Mr Marlboro’. The man behind the attack on an Algerian gas plant where 40 hostages were killed last year, he is also thought to be responsible for a recently discovered Eiffel Tower terror plot.
How he can be stopped: Belmokhtar’s followers call him ‘The Uncatchable’ after escaping a gun battle with counter-terrorist forces last year. “Similar operations will be mounted within Libyan borders, where Belmokhtar is thought to be,” says jihadist movements expert Mokhtar Belhasin (magharebia.com).
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