The BBC reported on Tuesday that Abdul Jabbar, a British citizen living in Pakistan, was being prepared to lead a new al-Qaida splinter group tasked with launching commando-style raids on high-profile targets in Germany, Britain and France.
The news is the latest twist on recent reports that militants, including many German nationals, were plotting from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to launch attacks in Europe, modelled on the 2008 Mumbai siege in which more than 160 people were killed.
Berlin's luxury Hotel Adlon, near the Brandenburg Gate, and Alexanderplatz have been named in some reports as targets in the recent plot. The intelligence is partly based on information received during interrogation from Ahmad Sidiqi, a German national from Hamburg who travelled last year to Afghanistan to train in jihadist camps.
The intelligence prompted a rare Europe-wide travel alert from the US, though German authorities have played down the danger, with Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière even going so far as to warn against “alarmist” alerts. Britain, Japan and Sweden followed the US in issuing alerts.
The BBC, citing a senior security source overseas, reported that Jabbar was to lead a new group called the Islamic Army of Great Britain. He was killed last month in part of a wave of recent US drone strikes in the tribal border area.
Intelligence agencies monitored a meeting of 300 militants three months ago in North Waziristan, part of Pakistan's tribal areas, attended by Jabbar and members of the Taliban and al-Qaida, said the BBC.
At this gathering, Jabbar was put forward as leader of the new group. Intelligence from the meeting led to the drone attack on September 8 which killed Jabbar and three others, said the BBC.
The United States does not as a rule confirm drone attacks, but its military and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy the pilotless aircraft in the region.
North Waziristan is a reputed hideout for foreign and homegrown militants linked to the Taliban and al-Qaida, and is reported to be the operational epicentre of the latest plot.