Last May, a 22-year-old Austrian named Maqsood Lodin attempted to smuggle documents from al-Qaeda into Germany. Police in Berlin were suspicious of him after he returned from Pakistan by traveling through Budapest, Hungary and then to Germany. Police were shocked to discover several digital storage devices and memory cards.
As police searched through the devices, they found pornographic videos, one called Kick Ass and another called Sexy Tanja. Police, however, were still suspicious and they spent weeks trying to determine what else was encoded.
Their efforts did not go to waste.
They discovered over 100 al-Qaeda documents that included plans for future attacks.
Future Works was a document that the German police uncovered. While the authorship is unknown, officials are confident that it was written by al-Qaeda's top members in 2009. The document, reported CNN, appears to be a template for future attacks.
The future attacks included the idea for al-Qaeda militants to seize cruise ships. They wanted to dress the travelers in orange jump suits and broadcast their executions, reported CNN. Police also uncovered a potential Mumbai style attack, encourage militants to seize hotels or other buildings and indiscriminately shoot civilians.
In 2010, a year after the documents were written, the intelligence community received word that terrorists were planning a Mumbai-style attack in Europe.
I think it is plausible to think that the 'Future Works' document is part of that particular project, said Yassin Musharbash, a reporter with the German newspaper Die Zeit, was the first to report on the documents, reported CNN.
Police believe that Future Works could suggest that the terrorist organization is on the ropes, after several years without a major attack and their leadership crumbling. However, this is something al-Qaeda addresses.
The document delivers very clearly the notion that al Qaeda knows it is being followed very closely, Musharbash tells CNN. It specifically says that Western intelligence agencies have become very good at spoiling attacks, that they have to come up with new ways and better plotting.
Lodin and another man he was traveling with named Yusuf Ocak are currently on trial in Berlin and are pleading not guilty. Both of their names were allegedly on a terror watch list. Police believe that Ocak helped form a group called the German Taliban Mujahedeen. European intelligence suggests that these men met in terrorist training camps in Pakistan's tribal territories.
We do not know what those men were up to but there are certain files of information that would make it plausible that they were probably thinking of a Mumbai-style attack, said Musharbash.
Among the data, police also discovered terrorist training manuals in German, English and Arabic as PDF files. Members of the intelligence community said that the documents were pure gold, reported CNN. It is one of the largest, most important document hauls of al-Qaeda materials in the past year.
The author of these documents apparently suggests that the terrorist organization needs to change their strategy by developing low-cost and low-tech attacks, while simultaneously planning large scale 9/11 type attacks. Individuals under suspicion in the Western countries could be used as decoys while major attacks are developed, reported CNN.
However, Musharbash said it is important to keep a look out for gun attacks in major cities.
I believe that the general idea is still alive and I believe that as soon as al Qaeda has the capacities to go after that scenario, they will immediately do it, he said.