Al Qaeda Tests Trainees on Shooting Aircraft

It looked like any other test: fill in the blanks, multiple choice, short essays. But the graded exams found at an Al Qaeda camp had deadly implications — one question asked how best to shoot down an aircraft, and three terrorists-in-training got the answer right.

The Arabic-language test papers, found by The Associated Press Thursday in a complex of caves outside the southern city of Kandahar, show that those who attended the training camp for terrorists were taught more than how to fire Kalashnikov rifles.

Students learned how to make bombs, how to use anti-aircraft weapons and how to choose the best spots on a body for a kill shot. And they were tested and graded.

The tests of three students — identified only as Abu Hassan Qatari, Musaub al Freeb and one who went by the single name Usama — focused on the use of the old Russian-made Dashka anti-aircraft weapon.

The students had to know its inner workings, how to take it apart and put it back together. They had to know the ammunition it used, how many rounds it could fire per minute and per second.

They also had to know the best way to shoot down an aircraft — at what height, the angle at which the weapon should be fired and how many people would be required to carry the weapon (in the case of the Dashka, three).

Some of the questions were handwritten in red. Some were fill-in-the-blanks. Others asked the date of a weapon's manufacture, its weight or its range.

Each correct answer was marked with a red check mark, each wrong answer with an 'X.'

With a maximum score of 30, al Freeb scored a 24.5, Usama 22 and Qatari 19.5. Qatari was poor on dates and left some answers blank. Al Freeb gave detailed responses.

Among the questions on the exam sheet was one that asked: If an aircraft was traveling at an altitude of 3,000 feet, which part of the plane should you target in order to inflict the most damage?

All three chose the correct answer — given only as "target area two."

Other material found in the caves outside Kandahar, the Taliban's former stronghold, included Arabic and English-language notebooks. The students drew careful designs of weapons, or of a human being, marking off target areas between the eyes and the heart.

Paper was strewn around the training camp site, which had earlier been scoured by U.S. Marines. In one cave, several new-looking paperback books were found, including "A call to Jihad" by Usama bin Laden, the main suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.

In one notebook, there was a Pashtu-language poem dedicated to the Taliban's reclusive leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, along with scribblings from one friend to another. In the back was an address in Britain that had been written in careful English, with no name or explanation of who might live there.

On one page, a student practiced his signature over and over. There were doodles and chiding notes between friends.

It's not known how many students studied at the camp more than 60 miles west of Kandahar, off the main highway.

The camp was flattened by bombs from U.S. and British aircraft in the campaign to wipe out Al Qaeda and oust the Taliban movement that had ruled most of Afghanistan for five years.