I. THE OMENS OF OP ANACONDA
The operation, code-named
OP Anaconda by the US, in the Shah-e-Kot area (Arma mountains) near
Gardez in the Paktia province of eastern Afghanistan involved a major
confrontation between the allied forces led by the US and a mixed group
of determined guerrilla fighters, operating from inside a cave complex
in the area.
On the side of the
international coalition were about 1,200 troops from the US and 200
from Australia, Canada, the UK and other West European countries, reportedly
assisted by about 800 Pashtuns of the area. These were subsequently
joined by about 1000 Tadjiks of the Northern Alliance rushed to the
area from Kabul, resulting in a strong criticism by the local Pashtun
warlords of the induction of the Tadjiks into a Pashtun area. They interpreted
this as an insult to their fighting prowess.
Who were pitted against
the coalition troops? The answer to this is not clear. American spokesmen
have described them as a mix of the remnants of the Taliban and Osama
bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. However, other reports, considered more independent,
describe them as a moderate sized contingent of Pakistanis led by Arab
instructors of the 055 Brigade of the Al Qaeda.
The Pakistanis involved
in the fighting were the members of the Sunni extremist Sipah-e-Sahaba
Pakistan (SSP), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-Al-Islami
(HUJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). They
had survived the US air strikes in Afghanistan and had managed to return
to Pakistani territory. They had been re-grouped and re-trained by a
team of retired officers of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment
and many of them re-inducted into eastern Afghanistan (Gardez, Wardak,
Ghazni and Khost) to resume the fight against the US troops.
One of their major
objectives was to show to the Afghan people as well as to the rest of
the world that contrary to the American claims of having vanquished
the Taliban and damaged the Al Qaeda-inspired terrorist infrastructure
in Afghanistan, they were still alive and kicking.
In a report carried
on 13 March 2002, The News of Islamabad has quoted an Afghan
commander in the area as saying that most of the guerrillas involved
in the fighting were Pakistanis and Arabs. The fighting, often bitter,
lasted 11 days at the end of which the Afghan troops claimed to have
captured the area from the Pakistanis and Arabs on 12 March 2002. The
News has quoted General Abdullah Joyenda, an Afghan commander assisting
the US troops, as saying that most of the surviving Pakistanis and Arabs
retreated towards the Pakistani border. The report does not say whether
they have re-entered Pakistan.
For want of adequate
information, it is difficult to find an acceptable answer to many questions
such as: How did the fighting erupt? Did the Pakistanis and Arabs surprise
the Americans or did the Americans surprise them in their hide-out?
How was it that during the earlier electronic and ground sweep during
and after the fighting in the Tora Bora area the presence of these remnants
in this area (Shah-e-Kot) escaped notice? If they were not present in
this area at that time, wherefrom did they infiltrate into this area
now? From some other area of Afghanistan or from Pakistan?
There is a cloak of
secrecy about the nature of the fighting and the ultimate results. From
the details filtering out of Pakistan, one could assess, with some measure
of conviction, that the Americans, who suffered fatal casualties of
eight of their personnel due to enemy fire directed at their helicopters,
relied as they have been doing since 7 October 2001, on air power, precision-guided
fire power of tremendous destructive capability and long-range ground
firing capability. They avoided any ground action, which might have
brought their troops into close proximity of the guerrillas.
For close proximity
action such as that undertaken on 12 March 2002, they depended on the
Afghans in order to avoid heavy casualties for their own troops. After
having softened the guerrilla position on the ground through air strikes
and long-range firing, they used the Afghans for finally capturing the
cave complex from the control of the jehadi guerillas and for the mopping-up
Figures of the strength
of the jehadi forces pitted against the Americans and of the casualties
inflicted on them widely vary. The American claim of having killed over
500 fighters of the Al Qaeda and the Taliban during the 11-day action
are not corroborated by the accounts of the Afghan allies of the US
who put the number of dead bodies recovered during their mopping-up
on 12 March at less than 50.
Despite the paucity
of reliable information filtering across the curtain imposed by the
Americans, it would appear till now that Anaconda was more an embarrassing
surprise for the Americans than a famous victory.
because it proved the earlier American belief or claims of having defeated
the mix of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda to have been premature. Also
because Anaconda has shown, if proof was needed, that the entire war
against terrorism could come unstuck if they do not deal with the dregs
of the present Afghan war, who are now operating from Pakistani territory.
During the 1980s, the
Pakistani territory in Baluchistan, the North West Frontier Province
(NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) functioned
effectively and devastatingly as the rear base for the Afghan Mujahideen
and foreign, essentially Arab, mercenary groups which made the Soviet
troops bleed. The very same Pakistani sanctuaries are now sought to
be used by the surviving dregs of the Taliban, the Al Qaeda and the
Pakistani jehadi conglomerate to frustrate the US-led campaign in the
Pashtun areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan.
Instead of focussing
on this, the Bush Administration is letting its attention and that of
its allies be diverted to the more alluring task of turning the guns
on President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. ‘If not bin Laden, let us at least
get the head of Saddam Hussein as our trophy.’ That seems to be the
cry in Washington DC.
They may be able to
get the head of Saddam, but that would not be the end of the terrorism
directed against homeland America. The key to the end of the Al Qaeda-inspired
terrorism against homeland America and the rest of the international
community lies in the Pakistan-southern/eastern Afghanistan region and
not in Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Yemen, Georgia or southern
Philippines. Till the Pakistan/Afghanistan region is totally cleared
of, and sanitised against, the terrorist infection, more September 11s
The warning signs are
there, loud and clear, for the Americans to read if only they open their
eyes fully instead of fighting the war against terrorism with their
eyes half open/half closed as they have been doing now, lest, if they
open them fully, they see Pakistan for what it really is, the snake
pit of international terrorism.
Shah-e-Kot was only
one of these warning signs, but not the first. There were others before
kidnapping and brutal murder of Daniel Pearl, the American journalist.
President Pervez Musharraf’s suspension of his actions against the
terrorist groups after the kidnapping.
release of 600 of the 2,000 arrested extremists by him on the ground
that there was no evidence of their involvement in terrorism.
offer of an amnesty by Lieutenant General (retd) Moinuddin Haider,
Pakistan’s Interior Minister, to the remaining 1,400 if they give
in writing that they would not re-join the banned terrorist organisations -
the easiest thing for them to do.
revival of sectarian violence in different cities of Pakistan despite
Musharraf’s ban on the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah Mohammad on 14
August 2001, and on five other terrorist organisations on 15 January
2002, including the Sunni extremist SSP and the Shia extremist Tehrik
continuing collusion of Pakistan’s military intelligence establishment
with terrorists of various hues so vividly brought out by the Daniel
Pearl case, the arrest of Omar Shaikh and Musharraf’s pussy-footing
on the question of his extradition, the failure to act effectively
against the dregs from Afghanistan re-grouping in Pakistani sanctuaries
If these warning signs
are not heeded, another terrorist Pearl Harbour is likely - sooner than
14 March 2002
II. THE MAN WHO KNOWS & TALKS TOO MUCH
On 12 March 2002, a court
in Karachi extended the police remand of Omar Shaikh, the British terrorist
of Pakistani origin, who is believed to have masterminded the kidnapping
of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist. Pearl was subsequently reported
to have been brutally murdered and beheaded, most probably by the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami
(HUJI) headed by Qazi Saifullah Akhtar, which has always been close
to the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment and General Pervez
As already repeatedly
pointed out by this writer, the Pakistani authorities have been trying
hard to steer the investigation away from the HUJI and to project it
as the work of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), one of the five terrorist
organisations banned by Musharraf on
15 January 2002. They are afraid that if the HUJI’s involvement became
public knowledge there could be US demands for banning it.
An interesting thing
happened in the court on 12 March. When the Karachi Police moved the
application for the extension of his Police remand on the ground that
his interrogation was incomplete, Omar Shaikh reportedly remarked: "What
do they mean by saying the interrogation is incomplete? They stopped
interrogating me more than a fortnight ago. I am prepared to talk to
them, but they are afraid of my talking."
In fact, reports from
independent and usually reliable sources in the Karachi Police say that
in the beginning of March, Musharraf ordered the stopping of all interrogation
of Omar Shaikh in connection with his involvement in the kidnapping
and murder of Pearl and other terrorist incidents.
When the Karachi Police
took custody of Omar Shaikh from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)
12 February he started talking to them freely and voluntarily about
his activities since he was released by India in the last week of December,
1999, to terminate the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar
by the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM). He said that:
had since then been functioning from Lahore with the knowledge and
permission of the ISI. At Lahore, he was in regular touch with General
Mohammad Aziz Khan, who was a Corps Commander there, till his appointment
as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee on 8 October
was frequently travelling to Kandahar to meet Mulla Mohammad Omar,
the Amir of the Taliban, and Osama bin Laden and also to Dubai.
had personally met Mohammad Atta, the mastermind of the 11 September
terrorist strikes on the World Trade Centre in New York, during one
of his visits to Kandahar and knew of the plans for the
11 September strikes. He had told Lieutenant General Ehsanul-Haq,
the present DG of the ISI, who was then a Corps Commander at Peshawar,
and General Aziz Khan about it.
had personally accompanied Musharraf and Aziz to the headquarters
of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), at Muridke, near Lahore, when they had
gone there before Musharraf’s India visit in July last to appeal to
the LET not to oppose his visit to New Delhi.
had orchestrated the attacks on the Jammu & Kashmir Legislative
Assembly on 1 October 2001, and on the Indian Parliament at New Delhi
on 13 December 2001, and the firing incident outside the American
Centre in Kolkata on 22 January 2002. He knew Aftab Ansari, the mafia
leader, who is presently under interrogation in India in connection
with the Kolkata incident. All these attacks were organised with the
knowledge and approval of the ISI.
was kidnapped and murdered because he was making enquiries about the
links of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment with bin
Laden and wanted to meet people who would have knowledge of the present
whereabouts of bin Laden. They suspected that Pearl was being used
by the USA’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to recruit people who
might be prepared to betray bin Laden and help in his capture.
spectacular terrorist acts against the US were in the offing.
Sindhi Officers of
the Karachi Police, who had been extremely resentful of the manner in
which Musharraf, a Mohajir, had made them work under the supervision
of Army monitors much junior to them in rank, leaked to the media what
Omar Shaikh told them about his involvement in the terrorist attacks
Kamran Khan of The
News of Islamabad reported about this in his periodic column. This
set off a wave of panic in the GHQ at Rawalpindi and in the ISI headquarters,
who tried to discredit Kamran Khan’s story by saying that Omar Shaikh
had been tutored to say all this about his involvement in the terrorist
attacks in India. Though they did not specify who had tutored him, the
insinuation was that India had tutored him to discredit Pakistan and
They then pressured
the owner of The News to sack the Editor of the paper and three
of his journalists, including Kamran Khan, who had been publishing a
lot of reports on the Pearl case which cast doubts on Musharraf’s sincerity.
Musharraf spoke to
the father of Omar Shaikh and requested him to persuade his son not
to make such statements which harmed Pakistan’s supreme national interest.
The father was allowed to talk to his son over phone and, on his appeal,
Omar Shaikh agreed to retract his earlier statements and deny ever having
said these things.
In fact, in keeping
with his promise to his father, he did retract, but subsequently, he
again started saying that he stood by whatever he had stated earlier.
Musharraf then ordered
the Karachi Police not to interrogate him any longer and to treat him
well. The military-intelligence establishment is in a dilemma. It is
determined not to extradite him to the USA lest he repeat before
the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) what he had told the Karachi
Police. At the same time, they don’t want to try him in Pakistan either.
Amongst the various
options reportedly being considered are to have him declared insane
and unfit for trial and extradition or, if need be, to eliminate him
and show him as having been killed when an attempt was made to free
him by the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, the banned Sunni extremist organisation,
which has recently stepped up its anti-Shia activities in Karachi.
13 March 2002
III. THE OMENS FROM ISLAMABAD
General Retreat has retreated
again. In the face of mounting pressure from Pakistan’s clandestine
Army of Islam, headed by General Mohammad Aziz Khan, Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, and mounting terrorist violence in
different parts of the country, climaxed by the grenade attack on a
group of American and other foreign Christian worshippers in a church
in a high security Islamabad area on 17 March 2002, General Pervez Musharraf
has called off the implementation of all the measures which he had ostensibly
taken against the extremist/terrorist elements operating from Pakistani
territory against India and the US.
Even before the Islamabad
attack, which led to the deaths of five innocent Christians, two of
them the wife and daughter of a member of the staff of the US Embassy
in Islamabad, Musharraf, after the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl, the US
journalist, who was brutally killed by components of the Army of Islam,
had totally suspended the implementation of all the anti-extremist and
anti-terrorist measures which he had announced in his televised address
of 12 January 2002, much to the applause of the US and other Western
The retreat, which
then started, is now threatening to become a rout. Not only the leaders
of the mainstream Islamic parties, who were detained after the beginning
of the US-led war in Afghanistan on 7 October 2001, but also the leaders
and cadres of the various components of the Army of Islam and other
sectarian and jehadi groups, who were detained before and after
12 January 2002, are being released post-haste.
Assurances have been
conveyed to them through intermediaries such as General Mohammad Aziz
and Lieutenant General Ehsanul-Haq, the Director-General of the Inter-Services
Intelligence (ISI), that under no account would Musharraf betray these
jehadi-terrorists and weaken their capability to carry on their jehad
directed against India and the USA.
volte face vis-a-vis the Taliban and the Al Qaeda and post-12 January
steps vis-a-vis the jehadi-terrorists operating from Pakistan are being
projected in realpolitik terms, as meant to get over Pakistan’s serious
economic difficulties and to break out of its diplomatic isolation and
not as a reversal of his past policy of building up strength and
capability of the Army of Islam.
The serious difficulties
faced by Musharraf, so dramatically illustrated by the grenade attack
on the worshippers in the church of Islamabad on 17 March 2002, could
be attributed to the following:
re-assertion by the Army of Islam elements in the Pakistani military-intelligence
establishment of their influence and power under the leadership
of General Mohammad Aziz Khan and Musharraf’s increasing inability
to control them. He was their principal creator before he seized power
on 12 October 1999, and they are now threatening to devour him if
he went ahead with his measures against them.
incompetence and ineffectiveness of the Interior Minister, Lieutenant
General (retd) Moinuddin Haider, a Mohajir like Musharraf, and his
inability to make the civilian bureaucracy in general and the police
in particular carry out his orders.
resentment against Musharraf in the Police, the Intelligence Bureau
(IB) and other sections of the civilian security bureaucracy. They
are not doing the job for which they are meant - namely, enforcement
of law and order and internal security. "Serves him (Musharraf)
right," is their refrain as they have been dragging their feet
in the investigation of cases such as the murder of Danial Pearl,
and in controlling the increasing attacks on the Shias. They
have also been inspiring leaks to the public about what Omar
Shaikh, whose extradition the US has demanded in connection with the
Pearl case and another kidnapping case of 1994 in India in which an
American national was involved, has been telling the police about
the involvement of not only the ISI, but even Musharraf and Mohammad
Aziz with the terrorist elements.
military rulers - particularly Zia-ul-Haq - had at least some humility
to realise that the military-intelligence establishment, however powerful,
could not effectively govern the country without the willing cooperation
of the civilian bureaucracy. Zia took care to keep the civilian
bureaucrats in good humour.
In marked contrast,
Musharraf, known for his arrogance and over-estimation of his own capabilities,
has gone out of his way ever since the day he seized power to marginalise
and humiliate not only the mainstream political leadership in general,
Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML),
and Benazir Bhutto, the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP),
in particular, but also the civilian bureaucracy.
He has inducted serving
and retired officers of the Army as "performance monitors"
not only in all ministries of the Federal Government, but also at all
levels of the provincial administration. Officers of the traditionally
civilian IB and of the Police have been forced to work under military
monitors, who are much below them in rank and status and take their
approval for every action. Abdul Sattar, the Foreign Minister, cannot
post even a minor Ambassador without the approval of an Army Brigadier
sitting in the Foreign Office as "performance monitor".
The bureaucracy in
general and the Police in particular have started hitting back at Musharraf
- by not passing on to him the correct information; by not giving him
the correct advice; by not enforcing law and order; by not vigorously
investigating criminal cases; by instigating the extremist and terrorist
elements to hit back at him; and by leaking stories to the media and
public about Musharraf’s past links with bin Laden and other terrorists.
The time has come for
the US to realise that in its war against terrorism Musharraf is not
an asset, but a liability and to work determinedly for:
replacement of Mohammad Aziz Khan and Moinuddin Haider by more reliable
officers with a clean record.
restoration of the morale and authority of the civilian bureaucracy
in general and the Police and the IB in particular.
withdrawal of the military officers inducted into the IB by Musharraf
and the establishment of the civilian IB’s primacy in Pakistan’s intelligence
removal of the ban on political activities and on the return of Sharif
and Benazir to Pakistan so that they could again play their due role
in national politics.
withdrawal of the military to the barracks and the joint formation
of a government of national unity by Sharif and Benazir as a prelude
to the holding of genuinely free elections.
retirement of Musharraf and all others involved with the terrorists
in the past.
Unless and until this
is done, the situation in the epicentre of terrorism constituted by
Pakistan and southern Afghanistan would continue to deteriorate from
bad to worse.
20 March 2002
IV. AL QAEDA’S SHADOWS ON INDIA & SE ASIA
There are indications that
to avoid detection of their presence in Pakistani territory by the US
intelligence agencies and possible cross border (Pakistan-Afghan border)
punitive strikes by the US forces operating in Afghanistan, the Inter-Services
Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan has started shifting important elements
of the Al Qaeda, including surviving leaders of its brains trust, to
Pakistani Punjab and the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), including
the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan).
Since December, 2001,
sections of the Pakistani media have been reporting about the movement
of the Al Qaeda survivors towards Punjab as well as the POK by the ISI-supported
Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). This movement has continued, despite the ostensible
ban on the LET imposed by General Pervez Musharraf on 15 January 2002,
under US pressure.
The role played by
the LET’s headquarters at Muridke, near Lahore, in facilitating the
movement of Al Qaeda cadres to and from Afghanistan had been highlighted
by the prestigious Friday Times of Lahore in its issue for the
week from 14 to 20 December 2001. It wrote: "Muridke, a city within
a city, was built with Arab (author’s comment: bin Laden’s) money.....Its
(the LET’s) contact with the Wahabi camps in Kunnar in Afghanistan has
never been disowned although Muridke carefully mutes its obvious connections
with the Arab warriors in Afghanistan. Its connections with Osama bin
Laden have also been carefully hidden although news appearing in the
national press have linked the two....Lashkar’s office in Muridke used
to receive a large number of Arabs on a daily basis and was a transit
camp for those leaving for Afghanistan and Central Asia."
When Musharraf banned
the LET on 15 January 2002, and detained its leader, Prof Hafiz Mohammad
Saeed, a Punjabi Gujjar, (since released), he refrained from extending
the ban order to the POK, including the Northern Areas, and the Federally-Administered
Tribal Areas (FATA). He had the offices of the LET in the small towns
raided to satisfy the US that he was acting against the terrorists,
but did not raid the LET headquarters at Muridke, which had sheltered
a large number of Al Qaeda survivors, who had fled from Afghanistan.
With the complicity
of the ISI, the LET started moving the Al Qaeda survivors to private
homes in different towns in Punjab as well as to its camps in the POK.
The Friday Times reported in its issue for 1 to 7 February 2002:
"Sources say that when Dawatul Irshad (Markaz Dawa Al Irshad since
re-named as Jamaat al-Dawa), parent organisation of the now banned Lashkar
Tayyaba, shifted its activities to Azad Kashmir (POK), it took with
it many non-Pakistanis suspected of links to Al Qaeda. All these organisations
were loosely affiliated and their activists moved across organisations
and cells with a great degree of ease, an intelligence source said."
The Friday Times
added: "Just before the Musharraf Government took action against
the organisation, there were quite a few foreigners residing at Dawa’s
headquarters in Muridke. Most of these people had infiltrated into Pakistan
in the initial stages of the war, says an insider. Some of these people
shifted along with other Lashkar cadres to Azad Kashmir (POK) after
Hafiz Mohammad Saeed resigned under pressure from the Government. After
his resignation, he also constituted another jihadi group called Jamaat
al-Dawa while the supreme council nominated Abdul Wahid Kashmiri, another
senior member of the Dawatul Irshad, as its new Amir. Insiders say some
of these foreigners are also said to be linked to Hezbul Tehreer and
work under the supervision of Abdul Qadeem Zaloom, a Saudi-based person
with links to the Al Qaeda," it concluded.
The raids conducted
by the Pakistani Police and security agencies, under the prodding of
the CIA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the USA, at
Faislabad, Lahore and Multan on 28 and 29 March 2002, which led to the
arrest and detention of 20 Al Qaeda activists, including Abu Zubaida,
reportedly No. 3 in bin Laden’s set-up, and 10 of their Pakistani supporters,
many of them from the LET, brought to light the fact that even after
the shifting of many of the Al Qaeda dregs to POK by the LET, with the
connivance of the ISI, many continue to operate from Punjab.
During his visit to
Kabul on 2 April 2002, Musharraf himself admitted that the intelligence
regarding the presence of these Al Qaeda elements came from the US agencies
while follow-up action on the intelligence was taken by the Pakistani
It is difficult to
accept that the Punjab Police and the agencies of the Federal Government
such as the ISI and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) would not have been
aware of the shifting of the Al Qaeda dregs, including members of its
brains trust, by organisations such as the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM),
the Harkat-ul-Jihad-Al-Islami (HUJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and
the LET away from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border towards the Indian
border in order to protect them from any hot pursuit raids by the US
forces operating from Afghan territory across the Pakistan-Afghanistan
According to the Friday
Times, after his release by the Government of India, Sheikh Omar
had opened an office of the Al Qaeda in Lahore. He was operating from
Lahore - on behalf of Al Qaeda as well as the HUM. It is learnt
that after his surrender to the Pakistani authorities on 5 February
2002, Sheikh Omar had been voluntarily telling the Karachi Police not
only about his terrorist activities in India, but also about his activities
on behalf of bin Laden and that he had told the Karachi Police about
the presence of Abu Zubaida in Faislabad.
Hence, it is not as
if the presence of the Al Qaeda dregs in Faislabad and other strongholds
of the LET was not known to the ISI and Musharraf. It is reported that
the FBI, fearing that the Punjab Police may not successfully execute
the raids due to its complicity with the LET, wanted that the personnel
of the raiding parties should be from Islamabad or Sindh and that they
should not inform the Punjab Police about the raids. Islamabad Police
officers were, therefore, specially deputed for the raids by Musharraf
and Lt Gen (retd) Moinuddin Haider, the Interior Minister.
At the same time, Musharraf
and Haider were reported to have instructed the raiding parties that
they should ensure that Abu Zubaida was not caught alive. Even though
he had only a knife and no firearm and resisted arrest only with the
help of his knife, the Pakistani security personnel opened fire on him
riddling his body with bullets, particularly in the abdominal region.
A special team of US military doctors has been frantically trying to
save his life in the naval hospital in Diego Garcia.
Pakistani sources say
that while the Americans were aware of the presence of the Al Qaeda
dregs in Faislabad, they were not aware that Abu Zubaida was one of
them. It would seem that is why when the Pakistanis indiscriminately
opened fire, the American officers accompanying them did not try to
Apart from being in
charge of the Al Qaeda training camps till 7 October 2001, and of the
special operations and personal security of bin Laden after the death
of Mohammad Atef in November, 2001, Abu Zubaida, who is computer savvy,
was also in charge of the computer network of the Al Qaeda and used
to train the Al Qaeda cadres in the use of the Internet for clandestine
communications and other operational purposes.
Where did he acquire
his knowledge of computer technology? In India - according to accounts
of his past life as published in the Pakistani media after his arrest.
He is reported to have undergone a two-year computer course in a private
institute of Pune. Born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in March 1971 of Palestinian
parents of Gaza origin, he traveled to Peshawar with an Egyptian passport
in 1987 to join the CIA-sponsored jihad in Afghanistan. After the withdrawal
of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan, he reportedly came to India in
1990 and joined an institute in Pune to learn computer technology. After
the course, he returned to Peshawar in 1992. He was arrested by the
Peshawar Police following the recovery of a number of passports
of different countries and US $ 12,000 from him. The Peshawar Police
registered a case against him under the Foreigners Act. After his release
on bail, he fled to Afghanistan from where he returned later and applied
to the UNHCR office in Peshawar for political refugee status. After
bin Laden returned to Jalalabad from Khartoum, Sudan, in July, 1996,
he joined him and started assisting him in running his training camps.
In 1999, he again took up residence in Peshawar under the cover of a
trader in Afghan honey and ran a transit house for those going to bin
Laden’s training camps.
The reported shifting
of the Al Qaeda dregs by the ISI and the LET to Punjab and the POK has
serious security implications for India since these trained terrorists
may be infiltrated into J & K after the snow melts in order to maintain
the level of violence and disrupt the forthcoming elections in the State.
It may be recalled that in 1999 too, Musharraf had shifted the trained
terrorists of bin Laden’s International Islamic Front to the Northern
Areas. It was they, who initially occupied the Kargil heights and were
later replaced by regular Pakistani troops. In 1988, Musharraf, under
the orders of Zia-ul-Haq, had used bin Laden and his tribal hordes for
ruthlessly suppressing a Shia revolt against Islamabad in Gilgit.
Reports of the recent
fighting by the dregs of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other components
of the International Islamic Front against the US troops (Operation
Anaconda) have brought to light the participation of trained Indonesian
jihadis in the fight against the US troops. It is learnt that these
jihadis were trained in the training camp of the LET in the Muridke
area from where they were sent to Eastern Afghanistan to participate
in the fighting against the US troops. According to The News
of Islamabad (15 March 2002) one of the dead bodies recovered by the
pro-US Afghan troops after the recent fighting in the Shahi Kot area
had an Indonesian identity card.
so far indicates that while recruits from Malaysia and possibly Singapore
are trained in the headquarters of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) in the
Binori madrasa complex in Karachi, those from Indonesia are trained
in the Muridke complex of the LET, near Lahore. The HUM had always been
training the recruits from Southern Philippines and Myanmar, in addition
to those from Xinjiang, Chechnya, Dagestan and the Central Asian Republics.
The HUJI trains those from Bangladesh. Before 7 October 2001, the training
camps of the HUM and the HUJI were located in Eastern Afghanistan. It
is not known where they have been shifted since then. However, it is
known that in the past they had used the infrastructure of the Tablighi
Jamaat in Raiwind in Punjab for training purposes.
The HUM and the HUJI
specialise in kidnapping, but the LET and the JEM emulate the suicide
terrorism of Al Qaeda, the Hamas and the Hizbollah. There is, therefore,
a danger of suicide terrorism finding its way to South-East Asia in
course of time.
7 April 2002