INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR: PAPER NO. 475
( I have received some queries from readers of my articles in Israel regarding links between Al Qaeda and the LET. I am reproducing belowan article written by me on July 2,2003, under the above tiitle. It is available at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers8/paper729.html )
In a conversation with the editorial staff of the "Washington Post" on June 26, 2003, President General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan wasreported to have claimed that he had effectively put an end to the terrorist activities of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and theJaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), both members of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF), in Pakistan.
2. He was quoted as having told the newspaper's staff as follows: "The Lashkar-e-Toiba has been banned. The Jaish-e-Mohammad has beenbanned. There are hundreds of offices out there and I mean hundreds and hundreds of offices around the country, including Kashmir, havebeen sealed and closed. Their accounts have been frozen. Nobody before this could have touched them. They couldn't even have touchedanyone of these organisations or their leaders."
3. The next day, as if to prove him wrong, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) charged seven men in the Washington area and an eighthin Philadelphia with stockpiling weapons and conspiring to wage "jihad" against India in support of a terrorist group in Kashmir. The FBI'scharge-sheet against them described them as members of the LET. It also said that three others involved in the case were absconding andwere believed to be in Saudi Arabia.
4. Although the FBI officials said that there was no evidence of a plot against the US, the members of the group had pledged support forpro-Muslim violence overseas, hoarded high-powered rifles and received military training in Pakistan. Nine of the 11 accused are Americancitizens, and three had served in the US armed forces for some time in the past. The charge-sheet said that seven members of the grouphad travelled to Pakistan in the last several years, and some received military training in small arms, machine guns, grenade launchers andother weaponry at a camp in northeast Pakistan connected to the LET.
5. The 41-count charge-sheet, or indictment as it is called in the USA, charged the 11 accused with conspiracy, firearms violations andplotting against a friendly nation — namely, India. US officials connected with the investigation were quoted by the media as saying thatthere was no evidence that the accused were considering an attack within the United States or had ties to Al Qaeda. And officials werecareful not to describe the group as a "sleeper cell" — a term used to characterize suspected terrorist supporters in Lackawanna, N.Y.,Seattle and elsewhere arrested last year, some of whom were connected with the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) of Pakistan.
6. However, the officials charged that the men conspired to help Muslims abroad in violent jihad not only in India, but also in Chechnya, thePhilippines and other countries. The men, the charge-sheet said, obtained AK-47s and other high-powered weaponry and practisedsmall-unit military tactics in Virginia.
7. The indictment charged that the accused pledged their willingness to die as martyrs in support of the Muslim cause and gathered inprivate homes and at an Islamic center in suburban Washington to hear lectures "on the righteousness of jihad" in Kashmir, Chechnya andelsewhere. They also watched videotapes showing Muslim fighters engaged in jihad. They had also organised a function to celebrate thecrashing of the space shuttle Columbia. One of the astronauts killed in the crash was of Indian origin. A message read out on the occasionhad described the USA "as the greatest enemy of the Muslims."
8. According to the indictment, one of the accused Masoud Ahmed Khan, a Maryland resident, had a document titled "The Terrorist'sHandbook," with instructions on how to manufacture and use explosives and chemicals as weapons, as well as a photograph of F.B.I.headquarters in Washington. He is since reported to have been ordered to be released on bail by the court keeping in view his past goodrecord in his community. The FBI has appealed against it.
9. At least two of the 11 accused have been described as of Pakistani origin. One of them, Mohammed Aatique, 30, is a work (H-1) visaholder while Khawja Mahmood Hasan, 27, is a naturalized US citizen born in Pakistan. But at least one more suspect, Masoud Ahmad Khan,31, also has a Pakistani sounding name although his nationality was not disclosed. The other accused are Randall Todd Royer, 30; IbrahimAhmed al-Hamdi, a Yemeni national and non-resident alien; Yong Ki Kwon, 27, a naturalized US citizen born in Korea; Seifullah Chapman, 30;Hammad Abdur-Raheem, 35; Donald Thomas Surratt, 30; Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur-Raheem, 29,and Sabri Benkhala, 28. Chapman, Hasan andBenkhala are believed to be living in Saudi Arabia.
10. When an embarrassed Musharraf was asked about it at Los Angeles the next day, he was reported to have said: " We need to see whothey are, where they were trained and how they were organised."
11. Earlier, on June 20, 2003 before the arrival of Musharraf in the US for his Camp David meeting with President George Bush, FBI officialshad disclosed that they had arrested in April Iyman Faris, also known as Mohammad Rauf, originally a resident of Pakistan-OccupiedKashmir (POK), who had migrated to the US in 1994 and was working as a truck driver in Ohio and charged him with having links with AlQaeda and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, said to be Osama bin Laden's operations chief, who is believed to have co-ordinated the terroriststrikes of September 11, 2001, in the US. Khalid was arrested in the house of a women's wing leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) ofPakistan at Rawalpindi in March by the Pakistani authorities and handed over to the FBI.
12. According to FBI officials, as quoted in the US media, Faris had visited Afghanistan and Pakistan a number of times between 2000 and2002, met Osama bin Laden and worked with Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, in organising and financing jihad causes. After returning to the USfrom Pakistan in late 2002, officials said, he began examining the Brooklyn Bridge and discussing via coded messages with Al Qaedaleaders in Pakistan ways of using blow torches to sever the suspension cables.
13. "The plotting continued through March, as Faris sent coded messages to operatives in Pakistan. One such message said that the"weather is too hot. " FBI officials have been quoted as saying that meant that Faris feared the plot was unlikely to succeed---apparentlybecause of security and the bridge's structure-- and should be postponed. He was arrested soon thereafter. According to media reports,the interrogation of Khalid led the FBI to Faris.
14. It is reported that while there is no evidence so far to connect Faris with the other 11 accused belonging to the LET, the FBI is lookinginto this possibility. Sources in Pakistan describe Faris,aged 34, as a Punjabi ex-serviceman settled in POK, before he migrated to the US. Itis said that he was associated in the past with the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra (JUF), an anti-Jewish and anti-Hindu terrorist organisation of Pakistan,which is reported to have a large network in the US, Canada and the Caribbean. It was involved in a number of violent incidents againstJewish and Hindu interests in the US in the early 1990s and its activities were cited in the annual reports of the US State Department titled"Patterns of Global Terrorism". Last year, Pakistani Police officers had alleged that Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, had gone to Pakistanfrom Mumbai in India to enquire into the possible links of the JUF with the shoe bomber who had unsuccessfully tried to cause an explosionin a US aircraft flying from France to the USA. Pearl was trapped by a joint group of terrorists from different Pakistani organisationsbelonging to bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF), kidnapped and murdered.
15. The belated discovery by the FBI of secret cells of these Pakistani organisations in the USA should not be a matter for surprise. Since1995, reports had been coming from Pakistan about the planned infiltration of trained cadres of Pakistani organisations such as theHarkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM)and the TJ to the USA in order to carry their jihad to the US territory. The HUM not only infiltrated its cadres intothe US, but also brought some Afro-American Muslims to Pakistan for being trained in its camps there.
16. Amongst the organisations in the USA with which the TJ was believed to be closely associated were the Islamic Society of NorthAmerica (ISNA) and the Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA). The President of the ISNA used to be one Sheikh Abdullah Idris Ali, anAmerican immigrant of Sudanese origin, who was also the Pesh Imam and Khatib of a mosque in New York.
17. The annual convention of the ISNA held at Columbus, Ohio, in September 1995, was addressed, amongst others, by Mr. Hamza Yusuf, anAmerican citizen of Greek origin, who, after embracing Islam, had lived for six years in Mauritania to study Islam and then work as a TJpreacher, Mr. Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, the famous pop singer, who embraced Islam after coming into contact with theTJ in Pakistan, Dr. Saghir of Algeria, and Dr.Israr Ahmed, the Amir of the Tanzeem Islami of Pakistan and a worker of the TJ.( Please see mypaper of 2000 at http://www.saag.org/papers2/paper154.html )
18.Addressing the convention, Dr. Israr Ahmed said: "The process of the revival of Islam in different parts of the world is real. A finalshow-down between the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world, which has been captured by the Jews, would soon take place. The Gulfwar was just a rehearsal for the coming conflict. " He appealed to the Muslims of the world, including those in the USA, to preparethemselves for the coming conflict.
19. The convention was told that the ISNA had a US $ 100 million budget for spreading Islamic education in the US through the publicationof text-books, setting-up of week-end Islamic schools and a weekly cable TV programme called "Onsight" which would be available in all theStates of the US.
20. The TJ operates in the US and the Caribbean directly through its own preachers deputed from Pakistan and also recruited from thePakistani immigrant community in the US as well as through front organisations such as the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra. In its preachings to thePakistani immigrants in the US, the TJ has been stressing the importance of cultivating the Afro-American Muslims in order to counter thelobbying power of the Hindus and the Jewish people.
21.Writing in the "Dawn" of January 12,1996, Ghani Eirabie, believed close to the TJ, said: " The Ummah must remember that winning overthe black Muslims is not only a religious obligation, but also a selfish necessity. The votes of the black Muslims can give the immigrantMuslims the political clout they need at every stage to protect their vital interests. Likewise, outside Muslim states like Saudi Arabia,Malaysia and Pakistan need to mobilise their effort, money and missionary skills to expand and consolidate the black Muslim community inthe USA, not only for religious reasons, but also as a far-sighted investment in the black Muslims' immense potential as a credible lobby forMuslim causes, such as Palestine, Bosnia or Kashmir--offsetting, at least partially, the venal influence of the powerful India-Israel lobby."
22. Eirabie wanted the US Muslim community to prepare itself for the day in the second decade of the new millennium when, according tohim, the Muslims would emerge as the second largest religious group in the US after the Christians.
23. The "Friday Times", the prestigious weekly of Lahore, reported in its issue for February 1 to 7, 2002, as follows:: "Sources say that whenDawatul Irshad (Markaz Dawa Al Irshad since re-named as Jamaat ud-Dawa), parent organisation of the now banned Lashkar Tayyaba(Lashkar-e-Toiba), shifted its activities to Azad Kashmir (POK), it took with it many non-Pakistanis suspected of links to Al Qaeda. All theseorganisations were loosely affiliated and their activists moved across organisations and cells with a great degree of ease, an intelligencesource said."
24. The "Friday Times" added: " Just before the Musharraf Government took action against the organisation, there were quite a fewforeigners 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 Mohammed Saeed (itsAmir)resigned under pressure from the Government. After his resignation, he also constituted another jehadi group called Jamaat ud-Dawawhile the supreme council nominated Abdul Wahid Kashmiri, another senior member of the Dawatul Irshad, as its new Amir. Insiders saysome of these foreigners are also said to be linked to Hezbul Tehreer and work under the supervision of Abdul Qadeem Zaloom, aSaudi-based person with links to the Al Qaeda."
25. In a paper on the LET and Al Qaeda (http://www.saag.org/papers7/paper678.html ), I had mentioned as follows:"In the past, the LET hadkept its activities confined to its jihad in India and its assistance to the Jemmah Islamiyah and other pro-bin Laden elements in Indonesia. Itdid not utter any threats against the USA or target American nationals or interests. As a result, American intelligence officials based inPakistan did not pay the same attention to monitoring its activities as they did to the activities of Al Qaeda and other Pakistaniorganisations , despite the fact that Abu Zubaidah, then No. 3 in Al Qaeda, was arrested in March last year from the house of an LET leaderat Faislabad in Pakistani Punjab.
26."It has thus managed to retain its infrastructure and source of funding intact. Though it has changed its name to Jamaat-ud-Dawa toescape the consequences of the order banning it issued by Gen.Pervez Musharraf on January 15,2002, it continues to be referred to bymany Afghans, Pakistanis and Arabs as the LET. Since the beginning of this year (2003), it has been trying to perform the role previouslyplayed by Al Qaeda as the co-ordinator of pro-bin Laden networks all over the world, as the supplier of funds to the networks in differentcountries and particularly in South-East Asia and of suicide volunteers, arms and ammunition and explosives to the surviving Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan etc.
27."It has reportedly re-organised its structure on the pattern of Al Qaeda and has vastly expanded its activities to the business field inorder to augment its sources of income. The "Friday Times" (January 17-23), the prestigious weekly of Lahore, reported as follows: "TheJamaat-ud-Dawa (JD), formerly known as Lashkar-e-Toiba, is snapping up properties across Pakistan. Sources told the weekly that recentreal estate purchases by the JD amount to about Rs.300 million. It has reportedly bought four plots of land in Hyderabad division (of Sindh)and six others in various Sindh districts. The total price tag is about Rs.200 million. Recent purchases in Lahore have cost it Rs.100 million."
28."During the recent Eid festival in Pakistan, it was reported to have received charity contributions worth Rs. 710 million, mostly in the formof the hides of the sacrificed animals. It has also been in receipt of large funds from overseas Pakistanis," the "Friday Times" said..
29. As stated in my above-mentioned article, Al Qaeda has been trying to use the organisational infrastructure of the LET in Pakistan, its network in the Islamic world and its large funds for stepping up acts of terrorism against the USA and Israel. The LET's close access tosenior officers of the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment could be exploited by Al Qaeda to prevent any action against itssurviving cadres in Pakistan. Many members of Pakistan's scientific community in the nuclear and missile fields regularly attend theconventions of the LET. By making use of this, Al Qaeda should be able to seek the assistance of LET sympathisers in the scientificcommunity for acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
30. Waleed bin Atash, the Al Qaeda suspect in the case relating to the attack on the the US ship USS Cole at Aden in October, 2000, whowas arrested by the Pakistani authorities on April 29 last and handed over to the FBI, is reported to have told the Pakistani authoritiesduring the interrogation that last year about 75 Arab operatives of Al Qaeda had fled from Afghanistan and the bordering areas of Pakistanand taken shelter at different places in Karachi. According to him, of these, about 50 were still in hiding in Karachi. However, he denied anyknowledge of the whereabouts of bin Laden. He is also reported to have stated that he and his associates were recruiting Pakistanivolunteers for undertaking suicide missions against American targets and that they had already recruited 12 from the LET.
31. In another article of May 14 titled "RIYADH BLASTS: THE TERRORISM TRIANGLE" I had stated as follows:" The international communityis yet to take serious notice of the emergence of the LET as a co-ordinator of the activities of the various constituents of the IIF to make upfor the present organisational disabilities of Al Qaeda. Next to Pakistan, where the headquarters of the LET are located (in Muridke, nearLahore), the second most important infrastructure of the LET is in Saudi Arabia. Despite being a Wahabi organisation, it has been critical ofthe Saudi ruling regime and shares bin Laden's anathema for the Saudi ruling family. In the past, it was not very articulate in its criticism ofthe US, but has in recent months been increasingly virulent in its attacks on the US. It has been collecting funds in Pakistan for its"martyrs" who, it claims, died in the jihad against the Americans in Iraq.
32."While the LET's headquarters in Pakistan co-ordinate its activities in North India, including J&K, the Central Asian Republics (CARs) andRussia (Chechnya and Dagestan), its headquarters in Saudi Arabia co-ordinate its activities in Mumbai and South India, the Eastern Provinceof Sri Lanka and in the countries of S. E.Asia. Since 2001, there have been a number of arrests of LET cadres in Mumbai and South India, who reportedly claimed to have been trained, funded and directed by the LET set-up in Saudi Arabia and not directly by the LETheadquarters in Pakistan.
33. "Thus, Al Qaeda as well as the LET have a separate organisational presence in Saudi Arabia, which has evaded detection andneutralisation by the Saudi authorities."
34. In my latest article of June 17 titled "India & the Desert Scorpions", I had stated as follows: "A stream of jihadi volunteers from Pakistan,Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon and other countries have started moving into Iraq to join what is promised as the mother of alljihads against the USA. Before the occupation, there was no evidence of any links between the Saddam Hussein regime and Osama binLaden's Al Qaeda and International Islamic Front (IIF), despite apparently fabricated US evidence to the contrary. After the occupation,there are increasing reports of attempts to bring the dregs of Al Qaeda and the IIF from Afghanistan and Pakistan and of Saddam Hussein'sArmy and Baath Party together for what is described as a new jihad, the like of which the world has not seen before. Initial meetings in thisregard have already been held in Al Qaeda and IIF hide-outs in Pakistan. There are claims, as yet unsubstantiated, of Saddam being aliveand of he and bin Laden soon issuing a joint fatwa against the US and the UK."
35. The LET has been collecting funds and recruiting and training volunteers in different parts of Pakistan for assisting the Iraqi fedayeen intheir jihad against the US troops in Iraq. Some former members of the Baathist party are already reported to have returned to Iraq afterundergoing a crash training course in the LET's camps in Pakistan.
36. Unless the US itself acts to neutralise the LET leadership, cadres, training camps and bases in Pakistan, instead of depending onMusharraf to do this which he never will, its troops will continue to die in Iraq and the war against international terrorism will not be won. The LET has become as great a threat to regional and international peace and security as Al Qaeda.