Making A Difference

The Jundullah

The free-lance jihadis, who have been increasingly taking to terrorism in different parts of the world since the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, look upon themselves as the "Soldiers of Allah", not belonging to any organisation--not e

The Jundullah

(To be read in continuation of my earlier article of May 2003 titled A Deadly Nexus , the article ofJuly 2003 titled LeT: An Al Qaeda Clone, and the article ofMay 6, 2007 titled LondonBlasts And After. Jundullah means "Army of Allah" or "Soldiers of Allah". The free-lance jihadis, who have been increasingly taking to terrorism in different parts of the world since the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, look upon themselves as the "Soldiers of Allah", not belonging to anyorganisation--not even to Al Qaeda)

This is my second article analysing the British fertiliser bomb case in which the judgement was delivered by a British court on April 30,2007. In my earlier article, I had referred to the extensive roots taken by the Pakistanised version of Al Qaeda in the UK and the danger of this spreading to the US and Canada.

From this, one should not jump to the conclusion that the US is not yet facing threats from home-grown jihadis of Pakistani origin in its territory. It has been since the 1980s. The very active US and Canada-based cadres of the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra (JIF), a Pakistani jihadi organisation with headquarters in Lahore, were the first generation of home-grown jihadis in the US and Canada. They used to indulge in fire-bomb attacks on Hindu and Jewish places of worship in different parts of these two countries in the 1980s. They had also alarmingly penetrated the security forces of some States in the Caribbean. At that time, there was no Al Qaeda or the International Islamic Front (IIF) and yet, the intelligence agencies of these two countries were greatly concerned over the threat posed by this organisation to their internal security. The intelligence officers of the US and Canada, with whom I used to interact, used to describe the JUF as the most secretive and security-conscious jihadi organisation of Pakistan. Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, paid with his life in the beginning of 2002 for trying to make enquiries into the suspected links of Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, with thisorganisation.

After 9/11, many US cells of Pakistani jihadi organisations have been detected and neutralised by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). I would give two examples only. There are many more. On June 20, 2003, FBI officials had disclosed that they had arrested in April Lyman Faris, also known as Mohammad Rauf, originally a resident of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (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 Al Qaeda and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. According to FBI officials, as quoted in the US media, Faris had visited Afghanistan and Pakistan a number of times between 2000 and 2002, met Osama bin Laden and worked with Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, in organising and financing jihadi causes. After returning to the US from Pakistan in late 2002, officials said, he began examining the Brooklyn Bridge and discussing via coded messages with Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan ways of using blow torches to sever the suspension cables. "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 were quoted as saying that meant that Faris feared the plot was unlikely tosucceed--apparently because 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. Sources in Pakistan described Faris, aged 34, as a Punjabi ex-serviceman settled in POK, before he migrated to the US. He was associated in the past with the JUF, before he gravitated to AlQaeda.

On June 27, 2003, the FBI charged seven men in the Washington area and an eighth in Philadelphia with stockpiling weapons and conspiring to wage "jihad" against India in support of a terrorist group in Kashmir. The FBI's charge-sheet against them described them as members of the Lashkar-e-Toiba ( LET). It also said that three others involved in the case were absconding and were believed to be in Saudi Arabia. Although the FBI officials said that there was no evidence of a plot against the US, the members of the group had pledged support for pro-Muslim violence overseas, hoarded high-powered rifles and received military training in Pakistan. Nine of the 11 accused are American citizens, and three had served in the US armed forces for some time in the past. The charge-sheet said that seven members of the group had travelled to Pakistan in the last several years, and some received military training in small arms, machine guns, grenade launchers and other weaponry at a camp in northeast Pakistan connected to the LET.

The 41-count charge-sheet, or indictment as it is called in the USA, charged the 11 accused with conspiracy, firearms violations and plotting against a friendly nation — namely, India. US officials connected with the investigation were quoted by the media as saying that there was no evidence that the accused were considering an attack within the United States or had ties to Al Qaeda. And officials were careful 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 in 2002, some of whom were connected with the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) of Pakistan. However, the officials charged that the men conspired to help Muslims abroad in violent jihad not only in India, but also in Chechnya, the Philippines and other countries. The men, the charge-sheet said, obtained AK-47s and other high-powered weaponry and practised small-unit military tactics in Virginia.

The indictment charged that the accused pledged their willingness to die as martyrs in support of the Muslim cause and gathered in private homes and at an Islamic center in suburban Washington to hear lectures "on the righteousness of jihad" in Kashmir, Chechnya and elsewhere. They also watched videotapes showing Muslim fighters engaged in jihad. They had also organised a function to celebrate the crashing of the space shuttle Columbia. One of the astronauts killed in the crash was of Indian origin. A message read out on the occasion had described the USA "as the greatest enemy of the Muslims." According to the indictment, one of the accused Masoud Ahmed Khan, a Maryland resident, had a document titled "The Terrorist's Handbook," 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. At least two of the 11 accused were described as of Pakistani origin. One of them, Mohammed Aatique, 30, was a work (H-1) visa holder while Khawja Mahmood Hasan, 27, was a naturalized US citizen born in Pakistan.

Thus, there have been home-grown jihadis in the US too as there were and as there are in the UK, but in the US these home-grownjihadis--more Pakistanis than Arabs-- have not so far been able to organise any act of terrorism because of the strict surveillance on them by the FBI and the ruthless action taken against them. It must be said to the credit of the Americans that after their traumatic experience of 9/11, in matters likely to affect their homeland security, they do not allow political considerations to come in the way of their ruthless action against anybody considered as likely to pose a threat to their homeland security. They have not allowed their soft corner for Pakistan and its President General Pervez Musharraf come in the way of ruthless action against their Pakistani residents, if and when called for.

To understand as to why home-grown jihadis already pose a serious threat to the UK, but not yet to the US and Canada, one has to consider the policies of successive Britishgovernments to terrorists and extremists from other countries. After Pakistan and Afghanistan, the UK has been traditionally for many years the largest sanctuary to foreign terrorists and extremists. Everbody, who is somebody in the world of terrorism, has found a rear base in theUK-- the Khalistanis in the past, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Mirpuris from Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), the Chechens, the Al Muhajiroun, the Hizbut Tehrir etc. Having allowed such a medley of terrorists and extremists to operate unchecked from their territory for so long, the British intelligence just does not have a correct estimate of how many sleeper cells are operating from their country and of whichorganisations.

Since persons of Pakistani origin have been playing an increasingly active role in promoting the activities of Al Qaeda, it is necessary to analyse the nature of migration from Pakistan to the UK and the US. Muslims from Pakistan constitute the single largest Muslim migrant group from the sub-continent in both the UK and theUS--followed by Indian and Bangladeshi Muslims. There are estimated to be about 700,000 Muslims of Pakistani origin in the UK. No estimate is available in respect of the US.

The largest migrant group from Pakistan in the UK are Punjabi-speaking Muslims--from Pakistani Punjab as well as Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK). The migrants from the POK are called Mirpuris. They are not ethnic Kashmiris, but Punjabi-speaking migrants from the Pakistani Punjab, whose families had settled down in the Mirpur area of the POK for generations. They were essentially small farmers and landless labourers, who lost their livelihood as a result of the construction of the Mangla dam. They, therefore, migrated to WestEurope--the largest number to the UK and a smaller number to France, Germany and the Scandinavian countries. Many of them preferred to go to the UK because it already had a large Punjabi-speaking community from Pakistani Punjab. The initial Mirpuri migrants, who hardly spoke English, felt themselves comfortable in a Punjabi-speaking environment.

As the number of Muslims of Pakistani origin in the UK increased, mosques came up to cater to their religious needs. Till 1977, these mosques were headed by clerics from the more tolerant Barelvi Sunni sect. When Gen.Zia-ul-Haq, a devout Deobandi, captured power in Pakistan in 1977, he embarked on a policy of marginalising the influence of Barelvi clerics not only in Pakistan, but also in Europe and increasing the influence of the rabid Deobandis. He inducted Deobandis into the Education Department as Arab teachers and into the Armed Forces to cater to the religious needs of the military personnel. He encouraged and helped the Deobandis to take over the mosques in Pakistan and in the UK by replacing the Barelvis. With the induction of an increasing number of Deobandis started the process of the Arabisation/Wahabisation of the Muslims in Pakistan and of the Pakistani diaspora in the UK.

The intelligence agencies of the US and the UK went along with Zia's policy of Arabising/Wahabising the Muslims of Pakistan because this contributed to an increase in the flow of jihadi terrorists to fight against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Till 1983, the members of the Pakistani diaspora in the UK were considered a largely law-abiding people. The first signs of the radicalisation of the diaspora appeared in 1983 when a group of jihadi terrorists kidnapped Ravi Mhatre, an Indian diplomat posted in the Indian Assistant High Commission in Birmingham, and demanded the release of Maqbool Butt, the leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), who was then awaiting execution in the Tihar jail in Delhi following his conviction on charges of murder. When thegovernment of India rejected their demand, the terrorists killed Mhatre and threw his dead body into one of the streets. This kidnapping and murder was allegedly orchestrated by Amanullah Khan, a Gilgiti from Pakistan. He was assisted by some Mirpuris of the Pakistani diaspora. The British were unco-operative with India in the investigation of this case and declined to hand over those involved in the kidnapping and murder to India for investigation and prosecution. By closing their eyes to the terrorist activities of the Mirpuris from their territory, they encouraged the further radicalisation of thediaspora.

Just as the radicalisation of the Muslims of Pakistan suited the US-UK agenda in Afghanistan, the radicalisation of the diaspora in the UK, particularly the Mirpuris, suited their agenda for balkanising Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Many Pakistanis from the UK went to the training camps of the Harkat-ul-Ansar(HUA--now called the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen) and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in Pakistan and got themselves trained with the knowledge and complicity of the British. They then went to Bosnia and Kosovo to wage a jihad against the Serbs with arms and ammunition and explosives allegedly supplied by the Iranian intelligence with the tacit consent of the Clinton Administration and paid for by the Saudi intelligence. As the Pakistani Prime Minister between 1993 and 1996, Mrs. Benazir Bhutto had visited these jihadis from the Pakistani diaspora in the UK who were waging a jihad against the Serbs in Bosnia. After waging their jihad against the Serbs, these jihadis from the UK moved to Pakistan to join the HUA and the LET and participate in the jihad against India.

The most notable example of the home-grown jihadis of the diaspora in the UK, who waged a jihad in Bosnia at the instance of the British and American intelligence and then turned against them, is Omar Sheikh. From Bosnia, he came to India to wage a jihad and was arrested by the Indian security forces. He was released by the then Indiangovernment headed by Mr. A.B.Vajpayee, in December,1999, following the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar by a group of HUM terrorists from Pakistan. After his release, he went to Pakistan and orchestrated the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl. The second notable example is Rashid Rauf, a Mirpuri, who went to Pakistan from the UK to join the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) after marrying a relative of Maulana Masood Azhar, the Amir of the JEM. He was allegedly involved in the plot detected by the London Police in August last year to blow up a number of US-bound planes. This plot was hatched by some members of the Pakistani diaspora in the UK.

The Mirpuris in the Pakistani diaspora in the UK were in the forefront of those supporting jihadi terrorism against India in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India since 1993, when the Pakistani jihadi organisations of Afghan vintage were infiltrated into India by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). They collected and sent funds to the jihadi terrorists in India. Many of them underwent training in the camps of the LET, the HUM, the JEM and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) in Pakistan and assisted them in their jihadi operations. The British intelligence was aware of members of the Pakistani diaspora going to Pakistan for training, but closed its eyes to it since it thought that they were going to wage a jihad against the Indians in J&K.

A careful examination of the details relating to the various jihadi terrorism-related cases in the UK would reveal that the MI 5 was intercepting the telephone conversations of these Mirpuris and other Punjabi Muslims with their friends and relatives in which they spoke of their going to Pakistan for jihadi training. It did not take any action against them because it thought that they were going to wage a jihad only against the Indians and hence did not pose a threat to the British. The MI 5 intercepted the telephone conversation of even one of the perpetrators of the London blasts of July 2005, about his going to Pakistan for jihadi training. It did not act on it thinking he intended to wage a jihad against the Indians. Only after the London blasts of July, 2005, did the MI 5 realise with a rude shock that this Mirpuri was talking not of going to India to wage a jihad against the Indians, but to London to wage a jihad against the British.

There is a sheepish, but indirect admission of this in the statement issued by the MI 5 rebutting criticism of its perceived failure to prevent the London blasts. It says: "RUMOUR: In February 2004, the Security Service recorded Khan's (Mohammed Siddique Khan) wish to fight and him saying goodbye to his family - a clear indication that he intended a suicide mission. REALITY: The Security Service did record conversations involving an individual identified after 7 July as Khan. From the context of the recorded conversation it is probable that Khan was talking about going to fight with militia groups in the Pakistan border areas. He was not talking about acts of terrorism in the UK."

Today, innocent British civilians are paying for the sins of commission and omission of their authorities since jihadi terrorism broke out in Indian territory in 1989. It would be very difficult for the MI 5 to have an accurate idea of the number of trained Pakistani jihadis already in their midst. Reliable Police sources in Pakistan say that there are at least about 200 trained, potential suicide bombers in the Pakistani diaspora in the UK waiting for an opportunity to strike. These trained potential suicide bombers also provide a recruitment reservoir for future operations of Al Qaeda in the US homeland.

The position in the Pakistani diaspora in the US is somewhat different. The initial wave of migrants to the US from Pakistan consisted largely of Urdu-speaking Mohajirs from Sindh, who originally went to Pakistan from India. The influence of the more tolerant Barelvi sect on them is still very strong. The extremist Deobandi/Wahabi ideology has not yet made the same impact on them as it has on the Punjabi-speaking Pakistani diaspora in the UK. Moreover, there has hardly been any migration of the Mirpuris from the POK into the US. Most of the Kashmiri migration into the US has been of ethnicKashmiris--either the Hindu Pandits, who were driven out of the Valley by the jihadi terrorists after 1989, or sufi Muslims from the Valley. The Muslims from the valley, who had migrated to the US from J&K, are politically active against India, but they have so far kept away from the Deobandis andWahabis.

Since the 1980s, there has been an increase in the migration of Punjabi-speaking Muslims from Pakistan into the US. There has been growing Deobandi/Wahabi influence on them. It is these elements that Al Qaeda has been targeting for recruitment. A saving grace is that the US intelligence has a better awareness than the British of the dangers that could arise from its population of Pakistani origin and has been keeping a tight watch on them.