There is as yet no evidence connecting the two unsuccessful terrorist attempts in London on June 28/29, 2007, and the half-successful attempt at the Glasgow airport on June
30, 2007, with the central command and control of Al Qaeda located in the Pashtun belt across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The attempts may turn out to have been blessed and/or inspired by Al Qaeda, but there is as yet no evidence to show that these were ordered and sought to be orchestrated by Al Qaeda. No Al Qaeda hand is evident so far.
Four interesting points about these failed/half-failed attempts need to be underlined. The first is the indication that the principal perpetrators were Arabs--a Palestinian from Jordan and an Iraqi. After the Madrid blasts of March, 2004, in which Arabs from North Africa were involved, the participation of Arabs in terrorist conspiracies in Western Europe declined and that of Pakistanis increased. This was due to the fact that the Arabs were under greater surveillance in the Western countries after 9/11 and found it difficult to move around. Pakistani involvement was predominant in the July 7, 2005, terrorist strike in London and in the conspiracies thwarted thereafter. For the first time since 9/11, one has been seeing a conspiracy in the UK, in which the Arab involvement is predominant. There is so far no definitive indication of a Pakistani involvement. The Arab involvement seems to have been the outcome of individual self-motivation and not Al Qaeda's organisational motivation.
The second is the suspected peripheral involvement of two Indian Muslims--one detained at Brisbane in Australia and the other in Liverpool in the UK. The detention of an Indian Muslim at the Brisbane airport on July 2,2007, has been confirmed by the Brisbane Police. The British Police are yet to confirm the detention of an Indian Muslim in Liverpool. The only reported ground so far for suspicion against Mohammad Haneef, the Indian doctor detained in Brisbane, is that he had bought a SIM card recovered from Mohammad Asha, the Jordanian doctor of Palestinian origin detained in the UK. This does not mean conscious involvement in pan-Islamic terrorism of Al Qaeda kind by Haneef. In the past, there were two instances of the alleged involvement of Muslims of Indian origin, but with foreign nationalities in global jihadi terrorism. This is the first time that the involvement (if proved) of Muslims, who are Indian nationals, has been reported. After the suspected involvement of a number of Pakistani Muslims in terrorist conspiracies in the UK, Pakistani Muslims too --like the Arabs before-- have come under strict Police watch. Indian Muslims--who have by and large kept away from Al Qaeda and the International Islamic Front (IIF)-- are not yet subject to such surveillance. This makes them attractive associates--conscious or unconscious--for the operations of Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations.
The third is the background of all those suspected so far -- all of them are from the medical field. From this, one should not jump to the conclusion that they took up jobs as doctors in the UK with the conscious objective of planning and carrying out terrorist strikes, undetected by the Police. I am inclined to believe that their being doctors in the same or adjoining hospitals brought them into personal and social interactions with each other, and, during these interactions, the idea of the conspiracy was born.
Fourthly, despite the lack of adequate competence in carrying out the explosions as seen from two failures and one half-failure, they had a strong self-motivation as displayed by two of them in the incident at the Glasgow airport. Such self-motivation often comes from intense personal anger.
In an article of April 17, 2007, on the Jundullah, I had drawn attention to the growing instances of individual Muslims not belonging to Al Qaeda or other jihadi organisations taking to suicide terrorism in order to give vent to their personal anger against what they consider as injustices done to their community. They look upon themselves as performing a divinely-ordered task. The three incidents in London and Glasgow probably indicate the spread of the Jundullah phenomenon to the UK.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )