According to local Police sources, the TTP ( Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan) leadership also suspects Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the Amir of the Pakistan branch of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), who had reportedly ingratiated himself with Baitullah (Mehsud) and was collaborating with him. Last week, the Islamabad Police reported that he was found to be undergoing treatment in an Islamabad hospital for an injury suspected to have been sustained in a Drone attack and has been taken into custody. This is the fifth or sixth time Qari Saifullah has been taken into custody for questioning. Previously, he was detained for questioning in connection with a coup plot against Benazir Bhutto in 1995, the two attempts to murder Pervez Musharraf in December,2003, the attack on Benazir Bhutto in Karachi in October, 2007, and the murder of the Surgeon General of the Pakistan Army early last year. Every time he managed to come out unscathed.
"The HUJI was not banned by Musharraf as a terrorist organisation either in his notification of January 2002 or in his notification of November, 2003. No action has been taken against it by the present Government either. While the US has declared the Bangladesh branch of the HUJI as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation, it has not made a similar declaration against the HUJI of Pakistan. It has not declared Saifullah as a terrorist, No action has been taken by the US to move for the declaration of the HUJI of Pakistan as a terrorist organisation by the anti-terrorism committee of the UN Security Council. All actions taken so far either by the US or the committee of the UNSC, which generally acts at the US initiative, have been against the Bangladesh branch. It is suspected that the US and Pakistani intelligence agencies have been going out of their way to protect the HUJI of Pakistan and Saifullah. Is he a double agent working for the ISI against the TTP and for the TTP against the Pakistan Army? That is the question which is reported to be troubling the new leadership of the TTP."
-- from my August 23, 2009 article, The Mobile & The Double Jihadi
On January 14, 2010, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) filed before Judge Harry D.Leinenweber of the Northern District Court of Eastern Illinois Division a charge-sheet (indictment) relating to the role of David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in the Mumbai terrorist strikes of 26/11 of 2008 and in a planned terrorist attack on the office of a Danish newspaper in Denmark, which had published cartoons of the Holy Prophet in 2005.
The charge sheet projected the Mumbai attacks as a joint operation of the LET and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) involving, among others, four members of the LET and Major (retd) Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed alias Pasha, who acted as an intermediary between Headley and Rana on the one side and the Waziristan-based Ilyas Kashmiri, the head of the 313 Brigade of the HUJI on the other.
The charge-sheet also referred to a “Person A”, a resident of Pakistan", "who participated in planning and funding attacks carried out by the LET." It did not describe him as a member of the LET. By going through the charge-sheet, one could infer that Person A was most probably Major (retd) Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed alias Pasha. It was he who allegedly gave US $ 25,000 to Headley in July 2006 for his expenses in India, another sum of US $ 2000 in Indian rupees in September 2007 and a third amount of US $ 1500 in Indian rupees in June 2008.
While no Pakistani resident was cited as a co-accused in connection with the Mumbai attacks, Ilyas Kashmiri and Major Abdur Rehman were cited as co-accused in connection with the planned terrorist attack on the Danish newspaper office. The FBI had thus reserved to itself the option of demanding that Pakistan should arrest and extradite them to the US for trial. According to the charge-sheet, the Denmark attack was also envisaged as a joint LET-HUJI (313 Brigade) operation, but the LET withdrew from it in March 2009 following the action taken against some of its members by the Pakistani authorities in connection with the Mumbai attacks. Thereafter, it was planned as a purely HUJI attack.
Earlier in February 2009, when Headley met Ilyas Kashmiri in Waziristan along with Maj Abdur Rehman, Ilyas Kashmiri informed him that he would arrange the manpower for the Denmark attack and that the participation of the LET was not necessary. ( Please see my article of January 15, 2010)
In the third week of April, 2010, the Dawn of Karachi reported that five American Muslims -- Umar Farooq, Waqar Hussain, Rami Zamzam,Ahmed Abdullah Mini and Amman Hassan Yammer-- who had been detained in Sargodha in the Punjab province in December 2009 on a charge of trying to establish contact with Al Qaeda had contacts with the HUJI and Saifullah. Pakistani police officers were quoted as saying that they had actually been recruited by Saifullah through the Internet.They have since been convicted and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment.
While there had been instances since 2003 of the LET trying to set up sleeper cells in the US, this was the first time that the HUJI had come to notice for trying to set up a cell in the US. Concerned by this, the US authorities, who had till then refrained from declaring the HUJI as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation, moved to have it so declared.
On May 18, 2010, Mrs Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, issued two determinations ( Public Notices 7101 and 7102) declaring the HUJI as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended. These two determinations had the following effect: Firstly, the HUJI was declared as an FTO because it "committed or poses a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism that threaten the security of US nationals or the national security, foreign policy or economy of the US." Secondly, action was initiated in co-ordination with the US Department of Treasury to have the HUJI and its leading office-bearers declared as specially-designated global terrorists to make them ineligible for US visas and to facilitate the seizure of any assets they may have in US territory. Thirdly, action was initiated for similar declarations by the anti-terrorism committee of the UN Security Council under UNSC Resolution No.1373 passed immediately after the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US homeland.
On April 27, 2006, the US State Department had issued Executive Order 13224 designating the Jammat-ud-Dawa (JUD), the front organisation of the LET, as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation and blocking property and interests in property, of the JUD and another linked organzation, Idara Khidmat-e-Khalq, that are in the United States or the under the control of U.S. persons. Earlier, in December 2001, the US had designated the LET as a terrorist organisation, but its attempt to persuade the monitoring committee of the UN Security Council to similarly designate the LET could not succeed till May 2, 2005. During this period, Pakistan was a member of the monitoring committee, which monitors the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution No.1373 against terrorism. All members of the UN Security Council are members of this monitoring committee, which acts on the basis of consensus. Only after Pakistan completed its term as a temporary member of the UNSC in March 2005 was action initiated against the LET by the committee of the UNSC. But, even after Pakistan completed its term in the UNSC in March 2005, no action could be taken against the JUD by the UNSC Committee because of China's support to the Pakistani stand that the JUD was a humanitarian organisation, that had nothing to do with the LET. Only after the Mumbai terrorist strikes of 26/11 did China, with the prior clearance of Pakistan , lift its objection to the declaration of the JUD too as a terrorist organisation, but the Government of Pakistan has not yet declared the JUD as a terrorist organisation under its national laws.
But in the case of the HUJI, there was no opposition from China in the UN anti-terrorism committee to its being designated as a terrorist organisation. Either China did not oppose it on its own or refrained from opposing it after consulting Pakistan. As a result, things moved fast after Mrs Clinton's two determinations of May 18, 2010.
On August 6, 2010, the State Department issued the following press release:
"Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has designated Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended, and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224. These actions were taken in consultation with the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice. In tandem with the HUJI designations, the Secretary of the Treasury also designated HUJI leader Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri under E.O. 13224 on August 6. These actions will give U.S. law enforcement additional tools needed to restrict the flow of resources to both HUJI and Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri. In addition, on August 6, the United Nations took similar actions against Harakat-ul Jihad Islami and Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri. These actions require all UN member states to implement an asset freeze, travel ban, and arms embargo against this group and individual. Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism, said that “the joint State and Treasury Department actions taken today, in conjunction with the United Nation’s listing, illustrates the international community’s resolve to counter the threat posed by HUJI and its leader Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri.” Ambassador Benjamin further noted that “the linkages between HUJI and al-Qa’ida are clear, and today’s designations convey the operational relationship between these organizations.”
A separate press release of the US Department of Treasury issued the same day said:
"Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri is at the core of HUJI's efforts to plan and carry out attacks against U.S. forces and our allies. He is responsible for creating a cadre of militants to act on behalf of HUJI and al-Qaida," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey. "In acting together, the United States and United Nations are today taking another important step in combating the threat that al-Qa'ida and its affiliated organizations pose to innocent people around the world." Since 2001, Kashmiri has led HUJI training camps that specialized in terrorist operations, military tactics, and cross-border operations, including a militant training center in Miram Shah, North Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. In January 2009,( My comment: should read 2010) a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Illinois indicted Kashmiri for terrorism-related offenses in connection with a terrorist attack against the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Denmark."
There are two significant omissions in the action against the HUJI announced by the State Department and the Department of Treasury on August 6. Firstly, there is no reference to the joint role of the HUJI (313 Brigade) in the Mumbai terrorist strikes of 26/11. This role had been mentioned by the FBI in its indictment papers of January 2010 against Headley. Why this omission? Does the FBI now feel that Ilyas and his 313 Brigade were not involved in 26/11 and that it was purely an LET operation? Secondly, the US has refrained from having Saifullah declared as a global terrorist. Why so? This omission of action against Saifullah could strengthen speculation that like Headley he too was probably a double agent of the US intelligence, who had been helping the US in the collection of intelligence about the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
It remains to be seen whether the US would now exercise pressure on Pakistan to have the HUJI declared as a terrorist organisation under its national laws.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies