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This Man Could Tell Tales

What accounts for the mysterious attack on a bin Laden associate, Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil, a founding member of the Harkat-ul-Ansar? Is ISI trying to ensure that dead men tell no tales?

This Man Could Tell Tales

In its issue of March 30,2006, the Daily Times of Lahore reported as follows: 

"Six people on Tuesday evening picked up Maulana Fazalur Rehman Khalil, the former chief of banned militant group Harkatul Mujahideen, from Tarnol, thrashed him and dumped him on Fateh Jang road. They also severely beat up Abdur Rehman, Khalil’s driver, said Sultan Zia, the information secretary of the banned organisation. Golra police have registered an FIR against unidentified men. "Six unidentified people badly thrashed Maulana Khalil and his driver with rifle butts inflicting serious head injuries to them, Zia said. Maulana Kahlil left his residence along with his driver on Tuesday evening to attend a congregation at Tarnol, sources said. He made a stopover to offer Maghrib prayers near Tarnol railway crossing, where unidentified men put cloth over the heads of Khalil and his driver, tied them up with rope and took them to Fateh Jang road in a vehicle. Later, the men started beating them. Khalil was severely injured and received wounds on his head and other parts of his body, the sources added. They said at midnight on Tuesday, when Khalil returned to his senses, he made a phone call to his home."

Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil is a founding member of the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA), subsequently renamed in 1997 as the Harkat-uk-Mujahideen (HUM) after the US designated the HUA as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation in October,1997, and then re-named again as the Jamiat-ul-Ansar (JUA) after President General Pervez Musharraf banned the HUM on January 15, 2002, under US pressure.

He was also a founding member of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People formed in 1998 and a co-signatory of bin Laden's first fatwa issued in 1998 calling for attacks against the US. Apart from its activities in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and other parts of India, the HUM has been active in training and arming the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front of Southern Philippines, the Rohingya Jihadi organisations of Myanmar, the Chechens and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Since 1995, it has also been recruiting and training black Muslims from the US in its camps in Pakistani territory. In 1995, it established contact with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka and used one of its ships for sending a consignment of arms and ammunition to the Abu Sayyaf in the Southern Philippines. In return, it gifted to the LTTE some anti-aircraft guns and missiles.

A wing of the HUM called HUM--Al Alami, meaning HUM-International, participated in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, in Karachi in January-February, 2002. The incident was master-minded by Omar Sheikh, who was one of those released by the Indian authorities in December,1999, following the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar by the HUM.

In January-February,2003, a month before the US-led invasion of Iraq, the HUM sent some of its cadres to Saudi Arabia under the cover of Haj pilgrims. They were asked to take up position in Iraq and motivate the Iraqi people to emulate the Afghan Mujahideen and start a jihad against the US troops if they invaded and occupied Iraq.

Since 2004, the Afghan authorities have been complaining to Pakistan that the terrorists of the Taliban and Gulbuddin Heckmatyar's Hizbe Islami, who have stepped up their attacks on Afghan and US troops in Afghan territory, were being trained in clandestine training camps run by the JUA in Balochistan and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan under the supervision of Fazlur Rahman Khalil. The Pakistani authorities initially denied the allegations, but subsequently took Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil into custody when the Karzai government shared with them a copy of the interrogation report of one Sohail of the Taliban who had given details of the training camps run by Khalil, in one of which he (Sohail) was trained.

They released him after eight months in custody on the ground that there was no evidence against him warranting his further detention. His name again cropped during the investigation of a case in California in May-June last year. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was reported to have uncovered an Al Qaeda sleeper cell in Lodi , near Sacramento in California . All of those arrested in this connection -- one Hamid and his father Umer Hayat, Muhammed Adil Khan, Shabbir Ahmed Mohammed and Khan's son Hassan Adil -- are Pakistanis or American nationals of Pakistani origin. Hamid admitted to have attended an Al Qaeda training camp at a place called Tamal near Rawalpindi in 2003-04.He gave the name of the in-charge of the training camp as Fazlur Rahman, which was then assessed as probably identical with Fazlur Rahman Khalil. It was reported that following the admission of Hamid, the FBI reportedly requested the Pakistani authorities to arrest Khalil once again and hand him over to the FBI for interrogation. The Pakistani authorities claimed that Khalil had gone underground and was not traceable.

The Daily Times reported as follows on June 13, 2005: 

"Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, former chief of Jamiatul Ansar (JA), has gone into hiding after the arrest of Hamid Hayat and Umer Hayat who told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that they received training from a Pakistani Al Qaeda camp allegedly run by Khalil. Security agencies have begun efforts to arrest Khalil after Hamid Hayat and Umer Hayat were arrested in Lodi, California. Sources said he was earlier released by security agencies after eight months’ detention. "Khalil was released on the condition that he separate himself from his militant activities but after this new development security agencies have resumed efforts for his arrest," sources said. Khalil was arrested from his house by security agencies on May 20, 2004, but sources said security agencies found no evidence of his involvement in militant activities in Afghanistan."

The same paper reported further on September 22, 2005, as follows: 

"Law enforcing agencies have pressed the leadership of the Herkatul Mujahideen cover-named Jamiatul Ansar to disclose the whereabouts of its former commander Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, Daily Times has learnt. Sources said the law enforcers were in touch with Farooq Kashmiri, a prominent figure at the Jamiatul Ansar, seeking the information about Khalil who went underground three months back. They said the agencies might re-arrest Khalil to investigate about his alleged links with the Taliban leadership. Farooq Kashmiri, who had been working with Khalil since the organisation set forth, had told the law enforcers that he was not aware of where Khalil was. The sources said Khalil had also contacted Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the opposition leader in the National Assembly, seeking his help to make a deal with the agencies. "Khalil approached the opposition leader following his name was echoed during the investigation of Hamid Hayat and Umer Hayat who were arrested in the US. Both of them were allegedly trained as militants at a camp run by Khalil in Rawalpindi,"  the sources said. The US was pressurising Pakistan to enhance the scope of investigation into the terror acts, they said, and that Khalil wanted the opposition leader to broker a deal with the government. They said Khalil had sent a message to Maulana Fazlur Rehman that he was in crisis and needed his help, urging him to mediate with the government. They said that Maulana had also talked with the agencies on the matter and defended Khalil, saying that he was not involved in any terrorist activities in or outside the country."

Before the recent visit of President George Bush to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan from March 1 to 3, 2006, the Karzai government had told the Pakistani authorities that fresh information received by them indicated that Khalil and his JUA continued to train the jihadi terrorists of the Taliban, the Hizbe Islami and the IMU. They requested for his arrest and handing over to them for interrogation. They also brought this information to the notice of President Bush, who subsequently brought it to the notice of Musharraf.

It is suspected that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had itself instigated the attack on Khalil in order to have him killed to avoid handing him over to the FBI for interrogation. He seems to have survived the serious injuries sustained by him. The FBI should insist on his being immediately handed over to it so that it could have him flown out for medical treatment and interrogation. He may be able to give them information not only about the training camps and the HUM's sleeper cells in the US, but also about bin Laden.

This may please be read in continuation of my earlier articles titled Jaish-e-Mohammed, Rebatised? (October, 2001) and From Pakistan With Love (June, 2005).

B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.

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