INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR--PAPER NO.572
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the US has arrested and produced before a court in Chicago two local Muslim residents on a charge of conspiring with three others in Pakistan to carry out a Mumbai 26/11 style terrorist strike in Copenhagen and another strike in India.
2. The two arrested persons are David Coleman Headley ( aged 49 ) also known as Daood Gilani, an American citizen, who is a white convert to Islam, and Tahawar Hussain Rana (aged 48), a Canadian citizen of Pakistani origin, who has been running an immigration services office in Chicago with branches in Toronto and New York. He has also been running a company which was supplying meat to Muslims.
3. Headley was arrested on October 3,2009, and produced before the court on October 11.His arrest was kept a secret with the permission of the court for eight days to facilitate further investigation. The FBI arrested him at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as he was about to board a flight to Philadelphia for an onward trip to Denmark. According to the FBI, he was allegedly carrying a copy of a newspaper (not specified), a street guide for Copenhagen, a list of phone numbers and a computer memory stick with ten short video recordings of the offices of a Danish newspaper, which had published in 2005, a cartoon depicting the Holy Prophet, and the entrance to a military barracks in Copenhagen.
4.It was reported by the local media that Headley had "waived his rights" and made voluntary statements to the FBI about his connection to Pakistani terror groups.The authorities said the plot against the Danish newspaper, Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, was referred to as the "Mickey Mouse Project" in communications between Headley and his contact in Pakistan. Headley had already traveled to Copenhagen in January and visited two different offices of the newspaper, the FBI said. Rana had allegedly reservations to fly to Copenhagen on Oct0ber 29. He was arrested on October 18 and produced before the court the next day
5.During his visit to Denmark in January last, Headley allegedly flew to Pakistan and met with his contact there, according to the FBI's affidavit filed with the court. The texts of the two affidavits filed by the FBI against the two arrested persons are available at http://abcnews.go.com/images/Blotter/Headley%20Complaint.pdf and http://abcnews.go.com/images/Blotter/Rana%20Complaint2.pdf .
6. The FBI authorities have identified the contact as Ilyas Kashmiri, a former Commando of the Special Services Group(SSG) of Pakistan, who gravitated to the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) of Pakistan and subsequently to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). He was one of the suspects in Al Qaeda-inspired plots to kill Pervez Musharraf in December,2003, and other terrorist strikes.He was recently reported to have been killed in a US drone strike in South Waziristan in September, but this was subsequently reported to have been incorrect. He himself contacted some Pakistani journalists to prove that he was still alive. According to the FBI's affidavit, Headley was introduced to Ilyas Kashmiri by an individual referred to as Individual A during a visit to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in July-August 2008. A persual of the two FBI affidavits would indicate that Headley's subsequent communications with Ilyas Kashmiri were through this individual and not direct.
7.In the past there were conflicting versions of the organisational affiliation of Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri. While some reports described him as the Amir of the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) branch of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), other reports described him as the head of a splinter group of the HUJI of Pakistan headed by its Amir Qari Saifullah Akhtar, which had split from it and was operating independently in Jammu & Kashmir of India from sanctuaries in the POK.
8. Ilyas Kashmiri was among those arrested by the Pakistani authorities in January,2004, in connection with the investigation into the two unsuccessful attempts to assassinate Pervez Musharraf in Rawalpindi in December,2003. While some of the others arrested, including some junior Air Force officers, were prosecuted and convicted, Ilyas Kashmiri himself was released for want of evidence of his involvement. It was claimed by sections of the Pakistani media at that time that Ilyas was released on the intervention of Syed Salauddin, the Amir of the Hizbul Mujahideen and the head of the United Jihad Council for Kashmir, who reportedly managed to convince the Police that Ilyas had nothing to do with the two attempts to kill Musharraf.
9. Ilyas was subsequently reported to have closed down the camp of his set-up in the POK and shifted to North Waziristan from where he was operating in the non-tribal belt of Pakistan. In a despatch of May 24,2009, Amir Mir, the well-informed Pakistani journalist, who writes for the "News" and other papers said: "Commander Ilyas Kashmiri was recently named in a charge sheet filed by the Islamabad police in the November 2008 gruesome murder of Major General (retd) Amir Faisal Alvi, the former General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the elite Special Services Group (SSG). The 12-page charge sheet submitted by the Rawalpindi police in an anti-terrorism court on May 12, 2009 stated that the former SSG commanding officer was killed to avenge the role he had played in the fight against Taliban linked militants in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The charge-sheet prepared by the Koral police station states that those involved and already arrested in the murder included Major (retd) Haroon Rasheed, a resident of Azad Kashmir; Mohammad Nawaz Khan of Peshawar and Ashfaq Ahmed of Okara. The charge sheet says the murder of Major General Amir Faisal Alvi was carried out on the instructions of Commander Ilyas Kashmiri who had provided funds and weapons.The charge sheet pointed out that Ilyas Kashmiri had already been named by the intelligence agencies for involvement in the October 2008 kidnapping for ransom of Satish Anand, a Karachi-based renowned film producer and distributor and the real uncle of Juhi Chawla, a well known Bollywood actress. After Satish Anand was recovered in the last week of April 2009 and the kidnappers arrested, it transpired during interrogations that one of them - Major Haroon Rasheed alias Abu Khattab – was a former Pakistani Army officer and involved in the murder of General Alvi. According to the murder charge sheet, the three accused – Haroon, Ashfaq and Nawaz followed Alvi when he left his residence in Bharia Town in Rawalpindi for his private office in Islamabad and killed him and his driver near the PWD Colony. Once considered close to General Pervez Musharraf, Amir Faisal Alvi was the first General Officer Commanding of the elite Special Services Group, and had also commanded the elite Group as a Brigadier. The first Pakistani Major General to have captained the Armed Forces Skydiving Team (AFST) as a GOC, Faisal Alvi was forcibly retired from the Army on disciplinary grounds ‘for conduct unbecoming’ by then Army Chief General Musharraf in August 2005."
10. Ilyas Kashmiri reportedly had his own training camp in the Razmak area of North (?) Waziristan and was collaborating with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
11.According to the FBI affidavit, "in July and August 2009, Headley exchanged a series of e-mails with LeT Member A, including an exchange in which Headley asked if the Denmark project was on hold, and whether a visit to India that LeT Member A had asked him to undertake was for the purpose of surveilling targets for a new terrorist attack.These e-mails reflect that LeT Member A was placing a higher priority on using Headley to assist in planning a new attack in India than on completing the planned attack in Denmark."
12.Although the affidavit named Ilyas Kashmiri, it did not identify two other Pakistan-based members involved in the plot, referring to them merely as LeT member A and Individual A. It said the LeT member A “has substantial influence and responsibility within the organization” and his “identity is known to the government.”
13. It is not clear what the FBI affidavit meant by saying that the LET member's identity is known to the Government. Which Government---the Government of Pakistan? If so, what action has been taken by the FBI to have him picked up by the Pakistani authorities and handed over to the FBI for interrogation and further investigation? The FBI has been silent on this till now.
14. The idea of using the US territory as a launcing pad for terrorist attacks in India had figured in the plans of the LET in 2003.On June 27,2003, the FBI had 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 LET. It also said that three others involved in the case were absconding and were believed to be in Saudi Arabia.
15. 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 were 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.
16. The 41-count indictment 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.
17. 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 indictment said, obtained AK-47s and other high-powered weaponry and practised small-unit military tactics in Virginia.
18. 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."
19. 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.
20. 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. But at least one more suspect, Masoud Ahmad Khan, 31, also had a Pakistani sounding name although his nationality was not disclosed. The other accused were Randall Todd Royer, 30; Ibrahim Ahmed 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 and Benkhala were stated to be living in Saudi Arabia.
21.Earlier, on June 20, 2003 FBI officials had disclosed that they had arrested in April Iyman 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, said to be Osama bin Laden's operations chief, who is believed to have co-ordinated the terrorist strikes 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) of Pakistan at Rawalpindi in March, 2003, by the Pakistani authorities and handed over to the FBI.
22. 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 jihad 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.
23. "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 to succeed---apparently because of security and the bridge's structure-- and should be postponed. He was arrested soon thereafter. Sources in Pakistan described Faris, aged 34, as a Punjabi ex-serviceman settled in POK, before he migrated to the US.
24. The above-mentioned details of LET activities in the US have been covered in my latest book titled "Mumbai--26/11 : A Day of Infamy" released for sale by the Lancer Publishers of New Delhi on October 26,2008 (www.lancerpublishers.com ).
25.The plans of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa , the parent organisation of the LET, to carry out terrorist strikes in foreign territory against those insulting the Holy Prophet came to notice from the following report carried by the Pakistani journal "Ausaf" in its issue dated September 18,2006:"Pakistan's Jamaat-ud-Dawa has issued a Fatwa asking the Muslim community to kill Pope Benedict for his blasphemous statement about Prophet Mohammad. The Jamaat-ud-Dawa has declared death to Pope Benedict and said that in today's world blasphemy of the Holy Koran and the Prophet has become a fashion. The leaders of the Jamaat were speaking at a Martyrs' Islamic Conference in Karachi. Prominent Jamaat leader Hafiz Saifullah Khalid said that in the present circumstances, jehad has become obligatory for each Muslim. Muslims are being declared terrorists and our battle for survival has already started. The Muslim world has rejected the Pope's apology and decided to continue protests and demonstrations in big cities. The Pope's apology is just a drama and no political leader has any power to pardon him. It is part of a crusade initiated by the US in the name of terrorism. Instead of accepting fake apologies, Muslims should realise Europe's enemity towards Islam and Muslim Ummah shou ld prepare itself to defend its faith. Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Hafiz Abdur Rahman Makki said the West and Europe have started a campaign against the Holy Koran and the Prophet and have abused jehad. We should take appropriate steps to deal with the champions of crusade. It is time for Muslim leaders to open their eyes and understand that the West had never been a friend of the Muslims and will never be so."
26. A perusal of the FBI affidavits indicates the following: Headley was a self-motivated jihadi who volunteered his services for the LET and Ilyas Kashmiri. He seems to have come into contact with the jihadi world in Pakistan by frequenting an Internet chat group of "Abdelians" ---- meaning former cadets of the Punjab Government's military cadet college at Hasan Abdal, 40 kms to the north of Rawalpindi, set up in 1954 to prepare young boys aspiring to join the armed forces. He had established independent contacts with an LET operative and Ilyas Kashmiri. While the LET operative was interested in using him to prepare the ground for a terrorist strike in India, Ilyas Kashmiri was interested in using him for a terrorist strike in Denmark.He had visited Denmark at least once to study the ground conditions there, but there is no indication of his having visited India. The role of Rana seems to have been to provide Headley with a business cover for his travels to Denmark and Pakistan. The two had discussed the operational plans of Headley during a long drive together in the US.
27.Al Qaeda, the LET and their jihadi associates are like homing pigeons. Once they draw up a plan for a terrorist strike, they focus on carrying it out whatever be the difficulties. It came out during the investigation of the November, 2008, terrorist strike in Mumbai that the LET had originally planned to carry it out in September, but postponed it---presumably because security had been tightened up at the hotels which it was planning to attack. It attacked on November 26, when the security had become slack.Its plans for a terrorist strike in India from US territory in 2003 with the help of White and other converts to Islam holding US and other Western passports were foiled in time by the FBI, but it did not give up this idea and has once again tried to give it shape.Despite its failure for a second time, it will continue looking for another opportunity. (30-10-09)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )