Friday, December 4, 2009
Thirty-six devout Muslims, all of them with links to the Pakistani armed forces either as serving or retired officers or their relatives or friends, were killed on December 4,2009, in a commando-style raid by a group of four to seven terrorists into a mosque in Parade Lane off the Peshawar Road in Rawalpindi where the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army, a number of other military establishments and residential houses of serving and retired military officers, including the Chief of the Army Staff, are located. The terrorists attacked at the time of the Friday prayers.
2. Of those killed, 17 were children, who had accompanied their parents for the prayers and four were the terrorists. The “Friday Times” of Lahore has published the following list of the fatalities on December 5: “Major General Umer Bilal, Brigadier Abdul Rauf, Colonel Mansoor, Lieutenant Colonel Fakhar, Lieutenant Colonel Manzoor Saeed, Major Zahid, Major (retired) Shoaib, Naik Masood, Sepoy Sarwar and Sepoy Abdul Qayyum. Children killed in the attack included Bilal Riaz, son of Major General Nasim Riaz; Ali Hasan, son of Colonel Shabbir; Hassan, son of Colonel Shukhran; Sadaul Hasan, son of Lieutenant Colonel Fakhar; Zamin, son of Akmal Hussain; Qaiser Khan, son of Syed Akbar; Adil Rauf, son of Abdul Rauf; Muhammad Khan, son of Sultan Bakhsh; Fazal Khan, son of Madad Khan; and Hashim, son of Peshawar Corps Commander Lieutenant Colonel (Lt.Gen?) Masood Aslam. Names of seven children, who according to the Inter-Services Public Relations, were sons of senior army officials, were yet to be ascertained. Father of Major General Awais Mustafa, father of Colonel Kaleem Zubair and father of Lieutenant Colonel Farooq Awan were also killed in the attack. According to the ISPR, the civilians killed in the terrorist attack included NLC Deputy Director Taskeen, Khalid Javed, Ghulam Mujtaba, Javed, Muhammad Fiaz and Asad. Names of the remaining people killed were yet to be ascertained.”
3. Details available so far indicate that at the time of the prayers, two of the terrorists carrying explosive devices entered the mosque and blew themselves up. As the surviving worshippers rushed out, two other terrorists at the gate opened fire and threw hand-grenades. They then took cover inside one of the remaining buildings and engaged in an exchange of fire with the security forces who managed to kill them after about an hour. The Army has been saying that only four terrorists were involved and that all of them are dead, but the local police suspect that there were at least two or three more, who managed to escape.
4. Details of the attack carried by the “News” on December 5,2009, give the following significant information:
“The mosque is predominantly frequented by serving and retired Army officers, Jawans and members of their families and is not open to civilians living in the area.”
“This attack bears the signatures of the terror strike on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore as here also these terrorists were carrying back-packs full of arms and ammunition and targeting innocent victims while standing openly in the grounds and shouting commands and orders to each other. Later, when challenged, they engaged the law-enforcement agencies, both the Army and the police, in crossfire and some even got holed up in hideouts in houses close to the mosque. We are trying to locate them and kill or arrest them,” the sources in the Rawalpindi Police and intelligence agencies told The News on condition of anonymity.”
5. Some media reports speak of wanton brutality such as the terrorists at the gate catching hold of some fleeing worshippers by the hair and killing them. Generally, Sunni terrorist organizations exhibit such acts of brutality only against known Shias and non-Muslims. The attack definitely had an anti-military angle to wreak vengeance against military personnel for the military operations against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the Pashtun tribal belt and for not stopping the US drone (pilotless planes) strikes in the area.
6. Suspicion that the attack might have also had a sectarian anti-Shia angle arises from the following factors. Firstly, the report that civilians were not allowed to pray in the mosque. A Muslim has a right to pray in any mosque unless it be located in a sensitive military area. The mosque was not located in a sensitive area. However, Shias because of the repeated attacks on them by Sunni extremists, carefully regulate entry into their places of worship.
7. Secondly, the TTP is reported to have claimed responsibility for the attack. The “Daily Times” has reported as follows: “Claiming responsibility for Friday’s attack, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said the Parade Lane mosque was similar to Masjid-e-Zarrar built in Madina by the munafiqeen, and was “demolished on the orders of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)”. Talking to BBC, TTP chief Waliur Rehman Mehsud said his men attacked senior army officers. “Our militants attacked the military officers (our primary target) and we will continue to attack the army,” he said, adding that the civilians killed in the attack were relatives of army personnel and their deaths did not matter”.
8. To quote from an Islamic source on why the Masjid-e-Zarrar was demolished: “During the time of the Rasoolullah himself, some faction-mongers constructed a new mosque. The intensity with which the Quran opposed this construction can be gauged from the relevant verses of the Sura Taubah. Pause and reflect for what the Quran says in this matter. (9: 107) “Those who put up the mosque with this intention that loss be incurred to the Millat-e-Islamia and the Deen itself." "and kufr be favoured or the path of kufr be hiked." (9:107) " i.e., with the purpose that dissention be created in the Muslims." Do you think of it as a mosque? No, it is not a mosque. (9:107) "It is that ambush from which those who were the enemy of Allah and His Rasool (i.e., The Divine System) shall attack the Millat." It means this is not a mosque; this is the fort where the enemies of Allah and His Rasool will lie in ambush to demolish the structure of Deen. “They will indeed swear that their intention by constructing this mosque is nothing but good. We do never desire destruction of the Deen." "Do not be taken in. God stands witness to this stark fact that they are out and out liars." (9:108) "O Rasool! Never take a single step into this mosque." This mosque, so as to say, is just on the verge of hell. Whoso have constructed it or whosoever entered into it this will let all crumble down into the abyss of hell (9: 107-109). Hence history stands witness to this fact that Rasoolullah demolished this mosque through his associates. Imagine from this incidence how heinous and horrendous the crime of sectarianism in Islam is! Even if the construction of a mosque casts any speck of factionalism, the demolishing of this mosque becomes imperative. Mosque can be demolished but the foundation of sectarianism can never be laid. It is because factionalism, in express terms, is anathema (Shirk), and is anathema of a conspicuous nature. (http://www.parvez-video.com/insight/Islam/sects_islam/index.asp)
9. The Masjid-e-Zarrar was demolished because the followers of the Holy Prophet suspected that it had been constructed by hypocrite (Munafiqeen) Christians and Jewish people, who posed as Muslims, in order to create a divide among the followers of the Holy Prophet. By attacking the military worshippers in the Rawalpindi mosque, the jihadis have sought to convey a message to the Sunnis of the Armed Forces and the civil society that military officers collaborating with the US are no different from the Shias, the Christians, and the Jewish people and killing them is justified. ( 5-12-09)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )
INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR—PAPER NO.584
Al Qaeda looks upon its continuing jihad against the so-called Crusaders --- thereby meaning essentially the US, Israel and their supporters--- as a global intifada waged on many fronts and through many means. In this global jihad, Afghanistan, Somalia and Algeria are seen as battle fronts, which will determine the ultimate outcome. Afghanistan is seen as the core of the battle, Somalia as its southern front and Algeria as the Western front.
2. In a message disseminated on December 20,2006, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No.2 to Osama bin Laden in Al Qaeda, said: “Brothers in Islam and Jihad in Somalia: know that you are on the southern garrison of Islam, so don’t allow Islam to be attacked from your flank, and know that we are with you, and that the entire Muslim Ummah is with you. So don’t lose heart, or fall into despair, for you must dominate if you are true in faith. And know that you are fending off the same Crusade which is fighting your brothers in Islam in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. So be resolute, be patient and be optimistic, for by Allah beside whom there is no other God, even if your enemies possess thousands of tons of iron and explosives, in their chests lie the hearts of mice. So be severe against them like Muhammad was. "
3. To keep the jihad going in Somalia is one of its important objectives. For this purpose, it uses not only recruits from the impoverished local population, but also from the Somali diaspora in the West----including the US--- as well as jihad-hardened cadres sent from the battle fronts in the Af-Pak region. The Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) of Pakistan has had a long history of contacts with the Muslim population in Somalia and East African countries just as it has with the Muslim population of Chechnya and Dagestan. Though the TJ itself does not indulge in acts of terrorism, it plays an important role in facilitating the ideological motivation of the population on behalf of Al Qaeda.
4. In September 2009, Al Shabaab, meaning “The Lads”, an organization of Somali youths, was reported to have disseminated through Islamic web sites usually identified with Al Qaeda a 48-minute video documentary in which it proclaimed its allegiance to Osama bin Laden. It derives its name “The Lads” from the fact that it used to be the youth wing of a fundamentalist organization called the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which had established control over some parts of Somalia and was ultimately crushed by invading Ethiopian troops in 2006. While the elders of the UIC disappeared after being defeated by the better trained and better armed Ethiopian troops allegedly inspired and aided by the US, the Al Shabaab replaced the UIC as a born-again jihadi organization, which was determined to continue the jihad against the troops of the African Union, which had replaced the Ethiopian troops, and of the UN-backed local Government, which it viewed as apostate.
5. Though Somalis had participated in acts of suicide terrorism on behalf of Al Qaeda in other countries, suicide terrorism was unknown in Somalia itself till Al Shabaab made its appearance in 2006. Even though it proclaimed its loyalty to bin Laden only in September,2009, it had carried out a number of acts of suicide terrorism against local Government targets as well as the peace-keeping troops of the African Union ever since the AU troops took over their peace-keeping responsibility in Somalia. Al Shabaab has been waging a two-front jihad---- against the AU troops and the local Government being protected by the AU troops. The first act of suicide terrorism took place on September 18,2006. Since then, there have been 13 suicide attacks--- two in 2006, four in 2007, two in 2008 and five this year.
6. The Al Shabaab cadres, many of whom had allegedly served with the Afghan Mujahideen, the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the Af-Pak region, look upon their jihad as similar to the jihad waged by the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet troops and those of the Government of the then President Najibullah in the 1980s and the early 1990s.
7. In a serious attack of suicide terrorism, a male suicide bomber dressed as a woman managed to find his way into a graduation ceremony of medical students in a Mogadishu hotel on December 3,2009, and blew himself up killing 19 persons, including three Ministers of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke of the UN-backed Government. Even though no organization has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, Al Shabaab is strongly suspected by the local authorities.
8. Though there is so far no evidence of any nexus between Al Shabaab and the Somali pirates, the dangers of money earned from piracy going to the coffers of Al Qaeda and the availability in Somalia of sea-faring people who could be used by Al Qaeda for future acts of maritime terrorism cannot be ignored.
9. A Reuters report carried on December 4,2009, by the “Daily Times” of Lahore has quoted Bethuel Kiplagat, who used to be Kenya’s special envoy to the Somalia peace process from 2003 to 2005, as saying as follows: “Suicide bombings are a worrying trend not only for Somalia but also the region. There has been a rise in fundamentalism in Somalia coming from the Middle East and Pakistan. There’s a worry Al Qaeda may be looking at Somalia as a new sanctuary.”
10. On March 16,2009, Mohamed Mohamed of the BBC’s Somali section, reported as follows: “As well as alleged links to al-Qaeda it is said to have Arabs, Asians, other Africans and - America's FBI believes - Westerners among its ranks. These foreigners are said to be involved in training Al Sabaab recruits in various aspects of guerrilla warfare, including suicide bombings and booby traps.”
11. On February 29, 2008, the then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice designated Al Shabaab as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act . (4-12-09)
( 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)