Thursday, December 10, 2009




Reports of volunteers from the Muslim community in the West secretly traveling to Pakistan to join the on-going jihad in the Af-Pak region are not infrequent. The British citizens/residents of Pakistani origin, who carried out the suicide attacks in London in July 2005, belonged to one such group from the UK, which had traveled to Pakistan, got trained by Al Qaeda or pro-Al Qaeda elements, returned to the UK and carried out the suicide attacks. The British intelligence failed to question them after they returned from Pakistan or even to keep them under watch. It became aware of the details of their visits to Pakistan only after they had carried out the suicide attacks.

2. The Intelligence and Security Committee of the British Prime Minister, which enquired into the explosions, said, inter alia, in its report submitted to the local Parliament in May,2006, as follows: " We remain concerned that across the whole of the counter-terrorism community, the development of the home-grown threat and the radicalisation of British citizens were not fully understood or applied to strategic thinking. A common and better level of understanding of these things among all those closely involved in identifying and countering the threat against the UK, whether that be the Security Service or the police or other parts of Government, is critical in order to be able to counter the threat effectively and prevent attacks. Lessons that have been learned about the potential diversity of those who can become radicalised and the extent to which they can become radicalised ---including to the point of suicide--- must be taken into account as new initiatives are taken forward."

3. There have also been instances of members of the local Muslim community in Germany and Denmark going to the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan to join the on-going jihad of the two Talibans of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Adam Gadahn, an American convert to Islam, who is in charge of As Sahab, the publicity wing of Al Qaeda , which produces and disseminates the recorded messages of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, is another example of this Af-Pak-bound jihadis.

4. Till a few years ago, the majority of foreign Muslims studying in the Pakistani madrasas used to come from Asia and Africa, but a recent trend has been for Muslim families in the US and West Europe to send their children, including girls, to Pakistan for a short attachment to the madrasas in order to make them true Muslims. Since many of these madrasas maintain close links with jihadi organizations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) these students come under their influence and are brain-washed before they return home.

5. The jihad of the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s attracted nearly about 6000 foreign volunteers, almost all of them from the Arab countries and some from other parts of Asia. But, there was hardly any from the West.

6. The Al Qaeda-supported jihad of the two Talibans in the Af-Pak region has not been attracting many Arabs and volunteers from South-East Asia. The Arabs, who are with Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban today in the Af-Pak region, are the remnants of the past volunteers. There has not been much of a fresh flow. However, the jihad of the two Talibans has started attracting young Muslims from the communities in the West, who want to express their Islamic solidarity with their co-religionists in the Af-Pak region by either fighting with them shoulder to shoulder or through other means such as placing their technical expertise in Information Technology and other modern innovations at the disposal of the jihadis.

7. It is still a small trickle from the West. It is estimated that the number of young Muslims from the West, who have come to Pakistan either for studying in the madrasas or for assisting the Talibans and Al Qaeda, must be around a hundred. As these jihadis go back to their countries from the Af-Pak region, they are likely to carry with them the radical jihadi virus to their communities back home. Their activities in Pakistan and after they return home would, therefore, need close watch.

8. The five young Muslim residents from the Virginia area of the US---- two of them of Pakistani origin and the remaining three of Egyptian, Ethiopian and Eritrean origin---- who were arrested by the Pakistani police at Sargodha on December 9,2009, in response to an alert from the USA’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seem to have been self-motivated by a desire to assist the Talibans. Reports from Pakistan indicate that they were self-motivated volunteers and not externally-induced recruits. They had traveled to Pakistan on their own towards the end of November and allegedly contacted the JEM as well as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the political wing of the LET. Since they were located and arrested within a few days of their arrival, they could not have undergone any training.

9.The prompt action to trace and round them up became possible because one of the Pakistani origin volunteers had left a recorded message back home indicating the purpose of their travel to Pakistan. His family alerted a local Muslim community group. The FBI would seem to have come to know of their sudden disappearance from their homes in the US and alerted the Pakistani authorities to look for them.

10. The claims made by the Sargodha Police after their arrest that they seemed to be having links with Al Qaeda and had offered their services for committing acts of terrorism in Pakistan have not been corroborated. All that has been established so far is that since August they were in touch with acquaintances in Pakistan through the Internet in order to prepare themselves for the visit to Pakistan to join the jihad in the FATA area. It has been alleged that the house in which they were found and arrested belonged to a member of the JEM and that the father (Khalid Farooq) of one of the Pakistani origin persons by name Umar Farooq is also being questioned by the Police in order to ascertain whether he had any role in their travel to Pakistan. Khalid Farooq reportedly runs a computer business in the US and Pakistan and spends part of the year in the US and part in Pakistan. The arrested persons are between 19 and 25 years of age.

11. While there is so far no evidence to show that they belonged to any jihadi organization, the five arrested persons seem to have had a common social background in the US which brought them together and induced them to plan together. This needs to be looked into carefully. (11-12-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )



Q: US officials have been quoted in the media as saying that the further action against David Coleman Headley of Chicago, who was allegedly involved in the conspiracy of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) relating to the Mumbai—26/11 terrorist strike, has to be “negotiated”. What do they mean by that?

A: There will be two kinds of “negotiations” ---between Headley and the FBI prosecutors and between Indian and US authorities. The objective of the “negotiations” with Headley will be to persuade him to admit before the court some of the charges leveled against him as a quid pro quo for the FBI not prosecuting him on the other charges which might be dropped. The advantage to him will be that the FBI could assure him that it will not press for a death penalty against him if he admitted some of the charges. Quid pro quo in criminal cases in order to expedite the trial is often followed in the US. The “negotiations” with the Indian authorities will be to decide where he will be prosecuted. He has committed offences against Indian and US laws. He cannot be prosecuted on the basis of the same facts or admissions in both the countries. That could attract the legal ban relating to double jeopardy.

Q: What are the chances of the US agreeing during the “negotiations” to his being prosecuted only in India and not in the US? That would not attract double jeopardy.

A: I am not hopeful that the US would agree to it. If they did, they will have to transfer Headley to Indian custody for interrogation and prosecution. Pakistan would oppose it. The US State Department would be afraid that if he is interrogated in Indian custody, he might make to Indian interrogators admissions or statements, which could be detrimental to the State of Pakistan. The US has always tried to protect the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment from possible adverse consequences of their involvement in terrorism in India. There is no reason to believe that they have changed that policy.

Q: What are the chances of India getting him extradited?

A: If the terrorist attack had not resulted in the death of US nationals, the US would have found it difficult to reject or avoid an Indian request for his extradition. Because of the death of the six US nationals, the US might have no other option but to prosecute him before a US court. The question of extradition would arise only after the case in the US has ended. If India intends prosecuting him for the same offence and on the basis of the same set of facts as in the US court, laws relating to double jeopardy could prevent his extradition. To make out a plausible case for his extradition, the Govt. of India has to show that he has to be prosecuted for certain other offences different from the offences for which he was prosecuted in the US--- like , for example, the death of Indian civilians and security forces officers as a result of the conspiracy or the death of Jewish persons and other foreign nationals.

Q: Will the FBI allow Indian investigators to interrogate him in the US if it is not prepared to transfer him to Indian custody?

A: I am again doubtful because of the expected US keenness to protect Pakistan from possible adverse consequences. The best they might do is to ask the Indian investigators to give them a set of questions which the FBI investigators will pose to Headley and communicate his replies to their Indian counterparts.

Q: Has India reasons to be satisfied with the co-operation extended by the FBI so far?

A: The FBI has been very helpful in certain matters. It seems to have shared with India many of the admissions made by Headley during the interrogation. One piece of material evidence which would be of tremendous interest to the Indian investigators is the voice recordings of Headley’s telephone conversations with his handlers in Pakistan identified in the original affidavit as Individual A and LET member A. Individual A has since been identified by the FBI on the basis of Headley’s admissions as retired Major Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed alias Pasha. The FBI does not seem to know as yet who exactly is he. Amir Mir, the Pakistani journalist, has reported in the “News” of December 9,2009, that the FBI is trying to find out whether he could be identical with a nephew of Qari Saifullah Akhtar of the HUJI, who has a similar name. The FBI has not yet named the LET member A. One possibility is that he is one of the LET conspirators presently in custody in Pakistan and facing trial in a case filed before an anti-terrorism court in connection with the Mumbai 26/11 conspiracy. If it turns out to be so, it will show that the Pakistani authorities have allowed those ostensibly in jail to continue to remain in touch with Headley in order to plan another terrorist strike in India. I am doubtful whether the US would want India to find this out. It will definitely pressure Pakistan to stop this, but would not share this information with India. If the US shares the voice recordings with the Indian investigators, they would be able to compare them with the recordings of the voices of the Pakistani masterminds, who were directing the 26/11 terrorists and see whether any of the voices are identical. I am not sure whether the US would share the voice recordings. If it doesn’t, that would show that the co-operation is even now not whole-hearted despite the improvement and that the keenness to protect the Pakistani State from adverse consequences still influences US decisions vis-à-vis counter-terrorism co-operation with India.. (10-12-09)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )