In our previous report “Who is behind the Mumbai attack” we have discussed thoroughly about the possibility that this attack was the outcome of a joint operational cooperation between Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani terror organization Lashkar–E–Toyba (LET).
The arrest of Hafez Saeed, the founder and leader of LET, for his alleged connections to the attack takes us back to the early days of the Jihad – during the Afghan-Soviet war (1980-1989) which served as a melting pot for all future global terrorism and the place where links and cooperations were first established. In the coming report we will portray the fraternity-like ties that were seeded between jihadi individuals during the Afghan war and came into fruition during the last decade in the form of cooperation between terrorist organizations in the international arena.
Short historical background
In our “Painting the world green” article we thoroughly examined the role of the Afghan – Soviet war in shaping the future of the “global Jihad”. Afghanistan used to be, up until the second half of the 1970's, what would be considered a "normal" country. It was ruled by King Sardar Mohammed Daoud Khan who was able to control the country at a level that allowed it to perform as a normal and organized state. In 1978 the country experienced a pro-communist military coop d'etat when leftists figures such as Nur Muhammad Taraki and later on Babrak Karmal and Dr. Mohamed Najiballah seized power. Soon after the communist revolution the new regime encountered resistance from different Afghan groups with a common denominator of being religious Islamic fundamentalists.
The developing war in Afghanistan created a large surge of romanticism within the Muslim world which painted it as a religious war between modern crusaders and Moslems. Hence, many Muslim volunteers from all over the world found their way on their own initiative to Afghanistan in order to take part in the holly war. As a result, there was a great need to treat those volunteers, receive them upon their arrival and allocate them between the different Afghan fighting groups.
To meet this need, Dr. Abdullah Azam, a Palestinian religious cleric who is considered to be the spiritual mentor and ideologist of global jihad, established the "Maktab Al Khadamat" (MAK - the office of services) in 1984 in the Pakistani city of Pashwar. The task of the new establishment was to deal with the growing stream of Muslim volunteers coming to participate in the war against the soviets. The "MAK" accommodated the new arrivals in several guest houses in Peshawar, and after a couple of days of formal paper work they were allocated by the "MAK" and sent over to the different Afghan fighting groups. In the different groups the new volunteers received basic training and were then sent to the front to fight the Red Army.
The melting pot – Sadah training camp of the “Itihad Al Islami Al Afghani “ organization headed by Abd Al Rasool Sayyaf
In today’s discussion we will focus on the Sadah training camp. Among those volunteers that were allocated by the MAK to the camp one can find the following:
- Khaled Sheikh Mohamed - KSM- from Baluchistan.
- Wali Amin Shah – Uzbek.
- Radwan Issam Al Din (Aka Hambali) – Indonesian citizen.
- Abd Al Razeq Janjelani – from the Philippines islands.
- Hafez Saeed - Pakistani national.
In Sadah they received basic training and fought the Red Army on the battle front. When the Afghan war was over all the volunteers from the different groups started to think about the future of the Jihad and their role in it, including the “Sadah veterans”.
Janjelani went back to the Philippines and established a terrorist group called Abu Sayyaf (In the honor of Abd Al Rasool Sayyaf) which fights the Philippines central government in order to achieve some kind of independence for the highly Moslem populated (95%) island of Mindanao in the south of the Philippines islands. Saeed went back to Pakistan and established Lashkar-E-Toyba in order to fight the Indian army in Kashmir.
A group of about 20 activists veterans of the Sadah camp among them KSM, Shah and Hambali took a decision to internationalize Jihad selecting US targets as their first priority. This group was responsible for the most spectaculars attacks and attempts of attacks against US targets in the first half of the 1990’s. Among these terrorist activities one should include the first WTC bombing (February 1993) and the “Bojinca” plot - attempting to blow up about a dozen American commercial aircrafts over the Pacific Ocean in one day.
Following these attempts the United states Held an international hunt of the group members in which many important figures were arrested, including shah. As a result of this hunt the “Sadah veteran group” was dismantled and the remaining activists spread around the world. KSM joined (late 1998) Bin Laden's group Al Qaeda (AQ) and was elected by Bin Laden to head the “special operations unit “ of AQ - responsible for all the operational activity of the organization in the international arena. Hambali joined the newly (1992) established Indonesian outfit “Jemaah Islamiyah” and became its chief of military activity.
Although all the above mentioned terrorist entities operated separately, according to their own different and mostly local agendas, the fraternity-like ties established during the “Sadah glory days” were maintained throughout the years and translated during the last decade into operational cooperation between terrorist organizations in the international arena.
Within this framework one can find the following:
* During the “Bojinca plot” the Abu Sayaf organization was used as a cover in order to conceal the true identity of the activists involved. Within the preparations for the plot the group’s activists carried out a “test run” to check explosives and barometric activation mechanism, in which a charge was laid on board of a Philippine air lines plane headed for Japan. The “test run” resulted with the death of a Japanese passenger but the pilot was able to perform emergency landing and landed the air craft safely. Janjelanie’s Abu sayyaf group claimed responsibility for the “test run” attack in order to portrait it as a local terrorist attack and conceal its true international and Anti American nature.
The fraternity-like connections became much more relevant after KSM joined AQ and became the chief of its special operations unit. His connections with the other veterans of the “Sadah camp”, who became senior figures within the newly established terror organizations, were a dominant motive within the “booming” of global jihad terrorism since the turn of the new millennium. Within this framework one can include:
- AQ-Jemaah Islamiyah operational cooperation that came to light with the Bali (October 2002) and J.W Marriot attacks (Aug 2003). The KSM-Hambali connection was also pivotal in the foiled attempts to conduct terrorist attacks against western targets in Singapore (early 2002) and Thailand (spring 2003). In addition to that AQ used Jemaah Islamiyah for the logistics preparations of the September 11th attacks in New York and Washington and the south east Asian organization was about to play a key role with the planned second wave of a 9/11 style operations KSM has planned.
- AQ-Abu Sayaf operational cooperation that came to light when two AQ senior operatives who were probably sent (autumn 2001) by KSM instructed and trained ASG activists to construct a truck bomb in order to attack western targets in Manila.
- AQ-LET operational cooperation that came to light in several occasions. LET members provides safe houses for the members of the special operations unit of AQ while they were operating from Karachi and were in fact the only ones that knew how to get in touch with KSM; LET’s logistical apparatus in Paris provided the necessary assistance to a suicide bomber (Islam convert Richard reed) who was sent by KSM to board and crush American airline flight headed from Paris to Miami using explosives that were hidden in his shoe; The same model was used, according to our assessment, with the foiled attempt of a French Islam convert Willie Bridgette to construct a terrorist operation in Australia and was assisted by members of the local LET infrastructure.
Many things have changed in recent years. Janjelany died, KSM, Hambali and Shah were arrested by US forces and are still in detention and Hafez Saeed formed a new charity organization called Jammat Ul Dawa (JUD), probably in order to avoid the sanctions imposed on LET’s activity after it was declared (2002) a terror organization in both US and Pakistan.
Nevertheless, it seems to us that the operational cooperation is no longer based on personal connections and has evolved into a more formal and possibly structural cooperation between the different entities. Hence, we will not be surprised to identify different characteristics of this operational cooperation in future terrorist attacks and the Mumbai attack should be considered with this regard only as a reminder for the lethality of such a cooperation.
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