August 30, 2004


Hunt for militants steps up as Pakistan takes on al-Qaeda: Arrest of 10 and search for four others linked to suicide-bomb plot highlights scale of anti-terror fight. (Paul Anderson, 8/29/04, Sunday Herald)

Pakistan’s crackdown started in mid-July with the arrest of computer expert Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan. This led to the arrest of a Tanzanian al-Qaeda figure, ranked number eight in the network, accused of masterminding the bombings of the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1988.

Hayat explained: “Two years ago, al-Qaeda and its affiliates sought refuge in the urban centres of Pakistan. We carried out major operations against some of the topmost figures of al-Qaeda: Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. When the terrorists found the urban centres were no longer safe, they relocated to the western borders close to Afghanistan.

“As a result of the operations carried out by the military there in the past eight months, they were again flushed out and some again sought refuge back in the cities. And they know now that they have no options left available to them. They are on the run and we will catch them.”

Musharraf has claimed that as a result of the latest security push, 90% of all militants have been caught. However, anti-terrorism experts estimate there are at least two dozen new outfits on Pakistan’s militant scene which didn’t exist two years ago, when there were a spate of attacks against Americans, French, Christian and minority Shia targets. Dozens of people were killed by known Sunni extremist organisations. Several Sunnis were also targeted by Shia extremists. Since then, sources in the police say, the scene has changed completely, testifying to the talent which militants have for adapting under pressure.

“Jundallah, for example, didn’t exist 18 months ago. It came on the scene only after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was arrested 18 months ago,” added Hayat.

Jundallah, or Army of God, carried out several attacks against police and paramilitary rangers in Karachi this year. In June, it attempted to assassinate the commander of the army’s Karachi corps. Most of Jundallah’s members, including its founder, Attaur Rehman, have since been rounded up.

Pakistani security forces are worried that Jundallah attracts support for jihad, or holy war, from middle-class and well-educated professionals opposed to the US and its allies, rather than the rural poor. Attaur Rehman himself is a former maths student from an affluent district of Karachi. Several of his followers were senior medical professionals and members of the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association.

“They haven’t the capacity to attack the United States abroad,” said Hayat. “So they go for the next best option: Pakistan’s leaders.”

The War on Terror would seem to be working out just about ideally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 30, 2004 5:50 PM

Call me a skeptic, but I wonder how many of these guys are real Islamic terrorists and how many are just Pakistani politicans that Musharraf would like to get rid of?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 30, 2004 7:18 PM

What's the difference?

Posted by: oj at August 30, 2004 8:02 PM

Well, they might be those Muslim democrats you're always seeing under the bed.

It's a cinch Musharref isn't, and there aren't so many that you can afford to lose even one.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 31, 2004 1:41 AM

Y'all didn't think Franco & Pinochet were either.

Posted by: oj at August 31, 2004 7:18 AM

Us'ns were right, too

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 31, 2004 2:52 PM

Yet they left Spain and Chile democracies. Odd that.

Posted by: oj at August 31, 2004 3:06 PM