Pakistan release of terror suspects setback in war

Sunday Telegraph:

Anti-terrorism forces in Pakistan have been told to brace themselves for a wave of atrocities. Intelligence officials warned that the security situation is now more precarious than it was before the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Senior officers say they are "back to square one" in their fight against international terrorist groups after the release of dozens of militants by Pakistani courts. High-ranking police officials say that as many as 80 hard-core militants are on the loose after being cleared by the courts or released on bail.

They are believed to have been involved in crimes including the attempted assassination of President Pervez Musharraf and a suicide attack on the American consulate in Karachi.

A memo sent by Pakistan's interior ministry to law enforcement agencies around the country warns of a plot to use suicide bombers to target Britons and Americans, including diplomats, in a coordinated campaign involving some of the country's most notorious terrorist groups. The ministry warned that the bombers were also believed to be looking at high-profile individuals and military installations as potential targets.

Last month, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5, warned of the growing threat from within Pakistan. She said young British Muslims were being groomed to become suicide bombers and that most of the 1,600 suspects being tracked by her agents were British-born but linked to al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

MI5 is reported to have compiled detailed dossiers on British Muslims travelling to jihadist training camps in Waziristan, on the border with Afghanistan, the region where the United States believes Osama bin Laden is hiding. At least two of the British Muslims involved in the Tube and bus bombings in London on July 7 last year are known to have visited training camps in Pakistan.

Anti-terrorism officers in Pakistan say they are deeply alarmed by the security situation. "We are back to square one and the situation is more precarious than it was before 9/11," one senior officer told The Sunday Telegraph. "They are planning more attacks. They have got huge backup. There are so many youths who are joining them. The old ones who are released from the prison are guiding and training the new cadres."

The interior ministry memo warns: "We would like to direct all the concerned -security departments to tighten security around important personalities inside Pakistan, and to keep a constant eye on the movement of people who had previously provided shelter to militants linked to terror organisations."

Counter-terrorism officials are aghast at the decision by the courts to free so many people suspected of involvement in attacks. Police say many have since disappeared off the radar of intelligence agencies and are believed to be planning to strike.

Among those released recently are Sohail Akhtar (aka Mustafa), the operational commander of the outlawed Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami group. He has been blamed for a campaign that included a suicide attack in Karachi in which 11 French engineers died, the suicide attack on the US consulate, and the failed attempt on the president's life. Intelligence officers say Mustafa — who was initially sentenced to death before a court overturned the verdict — is also believed to have travelled to Iraq to establish contact between al-Qaeda and terrorists there. His interrogators described him as "a terrorist genius".

One official said: "He was the one who cobbled together all the jihadis, working under various organisations, by coining the slogan, 'The ways should be different but the goal should be one'."

Officials said they had intercepted jihadist manuals which Mustafa wrote while in the prison, in which he had set out precise instructions on how to carry out attacks and maintain security.

One of those released was involved in the murder of Daniel Pearl. What the story does not say is why they were released and what the back ground of the judges were who were responsible for the releases. The Sidney Morning Herald also raises questions about Pakistan and whose side the people are really own.


The Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, is said to live in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's Baluchistan province, hold his "shura" or council meetings openly in the city, and train his fighters at two camps on the city's outskirts.

Before an attack by 1500 Taliban fighters in early September, the Taliban streamed across the border into Afghanistan cheered on by Pakistani border guards.

Pakistan's President and army chief, Pervez Musharraf, has been confronted several times this year, by Karzai, the British and the Americans, who have supplied addresses and phone numbers for Omar and his cohorts in Quetta.

Musharraf throws up unconvincing bluster. He claims that Pakistan has done all it can to prevent cross-border military activity, with its army losing 750 killed in campaigns since September 11, 2001, along its frontier with Afghanistan.

Yet Musharraf and his government are deeply ambivalent in their commitment to supporting the Western campaign, in return for which about $US4 billion ($5 billion) in US aid has flowed their way over the past five years.

With the leaders of the country's two main secular parties, former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, in exile and opposing military rule, Musharraf relies on Islamists for domestic political support.

Principal among these is the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, which explicitly supports the Taliban and reinforces it with recruits from its madrassas (Koranic schools), and which the Pakistan Army and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency helped join ruling coalitions in both Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier Province.

There is more. The Paks have been tottering on either side of their tight rope for years. When confronted with specifics they usually betray the Islamist, but other wise they seem to ignore them at best. Most major terror attacks have some connection to Pakistan. The governments inability or unwillingness to control the "tribal areas" has left them as a sanctuary for the Islamist making war on the rest of the world. That is a situation that should no longer be tolerated.


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