Al Qaeda responsible for Pakistan blast that killed diplomat

NY Times:

The suicide bombing that killed an American diplomat here last March, just before a visit by President Bush, was organized by a small cell of Pakistani militants and masterminded by an operative of Al Qaeda based in the Pakistan’s tribal areas, Pakistan says.

The charge is being made by Pakistani officials as they present evidence — the result of months of investigations by the police, assisted by F.B.I. investigators — at the trial of two men accused in the plot.

The men, Anwar ul-Haq, 27, and Usman Ghani, 26, both ethnic Pashtuns from Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, grew up in the teeming working-class neighborhoods of Karachi and fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the investigators say. On Thursday, they sat behind bars, wearing long beards and knitted prayer caps, at the back of a courtroom in Karachi’s central jail, listening intently to an investigator outline the evidence against them.

The case is one of the first in Pakistan to underline in court the links between splinter cells of Pakistani jihad groups and Qaeda operatives in Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s tribal areas, which have come under increasing scrutiny as a staging area for suicide bombers and Taliban insurgents battling NATO and American forces in Afghanistan.

Publicly, Pakistani leaders have sought to play down the importance of the tribal areas as havens for militants. But the evidence being presented by Pakistani investigators makes clear the threat contained in Waziristan, not only for Afghanistan but for Pakistan itself, which has suffered six suicide bombings in the last five weeks.

Two assassination attempts against President Pervez Musharraf in December 2003 were also traced to Qaeda and militants who enjoyed a haven in the same region, where the government has little control and foreign and Pakistani militants operate almost unimpeded, according to the home secretary of Sindh Province, Ghulam Mohatarem, a retired army brigadier.

“They mostly come from the north,” he said of the bombers that have plagued Karachi and other cities. “But they are provided with logistics from small local cells that come up and then disappear.” United States officials in Pakistan declined to be interviewed for this article.

The investigators’ conclusions, which are largely drawn from a confession by Mr. Haq and from the infiltration of terrorist cells, are the latest indication that Al Qaeda and its local operatives are still able to operate from Waziristan.

Pakistan needs to face the fact that it has lost what control it had over the Waziristan area and it needs to do something to restore that control. It can get help from the US and NATO and should do so. Al Qaeda and its Taliban ally must be destroyed or they will destroy any place where they have sanctuary.


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