Posts Tagged ‘al muhajiroun’

A new piece for HS Today, this one looking in some greater detail at the alleged Mumbai-style attack that had agencies in a great worry. Unsure this one is all over yet, and the information might ultimately have come out for just this reason. Am also going to try to do some more digging on the British end of it, which I think might be more precarious than this might suggest.

Europe in the Crosshairs

by Raff Pantucci

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Plots aimed at Mumbai styled assaults in Europe.

And the beat goes on…

Weeks have passed since Europe’s threat tempo was ratcheted up as security forces across the continent went into full alert in expectation of a possible terrorist attack. While nothing has actually happened from that particular threat with attention focused on the parcels out of Yemen, information has slowly started to leak out about the specific threat on the minds of security planners. Hatched in Pakistan’s badlands, the alleged plot (or plots) aimed to conduct a Mumbai-style assault on a European city (or cities) in which a team of terrorists would wage open war on the streets killing in the name of God.

It is not entirely clear where the thread that unravelled this series of plots came from – an obfuscation in part no doubt due to security concerns about terrorists figuring out how their networks have been penetrated – but it seems as though France, Germany and the UK were all being targeted. The actual potential plots appear to have been on a variety of trajectories, but most had an address which could be tracked back to Pakistan’s badlands. This came as the head of Britain’s Security Service MI5 recently highlighted that half of the plots his service was watching were “linked to Al Qaeda in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where Al Qaeda senior leadership is still based.” While down on previous statements that stated that three quarters of the plots targeting the UK had links to Pakistan, Evans emphasized that “this does not mean that the overall threat has reduced, but that it has diversified.”

For the UK, the specifics of the latest threat appear to focus around a British-Pakistani militant from the Jhelum province of Punjab named Abdul Jabbar. Allegedly killed during a drone strike in Waziristan which also killed top Al Qaeda leader Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, Jabbar had apparently been put forwards in July as the leader of a group dubbed “Islamic Army of Great Britain” that was tasked with planning a Mumbai-style attack in the United Kingdom. While British officials were keen to downplay the state of readiness of the plot (and some Pakistani officials rubbished Jabbar’s existence), the BBC’s flagship Newsnight program claimed that “senior security sources” in Pakistan had revealed to them that Jabbar was a long-time jihadist who had featured in previous investigations.

Jabbar, according to the BBC, was named in a document provided to security sources by Mohammed Junaid Babar, the American-Pakistani “supergrass” who was arrested in April 2004 and who provided detailed testimony about a broad network of British plotters. Babar’s testimony revealed that Jabbar was from East London and that around the time of September 11, 2001, he and his brother had gone to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban. Following the fall of Kabul, the two men moved to Pakistan where they connected with infamous British jihadist Omar Saeed Sheikh who helped them get to training camps in Kashmir. Sheikh is currently on Pakistani death row having been found guilty of the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Jabbar was also believed to be close to Omar Khyam, the leader of a cell of British Muslims who were convicted for plotting to carry out a large explosion using a fertilizer based bomb. This is the second time in recent months that this cell has been in the news: in July, following the discovery of an Al Qaeda connected cell in Oslo, recent passport photographs were discovered of Adam Ibrahim, the brother of another of the men convicted for the fertilizer bomb plot. Another associate of this cell, Kazi Rahman, is currently incarcerated having attempted to buy Uzi submachine guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers off undercover agents in the UK.

It is not entirely clear, however, that this is the same Jabbar. While Babar’s testimony indicates that Jabbar is from East London, reports in the Times newspaper suggested that he was in fact from northwest England. Another report from a Pakistani official cited in the Guardian newspaper suggested that Jabbar had only arrived in Waziristan in 2009 with his brother and was being monitored by British sigint intelligence agency GCHQ. Details remain unclear, but nevertheless, there has been a noticeable increase in training and preparation in the UK for the eventuality of an armed assault on a British city. British police have taken to training alongside the Special Air Service (SAS), the UK’s elite commando unit, and are being given heavier weaponry. The threat, as former Security Minister Lord West put it to the BBC, is that “these people like the Mumbai terrorists are a bit like soldiers, they do fire and support, move forward, all they want to do is kill as many people as possible.”

Britons are not the only European’s of concern who are running around Waziristan. German security services continue to monitor regular flows of individuals back and forth from Pakistan, with a recent senior security source stating that in the past 10 months some 40-50 individuals have gone to train, and overall at least 70 fighters had done this for sure. Approximately a third of this (25 or so) were currently back in Germany part of a larger pool of some 1,000 individuals of concern. The current threat appears to have emanated from a cell linked to a group of some 11 young men and women from Hamburg who used to frequent the now-closed Taiba Mosque – previously the spiritual home to some of the September 11 plotters. In early 2009, something appears to have driven the community from talk into action and in various groups they started to make their way to Waziristan.

Not all of them made it, and some were amongst the 26 “potentially violent Islamists” that German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) head Jörg Ziercke stated his forces had prevented from leaving the country to fight since early 2009. Others instead ended up being killed by Predator strikes, likely in part as a result of information obtained from captured members Rami Makanesi and Ahmed Sidiqui. A German-Syrian in his late 30s, Makanesi was captured by Pakistani forces while attempting to reach a hospital dressed in a burka. He is apparently now back in Germany providing information in exchange for a lightened sentence. Ahmed Sidiqui, a German-Afghan, was instead caught in July by American forces in Kabul who have been quizzing him in detention.

It is from these men that it is believed much of the information about the current Mumbai-style attack has come. According to reports in the press, Ahmed Sidiqui claimed that during a “fireside chat” with top Al Qaeda commander Ilyas Kashmiri, the Al Qaeda leader boasted of already having advance cells in place in Britain and Germany. Other reports suggested it was in fact al-Quso who was talking about this plot. Supplementing its own information with details garnered from the captured Germans and sigint from Britain’s GCHQ, the U.S. launched a sustained series of Predator strikes in September and early October this year which appear to have staved on any imminent attack.

British and German authorities have remained calm in reaction to this elevated threat level – something that stands in contrast to their French counterparts who have repeatedly spoken of their concerns on public airwaves. In early September both the Interior Minister, Brice Hortefeux, and domestic intelligence head, Bernard Squarcini, separately spoke of the “all the red lights” flashing. The threat was believed to be coming from North Africa with intelligence passed along from Algerian sources that a female suicide bomber was apparently on her way to Paris. She never materialized, but at the same time, French forces asked their Italian counterparts to pick up Ryad Hannouni, a 28 year-old French-Algerian veteran of the Afghan conflict believed to be involved in a network sending fighters to South Asia and whom they had heard was returning to Europe via Italy.

Assessing he was not an immediate threat, Italian security followed Hannouni for a few days before arresting him in Naples on September 3rd. Once arrested, they discovered a kit to make explosives, as well as an address book and mobile phone. This wealth of information led, a month later, to a series of twelve arrests in Marseille and Avignon in France which turned up ammunition, an AK-47 machine gun and a pump action shotgun. Hannouni is currently awaiting extradition to France.

Even with these arrests, however, the immediate threat to France does not seem to have gone away. On October 18th, Interior Minister Hortefeux went on the airwaves to announce that “a few hours, a few days ago, [we received] a new message, from the Saudi [intelligence] services, indicating to us that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was certainly active.” The threat was apparently directed at “the European continent and France in particular.” It seems likely that this information came from the same source that provided the Saudi’s with detailed knowledge of the parcel bombs en route to Chicago from Yemen.

Ten days after Hortefeux launched this alert, a new recording emerged on the forums and Al Jazeera in which Osama bin Laden threatened France in particular, highlighting France’s involvement in Afghanistan and criticizing the decision to ban the veil in public places. As he put it, “If you deemed it right to ban women from wearing the hijab, then should it not be our right to expel your invading men by striking their necks?” He also seemed to provide a direct link between France’s actions and the move by North African affiliate Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to kidnap a group of French citizens in Niger. All of which highlighted the very real threat from France’s former colonial backyard that continues to be high on the list of threat for French policymakers.

The drumbeat of terror in Europe goes on: while in the United States, Ashburn, VA citizen Farooque Ahmed was casing metrorail stations in the Washington area for individuals he believed to be Al Qaeda, the actual network continues to keep Europe firmly in its crosshairs.


Back on the topic of terrorism in the West, my latest for the CTC Sentinel of West Point, exploring the network of plots from apparently send out by Al Qaeda in late 2008 – the Pathway group in Northern England from April 2009, the Najibullah Zazi cell in New York (who I have already covered a bit here), and the recently disrupted cell in Oslo. The Oslo one is the least clear – though admittedly the Brits were unable to convict anyone for Pathway – fortunately, others from Norway have a good detailed article in this edition of the Sentinel about it in addition to mine. There is also a good article about the emergence of Al Muhajiroun in the US from Paul Cruickshank.

Am trying something new here trying to link a pdf, as CTC have not put it up on their website yet. Do please drop me a note through the contact sheet if you have any problems or want a copy. If it works you should find it here: CTCSentinel-Vol3Iss8-1

UPDATE: And just to make sure every base is covered, here is the link on their website:

My latest article for a new outlet, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, which explores the current state of radicalization in London. It should be found at this link, though it does not appear to be up yet:

I also have the pdf for anyone who cannot find it. Here is the first couple of paragraphs to give you a taster….

The Changing Scene in Londonistan

By Raffaello Pantucci

In the first month of 2010, the world was reminded of the terrorism threat in the United Kingdom. Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab’s partial radicalization in London, the decision to finally proscribe the extremist group al-Muhajiroun and the ratcheting up of the terrorism threat level ahead of the Summit on Afghanistan all highlighted once again how the United Kingdom remains the focus of the terrorism threat to the West. The nature of this threat, however, has changed since the days before 9/11, when London was often called “Londonistan” due to the heavy presence of extremist groups in the city. Today, radicalization and extremist activity in the United Kingdom no longer occurs at the level it once did. Nevertheless, the activity still taking place is harder to legislate against and more difficult to combat.

This article will explain how “Londonistan” has changed during the last decade. Overtly violent extremist preaching has become much more discrete, while the internet has become a major feature in radicalizing young people. The article will also show how old and new threats have melded together to create a threat matrix that presents a new set of legislative challenges for British authorities.

My long-awaited (in my mind at least) contribution to the Studies in Conflict and Terrorism journal has at last landed. I refer to it briefly here and here, it goes into detail about the links and connections between the networks around Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri Mohammed and terrorist plots in the UK. Doubtless some information is missing, and any pointers would be hugely appreciated.

The article can be found here:

Unfortunately, it is behind a firewall, so I cannot simply post it here in its entirety. However, drop me a note and I can maybe help out…

Here is the abstract to whet your appetite:

Omar Bakri Mohammed (the Tottenham Ayatollah) and Abu Hamza al-Masri (the hook-handed cleric) are two of the more infamous figures to emerge from what critics called “Londonistan.” However, they should be remembered not only for their rhetoric and appearance, but also for the fact that their respective organizations, Bakri’s Al Muhajiroun, and Hamza’s Supporters of Shariah based at the Finsbury Park Mosque, have been the connective thread through most Islamist terrorist plots that have emanated from the United Kingdom. This article maps out the network of terrorist plots in the United Kingdom and abroad that appears to have emanated from the networks around these two men with a view to understanding better how the connections remained unclear for so long and how understanding of the networks evolved over time.

UPDATE: I realize that I completely failed to thank James B for reviewing a first draft and pointing me in the direction of some useful info. Grazie!

Another piece on the Al Muhajiroun ban, this time for Jamestown looking in some detail at the rationale behind the ban and a bit of history about the group. Title a little long, though I have a feeling this will be a piece that I can reuse in a few years when we go through this process again…[tt_news]=35936

Ban on U.K. Radical Islamist Group al-Muhajiroun Raises Free Speech Questions

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 3
January 21, 2010 02:53 PM Age: 3 hrs
Category: Terrorism Monitor, Global Terrorism Analysis, Home Page, Terrorism, Europe, Featured
Members of Islam4UK at a press conference in London after it was announced that the group would be banned.

The British Home Office finally proscribed the radical Islamist organization al-Muhajiroun (The Emigrants) and a number of its successor organizations on January 14. The ban included the best-known offshoot of al-Muhajiroun, Islam4UK. Described by the Home Office as a sort of “cleaning up” following the proscription in July 2006 of two predecessor organizations, al-Ghurabaa (The Strangers) and the Saved Sect, the order awakened a heated debate in the United Kingdom about whether the government was taking responsible security measures or criminalizing dissent and persecuting Muslims. U.K. Home Secretary Alan Johnston cited al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect in his defense of the proscription of al-Muhajiroun in a letter to the Guardian, which had been critical of the move:

“Prior to its proscription in 2006, those two organizations called for readers of its websites to “kill those who insult the prophet,” praised the terrorist actions of Osama bin Laden, and advised that it was forbidden to visit Palestine “unless you engage in the main duty of that place, i.e. jihad.” These are not views that are merely provocative – they are designed to encourage violence and legitimize violent acts in the name of religion. They are vehemently opposed by the vast majority of Muslims.”

A quick blogpost at FreeRad!cals about the decision, which should be officially handed down tomorrow, that adds Al Muhajiroun and her successor organizations to the proscribed terror list. I am unsure of whether this will have the desired effect of making them go away, and have a pretty strong feeling this is not the last we shall see of Anjem Chaudhury. For those interested in hearing more about the article I reference at the end, afraid you are going to have to wait a few weeks yet….

Goodbye Al Muhajiroun?

Filed under: Radicalisation, UK, islam4uk

The decision to proscribe Al Muhajiroun, Islam4UK, and a cluster of their successor groups is not entirely surprising. The combination of a successful prosecution in Luton of five members (or individuals linked to Al Muhajiroun or one of its off-shoots) after their performance at a homecoming parade for troops from Iraq in March 2009 and the fact that the Prime Minister got dragged into the public debate over whether the group was going to make some sort of ceremonial march through Wootton Bassett, all pointed to things coming to some sort of a head. The question really is whether this time it might mean something final for the group?

The short answer is: no. It would seem highly unlikely that this is the last we shall hear of Omar Bakri Mohammed’s acolytes. Last time the Home Office went forwards with a decision to proscribe some of them in July 2006 (that time it was Al Ghurabaa (the strangers) and the Saved Sect), the decision was made in the months after a group of them had been picked up and charged by police for comments they made at a protest outside the Danish Embassy in which they crossed the line and “solicited murder.” In that instance four group members were given custodial sentences, while in April and May of 2007 another six group members were arrested on charges of “inciting terrorism overseas” and “terrorist fundraising.”

A short piece for HSToday highlighting the apparent role of Kashmiri terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed as a connector for Westerners seeking jihad. I realize now that I didn’t highlight some of the other plots in which they have appeared – for example, the network around Aabid Khan and some previous American plots. None of this is very seasonal I know, but I hope of interest to those still reading out there – any further pointers for other linkages would of course be highly appreciated.

Jaish-e-Mohammed’s Western Appeal
by Raffaello Pantucci
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
South Asian group emerges as apparent pipeline for jihadists. The news that five American’s were picked up in Sargodha, Pakistan at a safe house operated by Jaish-e-Mohammed (the Army of Mohammed, JeM) highlights once again the apparent importance of the group as a pipeline for Western jihad enthusiasts seeking to fight in South Asia or seeking to connect with elements close to Al Qaeda in the region. The group was established in February 2000 in the wake of the hijacking of Indian Airlines 814 from Nepal to New Delhi, which resulted in the release from prison of the leader of the group, Maulana Masoud Azhar, in exchange for a planeload of passengers.

The hijacking was blamed upon Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen (Movement of Holy Warriors, HuM), who had launched a series of kidnappings in the mid-1990s in the wake of the arrest of a number of their senior leadership in 1993-1994. At the time a leader in the HuM, Azhar chose to break away and establish a separate group in the wake of his release in 1999 – the reasons for which are not entirely clear, though it caused a certain stir amongst the South Asian jihadi community which resulted in the Pakistani government announcing that it was inhibiting Azhar’s movements.


My latest over at FreeRad!cals, this one looking at a couple of convert stories which caught my eye. Khalid Kelly is the most fascinating, as I really wonder whether he is what he says he is, or whether this is bluster.

Crazy Convert Capers

Filed under: Europe, Radicalisation

Two stories surfaced over last weekend which I have only now gotten around to processing properly – first is the case of Jan Schneider, the latest convert linked to the infamous Sauerland group that has the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) on high alert, and second is the case of Khalid Kelly, former head of Al Muhajiroun in Ireland (or at least one of its more prominent activists) who has now surfaced in the Swat valley.

It has been a while since i last posted and apologies for regular visitors. I have moved to a new part of the globe and am taking on something which is occupying rather a lot of my time and where posting is actually proving quite hard, so apologies for the long post all in one gulp. Additionally, I have been writing longer pieces for various journals which are still in the academic pipeline. No matter, here is my latest for Jamestown, which explores the debate in the UK about whether to engage or not with extremists and goes into a little bit of detail about the newly “refreshed” counterterrorism strategy. I had some shorter things written on this which I never managed to find a home for. No matter, any thoughts or comments would be most welcome.

British Government Debates Engagement with Radical Islam in New Counterterrorism Strategy
Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 10
April 24, 2009 11:10 AM Age: 13 hrs
Category: Terrorism Monitor, Global Terrorism Analysis, Home Page, Military/Security, Europe
By: Raffaello Pantucci

Britain’s much vaunted “Contest” counterterrorism strategy underwent what has been described as a “refresh” in March 2009. Building on the British government’s experiences on the front-line of terrorism both at home and abroad, the re-vamped strategy was referred to as a “reworking rather than a fundamental overhaul” (BBC, March 24). Elsewhere in the British media, the Guardian declared the new strategy was “in disarray” even before it had been launched, while the Times focused on the elevated emphasis put upon the threat from “dirty bombs” (Guardian, March 26; Times, March 25). A core ideological debate that has occupied the airwaves and that was deftly avoided in the final text, however, was the question of whether the British government should engage or confront non-violent Islamists in order to effectively prevent terrorism.


A longer piece looking at the recently concluded trial into Rangzieb Ahmed and Habib Ahmed up North in Manchester. Some other details that I didn’t get to include in here as they didn’t impinge on the actual narrative, including looking into South Africa as a transit point or hub for terrorists moving from East to West. Something for a future article maybe. However, the links to Al Muhajiroun and Omar Saeed Sheikh are amongst the most interesting to emerge here, and I would welcome any further comments or information from anyone out there on either topic.

UK Trial Exposes al-Qaeda Terrorist Network with Connections to Pakistan

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 2
January 23, 2009 11:05 AM Age: 60 min
Category: Terrorism Monitor, Global Terrorism Analysis, Europe, Terrorism

In a trial that passed with remarkably little fanfare last December, a jury in Manchester, England, convicted Rangzieb Ahmed and Habib Ahmed (no relation) on charges of being members of al-Qaeda. In a released statement, the Crown Prosecution Service described Rangzieb Ahmed as “an important member of al-Qaeda and in a position to direct some of its activities.” [1] Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Porter of the Greater Manchester Police went further, describing Rangzieb as “a very dangerous man,” whom he believed “was intent on masterminding terrorist attacks and would have considered mass murder part of his duty” (BBC, December 18, 2008).