Posts Tagged ‘TTP’

A new piece for the HS Today website this time exploring the implications of Abu Qatada being featured in a number of videos or messages by extremists ahead of his possible expulsion from the UK. It looks more generally at the terrorist threat to the UK, something I explore in specific detail for the Olympics in the latest magazine (which is currently available here in the online version of the magazine, but has not been fully posted online yet. Will re-post once it is). In the meantime, all of this work on the UK jihad presages my long awaited book which should land soon.

Al Qaeda’s Threats Against UK Show Britain Still A Top Target Of Jihadists

By: Raffaello Pantucci

05/08/2012 ( 6:35pm)

With menacing pomp and circumstance, Al Qaeda and five of its key affiliates have directly threatened the United Kingdom, this time specifically berating Britain for its treatment of Islamist prisoners.

The new Al Qaeda threats — published on Islamist forums — once again underscore that the UK continues to be at the top of the terrorist group’s list of high-priority targets. And with the impending Olympics painted with a crosshair, the spike in Al Qaeda’s attention undoubtedly isn’t a welcome development to the occupants at Thames House or New Scotland Yard.

Parsing threat from fiction is difficult, but this latest sustained series of threats highlights the fact that the terrorist menace facing the UK will not end at the same time as the Olympics’ closing ceremony on August 12.

Numerous statements from Al Qaeda and its affiliates — the Islamist State of Iraq, Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — all have warned the UK that it will suffer dire consequences if Palestinian cleric Abu Qatada is deported to Jordan for his involvement in a series of plots there.

Known formally as Omar Mahmoud Othman, Abu Qatada was born in Bethlehem in 1960 and in the late 1980s ended up in Peshawar, where he is believed to have first encountered Al Qaeda. Although he claims that he was schooling Afghan children in Peshawar, according to Abu Musab Al Suri, a Syrian jihadist ideologue also in Peshawar, Qatada was an active proselyte with many followers who in 1992 elected to cross the border into Kabul.

Within a year, though, he was among a number of extremists who were evicted from Pakistan as part of a wider push by the Pakistani government to try to rid itself of the troublesome jihadi contingent that had lingered in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the wake of the fight against the Soviet Union.

“Al Qaeda sold everything in Peshawar,” according to an Egyptian Islamist who was around at the time, adding that Osama Bin Laden had led a contingent of fighters to Sudan where he established his base of operations for the next few years.

For Qatada, the UK was more appealing, and on Sept. 16, 1993, he showed up in London claiming asylum after having entered the country on a false Emirati passport. Once in Britain he established himself as a cornerstone of the global jihadist scene, becoming editor of Al Ansar, the fiery Islamist newsletter supportive of jihad in Algeria at the time.

This was the beginning of an illustrious career as a jihadist ideologue, a role he fulfilled while living on Britain’s welfare state. In March, 1995, he achieved particular notoriety when he issued a fatwa that seemed to justify the murder of the families of Algerian security officials. Then, in June 1996 he boasted to MI5 that he wielded “powerful, spiritual influence over the Algerian community in London.” But in February 1997 he told MI5 that “he had nothing but contempt for Bin Laden’s distant financing of the jihad.” When he was arrested in October 2002, however, he was found with £170,000 in cash and £805 in an envelope marked “for the mujahidin in Chechnya.”

Not bad for a man on welfare supporting jihad through long-distant financing.
Qatada served as a beacon for global jihadists. One young Muslim Londoner told Homeland Security Todayabout attending a meeting hosted by the preacher in the late 1990s at which one-legged and one-eyed men would attend in combat outfits, clearly fresh from fighting abroad.

Djamel Beghal, a charismatic Algerian who helped recruit shoe bomber Richard Reid into the Al Qaeda fold while he worshipped at the Finsbury Park mosque, first came to the UK to specifically study under Qatada. Many of Qatada’s books, recordings and publications are venerated among the extremist community as justifications for violence, and he’s reported to have been teacher to both hook-handed Abu Hamza (his favorite student), and Abdulla El Faisal (the anti-Semitic preacher whose cassettes Mohammed Siddique Khan liked to collect and who currently continues to preach from his residence in Jamaica).

Recordings of Qatada’s sermons were found at the house of September 11 jihadists, and in 2004, the Spanish Al Qaeda cell responsible for the Madrid bombings a few days earlier attempted to call Qatada prior to blowing themselves up to avoid capture by Spanish authorities. They sought, and apparently got, sanction from Qatada to carry out their suicidal final act.

It comes as little surprise that such a popular preacher would inspire statements from the extremist community when it seems he might finally be deported to Jordan where the government is likely to punish him for his actions.

While denying the cleric has any connection organizationally with Al Qaeda or its franchises, Al Qaeda nevertheless claims that as a fellow Muslim, Qatada deserves its support, which is a sentiment echoed by other jihadist groups. Al Qaeda in particular has warned that the deportation of Qatada to Jordan “will open the door of evil on it [the UK] and its citizens wherever they are.”

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb offered to release Stephen Malcolm, a dual South African-British national they currently hold if the British government “deports Abu Qatada to one of the Arab Spring countries.”

Clearly, elevated attention is warranted by these specific threats, yet, these groups also are known to generate a lot of these sorts of warnings, cluttering extremist forums. What should be more worrisome to the United Kingdom is the earlier warning published in video form by the Tehrik E Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a group that has provided training for a number of recent Al Qaeda linked plots in the West. Through the group’s spokesman, Waliur Rehman Mehsud, they warned that the “British government is mistreating our Muslim brothers and sisters who are living in Britain.”

TTP told Britain to treat its prisoners better, referring to the cases of Bilal Abdulla, the Iraqi responsible for the 2007 attempted attacks in central London and at the Glasgow airport; Roshonara Choudhry, the young woman who tried to stab MP Stephen Timms; and Dhiren Barot, a senior Al Qaeda figure who planned unknown attacks in the UK.

Equally worrisome for the UK is that if jihadist groups are going to start venerating all jailed British jihadists in this way, then the United Kingdom is going to have to worry about terrorists seeking revenge for decades to come. Barot, for example, was given 40 years in jail, and since then nearly 200 others have been sentenced on terrorism charges.

While there are a few notable examples of individuals de-radicalizing while inside prison, there is just as much evidence that others are either emerging more radicalized or continue to believe the ideology they harbored when they went in. In the recent case of a group who pleaded guilty to trying to detonate a bomb in the London Stock Exchange, one of the key figures was a convicted petty criminal who was reported by neighbors to have been released from prison radicalized.

Compounding the problem is the international community of Al Qaeda-affiliated groups that has decided to take up the cause of the jailed British terrorists by providing them with sustenance and support while they’re doing their time behind bars. This very likely will extend a problem that Britain’s security services are expecting to stop focusing on in the wake of the Olympic Games. Terrorism in the UK may have burst into Britain’s consciousness on July 7, 2005, the day before the awarding of the Olympics to London, but it isn’t going to end on Aug. 13, 2012.

A frequent contributor to Homeland Security Today, Raffaello Pantucci is an Associate Fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College, London, and author of the forthcoming book, “We Love Death as You Love Life:” Britain’s Suburban Mujahedeen.

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A new piece for Jamestown on a subject I have been trying to get published for a while. Will keep this short as am in hurry, but more soon.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’s Expanding Western Connections

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 9 Issue: 37
October 14, 2011 05:20 PM Age: 18 hrs
Faisal Shahzad
As the United States breathed a sigh of relief that the 10th anniversary of 9/11 had passed without any major incident, the U.S. Justice Department announced that three men had pled guilty to charges of trying to smuggle a member of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) into the United States. As one of the suspects, Irfan ul-Haq, put it, it was “not their concern” what the smuggled individual might “want to do in the United States – hard labor, sweep floor, wash dishes in a hotel, or blow up. That will be up to them.” [1] The men were apparently part of a network of people smugglers that was willing to help Pakistani TTP members enter the United States, highlighting once again the menace posed by the group to the United States, as perceived by the American security community.

The histories of the three men at the heart of this case are unclear. They were arrested on March 10 in Quito, Ecuador, as part of an operation by American forces (NTN24 [Bogata], September 20, 2011). In court documents released later, prosecutors laid out a case showing that from January 2011, undercover agents dispatched by a law enforcement agency approached two of the men in Quito, Irfan ul-Haq and Qasim Ali, to inquire about smuggling a fictitious person from Pakistan into the United States. The initial approach was to ul-Haq, who directed them to talk to Ali in order to obtain fraudulent documentation. The two men then met and spoke with the undercover agents a number of times to work out the details and a month later ul-Haq seems to have brought a third man, Zahid Yousaf, into the conspiracy. [2] It was at about this time that one of the undercover agents told the suspects he was a member of the TTP and that the individual who was intended to be smuggled was also a member – information that elicited the callous response highlighted before. [3] While it is unclear whether the suspects were actually supportive of TTP aims, their capacity to smuggle individuals out of Pakistan and into the United States using fraudulent documentation would have provided the TTP with a useful network were they able to connect with it. At one point the suspects provided the undercover agents with a sample fake British passport and ul-Haq boasted of having contacts in Pakistani immigration that could provide exit stamps for people who were wanted by security services.

This in turn highlights the general growing concern about the increasing internationalization of the TTP. On July 29 the UN Security Council agreed to add the TTP to the list of proscribed groups. [4] In an electronic interview with Terrorism Monitor, Richard Barrett, coordinator of the UN’s al-Qaeda-Taliban Monitoring Group, said the move was “an important symbolic consequence” that showed “the international community as a whole condemns [the TTP] without reservation. This universal condemnation acts as an encouragement to all those who are opposed to TTP and have suffered from its violence.” [5] The move follows earlier decisions to proscribe the TTP by Pakistan, the UK, the United States and most recently, Canada. [6] The threat to the West was brought into focus when Waliur Rehman, the head of TTP in South Waziristan, announced: “Soon you will see attacks against America and NATO countries, and our first priorities in Europe will be France and Britain” (al-Arabiya, June 28).

This is not the first time the group has threatened the West and it has attempted in the past to carry through on these threats. Back in January 2008, the group was connected to a plot to attack Barcelona, Spain and other possible EU targets by deploying a network of twelve men, ten Pakistanis and two Indians.  According to prosecutors and an informant within the cell, some of the men had undergone training with TTP in Waziristan. The informant reported that the then-TTP leader Baitullah Mahsud had specifically identified him as a potential suicide bomber. The link to the TTP was confirmed in August 2008 when TTP spokesman Maulvi Omar released a video in which he stated, “the [foiled attack] in Barcelona was conducted by twelve of our men. They were under pledge to Baitullah Mahsud and the TTP has already claimed responsibility because [of] Spain’s military presence in Afghanistan.” [7]

While this plot was disrupted, responsibility for Faizul Shahzad’s failed car bombing in Times Square in May 2010 was claimed by TTP soon afterwards in a video that featured footage of Shahzad at a TTP camp. According to the indictment that was handed down against him, Shahzad admitted to having trained alongside the group in Waziristan in December 2009. Having returned to the United States, Shahzad received some $5,000 in February 2010 to help him carry out an attack there. He then went about purchasing a gun and locating the necessary equipment to build a car bomb. [8]

While it is unclear whether Shahzad had any contact with TTP networks in the United States, the existence of these networks now seems to have been confirmed. Aside from the group arrested in Quito, FBI agents in Miami moved in May to disrupt a network based around a pair of imams in Florida who were allegedly running a fundraising network to send money to the TTP. According to prosecutors, the group sent at least $50,000 to Pakistan and discussed the terrorist attacks it was going to support with their contacts there (Miami Herald, May 14). This came after an August 2010 operation codenamed “Samosa” in Ottawa, Canada that was mounted by Royal Canadian Mounted Police forces to disrupt a network that was sending funds to the TTP and accumulating bomb making material locally (National Post, July 5).

Successful attacks have yet to emerge from these TTP support networks, but it seems likely that more plots will follow in the future. Given the ongoing trickle of foreigners drawn to Pakistan and the TTP’s ongoing campaign at home against the Pakistani state and its American backers, it is likely that this connection will continue to be a focus of concern for Western intelligence agencies.

Notes:

1. USA vs. Irfan ul Haq, Factual Proffer in Support of Guilty Plea, filed September 12, 2011.http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/case_docs/1683.pdf.

2. USA vs. Irfan ul Haq, Qasim Ali, Zahid Yousaf, Indictment filed March 3, 2011.http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/case_docs/1678.pdf.

3. USA vs. Irfan ul Haq, Factual Proffer in Support of Guilty Plea, filed September 12, 2011.http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/case_docs/1683.pdf.

4. http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/NSQE13211E.shtml.

5. Author’s email interview with Richard Barrett.

6. Public Safety Canada – Currently Listed Entitities, http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/ns/le/cle-eng.aspx#TTP.

7. http://www.nefafoundation.org/multimedia-intvu.html

8. USA vs. Faisal Shahzad, indictment, http://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/pdf/Shahzad_Faisal_Indictment.pdf .