Skip to comments.The hunt for Public Enemy No 2'; Profile Egyptian May Be Running Terror Operations From Afghanistan
Posted on 09/23/2001 11:13:57 PM PDT by Wallaby
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The hunt for Public Enemy No 2'; Profile Egyptian May Now Be Running Terror Operations From Afghanistan Giles Foden The Guardian (London) Guardian Home Pages, Pg. 6 September 24, 2001
The capture of Osama bin Laden will be only the start of the US drive to destroy his al-Qaida network. One figure US authorities will be seeking to bring forth, dead or alive, from Afghanistan is Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, who some say is Bin Laden's deputy. Certainly, for the coalition of forces forming after the New York and Washington attacks, he is Prime Suspect No 2.
The group of which he is said to be leader, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, is central to the manhunt. Al-Zawahiri, who is on the FBI's most wanted list for the bombing of US embassies in east Africa in 1998, has already been closely linked to Bin Laden. Even to say he is Bin Laden's right-hand man may, in fact, understate his importance.
The US may also have allowed al-Zawahiri residence. The House of Representatives judiciary subcommittee on immigration was told by an expert on terrorism in January 2000 that he was one of a number of Islamist activists who had been granted green card status by the US immigration service.
Mohammed Atta, believed to have been the pilot of the first plane to hit the twin towers on September 11, is one of at least two hijackers suspected of having been a member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ). The other hijacker was Khalid al-Midhar, who was videoed meeting other suspected EIJ members in Malaysia last year. Al-Zawahiri himself was the most distinguished guest at the wedding of Bin Laden's son in the southern Afghan town of Kandahar this January, making the first speech at the ceremony. Another key figure, al-Qaida's military commander, Muhammad Atef, is also thought to have been at the wedding, videotape of which was broadcast on an Arab satellite channel.
On the run from the Egyptian government in the early 1990s, al-Zawahiri found refuge in various European countries. It is thought he was central in brokering a coalition between EIJ, other Islamist groups, and Bin Laden's al-Qaida, a coalition that appears increasingly likely to have been behind the recent attacks in America.
Ayman Mohamed Rabie al- Zawahiri was born, according to Egyptian records, on June 9 1951. He was a paediatrician, but gave up medical work to launch a campaign of violence against the Egyptian government. He has been implicated in a wide range of attacks, from the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981 to the east African bombings in 1998.
Some analysts believe that in his current role in Afghanistan, al-Zawahiri has taken over control of much of Bin Laden's terrorist finances, operations, plans and resources, following the assurance reportedly given by Bin Laden to the Taliban that he would no longer engage in terrorist activities. Illness is another reason given why Bin Laden may have ceded control. Bone marrow disease and kidney failure have been ascribed to him.
Al-Zawahiri stands beside Bin Laden and Atef at the centre of a bewildering network of Islamist groups. Egyptian Islamic Jihad has been linked with the so-called Vanguards of Conquest movement and to a lesser degree with the Islamic Group of Egypt, who were behind the 1993 World Trade Centre attack.
According to the US state department's Patterns of Global Terrorism 2000 report, al-Zawahiri appeared in a video alongside Bin Laden, threatening retaliation against the US for the imprisonment of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman in connection with the trade centre bombing. Along with the leader of the Islamic Group of Egypt, al-Zawahiri also signed Bin Laden's 1998 fatwa calling for general attacks against US civilians - he was second signatory after Bin Laden himself.
The 1997 Patterns of Global Terrorism report listed al-Zawahiri as leader of the Vanguards of Conquest group, said to be a faction of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. The Vanguards are thought to be behind the 1997 massacre of 70 people in Luxor, and an assassination attempt against the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 1995.
On the US government indictment sheet for the embassy bombings, al-Zawahiri is listed third after Osama bin Laden and Atef as a co-conspirator in the attacks in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. In the court proceedings re lating to the east African indictment, al-Zawahiri was named as one of the figures whose satellite telephone conversations were used as proof that Bin Laden was behind the plot.
In October 1997, according to the transcript of the recently concluded trial of those convicted of the embassy bombings, a British-based Islamist activist, Ibrahim Eidarous, sent a message from London to Afghanistan asking al-Zawahiri to call a mobile phone in London. Eidarous's associate, Abdel Bary, who was extradited from Britain to the US along with him, was alleged to have owned the phone. The two were accused of circulating the claim for responsibility for the embassy bombings, and of being members of EIJ.
Al-Zawahiri is also named in European legislation concerned with financial and other sanctions against the Taliban, and in documents produced by the US sanctioning body, the office for foreign assets control of the US Treasury. (The American documents list his date of birth as June 10 1951, and place of birth as Giza.)
On February 24 1999, a Cairo military court called for a death penalty in absentia on al-Zawahiri during the trial of 20 EIJ members extradited from Albania, after a foiled attack on the US consulate in Tirana.
In Afghanistan, al-Zawahiri has apparently sometimes acted as Bin Laden's spokesman. The News, a Pakistan-based English-language paper, reportedly ran an interview with him in 1998, in which he described a bungled assassination attack in which he said Saudi intelligence had paid a man to kill Bin Laden.
Others have accused al-Zawahiri himself of being involved in assassinations. In 1995, Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper reported that Egyptian intelligence services suspected the failed assassination attempt on Mr Mubarak that year had been planned by exiled Egyptian fundamentalists based in Denmark, including the Vanguards of Conquest and al-Zawahiri.
A close relative of al-Zawahiri, who is active in Islamist circles, is reported to live in Britain.
Denmark and Switzerland are among a number of European countries thought to have played his host. His associates may even have a British cell. After the Vanguard-linked Luxor attack, Mr Mubarak told reporters in Aswan that there are people who carried out crimes and who were sentenced (in Egypt) and live on British land and in other states such as Afghanistan'.
Al-Zawahiri's freewheeling role across western Europe during the early 1990s raises questions about the security and asylum policies of a number of European nations, and about their refusal to act on information provided by the Egyptian government.
Egypt has been in contact with various western capitals regarding this issue,' said Nabil Osman, director of the Egyptian state information service. President Mubarak has been asking for many years that terrorists not be given a refuge under any pretext of shelter or asylum.'
Al-Zawahiri was offered asylum in Denmark in 1991. Asked to comment, Teddy Koch of Denmark's ministry of the interior, said: Normally, we don't give out information about individual cases.'
Al-Zawahiri is also thought to have lived in Switzerland. Unconfirmed reports suggest he was granted asylum there in 1993.
Sources in Cairo and elsewhere say jihad leaders planned to meet in Geneva in 1996. Asked whether Egypt tried to extradite al-Zawahiri around this time, Mr Osman said: I am sure there have been such communications.'
The Guardian has discovered an address in Copenhagen from which al-Zawahiri once edited the Mujahideen newsletter. Subscription information for the newsletter on an academic website declared, however, that it was temporarily issued from Switzerland'. Al-Zawahiri is likely to have sought sanctuary in Afghanistan in 1997 or 1998. He carries Swiss and French passports under the name Amin Othman, according to the Egyptian government, as well as his original Egyptian passport (number 1084010).
The Egyptians on the most-wanted list also claim he uses a Dutch passport in the name of Sami Mahmoud El-Hifnawi. We have heard such rumours,' said Frank de Bruin of the Dutch foreign ministry, but we didn't get it confirmed from any authoritative source.'
The US may also have allowed al-Zawahiri residence. The House of Representatives judiciary subcommittee on immigration was told by an expert on terrorism in January 2000 that he was one of a number of Islamist activists who had been granted green card status by the US immigration service.
If true, like the free hand given to al-Zawahiri in Europe, this would highlight what Mr Osman says the Egyptians have been telling the west for years - that terrorism is transnational and must be dealt with accordingly: Its structure is the whole globe.'
Zanzibar, Giles Foden's novel about the bombing of the US embassies in Africa in 1998, is published by Faber next year
"For the past two years Iraqi intelligence officers were shuttling between Baghdad and Afghanistan, meeting with Ayman Al Zawahiri," said Jane's Foreign Report.
R. James Woolsey, President Clinton's first CIA director, is among those who think Iraq was behind the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Mohammed Atta, suspected by the FBI of having been the leader of the suicide bombers Sept. 11, is reported to have met in Europe with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer.
Ben Works, director of the Strategic Research Institute of the US, noted: "Theres no doubt that bin Ladens people have been in Kosovo helping to arm, equip and train the KLA. ... [T]he [US] Administrations policy in Kosovo is to help bin Laden. It almost seems as if the Clinton Administrations policy is to guarantee more terrorism."
And yet this is the group favored by the Clinton Administration (and as a result by the Blair Administration in the UK) over the moderate Kosovo Albanian leaders who have always sought to create a situation in which Yugoslavs of Albanian origin could live, pray and work in harmony alongside the other 25 Yugoslav nationalities. Indeed, Clinton and Blair deliberately overturned a workable agreement signed by all Yugoslav parties in Kosovo so that the KLA-written "Rambouillet Accords" could be served up as an ultimatum to the Yugoslav Government.
It would appear the overall operation was triggered by the arrest of Ahmed Ibrahim Assayed al Najjar, head of the Egyptian Jihad in Albania, in Tirana along with two of his associates, Majed Mustapha and Mohamed Hoda. After being interrogated by Egyptian and U.S. security they were extradited to Egypt on June 28. In addition, an important figure in Jihad, sheikh Mohamed Salah Abdul Mutaleb, was murdered on July 25 when leaving the Al Husseini mosque in the Yemen capital of Sanaa, probably by Egyptian agents.
The Jihad network in East Africa was mounted in 1995 by Ali al Rashidi (known under the name of Abu Obeida al Panshiri) at the behest of the movement's leader, Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri who was living in Khartoum that year at the same time as bin Laden. Al Panshiri and al Najjar (extradited from Albania) were in Mogadiscio in 1995 and linked to Somali, Ethiopian and Eritrean fundamentalist groups. Al Panshiri died in Rwanda in June 1996 and was replaced by Kamal Ojaisa, a close associate of Zawahiri who had lived for a long time in Iran and cultivated a long-standing relationship with Ahmed Wahidi, commander in chief of the Al Qods force, and intelligence minister Ali Fallahian. Ojaisa thus relied heavily on Iranian and Sudanese networks in forging an efficient structure in Kenya, Tanzania and other countries that spread its tentacles among cultural and welfare associations and in business circles. Earlier this year Ojaisa held a flurry of meetings with Pasdaran officials in Tehran and with the intelligence service of the National Islamic Front in Khartoum.
|| family of ulemas that espoused the ideology of the Moslem Brotherhood, al Zawahiri fell under the
|| The militants in Albania received regular wages from money collected from wealthy backers, from import-export businesses and the sale of food and other basic commodities. They arrived in Albania mainly via Macedonia and Turkey. Salemeh, number two man in the Albanian network, ensured that militants using Albania as a hub between Europe, Africa and the Middle East had all the fake papers they needed.
The head of Jihad in Albania, Najjar, saw to liaison with the chief of Jihad in Afghanistan, Ayman al Zawahiri, who has taken refuge in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. As Intelligence Newsletter has already reported (IN 341), the Egyptian investigation has confirmed that Ali al Rashidi (known under the name of Abu Obeida al Panshiri) was the founder and first leader of Jihad in Africa. Albanian secret police are reported to have seized important papers from the headquarters of a welfare organization in Tirana. These describe how Jihad functions in Albania and in Europe and how the movement's Majlis al Shoura operates abroad. Its members are said to be al Zawahiri, Sarawat Salah Chehata, Ahmed Salameh Mabrouk and Adel Assayed Abdul Kouddous.
The confessions of the Egyptian "Albanians" and those of three suspects recently extradited from South Africa - Tarik Ali Moursi, Gamal Shou'ib and Eid Abdel Salem Serir - are reported to have given Egyptian intelligence new leads on who was behind a car bomb explosion outside the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad in 1995. The extradition of Islamists from South Africa demonstrates the close ties between the intelligence agencies of the two countries even though Cairo and Pretoria have never formally signed an extradition treaty. Serir's extradition came as a surprise to Dave Bruce, head of the South African branch of Interpol, who says he was not informed about the "exfiltration."
Oddly, in its fight against fugitive fundamentalists Egypt has found itself obliged to accept the hand-over of people it wasn't particularly looking for. This was the case of Mohamed Abdel Aal, extradited by Ecuador on Oct. 21. An Egyptian national and former imman of the mosque in Florence, Italy, Aal was arrested on Oct. 19 in Bogota after entering Colombia from Ecuador illegally. Colombia sent him back to Ecuador which handed him on to Egypt. To justify his extradition, the Egyptian authorities claimed that Aal belonged to the Jamaa Islamiya and planned the attack in Luxor in November, 1997 that left 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians dead. In fact, Aal, an ordinary imman with only moderate fundamentalist beliefs, belongs to neither Jamaa nor Jihad.
According to the latter, certain terrorist groups based in the frontier city of Peshawar and belonging to what are called the "Arab Afghans" have ties with fundamentalist Muslims in the United States. The Egyptians services claim a sixth suspect in the 26 February bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, an Egyptian now in hiding, Ramzi Ahmed Yussef, was apparently trained from 1987 to 1990 in Peshawar camps in the ranks of the Islamic Jihad groups under the orders of Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. The "Afghan" file was one of the delicate issues examined by the director of the CIA, James Woosley, during his 13 April visit to Cairo accompanied by two dozen specialists on Middle East terrorism. These specialists work extensively on the hundreds of "Arab Afghan" files produced by the Egyptian services on Libyans, Egyptians, Yemenites, Jordanians, Palestinians, Algerians and Tunisians all based in Peshawar and the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. When the American intelligence teams arrived in Peshawar, they were met by a delegation of Egyptian officers from the Mukhabarat al-Amat (political police), which had a list of 300 names of Egyptians believed to be the hard inner core of the Afghan branch of the Islamic Jihad directed by Mohammed Shawky Islambuli, brother of the assassin of President Anuar el-Sadate. A few weeks before, two intelligence officers, an Algerian, Colonel Ismail (whose real name and identity are not known), responsible for counterespionage within the powerful Securite Militaire, and an Egyptian, General Omar Suleiman, head of the Evaluation and Prospection branch of the Mukhabarat al-Amat, had mobilized a vast network of informants to do a "census" of all "Arab Afghans" in Peshawar camps. Some 30 Egyptian "Afghans" are considered particularly dangerous by Cairo because they are in direct contact with Iranian Pasdarans. Eight of these Egyptians constitute the central command of the Islamic Legion which is present and active in different ways in both Arab and African countries: Egypt, Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Algeria, Libya, Lebanon. Besides Mohammed Shawky Islambuli, the 8 include: Mustapha Ahmed Fawzi, Rifai Ahmed Taha, Osman Khaled Ibrahim, Ahmed Mustapha Nawara, Talaat Mohammed Yassine, Talaat Fouad Kassem and Ayman al-Zawahiri. All have been condemned to death in abstentia during various trials in Egypt.
According to the latter, certain terrorist groups based in the frontier city of Peshawar and belonging to what are called the "Arab Afghans" have ties with fundamentalist Muslims in the United States.
The Egyptians services claim a sixth suspect in the 26 February bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, an Egyptian now in hiding, Ramzi Ahmed Yussef, was apparently trained from 1987 to 1990 in Peshawar camps in the ranks of the Islamic Jihad groups under the orders of Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The "Afghan" file was one of the delicate issues examined by the director of the CIA, James Woosley, during his 13 April visit to Cairo accompanied by two dozen specialists on Middle East terrorism. These specialists work extensively on the hundreds of "Arab Afghan" files produced by the Egyptian services on Libyans, Egyptians, Yemenites, Jordanians, Palestinians, Algerians and Tunisians all based in Peshawar and the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
When the American intelligence teams arrived in Peshawar, they were met by a delegation of Egyptian officers from the Mukhabarat al-Amat (political police), which had a list of 300 names of Egyptians believed to be the hard inner core of the Afghan branch of the Islamic Jihad directed by Mohammed Shawky Islambuli, brother of the assassin of President Anuar el-Sadate.
A few weeks before, two intelligence officers, an Algerian, Colonel Ismail (whose real name and identity are not known), responsible for counterespionage within the powerful Securite Militaire, and an Egyptian, General Omar Suleiman, head of the Evaluation and Prospection branch of the Mukhabarat al-Amat, had mobilized a vast network of informants to do a "census" of all "Arab Afghans" in Peshawar camps.
Some 30 Egyptian "Afghans" are considered particularly dangerous by Cairo because they are in direct contact with Iranian Pasdarans. Eight of these Egyptians constitute the central command of the Islamic Legion which is present and active in different ways in both Arab and African countries: Egypt, Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Algeria, Libya, Lebanon. Besides Mohammed Shawky Islambuli, the 8 include: Mustapha Ahmed Fawzi, Rifai Ahmed Taha, Osman Khaled Ibrahim, Ahmed Mustapha Nawara, Talaat Mohammed Yassine, Talaat Fouad Kassem and Ayman al-Zawahiri. All have been condemned to death in abstentia during various trials in Egypt.
But the prime minister was anxious to conserve the political backing of the fundamentalist wing of the ruling party and of several conservative groups, including the Jamaa Islamiya of lawyer Hussein Ahmed, so he hesitated over further expulsions. This was one reason he was suddenly fired on 18 April by President Ishaq Khan. An Egyptian military aircraft has been waiting at least two weeks at the Peshawar airport for an additional extradition order to be given by Pakistani authorities.
In the meantime several "Afghan" leaders have fled Peshawar with the help of local supporters. On 20 and 21 April Shawky al-Islambuli and a few others apparently made it to Jalalabad, in Afghanistan, a town controlled by the Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's fundamentalist Hezb al-Islami.
Since then, Islambuli has supposedly traveled to Meched in Iran. Other "Afghans" will probably follow the same itinerary in the next few weeks. Pakistani intelligence services, which are now trying to get rid of these unwelcome guests, will likely ask those still in Peshawar to choose the country to which they will be sent.
Most of them will probably choose to go to Iran or Sudan.
Teheran has ordered its ambassador in Khartoum, Majid Kamal, one of the founders of the Lebanese Hezbollah in 1980, to take all necessary measures to prepare to receive hundreds of "Afghans" in camps in Sudan.
Paris' AL WATAN AL ARABI 8/13/99: "What is the secret behind the conflicting reports regarding the whereabouts of the fundamentalist leader Usamah Bin-Ladin?...A senior official, who is affiliated to one of the important agencies that are entrusted with the task of following the moves of the movement of the fundamentalist who is wanted in the United States, had the answer.
This official has affirmed the existence of an agreed upon agreement regarding the departure of Bin-Ladin. However, he revealed to Al-Watan Al-'Arabi the secret behind the disappearance of Bin-Ladin from the scene throughout the past period. He said: If you saw him you would not recognize him. This answer was the motive for the search for all the details about the new picture of the fundamentalist leader...
The last months of the disappearance of Bin-Ladin were necessary for his cure from the scars of the plastic surgery, which he had undergone to alter his features. This surgery was secretly performed and was part of his plan to escape from the US hot pursuit that had come too close. The surgery was performed by a Russian plastic surgeon of Chechen origin and he is one most renowned doctor in his field in Russia.
He had cooperated with the Soviet intelligence agency, the KGB, and he visited Beirut in the early seventies and stayed there for a while. This doctor supervised the establishment of a plastic surgery center inside the Palestinian Sabra refugee camp in an underground clinic, which was used to alter the features of Palestinian commandos who had participated in major operations abroad such as the hijacking of aircraft.
During that time, he became acquainted with Dr. Wadi' Haddad, the engineer of foreign and resounding operations, and they became close friends. The Russian surgeon trained Dr. Haddad on performing plastic surgeries for which the Palestinian leader later became famous. In fact, Dr. Haddad used to define the steps of the plastic surgeries that were performed on him to alter his features and he used to choose the new faces himself. His wife used to perform the surgery on him under his guidance to ensure complete secrecy even from his closet aides.
This Russian surgeon was himself responsible for altering the features of the terrorist Carlos at the request of Dr. Haddad in the wake of the operation that was carried out against the OPEC oil ministers in Vienna. After spending some time in Beirut, this Russian doctor returned to Moscow and disappeared from sight and it was said that this was due to the fact he had retired because of his age. The one who suggested the name of the doctor and contacted him in his retirement was a person who had strong links with the Palestinian resistance in Beirut. After the resistance torch was handed over to the fundamentalist movements, this person managed to establish strong links with Islamic trends.
These connections paved the way for him to establish contacts with Usamah Bin-Ladin through a Kuwaiti businessman who is a friend of the fundamentalist leader. This intermediary had been following the information about the US pursuit of Bin-Ladin and became convinced that he was being cornered. The intermediary also realized that it would be impossible for Bin-Ladin to escape from the eyes that are following him and counting the number of the breaths he takes and an idea came to his mind.
He thought that the only chance for Bin-Ladin was to acquire a new identity in order to escape from and mislead those giving chase to him and remembered his old friend the Russian plastic surgeon. Before making a move in the direction of Moscow however, he contacted his Kuwaiti friend, who leads one of the fundamentalist groups and put the idea to him and asked him to suggest it to Bin-Ladin...
[Bin Laden] accepted the offer in principle and a meeting was held the following night to approve the details. During the following meeting, an agreement was reached on a number of basic principles.
The surgery has to be performed inside the base.
All the technical and human facilities for performing the surgery have to be brought to the base.
The new face of Bin-Ladin must be kept secret.
A new passport has to be issued for Bin-Ladin bearing his new identity and from a country that does not accuse him of terrorism.
An extensive camouflage plan has to be prepared in order to provide a cover for the surgery and conceal the aims of the plan.
During the same meeting, two of the closet aides of Bin-Ladin were entrusted with the task of making the necessary contacts and arrangements, including the financial arrangements. Contact with the intermediary was made through the Kuwaiti businessman in Beirut and a meeting for agreement on the details was arranged between the Bin-Ladin aides and the intermediary in non-eastern Arab country. The meeting did not last long during which the intermediary asked for $5 million to be placed at his disposal, including $1 million for the doctor, $1 million for the assisting team, and $3 million for the purchase of the necessary medical equipment and transportation expenses...
[Upon his arrival at Bin Laden's headquarters in Afghanistan, the] Russian doctor held several sessions with Bin-Ladin during which he studied the details of his face and he was also given several pictures of Bin-Ladin taken from different angles. The doctor studied them carefully and began to prepare draft sketches on paper for the faces of Bin-Ladin before deciding on a semifinal draft sketch.
He also prepared designs for suggested shapes of the mouth and nose. The doctor also asked the computer technician who was accompanying him within the team to enter the pictures and suggested shapes of the face, nose, and mouth of Bin-Ladin into his personal computer. At the instructions of the doctor, the technician started to test out the structure of the various pictures of the new face of Bin-Ladin until he reached a picture that he deemed appropriate.
The doctor presented the picture to Bin-Ladin in a separate meeting and listened to his remarks and they agreed on the shape and the date for performing the surgery after three days. The thick beard and hair of Bin-Ladin was cut and he was admitted to the operation tent alone and the only ones who were present were the assisting team and a doctor who is close to Bin-Ladin and is believed to have been Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Bin-Ladin remained in the operation room for nearly seven hours after which he emerged with his face covered by bandages. He was placed in a bed in a corner in the same cave and separated from the rest of the cave by a curtain and no one was allowed to see him. While awaiting his recovery from the surgery, agreement was also reached on providing Bin-Ladin with a passport bearing his new identity and from a country that lies in northernmost Asia.
Agreement was also reached on performing a plastic surgery on one of his wives so that she may accompany him also carrying a new passport during the escape after which she would also return to her country. Plastic surgeries were also performed on two of the closet aides of Bin-Ladin to escort and guard him and assist him in the journey to the new headquarters. It was also decided to put Bin-ladin on a strict diet program to increase his weight and on a physical training program to build his muscles so that absolutely no one would recognize him.
At the same time, an extensive operation of camouflage and deception was launched. Information was leaked through exposed persons known to cooperate with the Pakistani intelligence that Bin-Ladin had disappeared and afterward information was leaked that he had fled Afghanistan across the Tajik or Iranian borders and then he was reported to have been killed during his escape.
While Bin-Ladin was lying in his hideout and only seen by his closet men, conflicting information was pouring into the supercomputer at the US Fort Meade Base. This information was causing concern for the experts and officials at this base, which is regarded as the brain center of the US National Security Agency. This concern was further multiplied by the failure of the eavesdropping and surveillance equipment operating in earth stations and satellites to pick up or monitor any contact from or to Bin-Ladin.
In fact, his name had completely disappeared from all the monitored communications. The lack of information stirred the fear of the US security agencies. This was at a time when other agencies were making contacts with the Taleban Movement in which the name of Bin-Ladin was being repeatedly mentioned. The head of Bin-Ladin was mentioned as the price for a major bargain that would lead to US recognition of the of the Taleban government as the legitimate government in Afghanistan.
However, the unexpected happened when one of the Taleban members who collaborates with Western intelligence found a few torn papers scattered on the floor at the base. Those papers soon reached the experts of a Western security agency and who started to study and analyze them and try to reconstruct them. They used advanced computers to obtain an enhanced image and were astonished when they realized that this image could be that of the face of Bin-Ladin with a few changes in details.
They used the pictures of Bin-Ladin that they have in their possession and the enhanced computer image to obtain an expected picture of the new face of Bin-Ladin. They became convinced that Bin-Ladin had undergone plastic surgery. However, the experts have not arrived at a decisive decision. Is the picture that had been sketched actually the new face of Bin-Ladin or one of the rejected rough drafts?
At any rate, the security agency has distributed the pictures among its agents and warned them to be alert because their man has put on a new face. Moreover, the agency has become certain that he would soon leave for another country with a new alias and new identity."
"The only witnesses to the operation were the Russian surgeon, his assisting team, and a doctor close to bin Laden's (believed to be Ayman al-Zawahiri). After bin Laden emerged from the operation room seven hours later, no one was allowed to see him except two close aides who will escort him out of the country and one of his wives. The three are also believed to have undergone plastic surgery. In order to further alter his appearance, Bin Laden was put on a specialized diet and exercise program to gain weight and build his muscles. According to Al-Watan al-Arabi, Bin Laden has now assumed a new identity and has a passport from an unspecified Asian country.""THE NEW FACE OF OSAMA BIN LADEN?" MIDDLE EAST NEWS ITEMS, October 5, 1999.
A correspondent in London They are Lebanese Imad Mughniyeh, head of the special overseas operations for Hezbollah, and Egyptian Ayman Al Zawahiri, a senior member of Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida network, according to Jane's. The Israeli sources claimed for the past two years Iraqi intelligence officers had been shuttling between Baghdad and Afghanistan, meeting with Zawahiri. According to the sources, one of the Iraqi intelligence officers, Salah Suleiman, was captured last October by the Pakistanis near the border with Afghanistan.
They are Lebanese Imad Mughniyeh, head of the special overseas operations for Hezbollah, and Egyptian Ayman Al Zawahiri, a senior member of Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida network, according to Jane's. The Israeli sources claimed for the past two years Iraqi intelligence officers had been shuttling between Baghdad and Afghanistan, meeting with Zawahiri.
According to the sources, one of the Iraqi intelligence officers, Salah Suleiman, was captured last October by the Pakistanis near the border with Afghanistan.
| The Iraqis are also reported to have established strong ties with Mughniyeh, Jane's Security said, adding that unconfirmed reports in Beirut say he has undergone plastic surgery and is unrecognisable.
One intelligence source told Jane's: "We believe that the operational brains behind the New York attack were Mughniyeh and Zawahiri, who were probably financed and got some logistical support from the Iraqi Intelligence Service (SSO)."
The two men have not been seen for some time. Mughniyeh is probably the world's most wanted outlaw, according to Jane's.
"Bin Laden is a schoolboy in comparison with Mughniyeh," Jane's quotes an Israeli who knows Mughniyeh as saying.
"The guy is a genius, someone who refined the art of terrorism to its utmost level. We studied him and reached the conclusion that he is a clinical psychopath motivated by uncontrollable psychological reasons, which we have given up trying to understand ..."
Zawahiri is thought to be now based in Egypt and could be bin Laden's chief representative outside Afghanistan.
"In recent months, there was a change, and Iraq decided to get into the terror business," it quoted one expert as saying.
Jane's added: "Our sources believe that it will be very difficult to get to the bottom of this unprecedented terror operation. However, they
Not for commercial use. Solely to be used for the educational purposes of research and open discussion.
|| Informed that an attack was imminent Bin Laden reportedly sent a warning to an Arab embassy in Islamabad, declaring in a letter that he would use chemical weapons against American bases in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia if the missiles were launched.
As a result, Bin Laden's unexpected appearance on the Arabic-language television channel last week can be interpreted as cocking a snook at the United States. For its part, the recruitment drive involving Brigade 055 is aimed at lending credibility to his threats.
Indeed, one of the units he has brought into Brigade 055 is headed by an Egyptian, Medhat Mersi, also known under the name of Abu Khabbab, who is a past master in handling Sarin nerve gas. In addition, Bin Laden is said to have recruited former Red Army officers now based in Kirghizistan who had specialized in the use of biological warfare. They are said to presently come under the authority of Subhi Abu Setta, number two man in Bin Laden's Al Qaida outfit.
Founded in 1996, Brigade 055 maintains close ties with small groups of Iranian Sunni extremists such as Ahl E Sunnah Wal Jamaa. It also has contacts with Pakistani movements like Sipha E Sabaha, Al Badr and the Lashkar E Jangvi organization that hijacked an airliner flying on India's domestic network two years ago.
On May 28, 1998, when the jubilant masses poured to the streets to cheer Pakistan's string of nuclear tests, they shouted "Allah Akbar!". They paraded, and celebrated around, models of the Hatf - Pakistan's tactical nuclear missile - marked "Islamic bomb". In Friday prayers, Mullahs stressed that the tests are a "triumph for Islam." Completely ignored were President Nawaz Sharief's explanations that these nuclear tests were Pakistan's reaction to the Indian threat. And herein - in the stark difference between action and the politicians' rhetoric - the quandary lies.
Indeed, as Pakistan embarked on its series of nuclear tests, the brinkmanship and crisis-generation policies intensified. The Pakistani propaganda machine spun the yarn of convoluted Israeli-Indian and now also American conspiracies against Pakistan and its "Islamic Bomb." No event was left out of this intensifying incitement of terror. For example, when anti-nuclear Baluchi students hijacked the PIA plane to protests Islamabad's policies, Pakistani "sources" fed the media with allegations that ISI had uncovered a RAW-CIA-Mossad conspiracy against Pakistan of which the hijacking was a small part. And so, the isolated hijacking incident has become yet another component in the slide toward the "forthcoming Indian-Israeli attack" Islamabad is still anticipating. India's and Israel's denials of such plans and their calm reaction to the Pakistani nuclear tests and related rhetoric have so far had no tangible impact on Islamabad's policies.
This is not because Islamabad still fears the Israeli-Indian attack, if it ever really did, but because of Islamabad's requisite to integrate the dramatic development of Pakistan becoming a declared nuclear power into the volatile polity of the Hub of Islam. Hence, an inevitable outcome of this process is the return of Pakistan as a predominant leader of the Muslim World, and particularly the Hub of Islam. Islamabad is already capitalizing on its unique notoriety to build support as the sole Muslim nuclear power. After all Pakistan's has always been the "Islamic Bomb," and no amount of post-factum denials by Islamabad is going to change this. Indeed, this aspect of the Pakistani nuclear testing has been emphasized in both popular celebrations and mosque sermons in both Pakistan and throughout the Hub of Islam.
Only when the pressure from the West over the Islamic' aspect of the Pakistani nuclear tests, and with it the threat of protracted sanctions, mounted, did Islamabad issued a denial - optimized for the Western audience. "Nothing gives me more offense than the use of the phrase ?Islamic bomb,'" retorted Tariq Altaf, a Foreign Ministry spokesman. "There is no such thing as an Islamic bomb. This is a weapon for the self-defense of Pakistan - period. There is no question of transferring the technology to anybody. This is deterrence for Pakistan alone." However, Pakistan's own record in pursuing its nuclear weaponry flatly contradicts Altaf's assertions and assurances.
In its dogged pursuit of military nuclear capabilities Pakistan has not only enjoyed active support from Arab states, particularly Libya (mainly funds and access to clandestinely obtained West European technologies and materiel) and Saudi Arabia (mainly funds and access to US-made super-computers), but it provided active support to other Muslim nuclear programs. In fact, Pakistan shared data and expertise with the two leading nuclear programs in the Muslim World - Iraq's and Iran's.
Pakistan's contributions to the nuclear programs of the Islamic Republic of Iran date back to the early 1980s. In 1984, for example, a Nuclear Research Institute was opened in Isfahan with technical assistance from France and Pakistan. In February 1986, Pakistan offered to train Iranian nuclear scientists in return for financial support for Pakistan's own nuclear program. The Iranians were trained on Chinese equipment. Subsequently, in June 1990, Tehran signed a contract with the PRC for the supply of another reactor for the Isfahan Nuclear Research Institute. The Isfahan institute opened the door to Iran's short-cut to the production of its own bomb.
Meanwhile, Dr. Abdus Qadir Khan, the father of the Pakistani bomb, attended a high level meeting of Iran's leading nuclear scientists held in the Amir Kabir College in January 1987. He visited both Tehran and Bushehr to assess the Iranian nuclear potential and discuss future cooperation with the Iranian leadership. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, then Iran's president, also took part in the conference. Soon afterwards, Iran and Pakistan signed an agreement on technical cooperation in military nuclear fields. Two senior Iranian scientists, Sayyid Reza and Hadi Rambashahr, went to Kahuta. They were later joined there by few Iranians and began organizing a training program. Within a year, 31 Iranian nuclear specialists were sent to Pakistan, mainly Kahuta, to join this program and receive advance training. These Iranians are involved in several key aspects of weapon building including Uranium enrichment and Plutonium extraction.
There was a corresponding progress in Iran's nuclear technological capabilities. In 1988, the installations in the Amir Kabir College, most likely the German-Argentinian equipment, were already capable of extracting some Plutonium. In early-1989, Iran began "producing the fuel required for the production of atomic weapons," using materials and chemicals purchased in Japan as late as 1987. In late-1989, Pakistan started helping Iran to build a reactor for the extraction of Plutonium. In the early 1990s, Iran was also expected to become the first export customer to Pakistan's new reactor of indigenous design - achieved with extensive Chinese assistance. Speaking in an exhibition of Chinese electronic equipment in Karachi on 16 January 1991, Munir Ahmad Khan, the Chairman of Pakistan's Atomic Energy Commission, declared that "Pakistan has achieved some extraordinary success in the manufacturing of nuclear fuel and is now manufacturing a nuclear reactor and a power generating reactor." He added that "China's backing for Pakistan's peaceful nuclear efforts is encouraging and praiseworthy."
Although of a lesser magnitude, Pakistan's support for the Iraqi military nuclear program might have been more decisive. In early 1990, once committed to the instigation of a cataclysmic event that would shock the Middle East and ensure Saddam Hussein's prominence - at the time Baghdad was still wavering between attacking Israel and liberating Kuwait - Baghdad resolved to complete the acquisition of one or a few nuclear weapons in order to have a rudimentary deterrence.
Toward this end, senior Iraqi intelligence and weapons program officials made a series of clandestine visits to Pakistan in the Spring and early Summer of 1990, virtually until the invasion of Kuwait. They launched a series of efforts to buy anything - from nuclear technology to nuclear weapons. At first, Saddam Hussein's emissaries were rebuffed by official Islamabad.
However, the Iraqis launched a supposedly secret initiative to recruit, through both bribes and capitalizing on Islamist sentiments, some of Pakistan's leading experts. One of the Iraqi documents retrieved after the war includes a scrawled footnote describing an offer made to Iraqi intelligence by an unidentified Pakistani offering to establish contacts with "senior figures in Pakistan's nuclear programme who were willing to help President Saddam Hussein's regime to manufacture a bomb." Pakistani Intelligence - the ISI - was aware of these efforts from the beginning for some of those approached notified them. It did not take long for the ISI to discover that the Iraqis were organizing a procurement network relying on Islamist activists. At first Islamabad provided tacit, though deniable, support for the Iraqi effort that was then "apparently run from the embassy," in the words of an ISI senior officer. This effort seemed to have come to an end when Iraq invaded Kuwait and Pakistan sided with the US-led coalition.
However, alarmed by the prospects of an US/Western hegemony over the Hub of Islam as a result of an overwhelming victory over Iraq, Islamabad opened back channels to Baghdad offering to assist in deterring the anticipated war. The Pakistani offers ranged from offers to mediate an honorable end to the crisis to a last ditch effort to enable Iraq acquire nuclear weapons and deterrence. According to an October 6, 1990, memorandum from Section B.15 of Iraqi Intelligence to Section S.15 of the Nuclear-Weapons Directorate, Baghdad had just received a proposal from "Pakistani scientist Dr Abd-al-Qadeer Khan" to help Iraq "manufacture a nuclear weapon." This memorandum was retrieved by the UN and confirmed by Iraqi officials who claimed they had rejected the offer because they suspected it was an American sting. Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan dismissed as "totally false and baseless" both the memorandum and any other form of involvement in discussions with the Iraqis. Nevertheless, there remains unresolved the source of the Iraqi technology for gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment, and particularly the self-confidence that led Baghdad commit to a major installation in al-Furat even before test and evaluation was completed in al-Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center. Centrifuges are Dr. Khan's main expertise and he recently stressed the centrality of uranium enrichment to the sophistication and might of the just tested Pakistani nuclear weapons.
Thus, given this track record, it is safe to assume that Islamabad will continue to participate in Islamic and Arab strategic programs. Indeed, Islamabad's subsequent highlighting of its confrontation with, and standing up to, the Israeli-Indian threats and anti-Muslim conspiracies has already created expectations for nuclear Pakistan to play a strategic role in the Hub of Islam as a nuclear power. In the longer term, more and more Muslim states will gravitate toward Pakistan. Islamabad's audacious gambit will thus result in the further consolidation of the militant Islamist faction of the Islamic Bloc within the Trans Asian Axis that will challenge US presence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.
Meanwhile, this process has already begun. It is most significant that the first foreign dignitary to arrive in Islamabad was Kamal Kharrazi, the Iranian Foreign Minister. Although Iran and Pakistan have been feuding on spheres of influence in Afghanistan and over Tehran's support for militant Shiites in Pakistan, Tehran was the first to express whole hearted support for Islamabad in the name of Islamic solidarity. Having lived for long under the shadow of Israel's nuclear threat, Kharrazi declared, Muslims all over the world "feel confident" because a fellow Islamic nation has crossed the nuclear threshold. "Over the world, Muslims are happy that Pakistan has this capability." Kharrazi also endorsed Islamabad's position that India's test left Pakistan no choice but to test as well. "As a matter of its national security and to create a balance in the region," Pakistan was obliged to respond in kind.
Similarly, conservative Arab regimes have no doubt about the anti- American implications of the Pakistani bomb. For example, the Saudi- owned al-Sharq al-Awsat wrote that many Muslim nations would "release a sigh of relief, while the blood will freeze in the veins of the decision-making powers, especially Washington, after Pakistan entered the nuclear club." This analysis is of significance because, when deliberating on the reaction to the Indian nuclear testing, Islamabad consulted only with the PRC, its closest ally, and Saudi Arabia. Specifically, Nawaz Sharief communicated with Crown Prince Abdallah whose organ is the al-Sharq al-Awsat . Similarly, the conservative and Islamist-leaning Ukaz newspaper stressed that "the West and Israel still view Pakistan's nuclear capabilities as an asset to the Arabs and Muslims in their eternal struggle with Israel; thus, the West and Israel view the Pakistani nuclear tests as a very serious development. In fact, Israel has announced more than once that it may attack the Pakistani nuclear installations as it did with Iraq in 1981. Moreover, there has been clear evidence over the past few days that India and Israel have been cooperating on the nuclear level and that Israel has played a significant role in India's recent nuclear explosions." In this, and numerous similar articles, Riyadh endorsed the Pakistani testing and threat analysis.
Other Islamist leaders not only supported the Pakistani tests, but expected Pakistan to use its nuclear capabilities to further all-Islamic causes. HAMAS leader Shaykh Ahmad Yassin hailed Pakistan's nuclear capability as "an asset to the Arab and Muslim nations." Khalid Baig of the Al-Balagh E-Zine elucidated for many: "Pakistan will also be expected now to play a more active role in the affairs of the Ummah. There was a time when Pakistan was actively involved in such matters. Based on its newly acquired status, it will again have to shoulder those responsibilities. It must not shy away from those responsibilities. Rather it must enlarge its vision and its view of itself. There is no sense in defining Pakistan's nuclear policy solely in terms of India. Al-Aqsa is not a ?Palestinian mosque' and Jerusalem is not just a Palestinian issue. Therefore, Israel cannot be just a Palestinian or Arab problem. It is a problem for the entire Ummah and Pakistan must now be willing to stand up to its responsibilities in this matter."
Meanwhile, other voices in the Arab World urge Pakistan to contribute to the emergence of an Arab bomb. The Saudi Ukaz expects a major strategic realignment in the Middle East as a result of the Pakistani tests. "What is certain is that the recent developments in the Indian sub-continent will leave their own effect on the Middle East developments and will prompt several parties involved in the Middle East crisis to rearrange their cards and to review their calculations for the forthcoming phase." Similarly, the Islamist paper Al-Quds al-Arabi anticipated that the Pakistani nuclearization would have a major impact in the Arab World. "The main Arab states, especially Egypt, will feel intensely embarrassed on account of Pakistan's possession of the first Islamic nuclear bomb, and its success in achieving strategic balance with its adversary India, while these states have failed to achieve the same balance with the Hebrew state... The possession of nuclear arms is an introduction to taking on the leadership of the Islamic World and having greater influence over most of the events and Islamic summits that will be held in the future." Al-Quds al-Arabi urges the Arab leaders to learn from Islamabad and to both make decisions and resist the US. "The Arab states in confrontation with Israel should have striven to gain possession of nuclear weapons, not only in order to liberate Palestine, but in order to maintain their national security and neutralize the Israeli nuclear weapons. ... The Arab states can still benefit from this Pakistani lesson at more than one level and the Pakistani experience in the nuclear field is still very important for any Arab state that wants to rebel against US and Israeli domination and follow the path of military power and its requirements."
And even before the Arab World mobilizes to meet the nuclear challenge, Pakistan is already assuming its leadership position. As the initial impact of the Pakistani nuclear testing subsides, Islamabad is gradually shouldering its responsibilities as the sole declared Muslim nuclear power - fronting for the entire Hub of Islam against the US-led West and its nuclear might as well as standing up for the "honor" of Islam. To assume the leadership position it aspires, Pakistan need not provide any Muslim state with nuclear weapons. Moreover, the state of nuclear research and related infrastructure in the Muslim World is so dismal that technology transfer will only have limited impact in the near term. However, Pakistan can, and Islamabad has already hinted its willingness to provide a nuclear umbrella to counter balance Israel and the US To date, the mere threat of unilateral use of nuclear weapons has deterred Arab leaders such as Saddam Hussein from using non-nuclear weapons of mass destruction against Israel or the US forces in the Arabian Peninsula. By merely declaring that it will not tolerate the use of nuclear weapons against a sisterly Muslim state and warning that it might retaliate in kind, Pakistan markedly reduces the effectiveness of the nuclear threat that has so far restrained Arab and Iranian leaders. And the Pakistani ballistic missiles currently test-launched can reach the centers of such potential foes as Russia and Israel, as well as the US deployment in the Persian Gulf.
It is in this role of the nuclear guardian of diverse Islamic causes that Pakistan is finding its leadership niche. Islamabad is already inviting Muslim states, particularly the Arab World, to help Pakistan withstand the sanctions in return for Pakistani support and providing of a nuclear umbrella for their own causes - such as a confrontation with Israel or the eviction of the US forces from the Persian Gulf. Indeed, on June 1, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief said that "Pakistan's nuclear tests had brought glory to the Muslims of the world who would never bow before any super power now." He heralded Pakistan's nuclear posture as a turning point in Islamic history. "The Muslims will never bow before any super power and the support of different countries for Pakistan in these difficult times will be remembered in a historic manner," he declared.
Enter the Iranian exploitation of these strategic nuclear developments to pressure Israel and Saudi Arabia. Pakistan's becoming a declared nuclear power in the aftermath of its nuclear and missile tests is a source of pride for all Arabs and Muslims. For the first time, the Muslims formally crossed a threshold firmly held in Western, and even more significantly - by Israeli hands. In this particular case, of great importance is the fact that the Pakistani nuclear tests were highly publicized and that the government in Islamabad has declared itself a nuclear power. This process is distinctly different from Tehran's nuclear opacity - where just enough material has been leaked about the country's acquisition of nuclear weapons from the ex-Soviet Central Asia to have a deterrence factor while Tehran continues to maintain official denial. Now, irrespective of whether Islamabad endorses it or not - Pakistan's is an Islamic Bomb, so accepted throughout the Muslim World by both governments and the popular street.
And this widely held impression is everything. For in the case of nuclear weapons and their strategic delivery systems, that is, ballistic missiles, what really counts is the image - the source and quintessence of deterrence. Decision makers - both friends and foes - react to the reports of that many nuclear tests, assuming that a country has more weapons than just those tested, and believe that the missiles they watched on TV being tested are real and capable of the advertised performance. No responsible leader would take the risk of discovering the veracity of claimed strategic capabilities - declared or opaque - by having these weapons detonate over his/her country's vital centers. The same logic applies to the impression given by the responsible authorities concerning arrangements between their countries and governments over strategic umbrellas and other guarantees.
Of great significance is the influence of this principle on Tehran. Pakistan's emergence as a nuclear power has already created a set of strategic circumstances that enables Iran to be far more audacious and assertive than before. The Islamic Republic of Iran has impressive strategic objectives on both regional and global scales. Their furthering, let alone realization, would entail confrontation with Israel and the US with the inevitable necessity to resolve and/or overcome the deterrence factor. To date, Tehran has relied on the small arsenal acquired from the former Soviet republics of Central Asia mounted on SSMs based on North Korean and Chinese technologies. The longer range ballistic missiles, those capable of reaching Israel from Iranian bases, are derivatives of untested prototypes. While Tehran is convinced these missiles will work, uncertainty remains in the mind of Iran's enemies. Hence, for Tehran, its own arsenal was never an element of decisive and unambiguous preventive deterrence.
Thus, the mere existence of the Pakistani Islamic Bomb changes everything. Here there are proven missile and nuclear weapons capabilities. There is an ambiguity as to the extent to which Islamabad will give its strategic capabilities to all-Islamic causes, particularly in the Middle East. However, given Islamabad's on going warnings and alarms of impending Israeli strikes, as well as its requests for Arab and Iranian assistance, it is virtually impossible for Islamabad not to "contribute" to Arab-Iranian "causes," even if only in a declaratory manner. Moreover, Egyptian and Pakistani officials claim that the CIA has been warning Islamabad of a potential Israeli strike since 1994. That is, the US has known about Israel's "perfidious designs" and has done nothing to restrain Israel - thus giving greater credibility to the need to integrate Pakistan into the Arab-Israeli and anti-US strategic equation. Moreover, not to be ignored is the active participation of Pakistani pilots and other military experts in all the previous Arab- Israeli wars. Thus, irrespective of what Islamabad declares or does not declare, it is highly likely that Pakistan will be providing a de-factor nuclear umbrella that will serve as restraining factor for both Israel and the US in case of a major crisis.
This dynamics should be comprehended in the context of the mega- trends in the Middle East. The last couple of years have seen the marked radicalization of Arab World. The public at large is giving up on US influence and its ability to deliver Israel. Given this rise of Islamism, there is a concurrent gravitation toward Iran and militancy. Iran's rapprochement with Saudi Arabia is the latest and most dramatic phase in this process. Now, through Pakistan, Iran, as leader of Muslim Bloc, can deliver the nuclear umbrella that removes the primary obstacle to - the cause of fear of - confrontation with Israel and the US. Consequently, for Tehran, these dynamics provide the best of both worlds. Iran can surge in the non-nuclear level under an undeclared yet unignorable nuclear umbrella provided by Pakistan. At the same time, Iran will be retaining its own undeclared and opaque nuclear capabilities as measures of last resort in case Islamabad changes position and/or fails to deliver.
Further more, Iran's rising prominence and ensuing assertiveness and audacity must be examined in the context of the greater geo-strategic dynamics, particularly the ascent of the PRC. Beijing has a vested interest in flaring up the Hub of Islam, if only to keep Washington preoccupied. For that - Beijing needs Iran as the leader of the Islamic Bloc within the Trans-Asian Axis. Pakistan still desperately needs its posture as the lynchpin - the source of unique posture and contribution. Hence, there is mutual interest in the exacerbation of the situation in the Hub of Islam and projecting strategic instability. Moreover, Islamabad is adamant on becoming the center and leader of an Islamic cause in order to mobilize its own population and not appear only as a supporter of an Iran-led, essentially Arab cause. Practically, Pakistan needs Arab/Iranian help with Kashmir and Central Asia, as well as Chinese endorsement and patronage. Hence, Islamabad can hardly refuse their participation in what is definitely a Pakistani "cause."
However, through all of this dynamics, one must not forget a simple reality. A nuclear-tipped ballistic missile is a controlled object. If launched, it'll fly in the direction it has been pointed to by guidance installed by human operators. Hence, even as, say, Islamabad, warns its missiles are aimed at point A, there is no guarantee they are not actually aimed at point B. More specifically, even if Pakistan declared its providing of a nuclear umbrella to a Middle East or Persian Gulf conflagration, New Delhi would not know for certain that the Pakistani assets were no longer targeting India. And thus the deterrence factor remains. Similarly, Islamabad's guarantees that its nuclear assets are not a component of an Islamic "cause" cannot be substantiated independently.
What does this ambiguity means is that Islamabad has an incentive to capitalize on a major crisis on the Arab-Israeli front or in the Persian Gulf in order to further its conflict with India. With world attention focused elsewhere, and with Chinese support guaranteed, Pakistan can pursue its own Islamic cause - Kashmir - as an integral part of the all-Islamic "cause." Such circumstances are the best of all worlds for Islamabad. Given the close relations between India and Israel, Pakistan can even tie both crises - Kashmir and the Middle East - with the excuse that India was going to help Israel, and Pakistan is defending the rear of the Hub of Islam. Tehran, Islamabad, Arabs already believe this to be the case, and they'll make their decisions accordingly. And so, under the Pakistani nuclear umbrella, an emboldened Hub of Islam is already getting psyched-up, preparing to confront its real and imaginary foes. [June 18, 1998, I & GN]
Sunday, October 15, 2000
Co-host/correspondent: Steve Kroft
Producer: Leslie Cockburn
STEVE KROFT: (Voiceover) Imagine a country with an arsenal of nuclear bombs where the elected prime minister is in jail and the generals who have taken power are beholden to Islamic radicals who revere Osama bin Laden and hate the United States.
You know that the US State Department considers you to be a terrorist?
Mr. FAZLUR RAHMAN KHALIL: (Through Translator) Yes, I know the Americans have declared me a terrorist.
KROFT: Do you support Pakistan's nuclear weapons program?
Mr. KHALIL: (Through Translator) Yes, of course. God has ordered us to make nuclear weapons.
(Footage of Captain Rand Harrell; Harrell entering plane)
The turmoil in the Middle East this past week has demonstrated once again that peace is a fragile commodity and that terrorism is still a threat to US security. But the Middle East is not the only place that bears watching. Imagine a country with nuclear weapons where the elected prime minister is in jail and the generals who seized power are beholden to Islamic radicals who revere the terrorist Osama bin Laden. The country is Pakistan, now competing for the title of America's worst nightmare.
Currently engaged in a nuclear standoff with its next-door neighbor India, Pakistan is nearly bankrupt and sliding into anarchy. There is no other country in the world where 100,000 well-armed militant fundamentalists could end up controlling nuclear weapons--what some people call the Islamic bomb.
(Footage of Pakistan; Muslims; Pakistani people)
KROFT: (Voiceover) Pakistan was created just over 50 years ago as an Islamic state, a haven for India's Muslims who wanted self-rule. Today the country is coming apart at the seams.
Pakistan is dead broke, its treasury looted by previous governments, its economy drained by institutional corruption. Only about 1 percent of the people here pay any taxes and those who do pay taxes are not the richest people in the country. To make matters worse, the political and business elite has borrowed billions of dollars from Pakistani banks with no intention of ever repaying the loans.
(Footage of Pakistani people; weapons of mass destruction; Pakistan countryside)
KROFT: (Voiceover) There are 140 million people, more than half of them illiterate, with no access to clean water. But for such a poor country, it has very sophisticated weapons, many supplied by the United States, at least until Pakistan tested its first nuclear bomb and the US cut off all aid.
(Footage of warning sign)
KROFT: (Voiceover) Just a few miles down the road from the capital of Islamabad, there is a stark warning to foreigners that they will be thrown into jail if they approach a secret installation called Kahuta, part of Pakistan's nuclear weapons complex.
(Footage of satellite imagery of Kahuta; Pike and Kroft talking)
Mr. JOHN PIKE (Federation of American Scientists): (Voiceover) If you know where to look, you can basically see the fence line.
KROFT: (Voiceover) But with the latest satellite imagery, John Pike, from a group called the Federation of American Scientists, has been able to analyze Pakistan's weapons program from his computer in Washington.
What is this right here?
(Footage of satellite imagery of Khushab)
Mr. PIKE: (Voiceover) This is the plutonium production reactor at Khushab which was constructed with Chinese assistance.
(Footage of Pike and Kroft talking; satellite imagery photos)
KROFT: (Voiceover) Pakistan claims it built the bomb in self-defense, to keep the Indian army from invading its borders. John Pike says the country's nuclear program is much further along than Washington has publicly acknowledged.
Mr. PIKE: In addition to building uranium bombs within the last few years, they've also gotten into the long-range ballistic missile business.
(Footage of satellite imagery photos)
KROFT: (Voiceover) The missile technology originally came from the Chinese and the North Koreans, but the Pakistanis are now building their own missiles which are capable of reaching every major city in India.
How many bombs do you think they have?
Mr. PIKE: It's difficult to say how many bombs Pakistan currently has. A good estimate would probably be around 25, 35, something like that, certainly enough to fight a major nuclear war.
(Footage of General Pervez Musharraf and Kroft talking; General Musharraf with other military personnel)
KROFT: (Voiceover) The man in charge of those weapons is Pakistan's new chief executive, General Pervez Musharraf, who took over the country last October in a military coup.
You're proud of your nuclear weapons.
General PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: I am, certainly, for Pakistan's sake.
KROFT: Under what circumstances would you use them?
Gen. MUSHARRAF: I would never like to use them, first of all, but if you--you've asked me a direct question when would I use them, it woulI think if Pakistan's security gets jeopardized, then only the--one would like to think of it.
KROFT: How secure are those nuclear weapons?
Gen. MUSHARRAF: Very secure. The national command authority is in place. And they are extremely secure. And this is my guarantee.
(Footage of Pakistani government building; Nawaz Sharif; ancient Moghul fort; village)
KROFT: (Voiceover) The weapons may be secure, but Pakistan's political leadership is not. The last leader to give his guarantee was Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, now serving a double life sentence for terrorism imprisoned in an ancient Moghul fort. Among the crimes Sharif is accused of are trying to kill General Musharraf and bankrupting the country.
Gen. MUSHARRAF: I was very sure that people of Pakistan were fed up of what was going on. They were fed up, simply fed up.
(Footage of Pakistani people; personnel)
KROFT: (Voiceover) If Musharraf fails to restore confidence in the crumbling state, there is widespread fear that the country and its nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of Muslim fundamentalists, one of the few cohesive forces left in the country.
(Footage of Pakistani people worshipping)
KROFT: (Voiceover) With Pakistan's institutions on the verge of collapse, the job of educating the country's poor has fallen to religious extremists whose main desire is to see a united Muslim nation stretching from Pakistan to the former Soviet republics.
There is a great deal of concern in the United States about the possibility, if you fail, of the country falling into the hands of religious fanatics...
Gen. MUSHARRAF: OK.
KROFT: ...who will have access to...
Gen. MUSHARRAF: To--to bombs and to our nuclear--OK. I--I don't think that is--that is going to take place. Never has a religious party won seats in our assemblies, never. Pakistan is a very moderate Islamic country, and I mean it.
(Footage of Pakistani people; religious school; Samiul Haq and Kroft talking)
KROFT: (Voiceover) But the most radical religious parties no longer believe in elections. They've said publicly they want a full-scale Islamic revolution in Pakistan. This is one of more than 4,000 Madrosses or religious schools that now dot the Pakistani countryside. This one is run by Samiul Haq, one of the most revered and radical leaders in Pakistan.
There are people in the United States that say that it's not a healthy situation to have religious leaders so close to a nuclear bomb.
Mr. SAMIUL HAQ: (Through Translator) We were hurt when we heard this term, 'the Islamic bomb.' If we religious leaders have nuclear bombs on our hands, it would promote peace and security in the region.
(Footage of Haq with others; Kroft with others; from religious school)
KROFT: (Voiceover) Haq's followers espouse causes like the death penalty for blaspheme, stoning for adultery, forbidding women from working and banning television. His son showed us around and introduced us to some of the 2,500 students.
How old are these boys?
Unidentified Man: These are between 7 and 10.
(Footage of Kroft with others; from religious school)
KROFT: (Voiceover) The money to run this and other Madrosses pours in front Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. There are new dorms for 3,000 students, even a computer room.
What do you use the computers for?
Unidentified Man: We believe new technology.
(Footage of Kroft with others; tanks; of poster that says 'FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive: Usama bin Laden'; bin Laden)
KROFT: (Voiceover) They also believe in the cause. Among the graduates are 90 percent of the leadership of the Taliban, the fundamentalist group that now rules Afghanistan just down the road from Haq's school. Here they openly lavish praise on Osama bin Laden, the man the US believes is responsible for bombing two US embassies. It is Haq's graduates who are now bin Laden's protectors.
How do you regard Osama bin Laden?
Mr. HAQ: (Through Translator) What do you think of Abraham Lincoln?
(Footage of Haq and Kroft talking)
KROFT: (Voiceover) The United States is pressuring the Pakistani government to shut down Samiul Haq's operation and rein in other extremist groups around the country, but General Musharraf is in no position to do so even if he wanted to.
Mr. HAQ: (Through Translator) If anyone even dares closing down these schools in Pakistan, the government will be gone within days.
KROFT: How would you do it?
Mr. HAQ: (Through Translator) Our army is also a Muslim army. So if any general tries to do this, the army will turn against him.
(Footage of military personnel)
KROFT: (Voiceover) Some of Musharraf's top generals are known to be sympathetic to the fundamentalists. So any crackdown could bring down Musharraf's government.
Mr. AMED RASHEED: There is considerable support for the Islamic parties in--in the military.
(Footage of Rasheed and Kroft talking; Islamic militants)
KROFT: (Voiceover) Amed Rasheed is one of Pakistan's top journalists and a leading authority on Islamic militants. He says somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 Islamic militants have fought and trained in Afghanistan and then returned home to Pakistan.
What kind of a political force are they within Pakistan?
Mr. RASHEED: Well, I think, you know, they are very powerful force. What we're seeing is that if they want to bring government to a halt, they want to bring the economy to a halt using their street power, they can certainly do it.
KROFT: If push came to shove and the army was asked to crack down on the fundamentalists, would they?
Mr. RASHEED: I don't see the army cracking down on the fundamentalists.
(Footage of General Anthony Zinni and Kroft talking)
KROFT: (Voiceover) One person who has kept a close eye on all of this is Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, the outgoing commander of US forces in South Asia.
Isn't this really the first case where you've had nuclear weapons in the hands of a government that was really politically unstable?
General ANTHONY ZINNI (Marine Corps): I think it is. My worry is that Musharraf may be the--the last hope. We could have fundamentalists in another fundamentalist state that looks like Iran. That could be dangerous for obvious reasons, but we could have complete chaos. We could have something that looks like Afghanistan.
KROFT: You could have in a few years nuclear weapons in Pakistan in the hands of extremist religious leaders.
Gen. ZINNI: Oh, I believe that that's very possible.
(Footage of people arranging weaponry; Lashkar Etiba; weapon being set off; building being shot at; people talking)
KROFT: (Voiceover) What concerns General Zinni is the tens of thousands of the Islamic militants are not only battle tested but well-armed. Although we were forbidden to film, we managed to smuggle a hidden camera into this 200-acre compound belonging to the militant Islamic group called Lashkar Etiba which armed, trained and sent Islamic soldiers off to wage holy war in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya. One of the group's leaders told us his ideal recruit is a boy who has some money to contribute to the cause and wants to die. 'Our strategy,' they told us, 'is to be martyred.'
(Footage of sign reading: 'Foreigners Please Stop Here'; border; military personnel)
KROFT: (Voiceover) Right now, Lashkar fighters are waging a guerrilla war against India, running what they call sure-shot suicide missions across the line of control that divides Pakistani and Indian Kashmir, the border province that is bitterly disputed and has already sparked two wars. To get there, they must pass through a strictly controlled army zone where all movement at the front is tracked from Pakistan army bunkers. The army shows no signs of wanting to stop the Lashkar soldiers.
The view from Washington is that you've got tens of thousands of militants in this country that are using Pakistan as a base to conduct military operations in Afghanistan and in Kashmir and that they're doing it with your support.
Gen. MUSHARRAF: There is no government sponsorship of any kind of military activity either in Afghanistan or Kashmir. There's no such thing.
(Footage of people riding vehicle; countryside; people; Pakistani people)
KROFT: (Voiceover) But the most recent State Department report on terrorism concludes otherwise. It says Pakistan's government has supported groups that engage in violence in Kashmir, and it has provided indirect support for terrorists in Afghanistan. It says the government has tolerated terrorists living and moving freely within its territory.
(Footage of Fazlur Rahman Khalil and Kroft talking)
KROFT: (Voiceover) In Islamabad, not far from General Musharraf's office, we met with one of the militants singled out in the State Department report, Fazlur Rahman Khalil, commander of a group called Harkot Omush Adeen.
You know that the US State Department considers you to be a terrorist.
Mr. FAZLUR RAHMAN KHALIL: (Through Translator) Yes, I know the Americans have declared me a terrorist.
KROFT: The Pakistani government knows that you're here, knows that you live here in the country.
Mr. KHALIL: (Through Translator) Of course they know it. Why not?
KROFT: One of the reasons that the United States is so concerned about this part of the world is because the fact that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Do you support Pakistan's nuclear weapons program?
Mr. KHALIL: (Through Translator) Yes, of course. God has ordered us to make nuclear weapons.
(Footage of personnel; satellite video of attack; Khalil and Kroft talking)
KROFT: (Voiceover) According to the US government, Khalil's group operates terrorist training camps. In fact, some of his men were killed and injured when the US launched a cruise missile attack against Osama bin Laden's base camp in 1998. The State Department says Khalil has threatened to take revenge by staging attacks against US targets in Pakistan.
Is the United States government trying to pressure the Pakistani government to stop your activities?
Mr. KHALIL: (Through Translator) Yes, Americans are putting pressure on Pakistan.
KROFT: If the Pakistani government tried to shut down your operations and the operations of people like you, what do you think the reaction would be of the Pakistani military?
Mr. KHALIL: (Through Translator) If it takes an unjust step against us, it will not be in power for long.
(Footage of Pakistani people; Islamic militants)
KROFT: (Voiceover) So far, General Musharraf has not cracked down on any leading Islamic militants.
There are people here that said the line between the military and some of these militant groups is fuzzy. Are you confident that--that your military is absolutely trustworthy?
Gen. MUSHARRAF: Yes, absolutely. This is not a--I'm very proud to say that Pakistan is not a banana republic.
Gen. ZINNI: We don't need another failed state in the region. We don't need another failed state with nuclear weapons. We don't need a--a state that--that could end up--end up in a nuclear war with the Indians. So I think it's what could happen to Pakistan if Musharraf fails.
KROFT: General Zinni believes the United States should do what it can to shore up General Musharraf's regime. He suggests dropping some of the sanctions now in place against Pakistan, and he supports providing economic assistance through the International Monetary Fund. Others in the administration are more cautious. They say Musharraf is not fully in control of his generals and that supplying him with aid that could find its way to the militants might come back to haunt the United States.
Pakistan was the home of almost all of BCCI's top officials, including founder Agha Hasan Abedi. Long before BCCI itself was started by Abedi, he began the practice of making pay-offs to politicians as a mechanism for securing business and strengthening his banks.
For example, when Abedi formed the United Bank in 1959, he appointed as chairman of its board I. I. Chundrigar, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, who was a close confidante of Pakistani's then current prime minister, Ayub Khan. Abedi maintained close ties to Khan's government, later hiring General Khan's minister of information to become the "publisher" of a BCCI promotional magazine, "South."(85)
When the Pakistani military government was replaced following the civil war that resulted in the severance of East Pakistan into Bangladesh, Abedi became just as cozy with Pakistani "socialist" Ali Bhutto, Khan's ideological opposite, making political payoffs on behalf of Bhutto during elections.(86) When Bhutto was overthrown in 1978 in a military coup, Abedi swiftly changed allegiances again to Bhutto's successor, Islamic "puritan" General Zia.(87) Zia later executed Bhutto for financial crimes, in which Abedi, among others, was clearly involved, while forming close ties to Abedi, on whose financial skills he increasingly relied.
The relationship was personal as well as professional. A sample BCCI payment to General Zia was obtained by the Subcommittee, showing BCCI's branch in the United Arab Emirates making a payment to Zia of 40 million Pakistani rupees -- several hundred thousand dollars -- on May 26, 1985.(88)
The BCCI-Pakistan relationship was important to both the bank and a succession of Pakistani governments. Although Abedi had been close to Bhutto, and formed a close relationship with the current President of Pakistan as well, it was General Zia was who in charge of Pakistan during most of BCCI's existence, and General Zia who did the most for BCCI. As Nazir Chinoy, who was based in Pakistan in the late 1970's and early 1980's, recalled:
Every time Mr. Abedi came, he always called on President Zia. President Zia did not meet Abedi during office hours, but in the night when Mr. Abedi would fly in, they would finish official dinners first and I would be sitting with Abedi and Abedi would leave for two to three hours and meet with Zia. It was the President Zia that he spoke to first before speaking to the finance minister. I think that Abedi used Zia and Zia used Abedi also for the gulf countries, when he wanted some assistance. It was a two way street.(89)
The Pakistani government guaranteed BCCI's ability to push aside immigration and customs requirements for its distinguished Arab visitors on their holidays in Pakistan, and BCCI's ability to engage in profitable banking. In return, BCCI assisting Pakistan in violating monetary controls imposed on its government by international organizations. As Chinoy explained:
In 1979, Pakistan was very short of foreign exchange, and under pressure from the World Bank to devalue the rupee. The World Bank had placed credit ceilings. The total lendings by commercial banks were limited to a figure by the World Bank. For BCCI's lending, the figure given was $750,000 US. This was just not viable to maintain. We had large deposits and had large surplus funds. Mr. Abedi was very keen that these limits go up. The World Bank would increase the limits each quarter based on how much foreign exchange Pakistan was able to generate based on central bank records. If the dollar reserves of the country went up, the World Bank would allow larger lendings in rupees. I am not sure who was the brains behind it, Mr. Abedi or Naqvi but between the two of them they came up with the idea. $50 million would be placed with BCCI Pakistan through BCCI's Kuwaiti affiliate, KIFCO. BCCI transferred money to KIFCO. I have a feeling that KIFCO got the money from Caymans. In any case, Kifco placed the money with BCCI Karachi.(90)
Thus, according to Chinoy, BCCI used an affiliate which was officially separate from BCCI, but secretly controlled by it and owned by it, to launder BCCI funds from one BCCI location to BCCI Pakistan, in order to make it seem as if BCCI Pakistan had generated an extra $50 million in legitimate deposits through this paper transaction. BCCI reported the extra $50 million to the Pakistan central bank, which in turn reported it to the World Bank to show the a $50 million increase in Pakistan's dollar reserves from abroad.(91)
A similar account of these transactions is described in the indictment of BCCI's top officials by the New York District Attorney on July 29, 1992. According to that indictment, the amount involved in all totalled $100 million.(92)
Zia died in a plane crash in mid-August, 1988, leaving a vacuum in relationships that BCCI very much regretted. Among BCCI officials, it was generally believed that if Zia had still been alive in October, 1988, he would have used his influence with the U.S. government to soften the handling of the case against BCCI in Tampa.(93)
With Zia gone, BCCI was not left without resources in Pakistan, however. The man who became President, Ishaq Khan, had served as chairman of the BCCI Foundation throughout the 1980's, and had close ties to Abedi.
The relationship between BCCI, the Pakistani government, and the BCCI Foundation had been deeply entangled from the start. As in the Bangladesh version of the BCCI Foundation, the Pakistani BCCI Foundation was created as a means of sheltering BCCI profits from taxation. In 1981, it received tax-free status while Ishaq Khan was Pakistan's minister of finance. In turn, the foundation received BCCI's profits from Pakistani operations, and then used some of those profits to finance projects the Pakistani government wanted and could not pay for itself. For example, BCCI provided $10 million in grants in the late 1980's to finance an officially "private" science and technology institute named for Pakistani President Ishaq Khan, whose director, A. Qadir Khan, has been closely associated with Pakistan's efforts to build a nuclear bomb. The institute is believed by some experts to be the headquarters for Pakistan's efforts to build an Islamic bomb. In the same period, other BCCI officials were assisting Pakistanis in purchasing nuclear technologies paid for by Pakistani-front companies through BCCI-Canada.(94)
The Foundation also made payments to somewhat less political entities, such as $3 million dollars for an "investment" in Attock Cement, a private cement company in Pakistan ostensibly owned by BCCI front-man Ghaith Pharaon, but in fact a front for BCCI itself. As BCCI officer Nazir Chinoy testified:
this foundation was set up . . . with the government of Pakistan nominating as the chairman, one or two trustees from the public and two or three from BCCI management . . . 90 percent of [BCCI Pakistan's] pre-tax profits being generated in rupees [were] given to the Foundation. It is a lot of money. . . .A charitable foundation is not subject to the same audit strict audit procedures or scrutiny by the central bank or the state bank of Pakistan. . . it becomes an opportunity to get employment. If you want to do somebody a favor, you could put him on the staff of the foundation and find a job for him.(95)
Among other officials whose activities were financed by BCCI in Pakistan were Jam Sadiq Ali, the highest ranking official in the province of Sind -- where Karachi is located -- whose personal expenses were financed by BCCI for years of self-exile in London, and who defended BCCI and Abedi after its collapse.(96)
Yet another high-ranking Pakistani official placed on BCCI's payroll after his government service was Pakistan's former Ambassador to China, Sultan Khan, who was provided a job at BCCI at its representative office in Washington, D.C. There, according to BCCI records, Khan solicited business for BCCI and its secretly-held subsidiary, First American, from the Chinese Embassy and Chinese officials in the mid-1980's, sponsored occasional events on behalf of the Chinese to which he invited prominent Americans, and had lunch with foreign diplomats who controlled accounts whose business BCCI was interested in acquiring. By the late 1980's, Khan continued to go to BCCI's Washington representative office, but according to him had little to do there beyond reading the newspapers and picked up his paycheck until the office closed after BCCI's indictment in Tampa.(97)
According to BCCI's former head of Latin American and Caribbean operations, Akbar Bilgrami, such appointments of retired Pakistani officials were typical.....
85. Testimony of Rahman, S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 1, p. 540.
86. White Paper on the General Elections, Government of Pakistan, July 1978, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 3, pp. 314-317.
87. Former BCCI Pakistan branch chief Nazir Chinoy provided detailed information about the Zia-Abedi relationship in a series of interviews with Senate staff from March 9-16, 1992; see also check to General Zia from BCCI-UAE, May 25, 1985, S. Hrg. 102-350, Pt. 2 p. 511.
88. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 2 p. 510.
89. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.
90. Staff interview, Chinoy, March 9, 1992.
91. Chinoy testimony S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 4 pp. 368-369.
92. See People v. Abedi, New York Supreme Court, County of New York, July 29, 1992.
93. Staff interview, Sakhia, October 7, 1991.
94. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 3 p. 599.
95. S. Hrg. 102-350 Pt. 4 pp. 392-393.
96. Los Angeles Times, August 9, 1991.
97. Staff interview, Sultan Khan, March, 1991.
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