|Jihadi anger: After Italy, Australia?
By B Raman
Why? Who? Whose
These questions come to mind after
the truck bomb suicide explosion outside the camp
headquarters of the Italian military police in Nasiriyah
in southern Iraq on Wednesday, killing 17 Italian
personnel and at least eight Iraqis.
November 12, 2002, the anger of Osama bin Laden's
al-Qaeda and the International Islamic Front (IIF)
floated by him in 1998 was mainly directed against the
United States and Israel. In a message, reportedly of
bin Laden, broadcast by Aljazeera television on that
November day, this list was expanded by him to include
the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Canada and
Australia. He accused them of cooperating with the US in
its "war against terrorism".
The UK was included
because of its closeness to the US. Germany and Canada
were included because of their important role in the
International Security Assistance Force in Kabul. In
their sermons in the madrassas (religious
schools) of Pakistan, the pro-bin Laden and pro-Taliban
mullahs justified the inclusion of Australia because of
its role in East Timor. They projected the separation of
East Timor from Indonesia and the Muslim ummah
and its subsequent independence as the outcome of a
Christian missionary conspiracy spearheaded by
Australia. They were also critical of Australia's
whole-hearted support to the US in the "war against
No convincing reasons were
forthcoming for the inclusion of France and Italy in the
expanded list of potential IIF targets. Italy
subsequently disappeared from the statements purportedly
emanating from al-Qaeda and IIF personalities. It did
not figure in the message, purported to be of Ayman
al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's number 2, broadcast by
Aljazeera on May 21,calling for reprisal attacks against
the US and some of its allies for occupying Iraq.
The message, inter alia, said: "O Muslims, take
matters firmly against the embassies of America,
England, Australia and Norway and their interests,
companies and employees. Burn the ground under their
feet, as they should not enjoy your protection, safety
or security. Expel those criminals out of your
countries. Do not allow the Americans, the British, the
Australians, the Norwegians and the other crusaders who
killed your brothers in Iraq to live in your countries.
Wreak havoc on them."
While the calls for
attacks on the US, the UK and Australia were not a
surprise, the call for reprisals against Norway was,
since Norway was not one of the allies of the US in
Iraq. Until now, it is not clear why he included Norway
in the list.
While there has been some
expression of anger against Italy, it was not strong
enough to have made one think that that country could be
a target of attack. And that too, in such a devastating
More than a reflection of anger against
Italy because of its support to the US, the explosion is
also meant to warn other countries to keep away from
Iraq. Being a suicide attack, the explosion targeting
the Italians is most probably the work of non-Iraqis.
There is so far no reliable evidence of any Iraqi, Sunni
or Shi'ite participating in suicide explosions.
According to sources in the Binori madrassa of
Karachi in Pakistan, most of the suicide blasts in Iraq
have been carried out by Chechen members of the IIF,
particularly of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET).
has recently been an infiltration of two fresh groups
with a total strength of about 70 members, most of them
Arab nationals of Chechen ancestry, into Iraq from
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, taking the total
number of foreign jihadis operating in Iraq to about 270
to 320. Funds are being collected in the streets,
mosques and madrassas of Pakistan by the LET and
other Pakistani components of the IIF to support the
families of 30 jihadis who, according to them, martyred
themselves by volunteering for suicide missions in Iraq.
It is not clear whether this 30 formed part of the
Australia has reasons to
be more worried than any other country, except the US
and the UK, about the threat of being targeted by the
IIF. The campaign against it in the mosques and
madrassas of Pakistan since last November has
been quite virulent. The LET, which has close links with
Jemaah Islamiyah and extremist organizations of
Indonesia, shares their anger against Australia because
of its perceived role in East Timor. Moreover, for the
first time, reports coming out of the madrassas
of Pakistan speak of the presence of Australian students
in some of them.
A report carried by the News,
the largest circulated English daily of Pakistan, on
September 23, said that 147 foreign students were
studying in the madrassa Jamia Abu Bakar of
Karachi and that they have come from Thailand, Malaysia,
Indonesia, Uganda, Djibouti, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, the
Philippines, Maldives, Australia, Ghana, Somalia,
Cambodia, Cameroon, Kenya, Senegal and Afghanistan. The
total number of Australian Muslims, almost all of them
foreign converts to Islam and not Muslim migrants,
studying in the various madrassas of Pakistan, is
estimated at not more than about 12 to 15. Even such a
small number could pose a grave threat if they were
motivated to take to suicide terrorism.
recent arrest in Australia of 35-year-old Willie Virgile
Brigitte, also known as Abderrahman, a French national
born on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, who
later converted to Islam, his expulsion to France and
reports of his links to the LET should be a wakeup call
for Australia, which has already banned the LET. Sources
in the Binori madrassa claim that he actually
belonged to the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra and not to the LET.
Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, was kidnapped and
killed when he went to Karachi in January last year to
probe into the links of Richard Reid, the shoe bomber,
with the Fuqra. These sources further claim that
Brigitte knew the shoe bomber.
is Additional Secretary (ret), Cabinet Secretariat,
Government of India, and presently director, Institute
For Topical Studies, Chennai; former member of the
National Security Advisory Board of the Government of
India. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. He was also head of the
counter-terrorism division of the Research &
Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency,
from 1988 to August, 1994.