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    South Asia
     May 17, 2007
Al-Qaeda strikes at anti-Taliban spies
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - There was no doubt in the Pakistani intelligence community when Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah was killed in Afghanistan last weekend by US-led forces that retaliatory action would be taken against anti-Taliban collaborators.

They did not have to wait long. On Tuesday, a suicide bomber reportedly carrying a warning for "spies for America" blew up patrons of a hotel in the northern city of Peshawar, near the



Afghan border, killing at least 25 people.

The choice of the Marhaba Hotel was significant. It was owned by an Uzbek named Sadaruddin, a close relative of anti-Taliban leader General Abdul Rasheed Dostum.

Initial media reports said that shortly before Dadullah's death, one of his sons had been arrested at the hotel by police accompanied by an official of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after being fingered by the owner.

However, Asia Times Online has learned that the security forces deny any such arrest. Instead, they hint that an important lead was discovered at the hotel, "but it was not his [Dadullah's] son". Days later, Dadullah died in a firefight with US and Afghan troops in a remote part of Helmand province.

The owner of the hotel and several of his sons died along with the mostly Afghan citizens in Tuesday's attack. A message was found taped to the severed leg of the bomber that all spies for the US would meet the same fate as those killed.

Information obtained by Asia Times Online indicates that the suicide bomber was briefed and dispatched from a camp in Afghanistan by al-Qaeda's best trainer, Abu Laith al-Libby. Libby is obsessed with rooting out US spies from within the ranks of Pakistan's law-enforcement agencies.

Libby is a hardened fighter of Libyan origin who has trained Afghans in the operation of missiles and rockets. He has previously operated in Afghanistan, but the death of Dadullah has turned his attention to the Pakistan-based US proxy network of informers.

After September 11, 2001, when Pakistan signed on for the US-led "war on terror", many anti-Taliban officials were recruited and remain active in passing on information for monetary reward, and even trips to the United States as guests of the State Department.

Immediately after the blast in Peshawar, a red alert was declared in the already violence-hit southern port city of Karachi, which has been the epicenter of anti-al-Qaeda operations in the past. Several police officials are known to have coordinated, unofficially, with FBI cells.

Most of the al-Qaeda members arrested over the past six years have been taken in Karachi, and mostly after information was received from within the ranks of the police. These officials act independently of the government.

The trend was common across the country and at one stage the government put its foot down. Police officials were warned that if any of them went on the US State Department program without prior permission, strict disciplinary action would be taken.

Nevertheless, elements in the police and their proxy networks are still the main source of information in the "war on terror" campaign in Pakistan, and the next showdown is likely to be between these networks and al-Qaeda.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com.

(Copyright 2007 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


Dadullah's death hits Taliban hard (May 15, '07)

 
 



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