The Pakistani road to
German terror By Syed Saleem
KARACHI - Once again, fingers are
being pointed at Pakistan over terror suspects
being trained in the country. Men linked to the
July 7, 2005, attacks on the London transport
system, and others in separate incidents, have
been said to have ties to Pakistan, and on
Wednesday German prosecutors stated that three men
they had arrested on suspicion of planning
"massive" attacks in the country had trained at
camps in Pakistan.
Two of the men are
German nationals who have converted to
while the third is Turkish. German officials said
they belonged to a cell of the Sunni Islamic Jihad
Union, an al-Qaeda-linked group that is believed
to be an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of
Uzbekistan, which was active in Afghanistan. Its
leader, Tahir Yuldashev, is based in Pakistan.
It is entirely possible that the men
trained in Pakistan, in which case their teacher
would have been al-Qaeda commander Abu Hanifah,
who has a base in the town of Mir Ali in the North
Waziristan tribal area.
"Abu Hanifah was
commanding 27 Turks when last he was seen in Mir
Ali, and if the people who were arrested in
Germany are genuinely part of al-Qaeda and
confessed to be trained in Pakistan, they could
only be trained at Abu Hanifah's camp," a contact
in North Waziristan told Asia Times Online.
The control of all foreign fighters in
North Waziristan and South Waziristan from
different regions of the world is generally in the
hands of Arabs, the most astute and trained
commanders. For example, Abu Nasir commands
Chinese, Uighurs and Pakistanis; Abu Akash looks
after Uzbeks and Tajiks, while Abu Hanifah takes
care of Turks, Kurds and Bosnians.
Hanifah was among the al-Qaeda commanders expelled
from Mir Ali by the Pakistani Taliban early this
year in a conflict between the local tribals and
foreign fighters, whose authority the Taliban
resented. Several hundred Uzbeks were massacred in
the unrest. Abu Hanifah, along with Abu Akash and
Abu Nasir, took refuge in the isolated and
inhospitable Shawal, a no-man's land that spans
the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
men arrested in Germany had amassed about 700
kilograms of hydrogen peroxide, the same chemical
used by the suicide bombers in the 2005 London
attacks that killed 56 people. Hydrogen
peroxide (3% hydrogen peroxide by weight; 97%
water) can easily be bought and is commonly used
to bleach hair and disinfect wounds. Greater
concentrations can be used as explosives.
Al-Qaeda is known to train people in
explosives that contain ingredients that are
easily available in the market and whose purchases
don't draw attention to the buyers.
Contacts Asia Times Online spoke to who
are familiar with al-Qaeda believe that if the
German plot is genuine, only the United States and
its strategic installations would have been the
"Countries like Germany and to
some extent France have not really been on
al-Qaeda's radar, and if there were any strategy,
it would be to only damage American interests," a
contact based in North Waziristan said.
German authorities, who had been tracking
the three men since December, said they had
planned to target facilities visited by Americans,
such as nightclubs, pubs and airports, as well as
the Ramstein US air base near Frankfurt.
According to the authorities, the suspects
had military-style detonators and enough material
to make bombs more powerful than those that killed
191 people in Madrid in 2004 and 56 in London two
Al-Qaeda back in
favor It is precisely because of camps in
Pakistan such as the one run by Abu Hanifah that
the US and European countries want Islamabad to
take more decisive action against them. So
frustrated has the US become that it has
threatened to launch its own attacks, or send in
North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops from
across the border in Afghanistan.
attacks on the US on September 11, 2001, made
al-Qaeda highly popular in the mountain vastness
of the Waziristans, and when the Taliban retreated
from Afghanistan in the face of the US invasion in
late 2001, al-Qaeda, which had had bases in
Afghanistan, was welcomed.
young Waziris and Mehsud tribal youths happily
accepted the command of al-Qaeda leaders in
organizations such as Jundullah. They were
respected as superheroes, and the young militants
anticipated more al-Qaeda-led attacks against the
US that would eventually destroy its might. Out of
this wreckage, the belief went, an Islamic
caliphate would be revived in Pakistan and
Afghanistan and Muslim armies would eventually
march to liberate Palestine.
nothing like that happened and indigenous Islamic
resistance groups in Iraq and Afghanistan emerged
as more successful, and the al-Qaeda heroes in
Pakistan lost a lot of their appeal, leading to
infighting with the Pakistani Taliban and their
expulsion from the Waziristans this year.
Abu Hanifah and other al-Qaeda commanders
worked hard on restoring their image and regaining
respect, which they managed to do within a few
months, and they began to operate again in the
If the suspects arrested in
Germany are indeed products of Abu Hanifah's
"school", his standing and al-Qaeda's will rise
even further in the eyes of local militants, and
the pressure on the US and it allies in the region
to do something about it will grow even stronger.
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia
Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be
reached at[email protected]