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    South Asia
     Sep 7, 2007
The Pakistani road to German terror
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

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

Islam, 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.

Abu 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.

The three 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 targets.

"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 years ago.

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.

The 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.

Thousands of 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.

However, 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 Waziristans.

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 saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com.

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

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