GHQ attackers’ leader one of army defectors
LAHORE: The leader of the attack on the General Headquarters (GHQ) is one of several former military personnel to have joined terrorist groups, The Times reported on Monday. Security officials have identified him as Muhammad Aqeel alias Dr Usman and said that he was in the medical corps before joining terrorists based in North Waziristan. Earlier this year police arrested Major Haroon Rashid who, they said, worked for Al Qaeda and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and was involved in the murder of a retired general who led the country’s special forces against the terrorists, the newspaper reported. The major quit the army in 2001 after Pakistan supported the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and went to Waziristan to train terrorists, security sources said. His younger brother, a captain, went to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban after leaving the army in 2002. He was killed in Helmand in 2002. They have been involved in planning strategies and tactics that have made the terrorists more effective in recent years. The terrorists also have sympathisers among serving officers, the Times quoted intelligence sources. daily times monitor
EDITORIAL: ‘Dr Usman’: last desperate act
Aqeel alias Dr Usman has been caught in a seriously wounded state after the terrorist attack on the GHQ by his Amjad Farooqi Group. A “mastermind” of several past terrorist attacks, he decided to become a part of the team that was sure to die in its attempt to enter the GHQ. Why did he do that?
From his dossier of activities, Dr Usman was not an ordinary terrorist led by the nose by his handlers. He was himself the handler. He knew that the attack on the GHQ would not get very far. It was to serve as a symbolic Al Qaeda assertion of power at a time when the world thought it was weakened by the reversals suffered by the Taliban. He knew it was going to be his last act. He did try to blow himself up with an anti-personnel mine but survived the explosion and was captured in a seriously wounded condition.
Aqeel alias Dr Usman was from a locality near Kahuta and has been missing from his home for a long time. One reason he never returned home was that he was a deserter from Army’s Medical Corps and knew that the army would catch him and punish him. He was taken to the Tribal Areas by Ilyas Kashmiri, Al Qaeda’s operations commander and became a warlord in North Waziristan. Kashmiri had also used another retired army officer Major Ashiq to kill a retired commando officer in Islamabad who had taken part in the assault on Lal Masjid in 2007.
Dr Usman had also killed the Surgeon General of Pakistan army, Lt-General Mushtaq Baig, in February 2008, standing aside from the operation. He similarly stood by as his boys attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. He had also masterminded the missile attack on the plane of General Musharraf, but he never directly became a part of the suicide-squad. It is also difficult to believe that his bosses wanted the “mastermind” to become a “suicide-bomber”.
The only credible explanation is that he had come to the end of his tether, realising that the Taliban were under siege and were about to be attacked in South Waziristan and thought he should end his role of a mastermind with a supreme “act of martyrdom”. Now that he is in custody — one hopes fervently that he survives his wounds — the interrogators will surely get to the bottom of the mystery, and may even learn from him important strategic secrets on the eve of the military operation in South Waziristan. (Daily Times)
Rawalpindi attack mastermind previously arrested and released
The terror commander who led the assault and siege on Pakistan’s Army General Headquarters last weekend was previously in police custody for involvement in the suicide attack on the Islamabad Marriott in September 2008.
The Taliban commander, who is known as Dr. Usman, led the 10-man assault team that a few days ago attacked the front checkpoint at Army General Headquarters, entered the compound, and took 42 hostages. In the 18-hour crisis that shut down Pakistan’s Army command, 14 Pakistani troops were killed, including a brigadier general, a lieutenant colonel, and six commandos from the Special Services Group, along with nine terrorists. Thirty-nine hostages were freed during the commando assault that ended the siege.
Dr. Usman is the only terrorist to have survived the assault. He escaped the initial commando assault and was wounded and then captured in another section of the building.
Dr. Usman was previously in the custody of Pakistani security forces for his suspected involvement in the suicide attack at the Islamabad Marriott in September 2008. Dr. Usman was detained along with Rana Ilyas, Muhammad Hameed Afzal, and Tehseenullah Khan, according to a report in Daily Times from October 2008. The four men were described as being “linked to an organized terrorist network operating in the NWFP and Punjab.”
It is not clear when Dr. Usman was released from custody. According to the Daily Times, on Aug. 9, 2009, the Anti-Terrorism Court completed a hearing on an acquittal plea filed by Dr. Usman relating to his involvement in the Marriott suicide attack. The court rejected the plea on Sept. 22, 2009.
Dr. Usman, who is also known as Mohammad Aqeel, served in the Pakistani Army Medical Corps until 2006, when he left the military and joined the Jaish-e-Mohammad, Daily Times reported. He later joined the Harkat-ul-Jihad-Al-Islami, which is led by Qari Saifullah Akhar. Dr. Usman served under Ilyas Kashmiri, the former Special Services Group commando who served as the operations chief for HuJI (the US killed Kashmiri during an airstrike in North Waziristan in September).
Kashmiri formed the Amjad Farooqi Group from the HuJI cadre, and the group is largely manned with Punjabi jihadis, many with military experience. Amjad Farooqi, who was killed by Pakistani security forces in 2004, led two assassination attempts against then-President Pervez Musharraf. Dr. Usman is also thought to be involved in the planning of those operations.
The Amjad Farooqi Group is often referred to as the “Punjabi Taliban” and has close ties to the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, al Qaeda, and other jihadi groups in Pakistan.
Dr. Usman is said to have organized and led some of the most high-profile attacks carried out by the Amjad Farooqi Group. Along with the Islamabad Marriott suicide attack, Dr. Usman has been implicated in the ambush that targeted the Sri Lankan national cricket team in Lahore in March 2008 and the suicide attack that killed Lieutenant General Mushtaq Ahmed Baig, the Surgeon General of the Army Medical Corps, in February 2008. Dr. Usman worked with Mushtaq during his time in the Army. General Mushtaq is the senior-most Pakistani general killed by the Taliban.
The Amjad Farooqi Group and Dr. Usman are also thought to be involved in a suicide bombing in February 2007 at the Islamabad airport that targeted former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
The Lahore High Court has rightly ordered the quashing of two cases registered against the Jamaatud Dawa (JD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. This means that he walks because the government failed to indict him properly. What came to light was quite ridiculous, in fact. The government had not read the law under which it had apprehended Mr Saeed.
It is not so comic when you think that India and the international community are breathing down our neck about holding Mr Saeed to account for acts of alleged terrorism outside Pakistan. The UN Security Council committee on terrorism has declared Jamaatud Dawa a terrorist organisation which is a convenient political act because today states can go to that forum and get any organisation proscribed. Doing the same at home is, however, not that easy because the courts demand evidence of why someone should be detained and why an organisation ma be branded a terrorist organisation.
The cases brought against Mr Saeed were under the Anti-Terrorism Act which bans organisations declared terrorist from making provocative statements and collecting funds. The FIR said that Mr Saeed was inciting the Muslims to launch holy war (Jihad) against the US, Israel and India, in Faisalabad. When asked to prove that Jamaatud Dawa was a banned organisation, all the prosecutors could show was a letter saying the UN Security Council had declared it as such.
The Court could only declare the FIRs unmaintainable. If the effort of the government was to keep Mr Saeed out of circulation, it failed. There was no need to proceed under the Anti-Terrorism Act without first declaring Jamaatud Dawa a terrorist organisation and marshalling evidence against Mr Saeed. Will the PPP government be upset over this lapse of control and find out why the case was filed at all? The world outside will be bemused by it. If the government agencies were not willing to abide by the said UN Security Council resolution, and have no damaging evidence against Mr Saeed, they should have spared the discomfort caused to Mr Saeed who has already been released on bail in earlier cases. (Daily Times)