UK militant ‘killed in Pakistan’ (BBC News, 22 Nov 2008) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7743334.stm
A fugitive British militant linked to an alleged UK plot to use liquid bombs to blow up transatlantic airliners has been killed in Pakistan, reports say.
Pakistani media said Rashid Rauf, born in Birmingham, was killed in a US air strike in North Waziristan, a haven for militants and the Taleban.
Mr Rauf, on the run after escaping from Pakistani custody, was seen as a link between the UK plotters and Pakistan.
Three men were convicted in the UK in September of conspiracy to murder.
News of the liquid bomb plot paralysed global air travel, prompting authorities to implement stringent security measures at airports around the world.
Rashid Rauf was arrested in Pakistan on 9 August 2006, at the request of US authorities, who feared he was about to disappear into the remote north-west of the country.
ALLEGED LIQUID BOMB PLOT
Group accused of plotting to carry liquid explosives onto planes at London Heathrow Airport
Arrests in August 2006, after Rashid Rauf detained in Pakistan
Move prompted increased security at UK and US airports
At trial, three men convicted of conspiracy to murder
None found guilty of conspiring to target passenger aircraft
Profile: Rashid Rauf
One day later authorities in the UK and the US implemented strict security measures at airports, fearing possible bomb attacks.
Hundreds of flights were delayed at airports around the world with massive disruption at major UK terminals and in the US, amid security service fears that militants were planning to mix liquids into lethal explosives.
Terrorism charges against the Briton were eventually dropped but he remained under detention in Pakistan as a “preventative measure”.
Mr Rauf, who is thought to have Pakistani citizenship through his family connections, then escaped custody in December 2007 while on his way to an extradition hearing under police guard.
West Midlands Police in the UK were seeking his extradition from Pakistan as a suspect in the murder of his uncle, who was killed six years ago.
Several Pakistani TV channels reported that Mr Rauf was one of five people killed on Saturday by a presumed US attack in the country’s remote north-western region.
Unnamed Pakistani intelligence sources said that a wanted Egyptian militant, Abu Zubair al-Masri, was among the others killed.
However, the BBC has so far been unable to independently confirm the news.
A young Asian woman at the Rauf family home in the Ward End area of Birmingham said they had had no confirmation of his death, and no contact from Britain’s Foreign Office.
She said the family wanted to be left alone “to deal with this”.
Islamist militants use the mountainous tribal areas along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan as a safe haven for training and resupply.
The US regularly uses pilotless drones to attack militant targets in the region, a tactic that has caused growing resentment among Pakistan’s leaders.
On Thursday the government summoned the US ambassador in Islamabad to protest one day after an attack deep inside Pakistani territory killed five people – including at least one alleged militant.
Pakistan says the constant missile strikes infringe its sovereignty. The BBC’s Barbara Plett, in Islamabad, says the attacks spark widespread anger in Pakistan – especially among tribal figures.
In that context, Saturday’s attack will be reported in Pakistan as another violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and not for the possible killing of Rashid Rauf, our correspondent says.
The US says the insurgents use the territory to launch attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Islamabad has been pursuing a policy of ad-hoc peace deals with local Taleban commanders.
Rashid Rauf was a living example of the danger from Pakistan’s jihadis – until he was killed
The case of Rashid Rauf underscores not only the danger posed to Britain from Pakistan’s jihadi underworld but also the friction between the two countries which can make terrorism so difficult to combat.
By Isambard Wilkinson in Islamabad
Last Updated: 6:14PM GMT 22 Nov 2008
As one of the “most wanted” al-Qaeda terrorist suspects, Rauf, who held dual British-Pakistani nationality, was at the centre of wrangling between Britain and Pakistan from the moment he was seized.
After his arrest in 2006 in the southern Punjabi town of Bahawalpur at the behest of Washington, Britain tried assiduously to secure his extradition from Pakistan, an ally in the War on Terror.
Not only was he wanted in connection with the trans-Atlantic bomb plot, but he was also alleged to have been a point man for British nationals seeking to contact al-Qaeda members in Pakistan for training and to wage jihad.
British officials became exasperated with their Pakistani counterparts who made a series of awkward demands in return.
But in December 2007, Rauf escaped, in highly questionable circumstances, from Pakistani police custody.
After an appearence in a court in Rawalpindi, he was allowed by his two prison escorts to visit an American hamburger restaurant and then a mosque, from where he escaped through a back door. Rauf may well have sought refuge in the lawless border tribal areas which are a refuge for al-Qaeda.
One British security service official claimed not to know whether the escape was “cock up or conspiracy”, but the episode further damaged the already fraught relationship – especially because some Pakistani officials were clearly less than enthusiastic about handing Rauf over to Britain.
Their reticence may have been connected to Rauf’s alleged personal links with a jihadi terrorist group, Jaish-i-Mohammed, which has been backed by Pakistani military intelligence.
While in Pakistan, Rauf married a relative of one of Pakistan’s most notorious militant leaders, Azhar Masood Azhar, the head of the group.
Now Gen Musharraf has gone but President Asif Zardari and his ruling Pakistan People’s Party have little control over pro-jihadi stalwarts who are still in the establishment.
British intelligence officials fear that jihadis in Pakistan now pose more of a threat to Britain than they did seven years ago at the time of the Sept 11 attacks. Significant numbers of British citizens continue to flock to the tribal areas for jihad training, perhaps more than ever before.
But the security threat does not only come from the lawless tribal areas. Southern Punjab, where Rauf was arrested, was a clandestine hub used by Pakistani military intelligence to foster terrorist groups in the 1990s for jihad in Indian-held Kashmir.
Owais Ghani, the governor of the tribal areas, and senior military officials have warned publicly in recent months that the region continues to produce militants who are flocking to join the Taliban and fight the Pakistan Army.
The conditions for the production of more Raufs are still in place, but his reported death highlights American willingness to act where Pakistan cannot or will not – and ignore the shrieks from Pakistanis about US violations of their sovereignty.
“It goes to show that US intelligence is improving if they did hit Rauf,” said Talat Masood, a retired general and defence analyst.
“The effect of Pakistan’s protest against such strikes will be minimal if there is convincing proof that the missile strikes are hitting senior al-Qaeda figures, which Pakistan has been unable to do.”