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l May 2004 l

The Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

l Vol 4, No 1 l

A N A L Y S I S

After Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg
B Raman

The savage murder through beheading of Nick Berg, a 26-year-old American civilian, reportedly somewhere in Iraq last week by a group of five masked men bring to mind the cruel beheading under similar circumstances of Daniel Pearl, a journalist of the 'Wall Street Journal" in the beginning of 2002 by a group of Pakistani jihadi terrorists belonging to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen--Al Alami (HUM-International) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), all the three members Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF), the world-wide activities of which are now being co-ordinated by Pakistan's Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET).

2. The modus operandi is similar and the denunciation of not only President Bush, but also Pakistan's military dictator Pervez Musharraf by the killers in their statement read out  before beheading Berg, is an  indicator of a Pakistani jihadi involvement in the killing.

3. Even though the video-recording of the beheading as displayed on the jihadi web site associated with Al Qaeda  was titled "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shown slaughtering an American",  reliable sources in Karachi, who had seen the video, say that the beheading has the clear finger-print of the same three organisations, which had kidnapped and brutally killed Pearl.

4. If it is proved to be correct that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was, in fact, the person who did the beheading, this would show that these three Pakistani organisations are working in tandem with the organisation of Abu Musab.

5. Since the beginning of last year, jihadis of these three organisations as well as of the LET and the dregs of Al Qaeda, particularly its Chechen component, have been moving into Iraq in small groups or in ones and twos through Saudi Arabia as well as possibly  Iran to participate in the jihad against the US in Iraq and bring about its defeat just as they believe they  brought about the defeat of the erstwhile USSR in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

6. These movements to Iraq started during the Haj pilgrimage before the US-led invasion of Iraq last year. Many members of the HUM and other organisations went to Saudi Arabia under the garb of pilgrims and from there crossed over into Iraq. More went subsequently after the US-led occupation of Iraq. The recent Haj pilgrimage was also taken advantage of  for sending more jihadis to Iraq.

7. Of the organisations from Pakistan presently operating in Iraq, the LEJ is strongly anti-Shia with many years of close association with Abu Musab. The HUM (Al-Alami) and the JEM too have a strong anti-Shia streak. The LET avoids anti-Shia rhetoric and attacks, though.

8. There are conflicting accounts of the jihadi career of Abu Musab. Abu Musab is his kuniyat (assumed name) and not the real name. al-Zarqawi means from Zarqa, which is a  town in Jordan. His assumed name means father of Musab of the town Zarqa in Jordan. One does not know why he uses Musab as his kuniyat. His real name is believed to be Ahmad Fadil Al-Khalailah, which means Ahmad son of Fadil of al-Khalil, which is the name the Arabs use for the Israeli town of Hebran.His family had apparently migrated to Jordan from al-Khalil (Hebran) and he himself was born in Zarqa. He also uses the kuniyats Abu Ahmad, Abu Muhammad and Sakr Abu Suwayd.

9. He fought against the Soviet roops in Afghanistan in the late 1980s. After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, he went back to Jordan and tried to organise a movement against the King. He was arrested by the Jordanian authorities and jailed for seven years. After his release, he took up residence in Europe and then returned to Afghanistan in 1998. He was associated with an organisation  called the Jamaat al-Tawhid wa'l-Jihad [Unity and Jihad Group], whose objective was the overthrow of the monarchy in Jordan and the proclamation of an Islamic Caliphate. The Al Tawhid is believed to have  a presence in Europe, independent of Al Qaeda, particularly in Germany, the UK and Spain. It is not known to be a member of the IIF.

10. The German authorities arrested on April 23, 2002,Shadi Abdalla, Mohamed Abu Dhess, Aschraf al-Dagma, Ismail Shalabi and Djamel Moustfa on charges of belonging to al-Tawhid and planning to carry out acts of terrorism in Germany. The German account of Abu Musab's jihadi career, according to which he had visited Iran in the past, contradicted the perception  of him as anti-Shia.

11.The Jordanian authorities have linked him to al-Qaeda's  Millennium bombing plot targeting the Radisson SAS hotel in Amman as well as other American, Israeli, and Christian religious sites in Jordan and to the  October 28, 2002, assassination of  U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman. Some reports had projected him as a close associate of Osama bin Laden, but other reports had claimed that he had his own training infrastructure in Herat in Afghanistan before 9/11, which was independent of the Al Qaeda's in the Kandahar-Jalalabad region.  His name had not figured much in the accounts of the jihad of the 1980s against the Soviet troops in which he had participated.  His name has been frequently appearing in reports only post-1998 when he was reported to have brought a number of Jordanians to Afghanistan for training, initially in bin Laden's training camp and subsequently in his own. Whenever he visited Pakistan on his way to and back from Afghanistan, he used to stay with the leaders of the LEJ in Jhang in Punjab and in Karachi. He was a close personal friend of Maulana Azam Tariq, former head of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, the political wing of the LEJ, who was assassinated by unidentified elements in October last year.

12. In his address to the UN Security Council  in February 2003, Gen. Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, had said: "Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda lieutenants.  Zarqawi ,a Palestinian born in Jordan, fought in the Afghan war more than a decade ago. Returning to Afghanistan in 2000, he oversaw a terrorist training camp. One of his specialties, and one of the specialties of this camp, is poisons. When our coalition ousted the Taliban, the Zarqawi network helped establish another poison and explosive training  camp, and this camp is located in northeastern Iraq." He then described a camp producing ricin and other poisons, operated by the "radical organization Ansar al-Islam that controls this corner of Iraq" and added: "He traveled to Baghdad in May of 2002 for medical treatment, staying in the capital of Iraq for two months while he recuperated to fight another day. During his stay, nearly two dozen extremists converged on Baghdad and established a base of operations there. These al-Qaida affiliates based in Baghdad now coordinate the movement of people, money and supplies into and throughout Iraq for his network, and they have now been operating freely in the capital for more than eight months.  Iraqi officials deny accusations of ties with al-Qaida. These denials are simply not credible. We know these affiliates are connected to Zarqawi because they remain, even today, in regular contact with his direct subordinates, including the poison cell plotters. And they are involved in moving more than money and materiel."

The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai chapter.

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