Two of the suspected ring leaders of the al Qaeda London Airline Plot to destroy aircraft en route to the United States have been captured by Pakistani intelligence. Matiur Rehman, who is believed to be a high-ranking leader in al Qaeda’s Pakistan operations, was captured in the Pakistani city of Bahawalpur. Rashid Rauf, who is described as “the planner of the attacks who recruited people to take part in the plot,” was also captured in the city of Bahawalpur. His arrest just prior to the announcement of the airline plot is said to have sparked the arrests of al Qaeda operatives in Britain and Pakistan.
The involvement of Rauf and Rehman highlights the interconnective web of the radical Pakistani terrorist groups. Rehman was a member of Harakat-ul-Jihad-ul-Islami (HUJI) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). As the “keeper of the Jihadi Rolodex,” the list of the tens of thousands of jihadis who passed through al Qaeda’s training camps, Rehman is by default affiliated with the hodge-podge of Pakistani terror groups (see my post on Rehman and Pakistani links for more details.)
TIME reports Rauf is the relative of Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader the Pakistani based Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) which conducts terror attacks in Indian Kashmir. Rauf’s father in law runs the radical “Darul Uloom Madina, one of Pakistan’s biggest and most hard line seminaries, with some 2,000 students, in Bahawalpur.” To restate, both Rehman and Rauf were arrested Bahawalpur, which is highly unlikely to be a coincidence. Rauf’s father founded Crescent Relief, a Muslim charity that purportedly collected funds for earthquake relief and is now under investigation for funneling money to fund the London plot (See Evan Kolhmann’s posts on LeT/JuD and the UK connection to earthquake relief .)
One item of note with TIME’s article on Rauf. TIME describes al Qaeda as “Osama Bin Laden’s Afghanistan-based network,” however this characterization is inaccurate. Al-Qaeda has largely regrouped in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province, particularly in the agencies of North and South Waziristan.