Matiur Rehman, image from ABC News
Like the 7/7 London Tubes bombing in 2005, the London Airline Plot to destroy over 10 airplanes transiting from London to the United States is being traced back to Pakistan. Pakistan’s Daily Times reports seed money was sent to Pakistan under the guise of earthquake relief and diverted to fund the airline attack. “Muslim Charity of UK remitted… a huge amount of money under the head of “earthquake relief” to the accounts of three individuals in three different banks – Saudi Pak Bank, Standard Chartered and Habib Bank Ltd.” According to B. Rahman of the South Asia Analysis Group, many of the plotters also traveled to Pakistan for training, also under the guise of supporting the earthquake relief effort:
According to sources in the Pakistani Police, some of the 18 persons of Pakistani origin detained by the British Police in connection with the investigation had traveled to Pakistan after the earth-quake of October, 2005, to work as humanitarian volunteers in the relief camps run by the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD), the mother organization of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), in the POK and in the Balakote area of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). These sources say that during their stay in the relief camps, they were taken by the Jundullah, a Pakistani jihadi terrorist organization which is close to Al Qaeda, to its training camps in the Waziristan area of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan for training. They later returned to the humanitarian relief camps of the JUD.
As the evidence of the Pakistani connection mounts, reports indicate Pakistani terrorist and al Qaeda member Matiur Rehman is one of the prime suspects in the London Airline Plot. While Rehman is widely being described as an al Qaeda bomb expert, he is intimately associated to the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, the multiple assassination plots on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Aziz and the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Karachi in March of 2006.
ABC News’ Alexis Debat has done the lion’s share of the investigation of Matiur Rehman over the past six months. Just one day prior to the uncovering of the London Airline Plot, Mr. Debat described Rehman as “The Man Who Is Planning the Next Attack on America.” In March, Mr. Debat explained Rehman and Amjad Farooqi’s role as the liaisons between al Qaeda and the Pakistani jihadi community. Rehman and Farooqi (who was killed by Pakistani police in September of 2004) maintain what is known as the “Rolodex of Jihad,” the list of everyone who has passed through al Qaeda run training camps in Pakistan:
The chief liaison between al Qaeda and this community of Pakistani militants, according to Pakistani military sources, was a 25-year-old Harakat ul Ansar militant named Amjad Farooqi, who, along with his young deputy Matiur Rehman, compiled a massive log listing the name, affiliation, skills set and contact information of every Pakistani militant trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan. This “Rolodex of Jihad,” as it is sometimes referred to in the Western intelligence community, was to serve as a database for recruiting volunteers for future terrorist operations in South Asia and the West.
After its uncomfortable retreat in Pakistan in late 2001, al Qaeda was forced to rely on this vast community of Pakistani militants for its survival and the continuity of its activities. With the help of millions of dollars of bin Laden’s money, and in close cooperation with al Qaeda’s operations chief — and 9/11 mastermind — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (also a Pakistani), the two “archivists” of the al Qaeda-Pakistani nexus, Amjad Farooqi and Matiur Rehman, drew heavily on their “directory” to lay out an extensive and clandestine logistical infrastructure for al Qaeda’s senior leadership on the run in Pakistan, as well as conduct several “joint operations” such as the assassination of American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.
With the help of these militants, whose organizations were officially “banned” (but never seriously dismantled) by the Pakistani government in 2001 and 2002, such high-profile targets of the American-Pakistani “war on terror” as Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (all involved in the planning of 9/11) were able to navigate clandestinely throughout Pakistan’s urban areas for several months before being arrested (always as the result of an American intelligence operation).
Upon the death of Farooqi, Rehman took over the “Rolodex of Jihad.” Farooqi was preceded by Abu Faraj al-Libbi (captured) and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (captured), both of whom were considered al Qaeda’s military commander. Rehman is now the most wanted terrorist in Pakistan (no small feat in a country ripe with terrorists), and is believed to be in charge of al Qaeda’s Pakistani organization. Rehman is also believed to be the new chief of al Qaeda’s military committee, as Saif al-Adel’s day-to-day command of the organization may be compromised by his stay in Iran.
The Pakistan connection highlights the inherent dangers in leaving the western regions of Pakistan outside of the control of the central government. The Federally Administered Tribal Agencies of North and South Waziristan in the North West Frontier Province are derisively known as Talibanistan, as the Taliban and al Qaeda openly rule in these regions and the Pakistani government has ben forced to negotiate with the Taliban. The agencies of Dera Ismal Khan, Tank, Khyber and Peshawar are slipping under the control of the Taliban. Bajaur province is believed to be al Qaeda and the Taliban’s command, control and staging area for fighters entering northeastern Pakistan, and numerous senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed in this province. The city of Quetta in Baluchistan is the staging area for the Taliban moving into Kandahar and Helmand provinces.
The Taliban use the al Qaeda camps to train arm and stage fighters into Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda is using the camps to train their international cadres and recruits for terror missions against the world. The destruction of al Qaeda’s safe haven in Afghanistan during Taliban rule has been essentially been negated by the rise of Talibanistan in western Pakistan.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.