Al Qaeda-trained Britons return from Pakistan

More than 20 Britons who have trained in al Qaeda terror camps inside Pakistan have returned to Britain, according to Pakistani intelligence.

The Britons, whose families are from Pakistan, were monitored by Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency, Sky News reported. But the ISI failed to notify British intelligence until after the men entered the country, the news agency reported.

Pakistani intelligence officials were indifferent about the activities of the Britons, sources told Sky News. “We know the number of British Pakistanis engaged in what we would call suspicious activities is much higher — probably in the hundreds — but, to be frank, this isn’t a Pakistani priority,” one official said. “The intelligence services here have much bigger things to worry about and these guys haven’t committed any crime on Pakistani soil.”

Four of the Britons are thought to have actively fought inside Afghanistan. The men claimed to have entered Pakistan to visit relatives, study, vacation, or work for a charity. “The suspects are aged between 17 and 23 and have apparently created ‘sufficient suspicion’ with their activities for the ISI to believe they pose a ‘potential danger’ to Britain,” Sky News reported.

British intelligence officers are nearly overwhelmed with tracking terror suspects operating inside Britain, many of whom are Pakistanis. In November 2008, an intelligence report stated there are “extremist concentrations” in “London, [and] Birmingham, with significant extremist networks in the South East, notably Luton.”

Thousands of suspected British terrorists are supporting terror attacks inside Britain and abroad. “The majority of extremists are British nationals of south Asian, mainly Pakistani origin but there are also extremists from north and east Africa, Iraq and the Middle East,” the report stated.

Al Qaeda seeks Western passport holders

Al Qaeda has long sought to penetrate security in Western countries by recruiting and training operatives who hold dual passports. These operatives have a better chance of being able to travel to and from Pakistan without raising too many flags.

Many of the major post-Sept. 11 plots and attacks against the West have been traced back to Pakistan’s tribal areas. Western Arabs and South Asians have traveled to Pakistan’s tribal areas for approval, guidance, training, financing, and support to conduct their attacks.

US intelligence officials are concerned that al Qaeda’s next big attack, like past attacks and foiled plots, will originate in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

“We believe the next major attack will be carried out by someone carrying a Western passport,” a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal in September 2008. The official was clearly worried about the deteriorating security situation in northwestern Pakistan.

“It is imperative we stop the next [Sept. 11] attack,” the official said, noting that the Predator campaign in northwestern Pakistan is aimed at taking out al Qaeda’s external network, which is tasked with striking major targets in the West. “This is what we are trying to prevent.”

The US has conducted multiple strikes in northwestern Pakistan in an effort to incapacitate al Qaeda’s external network. The US targeted al Qaeda and Taliban camps 36 times in 2008, and have hit nine camps and compounds this year. Only 10 strikes were carried out in Pakistan during 2006 and 2007 combined.

Many of the strikes in 2008 and 2009 can be directly traced back to al Qaeda’s external operations network.

The first major attack strike against al Qaeda’s external operations network took place in the town of Damadola in the Bajaur tribal agency on May 14, 2008. The missile strike killed Abu Sulayman Jazairi, a senior Algerian al Qaeda operative who Western intelligence sources described as the operational commander tasked with planning attacks on the West. Fourteen other terrorists were killed in the strike, including several members of Jazairi’s staff.

Jazairi succeeded Abu Ubaidah al Masri, a senior al Qaeda operative who served as al Qaeda operations chief for global strikes. Ubaidah is thought to have died of an illness. In addition to being al Qaeda’s external operations chief, Jazairi also was a senior trainer and an explosives expert. These skills enabled him to directly train operatives for strikes in the West.

The next major strike occurred more than two months later in the Azam Warsak region in South Waziristan on July 28. The attack killed Midhat Mursi al Sayyid Umar, a senior al Qaeda commander who is better known as Abu Khabab al Masri, along with four members of his staff.

Khabab served as the chief of al Qaeda’s weapons of mass destruction program, known as Project al Zabadi. He is best known for running a training camp at Derunta in Afghanistan, where he conducted experiments on animals to determine the effectiveness of chemical weapons. Khabab was also a master bomb-marker, and passed his skills on to his associates.

The third strike that can be directly traced to al Qaeda’s external operations is the Aug. 30, 2008, attack on an al Qaeda safe house in the Korzai region near Wana in South Waziristan. The target of the strike was a known al Qaeda safe house, locals later told the Pakistani press. Fiveal Qaeda operatives were killed in the attack, including two Canadians of Arab origin. The men held Canadian passports.

The fourth attack took place on Oct. 15, 2008, in North Waziristan. The airstrike killed Abu Jihad al Masri, the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Group and a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive council. Abu Jihad was the chief of al Qaeda’s intelligence branch and directs al Qaeda’s intelligence shura. He also directs external operations, largely in Egypt, that provide a foothold into Europe.

Al Qaeda is known to run several camps for Westernized members. In October 2007, the Asia Times reported that Abu Haris al Jazairi, which is a name used by slain external operations chief Abu Sulayman al Jazairi, ran a large facility in Mir Ali in North Waziristan.

“According to the intelligence reports, this al-Qaeda camp is planning attacks in Europe, notably the United Kingdom, Germany and France,” the Asia Times reported. Jazairi ran the camp along with a French citizen known as Najib al Fala, and four Tunisians known as Omar Jalali, Bilal Abu Daghlol, Hussain al Babi, and Ahmed Taufiq.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • NS says:

    I come to this blog and i read news articles like these and i keep getting reminded how this is an ever expansive battlefield that rapidly spans continents of the world.
    And then I read this –
    the OMB will no longer use the words “global war on terror”
    It is now going to be called “Overseas Contingency Operation”.

  • Midnight says:

    The really hard thing to believe it that this has been going on for years. Methodical, fast and hard. The amazing thing is that it is a successful, serious campaign.
    The way that we fight stuns even me. You have never been more right in your life. I think that your comment is even more pertinent than the issues being covered here.
    J Edgar Hoover actually got up and danced one day to the detriment of everyone. That is the first problem with the fight against the struggle.
    I have a friend who is in Somalia. She grew up here in the States. We here in the States accept many Visas from other countries to educate the young from other countries I love the program. The problem is that after being educated they never want to go back home and use what they learn they want to stay. Therefore the country that they come here from never grows from their education. I could go on and on however, if we refused to allow them to stay many of these countries would already be lifted and in need of nothing. Need presses the issue of terror and boosts it but if you bring this up the public is outraged. Somolia is on a path to Sharia law. I was personally glad to see the currrent admin placed and considered it a step in the right path for the people. They are far from perfect. The one thing that you have to give to, ‘The Youth,’ is that they go and fight for what they believe in. People understand that. They sometimes call them war mongers too, but they are winning because of plain old common sense.
    That is enlightening to all of us.

  • KW64 says:

    RE: NS Comment
    Hopefully, the Brits aren’t burying their heads in the sand like OMB or these 20 returnees will leave them burying more than heads. But, It would be so much easier to kill these snakes while they are being hatched rather than after they disperse.

  • SwenderL says:

    Taliban own a emerald mine in Swat, says BBC. Money can be smuggled easily if not weapons.
    UK will pay for friendship with Pak, this is the last summer for Pak govt. to perform or perish.

  • Dear Bill,
    If Al Qaeda trained Britons return from Pakistan, they returned where – they returned to their homes where the British govt played a large part in hosting these Islamists. I will give you two points – you are free to prove them otherwise:
    1. British government cultivated these Islamists in UK specially through the mosques – where the preachers are “psychologically” in Pakistan. MQM’s head Altaf Hussain, the HQ of Hizbut Tahrir, Tablighi Jamaat are all in UK. (WHY??).
    2. Find out the curious case of British agent Omar Saeed Sheikh – A British citizen. He is more famous for “alleged” killing of Daniel Pearl and also wiring of money to 9/11 hijackers through the then ISI chief Mahmood Ahmed. After 9/11, Omar Sheikh travelled twice to UK to meet his parents – why was he not apprehended at UK airport?
    And leave aside the Islamists. LTTE is one of the major terrorist organizations in the world. The MPs who participated and spoke at the celebration of the LTTE’s brutal terrorist leader Prabhakaran’s birthday were Edward Davey (Liberal Democrat), Siobhain McDonagh (Labour), John McDonnell (Labour), Andrew Pelling (Independent), Joan Ryan (Labour), and Vireindra Sharma (Labour). (WHY BILL??)
    Bill, even in Kosovo, UK used these Islamist terrorists based in UK to fight – all these are well documented.
    I do not know then, why anyone should be surprised with your story if some of these “hens are coming home to roost.”

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 03/25/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • davidp says:

    In Australia, it is now illegal to obtain terrorist training or assist a terrorist organisation overseas. Have these made criminal in the U.K. too? It is a reasonable law and would allow imprisonment of these trained terrorists for some years (although I don’t think we’ve yet decided to make it punishable by permanent incarceration, so we’d probably let them out after 5 years with a bigger chip on their shoulders)

  • bard207 says:

    Bengal Under Attack,
    1. British government cultivated these Islamists in UK specially through the mosques – where the preachers are “psychologically” in Pakistan. MQM’s head Altaf Hussain, the HQ of Hizbut Tahrir, Tablighi Jamaat are all in UK. (WHY??).
    Altaf Hussain is an Islamist?
    Do you have some documentation that contradicts the Wikipedia article about MQM and Altaf Hussain and proves that Altaf Hussain is an Islamist?

  • Rhyno327 says:

    Europe will pay a heavy price in the long run for opening thier borders to islamic countries. One day soon, moslems will outnumber the indig. pop of Europe. Look at the birth rate between the 2 groups. Wat the Turks could not do by force of arms is being done quietly-the arabization of Europe. The UK tolerates these radical imams and thier mosques, which they will certainly pay for soon enough. God save the Queen!? Oh boy…


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