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.
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