Islamabad terrorist commander linked to Red Mosque leader


Terrorist leader Fidaullah in custody. Photo from Geo News

Pakistani security forces have detained a senior terrorist leader behind suicide attacks in the capital who has links to the leader of the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque.

A terrorist commander known as Fidaullah was arrested on May 27 along with Shah Abdul Aziz, a former member of parliament. The arrests took place outside the home of Maulana Abdullah Aziz, the former leader of the Red Mosque who was released from prison in mid-April on $2,500 bail.

Fidaullah is from the district of Buner and attended the Jamia Faridia, a religious seminary in Islamabad that is run by the Red Mosque. He played a role in the Taliban takeover of Buner in April and ordered the beheadings of at least three men he accused of being spies for the government, according to Dawn.

Fidaullah was a recruiter and handler of suicide bombers; he reportedly recruited from religious schools in Islamabad and sent the men to Waziristan for training. He also planned attacks and scouted targets. He is said to have been behind two recent suicide attacks against security forces in the capital of Islamabad: the April 4 suicide attack at Frontier Constabulary camp that killed eight paramilitary policemen, and the March 23 suicide attack outside a police Special Branch office that killed one officer.

Fidaullah had been in police custody for attacking security forces in 2007, likely during the uprising at the Red Mosque in the spring and summer of 2007. He was released on bail along with others.

He reportedly established a terrorist group known as the “Ghazi Force” which operates in the district of Hangu in the Northwest Frontier Province. The Ghazi Force is named after Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, the brother of Maulana Abdullah Aziz. Ghazi was killed when Pakistani troops assaulted the Red Mosque in July 2007.

The Ghazi Force ran a terror training camp in Guljo in Hangu, “where the militants trained in various terrorism skills, including making explosives, ambushing, sharp shooting and firing.” The Guljo camp is one of more than 150 training camps operated by the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan’s northwest, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

Maulana Aziz was not detained

Police have not arrested Maulana Abdullah Aziz despite the links to Fidaullah and the former member of parliament, and the fact that both men were arrested outside his home.

Maulana Aziz has a long history of inciting violence and supporting Taliban and terrorist activity in Pakistan.

During the early months of 2007, Aziz and his brother Ghazi, attempted to establish an Islamic mini-state in the heart of Islamabad. Their followers established the Lal Masjid Brigade, an armed group of followers who enforced sharia on the streets of Islamabad in a region less than one mile from the parliament and the president’s residence. Ghazi and Aziz’s followers occupied buildings surrounding the Red Mosque complex, beat so-called prostitutes, and kidnapped civilians and police officers.

Security forces stormed the Red Mosque complex after heavy fighting on the streets in Islamabad in late May and early July. Eleven security personnel and more than 100 students were killed during the operation. Ghazi himself was among those killed. Although several hundred followers of the Red Mosque were detained, they were quickly released.

Aziz was the last person involved in the Lal Masjid uprising in government detention. Upon his release, Aziz advocated in a sermon at the Red Mosque that Muslims take up jihad [see LWJ report, Maulana Aziz returns to Islamabad in triumph].

The assault on the Lal Masjid was a rallying cry for Pakistan’s Taliban. Shortly after the assault, the Northwest Frontier Province and the tribal areas, already suffering a deadly insurgency, exploded in violence as the Taliban doubled attacks against security forces and government installations. The government has responded by launching limited military offensives followed by peace negotiations that have increasingly ceded ground to the Taliban.

Aziz has strong links to al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, including Osama bin Laden; Mullah Omar; and Sufi Mohammed, the leader of the pro-Taliban Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed’s Law]; as well as TNSM/Taliban leaders Fariq Mohammed (Bajaur), Mullah Fazlullah (Swat), and Omar Khalid (Mohmand).

Both Ghazi and Aziz were behind the 2004 fatwa, or religious edict, which stated that Pakistani soldiers killed while fighting against the Taliban and al Qaeda in South Waziristan did not deserve a Muslim funeral or burial at Muslim cemeteries. This fatwa had an impact on Pakistani soldiers and many refused to fight.

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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