Rawalpindi attack mastermind previously arrested and released

The terror commander who led the assault and siege on Pakistan’s Army General Headquarters last weekend was previously in police custody for involvement in the suicide attack on the Islamabad Marriott in September 2008.

The Taliban commander, who is known as Dr. Usman, led the 10-man assault team that a few days ago attacked the front checkpoint at Army General Headquarters, entered the compound, and took 42 hostages. In the 18-hour crisis that shut down Pakistan’s Army command, 14 Pakistani troops were killed, including a brigadier general, a lieutenant colonel, and six commandos from the Special Services Group, along with nine terrorists. Thirty-nine hostages were freed during the commando assault that ended the siege.

Dr. Usman is the only terrorist to have survived the assault. He escaped the initial commando assault and was wounded and then captured in another section of the building.

Dr. Usman was previously in the custody of Pakistani security forces for his suspected involvement in the suicide attack at the Islamabad Marriott in September 2008. Dr. Usman was detained along with Rana Ilyas, Muhammad Hameed Afzal, and Tehseenullah Khan, according to a report in Daily Times from October 2008. The four men were described as being “linked to an organized terrorist network operating in the NWFP and Punjab.”

It is not clear when Dr. Usman was released from custody. According to the Daily Times, on Aug. 9, 2009, the Anti-Terrorism Court completed a hearing on an acquittal plea filed by Dr. Usman relating to his involvement in the Marriott suicide attack. The court rejected the plea on Sept. 22, 2009.

Dr. Usman, who is also known as Mohammad Aqeel, served in the Pakistani Army Medical Corps until 2006, when he left the military and joined the Jaish-e-Mohammad, Daily Times reported. He later joined the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, which is led by Qari Saifullah Akhar. Dr. Usman served under Ilyas Kashmiri, the former Special Services Group commando who served as the operations chief for HuJI (the US killed Kashmiri during an airstrike in North Waziristan in September).

Kashmiri formed the Amjad Farooqi Group from the HuJI cadre, and the group is largely manned with Punjabi jihadis, many with military experience. Amjad Farooqi, who was killed by Pakistani security forces in 2004, led two assassination attempts against then-President Pervez Musharraf. Dr. Usman is also thought to be involved in the planning of those operations.

The Amjad Farooqi Group is often referred to as the “Punjabi Taliban” and has close ties to the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, al Qaeda, and other jihadi groups in Pakistan.

Dr. Usman is said to have organized and led some of the most high-profile attacks carried out by the Amjad Farooqi Group. Along with the Islamabad Marriott suicide attack, Dr. Usman has been implicated in the ambush that targeted the Sri Lankan national cricket team in Lahore in March 2009 and the suicide attack that killed Lieutenant General Mushtaq Ahmed Baig, the Surgeon General of the Army Medical Corps, in February 2008. Dr. Usman worked with Mushtaq during his time in the Army. General Mushtaq is the senior-most Pakistani general killed by the Taliban.

The Amjad Farooqi Group and Dr. Usman are also thought to be involved in a suicide bombing in February 2007 at the Islamabad airport that targeted former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

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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  • jayc says:

    Pakistan is like one big bass tournament; catch and release.

  • Jim says:

    You certainly wouldn’t want to water board this guy.

  • gerry says:

    Corruption, tribal politics and loyalties. bribes. Certainly much finger pointing now. But no change.
    Welcome to Pakistan. A nearly failed state with nuclear weapons.

  • Solomon2 says:

    I wonder if we are seeing the break-up of the PA in action that was much talked about in the months before the April offensive was launched. Clearly, this would be an ISI faction, because it lacks support from regular infantry and mechanized forces. Which implies that the next move will be assassination – once the “correct” junior personnel have been shifted around to the “right” positions to take command once civilian authority is gone and the current PA command co-opted or eliminated.

  • Mitch says:

    Bill, these are two different Dr. Usmans. I’m afraid the entire premise of your article is incorrect.

  • Hangin On Every Word says:

    All the denial and delusion in Pakistan is astounding. A post Rwalipindi attack Al Jazeera report with Pakistani man-in-the-street (near the end @ ~2:00) still convinced the US/Indian/Israeli cabal was behind it all. Also had to facepalm at the part where the report showed Pak Army uniforms being sold in the shops outside the base.

  • Bill,
    Breaking news – Ilyas Kashmiri is alive!

  • Spooky says:

    Not necessary. They ust have to wait for Kiyani’s scheduled retirement date of November 2010. That way they can keep their nose clean bt still get what they want.
    That is if Zardari doesn’t try first.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Mitch, not according to my best source on this.

  • GRH says:

    Why would Dr. Usman lead such an assault when he knows all the chaps conducting the assault will be killed? Does not seem to be his normal mode of operations given the other attacks attributed to his “organisation”.

  • Mr T says:

    Notice he was the only one who survived. The rest stood and fought to the death. The leaders of these groups always run like rats. So while it is surprising he was on the raid. It is not surprising that he ran away and survived.

  • Viliger says:

    One wonders if this situation of Dr Usama and Nurse Aqeel is another case of the Pakistani Twins Theory…
    At any rate if true, the Pak Gov and terrorists Court should have a good long think about Hafiz Saeed…
    Can Pakistan EVER go straight?

  • ramsis says:

    I’ve noticed the U.S is scrambling to order up more bunker busters! //www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/10/13/iran-plan-b-wants-bunker-buster-fast/
    There is much speculation this could be to counter the Iranian threat but due to recent high level attacks in pakistan I think its far more likely that this is to destroy pakistani nukes should they fall into the wrong hands. this last attack has alot of very nervous analysts on the security of pakistans nukes.

  • Mitch says:

    Bill, are you using open source material or government? My local contacts state the men are from two different areas. They are two different people who share a very common name, i.e. Usman is the Bill of Pakistan.

  • bout says:

    Pakistan is like one big bass tournament; catch and release. too


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