Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent claims attacks on Pakistani ships were more audacious than reported

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The banner above advertises the latest statement by AQIS explaining its attacks on two Pakistani frigates on Sept. 6. The man pictured on the right is purportedly Zeeshan Rafique, whom AQIS says was a second lieutenant in the Pakistan Navy. He is pictured giving a “briefing” to the “leadership of the mujahideen on the plan of the operation.”

Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the newest official branch of al Qaeda’s international organization, has released a nine-page “press release” explaining its “targeting of [the] American and Indian Navies” on Sept. 6. The group says the operations were part of “a plan to strike America’s military strength on the seas” that was prepared “on the orders of the respected [Emir], Shaykh Ayman al Zawahiri.”

AQIS spokesman Usama Mahmood claims that the Pakistani government has covered up the extent of its planned operations and, he says, the media coverage thus far does not accurately reflect what transpired. Therefore, Mahmood has published al Qaeda’s response on his official Twitter feed.

What follows is a summary of al Qaeda’s version of events and is not an independent account. None of the purported details have been publicly verified by US intelligence officials.

All citations are from the statement released by Mahmood. AQIS is eager to claim that the operations caused more damage than the Pakistani government is letting on.

“The operation was portrayed as an attack on the naval dockyard by ‘outsiders’ who had infiltrated the facility,” the AQIS document reads. But al Qaeda claims the “operation took place under the leadership of two brothers from Al Qa’eda in the [Indian] Subcontinent, namely Oweis Jakhrani (former Second Lieutenant in the Pakistan Navy) and Zeeshan Rafeeq (Second Lieutenant).”

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The AQIS document includes photos of both Jakhrani and Rafeeq. Only Jakhrani was not an active duty officer at the time of the attacks, according to AQIS, as he “had only recently resigned from the Pakistan Navy due to his faith and zeal.” All of the other al Qaeda operatives “who attained martyrdom during this operation were serving officers of the Pakistan Navy.” (Emphasis in original.)

The goal of the operation was to take “control of two important warships of the Pakistan Navy,” the PNS Zulfiqar and PNS Aslat. There “were several Mujahid brothers” aboard both ships and they were “provided with the necessary weapons and explosives required for this operation,” AQIS says.

The first al Qaeda team was on board the PNS Zulfiqar, which departed Karachi on Sept. 3 and was allegedly scheduled “to be refueled by USS Supply,” which “is one of the most important American naval ships after aircraft carriers.”

While the PNS Zulfiqar was being refueled, “some of the Mujahid brothers present on board…were to target and destroy the American oil tanker [USS Supply] with the 72 mm anti-aircraft guns on their frigate.”

In addition, other al Qaeda operatives on board the PNS Zulfiqar “would target the American frigate protecting USS Supply using four anti-ship guided missiles.” If they were successful, the al Qaeda team would then use whatever weapons were left over to attack or “destroy any American or coalition warship present in the vicinity, and fight on until attaining martyrdom.”

A second AQIS team was present on board the PNS Aslat “with weapons and explosives.” According to the plan, the second cadre of AQIS jihadists was going to “take over” the PNS Aslat, which was “near the shores of Karachi,” and “steer it towards Indian waters in order to attack Indian warships with anti-ship missiles.” If any ships got in their way, including American warships, then the AQIS crew on board would use the PNS Aslat to attack them instead.

AQIS goes on to give a version of events that is substantially different from that told by official Pakistani sources.

The group claims that the PNS Zulfiqar departed Karachi on Sept. 3 and implies that the firefight between al Qaeda’s men and others in the Pakistani Navy took place deep in the Indian Ocean. Pakistani sources have said that the attack occurred in the Naval Dockyard in Karachi.

AQIS questions the timing of the Pakistani Navy’s announcement that the attack had occurred, saying it waited several days to publicly acknowledge it. The press release reads: “Is it [the supposedly delayed announcement] because it took three days to erase the evidence of the firefight aboard PNS Zulfiqar and the consequent damage to the warship? Or is it because it took three days for this frigate to return to Karachi after the battle had occurred on board?”

Similarly, AQIS claims that the attack on the PNS Aslat was an inside operation and it “was not attacked form the outside,” as Pakistani officials have claimed. AQIS says that Pakistan “cover[ed] up the success of the Mujahideen and the moral and material losses and damage suffered by the enemies.” Pakistan supposedly does not want the public to know that “the call to perform Jihad…has now started to appeal to even officers of the Armed Forces.”

AQIS says that the Pakistani government is also hiding the identities of the other attackers from the public because it hopes to avoid any further embarrassment over “the fact that the rest of the martyrs were serving officers of the Pakistan Navy.”

The preface to the AQIS press release explains its motivation behind its planned attacks on the two Pakistani frigates. The al Qaeda branch says that Pakistan takes part in the Coalition Maritime Campaign Plan (CMCP), making it part of the supposed global “crusade” against Islam.

In addition to securing “maritime trade routes for commercial shipping of America and other major powers of the believers,” the CMCP participates “in the so-called war on terror (i.e. the American-led Crusade against the Muslim world” and prevents “possible attacks by the Mujahideen on the seas.” The CMCP also provides “logistical support to the occupying American and allied forces in Afghanistan” and consolidates “their grip on Islamic waters” while “besieging the Muslim world from the seas.”

The AQIS statement ends with several messages. The first is addressed to Muslims in Gaza, and repeats al Qaeda’s standard call for “revenge” for the blood shed in the Palestinian-controlled territories. Other messages are addressed to the Muslim Ummah [worldwide community of Muslims] and the mujahideen. The latter should not forget “to make Jihad on the seas one of their priorities,” AQIS says.

AQIS threatens America, “the Jews,” and India.

And the final message speaks to the “Officers and Soldiers in the Armed Forces of Muslim Countries.” AQIS holds up the Pakistani Navy officers responsible for the twin claimed attacks on Sept. 6 as examples for all Muslims serving in the armed forces. AQIS blasts the Pakistani Army, saying its generals demonstrate a “slave’s loyalty to his master” and “have devoted the entire Armed Forces to the defense of American interests.”

AQIS concludes by saying that all Muslims serving in the armed forces should join the jihad if they want to enter paradise and avoid hell. Thus, AQIS is attempting to recruit more officers and soldiers serving in the Pakistani military.

Additional photos included in the AQIS press release.

AQIS claims that one of its members monitored the movements of General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the former Pakistani Army Chief, as he visited an American warship. AQIS says that its operative tracked Kiyani “on the computer screen of the missile control system installed on the Pakistani warship.” This is intended to show that AQIS has operatives inside the Pakistani Navy.

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The photo below purportedly shows the USS Supply as it refuels a frigate at sea. AQIS allegedly planned to attack the USS Supply as it refueled a Pakistani frigate.

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AQIS included the photo below of the PNS Aslat.

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

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  • pre-Boomer Marine brat says:

    Interesting, but I trust it as much as a high school boy’s description of his date the night before, to his buddies in the locker room.
    Apart from LWJ, I haven’t followed the very-latest updates and discoveries on this story.
    Do we know for certain when and where it was that the PNS Iqbal commandos brought the attack to a halt? Do we know how close the ships were berthed to PNS Iqbal.
    (IIRC, the Pak “Seals” HQ station is inside that dockyard. Is that correct?)

  • Arjuna says:

    Close call is an understatement. Doesn’t sound like the sort of operation which a group “on its last legs” would be launching. The insiders on board the ships is the most disconcerting part of this report. Just thank goodness it: (a) wasn’t successful, and (b) at least insofar as this release reports, apparently did not involve a nuclear cruise missile. Ayman Al Zawahiri apparently still has some operational chops left. Let’s kill him soon before he strikes again.

  • manus says:

    It makes one wonder if AQIS has any operatives in the Pakistani nuclear forces….
    Stay tuned.

  • Arjuna says:

    I reckoned, like many other Americans I bet, that the enemy was just blowing smoke talking about the USS Supply as no serious navy would name a supply ship, “the good ship Supply” as this could undermine morale. Looks like I was dead wrong.
    Sometimes it seems that this enemy knows us better than we know ourselves (Cantlie repeatedly quoting Scheuer yesterday comes to mind).
    Mr. Pre-Boomer Marine Brat, why so confident?
    I am a US vet too, and I thank you for your service, but my best military teachers taught me to know (and respect) your enemy as the first critical step towards victory.
    It is my understanding that the operators who stopped this attack were from Special Services Group (Navy) i.e. the “Pakistani SEALs” as you suggest. Perhaps there was dual responsibility. An alert guard onboard ship exchanged fire first and SSG (N) mopped up like the Black Cats in Mumbai.
    It seems you think they are kidding about this op and the support they enjoy within PakMil. I hope you’re right and I’m wrong in believing the enemy’s account is more true than false. I myself would give them the benefit of the doubt, since that’s a real radar photo and Zawahiri is a real planner.

  • My2Cents says:

    Makes more sense as the Pakistani military’s side of the story. AQIS has always shown a higher degree of planning in it’s operations better than the Pakistani reports would seem to indicate. Might also have something to do with the recent resignation of the head of the ISI, the unofficial buddies of the Taliban and alQaeda.

  • blert says:

    Their scheme amounts to a mutiny on the high seas!
    Considering the minimal manning required — even for a frigate — I can’t wrap my mind around the AQIS scenario as pitched.
    The photos look like stock photos.
    As for attacking either the American or Indian navies — the touted weapons would not, could not, do the job.
    It’s also impossible to imagine a mutinous Pakistani ship getting permission to sail remotely close enough to exchange fire.
    IIRC, the USN places exchange officers with allied navies — as a matter of routine. If nothing else, such officers get past any language barriers — and have complete knowledge of USN protocols.
    The USN also accepts exchange officers on board at the same time. Such a duty is always considered a plum appointment by allied navies — and is a traditional rite of passage up into senior ranks.
    (Any officer that doesn’t get along smashingly with the USN is never going to rise to command a naval vessel. The posting is very much a vetting. Since the USN has about 92% of the firepower of all Western navies, combined, there is no doubt who is calling the shots at sea.)
    All of which makes the AQIS claims really thin… double mutinies… and no-one gets wise?
    The Pakistani dock-side story makes drastically more sense. THAT’S the style of AQ.
    The mice play while the brass is ashore. THEN mere lieutenants might have a shot at faking out the guard of the watch.
    Attempting to launch a tactical nuke cruise missile would make for a bad press release.
    Such a stunt would be entirely AQ’s style, however. It always wants to ‘go big.’
    And ISIS is really stealing AQ’s thunder. That much is obvious, hence, the timing.

  • Aga Majid says:

    The writer is totally clueless as is the commentator Arjuna,named after Arjun.Arjuna is the third of the Pandava brothers. He is considered as the protagonist of the Mahabharata with Krishna and plays a key role in the Bhagavad Gita.How can one expect a balanced comment from a non-critical thinker and an antagonist Indian. The whole internet is infested with virological Indians ready to demonize Pakistan.Most terrorism in Pakistan is sponsored by India via Afghanistan.‘Pakistan Army has numerous proves and witnesses that RAW agents were financing and supplying weapons to the Pakistani Taliban’. The attack also reminded me of the April, 2014 statement of Indian Prime Minister Modi in which he talked about conducting operation on Pakistani territory. Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is now under direct control of Modi. Chief of the RAW is designated Secretary in the Modi’s Cabinet Secretariat which is a part of the Indian Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). RAW has expanded its budget to Indian Rs. 1500 crore, alternately estimated at 145 million US dollars. As indicated in a report by Federation of American scientists ‘as many as 35,000 RAW agents has entered in Pakistan, with 12,000 working in Sindh, 10,000 in Punjab, 8,000 in KPK and 5000 in Balochistan’.
    The war on terror has concreted the way for RAW to conduct clandestine operations. These stealthy terrorist activities in Pakistan are being conducted in conjunction with Afghanistan’s Intelligence agency RAAM (Riyast-i-Amoor-o-Amanat-i-Milliyah) and Israeli Mossad. RAW is using Afghan soil for carrying out massive terrorist activities against Pakistan. Daily Dawn has also previously reported that the three arrested militants of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan namely Khurram Ishtiaq, Ghulam Mustafa and Shamim have disclosed that RAW has been funding suicide bomb attacks in Pakistan and that the Indian intelligence agency has channelled Rs680 million through its links with the Afghan secret agency, RAAM.
    Webster Griffin Tarpley , an American correspondent in a TV interview while responding to a question said; “the Research and Analysis Wing of Indian intelligence, they are up in Afghanistan, recruiting crazies from there to bring them down and help them to engage in terrorism inside Pakistan. So the Indians have this real dirty aspect’.
    – See more at:

  • Evan says:

    “sometimes it seems that the enemy knows us better than we know ourselves…” Seriously? Give me ONE example, that’s absurd to say based on the name of a ship, who cares anyway? What difference to “morale,” does it make, if your ship was named the good ship Supply? Not one bit, it’s totally irrelevant.
    Knowing and respecting your enemy are two very different things. No one knows the enemy like we do, how could they?
    And yet, what respect do I/we have for them? NONE, and for plenty of good reasons easy available for you to read here on LWJ. Knowing your enemy is about getting inside of his OODA loop, understanding what he wants, and how he is trying to get what he wants and stopping it. Obviously it’s a little more complex than that, but just because we study the enemy doesn’t mean that we have ANY kind of respect or admiration or empathy or ANYTHING like that. When it comes to the enemy, the only things that we “feel,” are determination, resolve, awareness, anger at our shortcomings, and some satisfaction when we get things right one of the natural results
    of which is fewer and fewer of these “people,” on the planet.
    Now, here’s what I think about the AQ op to take over the PakMil ships.
    Utter failure. A close call, and a scary scenario, but still an utter failure. Here’s why.
    Even though these guys were supposedly active duty service members, even commissioned officers within the Pakistani Navy, they were trained, equipped, motivated, and they had at least some semblance of the element of surprise, they didn’t even get a single shot off.
    On top of that, even though this was supposedly very much an inside job, perpetrated by Pakistanis, it failed utterly, because this mission was also stopped single handedly, by Pakistanis.
    AQ never gained control of the ships. AQ never gained control of the weapons systems, and didn’t even fire a single shot.
    They never even got close to any American vessel or any Indian vessel. Also, no one but Pakistanis was aware of or responded to the attack, so while there’s a tremendous amount of information that really needs to be evaluated when it comes to Pakistan, and wether or not we can trust them at all and exactly where their loyalties lie and when, this operation was defeated, and it was defeated by Pakistanis

  • DAWN has an article today, which I post merely as raw and additional data.
    Arjuna: In colloquial American usage, “Marine brat” means I’m the child of a career Marine (he was Old Corps, enlisted 2 years prior to Pearl Harbor.) I am a Vietnam vet, early in that war.
    I meant my distrust of the AQIS presser as strong suspicion of propaganda puffery in it.
    Yes, the Pak military has been long-known for both Jihadist infiltration, and more broadly, for general sympathy with the Deobandi mindset. IIRC, a 2007/2008 column here on LWJ pointed to the latter as why Rawalpindi was reticent about committing regular Army Pashtun battalions in the FATA.

  • Tyler says:

    The photo of USNS Supply resupplying a “frigate”…yeah, that’s a Flight I or Flight II Burke-class destroyer, very much not a frigate. You can tell by the SPY-1 panels, the SLQ-32 to port and the aft facing CIWS that points over the flight deck (with no hanger.) The mast is also quite distinctive.

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    Aga Majid, named after a deranged Pakistani, who thinks 9/11 is a hoax, lives in his mentally disturbed world, where he thinks the Pakistani ISI are holy men, even though everyone knows they are not, especially regarding their role in training islamic terrorists, which have backfired against them in that they’ve created Frankenstein monsters who have come home to roost. Aga, watch out for US drones that will put you out of misery !!

  • Arjuna says:

    Aga Majid, I’m American as apple pie. But I happen to be a yoga teacher who studied and lived in South Asia for years. I was taught the Gita by a 90-something year old friend of Mahatma Gandhi’s. I use Arjuna as a handle because I am something of an archer myself and very much a reluctant warrior who is accepting that he must do some righteous killing in order to protect his family and way of life.
    Evan, all your points are sound. But it’s the planning and the personnel involved (especially Al Zawahiri), not the attack itself and especially not the fact that it was thwarted by good sentry and commando work, that concern me most. Look at the strategic picture please. They are getting closer and closer to grabbing a Paki nuke.
    Pre-boomer, I know what a service brat is, I grew up overseas. I can tell you did your time, but I wasn’t sure which branch. Glad (or sad?) you lost your cherry in ‘nam. That (NVA and VC) was another enemy we underestimated and lost to.
    Blert, blow up the radar pic and look closely. It may tell you things. You are a very plugged in analyst. You remind me of Tony Zinni. That radar shot seems to show an aircraft and vessels.

  • An addition to Tyler’s comment:
    Everyone … look at the unrep photos. Do you know what’s involved in one of those? I do, just a little bit, from 2 combat cruises on a carrier in the Tonkin Gulf.
    A Pak frigate with only a marginal, skeleton crew of mutineers couldn’t do the hook-up. A majority of the crew would have to be in on the plot, with a substantial and experienced work party out on deck. The OOD and helmsman would have to be experienced. That’s a hazardous maneuver.
    AQIS said: “While the PNS Zulfiqar was being refueled…”
    They couldn’t get to that point. Therefore, the photos (plural) of the unrep actually underway are either aftermarket propaganda, staged for this presser, or wishful thinking on AQIS’ planners’ part.

  • And something else.
    A Pak warship which had just left harbor was to trot up to a US Navy tanker and begin to suckle like a calf at a cow? No more than a few days from port? Unless it was to have been part of a pre-arranged training exercise, probably planned months in advance, no way.
    And suckle up to a tanker’s teat without any alarm having been raised back in Karachi after the mutinous hijacking, which would have happened up to a week before? Ridiculous.
    The more thoughts I have on the AQIS presser, the more it looks like a propaganda video produced after the fact.

  • Arjuna says:

    Aga Majid, so this is your so-called expert:
    Tarpley maintains that the September 11 attacks were engineered by a rogue network of the military-industrial complex and intelligence agencies as a false flag operation. (Wikipedia)
    Perhaps Tarpley works for Hamid Gul?
    They have the same mistaken beliefs.
    Om shanti, shanti, shanti.


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