Bojinka II: The Pakistani Connections
By Steve Schippert
From ABC News, Brian Ross and Richard Esposito report that British Intelligence had a man on the inside of the 30-man cell that sought to blow up US-bound airliners in a plot becoming known as "Bojinka II," nearly identical in scope and method to Operation Bojinka I in 1995. In British Penetrate Terror Cell, it is also detailed that an arrest in Pakistan two days earlier caused the British operation – Operation Overt – to descend upon the cell before they learned of the individual arrested. A link between the deep mole and the arrested would have apparently tipped the cell to the British operation.
Also, the BBC reports that a Pakistan arrest several weeks ago originally unearthed the plot, which Pakistan claims uncovered the plot and led to the British investigation.
While it was feared that the Pakistani arrest on the Afghan border days ago would jeopardize the British operation, it is worth noting that the five ringleaders of the 30-man terror cell are not among the apprehended and on the loose, presumably still in Britain. Word from Pakistan would logically reach the leaders first. Did they take immediate evasive action and run aground in haste without informing the 24 who were eventually arrested?
With regard to the nature and connectedness of the terrorists in the Bojinka II cell, the ABC report characterizes the cell members in a fashion that is sure to be echoed by far too many. Referring to the plot as “homegrown” and the British cell’s members as “young, longtime residents or citizens, inspired by al Qaeda and perhaps loosely linked to the old hierarchical terror group” misses the mark.
At the end of the day, these "young, longtime residents or citizens" of Britain must be recognized as no more British than they are Mexican. Most of the cell members were of Pakistani origin or descent. They clearly did not identify with their host nation nor hold any affinity for it.
It is difficult to imagine the condition as 'loosely linked' to al-Qaeda, certainly with an operation of this ambition and scale. As the ‘foot soldiers’ that they were, their plot was either guided and/or funded by al-Qaeda or it was not. But, as should be increasingly clear, the name of the label – al-Qaeda or otherwise – should matter far less than is popularly perceived. There is an ever increasing trend among terror groups to shelve their ideological and religious differences and focus on the common enemy, Israel and America - Jews and Crusaders - and all that ally with them in the West, including Britain.
Further, make no mistake; the "old hierarchical terror group" is alive and well and not a ‘new, busted-up decentralized mess’ as the chosen descriptor implies. Consider the quality of al-Zawahiri's latest messages and one must conclude that funding is still adequate and that command and control is still effective. al-Qaeda leadership, bruised and pursued, is not remanded to the dark recesses of a cave in Pakistan, cut off from the rest of the world and the rest of their terrorist organization.
Here's the rub: If the plot was “homegrown,” as asserted, and the terrorists merely "al-Qaeda-inspired" as opposed to al-Qaeda-led, why would a terrorist arrest in Pakistan cause the cell to scatter? This expected reaction is not consistent with ‘loose links’ to an arrested terrorist(s) in Pakistan. What prompted these arrests in Pakistan?
But more importantly, where did the money for the complex operation come from? Who was funding the airline tickets for dry runs and the six to ten actual attack flights? Who was funding the lab equipment and chemicals and supplying the technical skills necessary?
Consider Thursday’s arrest of Hafiz Mohammed Saeed in Lahore, Pakistan, apprehended at virtually the same time the British arrests were made. Saeed was the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist group believed to be responsible for the July 11, 2006 synchronized train bombings in Bombay, India that killed more than 200 civilians. The Lashkar-e-Taiba attack list is quite extensive.
Lashkar-e-Taiba’s links to al-Qaeda are both intimate and strong. In late 2004, Dan Darling described the group as “basically subcontracted by al-Qaeda to run its infrastructure, propaganda, and recruiting efforts in South Asia while the central leadership remains underground.”
Hafiz Mohammed Saeed then turned his energies to creating a new ‘charity’ called Jamaat al-Dawat, whose benefactors include many madrassas throughout Pakistan. In fact, at least one of the terrorists in the July 7, 2005 London bombings attended one of Jamaat al-Dawat’s madrassas.
In April of this year, the US State Department officially listed Saeed’s Jamaat al-Dawat as a terrorist organization.
But it should be noted that Saeed’s arrest is only ‘house arrest’ and for a confinement duration of only one month. Prone to fiery speech and crowd incitement, this is not the first time Saeed has been placed under ‘house arrest’ by the Pakistani government in 2006.
Was the charitable Saeed a source of the Bojinka II plotters’ funding? What action initiated his ‘house arrest’? Money was known to have been wired to the plotters from Pakistan, which means authorities knew of both ends of the transaction
And what of Pakistan’s claims of supporting the British operation? Was it genuine support or – with the Lahore and Karachi arrests that accompanied the UK arrests Thursday – was it possibly a matter of Pakistan simply getting ahead of the news knowing the trail will inevitably lead back to their own soil?
Regardless of the unknowns, what is known is that a terrorist plot on the scale of the 9/11 attacks was successfully thwarted and pre-empted.
What is also known is that all things al-Qaeda inevitably lead directly to Pakistan.