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Danish Intelligence Primary Marriott Bombing Target?

Former Indian intelligence chief B. Raman has issued a report at the South Asia Analysis Group which indicates Danish intelligence - and perhaps not the American CIA - may well have been the primary target of the bombing at the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan. Raman cites previous attacks on Danish targets inside Pakistan and the connection to Islamist rage at the Dutch publication of cartoon depicting the prophet Muhammad.

4. While Al Qaeda had claimed the responsibility for the blast outside the Danish Embassy in Islamabad on June 3, 2008, it did not in respect of the other strikes mentioned by Amir Mir. Al Qaeda targeted the Danish Embassy in protest against the cartoons on the Holy Prophet carried by the Danish media. It continues to call for more attacks on Danish targets.

5. After the controversy over the cartoons broke out two years ago, Denmark had drastically reduced the strength of its home-based staff in its Embassy in Islamabad. It was running a truncated mission with the help of either Pakistani recruits or Danish citizens of Pakistani origin. However, it is learnt that it was having a small office in the Marriott Hotel, which was staffed by officers of the Danish intelligence agency responsible for counter-terrorism. They were monitoring the developments relating to terrorism in Pakistan and maintaining a liaison with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The information about the presence of a small cell of the Danish intelligence in the hotel seems to have leaked out to Al Qaeda.

6. The official figures of fatalities in the blast are 53. Of these, one has been described as a Danish citizen. Another Danish citizen is stated to be missing. An Agence France Press (AFP) report from Copenhagen says as follows: "A Danish intelligence agent is missing after Saturday's devastating suicide bomb attack on the Marriott hotel in Pakistan's capital Islamabad, Denmark's Foreign Minister said on Sunday."We are talking about a member of the intelligence services stationed at the embassy in Islamabad, with no sign of life," Per Stig Moeller told TV2 news channel. "What we have heard is that a Dane likely figures among the dead. If that proves to be the case, it would be profoundly tragic," he added, because he had been sent to Pakistan to improve security for Danish staff there. The Danish intelligence agency, PET, said in a separate statement that one of its agents, a security advisor, had been posted missing, presumed dead. A second PET official was unhurt, it said. Earlier, the Foreign Ministry's head of diplomacy Klavs Holm told AFP that teams were scouring the city's hospitals and other places looking for the missing national. "Several other Danes were in the hotel, they have been slightly hurt" in the explosion, Holm said, adding that these people, three in number, were all employed by the Danish Embassy in Islamabad. Saturday's suicide blast was "an attack on cooperation between Pakistan and the international community, because these Islamists, these fanatics, want to break relations between the West and the democratically-elected Pakistani Government," he added.

As it stands, it appears one Danish intelligence agent is missing while at least two US Marines attached to the US Embassy in Pakistan are among the dead.

Whichever intelligence agency was the primary target, two things are important to come away from this with.

1. Distinguishing between 'al-Qaeda' as publicly perceived among Americans and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) fellow travelers suspected as being responsible and referred to in B. Raman's article is useful only in the micro-level. They are part of the al-Qaeda umbrella established in 1998 as the International Islamic Front (IIF).

2. The primary physical target was not the Pakistani political system or any Pakistani politician - not President Zardari (PPP) and not Prime Minister Gilani (PPP). The physical primary target was foreign intelligence, whether the CIA, the Danish intelligence office at the Marriott or some other nation's organization. The attack served its ever-present secondary psychological effect, which was to strike the perception of al-Qaeda capabilities and that of weakness in the Pakistani government and security in the eyes of the Pakistani public.

When it comes to al-Qaeda targeting Pakistani political figures - and those who lie in waiting to replace them - within the context of the Taliban-al-Qaeda insurgency, readers may wish to revisit the PrincipalAnalysis on the subject earlier this month.

Al-Qaeda's Progression On Pakistan's Demise: Schizophrenic Pakistan And The Coming Vacuum That Invites al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda must be (and has been) more discerning when targeting political figures in the Pakistani government. The useful PML-N politicians headed by Nawaz Sharif (bought and paid for al-Qaeda goods) cannot be included as victims in an attack as indiscriminate as a dump truck loaded with 1,300lbs of explosives, mines, mortars and aluminum powder. Remember, Bhutto was assassinated with a bullet, and the recent attempt on PM Gilani's life was with an armor-piercing sniper round that pierced the double-layered bullet-proof glass in his US-supplied armored limousine.

Nawaz Sharif's PML-N, virulent in their opposition to both the ruling PPP and the United States, are too useful to al-Qaeda to risk alienating them through collateral damage from attacks by imprecise and massive bombings.