Blast That Killed U.S. Diplomat Tied To Qaeda

Blast That Killed U.S. Diplomat Tied To Qaeda
February 24th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Blast That Killed U.S. Diplomat Tied To Qaeda

Blast That Killed U.S. Diplomat Tied To Qaeda
New York Times
February 24, 2007
By Carlotta Gall
KARACHI, Pakistan, Feb. 22 — The suicide bombing that killed an American diplomat here last March, just before a visit by President Bush, was organized by a small cell of Pakistani militants and masterminded by an operative of Al Qaeda based in the Pakistan’s tribal areas, Pakistan says.
The charge is being made by Pakistani officials as they present evidence — the result of months of investigations by the police, assisted by F.B.I. investigators — at the trial of two men accused in the plot.
The men, Anwar ul-Haq, 27, and Usman Ghani, 26, both ethnic Pashtuns from Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, grew up in the teeming working-class neighborhoods of Karachi and fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the investigators say. On Thursday, they sat behind bars, wearing long beards and knitted prayer caps, at the back of a courtroom in Karachi’s central jail, listening intently to an investigator outline the evidence against them.
The case is one of the first in Pakistan to underline in court the links between splinter cells of Pakistani jihad groups and Qaeda operatives in Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s tribal areas, which have come under increasing scrutiny as a staging area for suicide bombers and Taliban insurgents battling NATO and American forces in Afghanistan.
Publicly, Pakistani leaders have sought to play down the importance of the tribal areas as havens for militants. But the evidence being presented by Pakistani investigators makes clear the threat contained in Waziristan, not only for Afghanistan but for Pakistan itself, which has suffered six suicide bombings in the last five weeks.
Two assassination attempts against President Pervez Musharraf in December 2003 were also traced to Qaeda and militants who enjoyed a haven in the same region, where the government has little control and foreign and Pakistani militants operate almost unimpeded, according to the home secretary of Sindh Province, Ghulam Mohatarem, a retired army brigadier.
“They mostly come from the north,” he said of the bombers that have plagued Karachi and other cities. “But they are provided with logistics from small local cells that come up and then disappear.” United States officials in Pakistan declined to be interviewed for this article.
The investigators’ conclusions, which are largely drawn from a confession by Mr. Haq and from the infiltration of terrorist cells, are the latest indication that Al Qaeda and its local operatives are still able to operate from Waziristan.
Brigadier Mohatarem, the home secretary, said that the police in Karachi, a sprawling and violent city of about 16 million, tracked down and disrupted the activities of numerous terrorist splinter groups in recent months.
Although Karachi has seen some of the worst terrorist attacks in Pakistan since 2001, there have been no Qaeda-linked attacks here for nearly a year since the consulate bombing.
“We are slightly more confident because the logistics have become more difficult for them,” Brigadier Mohatarem said. Yet the threat of terrorism remains, he and others agreed. “We cannot say it has been wiped out,” a senior police official said of Al Qaeda.
Family members denied in interviews that the two defendants had gone to Afghanistan, knew the bomber, Raja Tahir, 23, also from Karachi, or had any jihad links. Both men are pleading not guilty, their lawyers said.
But the police say there is little doubt that the suicide bombing of March 2, 2006, which killed the diplomat David Foy, his driver and three others, had a Qaeda connection because of the timing, just two days before Mr. Bush’s visit to Pakistan.
Investigators say they have traced other leads to Waziristan as well. The stolen car used in the attack was packed with explosives there and driven down to Karachi, according to one police report.
The police say all the suspects had spent time in Taliban ranks fighting the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, and all three had links with the now banned Pakistani jihadi group, Jaish-e-Mohammed.
The mastermind of the plot, Qari Mohammed Zafar, a man from Karachi with known links to Al Qaeda, remains at large in Waziristan, the home secretary said. “Behind him we don’t know who is there, if he is a puppet in a chain,” he added.
Mr. Zafar is a local leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an outlawed militant group that has been found to provide the manpower for Qaeda bomb attacks in Pakistan in the past.
He bears the religious title of Qari, meaning he has memorized the Koran. He fought in Afghanistan with the Taliban in the 1990s, and forged links there with Al Qaeda, officials said, some of them speaking on condition of anonymity because of their work in counterterrorism.
After the Taliban government fell, Mr. Zafar took refuge in South Waziristan and sometimes has ventured into rural parts of Sindh Province, Brigadier Mohatarem, the home secretary, said. Three men arrested in Karachi this week with weapons and a suicide vest were also a splinter cell sent by Mr. Zafar, he said.
Mr. Zafar is accused of recruiting the three men who carried out the consulate bombing, in which Mr. Tahir reversed his car into a diplomatic convoy, detonating an enormous blast that tore through the armored plating of the diplomat’s car, killing him and his driver immediately.
F.B.I. investigators calculated that there were 880 pounds of C4 explosive packed into the car, Brigadier Mohatarem said. The security cars in front and behind the diplomat’s vehicle were blown apart.
Three security men in the car behind were thrown up the street, one some 75 yards, but all survived. A police ranger posted on the street was killed, and two other security guards later died of their wounds. Mr. Haq stands accused as the main logistics organizer. On the day of the bombing, the police charge, he arrived with Mr. Tahir in his car, stood as a lookout and signaled Mr. Tahir by cellphone as the convoy approached.
Mr. Tahir was caught on security cameras in the area parking his car and crossing a nearby parking lot, dressed trendily in a long Pakistani shirt over jeans to allay suspicion, a senior police official familiar with the case said. His car, a two-year-old Toyota Corolla, was stolen, but also intended to give the impression of affluence, the official said.
Mr. Haq has confessed to being present near the consulate that day and to his connection with the bombing, the police said. His brother, Imanullah, 26, who like many Pakistanis uses one name, denied that that his brother was involved, or was acquainted with the bomber.
Mr. Haq’s lawyer, Mohammed Ilyas Khan, said he was accused of prompting Mr. Tahir to carry out the bomb attack, and of paying money to the bomber’s family. “He has made a confession due to threats and torture but he has told me he will retract that in court,” he said.
That confession has also implicated Mr. Ghani, along with the testimony of two witnesses, neither of whom are convincing, according to Mr. Ghani’s lawyer, Mushtaq Ahmed. Mr. Ghani’s role is less clear.
Mr. Ghani’s father, Abdul Rauf, a community social worker, said in an interview that the family knew Mr. Haq well and had rented a shop premises to him, but denied that his son was mixed up in militancy, or was anywhere near the bomb blast that day.
Mr. Rauf also denied that his son knew the bomber, or had ever been to Afghanistan.
But the police say the two were friends and imprisoned together in Afghanistan after they were captured along with thousands of other Taliban soldiers in northern Afghanistan in 2001, as the United States bombing helped topple the Taliban government.
Their incarceration in the notorious Shiberghan prison, run by the Uzbek general, Abdul Rashid Dostum, in northern Afghanistan — where scores of Taliban prisoners died from asphyxiation as they were transported in containers, or from disease and malnutrition — further radicalized the young men, Brigadier Mohatarem said.
Mr. Tahir was only 18 and Mr. Ghani 21 at the time of their capture, and Mr. Tahir contracted tuberculosis in the overcrowded prison before the Afghan government released him a year later. Mr. Ghani was held even longer.
The motivation behind the bomb attack was not hard to see. “The motive was hate for Americans,” Brigadier Mohatarem said.

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