Lal Masjid is still training militants in the heart of Islamabad?

By Azaz Syed
Sunday, 25 Oct, 2009 (Dawn)

The capital police and law enforcement agencies are looking into GF involvement in different acts of terror, for example the killing of a brigadier i

ISLAMABAD, Oct 24: It seems that the Lal Masjid saga is not over yet as investigators probing the recent terrorist attacks in Islamabad suspect the involvement of Ghazi Force (GF), a small but lethal militant group named after Ghazi Abdul Rashid, the deputy imam of the Lal Masjid who died in the July 2007 crackdown, Dawn News learnt reliably here on Saturday.

The sources said that Niaz Raheem alias Bilal, the amir of GF, is said to be a prime suspect in terror activities in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

The sources said that the name of Niaz Raheem first crept up in May 2009, when law enforcement agencies arrested Fidaullah, the founder of the GF, after getting some leads from Khairullah and Khurram Shahzad, who were arrested in the case of Frontier Constabulary and Special Branch suicide attacks in Islamabad early this year.

The sources said that though Fidaullah was the founder amir of the GF, it is Niaz Raheem who is leading the force.

They said that Muhammad Hanif of Kacha Malana, District Dera Ismail Khan, Muhammad Kamran of Gali Bagh Ibrahim Khel resident of Saeedabad Pujgi, GPO Road, Peshawar, Dildar Khan a resident of Reggy Shenu , district Kohat , Bashir Ahmed a resident of village Nari Baja Bughdada, Mardan, Arslan Irshad, a resident of Defense Sector Karachi Shargi-D, Farhan Saqib Abbasi of sector G-6/2 are said to be some active members of the GF.

The sources add that besides these important members of the GF, 43 others are at large and they all are wanted in different terror cases.

The sources said that Fidaullah had established his network in Guljo area of Hangu and he had also been accused of taking youngsters from Islamabad to turn them into suicide bombers. But the arrest of Fidaullah and a successful military operation in Swat forced the group to lie low for some time. However, the group has now re-emerged under the guidance of a new amir.

Sources said that the group also has its links with militants in Swat and FATA and there is a strong possibility that they have developed a nexus for executing terror attacks in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

“All these terrorist networks, including the Ghazi Force, operating here in Pakistan somehow have links with the Tehreek-i- Taliban Pakistan (TTP),” said Amir Rana, a prominent expert on militancy.

The sources said that the capital police and law enforcement agencies were looking into GF involvement in other acts of terror, for example the killing of a brigadieur in Islamabad two days ago.

Long live Mullah-Military Alliance

Terrorist of the Lal Masjid (Punjabi Taliban) have roots in South Punjab

Sunday, 25 Oct, 2009 | 01:26 AM PST

AT a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Gilani on Friday, the security situation in the country was reviewed and it is believed that particular attention was paid to the emerging threat of militancy in south Punjab. The government believes that there is a ‘triangular syndicate’ of militancy at work in the country involving the TTP, Al Qaeda and proscribed organisations such as the Jaish-i-Mohammad and Lashkar-i-Taiba and that with the current military operation under way in South Waziristan, the allies of the TTP in south Punjab have ramped up their attacks in the country. So, to try and stem the violence in the cities in the near term, the government wants a crackdown in south Punjab against the proscribed organisations and for this the intelligence and other operational requirements were reviewed on Friday.

Does this mean the state is finally getting serious about shutting down the jihadi pipeline in south Punjab? That isn’t clear yet. What the federal government appears to want is a rapid crackdown while the military operation in South Waziristan is under way. But such crackdowns have not proved a real turning point in the fight against militancy in the past. Moreover, while there is a consensus that the problem in south Punjab needs to be tackled by civilian security and law-enforcement agencies, there are several problems. Intelligence resources are already stretched thin given the threat of violence across Pakistan. The political will of the Punjab government, which controls the main law-enforcement agencies in the province, to crush militancy is not known. Then there is the elephant in the room, the Pakistan Army. Privately, army officials concede that there is a problem of militancy in south Punjab, but in the same breath the officials also talk of ‘Indian designs’ to conflate Al Qaeda with the Lashkar-i-Taiba to try and bring more international pressure to bear on Pakistan. It is difficult to tell if the army is simply clinging to its prioritisation approach, whereby it first targets those groups attacking the state, or if there is institutional denial that the army’s old charges, the Kashmir-centric jihadis, have morphed into something far more dangerous.

South Punjab, which stretches downwards from Jhang to Bahawalpur and Rahimyar Khan, is a big area covering over a dozen districts. One of those districts, Dera Ghazi Khan, abuts Dera Ismail Khan in the NWFP which in turn abuts South Waziristan. For those talking down the threat and claiming south Punjab is no Swat or South Waziristan, a question: in the not-too-distant past, was it conceivable that the Malakand division could fall to the militants as quickly as it did? (Dawn Editorial)

Islamabad: terror epicentre?

Examining the spoor of terrorists closely, security agencies are increasingly worried about Islamabad being the epicentre of terrorism. Acting on the basis of this pointer, there was a dragnet taken across the numerous madrassas in the capital city, only to find that all was fine with them. It is not known if the mosques — where sermons laced with politics are routinely given — were also under observation. But an outfit named Ghazi Force is being mentioned, named after the deceased leader of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid.

The nation is aware that terrorism in the country touched its first peak after the military operation against Islamabad’s Lal Masjid in 2007. Even Al Qaeda in its message on Al Jazeera TV condemned the operation and swore vengeance. No sociological study has been carried out in Islamabad. The intelligence agencies lack the scientific know-how and the students in the various high-profile educational institutions are ideologically too indoctrinated to undertake a dispassionate project like that.

It would be wrong to designate certain cities or regions as “homes of terrorism”. After the GHQ attack, we have discovered that the masterminds had come from Faisalabad, a city not too often mentioned in connection with terrorism. It would not be surprising if in the coming days female suicide-bombers come on the scene and are discovered to have emerged from a mushroom growth of female madrassas in Rawalpindi. What is needed is sound intelligence.

If intelligence is not forthcoming then anti-terrorism campaigns will seem like wild goose chases, now suspecting one city now another. And Islamabad, traditionally “in focus” more than other cities, should be the most scrutinised place in Pakistan, down to secret recordings of Friday sermons in the city’s myriad mosques. (Daily Times)


Haroon-ur-Rasheed’s analysis:


More terror threats
Monday, 26 Oct, 2009
THE words Lal Masjid evoke revulsion among many here, shocking evidence of the growth of militancy and the state’s complicity in nurturing that threat in recent decades. But Lal Masjid also evokes a fierce anger against the state among a small group of people who believe that a ‘house of God’ was attacked in Operation Silence in July 2007 and that many ‘innocent’ people were killed by the armed forces. Born of that rage is a small but deadly militant group known as the Ghazi Force, named after the dead Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the infamous deputy imam of the Lal Masjid, which is bent on seeking vengeance against the state. Led by one Fidaullah until his arrest in May, the group was blamed for a series of attacks against security targets in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

The group fell off the terror radar after that, but, according to a report in this newspaper yesterday, is believed to be involved in the recent surge in violence in Islamabad and Rawalpindi under the tutelage of a new commander, Niaz Raheem. Not much is known about the Ghazi Force, but at least two things are worth bearing in mind. One, as a relatively new outfit, it has an incentive to ‘establish’ itself with a series of audacious and deadly attacks. Two, Lal Masjid’s sectarian, anti-Shia leanings are well known, which means that the Ghazi Force could easily forge an alliance with a range of groups operating inside Pakistan which share a similar outlook, groups that include Al Qaeda, Jaish-i-Mohammad and the Ilyas Kashmiri network.

What can the state do to fight groups such as the Ghazi Force, which may consist of no more than a few dozen highly trained and indoctrinated members bent on killing and maiming? Better intelligence, more surveillance and improved policing. That’s what got Fidaullah, the under-arrest leader of the Ghazi Force, in the first place — leads provided by other detained suspects that eventually led to his capture by law-enforcement personnel in Islamabad. But there is also a role for the ordinary citizen, too: stay alert, watch the goings-on in your neighbourhood, report any suspicious activity. By no means are we suggesting neighbour turn against neighbour or converting the country into one big web of spies, but these are extraordinary days and the state’s capacity to deal with the terrorism threat is still well below adequate. So the citizenry should help, responsibly, where it can. (Dawn)