American Alumni of Pakistan Jihad University

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The Faisal Shahzad case shows that Pakistan is today a global jihad university offering courses in bomb making, armed assault, guerrilla warfare and other terrorist activities. The intake is between 300 and 500. The number can go up at times, like at the height of jihad against Soviet occupation of Kabul. Three prominent Islamist groups – the Taliban operating out of Waziristan, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) running training camps in Punjab, Sindh, North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Pakistan occupied Kashmir – offer these courses. Pakistani State and its various agencies support them, according to a commentary by Policy Research Group (Poreg) posted on its web site, poreg.org

Many of the trainees are foreigners. In fact, LeT camps have been hosting recruits from the US, UK, France, Algeria, Australia, Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Egypt and Sudan since the 90s. In 1998, Hafiz Saeed, the LeT founder, published an open invitation in various Pakistani newspapers and gave the raison’detre for taking his training module. ‘Apart from Pakistani Mujahideen, hundreds of Mujahideen from other countries like Kashmir, Bosnia, Chechnya, the Philippines, Somalia and European and American countries have received training from the camps in Afghanistan and are doing jihad at many fronts in the world’, he wrote.

Poreg analysts say that examination of the admission pattern offers an interesting insight into the working of the terror groups. “First a Maulvi or Imam is sent from Pakistan to a western city. Second they establish themselves in the local Pakistani and Muslim community. Third use the local networks informally for recruitment. For instance in 1993, first of the LeT recruiters to land in London was Shafiq-Ur-Rehman from Mian Channu city in Punjab’s Khanewal district. By the time he was deported five years later in 1998, Rehman did his masters proud. He dispatched several British Pakistanis for training besides raising funds for carrying out terrorist operations in Kashmir.

According to the commentary, terrorist groups often use charity groups as a front to raise funds and recruit men for training. LeT worked in London, for instance, through Global Jihad Fund (GJF). Set up by Saudi dissident Dr. Mohammed al-Massari and his assistant Mohammed Sohail, the GJF raised substantial funds for jihad in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Kosovo and Chechnya. An appeal posted on its web site asked British Muslims to support jihadi groups like LeT by sending them money and gave the bank account details for money transfer. In one of the emails intercepted by the British agencies in 1990, Mohammad Sohail said “currently jihad training is being done in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan. It is on[ly] for 21 days and is of beginners level. It is organised by Lashkar-e-Toiba (sic)… Then there are special courses.

In January 2002, another British link to LeT came to light with the arrest of Mohammed Ajmal Khan who was scouting around Canada and other countries for 1000 square metres of Kevlar, a protective coating used by the military. Khan had trained with LeT and was working as a liaison for foreign recruits at the terrorist group. Omar Khayyam, also a British Muslim, and a LeT school alumni, was convicted in the 2004’fertilizer bomb plot.’ One of the bombers involved in the London bombings of July 2005, Shahzad Tanweer, had visited LeT’s Muridke office for a ‘few days.

Pakistan Army officers and ISI sleuths have been playing a stellar role in the terror training business, Poreg claims and adds that one of the key facilitators for the British Muslims to LeT camps was an ISI officer, Col Bashir Ali Mohammad. “During his tenure at the Pakistan High Commission in London in the 90s, he encouraged LeT recruitment in London and other British cities. He was earlier involved in training Punjab terrorists. So politically well-connected was he that after retirement, he became the head of Pakistan’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) and after wards Pakistan High Commissioner in Sri Lanka in 2004”.

Poreg commentary says:

“More relevant and alarming is the recruitment drive in the US for terrorist training in Pakistan. An unpublished account by New York University’s Center on Law & Security estimates that 25 American citizens or residents had been to an overseas training camp or war zone since 9/11. Two of them were reportedly trained with the Taliban, seven with al Qaeda, four with the Somali al Qaeda affiliate, Al Shabab, ten with the LeT and three with some unspecified jihadist outfit in Pakistan

The number of US recruits to jihad was much higher before 9/11 happened. In the 90s, 1,000 to 2,000 recruits from Atlanta, New York, San Francisco and other cities went to Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan, according to Bob Blitzer, a former FBI terrorism chief who headed the bureau’s first Islamic terrorism squad in 1994

The US investigators discovered that about 40 to 50 radicalized Muslims left each year from just two New York mosques during the mid-’90s. Officials in Pakistan where most of them went for training said that over 400 Americans had received training in terrorist training camps within Pakistan and Afghanistan since 1989. At least a dozen of them, Afro-Americans, went to Jamia Abi-Bakr madrasa in Karachi run by LeT.

One of the pre-9/11 recruits to LeT was a 19-year old Baptist convert from a rich Atlanta family who called himself Abu Adam Jibreel al Amreekee. Influenced by a radical cleric at the local mosque, Abu Adam went to LeT’s Muridke headquarters in the winter of 1997. After training in insurgency, he crossed into Kashmir where he was killed in a firefight with the security forces.

In 2000 and 2001, Ali Al-Timimi, a religious teacher at the Center for Islamic Information and Education, also known as Dar Al-Arqam, in Falls Church, Washington, called upon his followers to participate in ‘violent jihad’ in Afghanistan. He said the US troops should be the ‘legitimate targets’

According to the charges leveled against him by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), on Sept. 16, 2001, Al-Timimi met his followers at the mosque and told them to take military training from LeT in Pakistan. Subsequently, several of them went to LeT camps where they learned to fire assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades. Eleven, nine of them Americans and two Pakistanis, were arrested and charged in what came to be labeled as the Virginia Jihad case

Between October 2003 and May 2005, three Maryland citizens-Tarik Ibn Osman Shah, Rafiz Sabir and Mahmud Faruq Brent-worked for LeT in procuring money and materials and facilitating training in Pakistan. All three were arrested in 2006.

In 2005, a Baltimore cab driver, Mahmud Faruq Brent, also known as Mahmud Al Mutazzim, was arrested. He had trained at a LeT camp, according to the Baltimore Sun. A year later, in August, Ali Asad Chandia, a former teacher at a Muslim school in Maryland, was charged with assisting a LeT operative in procuring military-purpose equipment for use against India.

Chandia hails from Lahore, where he was born in 1976. His family moved to the United States when he turned 18. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems from the University of Maryland

The jury which heard his case, brushed aside his protestations of innocence, and held him guilty of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to LeT. It was a unanimous verdict. Chandia made a three-month trip to Pakistan in 2001-2002 where he met and allied with Mohammed Ajmal Khan, the outfit’s military procurement official, presently serving a nine-year sentence in the UK for terrorist activities. According to prosecution, Chandia helped Khan, in procuring ‘military purpose’ equipment for use against India

In 2009, a Pakistani-American in Chicago, David Headley, with clear links to Pakistan’s terror factory and its military managers. The case raised alarm in Washington, just for a short period till Faisal Shahzad happened with a booby-trapped car left in the heart of Times Square last month”, the Poreg study concludes.