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TERRORISM IN AFGHANISTAN AND CENTRAL ASIA

 Paper no. 1172          24. 11. 2004

by B.Raman

(Text of a paper prepared for a conference on "Asia And Europe" jointly organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation of Germany at New Delhi on November 19 and 20, 2004. Extracts from my earlier papers on Uzbekistan and Uighur Terrorism have also been incorporated in this paper )

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The Taliban, led by Mulla Mohammad Omar, its Amir, and the Hizb-e-Islami (HEI), led by Gulbuddin Heckmatyar, continue to be active not only  in the Pashtun belt in the Afghan territory across Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, but also in and around Kabul. A terrorist strike in Kabul  before the  Presidential elections of October,2004, directed at the personnel of a private American company, which provides physical security to President Hamid Karzai, proved that their reach extends even to Kabul. They apparently have pockets of support even there.

2. However, the  widely-expressed apprehensions that they might be able to disrupt the Presidential elections were belied. In the months preceding the elections, they indulged in sporadic terrorist strikes   in the provinces, which used to be the stronghold of the Taliban before the US-led coalition intervened in Afghanistan from October 7, 2001, but they did not disrupt the elections and a surprisingly large number of voters exercised their franchise, without letting themselves be intimidated.

3.However, it would be incorrect to infer from the successful conduct of the elections that the Taliban and the HEI are now a declining force and hence do not pose a major threat to Afghanistan's security. Reliable sources in Pakistan indicate that the absence of major acts of terrorism on the eve of and during the elections is a testimony  not to the declining capability of the terrorist elements, but to their continuing amenability to Pakistani control and influence.

4. According to these sources, during President Pervez Musharraf's talks with President George Bush and other American leaders in New York in September, 2004, they stressed upon him the importance of Pakistan ensuring that the Taliban and the HEI did not disrupt the Presidential elections. In the weeks preceding the US Presidential elections, there were two major demands on Pakistan from the officials of the Bush Administration. The first related to the capture of Osama bin Laden and his No.2 in Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the second  to ensuring that the Taliban and the HEI did not disrupt the Afghan  elections.

5. While Musharraf did not deliver bin Laden and/or al-Zawahiri to the US, he ensured that there was no disruption of the Afghan Presidential elections and that the Pashtun  refugees from Afghanistan still staying in Pakistani territory participated in the elections in large numbers. It would be difficult to have a correct idea of the extent of the popular support enjoyed by Karzai inside Afghanistan without an assessment of how many votes he got from the Pashtuns , who were amenable to pressure from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate. It is doubtful whether  Karzai would have won in the first round itself with  more than a 50 per cent majority, without the Pashtun votes on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, including the votes of the refugees, mobilised my Musharraf and his ISI. A reward for this  promptly came from President Bush in the form of a new military package for Pakistan worth about US $ 1.3 billion. Whereas the previous post 9/11 military packages for Musharraf from the US consisted essentially of counter-terrorism items such as helicopter gun ships, communication and interception equipment etc, the latest package contains items which Pakistan would need only for possible use against India and not against the terrorists.

6. The terrorist infrastructure of the Taliban and the HEI in Pakistani territory is intact under the protection of the ISI. While helping the US to put an end to the  Taliban's rule in Afghanistan post-9/11, the ISI has ensured that the Taliban's organisational capability and terrorist infrastructure remained undecimated so that Pakistan could use them to protect its strategic interests in the future. The Amir of the Taliban, Gulbuddin and many of their senior colleagues and jihadi cadres have been given sanctuary in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan.

7. Not only the provincial Governments of the NWFP, which is run by the fundamentalist coalition called the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), and of Balochistan,in which the MMA is an active partner in a coalition  with the Pakistan Muslim League (Qaide Azam), the surrogate political party of Musharraf,but even the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment has been providing funds, protection and sanctuaries to the dregs of the Taliban and the HEI in Pakistani territory.

8. The active involvement of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment in keeping the Taliban and the HEI alive and active is not only attested to by independent reports coming from the NWFP and Balochistan, but is also corroborated by reports in the Pakistani media itself as well as by periodic statements from Hamid Karzai and his officials, the US diplomats in Kabul and writings by well-known Pakistani experts on Afghanistan such as Ahmed Rashid.

9. The US,with its large intelligence presence in Pakistan and large military and intelligence presence in Afghanistan, cannot be unaware of the continuing Pakistani complicity with the dregs of the Taliban and the HEI, but yet, prefers to close its eyes to it so long as the Musharraf Government is co-operating with it in the hunt for bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri and the other surviving senior operatives of Al Qaeda.

10. There is a difference in the US perceptions of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It looks upon Al Qaeda as continuing to pose a threat to US homeland security. Is therefore, determined not to relent in its war against it, till bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and its other senior operatives are captured or killed. While it perceives the surviving Taliban as posing a threat to peace and security in Afghanistan, it does not view it as a threat to US homeland security. Its pre and post-9/11 anger against the Taliban was due to its action in giving shelter to Al Qaeda and its terrorist infrastructure in Afghan territory.

11. This dichotomy in the US perceptions of Al Qaeda and the Taliban should explain its tolerance of the continuing Pakistani complicity with the Taliban. Musharraf continues to make a distinction between the bad and the not-so-bad elements in the Taliban. The not-so-bad elements are projected as no longer having any nexus with Al Qaeda and its largely Arab terrorists. They are also projected  as elements who, if properly handled, could be made to strengthen the rule of Karzai.

12. Barring sporadic incidents such as  the recent terrorist strike in Kabul, possibly involving a suicide bomber, against the personnel of the American company, the Taliban and the HEI have not come to notice for any targeted attacks on the US troops. There have been clashes resulting in  small American casualties, but these would appear to have taken place when US troops intercepted Taliban and HEI terrorist groups when they were going from Pakistani territory to attack a non-US target or returning to Pakistani territory after launching an attack.

13. The dregs of the Taliban and the HEI operating from Pakistani sanctuaries have been mainly concentrating their attacks on Afghan Government servants loyal to Karzai and workers of foreign non-governmental organisations. There have been some incidents inside Afghan territory, where individual Arabs, mainly Yemenis or Yemeni-Balochis (of mixed blood), were suspected to have operated with the Taliban and HEI  elements. Apart from these, there are no reports of any large-scale involvement of Arabs, either from Al Qaeda or from any other organisation, with the Taliban and HEI groups operating in Afghan territory.

14. Even though the US and Pakistan continue to claim that bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and other surviving senior operatives of Al Qaeda have taken shelter in the tribal areas across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, independent reports from Pakistan do not speak of any large presence of Arab terrorists in the tribal areas---either in Afghanistan or in Pakistan. After intensive operations in the South Waziristan area of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) since March, 2004, the Pakistani authorities are now reluctantly admitting that bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and others are probably not in this area. Since March, 2002, all major arrests of senior Al Qaeda operatives were made in the big urban cities of Pakistan such as Faislabad and Gujrat in Pakistani Punjab, Karachi and Rawalpindi and not in the tribal areas.

15. Independent reports indicate that while bin Laden and other senior Al Qaeda survivors of the Tora Bora battle of November-December,2001, continue to live in Pakistan with the protection of their benefactors in the fundamentalist parties, the ISI and in the community of retired intelligence officers, many of their Arab cadres have moved over to Iraq via Iran or Saudi Arabia and have been helping the Iraqi resistance fighters there. There is no credible evidence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda operating in tandem in Afghanistan. Statements emanating from Mulla Omar and other Taliban leaders, including the latest one from Omar issued on the occasion of the third anniversary of the collapse of the Taliban Government in Kabul and the end of the fasting period, hardly have any references to Al Qaeda or bin Laden.

16. It is significant to note that there have been very few incidents of suicide terrorism in Afghanistan as compared to the large number taking place almost every day in Iraq and that there has been hardly any involvement of Afghan nationals in the various post-9/11 terrorist incidents attributed to Al Qaeda in various parts of the world. As against this, there have been innumerable instances of the involvement of Pakistani nationals, not only in Pakistan itself, but also in other countries of the world.

17. From time to time, there have been reports of a split in the Taliban due to differences over the leadership of Mulla Omar and his amenability to the influence and control exercised by the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment, but these have not been confirmed. A group calling itself the Jaish-e-Muslimeen (the Army of Muslims), headed by one Mullah Sabir Momin, has recently kidnapped three UN workers from Kabul---an Irish, a Filipino and the third from Kosovo--- and has been demanding an end to the UN operations in Afghanistan and the release of 26 Taliban members captured by the US-led coalition. Some of them are stated to be held in custody in Afghanistan and some in the US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay. It is not clear whether this group has any links with the Taliban. However, it has to be mentioned that one does not find in Afghanistan what one has been witnessing in Iraq---namely, innumerable groups operating autonomously without any central command and control under different names. (Comments: The hostages have since been released)

18.Despite the action taken by many countries under the UN Security Council Resolution No.1373 to freeze bank accounts, which are suspected to be used for funding terrorism, the Taliban,  Al Qaeda and the International Islamic Front (IIF) have not been short of funds. The production  of heroin has again emerged as an important source of funds for the terrorist organisations operating from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. There has been a steep increase in the production of opium and heroin in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan. In their hunt for the dregs of  Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the US security forces have been using Afghan warlords of the pre-1992 vintage and narcotics smugglers because of their good knowledge of the topography of the area. It has been alleged that at the request of the US intelligence agencies and security forces, many narcotics barons, undergoing imprisonment in Pakistan, were got released in order to use their services; and that  action against opium producers and heroin smugglers was given low priority.

SOUTH WAZIRISTAN: MINI IRAQ

19. Pitted against the Pakistan Army in the current fighting in South Waziristan, which has already cost the lives of about 190 Pakistani troops, including some commissioned officers, is a mixed force of Chechens, Uzbeks, Uighurs from Xinjiang as well as the Uighur diaspora in the Central Asian Republics, mainly Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan, and some Arabs. These were all members of the Uighur and Uzbek components of bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF), but not of Al Qaeda. They support bin Laden's pan-Islamic ideology and advocate the division of the Islamic world into independent regional caliphates, including one encompassing Central Asia, Afghanistan and Xinjiang. At the same time, they have maintained their separate ethnic identities and have not allowed themselves  to be subsumed in Al Qaeda.

20 They enjoy the support  of the local Pashtun tribals, who have provided them with sanctuaries. Many of the members of this mixed force have married local Pashtun women, acquired landed property and had been indulging in farming until  they took to arms following the military operations launched by the Pakistan Army in October last year under US pressure because of the American suspicion that they are helping the Taliban in its operations in Afghan territory and have given shelter to bin Laden and other senior operatives of Al Qaeda, who had fled from Tora Bora in end-2001.

21.There are no reliable reports of the number of Uzbeks, Chechens and Uighurs in South Waziristan. Some Pakistani journalists, who had visited the South Waziristan area in March-April,2004,  had estimated the total number of foreigners, who had been given shelter there by the local tribals , as about 600, about 200 of them Uzbeks and the remaining Chechens, Uighurs, Arabs and others. Other reports place the number of Uighurs at about 100. The presence of Uzbeks, Chechens and Uighurs in the Taliban and in Gulbuddin Heckmatyar's HEI  now operating in Afghanistan has also been reported. Their number is not known.

22. The Pakistan Army has claimed to have killed a large number of these dregs. In a recent statement by the military commanders operating in the area, it has been claimed that nearly 500 members of this force have been killed or captured since March,2004, and that only about a hundred are still active. These claims have to be treated with considerable reserve. Like the American military commanders in Iraq, the Pakistani commanders in South Waziristan have been making highly exaggerated claims of the successes scored by them in the form of arrests and killings of terrorists without being able to produce those arrested or the dead bodies of those killed before the media. Last week, they claimed to have killed 40 terrorists, but admitted that they could find only six dead bodies. They often assert that their claims and estimates are based on electronic intercepts and not physical body counts.

23. Despite their claims of continuing success, the terrorists in the South Waziristan area of the FATA have retained their ability to organise surprise ambushes, attacks with improvised explosive devices and land-mines and mortar attacks. There have also been instances of Pakistani military gunships, given by the US, being brought down by terrorist fire from the ground.

24. While there has been no involvement of US ground troops in the counter-terrorism operations in this area, the Pakistan Army units operating in this area have been in receipt of back-up support from the intelligence collection teams of the USA's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA). The results produced by this intelligence support have been meagre and have not led to any significant improvement in the ground situation.

25.In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that since March,2004, the FATA in general and South Waziristan in particular have gradually been becoming Pakistan's mini-Iraq---- with almost daily terrorist strikes by small groups of Pashtuns, Uzbeks, Chechens, Uighurs and Arabs operating autonomously from different pockets.

26.The dregs of the IIF from Afghanistan have not been able to replicate in the Pakistani territory in this region the extensive training infrastructure which Al Qaeda and the IIF used to have in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan pre-9/11. However, a limited training infrastructure is already in place in the areas under the control of the terrorists in South Waziristan, with Chechen and Uzbek instructors providing training to local tribal recruits as well as to recruits from other parts of Pakistan, Xinjiang and the Central Asian Republics. It has been reported that some of the members of the Jundullah (the Army of Allah), a new organisation which was allegedly involved in an unsuccessful attempt to kill the Pakistani Army Corps Commander in Karachi in June,2004, had been trained in these new camps by Uzbek instructors.

27. Reliable reports from the area indicate that this mixed force consists of surviving dregs of the jihad of the 1980s against the Soviet troops as well as those of the post-9/11 jihad against the US troops in Afghanistan. Towards the end of the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Moscow started increasingly depending on its Muslim soldiers recruited in the Caucassus and the Central Asian Republics for dealing with the large number of Arab mercenaries, who were trained, armed and inducted into Afghanistan by the CIA and the ISI.

28. In successful Psywar operations, the Afghan Mujahideen and the Arabs were able to brainwash many of them and turn them against Moscow. They came to Afghanistan from the USSR as communists not believing in God. In Afghanistan, they became born-again Muslims. Some of them deserted and joined the Mujahideen, while many others  went back to their country, deserted from the Soviet/Russian Army and started a jihad against their respective Governments in the Caucassus and the Central Asian Republics. The Taliban's fight against the Northern Alliance post-1994 also attracted a number of Uzbeks, Chechens and Uighurs and those among them, who survived the post-9/11 US military operations, have crossed over into the FATA. They have succeeded in re-motivating the Uzbek, Chechen and Uighur dregs of the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s, who had married locally and settled down in the FATA after the collapse of the Najibulla Government in Kabul in April,1992, to take to jihad again by joining them---this time against the US.

29. What role do these dregs play in the on-going jihadi terrorism in the Central Asian Republics and in Chechnya? How many of the Uzbeks are Afghan nationals from the Mazar-e-Sharif area and how many are from Uzbekistan? Do recruits from the CARs manage to come to South Waziristan via Afghanistan  despite the US presence  for being trained there? How do they manage to go back to the CARs after their training---via Afghanistan or via Saudi Arabia/Iran/Turkey? Is there a networking between this mixed force and those operating in the CARs and Chechnya and is there a common command and control? If not, are those operating in the CARs, particularly in Uzbekistan, doing so autonomously? It is difficult to give categorical answers to these questions on the basis of the  evidence available till now. However, attention needs to be drawn to the history of the evolution of jihadi terrorism in Uzbekistan. This could help in a better understanding of the situation.

UZBEKISTAN

30 .The first signs of Islamic fundamentalism appeared in Uzbekistan  in December 1991, when some unemployed  Muslim youth  seized the Communist Party headquarters in the eastern city of Namangan, to protest against the refusal of the local Mayor to permit the construction of a mosque. The protest was organised by Tohir Abdouhalilovitch Yuldeshev, a 24-year-old college drop-out, who had become a Mulla, and Jumaboi Ahmadzhanovitch Khojaev, a former Soviet paratrooper who had served in Afghanistan and returned from there totally converted to Wahabism.

31.Yuldeshev and Khojaev, who later adopted the alias Juma Namangani, after his hometown, became  members of the  Uzbekistan branch of the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP). Following the IRP's reported refusal to support their demand for the establishment of an Islamic State in Uzbekistan, they formed their own party called the Adolat (Justice) Party, which was banned by President Islam Karimov. They then fled to Tajikistan. While Namangani fought in the local civil war, Yuldeshev went to Chechnya to participate in the jihad there. In 1995,he went to Pakistan, where the jihadi organisations gave him shelter in Peshawar. From there, he  re-named the Adolat Party as the IMU and was  allegedly in receipt of funds from the intelligence agencies of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. After Osama bin Laden shifted to Jalalabad from Khartoum in Sudan in 1996,he  crossed over into Afghanistan.

32.After the end of the civil war in Tajikistan,  Namangani settled down for a while as a road transport operator. He was also allegedly involved in heroin smuggling from Afghanistan. Subsequently, he too crossed over into Afghanistan and joined the IMU and became its leader. The IMU allegedly earns a major part of its revenue from heroin smuggling.

33.After the Taliban captured Kabul in September,1996, Namangani and Yuldeshev  held a press conference at Kabul at which they announced the formation of the IMU with Namangani as the Amir and Yuldeshev as its military commander. In 1998, the IMU joined the International Islamic Front (IIF). bin Laden was reportedly greatly interested in the IMU because he was hoping to use it for getting nuclear material and know-how from Russia and other constituent States of the erstwhile USSR.

34.The IMU's initial goal was described as the overthrow of  Uzbek President Islam Karimov and the establishment of an Islamic State in Uzbekistan. It  reportedly changed  its name to the Islamic Party of Turkestan (IPT) in June 2001, and called for the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate in Central Asia consisting of   Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and China's Xinxiang province. It has been recruiting members from all these areas, including Uighurs from Xinjiang. Initially, its recruits were trained by the Arab instructors of Al Qaeda in the training camps in Afghan territory and after 9/11 by Chechen and Pashtun instructors  of the Taliban in the South Waziristan area of Pakistan. Despite its 2001 change of name as IPT, it continues to be known in Uzbekistan as the IMU.  The name IPT is not widely known.

35.After the reported death of Namangani in a US air strike in Afghanistan post-9/11, Yuldeshev took over the leadership of the IMU and crossed over with the surviving members of the IMU into South Waziristan where he and his Uzbek/Chechen instructors were reported to have set up a training camp for training jihadi terrorists. In an operation launched by the Pakistani security forces in South Waziristan in March-April, 2004, to smoke out the dregs of  Al Qaeda, Yuldeshev was reported to have been injured, but he managed to escape. His present whereabouts are not known. It is not even known whether he is alive or succumbed to the injuries subsequently.

36.There are also reports about the presence of many Uzbek women in South Waziristan. Many of them are the wives of  local Pashtuns, Chechens and Arabs. It is not known how and when they came there. Some reports allege that in addition to heroin smuggling, the IMU also indulges in human trafficking, particularly of women.

37.Jihadi terrorism made its first major appearance in Uzbekistan on February 16,1999, when there were   six car bomb explosions in Tashkent, the capital, killing, according to official accounts, 16 persons and injuring  130 others. The explosions took place near the headquarters of the Council of Ministers where President  Islam Karimov was to preside over a Cabinet meeting, outside a nearby cinema hall, near the office of the Interior Ministry, outside the Traffic Police headquarters and a building owned by the national bank.

38.While no organisation claimed responsibility for the explosions, the Uzbek authorities, including President  Karimov himself, projected the explosions as an abortive attempt by Islamic extremist elements to assassinate the President. However, Russian experts, including  Dr.Sergei Abashin, an expert on Uzbekistan  at the Anthropology and Ethnology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, while not ruling out the involvement of Islamic fanatics, drew attention also to the possibility of the political opponents of  Karimov hiring local mafia groups to eliminate the President due to personal and political grudge.

39.There were three explosions outside the US and Israeli embassies and the local Prosecutor's office  in Tashkent on July 30, 2004. Two private security guards employed by the Israeli Embassy were killed. An injured police officer, who was on duty outside the US Embassy, died subsequently. Seven people were injured outside the Prosecutor's office.

40. The local authorities  attributed all the three explosions to suicide bombers. Uzbekistan had been periodically witnessing incidents of violence, including acts of terrorism, by Islamic fundamentalist elements since 1999. There were, however, no acts of suicide terrorism till March-April, 2004, when 42 people were killed in different incidents in Tashkent, Bukhara and other places. The incidents involved use of explosive devices and attacks with hand-held weapons. For the first time since 1999, the local authorities blamed suicide bombers for some of those incidents and depicted them as Wahabis.  According to them, two of the suicide bombers were women.

41. The incidents of July 30, 2004, took place four days after the start of the trial of 15 persons, who had been accused by the local police of involvement in the incidents of March-April, 2004. The Prosecutor's Office, outside which one of the explosions took place, has been handling the prosecution of the case.

42. The explosion outside the US Embassy was attributed to resentment over the use by the US of an airbase in Uzbekistan for its operations against the dregs of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and over the role allegedly played by the US Special Forces in assisting the Pakistan Army in its operations in South Waziristan. Anger over the continued US occupation of Iraq also seems to have been one of the factors.

43. The explosion outside the Israeli Embassy was attributed to its alleged suppression of the Palestinians and its alleged assistance to the intelligence and security agencies of Uzbekistan in their operations against the jihadi terrorist elements.

44. As against this, the terrorist incidents of March-April,2004, were largely motivated by anger over the repressive policies of the Islam Karimov regime and its co-operation with the US in its so-called war against terrorism.

45. The needle of suspicion in respect of the incidents of this year points towards the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Hizbut Tahrir . An Islamic website  claimed responsibility in respect of the July 30 blasts on behalf of these two organisations, but the organisations themselves  remained silent. The reliability of the web site is not known.

46.There is so far no evidence to show that the suicide bombers of July 30  might have gone to Tashkent  from South Waziristan.  If it is established that they belonged to the IMU, they might have been recruited locally by the local cells and need not have necessarily come from South Waziristan. This would show that despite the strong measures taken by the Karimov regime, secret cells of the IMU have managed to survive in Uzbek territory and that their motivation and capability for action remain unimpaired.

47. The Hizbut Tahrir of Uzbekistan, led by Vahid Omran, is estimated to have more local support than the IMU. It denies involvement in acts of terrorism. Like the IMU, it advocates the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate in Central Asia, including Xinjiang, but claims that it wants to achieve its objective through political means and not by resorting to terrorism.

48. Like the Hizbut Tahrir of Pakistan, its Central Asian counterpart is also a highly clandestine organisation, which seeks to achieve its objective not through overt acts of violence, but through covert penetration of the security forces and the intelligence agencies. In the long term, it could be even more dangerous than the IMU.

49. A third organisation calling itself the Islamic Jihad group of Uzbekistan  also claimed responsibility for the incidents of March-April as well as of July 30, but one does not even know whether such an organisation exists and, if so, what is its background and who are its leaders.

50.Of the five Pakistani jihadi organisations, which are members of the IIF, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) have a long history of involvement in the jihad in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Chechnya.While the HUM operates in Chechnya, the HUJI operates in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

THE UIGHURS

51.This year has also seen Chinese engineers and other experts working in Afghanistan and Pakistan being targeted by suspected terrorist elements. Uighurs allegedly trained by the IMU were suspected of involvement in the explosion in Gwadar in Balochistan on May 3 last  in which three Chinese engineers were killed and in the explosions on July 31,2004, at the same town in which no casualties were reported.

52. These incidents were followed by the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers working in an irrigation project in South Waziristan by a group of pro-bin Laden jihadi terrorists in the beginning of October,2004,  and the death of one of them  on October 13,2004, during a rescue operation mounted by the US-trained Special Services Group, the parent Army unit of Gen.Pervez Musharraf.

53.Talking to a group of senior Pakistani newspaper editors after a visit to China last year, Musharraf was reported to have stated that he was shocked by the strong language used by the Chinese leaders while talking of the activities of the Uighur jihadi terrorists from Pakistani territory. Since then, the Pakistan Army and its ISI have mounted special operations to smoke out the Chechens, the Uzbeks and the Uighurs operating from the FATA in co-operation with each other. Apart from killing or capturing a few Uzbek and Chechen terrorists and killing an Uighur terrorist, these operations have not produced any significant results. In the meanwhile, the Hizbut Tehrir, which has a strong presence in Pakistan and the CARs, has started wooing the Uighurs in an attempt to set up sleeper cells in Xinjiang.  Amongst the major successes claimed by the Pakistani authorities since March last are the killing of Hassan Mahsun of the East Turkestan Islamic  Movement  and of Nek Muhammad, a local Pakistani tribal leader, who was allegedly assisting the Al  Qaeda and the Taliban remnants and causing serious injuries to  Yuldeshev.

54. Following the Gwadar explosion of May,  a  number of Chinese intelligence officers from its Ministries of State (external) and Public (internal) Security have reportedly been deployed in Balochistan and South Waziristan to assist the Pakistani authorities in their investigation and in their hunt for the Uighur jihadi terrorists.

55.According to some sources, the jihadi organisations suspect that many of the Chinese intelligence operatives inducted into Balochistan and the FATA after the explosion of May last work under the cover of members of the staff of Chinese construction companies, which have been helping Pakistan in its various projects in these areas.

56. The Pakistani military  authorities have projected Abdullah Mahsud, a former Taliban commander who was released by the US authorities from detention in their Guantanamo Bay detention camp in March last, as the mastermind of the kidnap and have admitted that apart from some local tribal followers of Abdullah Mahsud, three Uzbeks were also involved. They have claimed that the apparent objective of the kidnappers was to secure the release of  some foreign terrorists arrested in the area recently. They have played down the possibility of any specific anti-Chinese motive.

57. Afghanistan also saw a terrorist strike directed against the Chinese  on June 10,2004, when 11 Chinese road construction workers in the Kunduz area in the North-East  were gunned down by unidentified elements. Though the Afghan authorities claimed to have made some arrests, it is not clear as to who was responsible for this incident and what was their motive. 

(The author is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat. Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter. E-mail: corde@vsnl.com )

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