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Alliance of Al Qaida and Pakistani Jehadis in Afghanistan - Pakistan Border

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Submitted by Jora (India), May 7, 2007 at 13:15

Following the deaths of Abdul Aziz al-Muqrin, considered the mastermind of the recent kidnapping and beheading of American engineer Paul M. Johnson Jr., and his No. 2, and the reported capture by the Security Forces of Rakan Mohsin Mohammad al-Saikhan, the No. 3, in an encounter with the Saudi security forces on June 18,2004, the Saudi Al Qaeda, which calls itself Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, is reported to have designated Saleh Mohammed al-Oufi, who was No.5 in its hierarchy of surviving leaders, as the head of the organisation.

The No.4,Kareem Altohami al-Mojati, has not been nominated presumably because he is a Moroccan and has limited knowledge of Saudi Arabia with very little contacts in the local security and intelligence set-up. Al Muqrin's death is the third major success of the Saudi security forces since the beginning of last year when Al Qaeda stepped up its acts of terrorism in Saudi territory. His two predecessors as the head of the local Al Qaeda set-up Yussef Al-Ayri and the Yemeni Khaled Ali Haj were killed in June,2003 and March,2004 respectively.

2.As against this, Al-Oufi, who is 38, is not only a Saudi national, but has also nurtured a wide network of contacts in the Saudi security establishment which he had built up during his service as a prison guard with the rank of Sergeant before taking to jihadi terrorism. There are conflicting reports on his career before he became a prison guard. Some reports describe him as having served in the Army after undergoing a training course in the Saudi national security defence training school, but others say he was actually a junior police officer.

3. Al-Oufi is not one of the Arabs who had fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet troops in the 1980s. He proceeded to Pakistan after he was dismissed from the prison department in 1992 on a charge of indiscipline and came into contact with Ramzi Yousef, one of the accused in the New York World Trade Centre bombing case of February,1993, now in jail in the US, and helped him in running a company for the import of holy water from Saudi Arabia and its sale in Pakistan.

4. During his stay in Pakistan, he joined the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Pakistani jihadi organisation which was then known as the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA), underwent a training course in one of its training camps in the Afghan territory and was selected as a member of a jihadi contingent which was sent by Lt.Gen. (retd) Hamid Gul, former Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), to Bosnia to participate in the jihad there. From Bosnia, he gravitated to Chechnya where he was injured in a clash with the Russian security forces.

5. He returned to Saudi Arabia thereafter and, after undergoing medical treatment, started a shop for the sale of second-hand automobiles and spare parts near Medina. He came into contact with Prof.Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed, the Amir of the Markaz Dawa Al-Irshad (now known as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa JUD), which is the political wing of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), when the latter came to Saudi Arabia on one of his periodic visits and joined the LET. Sayeed nominated him to the shura of the LET set-up in Saudi Arabia and, in that capacity, Al-Oufi used to attend the annual sessions of the LET at Muridke, near Lahore.

6. When the LET started sending its volunteers to Iraq last year to wage jihad against the US troops there, it made him responsible for their infiltration into Iraq via Saudi Arabia. With the help of his contacts in the Saudi security establishment, he successfully helped in the infiltration of a number of jihadis from the LET, the HUM and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) into Iraq.

7. His first reported contacts with Osama bin Laden were after the latter returned to Afghanistan from Khartoum in the Sudan in 1996.In the post-1996 period, he was reported to have met him in Afghanistan at least twice, the second time just before the terrorist strikes of 9/11 in the US. While it is not known whether he was aware of the plans for 9/11, Saudi sources describe him as a cousin of Majed Moqed, one of the five hijackers aboard the American Airlines plane that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11 2001.

8. After Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the resumption of the offensive by his Security Forces against the Chechen terrorists in the wake of their raid into Dagestan in 1999, Al-Oufi was in the forefront of those in Saudi Arabia, who, with the knowledge, if not the approval, of the Saudi authorities collected and sent funds for the Chechen jihad. He also helped in the recruitment of local volunteers, their training and despatch to Chechnya for participation in the jihad in the Caucasus as members of the Arab brigade.

9. This brigade was initially headed by Omar Ibn Al Khattab, described by some as a Jordanian and by others as a Saudi, and, after his death at the hands of the Russian security forces in 2002, by Abu Al-Walid Al-Ghamdi, a Saudi belonging to the al-Ghamdi tribe, which had contributed some of the hijackers of 9/11. It is one of the largest tribes in Saudi Arabia, with about 600,000 members, and has been a favourite recruiting ground for jihadis and suicide bombers. Abu Al-Walid himself was reported to have been killed by the Russian security forces in April last, but this is yet to be confirmed. Post-1999, Al-Oufi was reported to have visited Chechnya via Turkey at least once to meet Al-Khattab, Al-Walid and other Arab volunteers serving in the brigade.

10. Al-Oufi and Al-Walid, whose real name is Abd al-Aziz Al-Ghamdi, had served together, along with about 300 veterans of the Afghan war, in the Bosnian Army's 7th Battalion under the command of Abu 'Abd al-Aziz 'Barbaros', described as an Indian Muslim from Saudi Arabia, who had fought in Afghanistan and Jammu & Kashmir. Abd al-Aziz Barbaros became a legendary jihadi figure during the Bosnian war and used to attend the annual LET conventions at Muridke along with Al-Oufi. Sayeed used to introduce the Indian Muslim to the convention as the hero of the Bosnian jihad, but it has not been possible so far to establish his real identity and present whereabouts.

11.The Saudi elements fighting in Chechnya including Al-Walid himself and his No.2 (Deputy Amir) Sheikh Abu 'Omar Al-Seif, were reported to have been unhappy over the actions of the Al Qaeda set-up in Saudi Arabia in provoking a confrontation with the Saudi security forces by indulging in acts of terrorism in Saudi territory. They reportedly felt that all jihadis should concentrate for the present on defeating the US troops in Iraq and bringing about their withdrawal from there. They felt that for achieving this task, they would need safe sanctuaries in Saudi Arabia and Jordan and that if they engaged in an armed confrontation with the Saudi security forces, their ability to wage an effective jihad against the American troops in Iraq would be weakened.

12. An audio tape attributed to Al-Seif, which came to notice in January last, said inter alia: "It is essential that the Jihad groups there [in Iraq] unite and not separate, and that they have the political dimension to assemble the Sunnis, including the Kurds, the Arabs, and the Turkmenis. All must be united under the same political power. Similarly, there must be an information and a religious preaching arm. My recommendation is that a Fatwa be issued, to be signed by a large number of clerics, and to be directed at the Jihad groups, advising them to unite and to learn the lesson from the cases in the past when the secularists took the regime. Similarly, I recommend to the Mujahideen that instead of engaging in clashes and warfare against the Saudi government, it is better to go to Iraq. There, there are weapons aplenty and there they can fight the Americans. It is no secret that great damage will be caused to the Americans if the Mujahideen turn to Iraq to fight them. As for the clashes in Saudi Arabia, there is no doubt that they gladden the Americans. It gladdens them that the Mujahideen are killed by the Saudi Government. I recommend to the youth to act according to their interests and to turn to Iraq instead of dealing with confronting the Saudi Government."

13. The late Al-Muqrin did not agree with this point of view. He wanted the jihad against the Saudi ruling family in Saudi territory and the jihad against the Americans in Iraq to be waged simultaneously, with the one complementing and sustaining the other. Till now, Al-Oufi has gone along with this view. It remains to be seen whether he would continue to do so now that he has taken over as the head of Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia.

14. Pakistani jihadi organisations such as the LET, the HUM and the LEJ seem to agree with the views of Al-Walid and Al-Seif that the present confrontation in Saudi Arabia is inopportune and that the Saudi jihadis should focus on defeating the Americans in Iraq. It would be interesting to watch whether the LET's views would have any impact on Al-Oufi's thinking in view of his close links of the past with it

Al Qaida has got strong support and base in Pakistan , next sept 11 level attack in West is being in Pakistan . We have to be very cautious and increase pressure on Pakistan to use its Military to crush Al Qaida - Talibaan - Jehadi - Tribal Militant base in its North West Frontier province.

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