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Every Islamic Terror Plot has Pakistani Contribution

Reader comment on item: Red Mosque in Rebellion

Submitted by Zephyr (India), Aug 21, 2007 at 14:50

The plot to destroy passenger aircraft travelling from Britain to the US was most likely intended to demonstrate Islamist extremist anger at the common front of the UK and US in "the war on Islam". While Australia does not have as high a profile in this regard, it is seen by many extremists as a fellow traveller of the US against Muslim interests, particularly since March 2003 and our involvement in Iraq. According to US officials, the intent was to take liquid explosives on up to 10 planes with detonators hidden in electronic devices. What the plot demonstrates is that terrorists will continue to look for symbolic targets and vulnerabilities that could hurt adversary governments and cause them to change their foreign policies.

Exploiting a security vulnerability by using dangerous liquids is not a revolutionary new development, but rather the resurrection of previously tried techniques. In November 1987, North Korean agents downed a South Korean passenger aircraft over the Andaman Sea using an improvised explosive device in a radio and accelerant liquid in a duty-free liquor bottle; 115 people died. Ramzi Yousef, an Al-Qaeda associate, used liquid explosive in a contact lens bottle to "test bomb" a flight between the Philippines and Japan in December 1995. The IED killed one passenger but did not destroy the aircraft. Had the IED been combined with an accelerant, it could well have done so.

Yousef's aim was to down 11 American passenger aircraft crossing the Pacific in January 2005, but instead he had to flee from the Philippines to avoid arrest. It seems that most of the 24 arrested in Britain at the time of writing are British-born Pakistanis, some with connections to Pakistan. Arrests have also take place in Pakistan. Pakistan, predictably, is hyping its "important" role in the investigation. It is more likely though, given past British experience with Pakistani security force unreliability, that contact from the UK seeking arrests in Pakistan was made after the roundup started in the UK.

The main Pakistan terrorism connection will probably prove to be the training of some of those arrested in the UK at Pakistani extremist camps and/or madrassas. The usual suspect contact groups in Pakistan will be Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami. The Pakistani Government tolerates the activities of these groups because of their role in keeping pressure on India over its "occupation" of Kashmir. All of these groups are affiliated with Al-Qaeda, but Al-Qaeda does not direct their activities. So far the Metropolitan Police's Anti-Terrorist Branch and MI5 the Security Service, and their overall boss the Home Office, have not provided public information other than that needed to justify enhanced security measures at airports. The heightened level of security concern is proving a good test for the UK's new five-level alert system, introduced in late July. The level is currently set at "critical", the highest, presumably because of concerns that remaining members of the group could still mount a terrorist attack.

The current roundup is the culmination of a protracted security operation. It will be a morale booster for the security services after their much-publicised failures of the past two years, for example, in 2005 to prevent the 7/7 and 21/7 attacks and the unfortunate killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, and in 2006 the mistaken arrest of two "chemical agent terrorists" at Forest Gate. We will inevitably see boosted security measures at Australian airports in the future, probably focusing particularly on liquids and gels in carry-on baggage. There is always a silver lining for someone, however -- enhanced security measures should boost sales at point-of-arrival duty-free shops at airports, and the airlines will no doubt benefit from increased sales of in-flight duty-free liquor. Professor Clive Williams MG runs a terrorism and counterterrorism program at the Australian Defence Force Academy

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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