The tragedy that occurred on 9/11 taught us that America is not insulated in safety from radicals positioned thousands of miles from our shores. So when violence in Pakistan erupts, as it did last month in the form of an assassination attempt on an ex-Pakistani Premier, or when the Pakistani government declares martial law, as has happened this week, possible implications on the United States must be delved into. This is especially the case given the fact that Pakistan has been used as a training ground for Al-Qaeda. One American organization in particular, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), has a number of ties to groups that are implicated in last month’s deadly attacks.
After the dual suicide bombings that shook Karachi, Pakistan on October 14, 2007, all eyes focused on those that were likely responsible. The attack – a targeted response on the return of former Pakistani Premier Benazir Bhutto – was preordained, as extremists voiced their violent opposition to a negotiated deal between Bhutto and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf only weeks before the incident.
On October 5th, both the Taliban and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the Muslim Brotherhood of Pakistan, issued separate statements denouncing any deal between Musharraf and Bhutto as being a plot by the United States to destroy Islam in the region. As well, both groups summoned Pakistanis to take action, including violent jihad.
As reported in Pakistan’s Daily Times, Taliban Commander Baitullah Mehsud “threatened suicide attacks” against Bhutto, stating that his bombers were “waiting in the wings to ‘welcome’ her when she returns.” According to a confidant of Mehsud, he stated, “We don’t accept President General Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto because they only protect the US interest and see things through its glasses.”
The same day, JI Secretary General Syed Munawar Hasan voiced his own contempt, saying that the deal was “brokered and patronized by the USA in order to block the way of Islamic forces in the region.” According to Hasan, “the USA has united its agents, dictators and oppressors of the present times on one platform to eliminate Islam and Jihad from Pakistan.” He warned that “the situation predicts that a fierce battle is about to begin between Islamic forces and those of evil,” and he called on those concerned to “play their due role” and “block the march of evil forces.”
Additionally, following the bombing, Mahmoud Al Hasan, a leader of JI’s militant wing Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen – a group that has taken credit for past terror attacks – issued the following statement to the Associated Press: “Benazir Bhutto was totally talking like an infidel. What should be the reaction of jihadis? They should definitely kill her. She is an enemy of Islam. She is an enemy of jihadis. She is an enemy of the country.”
The bombers, while unsuccessful in their mission of taking Bhutto’s life, left close to 140 persons dead and scores of others injured and maimed. The attack reverberated all over South Asia, but the incident has ramifications here in America, as well.
The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) is the American arm of JI. It was created as such in 1971, and never has it relinquished its ties. JI President Qazi Hussain Ahmad has previously represented ICNA, and even today, the national website of ICNA is registered to farrukh.net, a mirror site of the former official website of JI’s media division.
ICNA is currently listed as the top donor of JI’s charity in Pakistan, the Al-Khidmat Foundation (AKF), and as a “Mission Partner” to the AKF subsidiary, the Al-Khidmat Welfare Society (AKWS). In the midst of ICNA’s top donor status with the “charity,” AKF, in August of 2006, gave $99,000 to the head of Hamas Khaled Mashaal, who in turn thanked the group and said Hamas would continue to wage war against Israelis.
In addition, ICNA’s past Secretary General, Ashrafuzzaman Khan, has been accused of being a death squad leader for Al-Badr – the former designation of JI’s Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen – during the Bangledesh massacre of 1971. The bloodbath reportedly included up to 3,000,000 deceased Bangladeshis.
Furthermore, ICNA’s Southeast division, shortly before and shortly after 9/11, called upon its website viewers to give “material support” to groups associated with Al-Qaeda. Along with its call, ICNA-SE provided a link to Jihad in Chechnya (www.qoqaz.net), one of the main websites that was used for raising funds and recruiting fighters for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The site was produced by Azzam Publications, named for the mentor of Osama bin Laden and co-founder of Al-Qaeda, Abdullah Azzam. ICNA-SE also placed on its website links to the official sites for Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban.
Lastly, a four-man ICNA-related group from the Houston and Dallas, Texas areas, tagged the “Houston Taliban,” was taken into custody last November, accused of taking part in terror training. Two of them, Kobie Diallo Williams and Adnan Babar Mirza, were charged with conspiring to join the Taliban to attack American soldiers abroad. The others, Shiraz Syed Qazi and Syed Maaz Shah were charged with unlawful possession of firearms. At the time of his arrest, Shah, a Pakistani, was serving as the Secretary of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), even though his student visa had expired.
None of the above, with regard to ICNA, diminishes the responsibility of the United States to look into the connections between the group and those suspected of the anti-Bhutto suicide attacks in Karachi. Indeed, the information only strengthens the case that these associations need to be properly and completely vetted. If we choose to ignore the ties, then like 9/11, we may see what goes on “over there” wind up at our doorstep once again.