The recent train bombings in India have intensified the scrutiny of the Pakistan-based, al Qaeda affiliated terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. In particular, one key question is being asked: What role does LET play in the war against Islamofascists and their allies?
The al Qaeda-linked Wahhabi group, formed in 1989, has been blamed for a number of attacks on Indian officials and civilians. It was added to the U.S. terrorist list in December 2001. LET’s agenda, as announced in one of their pamphlets and detailed by MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base, is to wage jihad with the goal of imposing their narrow version of Islam on all parts of India.
LET has also sheltered al Qaeda deputy Abu Zubaydah until he was captured at one of their safe houses in March 2002, and is a co-member of the al Qaeda-led group “International Islamic Front for Jihad against the U.S. and Israel,” which has been blamed for numerous terrorist attacks. When the U.S. added LET to the terror list in December 2001, their contacts were listed as extending into the Gulf and Middle East. Since then, LET operatives have been arrested not only in the India-Pakistan region, but also in Iraq, Canada, Britain and Australia—indicating that the group’s influence is not limited to the conflict in Kashmir.
In fact, LET agents have been captured in the United States. In 2003, operatives were arrested in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania for conspiring to "[P]repare for and engage in violent jihad on behalf of Muslims in Kashmir, Chechnya, the Philippines and other countries."
Yet it is LET’s involvement in the Iraqi conflict that perhaps raises the most troubling questions as to when the group arrived in Iraq and whether or not their motives were limited only to anti-American sentiments. This is especially important given that their rhetoric prior to the invasion was not only anti-U.S., but pro-Saddam Hussein.
In the months preceding the Iraq war, LET statements included condoning jihad in Iraq. The group’s former chief, Mohammad Hafiz Said, even went so far as to suggest that Pakistani troops and nuclear weapons be used against Western forces in Iraq.
Anti-Western rhetoric was fairly typical of Islamic extremist groups in 2002 and 2003. But in an August 2003 piece for “Pakistan Today,” author Tashbih Sayyed quotes Said as equating Saddam with the prophet of Islam in an August 2003 Khutbah (Islamic sermon).
Much of LET’s rhetoric about fighting the infidels in Iraq could easily be dismissed as empty threats. Post-war revelations, however, suggest that the group was serious—deadly serious. New evidence shows that LET funded sleeper cells and sent jihadist fighters to Iraq, specifically suicide bombers. LET fighters, including Danish Ahme, were reported to be captured in Basra by British forces.
The exact time period when LET operatives entered Iraq is unknown. But recently released internal Iraqi memos indicate that some LET members may have been among the foreign jihadist volunteers who came into Iraq before the war to fight alongside Saddam’s regime.
One internal Iraqi document of particular concern, ISGQ-2003-00054866, discusses the traits and skills desired by Saddam’s regime of its pre-war volunteers. Among the desired traits mentioned were loyalty to the regime, an assortment of military skills and fluency in Urdu. Urdu is the main language spoken within LET's base of operations.
It is possible that Saddam’s henchmen sought fluent Urdish speakers to communicate with other Urdu speaking groups involved in the planned resistance. However, the more likely reason is that LET’s outspoken desire to assist in defending Iraq and the subsequent capture of some of the group’s fighters by Western coalition forces, made them one of the key Urdu speaking “volunteers” Saddam’s regime sought to collaborate with.
The Iraqi dictator probably not only had strong ties to LET, but additional released Iraqi documents and the capture of Iraqi agents show that Saddam’s regime had extensive contacts with other jihadist, Islamic militants based in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region and in disputed Kashmir—contacts that went back to the 1990s.
For example, one of the documents quotes Iraq’s former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan as saying Saddam’s regime had numerous allies in Pakistan. Ramadan also says that he had been communicating with Pakistan-based cleric Maulana Fazlur Rahman, someone known to be closely affiliated with al Qaeda and a good friend of Mullah Omar.
As more Iraqi documents (those that survived the last minute deliberate destruction) are released, the public may better understand when and how groups such as LET entered Iraq. Hopefully, the public will also better understand the exact nature of the pre-war collusion between Saddam’s secular fascist regime and Islamist fascist groups, who continue to play such a destructive role in today’s post-war Iraq.
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