INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR: PAPER NO.398
Eight Muslims, two of them Policemen, were killed by a car bomb explosion in Islamabad on June 2,2008, outside the building of the Danish Embassy, which badly damaged the building. There were reportedly no Danish citizens working inside the Embassy. They had been withdrawn by the Danish Government weeks ago fearing a terrorist strike against Danish citizens in reprisal for the publication of cartoons purporting to depict the Holy Prophet by a Danish journal in September 2005, which were re-published by some journals in March last. Among those killed was a Pakistani citizen, who was working in the Embassy. The skeleton mission was largely being manned by local recruits. The Danish authorities have confirmed that there was no Danish citizen among the fatalities.
2. Ever since the original publication of the offending cartoons in September,2005, it was feared that there would be a reprisal attack on Danish targets either in Denmark or elsewhere and the Danish authorities had taken the necessary precautions. Attempts by local Muslims in Denmark itself, including some of Pakistani origin, to mount a terrorist strike were thwarted. The Neo Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan were looking out for Danish targets. There have been reports of Al Qaeda looking out for an opportunity for a Munich-style attack on the Danish team during the forthcoming Beijing Olympics in August,2008.
3. In their periodic messages to their followers, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, his No.2 in Al Qaeda, have been warning of reprisals against Danish targets. Against this background, the blast in Islamabad, believed to be a suicide attack, has not been a surprise.What is intriguing is why the reprisal took such a long time in coming, who were responsible and how come they were unaware of the fact that most, if not all of the Danish nationals, had been withdrawn weeks ago. If they were aware of this fact, they would have known that they would be killing only fellow-Muslims, who had nothing to do with the cartoons.
4. Since the Army commando raid into the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in July last, there have been innumerable suicide terrorist strikes in Islamabad--many of them against the Army and even the Inter-Services Intelligence. These strikes spoke of poor physical security, some sympathy for the terrorists among physical security personnel and the consequent capability of the jihadis to strike even at supposedly hard targets. That they were able to take an explosive-laden vehicle to the vicinity of the Embassy building and blow the vehicle up should not, therefore, be a matter of surprise.
5. Why now? Who is responsible? There have been reports that Al Qaeda, the Taliban of Afghanistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Group (IJG) , another Uzbek group which had been training Muslim recruits---mainly Pakistanis, but also some local converts to Islam-- from Germany, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Holland,the UK,France and other European countries, and the Jaish-e-Mohamnmad (JEM) were unhappy with Maulana Fazlullah of the Swat Valley in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Baitullah Mehsud of South Waziristan, who is the so-called Amir of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), for negotiating a peace deal with the coalition Government.The JEM continues to be in occupation of some territory in the Swat Valley where it trains recruits from Pakistan and foreign countries.
6. It is suspected that one of these groups must have carried out this strike to underline that there can be no ceasefire so far as they are concerned. They chose the Danish embassy thinking that the deaths of Danish citizens in reprisal for the cartoons would meet with the approval of fellow-Muslims. The IJG and the JEM should figure on top of the suspects' list.
7.In this connection, reference is invited to my following comments in my article of April 27,2008,titled THE JIHADI WINDS FROM PAKISTAN at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers27/paper2682.html : "The TTP is not a homogenous group. It consists of leaders of different tribes in the FATA and in the adjoining districts of the NWFP, each having his own inflated ego and his own agenda. The common bonds uniting them are their pro-Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda feelings and their anti-US and anti-Musharraf anger. The desire to avenge the Lal Masjid raid by the Army is no longer as strong a motivating factor as it was before the elections, but the desire to help the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan, headed by its Amir Mullah Mohammad Omar, and Al Qaeda in their jihad against the NATO forces in Afghanistan is still a strong motivating factor. While they rallied behind the leadership of Baitullah, who is a strong supporter of Serajuddin Haqqani of the Neo Taliban, in the wake of the Lal Masjid raid and contributed volunteers for suicide missions, the ability of Baitullah to make all of them implement the terms of any peace agreement eventually signed by him with the Government is doubtful. The Mardan explosion is as much a message to the Government as it is to Baitullah not to take for granted their support to any peace agreement between the Govt. and Baitullah. "
8. The Islamabad blast against the Danish Embassy building is a message from Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations in Pakistani territory that the global jihad against the so-called Crusaders and the Jewish people will continue from their rear headquarters in the FATA whoever might be in power in Islamabad.(2-6-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: email@example.com )