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Emerson Vermaat: The terrorist attacks in India: the role Pakistani extremist groups

July 17, 2006

The terrorist attacks in India: the role of Pakistani extremist groups
By Emerson Vermaat

The terrorist attacks on commuter trains in Bombay on July 11, 2006, were well prepared. There are strong indications that they were the work of extremist Muslim organizations in neighboring Pakistan which collaborated with local extremists. In this connection two Pakistani groups in particular have been singled out as likely culprits: "Lashkar-e-Taiba" and "Jaish-e- Mohammed." Both are struggling for a unified Kashmir under Muslim control. Although officially banned by the Pakistani authorities, they continue to train young Muslims for terrorist operations in India and the Indian part of Kashmir, and they have links with Al-Qaeda.

In his book "A to Z of Jehadi Organizations in Pakistan" (Lahore, Pakistan, 2005) Muhammed Amir Rana states the following: "In the past Harkatul Jehad-ul Islami, Harkatul Mujahideen, Jaishe Mohammad, Al-Badar Mujahideen and Lashkare Taiba have acknowledged their close connections with Al-Qaeda. Not only are these organizations highly influenced by Osama bin Laden, but many have also benefited from Al-Qaeda's monetary and technical resources. Osama bin Laden has been playing the role of mediator between different jehadi organizations, and Arab mujahideen and members of Al-Qaeda have been receiving military training in camps belonging to these organizations in Afghanistan."[1

According the State Department's "Country Reports on Terrorism 2004," Jaish-e-Mohammed "had close ties to the Afghan Arabs and the Taliban. Osama bin Laden is suspected of giving funding to JEM." ‘The Indian government publicly implicated Lashkar-e-Taiba along with Jaish-e-Mohammed, for the attack on the Indian Parliament building, although concrete evidence is lacking, Lashkar-e-Taiba is also suspected of involvement in the attack on May 14, 2002, on an Indian Army base in Kaluchack that left 36 dead. Senior Al-Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubaydah was captured at a Lashkar-e-Taiba safehouse in Faisalabad in March 2002, suggesting some members are facilitating the movement of Al-Qaeda members in Pakistan."[2

After the fall of the Taliban in December 2001, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed continued to have close connections with Al-Qaeda. They also have a number of terrorist training camps in Pakistan, sometimes operating under the guise of a "madrassa" or Koranic school. (In the 1990's madrassas in Pakistan also laid the foundation for Taliban ideology.) After the closure of the camps in Afghanistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba has five camps still functioning. Mujahideen from all over the world (also from Europe and Africa) come to these camps.[3There are problably also contacts with Palestinian groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Amir Rana writes: "After completing their training they return to their areas for jehad and in cases where jehad has not yet taken root, like Europe, a few are sent to Occupied Kashmir."

Similarly, Jaish-e-Mohammed, led by Malana Masood Azhar, has four large military training camps which are functioning under a ‘'Military Department." The largest military training center is "Madrassa Syed Ahmed Shaheed," in Bakalot, set up immediately after Jaish-e-Mohammed was established. There is also a "Department of Martyrs," set up in January 2001, as well as a "Department of Broadcast and Publication" dealing with propaganda.[4 The central authorities in Islamabad are either unable or unwilling to put an end to these activities. Indian government and security sources even claim that Pakistan covertly supports these groups, despite the fact that they are banned officially.

Lashkar-e-Taiba initiated its militant activities in the Indian part of Kashmir in January 1990. Jaish-e-Mohammed was established in January 2000 by Maulana Masood Azhar. Amir Rana relates about him: "Prior to December 31, 1999 he was in a jail in Occupied Kashmir. In December 1999 five men hijacked an Indian arline plane ‘IC 814' and forced the pilot to land at Qandahar airport in Afghanistan. The hijackers demanded the release of Maulana Masood Azhar, Mustaq Zargar and Umar Sheikh in exchange for the passengers aboard the aircraft. The demand was accepted on December 31st."[5

According to Lashkar-e-Taiba records, of its ten thousand trained mujahideen six thousand are active in jihadi operations the Indian part of Kashmir.[6 Amir Rana claims that Lashkar-e-Taiba "was the first to introduce the concept of suicide missions in Occupied Kashmir" (98 suicide or "fedayeen" missions between 1999 and 2000).[7 They were also behind at least two terrorist attacks in New Delhi.

The London bombings and Jaish-e-Mohammed/Al-Qaeda

Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed are also active in Europe, especially in Great Britain. Through mosques and recruiting networks they manage to recruit young Muslims for the jihad in Kashmir and other jihadi hotspots. Mohammed Siddiq Khan, the leader of the suicide bombers who targeted the London public transport system on July 7, 2005, had been in touch with radical Pakistani groups since 2001. He was a well integrated second generation immigrant from Pakistan, a teaching assistant from Leeds, yet he also was a strong admirer of Osama bin Laden. A man with two faces and a secret jihadist agenda. In the summer of 2001, Khan befriended Omar Sharif and Asif Hanif, two other second generation Pakistani immigrants. At that time Mohammed Siddiq Khan was actively recruiting young Muslim for jihadist trips to Afghanistan, a base for Al-Qaeda.[8 In October 2001 both British Muslims joined the Taliban in Afghanistan fighting in their ranks against the Americans and the Northern Alliance. They were able to join the Taliban after receiving assistance from a madrassa in Pakistan and from "Al-Mujahiroun," a jihadist network based in Britain whose leader Omar Bakri Mohammed I once interviewed for Dutch Television. (He openly praised "Sheikh Osama bin Laden" and the 9/11 suicide attackers.) After March 2003, Omar Sharif and Asif Hanif went to Syria. Their plan was to join the resistance in Iraq, but they were recruited by Hamas instead. Hamas and Al-Qaeda were using Damascus as a gateway into Iraq. Via Jordan they traveled to the Westbank, Israel and Gaza where they contacted a high level Hamas operative. Subsequently, they went to Tel Aviv to blow themselves up in a bar. Soon after, the Israelis found the British passports of Britain's first suicide bombers.

In November 2004, Mohammed Siddiq Khan and Shehzad Tanweer traveled to Pakistan, the country where their parents came from. They would stay there for five months. They visited a madrassa connected to Jaish-e-Mohammed. Tanweer was also in touch with Jaish-e-Mohammed recruiter Sher Ali. Tanweer was further seen in a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp north of Islamabad.[9 It was not his first visit to Pakistan, but it may have been the first time that he contacted (or was contacted by) Jaish-e-Mohammed. His friend Mohammed Siddiq Khan was already deeply immersed in the jihadist networks. He could have visited a training camp during one of his previous trips to Pakistan or between November 2004 and March 2005. It is also possible that Khan and Tanweer met Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda's second in command. After the London suicide bombings a "martyrdom's videotape" was broadcast by Al-Jazeera. Not only do you see Mohammed Siddiq Khan lashing out against Britain and the West ("the fight will go on") but also Ayman Al-Zawahiri. One year later, on the eve of the first anniversary of the London bombings a propaganda video of Shehzad Tanweer was broadcast by Al-Jazeera: "What you have witnessed now is only the beginning of a string of attacks." This second video also featured Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and this cannot be a coincidence. It shows that the London bombings were most likely an Al-Qaeda operation, something I have claimed on previous occasions. (This is also the view of Abdel Bari Atwan, see his book "The Secret History of Al-Qaida.")[10 On July 7, 2005, Shehzad Tanweer, also from Leeds, killed seven passengers as he blew himself up on the Circle Line train at Aldgate. Both "martyrdom statements" were probably made and recorded in Pakistan – maybe even in an Al-Qaeda hideout. And it must have been at the same time and the same place: Khan and Tanweer wore the same kind of clothes and the background was identical.

The Dutch "Hofstadgroep" and Jaish-e-Mohammed

In the summer of 2003, Jason Walters traveled to Pakistan. Walters was a Muslim convert from the Netherlands and a prominent member of the "Hofstadgroep," a terrorist network based in Amsterdam and The Hague. A leader of the group, Mohammed Bouyeri, killed Dutch filmmaker and columnist Theo van Gogh on November 2, 2004. In Pakistan, Walters visited a terrorist training camp, probably one that was run by Jaish-e-Mohammed. After his return to the Netherlands in September 2003, Walters referred in internet chats to Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed: "I could have met him, unfortunately it did not work out. I hope it will be next time, inshallah." At the Hofstadgroep Trial in Amsterdam in December 2005, Walters denied that he had been in any training camp. No, he had only visited a madrassa. I had a conversation with Public Prosecutor Koos Plooy about this. I pointed out to him that training camps in Pakistan are sometimes disguised as madrassas. I also pointed out that Jason Walters had heaped praise on Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Maulana Masood Azhar in his internet chats.[11 Plooy took note of this and confronted Walters with this information during a court session. Walters and his lawyer did not like it. Walters' lawyer Robert Maanicus argued that this information was completely irrelevant to the case. The judges concluded that Walters had indeed been in a training camp in Pakistan, yet such a thing was not punishable under Dutch law at the time (summer 2003). It only became punishable after the introduction of new anti-terrorist laws in August 2004. However, Walters was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for belonging to a criminal and terrorist organization and for throwing a grenade at the police when they tried to arrest him (5 policemen were wounded).

Madrid (March 2004) and Bombay (July 2006)

In the Spanish newspaper "El País" (13 July 2006) Spanish terrorism expert Fernando Reinares points out that Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed as well as a local group called "Students Islamic Movement of India"
(SIMI) have been linked to the train bombings in Bombay. He does not rule out that this is indeed the case, but he also discusses the possibillity of a direct or indirect role of Al-Qaeda. Professor Reinares points out that since 2003, Al-Qaeda's second in command, Ayman Al-Zawahiri issued a number of statements which were hostile to both India and the Hindus. There is also president George Bush's successful visit to India in March 2006. (And in April 2006 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke about "a strategic relationship" with India.)[12 On 23 April 2006, Osama bin Laden referred to India for the first time, talking about "a war against the Muslims waged by crusaders (=Americans), Zionists and Hindus."[13 Reinares points out that Osama bin Laden did the same thing a few months before the terrorist attacks in Madrid in March 2004: he issued a statement subsequently broadcast by Al-Jazeera, in which he mentioned Spain. It should also be noted that Kashmir has been an important issue for Osama bin Laden ever since 1998.

There are striking similarities between the terrorist attacks in Madrid ("11-M") and those in Bombay ("11-J"). There were no suicide bombers. Bombs were detonated by means of mobile phones, the bombs exploded in the morning (Madrid) or evening (Bombay) rush hour to cause a maximum damage. In both cases commuter trains were targeted and the bombs went off in a synchronized manner. In both cases only one railway track was involved.[14

Weakness provokes terrorism and war

India has called on Pakistan to really address the issue of terrorist organizations operating from Pakistan. The problem, however, is that the Pakistani government is not able (or maybe unwilling even) to live up to its promises. These terrorist and extremist groups are probably more powerful than the government itself. They may be more popular than president Musharraf who knows he will be assassinated the moment he really starts enforcing a ban. He faces the same problem in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area where the top leaders of Al-Qaeda are issuing one statement after another. The central government has no effective control over these tribal areas where Bin Laden and his friends enjoy the protection of powerful local elements. The situation there can be compared to the situation in Lebanon where Hezbollah not only is more powerful than the government itself but effectively controls part of Lebanese territory. The display of weakness by governments who cannot or refuse to deal with the extremists will only be an invitation to the terrorists to act ever more ruthlessly. This is also the case in Iraq: yes, the extremists are more powerful than the government itself. The display of weakness will provoke war and the extremists will prevail. Look at Hezbollah, look at the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, look at Iraq.

One also finds weak governments in Europe, especially in the Bakans. Serbia is a case in point. A young Serbian prime minister called Zoran Djindjic was shot dead after he sent former Serbian president Milosevic to the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. No Serbian ruler dares to do the same with Radko Mladic, the butcher of Srebrenica. Such people and their mafia networks are, so it seems at least, more powerful than the government itself. Why have Mladic, Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri never been caught? It is because of weak governments and leaders. In Lebanon a terrorist organization like Hezbollah is even part of the government. Hezbollah is nothing but an Iranian and Syrian Troyan Horse destroying the state from within.

17 July 2006.


Emerson Vermaat is a Dutch expert on international terrorism and crime and an investigative reporter. He was the first journalist in Europe to point to the role of Osama bin Laden in international terrorism (in his Dutch book "'In naam van Allah...' Islamitisch fundamentalisme en terrorisme," Utrecht March 1997). See

If use is made of any material in this article, please properly mention the author (Emerson Vermaat), the heading and the source of publication.

Shorter version in Dutch:

Pakistan is extremisten niet de baas

door Emerson Vermaat

Hilversum – De goed voorbereide aanslagen op forenzentreinen in de Indiase stad Bombay zijn hoogst waarschijnlijk het werk van extremistische moslimgroeperingen uit buurland Pakistan, die assistentie kregen van lokale groepen. In dit verband wordt vooral gewezen op ‘Lashkar e Taiba' and ‘Jaish e Mohammed' twee Pakistaanse terreurgroepen die het Indiase deel van Kashmir bij Pakistan willen voegen.

Volgens het in 2005 in Pakistan uitgegeven handboek ‘A to Z of Jehadi organizations' in Pakistan hebben beide bewegingen nauwe banden met Al-Qaida. Zij krijgen financiële en technische steun van Al-Qaida, en toen de Taliban nog aan de macht waren beschikten ze ook over trainingskampen in Afghanistan. Na de val van de Taliban beschikten Lashkar e Taiba en Jaish e Mohammed over trainingskampen in Pakistan, soms gecamoufleerd als ‘madrassa's' (koranscholen). Beide bewegingen zijn officieel verboden, maar de Pakistaanse centrale overheid is niet bij machte ze echt aan te pakken. Lashkar e Taiba werd in 1990 opgericht en beschikt nu over 10.000 goed getrainde strijders. Het was deze beweging die het fenomeen van de zelfmoordaanslagen introduceerde in het Indiase deel van Kashmir (in 1999 en 2000 alleen al 97). Ook werden er diverse aanslagen in New Delhi gepleegd.

Maar Lashkar e Taiba en Jaish e Mohammed zijn óók in Europa actief, vooral in Engeland. Mohammed Siddiq Khan, de leider van de terreurcel die op 7 juli 2005 zelfmoordaanslagen pleegde in Londen, stond al sinds 2001 in contact met radicale groepen in Pakistan en Afghanistan. In het najaar van 2004 vertrok hij naar Pakistan waar hij onder meer een trainingskamp van Jaish e Mohammed bezocht en mogelijk ook voorgesteld werd aan de hoogste leiding van Al-Qaida om de aanslagen in Londen voor te bereiden. Een promiment lid van de Hofstadgroep, Jason Walters, had tijdens een bezoek aan Pakistan in 2003 eveneens een trainingskamp bezocht, hoogstwaarschijnlijk een kamp van Jaish e Mohammed. Uit zijn chatgesprekken blijkt dat hij de leider van Jaish e Mohammed, Maulana Masood Azhar, had willen ontmoeten, en dat hem dat bijna was gelukt.

Mohammed Siddiq Khan was sinds de zomer van 2001 bevriend met twee andere Pakistaanse Britten, Omar Sharif en Asif Hanif. Zij zouden in 2003 een zelfmoordaanslag op een bar in Tel Aviv plegen. Ook Sharif en Hanif stonden in nauw contact met extremistische groepen Pakistan en Afghanistan. In het najaar van 2001 vochten beiden in de gelederen van de Taliban tegen de binnenvallende Amerikanen en hun bongenoten.

In de Spaanse krant ‘El País' wijst terrorismedeskundige Fernando Reinares op de mogelijke rol van Lashkar e Taiba, Jaish e Mohammed en de sterk geradicaliseerde ‘Students Islamic Movement of India' (SIMI) bij de aanslagen in India. Maar hij sluit niet uit dat Al-Qaida direct of indirect bij die aanslagen betrokken was. Op 23 april 2006 waarschuwde Osama bin Laden in een door Al-Jazeera uitgezonden boodschap met name India. In maart had president Bush nog een bezoek aan India gebracht. Op 6 april sprak Condoleezza Rice over een ‘strategische relatie' met India. Opmerkelijk is dat diezelfde bin Laden enkele maanden vóór de aanslagen in Madrid van 11 maart 2004 in een soorgelijke boodschap met name Spanje had gewaarschuwd. Volgens ‘El Pais' zijn er opvallende parallellen tussen de aanslagen van '11-M' (Madrid) en '11-J' (Bombay). Ook nu ging het om een aanslag op forenzentreinen tijdens de spits, het ging niet om zelfmoordaanslagen maar om bommen die op afstand tot ontploffing werden gebracht. In beide gevallen hebben de terroristen zich tevoren goed georiënteerd om maximale schade toe te brengen (ze wisten wanneer de treinen reden en wanneer deze helemaal vol zouden zitten). En net als in Madrid zouden de bommenleggers in Bombay de treinen voortijdig hebben verlaten, zo bleek uit recent onderzoek. In het paginagrote artikel in ‘El País' (van 13 juli) wordt erop gewezen dat bin Laden de kwestie Kashmir al sinds 1998 hoog op de agenda heeft staan. De ‘Wall Street Journal' meldde dat er onlangs een groepering zou zijn opgericht die zich ‘Al-Qaida in Jammu en Kahmir' noemt – ongetwijfeld naar het voorbeeld van Zarqawi's succesvolle ‘Al-Qaida in het Land van de Twee Rivieren' (Irak). Het doel van Al-Qaida en met Al-Qaida verbonden Pakistaanse terreurgroepen uit Kashmir is het verhogen van de spanning tussen India en Pakistan en het verzwakken van de positie van de Pakistaanse president Pervez Musharraf. India heeft Musharraf al verweten dat hij de met Al-Qaida verbonden terreurbewegingen niet aanpakt. Maar Musharraf weet dat als hij deze bewegingen echt verbiedt en bin Laden zélf aanpakt, dat hij dan dan zelf vrijwel zeker vermoord zal worden. Het lijkt een beetje op Libanon waar een beweging als Hezbollah vrij spel heeft in een deel van het land zonder dat regering bij machte is daaraan iets te veranderen.

[1Muhammed Amir Rana, A to Z of Jehadi Organizations in Pakistan (Lahore: Mashal Books, 2005), p. 137.

[2 Country Reports on Terrorism 2004 (Washington: State Department, April 2005), p. 101, 103.

[3 Amir Rana, p. 332-335.

[4Ibid., p. 225-230.

[5Ibid. p. 214.

[6Ibid., p. 329.

[7 Ibid., p. 337.

[8 BBC Television (Channel Two), 11 July 2006, "Britain's first suicide bombers."

[9 Emerson Vermaat, De Hofstadgroep. Portret van een radicaal-islamitisch netwerk (Soesterberg, Netherlands, October 2005), p. 92, 93.

[10 Abdel Bari Atwar, The Secret History of Al-Qaida (London: Saqi Books, 2006), p. 9.

[11 See also my book De Hofstadgroep (oktober 2004), p. 91-93, my article on Jason Walters published on December 20, 2005 (Militant Islam Monitor, one day later prosecutor Koos Plooy raised this issue in court) and my own website.

[12International Herald Tribune, 6 April 2006, p. 5.

[13 Al-Jazeeera, 23 April 2006.

[14 El País, 13 July 2006, p. 5 ("Del 11-M al 11-J"), p. 13 (Fernando Reinares: Cómo los caminos de la "yihad" pasan por Bombay?).

This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at