Al-Qaeda linked Marriot suspect still at large


LAHORE: Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the chief of an al-Qaeda linked Pakistani jehadi group Harkatul Jehadul Islami (HUJI), already being suspected of involvement in the September 20 Marriott Hotel suicide bombing, conspicuously remains at large despite having played a lead role in a 1995 failed coup plot to topple the second government of Benazir Bhutto who had later alleged in her posthumous book that the October 18, 2007 deadly suicide attack on her welcome procession in Karachi, that killed over 150 people, was masterminded by the Qari.

Although a hitherto unknown group called Anjuman Fidayeen-e-Islam (Islamic Martyrs Organisation) has claimed responsibility for the Marriott suicide attack in a phone call to the Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV channel, Pakistani intelligence sleuths probing the deadly bombing believe that the call was only meant to confuse the investigators who are almost convinced about the involvement of the HUJI in the Saturday night truck attack that killed almost 80 people. The caller, who spoke in English with south Asian accent to claim responsibility for the Marriott Hotel attack, identified himself as Ahmad Shah Abdali. He made a few conditions to stop attacks against the US interests in Pakistan, including an end to Pak-US cooperation, an end to operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan and the release of all militants being held in American prisons. Abdali said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber while 250 US Marines and American and NATO officials were in the Marriott.

However, the intelligence agencies maintain that the telephone call was made by someone from the Harkatul Jehadul Islami, only to divert the attention of the investigators from the real culprit, Qari Saifuulah Akhtar, who had been plotting in the past to kill former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Shortly before her assassination, Bhutto was putting the final touches to her memoirs titled, “Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West”, which were finally published by Simon & Schuster, six weeks after her death. In her posthumous book, marketed on February 12, 2008, she made some shocking allegations from the grave, stating: It was Qari to whom the intelligence officials in Lahore had turned for help before my homecoming on October 18, 2007″. Although no one is sure if there was a link between the release of Qari and the murder of Bhutto, the PPP circles ask as to how and why an al-Qaeda linked dreaded terrorist having known links with the Taliban militia as well was set free by the Musharraf regime after three years, before Bhutto’s homecoming.

Qari’s clandestine release from prison, months before Bhutto’s return, therefore, arose suspicions that he was tasked by his spy masters with organizing the October 18 bombing. Benazir Bhutto writes in her book: “I was informed of a meeting that had taken place in Lahore where the bomb blasts were planned. However, a bomb maker was needed for the bombs. Enter Qari Saifullah Akhtar, a wanted jehadi terrorist who had tried to overthrow my second government in the 1990s. He had been extradited by the United Arab Emirates and was languishing in the Karachi central jail. According to my sources, the officials in Lahore had turned to Qari for help. His liaison with elements in the government was a radical who was asked to make the bombs and he himself asked for a fatwa making it legitimate to oblige. He got one”, she added.

On February 26, 2008, exactly two weeks after Benazir Bhutto’s revelations and the subsequent pressure created by the international community, the Musharraf administration arrested Qari Saifullah for the purpose of interrogations, although there were many in the establishment circles who believed that the Qari has actually been taken into protective custody by his spy masters which had set him free despite his being a dreaded terrorist. Born in 1958 in South Waziristan, the Qari is generally considered to be a handy tool of the agencies who is used and dumped whenever required by his handlers. He was subsequently released on bail from a Karachi jail three months later, in June 2008.

However, his February 2008 arrest actually established the fact for the first time that despite all the charges leveled against him; Qari Saifullah was no more behind bars and had been released much before Benazir Bhutto’s return home. Qari is a graduate of the Jamia Binoria, Karachi, a well-known religious seminary of the sub-continent which has the privilege of having produced several prominent pro-Taliban Deobandi kingpins like the Harkatul Mujahideen chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil and the Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar. The Qari had been arrested and extradited from United Arab Emirates on August 7, 2004 on charges of plotting twin suicide attacks on General Musharraf in Rawalpindi in December 2003. However, instead of trying to prosecute and convict him after his arrest, the agencies chose to keep him under detention for the next two years and nine months, without even filing any criminal charges against him in any court of law.

His arrest was challenged in the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the first week of January 2005. On January 18, 2005 the Supreme Court dismissed the petition against Qari’s arrest and directed the petitioner to first move the High Court by filing a habeas corpus writ petition. A Supreme Court bench of Justice Hamid Ali Mirza and Justice Falak Sher ruled that the arrest in this case was not a matter of public importance and hence a constitutional petition could not be filed directly in the Supreme Court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution. However, after Bhutto’s murder, it emerged that Qari Saifullah had quietly been released by the agencies as one of the missing persons being sought by a Supreme Court bench under the now deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Before that, on May 5, 2007, the federal government told the Supreme Court that Qari Saifullah was not in the custody of the state agencies. The concise report presented by the National Crisis Management Cell to the Court, revealed, “He is engaged in jehadi activities somewhere in Punjab”, thus denying that he was under detention. Two weeks later, on May 21, 2007, the Qari suddenly reached his hometown in Mandi Bahauddin. The release was subsequently brought into the notice of the apex court on May 26, 2007, by the Ministry of Interior. Hashmat Habib, the counsel for Qari Saifullah Akhtar, having confirmed the release of his client, told the Court that while setting him free, the intelligence officials told Qari that had they not picked him up, there was a strong possibility of the American Federal Bureau of Investigation taking him away for interrogations because of his alleged al-Qaeda and Taliban links.

Hashmat’s statement only supplemented Bhutto’s claim that Qari Saifullah was involved with those in the establishment who were plotting to assassinate her upon her homecoming. Even otherwise, at the time of his August 2004 dramatic arrest and subsequent extradition from the United Arab Emirates, the Pakistani authorities had described the development as a major blow to the al-Qaeda sponsored terrorist network and its local affiliates in the country. The then information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed even went to the extent of painting him as a close aide of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, the latter being the operational head of al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

Though Saifullah’s role in the October 18, 2008 Karachi suicide attack could not be explored for one reason or the other, and he was subsequently bailed out, his previous involvement in a failed coup plot of 1995 had projected him as one of the most deadly militants who, from the intelligence establishment’s viewpoint, had gone astray. The group of the potential coup makers busted by the Military Intelligence at that time included four serving army officers, including a major-general, who were accused of plotting to first takeover the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi during the Corps Commanders Conference and later overthrow the Benazir government to eventually enforce their own brand of Islamic Shariah in Pakistan. The Qari was among the five top members of the group headed by Major General Zahirul Islam Abbassi, with Brigadier Mustansir Billa who was described as the ideologue of the religiously motivated would be coup makers.

After their arrest, these army officers were formerly charged by the field court martial with conspiring to assassinate military commanders who were to be provided by Qari Saif, with military uniforms, arms and ammunition needed for the covert operation. However, once the field general court martial formerly started, the Qari’s name was dropped from the list of accused as he had decided to turn approver against his khaki co-conspirators. Those conducting the court martial proceedings had admitted at one stage that without the testimony of Qari Saifullah, it would have been extremely difficult to convict the khaki accused. However, after the dismissal of the second Bhutto government in November 1996, the Qari was released; he went to Afghanistan and was inducted into the cabinet of Taliban ameer Mullah Mohammad Omar as his adviser on political affairs.

Once in Afghanistan, the militants of Qari’s HUJI were called ‘Punjabi’ Taliban and offered employment, something that other jehadi organisations could not get out of Mullah Omar. Interestingly, the HUJI had membership among the Taliban too as three Taliban ministers and 22 judges belonged to it. The Harkat militants stood together with Mullah Omar in difficult times under the command of Qari Saifullah. At one stage, at least 300 HUJI militants lost their lives while fighting the Northern Alliance troops, prompting Mullah Mohammad Omar to give HUJI the permission to build six more training camps in Kandahar, Kabul and Khost, where the Taliban army also used to receive military training. From its base in Afghanistan, Harkat launched its campaigns inside Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Chechnya. But the distance of Qari Saifullah Akhtar from the organisation’s Pakistani base did not lead to any rifts. In fact, Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami emerged from the defeat of the Taliban largely intact. Before the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, the HUJI had branch offices in 40 districts across Pakistan.

Interestingly, Qari Saifullah was one of the few jehadi leaders who had escaped with Mullah Omar after the US-led Allied Forces invaded Afghanistan in October 2001. He first took shelter in the South Waziristan Agency; then moved to Peshawar and eventually fled to Saudi Arabia, from where he decided to move to the UAE. Three years later, on August 6, 2004, he was arrested by the UAE authorities and handed over to the Pakistani agencies, only to be deported. He was arrested after revelations during investigations of the December 2003 twin suicide attacks on Pervez Musharraf that he had been executing terrorist operations in Pakistan with the help of his right hand man, Amjad Hussain Farooqi. The whereabouts of the Qari are unknown as he is believed to have gone underground in the aftermath of the September 20 Marriott Hotel suicide bombing.

* Lahore

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killer 's
killer 's
14 years ago

i finished the killer ……………………………..?
/join al _qaeda but i am short killer so solved this hwo i am ? al qaeda………………. ?
and hole’s kller of muslim in hole world enld. al – qaeda means kota …………. ok> so wait me ……………………….. i am coming


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