Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Brian Ross and Jill Rackmill of ABC News make an interesting point:

The arrest of two suspected al Qaeda agents in Lodi, Calif., today raises new concerns about the existence of al Qaeda training camps inside Pakistan....

"Wiping out the training camps in Afghanistan was one of the reasons we went into Afghanistan," said Richard Clarke, a former antiterrorism official and an ABC News consultant. "It was also one of the reasons we went into Iraq. And yet the whole time there were training camps in an ally, Pakistan." ...

And where was the training camp?

The FBI affidavit in today's case claims that the training camp attended by the Hayets was located near the city of Rawalpindi, the country's military headquarters.

"That's a bit like having a terrorist training camp on the outskirts of Washington, D.C.," said Clarke.

And this is odd:

According to affidavit, the man running the Rawalpindi training camp was identified as Maulana Fazlur Rehman, which is also the name of prominent Pakistani opposition leader. Rehman is considered an Islamic fundamentalist, and is known for his close ties to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime.

Authorities in the United States and in Pakistan are investigating whether the opposition leader is the same man identified by the al Qaeda suspects.

I'm trying to get a handle on Maulana Fazlur Rehman. This site offers a thumbnail bio:

Rehman is a veteran of the Afghan War, a leader of Harkat ul-Mujahideen. and secretary general of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam [JUI] party. He still commands Afghan warriors and is believed to have close financial and military ties with bin Laden and al-Qaida. He has stated that if the United States would attack Afghanistan or Usama bin Laden, his group would retaliate against Americans. It is also reported that he has a 313-member armed guard with instructions to kill anybody suspected of harming him. Rehman is also a cosigner of the fatwah published on February 23, 1998, in Al Quds Al Arabi as the leader of the Jihad movement in Bangladesh. In the fatwa he states it is every Muslim’s duty to kill Americans wherever and whenever possible.

And here's a report about a May 2001 gathering of his party:

"Jihad will continue till the total destruction of America", "Death to America and the Jewish state", and "Who will save Pakistan? Taliban, Taliban," were some of the slogans chanted by the emotionally charged JUI-F activists at the conference.... Maulana Fazlur Rehman claimed that this was the largest gathering of religious scholars in Pakistan's history, attended by more than two million people.

Rehman was placed under house arrest and then released shortly after 9/11. He subsequently became the opposition leader in Pakistan's National Assembly; he's a fierce opponent of secularization.

And here's the weird part: Late last month it was announced that Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Christina Rocca would meet with Rehman during a trip to Pakistan. The meeting, however, did not take place.

Make of all this what you will.


UPDATE: Press reports now say that this was a case of mistaken identity -- the head of the camp is believed to be not Maulana Fazlur Rehman, but the similarly named Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, a bin Laden associate. See this post.

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