Steve is a British journalist. He was with me in Lebanon for more than three weeks to cover the bloody war between Israel and the Hezbollah. On August 10, I returned from Southern Lebanon to Beirut and visited Steve in his office located in front of the prime minister's secretariat. Steve looked depressed. He broke the story of the UK terror plot to me and asked: "What have we done wrong with British Muslims, how could they plot to blow up ten planes over the Atlantic?"
I had no answer. I was clueless. I called my office in Pakistan; called friends in London and got some details. I was sure that the war in Lebanon would not make headlines in the international media any more, the UK terror plot would dominate news coverage now.
I decided to leave for Pakistan the next day and learnt from different government sources that Pakistani intelligence agencies intercepted a telephone call made from Karachi to London a few weeks ago.
Someone was saying that everything was ready for the London operation. Further surveillance detected the presence of Rashid Rauf in the Pakistani city of Bahawalpur. Rauf, a British national of Kashmiri origin, was arrested. His father had migrated to the UK from the Mirpur district of Pakistani controlled Kashmir.
Rashid Rauf was interrogated by a high-level intelligence team. He broke down in three days and provided a lot of useful information that was shared with British intelligence. Rauf's younger brother was arrested from Birmingham. After that, more people were arrested from London and other parts of the UK.
There is no doubt that Al Qaeda is trying to use some British Muslims of Kashmiri origin for bombings inside Europe. Al Qaeda is successfully exploiting the Kashmir dispute to motivate young Muslims to participate in its war against America and the West.
In his statements now, Osama bin Laden mentions India as America's new ally to get the attention of Kashmiris and Indian Muslims. It is also learnt that many people arrested in Pakistan and the UK were trained in Al Qaeda camps in North Wazirastan and Afghanistan. Some of them slipped to Iraq via Afghanistan and Iran and received on the job training. They are experts of 'laptop bombs'. Rashid Rauf confessed he was inspired by Shehzad Tanveer and Muhammad Sadeeq Khan.
Shehzad Tanveer is the new role model not only for Rashid Rauf but for many British Muslims. He was a main player in the July 7, 2005 suicide bombings in London. In a video statement provided to Al Jazeera television he said in his Yorkshire accent that 'until you pull your forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq and until you stop your financial and military support to America and Israel, Britian could expect more of the same.'
This time Pakistani intelligence has saved the UK and US from a big disaster. Maybe tomorrow these angry youngsters will be successful in deceiving the intelligence agencies. A big threat still exists.
Al Qaeda will again attempt a bigger attack than 9/11 against America and its allies by using disgruntled boys like Shehzad and Rashid. The solution to this threat is political and not the use of military force like the US and Israel have shown. The use of military might will produce more militants.
I have seen many doctors, even professors in Lebanon who joined Hezbollah to fight Israel after their homes were bombed and their children were killed. They hated Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Osama bin Laden before July 12, 2006, now they love these two men.
We should also analyse the relationship between Al Qaeda and Kashmiri militant groups. Al Qaeda had a close relationship with the Harkat-ul-Ansar, which was first banned by the Nawaz Sharif regime many years before 9/11. After the ban, the Harkat was divided in two groups -- the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the Harkat-ul-Jehad-i-Islami. Both were active in Kashmir as well as in Afghanistan.
After the hijacking of an Indian plane in December 1999, a third group the Jaish-e-Mohammad emerged, lead by Maulana Masood Azhar who was released from an Indian prison. A British national, Sheikh Ahmed Omer, also joined the Jaish and was involved in the murder of Daniel Pearl.
Many people from the HuM and the HuJI also gathered around Masood. After 9/11 the HuM, the JeM and the HuJI along with the Lashkar-e-Tayiba were banned. This ban split the JeM also because Masood was soft on President Musharraf while Maulana Abdul Jabbar was a hardliner. All these Deobandi outfits were scattered because there was no leadership to guide them and most of them were picked up by Al Qaeda.
They got refuge in tribal areas because Pakistani security agencies were on their trail in the cities. Some of them had old
connections in Europe which were utilised by Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda also used many disgruntled Pakistani jihadis of Kashmiri origin against Musharraf which is how they organised an attempt on his life in December 2003 by two suicide bombers. One of the suicide bombers was from Kashmir.
It is important to note that since the last two years, Al Qaeda has not been using Kashmiri militants but young Kashmiri boys preferably from the UK, and not from Pakistan.
Al Qaeda produced some CDs especially for European Kashmiris and tried to propagate that Musharraf had sold Kashmir to India on pressure from George Bush and Tony Blair. They also exploited the Pakistan army operation in Pakistani tribal areas. These CDs were smuggled to Europe and were distributed among young Muslims.
British boys like Rashid Rauf who was arrested recently from Bahawalpur, were in contact with Pakistani jihadis as well as Afghan and Arab jihadis.
During my recent visits to North Wazirastan, I learnt that a lot of Pakistanis including some British nationals of Kashmiri origin were going to southern Afghanistan for training at camps run by Mullah Dadullah. From southern Afghanistan, many of them go to Iraq via Iran for 'on the job training'. I saw some Al Qaeda CDs in Urdu about their actions in Iraq. These CDs were especially made to attract Pakistanis and Afghans to go to Iraq.
Many in India would not like to believe that Al Qaeda is also active in India silently. Through their contacts in the Middle East, Al Qaeda operators are trying to recruit Muslim boys from Gujarat and Mumbai. Most of these young Indian Muslims are under 20, I have met at least two in southern Afghanistan recently. They came to Afghanistan on a direct flight from Dubai. They were moving with some Uzbek Al Qaeda fighters from Zabul to Nimroz to cross the border to enter Iran. Iraq was their final destination for on the job training.
Al Qaeda is mainly targeting young and angry boys in North and South Wazirastan, especially Pakistanis of Kashmiri origin in the UK. These boys have actively participated in attacks against the Pakistan army in North Wazirastan early this year and against US troops in East Afghanistan.
A few days ago, Al Qaeda marketed a new CD not only in Pakistani tribal areas but also in some big cities about Israeli atrocities in Lebanon. Al Qaeda is trying its best to use the anger of the Muslim masses against Israel. I am sure US and UK foreign policy is Al Qaeda's biggest strength these days.
I sent an e-mail to my British friend Steve this morning where I wrote... 'You asked me a question that what have we done wrong? I think you have done nothing wrong, actually it's the wrong policy of your Prime Minister Tony Blair who is blindly supporting the US in Iraq, Afghanistan and now in Lebanon. You will agree that Lebanon is going to become a new Iraq now, all the angry Arabs, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indonesians, Malaysians and European Muslims will come to Lebanon for their new holy war against Israel and its Western promoters. A few weeks ago Lebanon was famous for its night clubs, your prime minister and his friends turned this country into a new recruiting centre for Osama bin Laden.'
I know Steve will not disagree with me. It was he who told me in the last week of July that the biggest Sunni Islamic movement in Lebanon, Jamaa Islamiya, has joined Hezbollah ranks in south Lebanon to fight against Israel. A Jamaa Islamiya leader Faisal Mawlawi confirmed to Steve that the name of his fighting brigade is the Al Fajar force and they are under Hezbollah's command.
Later, one Hezbollah leader confirmed it to me and said many Sunni jihadis from different parts of the Middle East have contacted them and desired to join this holy war. Fortunately there is a ceasefire in Lebanon, but if this ceasefire fails to produce peace in the region, Osama bin Laden would again be the beneficiary.
Hamid Mir is the Bureau Chief of Dubai based Pakistani Channel Geo TV in Islamabad