World Spy agencies infiltrate al-Qaida

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by ejazr, Nov 8, 2010.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

    Oct 8, 2009
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    Hyderabad and Sydney

    LONDON -- Months after he was released from Guantanamo Bay, Abdul Rahman was back in the company of terrorist leaders along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. But he was a double agent, providing Taliban and al-Qaida secrets to Pakistani intelligence, which then shared the tips with Western counterparts.

    The ruse cost him his life, according to a former Pakistani military intelligence official, Mahmood Shah. The Taliban began to suspect him, and after multiple interrogations executed him.

    The case of Rahman, which Shah recounted to The Associated Press, falls in line with a key aspect of the fight against terror - Western intelligence agencies, with help from Islamic allies, are placing moles and informants inside al-Qaida and the Taliban. The program seems to be bearing fruit, even as many infiltrators like Rahman are discovered and killed.

    It was a tip from an al-Qaida militant-turned-informant that led international authorities to find explosives hidden in printer cartridges from Yemen to the United States a week ago, Yemeni security officials say. Officials say the explosives could have caused a blast as deadly as the 1988 Lockerbie bombing in Scotland that killed 270 people.

    Intelligence agencies such as MI6 and the CIA have hired more agents from diverse backgrounds since the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and others that followed. Many say the tactics have worked: Several plots, also including the 2006 trans-Atlantic airline plot, were thwarted because intelligence agents were able to use tips to track the would-be terrorists.

    In recent years, U.S., European and Pakistani intelligence officials have said al-Qaida has been weakened by CIA drone strikes along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and by governments planting agents within terror cells. Top leaders have been taken out of the picture or trust has been eroded enough that militants have begun to turn on one another.

    In an unprecedented public speech last week, MI6 chief John Sawers revealed for the first time that the British spy agency had managed to "get inside" terror organizations. He would not elaborate.

    "Layers of al-Qaida's security have been slowly worn down and it's much easier today to infiltrate these groups," says Noman Benotman, a former jihadist with links to al-Qaida in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan, and now a security and terrorism analyst in London.

    Saudi Arabia has had some of the most success with spies in the Arabian Peninsula, some of whom have been former Guantanamo detainees, Benotman says. Jail time at Guantanamo is a new asset on the resumes of many double agents, security officials say - an ultimate sign of credibility that often makes them revered and trusted among senior operatives.

    The Saudis have a terror rehab program that has hosted about 120 of the nearly 800 men who have passed through Guantanamo since it opened nine years ago. Of them, about two dozen have taken up arms again, while a handful are thought to be working as spies for the Saudis in exchange for stipends paid to their families and tribes, loans and other monetary incentives, according to two European government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of their work.

    Yemeni authorities have said a tip on last week's mail bomb plot came from a Saudi who returned from Guantanamo in 2007, spent time in the rehab program and fled to Yemen before handing himself in to Saudi authorities in late September. Yemeni security officials say he may have been a double agent, planted by Saudi Arabia. But European government officials say that while the Saudi may have provided broad outlines about the plot, it appears Saudi Arabia had additional sources.

    Earlier in the year, another Saudi who had been held in Guantanamo and put into the terror rehab program also fled to Yemen to rejoin a terror group, only to surrender to Saudi authorities, the European government officials said. The officials said it appeared that he, too, could have been working in Yemen as a double agent.

    Since al-Qaida stepped up efforts in the Arabian Peninsula between 2003 and 2006, Saudi Arabia has tried to aggressively infiltrate groups. Some former militants have agreed to work with the Saudis because of lucrative incentives and the kingdom's ties to Wahhabism, an extremely strict and conservative form of Islam born in the Arabian Peninsula. For former Guantanamo detainees, the Saudis - unlike the Americans or Pakistanis - are considered less complicit in the capture and arrest of many prisoners.

    "Saudi Arabia is one of the only countries to have made local intelligence contacts in Yemen, spending about $300 million a year to support this security network," said Maajid Nawaz, an Islamist formerly imprisoned in Egypt and who is now co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation, a Muslim counter-extremism think tank in Britain. "They've also been able to successfully infiltrate tribes in Marib in Yemen. The financial incentive to some of these tribes has been strong."

    Saudi officials declined to comment on intelligence operations on Wednesday.

    Omar Ashour, head of the Middle East program at the University of Exeter in England, who has studied the rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia, said many of the men who go through the Saudi program have maintained strong militant links.

    "These are very deep and strong relationships," Ashore said. "It may seem like some of the men would be considered traitors, but in actuality they gain back any trust they lost very quickly."

    Once former militants complete the Saudi program, communications are monitored, Ashour said. Saudi officials even show up at family events such as weddings to monitor social contacts, he said.

    Although Saudi Arabia has had some success using former prisoners, the results have been less successful in places such as Pakistan where Rahman was executed for being a double agent.

    A second Pakistani military official, who spoke on condition he not be identified because information on informants is rarely made public, told the AP that more than 50 infiltrators and informants have been executed by the Taliban or al-Qaida over the past seven years.

    Afghanistan has had slightly better results using informants.

    A former Afghan official told AP that his country has sent dozens of Afghans across the border into Pakistan's tribal regions to infiltrate and return with intelligence. He asked not to be identified because he feared a backlash from the government, but said the program had been successful in providing intelligence for both the NATO-led forces and the Afghan government.

    Moazzam Begg, a Briton who was held in Guantanamo for more than two years, said the CIA and the British spy agencies MI5 and MI6 made repeated attempts years ago to get him to become an informant. But he said he doubted many Guantanamo detainees would agree to turn for the CIA or Pakistani authorities because of the coalition forces' role in capturing and imprisoning them. He said the tribal regions on the border have been difficult for agents to penetrate because of intense military activity on the border - unlike Saudi Arabia.

    "People have become mistrustful of everyone," Begg said.

    He said many Guantanamo detainees had struggled to return to normal lives after being held so long - some were finding it difficult to navigate new technology, let alone reach out to former friends. For some former prisoners in Saudi Arabia, the lure of starting over with jobs and stipends is attractive, he said.

    Analysts say other countries have also changed tactics or looked to former militant prisoners as informants.

    Benotman said Algerians had destabilized terror groups by capturing top leaders and telling cell members they had been killed - all while keeping them as intelligence assets. One leader was thought to have been killed after his capture only to eventually reappear as a double-agent, said Benotman, who spent time in North Africa.

    Indonesia, too, has stepped up intelligence efforts since the 2002 Bali bombings. More than 600 Islamic militants have been netted, around 20 of whom are actively working with police.

    Nasir Abbas, a former al-Qaida-linked militant who helped train the Bali bombers, became instrumental after his 2004 prison release in helping track down and arrest several of his former comrades.

    Col. Marwoto Suto, a spokesman for the Indonesian national police, said: "Our principle is to take advantage of former terrorists and hard-liners who have repented and are committed to helping authorities."

    "This is not a conventional war," said Benotman. "The only way to defeat al-Qaida is through better intelligence."
  3. RPK

    RPK Indyakudimahan Senior Member

    Jun 29, 2009
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    13° 4'60.00"N 80°16'60.00"E
    Al Qaeda Leader: China, Enemy to Muslim World - TIME

    On Oct. 7, a top-ranking al-Qaeda leader issued a call to the Islamic world to battle a great nation of infidels. Through a video posted on the internet, Abu Yahya al-Libi condemned this superpower for perpetrating "injustice and oppression" against Muslims and "looting their wealth" — a script similar to others read out from secret hideouts over the course of post-9/11 American-led campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the country in the crosshairs of al-Qaeda's latest diatribe was not the U.S. or any of its allies in the West. It was China.

    Libi, a Libyan national and al-Qaeda suspected third in command, railed against China's treatment of the Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim minority group in the country's far west who chafe under Beijing's rule. Uighurs complain of government discrimination, from being frozen out of jobs to having their language and religion suppressed. Those grievances and frustrations seemed to boil over this summer, when ethnic riots city of Urumqi left nearly 200 people, mostly Han Chinese, and were answered by a ruthless state crackdown. The Chinese hope, said Libi, "for [the Uighurs'] demise and destruction so that their numbers would decline and Islamic identity would be dissolved." He exhorted fellow Muslims to rise up and aid militant Uighurs, a sign, suggest some observers, that a new arena may be opening for al-Qaeda's project of global jihad. "The threat of terrorism is very real for China," says Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and author of the best-selling book, Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror. "More than other powers on its borders, this is China's number one national security concern." (See pictures of Xinjiang.)

    The Chinese government has yet to make an official statement reacting to Al Qaeda's provocative remarks. Beijing has remained on the sidelines in the war on terror, watching the U.S. and other European nations become mired militarily in Afghanistan. But China's profile in the Muslim world still grows with its economic ambitions and interests. China's bottomless appetite for oil has led to its companies investing in every country along the Persian Gulf and other Muslim states. Chinese funds and labor are behind oil and gas fields from Sudan to Turkmenistan and are shaping lucrative megaprojects like the massive Aynak copper mine in Afghanistan.

    This expanded global reach, designed to bolster China's sense of security, has put Chinese citizens and enterprises in harm's way. "China is now widely exposed around the world," says Thomas Sanderson, deputy director of the transnational threats program at the Center of Strategic and International Studies, a Washington D.C.-think tank. Chinese engineers have fallen prey to kidnappers in the cities of Pakistan and the Nigerian river delta. Violent protests against an enclave of Chinese workers in Algiers — resented for depriving locals of jobs and being insensitive to Muslim customs —convulsed the Algerian capital in August. Before the riots, a decree by a commander of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a North African off-shoot of the terrorist organization, urged attacks on Chinese nationals across the region as revenge for China's heavy-handedness with the Uighurs. "An ideology is being built by the Al Qaeda leadership," says Gunaratna, "to create an image of China as an enemy of the Muslims."

    In his telecast, Libi predicted China's fall, likening it to the similarly atheist and communist USSR. Some of the impoverished former Soviet states that border China's Xinjiang region — where the majority of Uighurs live — are a potential powder keg for insurgency. Suspected Uighur terrorists operating along China's borderlands allegedly have ties to Al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Central Asia, who, according to observers, are consolidating in remote parts of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan after setbacks in Pakistan reportedly saw many foreign jihadis return to their homelands.

    Still, most Central Asia watchers doubt the capabilities of militants there, whether connected to al-Qaeda or devoted to more local struggles. Both Moscow and Beijing have wielded their influence among Central Asia's authoritarian governments to ensure that radical strains of political Islam get largely quashed. Uighur dissidents in exile have also repeatedly rejected any connection with terrorist activity and argue that, despite a few incidents of bombings and attacks in China, China exploits the specter of a terrorist threat to further repress Uighur rights. Al-Qaeda's recent statement does their cause few favors. "China could use it to shine a light on the Uighurs," says Sanderson, "and say, 'Look what you have brought upon us.'"

    But while al-Qaeda's support may not be welcomed by many Uighurs, no other nations in the Muslim world beyond Turkey — whose people see the Uighurs as a kindred community — have offered much solidarity. As China's economic ties to the Middle East grow stronger, few governments can risk Beijing's ire. Its traditional image in the region as a remote and non-interfering member of the third world is shifting toward that of a more influential power, but it remains far from generating the kind of animosity and suspicion that the U.S. attracts. Instead, "China is perceived as a bulwark," says Ben Simpfendorfer, author of The New Silk Road, published earlier this year, which details the burgeoning links between the Middle East and China. "It can be a useful ally to push back against the United States." (Read "In the Middle East, Little Outcry Over China's Uighurs.")

    Outside the halls of power, most Arabs regard China with little apprehension. In his book, Simpfendorfer points to the growing population of tens of thousands of Lebanese, Syrian, Yemeni and other Arab merchants now permanently settled in sourcing and supply hubs in China. Their presence in East Asia has led to an influx of Chinese products in their home countries. This booming trade has "effectively raised the purchasing power of the average Arab household," says Simpfendorfer. To many Arabs, he suggests, China is less a geo-political bogeyman and more just a purveyor of cheap and handy goods.

    But analysts believe there will be a tipping point. With its vast stake in the region, China inevitably will have to pronounce clearer positions on a whole sticky set of conflicts — from the massacres in Sudan that Beijing has so far studiously ignored to the Israel-Palestine conflict to tensions between Iran and its neighbors. Missteps could fan popular anger and play into the hands of groups like al-Qaeda, ever eager to channel the discontent of the street. And with what many perceive as the steady decline of U.S. power and influence, China will only cast a longer shadow on the global stage. "In the coming years," says Simpfendorfer, "China will have to walk a very thin line."

    Read more: Al Qaeda Leader: China, Enemy to Muslim World - TIME
  4. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

    Aug 20, 2010
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    Gangtok, Sikkim, India
    ^^^ Oh LOL! Are the AQ sweeties trying to irritate the Dragon? What are they going to do? A 9/11 on Beijing? That would be the end of Jihad all over the world. PLA doesn't care about human rights or freedom of media or free speech that it will let these rogues negotiate. One attack and next you'd see J-10s, H-6s and J-11s blazing towards Afghanistan, Xingjiang and Af-Pak bombing these regions back to stone age and devoid of any human existence.

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