Multiple terrorist plots and operatives targeting the West have been traced back to North Waziristan (Map source: CIA World Factbook)

March 10, 2011

North Waziristan Terror Links

North Waziristan agency is considered to be the epicenter of international terrorism. In addition to serving as a haven for al Qaeda’s leadership, North Waziristan (nestled between eastern Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan) also provides shelter to organizations such as the Haqqani network, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), among others.

Numerous terrorist plots targeting the U.S., Western interests, and Pakistan itself have been planned in, launched from, or facilitated in North Waziristan. Much of al Qaeda’s core leadership remains in North Waziristan and some of its most high-profile operatives and allies continue to plan, train individuals in, and facilitate acts of terrorism from the tribal agency.

Multiple terrorist plots and operatives targeting the West have been traced back to North Waziristan (Map source: CIA World Factbook)

Below, the Critical Threats Project has compiled a list of international terrorist attacks, plots, and individuals with known links to North Waziristan.[1]

For daily news updates on incidents and groups related to North Waziristan, including a detailed, interactive map of the region, see CTP’s North Waziristan Tracker.

For a daily news roundup of Pakistan security issues in general, click here.

Europe Terror Attack Plot

October 3, 2010: The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory alerting Americans to the possibility of a terrorist attack in Europe. Media reports indicated that the U.S. obtained intelligence regarding a possible “Mumbai 2008-style” attack against civilian targets in European cities. It is believed this information was garnered from Ahmed Sidiqi, a German citizen from Afghanistan detained in Kabul in July 2010. Sidiqi allegedly told his American interrogators that he discussed such an attack with Younis al Mauretani, a senior al Qaeda figure that he met with earlier in 2010 in the town of Mir Ali, North Waziristan.[2]

French Taliban Recruits

November 9, 2010: The Paris prosecutor’s office announced that five people were apprehended in Paris due to their suspected involvement in a network that allegedly sends aspiring Islamist fighters from France to the Afghan-Pakistan border. Pakistani news publications reported that the five individuals had links to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and that at least one of them had received suicide bombing training in North Waziristan. The suspects were between 25 and 30 years old.[3]

Times Square Bomb Attempt

May 1, 2010: Faisal Shahzad, an American citizen of Pakistani descent, attempted to blow up petrol and propane tanks inside a Nissan Pathfinder in New York’s Times Square on May 1, 2010. Shahzad told a New York federal court in June that he traveled to Waziristan to join the Pakistani Taliban and that he planned the Times Square attack and received explosives training while in Waziristan. Senior officials within the Obama administration have said that responsibility for the attack lies with the TTP in Pakistan.[4] For more on this attempted attack, please follow this link.

U.S. Stadiums Plot and al Qaeda Funding

March 26, 2010: Authorities arrested and charged Pakistan-born U.S. citizen Raja Lahrasib Khan in Chicago with attempting to provide funds to al Qaeda through Ilyas Kashmiri, a militant leader with close ties to Osama bin Laden. Khan told an undercover FBI agent that his last encounter with Kashmiri had been in 2008 in Miram Shah, North Waziristan. The FBI also learned that Khan sought to place bags containing remote-controlled bombs in unidentified stadiums in the U.S.[5]

American Taliban Recruits

December 8, 2009: Pakistani authorities in Punjab arrested five Americans of Pakistani, Egyptian, Ethiopian, and Eritrean descent. A provincial official stated that the men were preparing to attend a training camp in North Waziristan at the time of their arrest. In June 2010, a Pakistani court convicted the men, all between the ages of 20 and 30, of conspiring to carry out terrorist attacks. Officials involved in the investigation believe the men first made contact with a recruiter for the Pakistani Taliban via the video sharing website YouTube. The recruiter told the group to travel to the city of Mianwali in the Punjab province, where they would be met and taken to North Waziristan.[6]  

Danish Newspaper Plot and Mumbai Attack Facilitator

October 3, 2009: FBI agents arrested David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American U.S. citizen, as he prepared to board a flight from Chicago to Philadelphia. Intercepted communications indicated that his final destination was North Waziristan, where he had previously met Ilyas Kashmiri, a senior al Qaeda-linked militant, at least twice. Kashmiri had sent Headley to Denmark to conduct surveillance on potential terrorist targets. These included the Copenhagen and Arhus offices of Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper which published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005. The U.S. Department of Justice believes Headley also conducted surveillance on the main targets for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.[7]

New York City Subway Plot

September 19, 2009: FBI agents arrested Najibullah Zazi, a U.S. resident from Afghanistan, on charges related to a terrorist plot in the U.S. Zazi and the co-conspirators intended to bomb three New York subway lines on the eighth anniversary of 9/11 during the morning rush hour. Al Qaeda operatives Saleh al-Somali and Rashid Rauf allegedly met with Zazi and two other attackers in Pakistan’s Waziristan region to urge them to carry out an attack on American soil. Zazi plead guilty to the charges against him in February 2010 and admitted having received weapons training in Waziristan and learned to make explosive devices using Acetone peroxide (TATP) from al Qaeda instructors in Pakistan’s FATA in the fall of 2008.[8]

American al Qaeda Recruit

January 29, 2009: American al Qaeda recruit Bryant Neal Vinas plead guilty to charges of conspiring to murder U.S. nationals abroad, of providing material support to a terrorist organization, and of receiving military-type training from a terrorist organization. Vinas admitted to having attended three al Qaeda training courses in North Waziristan between March and July 2008. During that time he learned how to fire an AK-47 and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. He also received explosives training and was taught to make suicide bomb vests. Vinas said his handlers in Pakistan asked him to become a suicide bomber, and he agreed. He was arrested by Pakistani intelligence agents after he traveled to Peshawar from Waziristan in October 2008. Vinas pleaded guilty in January 2009 to charges of conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals, providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and receiving military-type training from a foreign terrorist organization. The material support Vinas admitted to providing al Qaeda included information that could lead to an attack on the Long Island Railroad system in New York.[9]

Copenhagen Bomb Plot

September 4, 2007: Danish police arrested eight men in September 2007 on suspicion of planning to carry out a bomb attack. A Danish court sentenced Hammad Khurshid, a Dane of Pakistani origin to 12 years of imprisonment for producing explosives with the intent of carrying out a terrorist attack. The court was told that Khurshid had previously attended an al Qaeda training camp in North Waziristan. The evidence against Khurshid and his Afghan accomplice, Abdoulghani Tohki, included video surveillance showing the two men manufacturing a triacetone triperoxide bomb. Prosecutors did not name the plot’s intended target.[10]

German “Sauerland Cell” Plot

September 4, 2007: Three suspected German terrorists were taken into custody in Germany’s Sauerland region on the same day that Danish police launched unrelated raids to arrest al Qaeda suspects. In March 2008, a Dusseldorf court convicted the three men along with a fourth accomplice in connection with a foiled plot aimed at killing American citizens in Germany on the sixth anniversary of 9/11. The men, two German converts to Islam and two Turks, were operating as a cell of the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), a terrorist group with roots in Uzbekistan and links to al Qaeda. At least two of the suspects, Fritz Gelowicz and Adem Yilmaz, traveled to and trained with the IJU in North Waziristan. The group is located near Mir Ali, a town in North Waziristan.[11]

Transatlantic Airline Plot

August 9, 2006: In the summer of 2006, al Qaeda operatives in North Waziristan orchestrated a plot to detonate liquid explosives on at least seven transatlantic flights originating in the U.K. British police arrested suspects connected with the plot in a series of raids starting on August 9. The men who were to carry out the attacks were British nationals of Pakistani and Indian descent. The plot’s mastermind, Rashid Rauf, allegedly survived a drone strike that targeted him in North Waziristan in 2008.[12]

7/7 London Bombings

July 7, 2005: Four al Qaeda-linked terrorists of Pakistani and Jamaican origin carried out coordinated suicide attacks on three London underground trains and one double-decker bus. Investigators believe Rashid Rauf was their al Qaeda contact in North Waziristan and a key figure in the 7/7 plot. In addition to having facilitated the 7/7 bombings, Rauf is believed to have communicated with the men who attempted to bomb the London public transport system two weeks later, on July 21.[13]

Note: The dates provided identify the timing of executed attacks, arrests, or initial public acknowledgement of a plotted attack.

[1] The earliest links to suspected terrorist plots or plotters that can be traced back to North Waziristan’s status as a terrorist safe haven appear to go back to 2005. The list will continue to be updated as more information becomes available.
[2] “Europe Terror Alert: Likely suspected groups,” Reuters,October 3, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
Holder Stark, “German authorities reserved about terror warnings,” Spiegel Online, October 4, 2010. Available at,1518,721026,00.html (Accessed November 5, 2010).
 “Bin Laden said to have financed European terrorist plot,” Spiegel Online, October 2, 2010. Available at,1518,720879,00.html (Accessed November 5, 2010).
[3] Ali Chishti “Terror report card: Pakistan,” Daily Times, November 14, 2010. Available at\11\14\story_14-11-2010_pg7_30 (Accessed November 15, 2010).
“Cinq djihadists présumés interpellés à Paris et à Roissy,”Le Monde, November 9, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 15, 2010).
“French detain five suspects in terror network probe,” Associated Press, November 10, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 15, 2010).
[4] Omar Waraich, “The radical lure of Pakistan’s jihad tourism,” Time. June 6, 2010. Available at,8599,1987455,00.html (Accessed November 5, 2010).
Anne E. Kornblut and Karin Brulliard, “U.S. blames Pakistani Taliban for Times Square bomb plot,” Washington Post,June 10, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
 “Video of Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad surfaces,” BBC News, July 14, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
Transcript of Faizal Shahzad’s Guilty Plea, United States District Court (Southern New York), June 21, 2010. Available at (Accessed December 8, 2010)
[5] “Press release: Chicago man charged with providing material support to al Qaeda by attempting to send funds overseas,” Federal Bureau of Investigation (Chicago), March 26, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
Michael Isikoff, “Bin Laden is ‘healthy, giving the orders,’ says terror suspect,” Newsweek, March 29, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 14, 2010).
“Criminal Complaint against Raja Lahrasib Khan,” United States District Court (Northern Illinois), March 27, 2010. Available at,0,6698543.htmlpage (Accessed November 14, 2010).
[6] Shaiq Hussain, “Terrorists online,” Jang, Janyary 17, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 14, 2010).
Waqar Gillani and Sabrina Tavernise, “Pakistan sentences five Americans in terror case,” New York Times, June 24, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
Farhan Sharif and Khurrum Anis, “Pakistani court sentences U.S. citizens to 10 years prison for terrorism,” Bloomberg, June 24, 2010. Available at (Accessed December 8, 2010)
[7] Jason Burke, “Two Britons linked to al-Qaida plans to attack Danish newspaper,” The Guardian, October 19, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
“Criminal Complaint against David C. Headley,” United States District Court (Northern Illinois), October 11, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
Christopher Dickey, “The new bin Laden,” Newsweek, October 23, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
Jane Perlez, “American terror suspect traveled unimpeded,” New York Times, March 25, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
“Chicagoan David Headley charged with conspiracy in 2008 Mumbai attacks in addition to foreign terror plot in Denmark” U.S. Department of Justice, December 7, 2009. Available at (Accessed March 8, 2011).
[8] “Feds: Qaeda leaders ordered NYC subway bomb plot,” CBS News, April 23, 2010 Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
Paul Cruickshank, “Al Qaeda’s Ground Zero,” Foreign Policy, April 1, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
Kevin Johnson and Brad Heath, “Feds: Colorado suspect had explosives training,” U.S.A Today, September 21, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
Department of Justice Press Release, U.S. Department of Justice, February 22, 2010. Available at (Accessed December 8, 2010)
[9] Transcript of Bryant Neal Vinas’ Guilty Plea, United States District Court (Eastern New York), January 28, 2009. Available at (Accessed December 8, 2010)
Nic Robertson and Paul Cruickshank, “New Yorkers says he would have been suicide bomber,” CNN, June 24, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
Michael Powell, “U.S. Recruit Reveals How al Qaeda Trains Foreigners,” New York Times, July 23, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
[10] “Denmark arrests ‘bomb’ suspects,” BBC, September 5, 2007. Available at (Accessed March 8, 2011).
Kim Laughlin, “Danish court convicts two of planning bomb attack,” Reuters, October 21, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
“Denmark arrests 8 over alleged terrorist plot,” Associated Press, September 4, 2007. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
“Country Reports on Terrorism 2008: Europe and Eurasia Overview,” Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, April 30, 2009. Available at (Accessed December 8, 2010)
[11] Erik Kirschbaum, “German suspects had deadline for attacks: report,” Reuters, September 8, 2007. Available at (Accessed March 8, 2011.
Yassin Musharbash, and Marcel Rosenbach “Explosions in the Sand,” Spiegel Online, August 11, 2009. Available at World News Connection.
Matthias Gebauer and Yassin Musharbash, “Islamist terrorists planned massive attacks in Germany,” Spiegel Online, September 5, 2010. Available at,1518,504037,00.html (Accessed November 5, 2010).
“Islamist terrorists planned to blow up U.S. air base in Germany,” Associated Press, March 4, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
“Islamic Jihad Union,” The National Counterterrorism Center, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
[12] Paul Cruickshank, “Al Qaeda’s ground zero,” Foreign Policy, April 1, 2010. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
 “Reports of Rashid Rauf’s death are false: lawyer,” Dawn; November 24, 2008. Available at (Accessed November 5, 2010).
[13] Duncan Gardham, “Airlines plot: al Qaeda mastermind ‘still alive’,” The Telegraph, September 10, 2009. Available at (Accessed November 19, 2010).
Raffaello Pantucci, “Rashid Rauf and the New York City Subway Bombing,” The Jamestown Foundation, May 7, 2010. Available at[tt_news]=36353 (Accessed November 19, 2010).
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