Pakistan Security Brief
Specific and credible 9/11 anniversary terror threat emerges from Pakistan Thursday night; Pakistani authorities ban visitors to bin Laden compound; Taliban disown militant outfit; Plan to free bin Laden’s wives; Supreme Court issued intelligence report on Karachi violence; Officials shocked by briefing on city’s violence; MQM claims foreigners to blame to Karachi violence; Groups call for military intervention in Karachi following weeks of violence; Punjab government decides to go solar; Pakistan commits to finish Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline by 2014; Violence erupts throughout Kurram; Quetta government rounds up 250 suspects; More details emerge in New Delhi bombing; Pakistani government requests assistance from Afghan government in Taliban kidnapping of Pakistani boys; Kidnap victims Taseer and Weinstein sold.
9/11 Anniversary Plot
- Within the past 24 hours, U.S. intelligence agencies have received “specific, credible, but unconfirmed” information pertaining to a possible 9/11 anniversary terrorist plot against the United States. Officials were initially alerted to the threat after U.S. Navy SEALS seized notes from Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound on May 2. Earlier today the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent out a bulletin to 18,000 law enforcement agencies warning that al Qaeda may attempt to “avenge Osama bin Laden’s death” by carrying out an attack using a car or truck bomb, small arms, IEDs, and poison, as pledged by bin Laden’s successor, al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is believed to be living in Pakistan. Counterterrorism officials have been following information regarding a specific threat in which three suspects have been identified, one of whom is reportedly an American citizen. Intelligence officials are also following leads that at least one of the suspects may have flown to the United States in August after leaving Afghanistan and DHS is working to identify possible terror suspects by looking at travel records of persons travelling to the U.S. from Pakistan.
Bin Laden Raid and Fallout
- Pakistani officials have banned foreign journalists and other visitors from viewing the compound of Osama bin Laden. Over the course of the past week, the Danish Ambassador to Pakistani, his wife, and two French journalists were detained after attempting to visit the house. An Abbottabad police officer claimed the compound was closed to visitors because it was considered evidence in an ongoing investigation into bin Laden’s time at the compound and the CIA’s operation to detect him.
- American officials continue to encounter disagreements of opinion when it comes to the issue of Pakistan’s possible prior knowledge of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In a statement to reporters on Thursday, Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security John Brennan stated there was no evidence to suggest that Pakistan knew of bin Laden’s presence in the country. Other officials seem to disagree. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers contends that elements within the Pakistan security forces must have known of bin Laden’s presence prior to the May 2 raid.
- A leadership council of the North Waziristan Taliban claims to have renounced the militant organization known as “Khurasan.” According to a pamphlet released by the North Waziristan Taliban Shura, headed by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, “We want to inform the people of North Waziristan that we failed to bring this organization on the right path and we have nothing to do with this group”. The Khurasan militant group has been accused of frequently kidnapping and killing people they allege were spying for the U.S. and Pakistan.
Plot to Free Bin Laden Wives
- Pakistan’s interior minister announced that a secret letter warning of a Taliban plot to kidnap a government official in order to leverage the release of bin Laden’s wives and children has circulated amongst top Pakistani security officials. At least two of bin Laden’s wives and several of his children were taken into custody by Pakistani authorities following the U.S. Navy seal’s raid of the compound in May.
- On Friday, the Intelligence Bureau submitted a report to the Supreme Court on the violence in Karachi. Due to the sensitive nature of the report, the court members received the briefing in private. During Thursday’s hearing, Chief Justice Iftikhar claimed that Karachi’s political parties had devolved into criminal gangs. He further asserted, “Allegations and counter-allegations are leveled by political parties against each other. Criminal gangs have been formed in the parties and people have been made hostage”. The hearings on Karachi have been adjourned until September 13th.
Members at a federal cabinet meeting were shocked by the details revealed in a briefing on the violence in Karachi delivered by interior minister Rehman Malik. During the briefing Malik presented interviews of arrested killers and pictures of torture cells and confiscated weapons. One cabinet member remarked, “It appeared as if we were watching the trailer of a horror movie”. The interviews of arrested killers revealed affiliations with several political parties and that the killers had received specific orders to kill people. In one interview, a killer revealed that he had killed people that refused to make payments to his party. The cabinet resolved that the violence in Karachi must be stopped.
- At a Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) joint emergency meeting, party chief Altaf Hussain, claimed that the violence in Karachi has been the work of foreign powers that are seeking to undermine Pakistan. He went on to claim that these same forces wanted him dead. Meanwhile, the Awami National Party (ANP) has called for the military to take over control of security operations in Karachi, using the argument that the military will be able to “carry out an evenhanded operation that will hold everyone accountable.” Groups within the city are frustrated with the inability of politicians to put an end to the violence and have not been satisfied with the role of civilian law enforcement. At the moment, the Rangers have been tasked with the role of providing security within Karachi, and the military has seemed hesitant to get involved after being deployed within the city in 1990s. Opponents to military intervention cite that the military is not properly prepared for urban warfare.
- In the Joint Economic Commission (JEC) talks on Thursday, Pakistani and Iranian officials concluded that Pakistan would import 1000 megawatt of electricity from its neighbor, Iran. In addition, Iran “offered to pay for the construction of pipeline on the Pakistani side” of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. “Iran has already built its portion of the gas pipeline up to the Pakistani border” and seemed anxious to get the pipeline working by 2014. In a later statement, Pakistan vowed to Iran that it would accelerate its construction of the pipeline, despite U.S. opposition to the project.
- In an effort to meet the electricity demands of Punjab apparent after the industrial sector encountered a “power crisis” this year, the Punjab government has approved a pilot project which would “convert teaching hospitals and government offices like the Civil Secretariat to solar energy.” By doing so, the government would be able to partially “ease some of the demand for gas, which could then be diverted to energy-starved industries.” This pilot program could potentially reduce stress on the nation’s electricity grid.
- Security forces injured two suspected militants on Thursday after their vehicle attempted to make contact with a guarded convoy. The militants reportedly were under the command of Mohammad Ayub, a military commander. Violence erupted throughout Kurram on Thursday, killing one person and injuring seven. Another incident occurred when a militant opened fire on a vehicle, injuring two people. Security forces also carried out operations near Wana, reportedly arresting “20 tribesmen under Frontier Crimes Regulation.”
- Quetta’s provincial government rounded up 250 suspects in a response to Wednesday’s twin suicide attacks. At a government meeting Thursday evening, Quetta officials decided on a policy to drive illegal immigrants out of the city. The move comes as a response to the revelation that one of the suicide bombers was an Afghan national. Quetta authorities’ have also moved to install surveillance cameras and scanners at the city’s six entry points.
- Following up on reporting of yesterday’s detention of three Kashmiri men in connection with the recent Delhi attack, Reuters updates that Indian authorities have brought in five men for questioning. Two emails have been obtained taking credit for the attack, one from the Pakistani militant group, Harakat-ul-Jihad Islami (HuJI) and another from a domestic terror group known as the Indian Mujahideen, which also threatened to blow up a shopping mall on Tuesday. Security sources in Indian Kashmir have raised doubts that HuJI has the operational capacity to strike in India.
- An official described the difficulty of the investigation, saying “The terrorists have adopted a new style of operations. They are now adopting a decentralized, unconnected model of individuals or tiny groups, each one being handled directly by a coordinator from outside India. This is why our investigations have been running aground in the past two years”.
On Thursday, Pakistan’s cabinet made a plea to the Afghan government for assistance in negotiating the release of a group of boys kidnapped by the Taliban. The boys have been held for over week, as none of the Taliban’s demands have been met.
- Pakistani investigators have determined that two high-profile kidnap victims, Shahbaz Taseer, the son slain former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, and Dr. Warren Weinstein, an American development expert, have been sold by their original kidnappers. Both were reportedly sold to unidentified captors, thought to be criminal gangs. Investigators noted that the kidnappers are currently in a location where “security agencies cannot act to recover them,” and that the families of Taseer and Weinstein should wait to be contacted by the gangs to arrange for the payment of their ransom.