Pakistan: origin of three-quarters of all terror plots
At least three in every four terror plots currently under investigation in the UK have their roots in Pakistan, according to the security services.
By Dean Nelson, South Asia Editor | April 10, 2009
Whilst Afghanistan was seen as the training ground of terrorists in the immediate aftermath of the September 2001 attacks, recent experience has shown that increasing numbers of al-Qaeda extremists are being trained across the border in the tribal areas in the north west of Pakistan.
President Obama openly refers to his “Af-Pak” strategy for combating militancy, such is the prevalance of terror suspects who have been radicalised in Pakistan.
Of the four men who carried out the London suicide bombings in July 2005, three were young British men of Pakistani origin who had travelled to the country to receive religious and military training.
Mohammed Siddique Khan, the leader of the plot, was raised in Beeston, West Yorkshire, but was understood to have made regular trips to terrorist training camps in southern Punjab, and was captured on video at Karachi airport in November 2004 with his accomplice Shehzad Tanweer, 22, another British national of Pakistan origin. They returned to Britain the following February.
The third bomber of Pakistani origin, Hasib Hussain, aged 18, had travelled to Pakistan 12 months before the attack.
Meanwhile, the alleged plot to bomb shopping centres in Manchester has been linked by MI5 to two al-Qaeda suspects in Pakistan - British Pakistani Rashid Rauf, who has been implicated in at least one other alleged terror plot, and Baitullah Mahsud, the leader of Pakistan’s Taliban movement who has promised attacks on the West in hate-filled pronouncements in recent weeks.
So many UK terror suspects have links to Pakistan that thousands of innocent travellers between the two countries every year are now closely monitored for signs of suspicious activity.
Latest estimates suggest 4,000 young British Muslims have been trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan, and with 400,000 British citizens visiting Pakistan each year, there are fears that many more will become radicalised.
Monitoring of regular visitors has intensified, which has raised the possibility of a change in tactics by terrorists, who may have switched to using Pakistani nationals who may not be so closely monitored when they visit the UK.
Shahid Aslam, a British employment solicitor who runs an immigration consultancy in Lahore, said terrorists could easily take advantages of gaps in the British visa application process to enter Britain on a valid visa.
He claimed there had been a number of cases where employees of agencies processing visa applications in Pakistan had accepted inducements to speed and guarantee entry visas.