Sunday Mercury : Birmingham terror suspect killed in US raid is 'alive'

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Birmingham terror suspect killed in US raid is 'alive'

May 10, 2009

A MIDLAND terror suspect believed to have been killed in a US airstrike in Pakistan may be alive and plotting new attacks in Europe, according to security sources.

Rashid Rauf is said to have died after being targeted by an unmanned American Predator drone in the lawless North Waziristan region of Pakistan in November 2008.

US officials at the time said the attack had resulted in the deaths of al Qaida’s number three Abu Zubair Al Masri and two other senior al Qaida leaders, including Rauf.

They claimed the Birmingham Muslim had been in charge of the terror group’s external operations branch – making him responsible for attacks in Europe.

Yet his body was never produced, nor any DNA samples taken and checked to confirm that he had definitely been killed.

Rauf had fled from Alum Rock, Birmingham, to Pakistan in 2002.

Yet his family, who still live in Birmingham, have consistently denied that he is dead and his lawyer in Pakistan recently suggested his client may even be in the hands of Pakistani or American forces.

A source said: ‘‘Nobody believed the reports about him being murdered by the Americans in the tribal areas.

“His body was never produced for a burial and it always sounded too convenient to say that he was dead.

“Rashid married into a very well-connected and quite wealthy family in Pakistan and they, too, strongly believe he is still alive.”

Reports that Rauf may be alive first surfaced earlier this year after an al Qaida operative detained during a raid in Belgium claimed that he had trained him. He alleged he had been dispatched to Brussels by Rauf to conduct a suicide attack during a meeting of European leaders.

The operative also said the former Brummie had plotted attacks in major cities in Belgium, France, Holland, and England.

Rauf has also been implicated as being the director of the failed plot to conduct attacks in England on Easter Sunday.

A US intelligence source said: “We have never categorically been able to say that Rauf is dead but there was never any doubting his importance to al Qaida and their attempts to recruit western Muslims.

“Recent reports from suspects being held in Europe, and communication monitoring from the tribal region now suggest the possibility that Rauf is alive and operating in the lawless tribal areas of South Waziristan.“

Rauf first hit the headlines in August 2006 when he was named as architect of an alleged plot to blow up transatlantic airlines, which led to more than a dozen arrests in the UK.

Security officials at the time said al Qaida planned to destroy a dozen aircraft while en route to the US from London, using liquid bombs smuggled on board disguised as soft drinks.

However, at a trial of the arrested men last year the prosecution failed to prove that they had planned to target any airline with a liquid bomb attack.

Rauf was captured by Pakistani security forces in August 2006 in the city of Bahawalpur.

On December 15, 2007, he escaped from Pakistan police custody under mysterious circumstances.

Police escorts claim Rauf broke free of his handcuffs as he was visiting a mosque, while being transported from a court appearance in Islamabad to a jail in Rawalpindi.

Several police officers were later charged with being complicit in his escape.

At the time the British government was attempting to extradite Rauf to the UK.

West Midlands Police also wanted to question him over the murder of his uncle, Mohammed Saeed, in Alum Rock in 2002.