The role in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last month of an underworld kingpin
that heads an organization known as D-Company, has known ties to Pakistan�s
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and who is alleged to have ties with the CIA
is apparently being whitewashed, suggesting that his capture and handover to India
might prove inconvenient for either the ISI or the CIA, or both.
It was Dawood Ibrahim who was initially characterized by
press reports as being the mastermind behind the attacks. Now, that title of
�mastermind� is being given to Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi by numerous media accounts
reporting that Pakistan security forces have raided a training camp of the
group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which evidence has indicated was behind the
attacks. Lakhvi was reportedly captured in the raid and is now in custody.
At the same time Ibrahim�s role is being downplayed,
Lakhvi�s known role is being exaggerated. Initial reports described him as the
training specialist for LeT, but the major media outlets like the New York
Times and the London Times,
citing government sources, have since promoted his status to that of commander
of operations for the group.
The only terrorist from the Mumbai attacks to be captured
alive, Azam Amir Kasab, characterized Ibrahim, not Lakhvi, as the mastermind of
those attacks, according to earlier press accounts.
Kasab reportedly told his interrogators that he and his
fellow terrorists were trained under Lakhvi, also known as �Chacha,� at a camp
in Pakistan. Indian officials also traced calls from a satellite phone used by
the terrorists to Lakhvi.
But the phone had also been used to call Yusuf Muzammil,
also known as Abu Yusuf, Abu Hurrera, and �Yahah.� And it has been Muzammil,
not Lakhvi, who has previously been described as the military commander of LeT.
It was an intercepted call to Muzammil on November 18 that put the Indian Navy
and Coast Guard on high alert to be on the lookout for any foreign vessels from
Pakistan entering Indian waters.
Kasab told his interrogators that his team had set out from
Karachi, Pakistan, on a ship belonging to Dawood Ibrahim, the MV Alpha. They then hijacked an Indian fishing
trawler, the Kuber, to pass
through Indian territorial waters to elude the Navy and Coast Guard that were
boarding and searching suspect ships.
Although the MV Alpha was subsequently found and
seized by the Indian Navy, there have been few, if any, developments about this
aspect of the investigation in press accounts, such as whether it has been
confirmed or not that the ship was owned by Ibrahim.
Upon arriving off the coast near the city, they were
received by inflatable rubber dinghies that had been arranged by an associate
of Ibrahim�s in Mumbai.
The planning and execution of the attacks are indicative of
the mastermind role not of either Lakhvi or Muzammil, but of Ibrahim, an Indian
who is intimately familiar with the city. It was in Mumbai (formerly Bombay)
that Ibrahim rose through the ranks of the underworld to become a major
organized crime boss.
At least two other Indians were also connected to the
attacks, Mukhtar Ahmed and Tausef Rahman. They were arrested for their role in
obtaining SIM cards used in the cell phones of the terrorists. Ahmed, according
to Indian officials, had in fact been recruited by a special counter-insurgency
police task force as an undercover operative. His exact role is still being
One of the SIM cards used was possibly purchased from New
Jersey. Investigators are looking into this potential link to the US, as well.
Dawood Ibrahim went from underworld kingpin to terrorist in
1993, when he was connected to a series of bombings in Bombay that resulted in
250 deaths. He is wanted by Interpol and was designated by the US as a global
terrorist in 2003.
It�s believed Ibrahim has been residing in Karachi, and
Indian officials have accused Pakistan�s ISI of protecting him.
Ibrahim is known to be a major drug trafficker responsible
for shipping narcotics into the United Kingdom and Western Europe.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
(UNODC), most Afghan opium (or its derivative, heroin, which is increasingly
being produced in the country before export) is smuggled through Iran and
Turkey en route by land to Europe; but the percentage that goes to Pakistan
seems to mostly find its way directly to the UK, either by plane or by ship.
Afghanistan is the world�s leading producer of opium, a
trend that developed during the CIA-backed mujahedeen effort to oust the Soviet
Union from the country, with the drug trade serving to help finance the war.
The principle recipient of CIA-ISI funding was Gulbaddin
Hekmatyar, one of the major drug lords. Hekmatyar has since joined with the
Taliban in the insurgency effort to expel foreign forces from the country � not
the Soviet Union, this time, but the US.
A Taliban ban on the cultivation of opium poppies in 2000
resulted in the near total eradication of the crop. But since the US overthrow
of the regime in 2001, Afghanistan has once again become the world�s leading
producer of opium, surpassing all previous records.
While Hekmatyar chose to side with anti-government forces, a
number of other warlords involved in the drug trade were members of the
Northern Alliance to whom the CIA doled out cash in the US effort to overthrow
the Taliban following the 9/11 attacks.
One such warlord is Abdul Rashid Dostum, who was appointed
Chief of Staff of the army under the government of Hamid Karzai, and who has
been described in US intelligence�s own files as a �Tier One Warlord.�
That list includes a number of other high ranking officials
within the Afghanistan government, including former defense minister and
parliament member Marshal Mohammad Fahim, Interior Minister for
Counter-Narcotics General Mohammad Daoud, and former governor of Helmand
province (now by far the largest producer of opium) Sher Mohammed Akhundzada.
Although government officials parroted by the mainstream
media tend to characterize the Afghan opium trade as being controlled by the
Taliban, in fact the estimated drug profits of all anti-government elements
(AGEs) is a mere fraction of the trade�s total estimated export value. The
UNODC estimated the export value this year at $3.4 billion. Of that, AGEs
profited between $250-470 million, less than 14% of the total trade. Moreover,
what fraction of that percentage has gone specifically to the Taliban as
opposed to other AGEs is unknown.
Furthermore, while the Taliban profits from the production
of opium through ushr, a 10% tax on all agricultural products, and possibly
through a protection racket in which it receives compensation for providing
security along smuggling routes, the UNODC has acknowledged that there is
little indication that the Taliban itself is responsible for either the actual
production or trafficking of the drug.
This is an inconvenient truth for the US, which has so far
managed through its propaganda efforts to successfully obfuscate the truth
about the Afghan drug trade and portray the Taliban as being almost wholly
A known drug trafficker, Dawood Ibrahim is naturally also
involved in money laundering, which is perhaps where the role of gambling
operations in Nepal comes into the picture.
Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of the Japan Times, wrote last month after the Mumbai
attacks that Ibrahim had worked with the US to help finance the mujahedeen
during the 1980s and that because he knows too much about the US�s �darker
secrets� in the region, he could never be allowed to be turned over to India.
The recent promotion of Lakhvi to �mastermind� of the
attacks while Ibrahim�s name disappears from media reports would seem to lend
credence to Shimatsu�s assertion.
Investigative journalist Wayne Madsen similarly reported
that according to intelligence sources, Dawood Ibrahim is a CIA asset, both as
a veteran of the mujahedeen war and in a continuing connection with his casino
and drug trade operations in Kathmandu, Nepal. A deal had been made earlier
this year to have Pakistan hand Ibrahim over to India, but the CIA was fearful
that this would lead to too many of its dirty secrets coming to light,
including the criminal activities of high level personnel within the agency.
One theory on the Mumbai attacks is that it was backlash for
this double-cross that was among other things intended to serve as a warning
that any such arrangement could have further serious consequences.
Although designated as a major international terrorist by
the US, media reports in India have characterized the US�s past interest in
seeing Ibrahim handed over as less than enthusiastic. Former Indian Deputy
Prime Minister L K Advani wrote in his memoir, �My Country My Life,� that he
made a great effort to get Pakistan to hand over Ibrahim, and met with then US
Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice
(now Secretary of State) to pressure Pakistan to do so. But he was informed by
Powell that Pakistan would hand over Ibrahim only �with some strings attached�
and that then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf would need more time before
The handover, needless to say, never occurred. The Pakistan
government has also publicly denied that Ibrahim is even in the country; a
denial that was repeated following the recent Mumbai attacks.
Others suspected of involvement in the attacks and named
among the 20 individuals India wants Pakistan to turn over also have possible
connections to the CIA, including Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the founder of LeT, and
Maulana Masood Azhar, both veterans of the CIA-backed mujahedeen effort.
Azhar had been captured in 1994 and imprisoned in India for
his role as leader of the Pakistani-based terrorist group Karkut-ul-Mujahideen.
He was released, however, in 1999 in exchange for hostages from the takeover of
Indian Airlines Flight 814, which was hijacked during its flight from
Kathmandu, Nepal to Delhi, India and redirected to Afghanistan. After Azhar�s
release, he formed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which was responsible for an attack
on the Indian parliament in 2001 that led Pakistan and India to the brink of
war. LeT was also blamed for the attack alongside JeM.
Both LeT and JeM have links to the ISI, which has used the
groups as proxies in the conflict with India over the territory of Kashmir.
Hafiz Saeed travelled to Peshawar to join the mujahedeen
cause during the Soviet-Afghan war. Peshawar served as the base of operations
for the CIA, which worked closely with the ISI to finance, arm, and train the
mujahedeen. It was in Peshawar that Saeed became the prot�g� of Abdullah Azzam,
who founded an organization called Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) along with a Saudi
individual named Osama bin Laden.
MAK worked alongside the CIA-ISI operations to recruit Arabs
to the ranks of the mujahedeen. The ISI, acting as proxy for the CIA, chose
mainly to channel its support to Afghans, such as Gulbaddin Hekmatyar. The U.S.
claims the CIA had no relationship with MAK, but bin Laden�s operation, which
later evolved into �al-Qaeda,� must certainly have been known to, and approved
by, the CIA.
But there are indications that the CIA�s relationship with
MAK and al-Qaeda go well beyond having shared a common enemy and mutual
interests in the Soviet-Afghan war. A number of al-Qaeda associates appear to
have been protected individuals.
Branches of MAK existed elsewhere, including in the United
States. The US Treasury Department lists one of MAK�s aliases as Al-Kifah. The
Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, New York, served as a recruitment center
during the 1980s, but its operations did not end after the end of the Soviet
occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Kifah was also a recruitment center for efforts
by extremist groups in the Balkans.
Just as in Afghanistan, the US also had mutual interests
with Bosnian Muslims and extremist groups acting in the Balkans. MAK had since
evolved into al-Qaeda under Osama bin Laden, which had links to groups
operating in Bosnia. Despite an arms embargo against such groups, they managed
to obtain weapons and supply shipments in which the US at best looked the other
way and at worst played an active role.
The operations to arm al-Qaeda linked groups in Bosnia were
carried under the watch of then director of the US European Command
Intelligence Directorate Gen. Michael V. Hayden. Hayden subsequently served as
the director of the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005 and is currently
the Director of Central Intelligence, or DCI, which is the head of the CIA.
A former official at the US consular office in Jeddah, Saudi
Arabia, Michael Springman went public after 9/11 to explain how his office was
used by the CIA to bring recruits to the US for training during the 1980s.
The Jeddah office is where most of the 9/11 hijackers
obtained their visas to enter the US.
Two other of the hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid
al-Mihdhar, were in fact known to the CIA and were being monitored. Despite
being known al-Qaeda operatives, they were allowed to enter the US under their
real names and neither the FBI nor the State Department were notified.
The US explains this as the result of the CIA losing the
terrorists� trail when they travelled to Thailand after an al-Qaeda meeting in
Kuala Lumpur. But this explanation does not stand up to scrutiny since it was
known that they had obtained visas to enter the US. Thus, even if the CIA did
in fact lose track of the terrorists, standard procedure should have dictated
that the FBI and State Department be alerted.
The 9/11 Joint Inquiry and subsequent 9/11 Commission were
apparently satisfied with the CIA�s explanation that it lost al-Hazmi and
al-Mihdhar, and nobody was ever held accountable for the �mistake� of knowingly
allowing two known al-Qaeda operatives on the terrorist watchlist to enter the
United States unhindered.
Upon arriving in the US, al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar were
assisted by an individual under FBI surveillance for his possible connections
to terrorist groups and, furthermore, even lived in a house rented from an FBI
informant. But the FBI claims that it didn�t know anything about the men,
despite them using their real names and being listed in the phone book, because
the CIA hadn�t informed them the two were in the country. The Joint Inquiry
report described this as perhaps the single greatest missed opportunity to
break up the 9/11 operation and prevent the attacks.
Additionally, it was in fact the CIA who not once, but at
least on six separate occasions, approved a visa, including from the office in
Jeddah, for or the entry of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, a.k.a. �the Blind Sheikh,�
into the US, despite his known connection to terrorist acts in Egypt, including
the assassination of Anwar Sadat, and despite having been on the State
Department�s terrorist watchlist. This, too, was described as a series of
�mistakes� after the government was forced to admit that it had occurred � an
explanation that the New York Times,
which reported this information in a series of articles, seemed to find
Many, however, find such incompetency and coincidence
theories to be simply not credible, preferring instead alternative, oftentimes
much more plausible, conspiracy theories.
The Blind Sheikh had also travelled to Peshawar during the
mujahedeen effort, and was good friends with Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, the CIA�s top
asset during the Soviet-Afghan war. He later became the spiritual head of the
terrorist group that carried out the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, a
plot which the FBI had known about in advance through two or more informants.
One of the informants served as a bodyguard for the Blind
Sheikh and was made responsible for obtaining materials to make the bomb with.
Tape recordings he secretly made of conversations with his FBI handlers reveal
that the original sting operation involved a plan to replace a chemical used in
making the bomb with an inert simulant that would render it inoperative. But
this plan was withdrawn by a supervisor at the FBI and the terrorist cell was
allowed to go ahead and make a real bomb � which was then used to blow up the
World Trade Center.
Another notable character connected to Al-Kifah training and
recruitment efforts for al-Qaeda is Ali Mohammed. He also happened to be an in
FBI informant, a CIA asset, and a member of the special forces in the US Army.
It is Ali Mohammed whom some suspect of actually being the mastermind of the
1993 WTC bombing. He was later charged in connection to the 1998 bombings of
the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, but has since seemingly disappeared off
After the 9/11 attacks, the investigation into the financing
of the attacks led to Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British national of Pakistani
origin. According to Indian officials, a joint investigation with the FBI
revealed evidence that it was at the direction of the head of the ISI, Lt. Gen.
Mahmud Ahmed, that Omar Sheikh transferred $100,000 to lead hijacker Mohammed
Atta in Florida.
Omar Sheikh, a known associate of Osama bin Laden, was
captured and imprisoned in India for his role in the kidnapping of American and
British nationals in 1994. He was released in 1999 along with Maulana Massod
Azhar in exchange for the hostages from Flight 814. According to former
Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf, Omar Sheikh was also an agent of Britain�s
spy agency, MI6, for whom he served in operations in the Balkans.
Omar Sheikh�s role in the 9/11 attacks has also been
downplayed. Mention of him in the media instead focus on his role as the man
responsible for the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
He is currently being held in Pakistan on charges relating to Pearl�s murder.
After Mahmud Ahmed�s alleged role in the 9/11 attacks became
known publicly, Musharraf quietly replaced him and the whole affair was hushed
up in the US. When a reporter from a foreign news agency asked then National
Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice whether she was aware of the reports that the
ISI chief had financed the hijackers and was in Washington meeting with high
level officials at the time of the attacks, she denied having seen �that
report� and protested that, �he was certainly not meeting with me.�
Interestingly, the White House website transcript of the
press briefing censored the words �ISI chief� from the reporter�s question,
despite the words clearly being audible in the video of the briefing.
The 9/11 Commission also acted to whitewash Mahmud Ahmed�s
alleged role in the attacks. Despite the question of the ISI chief�s
involvement being included on a list of items for the Commission to investigate
from families of the victims of the attacks, the Commission�s report made no
mention of it, either to confirm or deny the information, which, despite having
received zero coverage in the US major media (with the one exception of a
citation of a report from the Times of India in a blog on the Wall
Street Journal�s opinion website), was widely reported internationally (as well
as in US alternative media).
Rather, the 9/11 Commission simply acted as though such
reports didn�t exist. Despite Bob Graham, one of the chairs of the earlier
Congressional Joint Inquiry, publicly stating that he was surprised by the
evidence of foreign government involvement (he added that this information
would not be made public for another twenty or thirty years when it would be
due for release to the national archives), the 9/11 Commission report arrived
at the opposite conclusion, saying there was no evidence of any such
involvement and, moreover, that the question of who financed the attacks was
�of little practical significance.�
Another former head of the ISI is now being privately
accused by the US of involvement with the group responsible for the Mumbai
attacks, according to reports citing a document listing former ISI chief Lt.
Gen. Hamid Gul and four other former heads of Pakistan�s intelligence agency as
being involved in supporting terrorist networks. The individuals named have
been recommended to the UN Security Council to be named as international
terrorists, according to Pakistan�s The News.
The document has been provided to the Pakistan government
and also accuses Gul, who was head of the ISI from 1987-1989, of providing
assistance to criminal groups in Kabul, as well as to groups responsible for
recruiting and training militants to attack US-led forces in Afghanistan, including
Hamid Gul responded to the reports by calling the
allegations hilarious. The US denied that it had made any such recommendations
to the UN.
But the US has similarly accused the ISI of involvement in
the bombing of India�s embassy in Kabul last July. This was unusual not because
of the allegation of an ISI connection to terrorism but because it was in such
stark contrast with US attempts to publicly portray Pakistan as a staunch ally
in its �war on terrorism� when the country was under the dictatorship of Pervez
The US attitude toward Pakistan shifted once an elected
government came to power that has been more willing to side with the
overwhelming belief among the public that it is the �war on terrorism� itself
that has exacerbated the problem of extremist militant groups and led to
further terrorist attacks within the country, such as the assassination of
former prime minister Benazir Bhutto last year or the bombing of the Marriot
Hotel in September. While the world�s attention has been focused on the attacks
in Mumbai, a bomb blast in Peshawar last week killed 21 and injured 90.
While the purported US document names Gul and others as
terrorist supporters, another report, from Indian intelligence, indicates that
the terrorists who carried out the attacks in Mumbai were among 500 trained by
instructors from the Pakistan military, according to the Sunday edition of The
Times. This training of the 10
known Mumbai terrorists would have taken place prior to their recent preparation
for these specific attacks by the LeT training specialist Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.
But while Lakhvi, Muzammil, and Hafiz Saeed have continued
to be named in connection with last month�s attacks in Mumbai, the name of
Dawood Ibrahim seems to be either disappearing altogether or his originally
designated role as the accused mastermind of the attacks being credited now
instead to Lakhvi in media accounts.
Whether this is a deliberate effort to downplay Ibrahim�s
role in the attacks so as not to have to force Pakistan to turn him over
because of embarrassing revelations pertaining to the CIA�s involvement with
known terrorists and drug traffickers that development could possibly produce
isn�t certain. But what is certain is that the CIA has had a long history of
involvement with such characters and that the US has a track record of
attempting to keep information about the nature of such involvement in the dark
or to cover it up once it reaches the light of public scrutiny.
This article originally appeared at Foreign
Policy Journal. It may be reprinted with attribution and a link to
Mumbai Attacks: More than Meets the Eye
R. Hammond is the editor of Foreign Policy Journal,
a website dedicated to providing news, critical analysis, and opinion
commentary on U.S. foreign policy from outside of the standard framework
offered by government officials and the mainstream corporate media,
particularly with regard to the �war on terrorism� and events in the Middle
East. He has also written for numerous other online publications. You can
contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.