May 22, 2007

JIHAD: AFTER BOSNIA & J&K, HYDERABAD

By B. Raman

After Bosnia and Jammu & Kashmir, it will be Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh and Junagadh in Gujarat.

2. That is what the pan-Islamic jihadi terrorist organisations in Pakistan, which are members of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF), have been saying even long before the IIF was formed in February, 1998.

3. They look upon Hyderabad and Junagadh as Pakistani territory, which should have come to Pakistan in 1947. They also look upon them as legitimate lands of the Ummah, which should be restored to the Ummah. They project their jihad as a three-phase struggle. Under Phase I, they would "liberate" J&K. Under Phase II, they would "free" Hyderabad and Junagadh from "Hindu control." And under Phase III, they say they would "liberate" the Muslims in other parts of India.

4. In this connection, attention is invited to my following articles: "Jihadi terrorism: The Saudi Connection" of September 4, 2003, and "Bosnia & Hyderabad" of September 3, 2001. These articles are annexed below for ready reference.

5. Forty-five per cent of the world's Muslims live in the sub-continent. These Pakistani jihadi organisations, which support Al Qaeda, want to "liberate" all these Muslims and form a single Islamic State in the sub-continent---a South Asian Islamic Caliphate. They feel that such a State would be a major power in the world. The activities of these jihadi elements in India have to be examined against the background of their strategic objective, which has to be countered strategically by us. Instead, most analysts in India tend to tactically project this terrorism and the mindset behind it as a short-term phenomenon not calling for long-term policies such as strict control of illegal immigration from Bangladesh, action against the illegal immigrants of the past,check on the flow of jihadi money and ideological ill-winds from abroad etc. Lack of a strategic response from the Indian State would make this threat more and more difficult to handle in future.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: itschen36@gmail.com)

ANNEXURE
"JIHADI TERRORISM : The Saudi Connection" of 4-9-2003 (http://www.saag.org/papers8/paper778.html)

by B.Raman

In December 1993, coinciding with the first anniversary of the demolition of the Babri masjid at Ayodhya, there was a number of explosions in different railway trains in North India. The interrogation of one of the suspects arrested during the investigation revealed that the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) had organised them.

2. The suspect also alleged that C.A.M.Basheer, who was the President of the SIMI in the 1980s, had, along with one or two other members of the SIMI, attended a training course in the use of arms and ammunition and explosives in a camp of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) of Pakistan in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) run by one Salauddin, a Sudanese national, in the late 1980s. During the training, the JEI arranged a meeting between the SIMI activists and Lal Singh, alias Manjit Singh of the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), Canada, who was then living in Lahore. Lal Singh, who was arrested by the Gujarat Police in the middle of 1992, is presently in jail.

3. The JEI urged the SIMI and the ISYF to co-operate with each other for the "liberation" of the Sikhs of Punjab and the Kashmiris of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). The co-operation project was code-named "K-2", standing for Kashmir-Khalistan. It was also stated that Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the Amir of the JEI, had nominated Amirul Azim, the then Propaganda Secretary of the JEI, as the co-ordinator of the project.

4. The suspect also stated that the JEI had asked Basheer to send more members of the SIMI to Pakistan for training, but he could not do so due to logistic problems. In the early 1990s, Amirul Azim, accompanied by Salauddin, the Sudanese instructor, entered India via Bangladesh and met Basheer and his associates for discussing their future plans. They were told that in view of the difficulties experienced by them in sending more activists to Pakistan for training, instructions had been given to Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), the Kashmiri terrorist organisation, which is a wing of the JEI, to train SIMI cadres in its camps in J&K itself. The SIMI was asked to send its future batches to J&K for training.

5. Despite intensive searches by the police of different States, Basheer and his associates, who had allegedly undergone training in Pakistan, could not be arrested. Basheer, who must now be around 43, is from Parambayam in Kerala. After studying in the Union Christian College, Aluva, near Kochi, he worked for a brief while in the Safdarjung airport of New Delhi before taking to terrorism and absconding. Subsequent reports indicated that he had taken up residence in Saudi Arabia from where he was guiding the activities of the SIMI in India and organising its branches in other countries of the Gulf. In Saudi Arabia, he was also reported to have floated a new organisation called the Muslim Development Force .

6. In 1992, the "Time" magazine of the US had carried an interview with one Commander Abu Abdel Aziz, with a picture of his in his henna-dyed beard and Afghan style fatigue. After the "Time", "al-Sharq al-Awsat", a Saudi-owned, London-based daily, ran a front-page story on Abu Abdel Aziz and his activities in Bosnia. In August 1994, "Al-Sirat Al-Mustaqeem (The Straight Path)", an Islamic journal published in Pakistan (Issue No. 33), carried an interview with Abu Abdel Aziz. The journal, without identifying his nationality, reported that Abu Abdel Aziz spoke perfect Urdu and that he had spent extended periods in Kashmir. It was stated that Abu Abdel Aziz's followers, believed to be mostly Indian Muslims from the Gulf, were part of the seventh battalion of the Bosnian Army (SEDMI KORPUS, ARMIJA REPUBLIKE BH).

7. In the interview, he made the following points:

* "I was one of those who heard about Jihad in Afghanistan when it started. I used to hear about it, but was hesitant about (the purity and intention of) this Jihad. One of those who came to our land (presumably Saudi Arabia) was sheikh Dr. Abdallah Azzam. I heard him rallying the youth to come forth and (join him) to go to Afghanistan. This was in 1984 -- I think. I decided to go and check the matter for myself. This was the beginning (of my journey with) Jihad. Then the conquest of Kabul came.

* "A new Jihad started in Bosnia, (we moved there), and we are with it. As to Arab Mujahideen (in Bosnia), they do not have a separate battalion. There is a battalion for non-Bosnian fighters. Arabs are a minority compared to those of the Mujahideen (gathered from around the World). This battalion is under a unified command and is called Kateebat al-Mujahideen (Mujahideen Battalion), or "El-Mudzahidin" as they call them in Bosnian. Militarily, it has a link to the Bosnian government under the general command of the Bosnian Armed Forces. It is in fact part of the seventh battalion (SEDMI KORPUS, ARMIJA REPUBLIKE BH) of the Bosnian Army. I am a field commander under the "General Unified Armed Command". We have full jurisdiction in the region we are responsible for (Editor's note: Mostly central Bosnia). The general command of the Muslim forces wants to see results, it does not dictate strategy or action.

* "I met several prominent Ulema. Among them Sheikh Nasir ad-Din al-Albani, Sheikh Abdel Aziz Bin Baz and Sheikh Muhammad Bin Otheimin and others in the Gulf area. Sheikh Nasir ad-Din al-Albani is one of the great Ulema of this time and one seeks guidance in the light of his knowledge and view. (I say) in my last meeting with him, he was supportive of Jihad in Bosnia-Herzeg (as a religious duty). However, he told us not to attack - that is we, the Arab Mujahideen - since we were the smaller host The Sheikh was afraid we might get killed in large numbers if we engaged people in the fight. However, he requested that we dig in and be at the most advanced defense-lines (Khat ad-Difa` al-Awwal) to defend those persecuted.

* "The rest of the Ulema support Jihad by any means (defensive or offensive). You must understand that - militarily speaking - the number of those killed in defense is (far) higher than those killed in attack. This is due to the fact that in attack, clashes and skirmishes take place between Mujahideen and Kuffar (non-believers).The Kafir (unbeliever) does not throw himself arbitrarily in the cross-fire for fear of killing his companions. This fact lowers the number of the dead and this is the most important fact of the matter.

* "Jihad in Kashmir is still going on. It is healthy. Our Kashmiri brothers have achieved a lot. Some of our Mujahideen brethren, whether Arab or (Ajam non-Arab), such as the Pakistanis and our brethren from South-East Asia, have also helped. Their actions have been very successful, especially in the lands under Indian government control. Mujahideen execute hit-and-run operations. However there is a lack of support by Islamic governments and a lack of media coverage by Islamic outlets, on the level of atrocity and destruction by the non-believers in those lands. "

8. Subsequently, this Abu Abdel Aziz appeared at a conference of the LET (Lashkar-e-Toiba) at its headquarters in Muridke, near Lahore, in November, 1994. He was introduced to the audience as an Indian Muslim living in Saudi Arabia, who was playing a heroic role in helping the Muslims of Bosnia in their fight against the Christian Serbs and in helping the Kashmiris fighting against the Government of India.

9. Other reports indicated that in May 1995, like-minded jihadi groups had formed a "Rapid Deployment Force" called "Katiba (Kateebat?) al –Mujahideen" (Batallion of the Mujahideen) at a meeting held in the Philippines. The meeting was attended among others by "al-Sheikh Abu Abdul Aziz," described as the Chief Commander of the 7th Brigade of Muslim forces in Bosnia, Salamat Hashan, the Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Philippines), Abdul Karim, Chairman of the Islamic Front (Eritrea) and Prof. Hafiz Mohd Saeed, Amir MDI (Markaz Dawa Al Irshad, the political wing of the LET), Pakistan. "Al-Sheikh Abu Abdul Aziz" and Abu Abdel Aziz were probably identical, but one was not certain on the basis of available evidence.

10. The meeting reportedly agreed on the following (a) nationalities and frontiers on the basis of races was an un-Islamic perception; (b) to work in support of Muslims in all those parts of the world where action was being taken against them; (c) the Mujahideen of the newly formed Kateebat Al-Mujahideen would carry out militant operations and fight in Kashmir to eliminate un-Islamic perceptions of nationalities and frontiers.

11. Till 1997, Abu Abdel Aziz either used to attend the annual conventions of the LET at Muridke or his recorded speeches used to be telecast. He disappeared from public view thereafter. There were rumours in Islamic circles in Pakistan that he had been arrested by the Saudi authorities, apparently because of his suspected links with Osama bin Laden, who is against the Saudi monarchy. In August, 2001, the police of Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh claimed to have arrested one Abdul Aziz alias Ashrafi, who had fought in Bosnia and Chechnya. From published reports, it was not clear whether they had questioned him about the identity of Abu Abdel Aziz and other Indian Muslims from the Gulf, who had allegedly fought in Bosnia and their subsequent whereabouts.

12. The real identity of Abu Abdel Aziz still remains a mystery. If he was an Indian Muslim living in Saudi Arabia, as claimed by the LET, what was his real name, to which part of India he belonged, what was his political affiliation, did he have any links with the SIMI? Of the five Pakistani jihadi organisations, which are members of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF), only the LET follows the Palestinian example of concealing the real identity of its jihadis by giving them "kuniyats" or assumed names chosen after the names of the companions of the holy Prophet. The Palestinians follow the practice of not giving the same kuniyat to more than one person. When that person dies, they do not allot that kuniyat to any other jihadi. But the LET follows the practice of allotting the kuniyat of one "martyr", after his death, to another jihadi. It is not, therefore, unusual to find more than one jihadi of the LET being referred to by the same kuniyat.

13. All that one could conjecture was that Basheer could not be operating under the kuniyat of Abu Abdel Aziz because the Pakistani Urdu media projected him as operating from Saudi Arabia since the early 1980s, whereas Basheer was reported to have moved over to Saudi Arabia only in the early 1990s, possibly after the Babri masjid demolition.

14. From the various reports received till last year, one could make the following surmise without being totally confident of the entire accuracy of it:

* There were at least two Indian Muslims operating from Saudi Arabia and associated with jihadi terrorism.

* One of them referred to by Pakistani jihadis as Abu Abdel Aziz was linked to the LET. He had played what the jihadis considered as a legendary role in organising jihad in Bosnia and was also closely involved in assisting the jihadis in J&K.

* There was no evidence to believe that Abu Abdel Aziz was connected with the SIMI.

* The SIMI's links were more with the JEI of Pakistan than with the LET. Unlike the LET, a pro-Wahabi organisation which does not admit women into its ranks and does not use them for its operations, the SIMI admitted women and used them. There were believed to be about 300 women in the SIMI's ranks, some of them reportedly highly educated.

* Basheer co-ordinated the the activities of the SIMI in India and the Gulf from Saudi Arabia.

15. After the Gujarat riots of last year and coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition, reports started circulating in Pakistan that some of the Indian and Pakistani Muslims working in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, had started a drive for the collection of funds to be utilised for assisting the Muslim victims of the riots and for mounting acts of punishment terrorism in India to avenge the killings of Muslims in Gujarat. Compilations of Indian media reports about the anti-Muslim atrocities in Gujarat and video recordings of these atrocities were used as part of this fund collection drive.

16. In December last year, the Tamil Nadu Police claimed to have unearthed a new organisation, apparently inspired and controlled by jihadi elements in Saudi Arabia, called the Muslim Defence Force (MDF). It was not clear whether this was identical with the Muslim Development Force of Basheer. Published reports about the Tamil Nadu Police's detection indicated as follows:

* One Abu Hamsa,alias Abdul Bari, an Indian Muslim living in Saudi Arabia and associated with the LET, and one Abu Omar, a Pakistani Muslim working there, had together formed the MDF after the Gujarat riots. They had also met a Muslim leader from Tamil Nadu who had gone to Saudi Arabia on haj pilgrimage.

* On his return to Tamil Nadu, this leader held a clandestine meeting at Tenkasi in Tiruvelveli district, which was attended by about 30 Muslims. At this meeting, plans for organising MDF activities in India were discussed.

* Subsequently, two of those, who had attended the Tenkasi meeting, went to Sri Lanka (the Eastern Province?), where they were to have another meeting with Abu Hamsa, but he did not turn up from Saudi Arabia. They, therefore, returned to Tamil Nadu without meeting him.

* Abu Hamsa alias Abdul Bari was wanted in connection with an explosion in Andhra Pradesh. He had given instructions to his contacts in Tamil Nadu to organise the activities of the MDF and also to float another organisation called New Vision to propagate Islam amongst the so-called backward classes of the Hindu community and recruit them for jihad.

* The associates of Abu Hamsa in Tamil Nadu were instructed to form an elite force to establish hide-outs and protect jihadi terrorists visiting Tamil Nadu and to recruit youth for training in jihad at an undisclosed destination in the Gulf.

* Amongst those arrested by the Tamil Nadu police during their investigation into the activities of the MDF was Noohu Thambi Hamid Bakri, described as a suspected sympathiser of the LET. He was the principal of the Ayesha Siddique Arabic College for Women at Kayalpattinam and also the President of the All-India Tauhid Jamath Federation. He also used to be associated with an organisation called the Kayal Islamic Defence Force, which is now believed to be dormant.

* It was Hamid Bakri, accompanied by one Zakkaria, who had met Abu Hamsa in Saudi Arabia and subsequently gone to Sri Lanka for another meeting, which did not materialise.In November, 2002, Zakkaria was allegedly in receipt of Rs.1,50,000 from Abu Hamsa in Saudi Arabia through hawala.

17. None of the reports relating to the unearthing of the activities of the MDF in Tamil Nadu had referred to any role of Basheer in this connection. However, his name has again cropped up as possibly amongst the dramatis personae associated with the series of explosions in Mumbai since last December.

18. It should be evident that for some years now there have been indicators of the cladestine creation of a jihadi web in Mumbai, south India and possibly in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, with the SIMI and the LET playing an active role in this matter, either in tandem or separately of each other. It is also evident that much of the inspiration and financial support for this came not from Pakistan, but from Indian and Pakistani jihadi activists in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

19. Important breakthroughs in connection with identifying the various strands of this web had been made by the police of Mumbai, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, but no attempt would appear to have been made for a co-ordinated effort to investigate and neutralise this web. One has the impression that each police has been investigating independently and there has not been adequate sharing and co-ordination not only amongst the police and other security agencies of different States, but also between the agencies of the Government of India and those of the affected States.

20. A similar state of affairs seemed to have prevailed in the US as brought out by the joint Congressional investigation into the terrorist strikes of 9/11. If attention is not paid to rectifying the matter in India, we are in for a nasty surprise as the USA was on 9/11.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Convednor, Advisory Committee, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter. E-Mail: corde@vsnl.com)

"BOSNIA & HYDERABAD" OF 3-9-2001 (http://www.saag.org/papers4/paper306.html) by B.Raman

The Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the militant wing of the Pakistan-based Markaz Dawa wal Irshad (MDI), has been behind most of the recent incidents of terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). It describes its objective as three-fold: firstly, to "liberate" J&K and have it merged with Pakistan; secondly, to similarly "liberate" Hyderabad and Junagardh, which it considers as rightfully belonging to Pakistan, and have them brought under Pakistan's sovereignty; and, thirdly, to "liberate" the Muslims living in other parts of India and create two more "homelands" for the Muslims of the sub-continent, one in North India and the other in the South.

The LET, along with the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), both of them of the Afghan war vintage, was also in the forefront in organising assistance for the Muslim separatists of Southern Philippines, Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya and Dagestan. Since the early 1990s, both the organisations had been collecting funds for the Muslim separatists in these areas, smuggling to them arms and ammunition and had even sent their own cadres to fight for the separatists.

An assessment disseminated in October,1994, by a news organisation called Compass had stated as follows: "Arab "Afghans" have been moving further afield as well. Some are in Bosnia, helping fellow Muslims fight the Christian Serbs. Between 200 and 300 of these veterans of the Afghan war, including non-Arab Muslims, are based in Zenica in Bosnia, where they are widely feared. Hundreds of "Afghans" have made their way to Bosnia. The number of non-Bosnian Muslims in the military is estimated at between 500 and 1,000 from a dozen countries in the Middle East. From all accounts, they have fought with some distinction. Some 300 "Afghans," organized into a unit known as "the Guerrillas," operate with the Bosnian 3rd Corps in Zenica. Algerian leader Kamar Kharban, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, has visited Bosnia several times over the last two years.

"The 'Afghans' and other Muslim volunteers have also been a source of friction with the Bosnians, who are largely secular Muslims. The outsiders' religious zeal and arrogant commitment to their holy war has angered their hosts. But many of the volunteers represent wealthy organizations or countries whose support the beleaguered Bosnians count on. The "Afghans" are believed to have been behind the murder of British aid worker Paul Goodall on Jan. 27, 1994, near Zenica. Three Muslim volunteers, all Arabs carrying fake Pakistani passports, were shot dead by Bosnian military police at a roadblock near Sarajevo. Three others were arrested by police for questioning in the murder. The Al-Kifah, or Struggle, Refugee Center in New York, which used to recruit and raise funds for Mujahedeen headed for Afghanistan, last year announced it was switching its operations to Bosnia. It was established in the mid-1980s by Egyptian Mustafa Rahman as a joint venture with Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, spiritual leader of Gamaat al-Islamiya. "

In 1996, in a book titled "Offensive In the Balkans", Mr. Yossef Bodansky, Director of the Republican TASK FORCE ON TERRORISM AND UNCONVENTIONAL WARFARE of the US House of Representatives, wrote as follows on the "Bosnian Jehad":

"...The build-up of new Islamist units was completed in Bosnia- Herzegovina in the Spring of 1995. These forces are closely associated with the Armed Islamist Movement (AIM) and Islamist international terrorism, and include the first organized deployment of MARTYRDOM FORCES (THAT IS, SUICIDE TERRORISTS), both veteran Arabs and newly trained Bosnians.

"These new activities were conducted under the guidance of the new Islamist headquarters in Teheran and Karachi, decided upon during the Popular Arab Islamic Conference (PAIC) convened in Khartoum in the first days of April 1995. The Conference decided to establish "new Islamist representative offices" for the international Islamist movement. The new regional center in Tehran will be responsible for Islamist activities (training, equipping, operational support, etc.) in Bosnia-Herzegovina (as well as other politically-sensitive hot spots), while the comparably new center in Karachi would be responsible for Islamist activities in Albania (and Kosovo). Furthermore, this overall Islamist effort and build-up is not just to cope with the situation in the Balkans, but also to be used as A SOUND BASE FOR THE ISLAMISTS' ABILITY TO EXPAND OPERATIONS INTO WESTERN EUROPE - mainly France, the UK and Germany...

"Meanwhile, the leadership of the Armed Islamic Movement (AIM) was formally notified in mid-May 1995 that the "Mujahedin Battalion is an officially-recognized army battalion of the Bosnian army. It is comprised of non-Bosnian volunteers, called ANSAR, along with Bosnian Mujahedin. The formal name of the unit is "Armija Republike BiH, 3 Korpus, Odred el-Mujahedin". The commander, an Egyptian "Afghan", was identified as "Ameer Kateebat al-Mujahedin Abu al-Ma'ali" - a religious-military title and a nom the guerre. The Islamist force is based in Travnik and Zenica areas in central Bosnia...

"...The Khartoum, Sudan-based National Islamic Front (NIF) - the political umbrella organization to which AIM answers - did not take long to look for the appropriate solutions for the challenges in Bosnia- Herzegovina...

"...Being a theologically driven movement, the NIF supreme leadership sought legal precedents to serve as a guideline for the nature of jihad which they believe should be waged in Bosnia, Palestine, and Kashmir. In mid-August 1995, Khartoum informed the AIM senior officials in the front line - in such places as Sarajevo, Muzzaffarabad (Pakistan), and Damascus - of the precedent found.

"The NIF leadership pointed to the text of "fatwa" originally issued by the Islamic Religious Conference held in El-Obaeid, State of Kordofan (Sudan), on April 27, 1993. It is presently used in Khartoum, at the highest levels of NIF, as the precedent-setting text for legislating relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in areas where the infadels are not willing to be simply subdued by the Muslim forces. The following places - Palestine, Bosnia, and Kashmir - are stated explicitly as areas to where the principles outlined by this fatwa are most applicable.

"...Meanwhile, Sarajevo's apocalyptic view of the future fits closely with the Islamists' growing anticipation of "gloom and doom" in their relations with the West...

"...The AIM senior officials in Sarajevo reported in mid-May 1995 the completion of "a new camp called Martyrs' Detachment", in order to absorb many newly-arriving Mujahedin. These SUICIDE TERRORISTS, including at least a dozen Bosnian Muslims, graduated from an intensive course in training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the early Spring of 1995. These Bosnians along with Arab "Afghans" were deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina for both operations in the Balkans as well as, should the need arise, operations in Western Europe (specially France, the UK, Italy, and Belgium). ("Afghan" is the term used to describe those fighters trained and tested in the Afghanistan civil war. Most are of Arab, North African or Pakistani origin).

"High-level Arab sources in the Middle East stressed that these Bosnia-based Mujahedin, especially the suicide terrorists, are being organized as a new force, forming a center for operations throughout Europe. Moreover, by the Summer of 1995, the Islamist infrastructure in Bosnia-Herzegovina had already constituted the core of a new training center for European Muslims."

The first report to emerge on the "Arab-Afghan" Mujahideen presence in Bosnia, was an interview accorded to the "Time" Magazine by one Commander Abu Abdel Aziz in 1992. It included a picture of the commander in his henna-dyed beard and Afghan style fatigue. After the "Time", "al-Sharq al-Awsat", a Saudi-owned, London-based daily, ran a front-page story on Abu Abdel Aziz and his activities in Bosnia.

In August 1994, "Al-Sirat Al-Mustaqeem (The Straight Path)", an Islamic journal published in Pakistan (Issue No. 33), carried an interview with Abu Abdel Aziz. The journal, without identifying his nationality, reported that Abu Abdel Aziz spoke perfect Urdu and that he had spent extended periods in Kashmir. Abu Abdel Aziz's forces were, unlike other Islamic freelancers, part of the seventh battalion of the Bosnian Army (SEDMI KORPUS, ARMIJA REPUBLIKE BH, it was said.

In the interview, he made the following points:

* "I was one of those who heard about Jihad in Afghanistan when it started. I used to hear about it, but was hesitant about (the purity and intention of) this Jihad. One of those who came to our land (presumably Saudi Arabia) was sheikh Dr. Abdallah Azzam. I heard him rallying the youth to come forth and (join him) to go to Afghanistan. This was in 1984 -- I think. I decided to go and check the matter for myself. This was the beginning (of my journey with) Jihad. Then the conquest of Kabul came.

* "A new Jihad started in Bosnia, (we moved there), and we are with it. As to Arab Mujahideen (in Bosnia), they do not have a separate battalion. There is a battalion for non-Bosnian fighters. Arabs are a minority compared to those of the Mujahideen (gathered from around the World). This battalion is under a unified command and is called Kateebat al-Mujahideen (Mujahideen Battalion), Odred "El-Mudzahidin" as they call them in Bosnian. Militarily, it has a link to the Bosnian government under the general command of the Bosnian Armed Forces. It is in fact part of the seventh battalion (SEDMI KORPUS, ARMIJA REPUBLIKE BH) of the Bosnian Army. I am a field commander under the "General Unified Armed Command". We have full jurisdiction in the region we are responsible for (Editor's note: Mostly central Bosnia). The general command of the Muslim forces wants to see results, it does not dictate strategy or action.

* "I met several prominent Ulema. Among them Sheikh Nasir ad-Din al-Albani, Sheikh Abdel Aziz Bin Baz and Sheikh Muhammad Bin Otheimin and others in the Gulf area. Sheikh Nasir ad-Din al-Albani is one of the great Ulema of this time and one seeks guidance in the light of his knowledge and view. (I say) in my last meeting with him, he was supportive of Jihad in Bosnia-Herzeg (as a religious duty). However, he told us not to attack - that is we, the Arab Mujahideen - since we were the smaller host The Sheikh was afraid we might get killed in large numbers if we engaged people in the fight. However, he requested that we dig in and be at the most advanced defense-lines (Khat ad-Difa` al-Awwal) to defend those persecuted.

* "The rest of the Ulema support Jihad by any means (defensive or offensive). You must understand that - militarily speaking - the number of those killed in defense is (far) higher than those killed in attack. This is due to the fact that in attack, clashes and skirmishes take place between Mujahideen and Kuffar (non-believers). The Kafir (unbeliever) does not throw himself arbitrarily in the cross-fire for fear of killing his companions. This fact lowers the number of the dead and this is the most important fact of the matter.

* "Jihad in Kashmir is still going on. It is healthy. Our Kashmiri brothers have achieved a lot. Some of our Mujahideen brethren, whether Arab or (Ajam non-Arab), such as the Pakistanis and our brethren from South-East Asia, have also helped. Their actions have been very successful, especially in the lands under Indian government control. Mujahideen execute hit-and-run operations. However there is a lack of support by Islamic governments and a lack of media coverage by Islamic outlets, on the level of atrocity and destruction by the non-believers in those lands. "

Subsequently, this Abu Abdel Aziz appeared at a conference of the LET at its headquarters in Muridke, near Lahore, in November,1994. He was introduced to the audience as an Indian Muslim living in Saudi Arabia, who was playing a heroic role in helping the Muslims of Bosnia in their fight against the Christian Serbs and in helping the Kashmiris fighting against the Government of India.

Other reports indicated that in May 1995, like-minded fundamentalist groups formed a "Rapid Deployment Force" called "Katiba al –Mujahideen (Batallion of the Mujahideen) at a meeting held in the Philippines. The meeting was attended among others by al-Sheikh Abu Abdul Aziz, described as the Chief Commander of the 7th Brigade of Muslim forces in Bosnia, Salamat Hashan, the Chairman of the Moro Islamic Front (Philippines), Abdul Karim, Chairman of the Islamic Front (Eritrea) and Prof. Hafiz Mohd Saeed, Amir MDI (Pakistan). The meeting chalked out the following objectives- (a) nationalities and frontiers on the basis of races was an un-Islamic perception; (b) to work in support of Muslims in all those parts of the world where action was being taken against them; (c) the Mujahideen of the newly formed Katiba Al-Mujahideen would carry out militant operations and fight in Kashmir to eliminate un-Islamic perceptions of nationalities and frontiers.

Abu Abdul Aziz had disappeared from public view since 1998. There were rumours in Islamic circles in Pakistan that he had been arrested by the Saudi authorities, apparently because of his suspected links with Osama bin Laden, who is against the Saudi monarchy.

The Indian media has reported on August 30 about the arrest by the Hyderabad Police of one Abdul Aziz alias Ashrafi, who had fought in Bosnia and Chechnya. It needs to be verified whether the arrested person could be identical with the individual described in this article.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: corde@vsnl.com)

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