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Terrorist attacks in Britain and Egypt: The Pakistan connection


MOSCOW. (Gennady Yevstafyev, for RIA Novosti.)

Police probing Saturday's bombings at the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh have discovered a Pakistan connection, news agencies reported Monday, and the search is now on for nine people who flew into the country from Pakistan on July 5 using false passports. The same connection was previously established to the London attacks. So what is Pakistan's role in this fresh wave of terror?

Immediately after September 11, Richard Armitage, then the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, had an urgent meeting with Mahmoud Ahmad, head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), who was visiting Washington, and asked him the all-important question whether his country was with or against the U.S. The question was to the point: ISI was Pakistan's instrument in unconditionally supporting the Taliban that protected Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda members to the last. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf accepted all seven demands made by the U.S.

One of these demands was access to all intelligence about the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. There were some initial successes: An American expeditionary corps chased Taliban and Al-Qaeda units into hard-to-reach mountains on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, thus reducing the danger of extensive operations by these extremist terrorist groups.

Moreover, in 2002 one of bin Laden's closest aides - al-Qaeda operational head Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - was captured. Washington then decided that Pakistan was a bona fide ally that needed no strict supervision, and proceeded to the Iraqi operation, with Britain as its main ally.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair did not suspect at that time that his loyalty would bring tragedy to his country. The ultimate upshot was the opening of another front of struggle against terrorism in Iraq, where terrorism had previously not existed. It was the biggest gift for Osama bin Laden and his rival for influence in the terrorist international, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Thus, without finishing matters in Afghanistan, the partners plunged headlong into Arab political, ideological and religious intrigues, without properly understanding them, it now seems. But topping everything else were global economic interests. Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda recovered, gained extensive political and moral support among religious and political structures, and resumed its recruiting and missionary campaign not only in Pakistan, but also elsewhere.

The Americans took very determined measures to guarantee internal security against terrorist attacks. Blair, on the other hand, apart from general statements, did practically nothing to curb extremist Islamic groups, including Chechen ones, in Britain. And this despite the menace that openly stemmed from the active role played in the deadly drama in Iraq by the British military, and the insults and abuses it committed against the feelings of religious Muslims. The result was that the terrorist attacks on the London underground were carried out by 100-per-cent British subjects of Pakistani extraction, rather than by any visiting militants.

Al-Qaeda's strong point is its ability to pick up and psychologically condition those who execute its carefully engineered terrorist attacks, which are calculated to produce a powerful international impact. Men from worthy families in Britain's Pakistani community were chosen for the major terrorist attack on July 7. It is now known that, prior to participating in the attack, some members of this "sleeper cell" had visited religious centers in Pakistan to undergo psychological training. So, by inviting the G-8 to Britain and failing to take all necessary measures to neutralise the extremists and, moreover, soft-pedaling the terrorist threat before the summit, Blair demonstrated what can be mildly described as negligence.

The prime minister's recent meeting with Islamic leaders in Britain has likewise shown that what happened was deeply ideological, and that education in the spirit of "Western moral democratic values" had failed, as had an attempt to control the training of imams and the religious upbringing of Muslim citizens and non-citizens in general. It seems to be a long overdue step, and one that may be stiffly resisted not only by the Islamic community.

On July 21, London was hit by another series of terrorist attacks on the Underground and on a bus. On the face of it, it seemed to be a muddled impromptu response by beginner extremists to official actions and reports that the British government was seriously considering the withdrawal of its contingent from Iraq. A lack of principles in politics has very serious consequences for ordinary citizens.

The Pakistani connection goes further, though. The scandal around Abdul Qadeer Khan, father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, which virtually developed under the umbrella of strategic partnership with the West, is perhaps the most ominous Pakistani connection of recent years. It would be a tragedy if this connection lands in the terrorists' lap. The world still does not know where the dangerous technologies - including nuclear - went.

Lieutenant General (ret.) Gennady Yevstafyev formerly worked with the Foreign Intelligence Service.

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