Aug 25, 2010

Al Qaeda shifting to Pakistan’s urban areas

Al Qaeda shifting to Pakistan’s urban areas

By Ali K Chishti
Daily Times (Karachi)
Aug 24, 2010

Al Qaeda is gradually shifting its base from the unsafe and spy-infested tribal belt of Pakistan – which is under the radars of virtually all intelligence agencies – to more secure, urban areas of the country, which according to a Western diplomat, are “immune to drones”, Daily Times has learned.

The drones had been so central to the current administration’s strategy that Obama has doubled the frequency of drone attacks in Pakistan, inflicting maximum damage to al Qaeda in the last two years.

Al Qaeda, who recently lost its No 3 Mustafa Abu al-Yazid to drones, got so heated by the “predators” that it had to sacrifice its prime asset – working as a double agent for both the Jordanian intelligence agency and the CIA – by hitting back at a CIA base in Afghanistan in December 30, 2009, killing seven officers and contractors, who were operating at the heart of the covert programme overseeing US drone strikes in Pakistan. A senior Pakistani intelligence official said, “Some 60 to 70 percent of the core al Qaeda leadership has been eliminated, dealing a serious blow to the network’s capacity to launch any major attacks on the West.”

Many older al Qaeda leaders have been replaced by younger ones in FATA. The influence of older sheikhs on the younger generation of al Qaeda is “only ideological. The operational guidance comes from younger elements, who now dominate the network”, the CIA chief confirmed.

At least from 2001 to 2008, al Qaeda had been operating in FATA with near impunity, Daily Times confirmed, “but they are on the move, communicating via couriers and moving stealthily in small groups to urban areas”, a former Western intelligence official confirmed. When asked about which urban areas is al Qaeda migrating to, the unanimous response from all quarters was, “Karachi”.

In-depth investigations by Daily Times also confirm the presence of senior Qaeda members and the top leadership of the Afghan Taliban – Quetta shura members – at various safe houses located in the outskirts of Karachi.

Jandullah, another name and faction of the Laskhkar-e-Jhangvi and which has struck a strong relationship with al Qaeda and the TTP, is responsible for the security of al Qaeda members.

A former Western spy-master commented, “We understand that the Quetta shura is actually the ‘Karachi shura’ and is given safe houses by Pakistanis, but there’s no doubt in DC that the Pakistanis will go after al Qaeda, common enemies you see.”

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