The Regathering Storm Along the ungoverned border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, Al Qaeda is training would-be jihadists from the West to attack their home countries.
Teru Kuwayama for Newsweek Tough Slog: Tenth Mountain Division troops patrol in Afghanistan's Paktika province
By Sami Yousafzai, Ron Moreau And Mark Hosenball Newsweek Dec. 25, 2006 - Jan. 1, 2007 issue - For the past year, a secret has been slowly spreading among Taliban commanders in Afghanistan: a 12-man team of Westerners was being trained by Al Qaeda in Pakistan for a special mission. Most of the Afghan fighters could rely only on hearsay, but some told of seeing the "English brothers" (as the foreign recruits were nicknamed for their shared language) in person. One eyewitness, a former Guantánamo detainee with close Taliban and Qaeda ties, spoke to NEWSWEEK recently in southern Afghanistan, demanding anonymity because he doesn't want the Americans looking for him. He says he met the 12 recruits in November 2005, at a mud-brick compound near the North Waziristan town of Mir Ali. That was as much as the tight-lipped former detainee would divulge, except to mention that Adam Yahiye Gadahn, the notorious fugitive "American Al Qaeda," was with the brothers, presumably as an interpreter.
Another Afghan had more to say on the subject. Omar Farooqi is the nom de guerre of a former provincial intelligence chief for the Taliban; he now serves as the Taliban's chief Qaeda liaison for Ghazni province, in eastern Afghanistan. He says he spent roughly five weeks this past year helping to indoctrinate and train a class of foreign recruits near the Afghan border in tribal Waziristan, and among his students were the English brothers. The 12 included two Norwegian Muslims and an Australian, along with nine British subjects, says Farooqi. Their mission, Farooqi told NEWSWEEK, will be to act as underground organizers and operatives for Al Qaeda in their home countries—and their yearlong training course is just about finished.
U.S. and British security agencies have known this threat would come sooner or later. While saying he could not confirm the English brothers' case specifically, a spokesman for Britain's Foreign Office (unnamed as a matter of standard policy) calls it "common knowledge" that jihadist recruits have been traveling from Britain to Pakistan for indoctrination and training. The existence of a Qaeda pipeline between those two countries has grown harder to deny with every new terrorism story that has broken since the suicide bombings in London that killed 52 subway and bus passengers on July 7, 2005. Each new case that emerges features at least one or two suspects with ties to Pakistan—such as an alleged plot that began before 9/11 to bomb financial buildings in New York, Newark, N.J., and Washington, and this past summer's alleged plot to blow up airline flights from Britain to the United States.
A few weeks ago Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, director-general of the British security service M.I.5, publicly disclosed that British authorities are monitoring 200 networks and 1,600 individuals "actively engaged in plotting or facilitating terrorist acts here and overseas." A "substantial" fraction of those 1,600 people have connections to Pakistan, says a British official, declining to be named because the subject is sensitive. The M.I.5 chief added that her investigators had identified nearly 30 separate plots "that often have links back to Al Qaeda in Pakistan, and through those links Al Qaeda gives guidance and training to its largely British foot soldiers here."
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