Sunday, November 15, 2009

THE 313 BRIGADE

INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR: PAPER NO. 579

B.RAMAN

There are two jihadi terrorist organisations by the name the 313 Brigade. The first is Kashmir-centric and is associated with the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) of Qari Saifullah Akhtar. It has been in existence since at least 1999 and is a member of the United Jihad Council, based in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, which is headed by Syed Salahuddin of the Hizbul Mujahideen. It looks upon India as its main enemy and is not against the Government of Pakistsan, its Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

2.On December 15,1999, a Rashtriya Rifles unit in Jammu & Kashmir had killed one Sher Khan, who was described as the chief commander of a newly formed 313 Brigade and a HUJI commander called Nadeem Khan during an encounter in the Marot forest area of Surankote. The "Excelsior", a daily newspaper published from Jammu, had quoted Indian defence sources as saying that the 313 Brigade had been formed by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) a few days earlier.They claimed to have killed its leader within a few days of its formation and infiltration into J&K.

3. Thereafter, from to time, there were references to the activities of the 313 Brigade in the Surankote area of J & K. In October 2004, a Rashtriya Rifles unit captured one Sabzar Ahmed, a resident of the Surankote area, who was described as a member of the 313 Brigade.

4. On March 17,2006, "The Nation", the Pakistani daily, had carried a report on a letter jointly written to Pervez Musharraf by the members of the United Jihad Council of Kashmir protesting against his Government succumbing to pressure from the George Bush administration to discontinue support to the Kashmir-related jihadi organisations. Among those who had signed the letter was one Munir Ahmed of the 313 Brigade.

5.In April 2006, the US State Department issued the 2006 "Country Reports on Terrorism," which listed a number of designated "foreign terrorist organizations" and also listed "other selected terrorist groups also deemed to be of relevance to the global war on terrorism." The HUJI was listed in the latter category. The report noted the group's "links to al Qaeda," and that the "HUJI's operations in Kashmir were led by Commander Ilyas Kashmiri, a former commander in the Afghan jihad, .... who was arrested in October2005 on charges of attacks against President Musharraf in 2003."

6. Reports in the Pakistani media indicated that Ilyas Kashmiri, who headed the 313 Brigade of the HUJI in J&K, was released by the Pakistani authorities on the intervention of Syed Salahuddin and had shifted from Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), where he was previously based, to the Waziristan area of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

7. A second organisation also known as the 313 Brigade is Pakistan-centric and is the fighting arm of the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People formed by Osama bin Laden in 1998 in association with a number of terrorist organisations of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan and other countries. It came into existence after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. It looks upon the US and Israel as its main enemies. It is strongly against the Pakistan Govt, its Army and the ISI because of their alleged co-operation with the US in Afghanistan.

8. While the Kashmir-centric 313 Brigade claims responsibility for its actions in Jammu & Kashmir, the Pakistan-centric 313 Brigade does not admit its operations in Pakistan. Till 2007, the responsibility for the attacks on Pakistani army and ISI officers was claimed by organisations with names such as the Islambouli Brigade, the Jundullah etc. After the raid by the Special Services Group (SSG) of the Pakistan Army into the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July,2007, the responsibility for many of the attacks on military establishments and personnel has been claimed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

9. Among the terrorist attacks in Pakistani territory in which the Pakistan-centric 313 Brigade was suspected were:

(a). The two attempts to kill Pervez Musharraf in Rawalpindi in December,2003.

(b). The attempts to kill the Corps Commander of Karachi and Shaukat Aziz, the then Finance Minister who had been nominated by Musharraf to take over as the Prime Minister, at Fateh Jang in the Attock constituency of Punjab in 2004. Shaukat Aziz escaped an assassination attempt while he was canvassing a bye-election campaign.

(c). The murder of two officers of the Intelligence Bureau at Kohat in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) in 2004.

(d). The attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in September 2008.The Danish diplomatic staff were functioning from there.

(e).The November 19,2008,assassination of Maj-Gen Amir Faisal Alvi, who headed the SSG in 2003-2005 before he was removed by Musharraf for unworthy conduct.

10. Immediately after the attempt on Shaukat Aziz, an Islamic web site had quoted a group calling itself the Islambouli Brigade as claiming that it had targeted one of the men of the "American infidel group in Pakistan". Lt Khaled Islambouli was the leader of the group of soldiers, who assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat during a military parade in Cairo in 1981.Though the statement did not mention Aziz by name, it was apparent the reference was to him. It said: "One of our blessed battalions tried to hunt a head of one of America’s infidels in Pakistan while he was returning from Fateh Jang, but God wanted him to survive. With this blow, we are delivering a message to the Pakistani Government and its head Pervez Musharraf, who is still extraditing the Mujahideen to America to appease it." . It accused the person targetted at Fateh Jang of being "a follower of the wicked Bush and his cronies."

11."Yesterday’s attack will be followed by more painful blows if you do not stop blindly obeying the orders of that Bush. If you don’t stop, the Mujahideen will wage a bloody war in Pakistan," it added. It said it was giving the Musharraf Government a "period of truce" to stop handing over arrested persons to the US, failing which the brigade "will behave in a different way." The statement did not say how long the truce would last, but it warned that its message was "the last warning. "Within the coming few days, our brigade will speak with the language of blood which is the only language you understand," it further warned.

12.In an interview to the "News", the prestigious Pakistani daily, apparently given after the attempt to kill Aziz, the 45-year-old Haji Mohammad Omar, who had succeeded Nek Mohammad as the leader of the pro-Taliban elements in South Waziristan, warned: "The rulers would not be safe if the Pakistan Government with US assistance targets our leaders. We are convinced that commander Nek Muhammad was killed by the US military with the connivance of our own government.The rocket attacks on Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps camps and assets in South Waziristan and the resistance being put up by the militants there are largely fuelled by the US military involvement in the so-called campaign against al-Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan.The militants target only those places where US military personnel and spies are stationed. Our men take maximum care not to harm Pakistani soldiers and militiamen."He alleged that hundreds of US troops and intelligence agents had been secretly deployed in South Waziristan and that US military planes and helicopter gunships were operating in Pakistani territory and air space.

13. The attack came at a time when there were reports that the so-called 313 Brigade of the International Islamic Front (IIF), as distinguished from the 313 Brigade of the HUJI in J&K, had stepped up its campaign against the Pervez Musharraf Government in Pakistan and the Islam Karimov Government in Uzbekistan for co-operating with the USA in its war against terrorism.

14. The attack also come at a time when the Iraqi resistance and foreign jihadi terrorist groups in Iraq had stepped up their campaign against Saudi Arabia and Pakistan for allegedly letting themselves be used by the Bush administration for suppressing the Iraqi people. They were virulently criticising Jehangir Ashraf Qazi, the Pakistani diplomat, for agreeing to work as the UN Representative in Iraq and warning Pakistan against sending its troops to Iraq to protect the UN office.

15. Two Kashmiris from the POK, who had gone to Iraq to work for a US contractor, were captured by unidentified elements and beheaded as a warning to people in Pakistan not to volunteer to work for US contractors in Iraq. The responsibility for the beheading was claimed in the name of an organisation called the Jaish-e-Islam (Army of Islam).

16. These attacks followed after a statement issued by Osama bin Laden in 2003 calling Pakistan an apostate State for co-operating with the US and a virulent statement by his No.2 Ayman al-Zawahiri calling for action against Musharraf. In the meanwhile, the investigation into the two attempts to kill Musharrafr reportedly brought out the involvement of some junior officers of the Army and the Air Force in the conspiracy along with members of the HUJI, the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ).

17. The various reports received during this period indicated that at the instance of Al Qaeda, the IIF had revamped its 313 Brigade by including in it select volunteers from not only the Pakistani jihadi organisations, but also sympathetic military personnel for carrying out reprisal attacks to protest against the Pakistani , co-operation with the US.

18. After the attacks on Musharraf, Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the Amir of the HUJI, ran away from Pakistan. He was arrested by the Dubai Police on August 6,2004, and handed over to the Pakistani authorities. Surprisingly, the Pakistani authorities did not prosecute him just as they did not prosecute Ilyas Kashmiri. They released him after keeping him under informal detention for some months. After the failed attempt to kill her at Karachi on October 17,2007, Benazir Bhutto had named the Qari as the principal suspect. He was again arrested, but released after some weeks without being prosecuted.

19. The 313 Brigade of the IIF, which has been focussing on attacking Pakistani targets as distinguished from the 313 Brigade in J&K which attacks Indian targets, is a shadowy organisation. Media reports project Ilyas Kashmiri as the head of the 313 Brigade of the IIF. In a press interview, Ilyas himself has sought to give the impression that he heads it. He has been saying that unless the US and its collaborators in Pakistan are defeated, the so-called struggle against India in J&K will not progress. He thus now gives primacy to the jihadi campaign against the US and its alleged collaborators in Pakistan.

20. Ilyas sees himself as another Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and wants to carry out a spectacular terrorist strike in a Western country. The purpose of his trying to use David Coleman Headley, of Chicago arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation at Chicago on October 3, 2009, was for an attack on the Danish journal, which carried caricatures of the Prophet in 2005. A perusal of the FBI's affidavit against Headley shows that while Ilyas wanted a Mumbai--26/11 style attack in Copenhagen, Headley felt that a more feasible option would be to assassinate the cartoonist and his Editor.

21. Where do the statements of the TTP claiming responsibility for attacks on Pakistani military personnel fit in? What is the relationship between the TTP, Ilyas and his 313 Brigade? What happened to the 313 Brigade of J&K? Does it continue its separate existence? Answers to these questions are not available.

22. The jihadi picture in Pakistan is getting murkier and murkier. Nobody----neither Pakistan's political and military leaders nor the US intelligence agencies and military leadership nor the mushrooming community of terrorism analysts all over the world---- seems to understand what the hell is going on in Pakistan, which is inexorably becoming a country beyond understanding and beyond redemption. (16-11-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

SPECIAL SERVICES GROUP & PAK-SPONSORED TERRORISM

INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR: PAPER NO.578

B.RAMAN

In my article on the October 10,2009, terrorist raid into the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army at Rawalpindi available at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers35/paper3453.html , I had written as follows: "There are possibly other SSG officers ( in addition to Ilyas Kashmiri)---serving and retired---- who have similarly gravitated to the world of terrorism. As a result of this, knowledge of commando-style operations seems to be widespread in Pakistan's jihadi world. Till now, the international focus has been on the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as the sponsor and trainer of jihadi groups. Indications of a similar role being played by at least some elements in or of the the SSG---- possibly in tandem with the ISI --- are coming to the fore now."

2.It was known in the past that some retired officers of the ISI had been guiding the various anti-Indian and anti-US terrorist groups in Pakistan. They were also allegedly helping them in their training and supporting the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan and Gulbuddin Heckmatyar's Hizbe Islami in their operations against the NATO forces and the Afghan National Army in Afghan territory. By using these retired officers for helping these terrorist organisations, the ISI and the Pakistani Army were able to maintain the deniability of their role in sponsoring terrorisn in the Indian and Afghan territories.

3. Amongst the senior retired officers of the ISI, who had come to adverse notice in this connection are Lt.Gen. Hamid Gul, who was the Director-General of the ISI during the first tenure of Benazir Bhutto (1988-90) as the Prime Minister, Lt.Gen.Javed Nasir, who headed the ISI during the first tenure of Nawaz Sharif ( 1990-93) and Lt.Gen.Mahmud Ahmed, who was the chief of the ISI during the first two years of Pervez Musharraf after he seized power in October,1999. While Gul was removed by Benazir, who disliked him, Nasir and Mahmud Ahmed were removed under US pressure because of their suspected links with the terrorists.

4. After the November 19, 2008, assassination in Islamabad of Maj.Gen. Amir Faisal Alvi, who headed the SSG till the middle of 2005 before he was sacked by Musharraf for unworthy conduct, there have been indications of similar contacts between serving and retired officers of the SSG and the jihadi world. While the details of the alleged unworthy conduct of Alvi, who was the brother of Lady Naipaul, wife of the famous writer, were never revealed by Musharraf, the speculation in Pakistan was that during an official visit to the UK, Alvi had spoken to his British interlocutors about the contacts of some Pakistani army officers with Baitullah Mehsud, who used to be the head of the Pakistani Taliban, and criticised Musharraf for not acting against them. On coming to know of this, it was reported, Musharraf sacked him. Alvi, who was born in Kenya, had the dual nationality of Pakistan and the UK.

5. Amongst the terrorist leaders who were exposed in the Pakistani media after the assassination of Alvi as former SSG officers were Ilyas Kashmiri, who became the Amir of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir after having worked for the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) for some time and Capt. Khurram, who left the SSG in 2003, joined the LET and then gravitated to the Taliban. He was killed in Afghanistan in March,2007.

6. Khurram was the younger brother of Major Haroon Ashique, who took premature retirement from the Pakistan Army in 2001 after a meeting with Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed , the Amir of the LET. He and his brother occupied important positions in the LET till 2004. Subsequently, they developed differences with Sayeed and left the LET. Haroon joined a group of retired officers of the Army raised by Ilyas Kashmiri for assisting Al Qaeda and the Pakistani and Afghan Talibans. Khurram joined the Afghan Taliban.

7. The jihadi role of Haroon came to notice during the investigation of the assassination of Alvi. He was found to have been the ring-leader of not only the assassination, but also of the kidnapping for ransom on October 20,2008, of Satish Anand, a Karachi-based film distributor, who is reported to be the uncle of Juhi Chawla, the Indian film actress. The investigation reportedly brought out that both these incidents were orchestrated by Haroon on the instructions of Ilyas Kashmiri. Haroon, who is a Kashmiri from Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, is presently facing trial in these two cases along with two accomplices.

8. The identities of the two persons referred to in the FBI's affidavit against David Coleman Headley as "Individual A" and "LET member A" still remain unclear. It is also unclear as to why the FBI is not revealing their identities.

9. There are wheels within wheels in the Chicago conspiracy

10. Annexed is a backgrounder on the SSG (source http://www.specialoperations.com/Foreign/Pakistan/SSG.htm). Among the various tasks of the SSG is the protection of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. After the Lal Masjid commando raid by the SSG in July,2007, a member of the SSG blew himself up in the officers' mess of the SSG at Tarbella Gazi killing a numbder of SSG officers in reprisal for the Lal Masjid raid. That incident brought out the infiltration of the SSG by the jihadi elements. (15-11-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd) , Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

ANNEXURE

THE SPECIAL SERVICES GROUP OF THE PAKISTAN ARMY

Overview

In 1953-54 the Pakistan Army raised an elite commando formation with US Army assistance. To disguise its true mission, the new unit was simply designated 10 Bn. of The Baluch Regiment The battalion was posted to a new headquarters at Cherat near Attock City. In March 1964, a Mobile Training Team from the US Army Special Forces Group (Airborne) went to Pakistan to set up a new airborne school at Peshawar for 19 Baluch. The school included basic and jumpmaster courses. All members of 19 Baluch were airborne-qualified. The training team also included four riggers, who helped train Pakistani counterparts.

By this time 19 Baluch was already considered the SSG (Special Services Group) which was divided into 24 companies. Each company had specialization units, specialized in desert, mountain, ranger, and underwater warfare. The desert companies participated in training exercises with US Army Special Forces Mobile Training Team in late 1964. The scuba company in Karachi was renowned for its tough physical training.

In 1970 an anti-terrorist role was added. This mission was given to the Musa Company, an independent formation within the SSG. The name was given after the name of Prophet Musa (Moses). The company was originally formed in 1970 as a combat diver unit. In 1980, however, each company was given a diver unit. After the Musa company was converted to an anti-terrorist unit, it received training by British SAS advisors in Cherat during mid-1981.

In 1986, the SSG began a large-scale basic training program for Sri Lankan paramilitary militia forces. Commando and airborne training was given to members of the Sri Lankan Commando Regiment.

SSG units have also been seconded in covert operations in Afghanistan during the Afghan war, as air marshals on passenger airlines and as VIP security. At present, the SSG maintains its headquarters at Cherat and runs the Airborne School at Peshawar. Two SSG battalions are normally rotated through Cherat with a third battalion divided between the border and other strategic locations such as the Terbella Dam and nuclear research facilities. Each SSG battalion numbers 700 men in four companies. Each company is split into platoons and further sub-divided into 10 men teams. Battalions are commanded by Lieutenant Colonels, the group is currently run by a Colonel . ( My comment: It is headed by a Major-General since 2003)

Training

SSG officers must have at least two years of prior military experience and volunteer from other formations for three-year assignments with the SSG; NCO and enlisted men volunteer from other formations to serve permanently in the SSG. All trainees must participate in an eight-month SSG course at Cherta. The SSG course emphasizes tough physical conditioning. Included is a 36-mile march in 12 hours, a grueling requirement that was first institutionalized by 19 Baluch. They are also required to run 5 miles in 40 minutes with full gear. Following the SSG course, trainees must volunteer for Airborne School. The course last four weeks, with wings awarded after seven (five day, two night) jumps.

Many in the SSG school are selected for additional specialist training. A HALO course is given at Peshawar with a 'skydiver' tab awarded after 5 freefall jumps. A "Mountain Warfare" qualification badge is given after completing a course at the Mountain Warfare School in Abbotsbad; and a "Combat Diver" badge is awarded for the course held by the Naval Special Services Group SSGN at Karachi. Three classes of combat swimmers were recognized: 1st class to those completing an 18-mile swim; 2nd class to those finishing a 12-mile swim; and 3rd class for a 6-mile swim.

SSG regularly sends students to the US for special warfare and airborne training. Later on, due to Siachen crisis, a Snow and High Altitude Warfare School was also established.

SSG Weapons and Uniforms

While they were designated 19 Baluch, the Pakistani special forces were distinguished by a green beret with the Baluch Regt. beret insignia on a maroon flash. A 'Baluch' tab, black with a maroon background, went on left shoulder. Combat uniforms were Khaki. The SSG dropped the green beret in favor of a maroon beret. A silver metal SSG beret is worn in a light blue felt square. A bullion SSG para wing with a black cloth background is worn on the left chest. A red cloth version is worn by a master parachutist who has at least 50 jumps. SSG "Riggers" wear a wing with the English word 'Rigger' stitched across the wing. A distinctive SSG badge featuring a dagger framed by lightening bolts, used since 1964 by members of 19 Baluch goes on the left shoulder; qualification tabs and badges such as Skydiver, SCUBA, or Mountain Warfare go on the right shoulder. A silver metal SSG insignia is occasionally worn on shoulder straps.