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'Jihad tourism': How the Lashkar nets US recruits

Last updated on: August 24, 2010 16:34 IST

'Jihad tourism': How the Lashkar nets US recruits

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Vicky Nanjappa

Tracking the ideological journey of Times Square bomb plot accused Faisal Shahzad has led the investigators to an interesting concept known as 'jihad tourism', which has made Pakistan, the most preferred destination for people wanting to embrace jihad.

The arrests of both David Headley and Shahzad have made it clear that terror groups in Pakistan continue to prefer American nationals as operatives.

An Intelligence Bureau official said that this has been the case for a while now and will continue until security checks for American nationals are on par with those for foreign nationals.

When it comes to foreign nationals the scrutiny even by terrorist outfits is the bare minimum.

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Image: Times Square bomb plot accused Faisal Shahzad
Photographs: Reuters
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How the Lashkar nets US recruits

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Terrorist outfits welcome operatives from the western world with open arms and the perks given to such a person are much better than what operatives of other nationalities would receive.

Indian intelligence agencies are not aware of how many such American nationals are Lashkar-e-Tayiba or Al Qaeda operatives.

"We know that there are many and each is a ticking bomb," said an intelligence official.

The concept of jihad tourism was started so that foreign nationals did not find it hard to join a terrorist group.

Headley, Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi (arrested for the failed New York subway attacks) are the latest entrants into the fold of terrorism thanks to jihad tourism.


Image: American terror suspect David Coleman Headley

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How the Lashkar nets US recruits

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Headley's case is slightly different when compared to the other two as he joined the operations for money.

However, that is not the case with Shahzad and Zazi, the IB says. They are two youth who obtained American citizenship, stayed there for a while assimilated into the American way of life and then went back to Pakistan.

The Lashkar and the Al Qaeda have the full support of the ISI in conducting jihad tourism.

Anyone wanting to join a jihadi group just needs to get to Pakistan.

The recruit is under no pressure to chose any particular outfit. Most recruits choose the LeT or the Al Qaeda as they have international operations.

The recruitment of American nationals wanting to join the LeT always takes place in North Wazirstan.


Image: Cops escort Najibullah Zazi, arrested for the failed New York subway attacks, to court

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How the Lashkar nets US recruits

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The operatives who come in from other nations do not enjoy this kind of privilege and it is their recruiters who choose an organisation for them. Moreover these persons are also given specific areas to fight in.

The IB says that American operatives are more dangerous as they are ideologically motivated.

Moreover they are educated and well read and this enhances their profile. Twenty-five-year-old Zazi, who had pleaded guilty to trying to attack the New York City subway system, had said that he had undergone training in an Al Qaeda camp in North Wazirstan and had carried out such an attack only to bring to the notice of the world, what the US was doing in Afghanistan.

Shahzad on the other hand has been denying links to any terrorist outfit and has been saying that he carried out this operation alone.


Image: A Pakistani policeman escorts hand-cuffed men identified as Aman Hassan Yemer (left), Ahmed Abdulah Minni (2nd left), Waqar Hussain Khan (right), Ramy Zamzam (left rear), and Umar Farooq (right rear), all American citizens from Northern Virgina, as they leave a police station after their court appearance in Sargodha, Pakistan
Photographs: Reuters
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How the Lashkar nets US recruits

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Even as US agencies continue to track his ideological journey, the Indian intelligence claims that Shahzad had worked closely with the ISI for five months before undergoing training in the North Wazirstan, mostly with the Al Qaeda.

Even though the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan had claimed that they had inducted Shahzad, intelligence reports suggest that this is high unlikely since the ISI has not yet let them operate internationally.

Moreover the arrest of eight TTP operatives in Karachi following Shahzad's confession has not given enough evidence to show that he belonged to this group.

For the ISI, the US national continues to remain a preferred recruit for various reasons. Apart from having an educated terrorist on board, these operatives are also fully aware of security norms. 



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How the Lashkar nets US recruits

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These operatives are well spoken and can be impressive when they speak to others during their mission, a fact that has been proven well in the case of Headley.

These persons are not normally recruited along with the fidayeen cadres who fight in Iraq, Palestine or Kashmir. Even during their training programme, they are usually taught about the use of technology, how to carry out surveys and brain washing.

There are many who have not been sent in to carry out recees or bombings. Instead they are sent to other countries where they have been put in charge of recruiting youth.

Terror groups feel that since they are well spoken and have a certain amount of charm, the youth are easily trapped and join the terror groups.



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