By B. Raman
The Harkut ul-Mujahideen (HuM), also known as the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA), the Jamiat-ul-Ansar (JUA) and Al Faran, is reported to have denied a report published by the “New York Times” on June 24,2011, alleging that it had links with Osama bin Laden and was part of his Pakistan support network. According to the “NY Times”, investigations by the US authorities into a mobile phone used by bin Laden’s courier are said to have given rise to suspicion that OBL had contact with the HUM. The mobile set of the courier was reportedly recovered during the raid by US naval commandos into the house of OBL at Abbottabad in Pakistan on May
The first evidence of links between Al Qaeda and the HUM came after the US Cruise missile attacks on suspected Al Qaeda camps in Afghan territory on August 20,1998, in reprisal for Al Qaeda’s truck-bombing outside the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam earlier that month. Many of the camps destroyed by the Cruise missiles, which ,the US thought, were run by Al Qaeda turned out to be those of the HUM. The HUM had apparently been permitted by Al Qaeda and the Taliban to locate its training camps in the same area in which Al Qaeda had set up its camps.
Addressing a press conference at Islamabad on August 22,1998, after the US bombing of the HUM training camps in Afghanistan, Fazlur Rahman Khalil, its then Amir, denied that bin Laden was indulging in terrorism and accused the US of killing 50 innocent civilians, including 15 Arabs.
He said that the camps bombed by the US in Afghan territory had actually been set up by the CIA during the Afghan war and claimed that these were being used by the HUM for giving education to the Afghans. He denied that any training in terrorism was going on in those camps. He alleged that the Nawaz Sharif Government, which was then in power in Islamabad, was privy to the bombing and said that 40 Cruise missiles had struck three HUM camps in Afghan territory.
He then warned: “ The USA has proved itself to be the world’s biggest terrorist by carrying out the attacks on Afghanistan and the Sudan and I want to convey to the US leadership that we will take revenge for the attack.”
Addressing a meeting at the Karachi Press Club on August 23,1998, Azizur Rahman Danish, the then head of the Sindh branch of the HUM, warned: “The US air strikes have drawn a clear dividing line between the Muslim Ummah and non- believers and this is the beginning of a crusade. The USA will be paid back in the same coin.”
Addressing a press conference at Peshawar on August 25, 1998, Fazlur Rahman Khalil said that nine HUM members died in the US attack on its camps in the Khost area, of whom five were killed on the spot and the remaining succumbed to their injuries in Pakistani hospitals, of them physically handicapped, were also killed. According to him, the Cruise missiles destroyed four mosques, partially damaged another and burnt 200 copies of the Holy Quran kept in the camps.
He added: “The USA calls Osama a terrorist and President Clinton is claiming that all terrorist training camps had been destroyed in the air strikes. Let me tell the Americans that not even one per cent of the so-called terrorist camps run by Osama have been destroyed.”
In another warning to the US on September 1,1998, Fazlur Rahman Khalil said: “The USA has struck us with Tomahawk Cruise missiles at only two places, but we will hit back at them everywhere in the world, wherever we find them. We have started a holy war against the US and they will hardly find a tree to take shelter beneath it.”
Writing in the “Friday Times” (August 18-24,2000) of Lahore, Khalid Ahmed, the well-known Pakistani analyst, said: “The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen formally announced itself as a new in June 1996 in Muzaffarabad. In January 2000, Masood Azhar of Harkat-ul Mujahideen was sprung from an Indian jail after the Kathmandu hijack. Masood Azhar had gone into India through ‘proper channels’, as a journalist endorsed by Islamabad (that is, the ISI). He was a follower of Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, the founder of the anti-Iran and anti-Shia organization Sipah-e-Sahaba, who was killed in 1990. “After his release, Masood Azhar wished to revive the legacy of his master. By this time Harkat had become a major Deobandi organization in Pakistan. Its main strength remained the militants of Punjab who not long ago had been the militants of Sipah-e-Sahaba. “His return, therefore, caused an upheaval which climaxed in a grand split in the Harkat. The split was soon followed by the assassination of Maulana Yusuf Ludhianvi, a key figure in the Deobandi movement because of his status as a spiritual guide to two important Deobandi leaders, his Khalifas: Maulana Fazlur In addition, two Tajiks and four Arabs, two organization Rehman of JUI and Maulana Azam Tariq of Sipah-e-Sahaba. “The split in Harkat-ul-Mujahideen was caused by the militants in Punjab. Masood Azhar and his Punjabi following isolated the Harkat leader Fazlur Rehman Khalil. The formation of Jaish-e-Muhammad as a new organization was announced, but Masood Azhar and Fazlur Rehman Khalil began to fight over the Harkat assets. “On 19 March 2000, the two submitted to a hakam (arbitration) of their elders. Harkat was represented by Muhammad Farooq Kashmiri and Jaish was represented by Maulana Abdul Jabbar (a key figure in the Kathmandu hijack) on the pledge given that they would abide by the hakam. The verdict was given by three elders: Mufti Rasheed Ahmed of Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai of the Binori Town complex and Dr Sher Ali Shah of Waziristan. The decision was that all offices of the Harkat, occupied by Jaish in
Punjab, would be returned to the Harkat, which in turn would pay the Jaish Rs 40 lakh as its share of the division of assets.”The implementation of the hakam, however, was not so smooth. The vehicles and offices returned by Jaish to Harkat were in such bad repair that Harkat refused to accept them and thus also refused to pay the stipulated 40 lakhs. “In Pakistan the Jaish emerged as the more radical and more sectarian part of the Harkat because of its Sipah-e-Sahaba background. Maulana Yusuf Ludhianvi, it is said, inclined to their creed more than to Harkat’s moderate view. Mufti Shamzai seemed to vacillate between the two splinter groups, thus allowing the Harkat’s over-all leader Fazlur Rehman Khalil to be eclipsed. “Finding himself thus isolated, Khalil is said to have gone to Osama bin Laden and made up some of his losses by getting from him 12 new double-cabin pick-up trucks to replace those ruined by the Jaish in Punjab.
Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil is a founding member of the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA), subsequently renamed in 1997 as the Harkat-uk-Mujahideen (HUM) after the US designated the HUA as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation in October,1997, and then re-named again as the Jamiat-ul-Ansar (JUA) after President Pervez Musharraf banned the HUM on January 15,2002, under US pressure.
He was also a founding member of Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People formed in 1998. Apart from its activities in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and other parts of India, the HUM was also active in training and arming the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front of Southern Philippines, the Rohingya Jihadi organisations of Myanmar, the Chechens and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Since 1995, it was also recruiting and training black Muslims from the US in its camps in Pakistani territory. Zarb-i-Momin Jihadi militia,
A wing of the HUM called HUM–Al Alami, meaning HUM-International, participated in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, in Karachi in January-February,2002. The incident was master-minded by Omar Sheikh, who was one of those released by the Indian authorities in December,1999, following the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar by the HUM. The interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) of Al Qaeda by the US authorities reportedly brought out that while Omar Sheikh had orchestrated the kidnapping of Pearl, his killing was done by KSM. Thus, the HUM-Al Alami and Al Qaeda had jointly organised the kidnapping and murder of Pearl.
Since 2004, the Afghan authorities had been complaining to Pakistan that the terrorists of the Taliban and Gulbuddin Heckmatyar’s Hizbe Islami, who had stepped up their attacks on Afghan and US troops in Afghan territory, were being trained in clandestine training camps run by the JUA in Balochistan and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan under the supervision of Fazlur Rahman Khalil. The Pakistani authorities initially denied the allegations, but subsequently took Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil into custody when the Karzai Government shared with them a copy of the interrogation report of one Sohail of the Taliban who had given details of the training camps run by Khalil, in one of which he (Sohail) was trained.
They released him after eight months in custody on the ground that there was no evidence against him warranting his further detention. His name again cropped up during the investigation of a case in California. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was reported to have uncovered an Al Qaeda sleeper cell in Lodi , near Sacramento in California . All of those arrested in this connection —- one Hamid and his father Umer Hayat, Muhammed Adil Khan, Shabbir Ahmed Mohammed and Khan’s son Hassan Adil – were Pakistanis or American nationals of Pakistani origin. Hamid admitted to have attended an Al Qaeda training camp at a place called Tamal near Rawalpindi in 2003-04.He gave the name of the in-charge of the training camp as Fazlur Rahman, which was then assessed as probably identical with Fazlur Rahman Khalil. It was reported that following the admission of Hamid, the FBI requested the Pakistani authorities to arrest Khalil once again and hand him over to the FBI for interrogation. The Pakistani authorities claimed that Khalil had gone underground and was not traceable.
The “Daily Times” of Lahore reported as follows on June 13, 2005: ‘ Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, former chief of Jamiatul Ansar (JA), has gone into hiding after the arrest of Hamid Hayat and Umer Hayat who told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that they received training from a Pakistani Al Qaeda camp allegedly run by Khalil. Security agencies have begun efforts to arrest Khalil after Hamid Hayat and Umer Hayat were arrested in Lodi, California. Sources said he (Khalil) was earlier released by security agencies after eight months’ detention. “Khalil was released on the condition that he separate himself from his militant activities but after this new development security agencies have resumed efforts for his arrest,” sources said. Khalil was arrested from his house by security agencies on May 20, 2004, but sources said security agencies found no evidence of his involvement in militant activities in Afghanistan.”
The same paper reported further on September 22, 2005, as follows: enforcing agencies have pressed the leadership of the Herkatul Mujahideen cover-named Jamiatul Ansar to disclose the whereabouts of its former commander Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, Daily Times has learnt. Sources said the law enforcers were in touch with Farooq Kashmiri, a prominent figure at the Jamiatul Ansar, seeking the information about Khalil who went underground three months back. They said the agencies might re-arrest Khalil to investigate about his alleged links with the Taliban leadership. Farooq Kashmiri, who had been working with Khalil since the organisation set forth, had told the law enforcers that he was not aware of where Khalil was. The sources said Khalil had also contacted Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the opposition leader in the National Assembly, seeking his help to make a deal with the agencies. “Khalil approached the opposition leader following his name was echoed during the investigation of Hamid Hayat and Umer Hayat who were arrested in the US. Both of them were allegedly trained as militants at a camp run by Khalil in Rawalpindi,” the sources said. The US was pressurising Pakistan to enhance the scope of investigation into the terror acts, they said, and that Khalil wanted the opposition leader to broker a deal with the government. They said Khalil had sent a message to Maulana Fazlur Rehman that he was in crisis and needed his help, urging him to mediate with the government. They said that Maulana had also talked with the agencies on the matter and defended Khalil, saying that he was not involved in any terrorist activities in or outside the country.”
Before the visit of then President George Bush to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan from March 1 to 3,2006, the Karzai Government had told the Pakistani authorities that fresh information received by them indicated that Khalil and his JUA continued to train the jihadi terrorists of the Taliban, the Hizbe Islami and the IMU. They requested for his arrest and handing over to them for interrogation. They also brought this information to the notice of President Bush, who subsequently brought it to the notice of Musharraf.
In its issue of March 30,2006, the “Daily Times” of Lahore reported as follows: ” Six people on Tuesday evening picked up Maulana Fazalur Rehman Khalil, the former chief of banned militant group Harkatul Mujahideen, from Tarnol, thrashed him and dumped him on Fateh Jang road. They also severely beat up Abdur Rehman, Khalil’s driver , said Sultan Zia, the information secretary of the banned organisation. Golra police have registered an FIR against unidentified men. “Six unidentified people badly thrashed Maulana Khalil and his driver with rifle butts inflicting serious head injuries to them, Zia said. Maulana Kahlil left his residence ” Law along with his driver on Tuesday evening to attend a congregation at Tarnol, sources said. He made a stopover to offer Maghrib prayers near Tarnol railway crossing, where unidentified men put cloth over the heads of Khalil and his driver, tied them up with rope and took them to Fateh Jang road in a vehicle. Later, the men started beating them. Khalil was severely injured and received wounds on his head and other parts of his body, the sources added. They said at midnight on Tuesday, when Khalil returned to his senses, he made a phone call to his home.”
After this incident, I had written as follows: “ It is suspected that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had itself instigated the attack on Khalil in order to have him killed to avoid handing him over to the FBI for interrogation. He seems to have survived the serious injuries sustained by him. The FBI should insist on his being immediately handed over to it so that it could have him flown out for medical treatment and interrogation. He may be able to give them information not only about the training camps and the HUM’s sleeper cells in the US, but also about bin Laden.”
On the basis of information from well-placed Pakistani sources, I had reported as follows in INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR: PAPER NO.160 of December 5,2006: “Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), who is a close associate of Osama bin Laden and who had disappeared from public circulation since March last, is back in circulation. He has been visiting mosques and madrasas controlled by the HUM in Pakistan and addressing religious congregations. He has been appealing to the Muslims to step up the jihad against the American and British forces in Iraq, against the NATO forces in Afghanistan and against the Indian security forces in India’s Jammu and Kashmir. He has been claiming that Osama bin Laden is hale and hearty and preparing another major terrorist strike in the US homeland. He has been calling for a united jihad against the NATO forces in Afghanistan under the leadership of Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Taliban. “It is learnt from reliable sources that the Maulana was kept all these months in a safe house of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) and was released on November 19, 2006. According to the “Post”, a daily of Peshawar, ( November 21, 2006), “with a new vigour, his followers plan to regroup themselves for helping their Afghan brothers and free the neighbouring Islamic State from the US-led NATO forces.” With the HUM joining the Taliban, Gulbuddin Heckmatyar’s Hizb- e-Islami and Al Qaeda, an intensification of acts of jihadi terrorism, including suicide terrorism, in Afghanistan is likely. The HUM is also expected to assist the Hizbul Mujahideen in J&K in stepping up acts of terrorism.”