Jihadis React to Mumbai Attacks

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 5 Issue: 42

Jihadi forum members have been eager to learn anything about the Mumbai terror attacks, hoping for clues that al-Qaeda has perpetrated, in a jihadi perspective, these “great and admirable attacks.” In response to this interest, the jihadi forums have circulated an analytical article about the Mumbai attacks by the Kuwaiti Salafi cleric Hamid al-Ali (h-alali.org, December 1). Al-Ali is on the U.S. list of terrorism supporters and financiers and is best known for his early 2001 fatwa (religious ruling) approving the use of suicide attacks, including flying an aircraft into a building (see Terrorism Monitor, April 26, 2007). Al-Ali’s article received over fifteen hundred hits in on day and was reposted in major jihadi forums and websites (muslm.net, December 2; alboraq.info, December 2; hanein.info, December 2).

In an article entitled, “The Secret Behind India’s Joy over the Mumbai Incident,” Hamid al-Ali alleges that the attacks came right after a training exercise for U.S. officials in which a map of Pakistan was included in the training scenario showing Pakistan dismantled into smaller states. The Mumbai attacks followed this conspiracy by the United States and India, says al-Ali, claiming that the end objective is to dismantle the only Islamic country armed with nuclear weapons.

The map in question was first published to accompany an article by retired Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters in the June 2006 issue of Armed Forces Journal, but copies are only now being circulated in Pakistan as proof of America’s intention to dismember Pakistan by joining the North-West Frontier Province to Afghanistan and severing Baluchistan as part of a new “Free Baluchistan,” leaving the remainder of “natural” Pakistan as a much reduced nation lying almost entirely east of the Indus River. Al-Ali’s “training exercise for U.S. officials” is just part of the mythology that has grown around this document as it circulates in Pakistan.

An Islamabad daily mocked the importance ascribed to this map by Pakistan’s elites:

The debacle of 1971 taught us that it is dangerous for a country to be cocooned in an artificial sense of immortality. But it is also disempowering and futile for a nation to live with the paranoia of imminent death. Not a day goes by without our prophets of doom (who incidentally are often proponents of non-representative power elites in Pakistan) bellowing that a US-led global plot to divide Pakistan into pieces is close to fruition. Their smoking gun is a redrawn map of Pakistan (now widely redistributed over the Internet) that was published by the Armed Forces Journal in 2006. There are thousands of such journals in the US that publish all kinds of crazy ideas produced by analysts and think tanks. But our conspiracy-mongers are convinced that this lone article is irrefutable proof that "America" wishes Pakistan’s dismemberment (The News [Islamabad], November 29).
According to al-Ali, India sides with the Zionists, occupies Pakistani Kashmir against the well of its Muslim majority and commits heinous crimes against Kashmiris. Al-Ali reminds his readers that India also backed Bangladesh against Pakistan in the 1971 war of Bengali secession. India’s Hindus were alarmed when the Taliban began to exert power and influence in nuclear-armed Pakistan and began supporting Kashmiri Muslims’ aspirations for independence. Therefore, the hidden agenda of India aims to penetrate Afghanistan under the U.S. umbrella, with Israeli cooperation, to eliminate jihad and the Islamic movements.

Secondly, India is endeavoring to dismantle Pakistan under the pretext that Pakistan is the springboard for all global jihadi movements. Al-Ali reiterates India’s role in instigating the West against Pakistan. India’s argument, says al-Ali, is that the “Taliban movement sprung from Pakistan, where the most dangerous terrorists reside in Pakistan’s Waziristan. Pakistan is overloaded with religious schools filling Muslims’ minds with Takfiri ideology. Pakistan is the only Islamic nuclear state vehemently interacting with Islamic issues.” Al-Ali goes on to elucidate the many services and favors India rendered to Israel to win the support of the West against Pakistan. Finally, al-Ali predicts Indian escalation and possible all out war, backed by the United States, against the mujahideen in Kashmir with the collusion of the corrupt president of Pakistan, Asif Zardari.

Al-Ali’s analysis received many comments from jihadi forum members. Although corroborating al-Ali’s conspiracy theory in general, some jihadi forum chatters raised three main arguments on the Mumbai attacks. One forum member disagreed with al-Ali’s insinuation that the Indian intelligence services were behind the attacks with the intent of undermining Pakistan, saying “It’s insane to think that such young men would pay with their lives for India’s possible political conspiracy against Pakistan.” Other critics, working on the assumption that the Pakistani Taliban was responsible, rebuffed the premise that the group had made a strategic mistake by attacking India. On the contrary, the Taliban would force Pakistan to redeploy its military from the border with Afghanistan to the border with India, consequently relieving pressure on the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Another forum member posted a summary of what he claimed was a Rand Corporation study predicting the partition of Pakistan into small emirates as a result of religious, ethnic and sectarian rivalry. Small political entities would emerge from the dismantling of Pakistan in Baluchistan, Sindh, and Punjab.

Some forum members believe that the Mumbai perpetrators are Muslims from Pakistani- controlled Kashmir. Without consideration to the repercussions on Pakistani-Indian political affairs, the attackers struck Mumbai to seek revenge Hindu violations of Muslim honor. A link to a free file-hosting website was posted in muslm.net showing instances of Hindu aggression against Indian Muslims; thereafter even moderate Islamic forum members were convinced the Mumbai attacks were justified.

The majority of forum members are convinced that al-Qaeda was involved in the attacks one way or another, pointing to a video by al-Qaeda delivered to news agencies in the Indian city of Sringar last year. In the alleged al-Qaeda video a man calling himself Abu Abdulrahman al-Ansari claimed to be a high ranking member of al-Qaeda and threatened to wage holy war against India (abrar.org June 8, 2007). Whether the Pakistani army decides to track down Islamic movements in Kashmir or is forced into a confrontation with the Indian army, it will ease Pakistani pressure on the tribal areas where the Pakistani Taliban operates.