Lashkar-e-Taiba in America
A convicted terror recruiter plays victim of the NSA.
11:00 PM, Dec 15, 2008 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
The coincidence can best be described as macabre: The terrorist assault on Mumbai occurred just as a House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, headed by Democratic Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey, initiated an inquiry into the conviction of a radical Muslim hatemonger, Ali Al-Timimi, for recruiting to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) or Army of the Righteous, the group considered responsible for the latest atrocities in India. Purportedly, Al-Timimi, when he was tried, may have been a "victim" of anti-terror measures introduced by the Bush administration.
The review of the Al-Timimi case would be the Holt panel's first formal action against the Bush administration's record in this field. The panel was established last year by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But let us take our own look at the movements, incidents, and characters involved. Congressional and media attitudes toward Islamist extremism are in fact more deserving of criticism here than are Bush policies.
LET is a powerful fundamentalist militia financed by the Pakistani government in its fight with India over Kashmir. The group has a close relationship with al Qaeda; prominent Guantánamo captive Abu Zubayda, a top al Qaeda operative, was arrested in a LET safehouse in Pakistan in 2002. The group is committed to terror in the West as well as in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Indeed LET is present wherever Pakistani radicals are found, and was involved in the 2006 plot at Heathrow airport that changed airline policies on passengers carrying liquids.
Two years before the Heathrow affair, LET veteran Dhiren Barot, a Hindu convert to Islam who graduated to al Qaeda, was arrested in Britain and charged with planning a variety of chemical and radioactive attacks on financial offices in the United States, which he had surveilled extensively. Barot, heading a network of Kashmiri radical recruits, was sentenced to life imprisonment in the UK. LET's other exploits outside the Indian subcontinent included the training of "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, currently serving a life sentence in the U.S.
But one of the most notable setbacks suffered by LET involved the so-called "Virginia paintball jihad" case. Notwithstanding the light-hearted nickname bestowed on the conspiracy by media, the "paintball jihad" was much more than a weekend diversion involving a paramilitary sport. The Virginia group of Islamists, including American Muslim convert Randall "Ismail" Royer, was convicted of training for and participating in LET's military campaign against India. From his base in the United States, Royer sent recruits to an LET camp in Pakistan for instruction in the use of small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, and other military resources. Royer admitted he had formed his group within a week of the horrors of September 11, 2001, to swell the ranks of mujahideen fighting against the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. In practice, however, the paintball convicts fired their weapons against Indian forces in Kashmir. Royer was sent to prison for 20 years, and eight of his cohort received similar sentences.
And thus to the present contretemps. Al-Timimi, a Washington, D.C.-born biologist when he was not engaged in inciting violence, was convicted in the Virginia case of soliciting participation in LET's armed jihad. Indeed, he was the Royer group's "spiritual mentor." Al-Timimi was a prominent figure in Washington jihadist circles; he delivered Friday sermons at the Saudi-run Washington Islamic Center, the "big mosque" dedicated to the cult of Wahhabism (see "The Mosque and the Imam").
In the Virginia circle, Al-Timimi directed his exhortations against India, and there is an undeniable link between his da'wa, or Islamic outreach, and the carnage in Mumbai. Al-Timimi had spoken by telephone with Suliman Al-Buthe, a Saudi subject born in Egypt and designated a terror financier by the U.S. Treasury. Al-Buthe was a high official of the Saudi-based Al-Haramain Foundation, a major support network for al Qaeda. Al-Timimi gloated to Al-Buthe about the crash of the space shuttle Columbia, among other tasteful comments. Al-Timimi received a sentence of life plus 70 years without parole.