Foreign Policy Blogs

Terror Support Network Busted in Spain, Thailand

The big news coming in is about the arrest of six Pakistanis and a Nigerian by the Spanish police in Barcelona late on Tuesday. The arrested men have been accused of having links to radical Islamic cells in Pakistan. They are suspected of providing forged passports to groups linked to al-Qaeda, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba in particular. The Lashkar-e-Taiba is the Pakistan based terror group that has been blamed for the Mumbai attacks in November 2008 in which 166 people were killed.

Based on media reports it can be assumed that the operation is a result of a long drawn investigation process. Reports suggest that the operation was carried out in conjunction with the police forces of Thailand and of European countries, and is continuing. A statement from the Spain’s Interior Ministry suggested that in a related operation three others – two Pakistanis and a Thai – were held in Thailand as part of the same “Operation Kampai”.

Preliminary indications suggest that the gang used to steal documents, including passports, which were then sent to Thailand to be forged and then delivered to al-Qaeda-linked “terrorist groups”, in particular the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has been accused of plotting the Mumbai attacks. It was further reported that the group is also linked to the defeated Sri Lankan separatist group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

During the investigation process spread over a span of 18 months, the police in Spain unearthed a number of stolen passports taken from Spain to Thailand, which were stolen almost entirely in the province of Barcelona from tourists who met the requirements stipulated by the ‘World Islamic Front’ in order to be used by members of different terrorist cells linked to al-Qaeda. The World Islamic Front is the organization that issued the World Islamic Front Statement of 23 February 1998, “Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders”, listing the actions of Americans that they claim conflict with “Allah’s order”, and stating that the Front’s “ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.” Terrorism experts consider the “World Islamic Front” synonymous with al-Qaeda. (Source: Wikipedia)

It is now known that the international network was led by a Pakistani national living in Thailand and who has been detained by authorities there. He would direct the cells based in Europe, decided the features of the passports to obtain and, which once they were received in Bangkok, supplied them to different terrorist groups. The Spanish Ministry statement also said that the arrests had succeeded in neutralising a vast cell involved in providing support to terror groups such as the al-Qaeda.

The Spanish police have been on the trail of terror groups for some time now. Last August, Spanish police had arrested a Moroccan man suspected of recruiting Islamic extremists over the internet and raising funds for terrorist groups. Again in September, police in Barcelona had detained an Algerian-born US citizen suspected of raising funds for al-Qaeda’s North African branch.