Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Europe Plot Focuses Attention on Laskhar-e-Taibe

A plot to launch commando-style attacks in Britain, France or Germany reinforces Western intelligence concerns for much of this year that the next attack may come from an Al-Qaeda linked group that has faded from public attention: Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Pakistani group responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which ten gunmen killed 166 people in attacks on several targets in the city.

In testimony earlier this year before the US Congress, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair asserted that LeT is "becoming more of a direct threat and is placing Western targets in Europe in its sights." Pointing to the group's ability to raise funds, particularly in the Gulf, and its global logistics, support network and operations in Europe and Asia, Blair said confronting LeT was a high priority for Washington.

Blair made his remarks months after the FBI arrested and charged Pakistani American David Headley with involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks and working with LeT on planned attacks in Denmark and India. Danish officials said earlier this year that they believed that LeT was planning an attack on the newspaper that in 2005 published controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Headley's interrogation further led to the recent arrest of several LeT operatives in Bangladesh who allegedly were preparing suicide car bombings of the US, British and Indian embassies in the capital Dhaka.

Concern that LeT may be setting its sights on Europe for its next operation were compounded by the group's history of involvement in international terrorism. LeT members have fought in Tajikistan's civil war and Bosnia Herzegovina and operate in Kashmir. US and European officials believe that by targeting India or Indian targets in Europe and Asia, LeT hopes to disrupt fragile efforts by Pakistan and India to resolve their differences and work more closely together in combating militant Islamic groups.

It's believed al Qaeda may be using LeT to provoke conflict between India and Pakistan. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned on a visit in January to New Delhi that al Qaeda was using LeT to provoke renewed conflict between India and Pakistan in a bid to further destabilize Pakistan. Earlier, Gates told the US Senate that al Qaeda was providing LeT with targeting information to help the group plot attacks in India.

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