Via Galrahn comes a disturbing report that adds a new dimension to the oft-discussed ties between the Pakistani military and al Qaeda. Short version: The al Qaeda fighters who attacked that Pakistani naval base earlier this month did so after the navy refused to release Pakistani sailors suspected of ties with the terror group, reported Syed Saleem Shahzad of the Asia Times. In fact, Pakistani navy commanders may even have been explicitly warned about the attack, which claimed at least 10 lives and destroyed two P-3 Orion patrol planes.
The May 2 killing in Pakistan of Osama bin Laden spurred al-Qaeda groups into developing a consensus for the attack in Karachi, in part as revenge for the death of their leader and also to deal a blow to Pakistan's surveillance capacity against the Indian navy. The deeper underlying motive, though, was a reaction to massive internal crackdowns on al-Qaeda affiliates within the navy ...Quite so. The story continues:
Several weeks ago, naval intelligence traced an al-Qaeda cell operating inside several navy bases in Karachi, the country's largest city and key port. "Islamic sentiments are common in the armed forces," a senior navy official told Asia Times Online ... "We never felt threatened by that. All armed forces around the world, whether American, British or Indian, take some inspiration from religion to motivate their cadre against the enemy..."
"Nonetheless, we observed an uneasy grouping on different naval bases in Karachi. While nobody can obstruct armed forces personnel for rendering religious rituals or studying Islam, the grouping [we observed] was against the discipline of the armed forces. That was the beginning of an intelligence operation in the navy to check for unscrupulous activities."
The official explained the grouping was against the leadership of the armed forces and opposed to its nexus with the United States against Islamic militancy. When some messages were intercepted hinting at attacks on visiting American officials, intelligence had good reason to take action and after careful evaluation at least 10 people - mostly from the lower cadre - were arrested in a series of operations. "That was the beginning of huge trouble," the official said.
Those arrested were held in a naval intelligence office behind the chief minister's residence in Karachi, but before proper interrogation could begin, the in-charge of the investigation received direct threats from militants who made it clear they knew where the men were being detained. The detainees were promptly moved to a safer location, but the threats continued. Officials involved in the case believe the militants feared interrogation would lead to the arrest of more of their loyalists in the navy. The militants therefore made it clear that if those detained were not released, naval installations would be attacked.Which is what happened. This led Galrahn to wonder in a post today about whether al Qaeda might have the ability to take control of a Pakistani warship, if it wanted -- and even if it couldn't necessarily attack another vessel, just a violent mutiny at sea could have many potentially bad outcomes. And this story has another dark twist: Journalist Shahzad was found dead, Reuters reports, after telling human rights organizations he believed he was being threatened by Pakistan's intelligence service. Did it kill him as punishment for revealing how deeply al Qaeda had penetrated Pakistan's navy?