- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

KARACHI, Pakistan — Pakistani intelligence officials say they are on the trail of a British “go-between,” the al Qaeda recruiter who reportedly introduced the July 7, 2005, bombers to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network, the Sunday Telegraph has learned.

The wealthy British passport holder, who is of Afghan origin, is thought to use the nom de guerre “Abdul Rehman,” which means “willing disciple of God.”

The Pakistani officials think that Rehman met the suspected attack ringleader Mohammad Sidique Khan, in a British mosque and later introduced him and fellow bomber Shehzad Tanweer to al Qaeda.

Rehman’s recruiting role could prove crucial in piecing together al Qaeda’s role in the London bombings. Rehman, thought to be in his 50s, is thought to have fought against the Russians in Afghanistan.

“When he was fighting against the Russians, he used to bring mujahedeen from the Western countries with him,” an unidentified Pakistani official said. After the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan, Rehman is thought to have recruited Muslim youths from the West to fight in Bosnia and Chechnya.

“He is very rich and quite often arranged funds for the militant organizations, before and after 9/11,” the official added.

Rehman is thought to connect would-be terrorists to al Qaeda frontmen without necessarily being present when the two parties meet. He has succeeded in avoiding detection by operating on a small scale and exercising extreme caution, the official said.

“He passes on these individuals or small groups only when he is convinced that these boys are real jihadists,” the official said.

The interest in Rehman’s role developed only days after a video of Tanweer, in which he tried to justify his actions, was released to coincide with the first anniversary of the London bombings.

The video also featured a statement by Ayman al-Zawahri, al Qaeda’s second in command. Al-Zawahri said Khan and Tanweer had been trained “in the manufacture of explosives” at camps run by the terrorist network.

Peter Clarke, the head of anti-terrorism at Scotland Yard, said last week that considerable uncertainty remained about exactly how, or whether, the July 7 bombers were linked to the terrorist network.

“It is not easy to find out what happened,” Mr. Clarke said. “Such information as we do have does suggest there is probably a link to al Qaeda. We need to know who else, apart from the bombers, knew what they were planning. Did anyone encourage them? Did anyone help them with money, accommodation or expertise in bomb making?”

A Pakistani intelligence official said Rehman’s role emerged in the interrogation of three militants arrested as they returned from Afghan terrorist training camps. He quoted one of the interrogated captives as saying: “Rehman had met with Khan in a mosque somewhere in [Britain], and Khan expressed his wish to obtain training to carry out terror attacks inside [Britain].”

It had been known that Khan and Tanweer traveled together to Pakistan between November 2004 and February 2005. It is now suspected that Khan, at least, was taken to a remote tribal area of Pakistan or Afghanistan. He was then put through a “crash course” in explosives training.

An intelligence official said: “This new course dispenses with much physical and mental training and lasts … 10 to 15 days, while they impart various methods in explosives and detonators. This includes how to make suicide jackets, how to convert readily available goods like fertilizer into explosives, how to make car bombs and certain other tips.”

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