- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistani terrorist groups banned by President Pervez Musharraf before and after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States have re-emerged under innocuous-sounding names that exclude words such as “holy war,” “army” and “holy warrior.”

They include groups linked to the Dec. 27 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the 2002 kidnapping and slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, a think tank.

In a report released days before the announcement yesterday of a “cease-fire” between the Pakistani government and Taliban militants, the institute said that at least 25 of 104 groups banned by Mr. Musharraf continue to operate.

The latest cease-fire and a separate announcement that the Pakistani government is seeking peace talks with al Qaeda drew a skeptical response from Washington.

“I think everyone understands, including President Musharraf, that agreement with tribal leaders did not in fact produce the results that everyone, including President Musharraf, had intended,” State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters in Washington.

Mr. Casey was referring to a failed truce last year that permitted al Qaeda to bolster its presence in the turbulent, nuclear-armed country.

Moreover, U.S. officials warned this week that al Qaeda continues to expand inside Pakistan and that the terrorist network is recruiting ethnic Pakistanis living overseas to train in Pakistan for attacks on the West.

Muhammad Amir Rana, author of the report, said militants originally worked under the Muttahida Jihad Council, an “alliance of Kashmiri-based militant organizations restructured in January 2004.”

After the restructuring, it was decided that the organizations would no longer use the words such as “jihad” (holy war), “lashkar” (army), “jaish” (army), or “mujahedeen” (holy warriors), to “appear more political than militant,” Mr. Rana said.

One of the most notorious, Jaish-e-Muhammad, or Army of Muhammad, was banned on Jan. 12, 2002. But it continues to operate under the name Tehrik-e-Khudamul Islam, or the Islamic Services Movement.

A founder of the movement, Omar Saeed Shaikh, has been sentenced to death for Mr. Pearl’s kidnapping and slaying, which took place less than a month after the group was outlawed.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, one of the most deadly sectarian groups, which was banned nearly a month before the September 11 attacks, remains active under a variety of names, Mr. Rana said.

Another group, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, which was banned on Jan. 12, 2002, is now active under the name Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan, or Pakistan Islamic Nation.

Another group calling itself the Tehrik Nifaz-e-Shariat Muhammadi, or TNSM, which reportedly sent a ragtag army of about 10,000 men across the border into Afghanistan shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of October 2001, is still active along the Afghan border.

The TNSM is reported to have given shelter to al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, and probably Osama bin Laden, Mr. Rana said.

Al Qaeda operates at least six militant groups inside Pakistan, he said.

These include Jandollah, a group of about 20 members that operates in the Karachi area.

Last month, police in Karachi arrested four members of the group as they were preparing to carry out suicide attacks in the city.

Other al Qaeda-linked groups in Pakistan include Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen, the al Badr group, Lashkar-e-Ummer and the Harkat-ul-Islami.

A member of the al Badr group is thought to have been involved in the Dec. 27 assassination of Mrs. Bhutto.

A spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, a militant umbrella group, told the Associated Press yesterday that the new cease-fire would include the tribal belt along the Afghan border and the restive Swat region to the east where the army also has battled Taliban fighters.

Tehrik-e-Taliban is led by Baitullah Mehsud, an al Qaeda-linked commander based in South Waziristan whom Mr. Musharraf’s government has blamed for a series of suicide attacks, including Mrs. Bhutto’s assassination.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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