Tuesday, April 7, 2009

HAMBALI'S BROTHER: ANOTHER TELL-TALE ARREST ( 23-9-2003)

B.RAMAN

There has been a pattern in Pakistan's Gen.Pervez Musharraf's so-called co-operation in the war against Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda, which the recently declassified documents of the USA's Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) show is Pakistan's own progeny, and International Islamic Front (IIF).

2.The pattern is: Avoid any action against the dregs of the Al Qaeda and the IIF sheltered in Pakistani territory so long as the US does not come to know of them; arrest them and hand them over with alacrity to the US once it comes to know of it.

3. This seems to have been repeated in the case of the reported arrest and handing-over of Gungun Rusman Gunawan (27), who is stated to be the brother of Hambali, projected as the operational chief of Jemmah Islamiyah (JI) of South-East Asia. Hambali was arrested in Thailand on August 11 and flown to a secret destination by the USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for interrogation.

4. The reports regarding the arrest of his brother in Karachi coming out of Pakistan are confusing. While there seems to be no doubt that he was arrested, the confusion is about when, under what circumstances and where is he now.

5. On September 20, a spokesman of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Islamabad announced the arrest in Karachi of 13 Malaysian, two Indonesian and two Myanmarese students on suspicion of their links with the JI. It was stated that the arrests were made on a charge of illegally continuing to stay in Pakistan after the expiry of their visa. They were reportedly studying in the Abu Bakar Islamic University and two other madrasas of Karachi.

6. The FIA is Pakistan's equivalent of India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). It was set up after Pakistan became independent for investigating cases relating to corruption, terrorism, narcotics smuggling and other inter-province crime. Over the years, the ISI, which has been using jihadi terrorist groups for achieving Pakistan's strategic objectives in India and Afghanistan, removed from the jurisdiction of the FIA many of its responsibilities relating to counter-terrorism.

7. According to well-informed sources in Pakistan, after 9/11, the USA, distrustful of the ISI, pressurised Musharraf to make the FIA once again the lead agency for counter-terrorism and sizable portion of the US assistance for strenghtening Pakistan's counter-terrorism capability is now going to the FIA and not to the ISI. The US has also been trying to have all the military officers in the FIA replaced by Police officers in order to totally civilianise the agency once again, as it used to be.

8.The Government-controlled Pakistani State TV reported the news as follows: " Pakistani security officials arrested 13 Malaysian and two Indonesian students in Karachi yesterday for involvement in activities seen as prejudicial to the interests of Pakistan. The relevant governments have been informed. The Malaysian and the Indonesian governments had withdrawn permission for the students to stay on in Pakistan. After completing necessary investigations and legal formalities, they will be handed over to the concerned countries.”

9. Subsequently, a report datelined Jakarta carried by the Pakistani media on September 22 stated as follows:" The Indonesian government has sent a protest note to the Pakistani authorities over the arrest in Karachi of two Indonesian students suspected of being Islamic militants. The acting Ambassador in Islamabad has sent a protest note to the Pakistani Foreign Ministry because it did not notify the embassy of the arrest. The Pakistani Ambassador to Indonesia has also been summoned to the Foreign Ministry,” the acting Indonesian Consul-General in Karachi, Temu Alam, said. However, the (Pakistani )Interior Ministry’s National Crisis Management Cell director, Brigadier Javed Cheema, said the “request for their arrest came from their respective countries, who have sought their deportation. They may be in a better position to confirm links of some of them with Jemaah Islamiyah,” a terror network thought responsible for a string of bombings in Indonesia that have killed around 233 people....Mr Alam identified the two arrested Indonesians as Gungun Rusman Gunawan (27) originally from the West Java town of Cianjur and Muhammad Saifuddin from the Central Java town of Sleman. He said the two were arrested at the Abu Bakar Islamic University in Karachi by police officers but their current whereabouts were unknown. Saifuddin was a new student still on probation, not yet a full permanent student of the university. " ( End of citation).

10. This report did not identify Gunawan as the younger brother of Hambali. The identification came separately from a report disseminated by the Associated Press (AP). There have been contradictory official versions regarding his arrest, as indicated below:

* That of Brig.Javed Cheema:" Reports of the arrest of Hambali’s brother Gungun Rusman Gunawan in Karachi were being investigated. It is too early, as our Foreign Office spokesman said in today’s briefing,”

* Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan:" It is too early to determine whether the Indonesian student was Hambali’s brother. No final determination has been made. Investigations are under way so it is not proper to jump to conclusions."

* An unidentified senior official (not clear whether he is of the Karachi administration or of the Federal Government):"We have not arrested Indonesian terrorist Hambali’s brother and we are preparing documents for their deportation in consultation with Indonesian and Malaysian authorities. I don’t think Hambali’s brother is among them.”

* Iftikhar Ahmed, spokesman of the Federal Interior Ministry:" The man identified as Rusman Gunawan was arrested on the weekend along with 15 Malaysian and Indonesian students suspected of terrorist activities, Yes, the brother of Hambali is among the 13 Malaysian and two Indonesian students who were detained in Karachi."

11. However, the prestigious daily "The News" claimed on September 23 that Hambali's brother had actually been arrested a month ago and handed over to the US. That is, if this version is correct, he was not among those arrested on September 20. It quoted Yaqoob Tahir, the registrar of the Jamia Abu Bakar Islamic University situated in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal area of Karachi, as stating as follows: "Gungun Rusman Gunawan was taken into custody from the Gulshan-e-Iqbal police station by the army a month back. About a month ago, the SHO (Station House Officer) Gulshan-e-Iqbal police station summoned one of our Indonesian students, namely Abdul Hadi whose name was written on his passport as Gungun Rusman Gunawan, for questioning. At the police station, he was questioned by an army colonel and later was taken towards an undisclosed location. Since then we have no information regarding his whereabouts. We have informed his government but so far we did not receive any response. Gunawan was known as Abdul Hadi in the institution as his name was very difficult to pronounce. Hadi possessed all documents. Gunawan came here to acquire religious education on a scholarship about five years ago and he had no links with any extremist outfit. On the morning of September 20 some persons in plain clothes came to the institution and asked the administration to produce six students namely Ahmed Maaz, Muhammad Razi, Amin, Akhwan, Firdous (all Malaysians) and Saifuddin (Indonesian). The management produced them before the officials who claimed to be the personnel of the Federal Investigation Agency. The officials checked the luggage of the six persons and their travel documents. Later, the officials told the administration that the governments of these students gave their names to the Foreign Ministry, and requested to send them back. In order to deport them, the officials took the students along with them and since then we have no information regarding our innocent students. We immediately informed the Malaysian and Indonesian governments through their Consels-General regarding the arrest of their nationals and now they are dealing with the Pakistani Government. Some 147 students were studying in Jamia Abu Bakar. The students belong to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Uganda, Djibouti, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Philippine, Maldives, Australia, Ghana, Somalia, Cambodia, Cameron, Kenya, Senegal and Afghanistan. Some 270 Pakistanis are also studying in the institution."

12. The version given out by the Registrar of the madrasa, where Hambali's brother was reportedly studying on a scholarship of the Pakistan Government since 1999, appears to be more reliable than the official ones. If the registrar's version is accepted, an interesting question arises: Did the US come to know of the presence of Hambali in Thailand from the interrogation of his brother in Pakistan or vice versa?" The Malaysian authorities seem to believe that it was Hambali's interrogation by the US, which led to his brother and others in Karachi.
13. Another unanswered question is: Did the Pakistani authorities know of the presence of Hambali's brother in Karachi and his reported activities there since 1999 as the co-ordinator of the visits of JI recruits from South-East Asia to Pakistan and Afghanistan for training? If so, why they did not act against him till the US made them to?

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.)

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