Five Americans from the northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., area have been arrested in Pakistan on their way to commit jihad. The fact that they were caught before they got to hook up with those to-die-for 72 virgins (the ones that, according to one Saudi preacher, are white and have no phlegm, feces, urine, or perhaps most appealingly, menstrual cycles) is itself a success in the war on terror. In order to capitalize on this success, though, we need to learn several lessons from the episode.
The first lesson is that we cannot ignore how Pakistan-based extremist groups have penetrated America’s shores. One of the student’s uncles, who is part of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist group, provided them with a safe house where they were ultimately captured. This group was created in the year 2000 after Maulana Masood Azhar, a former senior leader of Harakat ul-Ansar, was released from prison in exchange for 155 hostages. The group is primarily focused on fighting India over Kashmir and has carried out many attacks, including the 2001 attack on India’s parliament, and they are suspected of being linked to plots to kill former Pakistani President Musharraf when he was in office.
The group had training camps in Afghanistan when the Taliban was in power and has received funding from Osama bin Laden. According to the Australian government, the group met with various terrorist organizations in June 2008, where they agreed to shift their focus to removing coalition forces from Afghanistan.
These aren’t the first Americans that JEM has recruited. In 2004, a man in Colorado was deported after it was learned that he had been trained in one of the group’s camps. There are also sympathizers, as found out earlier this year when four men were arrested for plotting to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and to use Stinger missiles to shoot down military aircraft flying out of the Air National Guard base in Newburgh, New York. The plot was busted when an FBI informant posed as a member of JEM, with whom the ringleader discussed his desire to join the group.
Investigators should be on the lookout for a potential link between the five Americans and Jamaat ul-Fuqra, known in the U.S. as “Muslims of America.” The United Press International reported in 2002 that ul-Fuqra “is a splinter group” of JEM and is also linked to Harakat ul-Mujahideen. As discussed previously, ul-Fuqra has isolated communities in the U.S. that are used as paramilitary training centers, as a videotape recently released by the Christian Action Network shows.