FBI Chief Faces Pakistani Pandora's Box
Hours after terrorists attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team last week in Lahore, Pakistan, killing eight people and injuring seven players, FBI Director Robert Mueller landed in Islamabad to meet with Pakistani officials. Mueller was seeking information about ... terrorists.
Mueller wanted access to 20 Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) suspects being held in Islamabad; men believed to have been involved in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, that killed more than 170 people last November. The timing was a macabre coincidence. But if that didn't underscore just how big the Pakistani terrorist problem is, the fact that Pakistani officials denied Mueller access to the LeT suspects certainly did. Mueller is America's top investigator. Without cooperation from Pakistan, America faces a much harder job in identifying LeT sleeper cells in the United States.
Since 2001, more than a dozen American citizens have been convicted in American courts of training at Lashkar's foreign terrorist camps. Remember the ten convicted "paintball jihadis," also known as members of a "Virginia jihad network"? They all trained at camps run by LeT in Pakistan. In April 2005, Ali al-Timimi, an American-born Muslim cleric living in Virginia, was convicted of "inciting followers to wage war against the United States just days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001." Al-Timimi was the most high profile in a case of nine other LeT terrorism-related convictions.
According to the the Investigative Project on Terrorism, tens of thousands of Pakistanis have trained in Lashkar's terrorist training camps in Pakistan since 1989. There, weapons training includes the use of explosives, assault rifles, machine guns, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades. In a post-Mumbai world, the FBI wants to learn who else has been trained there, hence Mueller's visit. The Mumbai attackers have been linked to LeT training camps, making it clear exactly how much carnage can be wrought by a low-tech attack in a major urban city.