x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

'Jihadist' doctor's confessions released

RAK cardiologist knew of al Qa'eda plot to kill Musharraf.

ABU DHABI // A Pakistani doctor convicted of helping al Qa'eda knew about some of its high-profile operations, including a plot to kill the then-president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf, according to his confessions, which were released yesterday.

On February 28, the State Security Court found Akmal Waheed, 49, a cardiologist and a project manager at Ras al Khaimah College of Dental Sciences, guilty of aiding and abetting al Qa'eda. He was acquitted of running a jihadist organisation.

His brother, AsW, 43, a marketing manager and alleged accomplice, was acquitted of all charges. Both said in court that their confessions had been obtained under duress.

The court found that over a period of two years, Waheed used an intermediary to send a range of equipment to an al Qa'eda leader in Waziristan, north-west Pakistan.

His confessions, released yesterday by the Supreme Court, detail a network of jihadists across the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and India.

In his confessions, he claimed al Qa'eda had connections with other Islamic organisations such as the Balochistani Muslim Brotherhood in Iran and the Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi), a group that wants to create an Islamic India through jihad and conversion.

He said his political activism dated to 1975, when as a teenager he joined Jamaat e Islam, a Pakistani political party. He regularly attended its meetings in Sukkur, south-east Pakistan, as well as joining protests, raising money and recruiting members.

He stayed with the group until 1986, he said, when he joined the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association, a registered NGO run by a relief wing of Jamaat e Islam. He said the medical association did not condone violence, confining itself to social activities and lobbying for Shariah-compliant practices.

His first link to jihadists, he said, came in 2002, when he was approached at work by two members of Jundullah, a group linked to al Qa'eda. One of the jihadists said he had €17,000 (Dh91,000) in Saudi Arabia and asked for Waheed's help to get it to Karachi. Waheed asked a relative in Saudi Arabia to transport the money.

Waheed said he was told during a group meeting directly about high-profile operations, such as the 2003 attempt against the life of Mr Musharraf in Karachi.

Fearing mass arrests, some of the plotters pulled out but others, led by a person identified as Attao ur Rahman, decided to press ahead.

After the attack, which failed to kill Mr Musharraf, security forces rounded up several members of al Qa'eda and Jundullah, including Waheed and his brother. They were accused of providing medical and financial aid to Jundullah, and jailed for two years. In 2005 they were acquitted by the High Court of Sindh Karachi and freed.

Three years later, in July 2008, Waheed came to the UAE to live with his brother for a two-year sabbatical. Had he not been arrested, he would have been due to return to Pakistan last July.

He joined Simi, he said, after being approached by a member who was head of IT at the Ras al Khaimah College of Dental Sciences and had discovered Waheed's previous links with Pakistani terrorists through a Google search.

He said the man asked him to get in touch with al Qa'eda and help run Simi, suggesting Waheed should meet an al Qa'eda official.

A week later, Waheed said, he travelled to Pakistan with a message for Mustafa (also known as Saeed) al Masri, an Egyptian alleged to have been al Qa'eda's financial chief who at the time was deputising for Osama bin Laden.

Waheed said he told al Masri that Simi wanted to work with al Qa'eda "in its jihad against the Indian government". He said al Masri then asked a Sudanese man in charge of operations in Waziristan to communicate directly with Waheed.

Over the following months, Waheed said, he sent the Sudanese man equipment - including two laptop computers, two telescopes, two torches, two Swiss Army knives and a tent - with the help of a man identified as Syed Ahmed.

Waheed said he joined al Qa'eda because he wanted to "do jihad and help jihadists". He also said two of his brothers were members of the organisation, and that one of them had been killed along with al Masri in a drone strike in Pakistan in May of last year.

Describing his eventual capture, Waheed said he had been warned by a person he identified as Ammar, who called to say the authorities were after him and promised to help him flee the country. In a second call, Ammar said the head of the Pakistani Jamaat e Islami group in Iran had asked Murad al Amiri, a member of the Balochistan Muslim Brotherhood, to smuggle Waheed to Iran by sea.

The authorities got to him first and Waheed and his brother were arrested by state security on April 5 of last year at the brother's home in the al Dhait area of RAK. There, the authorities found a black cardboard box - labelled "Cobra" - containing medicine, a Dell computer and hand-written Urdu correspondence with a member of the organisation al Qa'eda in Pakistan.

Waheed and his brother had been in Al Wathba prison since October 10. After his release, Waheed's brother travelled to Pakistan around two weeks ago, according to his family.

hhassan@thenational.ae