WASHINGTON – The Bush administration blacklisted the Pakistan-based terrorist group behind the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl nine months after Britain, and only after intense pressure from India’s government, WorldNetDaily has learned.
Britain’s Home Office, which has been working closely with the administration in the war on terror, outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammed (Army of Mohammed), an al-Qaida branch in Pakistan, on March 29, according to the British Embassy.
Yet the U.S. State Department didn’t add J-e-M to its list of terrorist groups until Dec. 26 – even though Indian intelligence had briefed administration officials months earlier about J-e-M’s ties to al-Qaida and the Sept. 11 attack on America. J-e-M and another Pakistan-based terrorist group were the last groups added to State’s blacklist, which now totals 30.
Only now, in the wake of Pearl’s murder, is the administration publicly acknowledging J-e-M’s ties to al-Qaida.
In a phone interview, Joe Reap, spokesman for State’s Office of Counterterrorism, confirmed that J-e-M members are tied to al-Qaida through “terrorist training in Afghanistan.”
A British official suggests the delay in adding J-e-M to the terrorist watch list signals another possible lapse in U.S. intelligence.
Other sources, however, attribute it to the administration’s politically sensitive alliance with Pakistan, which up until Sept. 11 had maintained diplomatic ties with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, whom President Bush has praised for being “very helpful” in fighting terrorism, didn’t agree to ban J-e-M until Jan. 12. India for months has demanded that Musharraf detain the J-e-M member who is now a key suspect in the Pearl case. He is one of 20 top Pakistani terrorists India wants for questioning or extradition. Eighteen of them are still free.
The State Department denies any political considerations in the delay, however, arguing that J-e-M’s threat wasn’t clear until five of its members attacked the Indian Parliament on Dec. 13, Reap says.
Indeed, Secretary of State Colin Powell cited the New Delhi suicide attack in announcing the addition of J-e-M to the terrorist list.
Left out of Powell’s statement, though, was any reference to J-e-M’s threat to U.S. assets or citizens abroad. Pearl was kidnapped by J-e-M terrorists on Jan. 23 and reportedly beheaded days later.
According to reports, the kidnapping was part of a larger J-e-M plot that included attacking the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, where Pearl was abducted. Pearl had been investigating alleged links between al-Qaida operatives in Pakistan and shoe-bomber Richard Reid.
The alleged mastermind behind the plot is Ahmed Omar Sayeed Sheikh, aka Sheikh Omar Saeed, who is one of J-e-M’s top leaders and, as WorldNetDaily reported Feb. 7, one of Osama bin Laden’s chief moneymen. He had wired $100,000 to hijacking ringleader Mohamed Atta to help finance the Sept. 11 attacks.
Sheikh, now in Pakistani custody, reportedly has told police he met with bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks. Bin Laden is thought to be hiding in Pakistan.
Sheikh is a British citizen educated in London, which may help explain Britain’s early blacklisting of J-e-M.
“There was a UK angle,” a British official said.
As WorldNetDaily reported last month, the FBI recently staffed up its Islamabad office and asked Pakistani authorities for help in interrogating J-e-M leaders such as Sheikh, but received little cooperation.