Dubai, Asharq Al-Awsat – The reports of a jihadist group operating in the United Arab Emirates [UAE] deserves serious consideration, particularly due to the stability and security enjoyed by this country, as well as the absence of religious groups sympathetic with the Al Qaeda ideology. This is something that has been officially acknowledged by the UAE authorities who have put two Pakistani nationals on trial accused of running a jihadist organization in the UAE, as well as aiding and abetting Al Qaeda.
Reports indicate that the two Pakistani nationals are brothers, who were working in the Ras al-Khaima Emirate of the UAE, and who are accused of running a jihadist organization, being members of Al Qaeda, and also recruiting and financing the terrorist group. The two brothers, one of whom is said to be a project manger, the other a marketing manger, were arrested following a tip-off from the Pakistani authorities.
According to reports, the two brothers confessed to having links with the Al Qaeda organization, however they later retracted this confession, saying that it was extracted “under duress.”
Riad Kahwaji, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis [INEGMA] told Asharq Al-Awsat that “there is nothing surprising about Al Qaeda being present in the UAE.”
He added that “Al Qaeda is akin to an ideology that is easily transferable, for all that is required is the presence of those who are sympathetic [towards this] and will follow their [Al Qaeda] leaders in the field.”
He also said that “as a result of this, Al Qaeda is present everywhere; Al Qaeda is present in the Gulf, and the security authorities are on alert and monitoring the situation…to prevent any cell from establishing itself.”
According to reports, the elder of the two Pakistani brothers on trial in the UAE sent two computer laptops and other equipment to Islamic militants in Waziristan, along the Pakistani border. Investigators also discovered a message in Urdu on the elder brother’s computer to former Al Qaeda No 3 Mustafa Abu al-Yazid AKA Saeed al-Masri. Al-Masri was said to be Al Qaeda’s financial chief; he was killed in an airstrike in Pakistan on 21 May, 2010.
The elder brother denied the charges, saying that everything that he did was “in good faith.” He claimed that the equipment he sent to Pakistan was for his nephew, who works with an Islamic religious organization there.
Al Qaeda has rarely been linked in the news with the UAE. In December 2002, the UAE authorities confirmed that they had arrested a senior Al Qaeda suspected, and handed him over to the American authorities. It later transpired that this was none other than Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole Bombing, in Aden on 12 October 2000, which resulted in the death of 17 American sailors. Al-Nashiri was reportedly involved in the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. He was arrested whilst planning to attack vital economic infrastructure in the UAE, and was said to be the head of Al Qaeda operations in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf states at the time of his capture. He is currently being detained in Guantanamo Bay.
Whilst in November 2010, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula sent parcel bombs on FedEx cargo planes, where were discovered in Britain and Dubai. Whilst in September, a UPS Cargo plane crashed in Dubai, resulting in two deaths, smoke was seen billowing from the plane before it crashed, with Al Qaeda later claiming responsibility for this.
Although these incidents, and others, indicate that Al Qaeda is present in the Gulf, military expert Riad Kahwaji told Asharq Al-Awsat that Al Qaeda is “inactive” here. As for why Al Qaeda is not active in the Gulf, Kahwaji said that this was down to a number of reasons; most importantly the success of the security apparatus in dismantling any cells, and monitoring the movement of individuals and communities; as well as the strong security presence along the borders, and coordination with regional and international security apparatus. In addition to this, Kahwaji said that the UAE did not possess an atmosphere which supported the growth or spread of Al Qaeda ideology.