Islamabad: Al Qaeda is gradually shifting
its base from the unsafe and spy-infested tribal belt of
Pakistan to "more secure urban areas of the country" like the
port city of Karachi that cannot be targeted by US drones,
according to a media report on Wednesday.
Al Qaeda had operated in the volatile tribal areas
bordering Afghanistan with "near impunity" during 2001-08 "but
they are on the move, communicating via couriers and moving
stealthily in small groups to urban areas", a former Western
intelligence official was quoted as saying by the Daily Times
The daily quoted its sources as saying that al Qaeda
operatives were now mostly migrating to Karachi, which has a
large Pashtun population.
Many Pashtuns have migrated to Karachi following the
launch of anti-militancy operations in the northwest and the
recent floods and experts have said al Qaeda and Taliban
elements often find shelter among the Pashtuns.
The daily said its in-depth investigations had
confirmed the presence of senior al Qaeda members and the top
leadership of the Afghan Taliban including members of the
Quetta-based "shura" or council at safe houses located on
the outskirts of Karachi.
Jandullah, a faction of the banned Laskhkar-e-Jhangvi
that has struck a strong relationship with al-Qaeda and the
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, is responsible for the security of
al Qaeda members in urban areas.
The daily quoted an unnamed former Western spy-master
as saying, "We understand that the Quetta shura is actually
the Karachi shura and is given safe houses by Pakistanis, but
there`s no doubt in (Washington) that the Pakistanis will go
after al-Qaeda, common enemies you see."
The move to urban areas had become necessary as the
tribal belt is on the radar of "virtually all intelligence
Besides, the urban areas are "immune to drones", a
Western diplomat was quoted as saying.
Drone attacks had become so central to the US
administration`s strategy that the frequency of missile
strikes in Pakistan has been doubled to inflict maximum damage
on al Qaeda in the past two years.
A senior Pakistani intelligence official said, "Some
60 to 70 per cent of the core al Qaeda leadership has been
eliminated, dealing a serious blow to the network`s capacity
to launch any major attacks on the West."
Al Qaeda, which recently lost its no 3 Mustafa Abu
al-Yazid in a drone attack, decided to sacrifice its prime
asset Humam Khalil abu Mulal al-Balazi, who worked as a double
agent for both the Jordanian intelligence and the CIA, to
carry out a suicide attack at a CIA base in Afghanistan on
December 30, 2009.
The attack killed seven officers and contractors who
were believed to be at the heart of the covert programme
overseeing US drone strikes in Pakistan.
Many older al Qaeda leaders have been replaced by
younger ones in Pakistan`s tribal belt.
The influence of older leaders on the younger
generation of al Qaeda is "only ideological" and the
operational guidance comes from the younger elements who now
dominate the network.