The arrest of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian national who tried to set off an explosive device on board a Detroit-bound flight, has confirmed the United States administration's fears about the presence of an active Al Qaeda terror network in several African nations including Nigeria and Kenya.
Speaking on the terror network operating inside Africa, sources in the Intelligence Bureau said that some African nations were initially used as hide-out by criminals feeling the law, including members of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim's gang. Initially, Dawood's brother Anees Ibrahim supervised the drug trade of the D-Gang, and Nigeria and Kenya were used as hubs to carry out such operations.
However, after the Mumbai serial blasts in 1993, as the police intensified the search for members of the D-Gang, several of them sought refuge in these African nations. The fugitives were led by one Abdul Karim, who was later instructed to supervise the gang's operations in Africa.
Soon, Pakistan's spy agency Inter Services Intelligence stepped in and directed the D-Gang to help Al Qaeda set up its operations in Africa. The ISI agreed to help Dawood carry out his drug trade, and members of his gang assisted Al Qaeda in setting up terror bases in the continent.
The first such base was set up in Mombassa in Kenya, under the guidance of Karim. Al Qaeda began recruiting people for terror training, and IB sources suspect that over 2,000 cadres of the terror outfits may be operating in Africa by now. Each of them has been trained in specialised terror activities and suicide strikes, they say.
Al Qaeda, which wooed like-minded extremist outfits in Africa to join its terror mission, called its front organisation the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders.
IB officials point out that Al Qaeda modules operating in African nations planned terror strikes in Europe, while their Asian counterparts like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Harkat-ul-Jihadi carried out terror attacks in Asia.