WASHINGTON (PAN and Al-Qaeda.
In the garb of religious education was training students to manufacture bombs and become suicide attackers. The announcement of sanctions against Ganj Madrassa assumes significance as this is for the first time that a religious institution has been designated as a terrorist outfit.
The action is a vindication of allegations from Afghan President Hamid Karzai that religious schools in Pakistan‘s border region are serving as training grounds for terrorists, who conduct attacks in his country.
Along with Ganj Madrassa, US also designated Umar Siddique Kathio Azmarai (Azmarai), a senior Al-Qaida official, who acted as a courier for top insurgent leaders and worked for Osama bin Laden’s late son Saad bin Laden.
“Today’s action is the first designation of a madrassa that is being abused by terrorist organisations. This action does not generally target madrassas, which often play an essential role in improving literacy and providing humanitarian and developmental aid in many areas of the world, including Pakistan,” the Department of Treasury said.
Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said the action struck at the heart of the financial and logistical support network that abused charitable donations and provided essential services for various terrorist groups, including al-Qaida, Lashkar-i-Taiba and the Taliban.
“These networks provide the fighters, training, and supplies for these terrorist groups to carry out their acts of violence against coalition forces and civilians alike,” Cohen added.
Controlled by Al-Qaida facilitator Fazeel-A-Tul Sheikh Abu Mohammed Ameen Al-Peshawari, also known as Sheikh Aminullah, who was designated by the US and the UN in 2009, Ganj Madrassa served as a terrorist training center where students were radicalised to conduct insurgent activities, the Treasury said.
In some cases, students were trained to become bomb manufacturers and suicide bombers. Aminullah directed donations provided for the school to terrorist groups such as the Taliban, who used the money to fund the ongoing violence in Afghanistan, it claimed.
The Treasury said under Sheikh Aminullah’s leadership, the Ganj Madrassa had trained and harboured Taliban fighters who were subsequently dispatched to Afghanistan. As recently as early 2013, Sheikh Aminullah was recruiting for Lashkar-i-Taiba at the Ganj Madrassa and, as of late 2012, was hosting Al-Qaida operatives there.
The Treasury said Azmarai has been active in multiple other facilitation duties for al-Qaida. As of early 2012, Azmarai facilitated the procurement of secure areas in Pakistan for Al-Qaida to house militants and store vehicles.
“Azmarai has frequently acted as a courier within Pakistan for Al-Qaida leaders and other facilitators. As of early 2003, Azmarai was a courier between al-Qaida cells in Pakistan and the Persian Gulf and, as of late 2002, was a courier for senior al-Qaida operational planner Khalid Sheikh Muhammad,” it said.
Azmarai’s facilitation duties included providing logistical support to al-Qaida members and their families, it said, adding as of 2011, he assisted the outfit’s administrative manager with managing the care of important members’ families. In 1999, he assisted in making logistical arrangements for Al-Qaida members and their families in Karachi.