Ever since terrorists gunned down 49 unarmed Iraqi army recruits on a highway near Baquoba on Oct. 24, authorities have tried to determine whether moles within the Iraqi army provided information that led to the massacre.
Due to the nature of the carefully orchestrated attack, investigators believe the killers received inside information about the soldiers' movements. If infiltrators played a role in the attack, it would just be the latest example of Islamic terrorists penetrating military forces throughout the world.
Recognizing the tremendous intelligence value of placing operatives within enemy ranks, terrorists have placed a premium on this strategy.
Al-Qaida, whose training manual instructs members to "gather as much information as possible about the enemy," has consistently succeeded in inserting a fifth column inside enemy armies. A recently uncovered al-Qaida document reveals the group's aims: "The Jama'ah (group) must prepare the cadres to occupy all sensitive and important posts. ... They should be in the army command and among staff officers. ... There should be a commander and a deputy in all brigades, battalions, and columns. They should be in all regiments and the special forces. They should be in the four branches of the armed forces."
Al-Qaida's infiltration of military forces actively opposing the group's aims has the potential of severely hampering America's efforts in the war on terrorism. Authorities in Pakistan, a key U.S. ally that also is an al-Qaida hotbed, acknowledge that their army has been infiltrated by radicals. And recently, Willie Brigitte, a French convert accused of involvement in an al-Qaida plan to attack a nuclear plant in Australia, revealed how elements from the Pakistani army worked hand in glove with the Lashkar e Taiba (LET) terrorist group. Brigitte reportedly told French interrogators there was "complete complicity between the Pakistani army and LET," and that the army was providing weapons and ammunition to LET. Brigitte also said he met Pakistani soldiers who vowed to sabotage efforts to capture Osama bin Laden.
These revelations should come as no surprise to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who last June ordered a file review of army officers in the rank of colonel and above to identify potential al-Qaida sympathizers.
Even more problematic, though, is al-Qaida's infiltration of Western armies. In October, the British Ministry of Defence revealed that at least five al-Qaida suspects infiltrated the British Territorial Army, the country's reserves; one of them is in custody.
It is difficult to fathom the potentially devastating implications of al-Qaida members operating freely in the army of the United States' primary ally in Iraq. But America's security is threatened by more than rogue elements in the Pakistani and British armies. America's military has been penetrated by Islamic extremists.
In September, National Guardsman and Muslim convert Ryan Anderson was convicted on five counts of attempting to aid a terrorist network, after he was caught in an Internet sting in which he tried to contact al-Qaida operatives to disclose information on U.S. military vulnerabilities. He was sentenced to life in prison in September. And just a few days before the beginning of the Iraq war, Hassan Akbar, a sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division, was accused of killing two fellow soldiers in a grenade attack. His trial is set for April.
Recently, authorities in Connecticut charged Babar Ahmad, a man who operated a series of pro-jihad Web sites, with four counts of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. When British authorities searched locations connected to Ahmad, they discovered a classified U.S. Navy document detailing movements of a U.S. naval battle group operating in the Straits of Hormuz. The document provided specific examples of how to attack the ships.
Ahmad reportedly was in e-mail contact with Hassan Abujihaad, a sailor serving on the U.S. destroyer Benfold. In his e-mails, Abujihaad expressed anti-American sentiment and praised the attack on the destroyer Cole. Investigators speculate that Abujihaad provided the battle group information that made its way to Ahmad.
Perhaps the most troubling case of infiltration of the U.S. Army is that of Ali Mohammed, a sergeant who taught classes on the Middle East at the Special Operations Warfare School at Fort Bragg, N.C., from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s. When he was not lecturing American soldiers on Islamic fundamentalism, Mohammed allegedly was one of bin Laden's most trusted lieutenants, teaching terrorists the tactics he learned at Fort Bragg in al-Qaida camps in Sudan and Afghanistan.
The presence of Islamic terrorists in the U.S. Army raises difficult questions. So far, military authorities have investigated these cases as isolated incidents. Nevertheless, the recent terrorism-linked probes of two schools that were used to certify Muslim chaplains may reveal a coordinated effort to infiltrate the military. While respecting the rights of Muslim soldiers and acknowledging their significant contributions, it is essential that U.S. military officials be aware of the terrorists' demonstrated ability to penetrate enemy armies.