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Thinking Terror

T.C.A. Rangachari

By Brynjar Lia
Hurst & Co, London, 2008, pp. 256, £ 10.55


Terrorism is one issue on which the international community has come to be united not least because it has become so widespread as a means of giving vent to a grievance—real or imaginary—that no country can claim total immunity. Despite the continuing deadlock at the UN over how terrorism should be defined with an argument being made that one man’s terrorist might well be another man’s freedom fighter, there is universal acceptance that it needs to be combated.   The classic case illustrating the contradictions of the terrorist vs. freedom fighter debate is that of Pakistan which is confronted with a jehadi menace with its epicentre in the frontier areas bordering Afghanistan to the West while it patronizes jehadi groups menacing India to the East. It is fitting, inevitable even, that global jehad that forms the subject of the book under review should find most of its dramatis personae in Pakistan!   The hero—if one might call him that—of this book is Mustafa bin Abd al-Qadir Setmariam Nasar with the nom de plume of Abu Mus’ab al-Suri and Umar Abd al-Hakim. An Islamic radical of Syrian origin with Spanish citizenship, he carried a reward of US$ 5 million on his head. Spanish investigators regarded him as a possible mastermind of the Madrid train bombings. Like most others of his ilk, he had his Afghan connection having served there as a military instructor in Arab-Afghan training camps during the anti-Soviet campaign and again when he returned in 1998 during the Taliban years having spent the intervening years in Spain and the UK. He was captured in the Goualamandi district of Quetta, Pakistan in October 2005. But it was only in May 2006 that Pakistan officially confirmed the arrest to the media acknowledging also that he was handed over to the US. As of 2007 when this book was published, he was believed to be in one of CIA’s secret detention facilities.   The book seeks, through a discussion of his lectures, books and other writings as part of the many ideological debates he participated in, to understand the man and uncover his strategic thinking that influenced a whole generation of jehadis and continues to influence Al Qaeda and the jehadi movement.   Al-Suri, to begin with, was an uncertain jehadi. Or, one might say the prototype of the jehadis of the future—a well-educated professional (Al-Suri wanted to study engineering, at one ...

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