In four years, 28-year-old Gul Hasan went from laying bricks to
recruiting suicide bombers. An antiterrorism court convicted Mr.
Hasan this month of planning suicide attacks on Shiite mosques in
Karachi that killed dozens of worshipers. Now he faces the gallows.
How people like Hasan get involved with militant Islam, and what
they do to recruit others, are questions of increasing urgency in
Pakistan, which has seen a spate of suicide bombings in recent
The attacks were carried out by splinter groups formed in the
wake of a Pakistani crackdown on militant Islamic organizations
after Sept. 11, 2001. Smaller and more isolated than their parent
organizations, these splinter groups receive financial backing from
Al Qaeda and draw their recruits from the ranks of the poor and
enraged, say Pakistani investigators.
"This is a new breed [of militants], as suicide bombings are a
post 9/11 phenomenon here," says Fateh Mohammad Burfat, head of the
Criminology Department at the University of Karachi. The bombers are
"unemployed, illiterate, and belong to poor social strata. [They
also] perceive the US military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan as
hostile acts against the Muslim world.... By suicide attacks, they
get a sense of victory in the world and hereafter."
Hasan entered the world of militant Islam when his brother, a
member of the splinter group Lashkar-e Jhangvi, was arrested. Over
time, Hasan went from being a simple carrier of weapons to a
dangerous militant leader in Karachi responsible for recruiting and
transporting suicide bombers, say police officials.
Rising through the ranks
The splinter groups "provide the new entrants with poisonous
extremist literature to brainwash them, and then start giving them
responsibilities from shifting weapons to providing refuge to wanted
militants," says Gul Hameed Samoo, a Karachi police official. "One
rises through the ranks after fulfilling [certain] tasks."
The leaders recruit them for different purposes, with agendas
ranging from killing Shiites to liberating Muslims from "infidels."
The new trend of suicide bombings is packaged as a "ticket to
Many of the splinter groups' top leadership fought in Afghanistan
and Kashmir. They are believed to have made contacts and trained
with Arab militants in Afghanistan.
Police investigators describe three layers of organization behind
suicide attacks. In most of the cases, the mastermind is Al Qaeda,
which gets in touch through a courier with the leader of a jihadi
splinter group who plans the attack. The attacker is often a
In the case of the unsuccessful suicide attack against Pakistani
President Pervez Musharraf on Christmas Day 2003, police say the
mastermind was Abu Faraj, an Al Qaeda operative now in custody; the
planner was Amjad Farooqi; the slain chief of Lashkar-e Jhangvi; and
the bomber was a local jihadi.
In a New York Times opinion piece on Tuesday, Peter Bergen,
author of "Holy War, Inc.," and Swati Pandey argued that the Islamic
terrorists behind many of the attacks against the West are well-
educated - not brainwashed youth from madrassahs, or Islamic
schools. In a sampling of 75 terrorists involved in attacks against
Westerners, they found that 53 percent had attended college - a
figure slightly higher than US averages. …