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Profile: Aftab Ansari
Aftab Ansari was a participant or observer in the following events:
Saeed in an Indian hospital shortly after being arrested [Source: Indian Express]Saeed Sheikh is imprisoned in India for kidnapping Westerners. While there, he meets Aftab Ansari, another prisoner, an Indian gangster who will be released from prison near the end of 1999. [India Today, 2/25/2002] Saeed also meets another prisoner named Asif Raza Khan, who also is released in 1999. [Rediff, 11/17/2001] After Saeed is rescued from prison at the end of 1999, he works with Ansari and Khan to kidnap Indians and then uses some of the profits to fund the 9/11 attacks. [Frontline (Chennai), 2/2/2002; India Today, 2/14/2002] Saeed also becomes good friends with prisoner Maulana Masood Azhar, a militant with al-Qaeda connections. [Sunday Times (London), 4/21/2002] Saeed will later conduct operations together with Azhar’s group, Jaish-e-Mohammed. [Independent, 2/26/2002]
After his released from an Indian prison at the end of 1999 (see December 24-31, 1999), Saeed Sheikh stays in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for several days and meets with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. He also meets with bin Laden, who is said to call Saeed “my special son.” [Vanity Fair, 8/2002] Saeed soon has a falling out with Pakistani militant leader Maulana Masood Azhar and draws closer to al-Qaeda. Based mostly in Karachi, Pakistan, he reports to al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. Saeed is said to “soon [become] a key figure, especially in terms of fund-raising.” [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 286] He regularly travels to Afghanistan and helps train new al-Qaeda recruits in training camps there. [New York Times, 2/25/2002; India Today, 2/25/2002; National Post, 2/26/2002; Guardian, 7/16/2002] Saeed helps train some of the 9/11 hijackers, presumably in Afghanistan as well. [Daily Telegraph, 9/30/2001] He also helps al-Qaeda develop a secure web-based communications system. His work is generally so impressive that there is talk he could one day succeed bin Laden. [Daily Telegraph, 7/16/2002; Vanity Fair, 8/2002] Saeed forged a relationship while in Indian prison with Aftab Ansari, a Pakistani gangster who has fled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (see November 1994-December 1999). Thanks to this connection, Sheikh is able to establish an al-Qaeda base for himself in Dubai, UAE. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 286] Numerous 9/11 hijackers will later move through Dubai and some of the money sent to Mohamed Atta in 2001 will come from Sheikh and Ansari through Dubai (see Early August 2001). [Guardian, 2/9/2002] At the same time Saeed is strengthening his al-Qaeda ties, he is also openly working with the Pakistani ISI (see January 1, 2000-September 11, 2001).
The ransom for a wealthy Indian shoe manufacturer kidnapped in Calcutta, India, two weeks earlier is paid to an Indian gangster named Aftab Ansari. Ansari is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and has ties to the Pakistani ISI and Saeed Sheikh. Ansari gives some of the about $830,000 in ransom money to Saeed, who sends about $100,000 of it to future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. [Los Angeles Times, 1/23/2002; Independent, 1/24/2002] The Times of India will later report that Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed, the director of the ISI, instructed Saeed to transfer the $100,000 into Atta’s bank account. This is according to “senior government sources,” who will claim that the FBI has privately confirmed the story. [Times of India, 10/9/2001] According to some accounts, the money is moved through a charity, the Al Rashid Trust. Some of the money is also channelled to the Taliban, as well as Pakistani and Kashmiri militant groups. [NewsInsight, 1/4/2002; Press Trust of India, 4/3/2002] The money is apparently paid into two of Atta’s accounts in Florida (see Summer 2001 and before). The Al Rashid Trust will be one of the first al-Qaeda funding vehicles to have its assets frozen after 9/11 (see September 24, 2001). A series of recovered e-mails will show the money is sent just after August 11. This appears to be one of a series of Indian kidnappings this gang carries out in 2001. [India Today, 2/14/2002; Times of India, 2/14/2002] Saeed provides training and weapons to the kidnappers in return for a percentage of the profits. [Frontline (Chennai), 2/2/2002; India Today, 2/25/2002] This account will frequently be mentioned in the Indian press, but will appear in the US media as well. For instance, veteran Associated Press reporter Kathy Gannon will write, “Western intelligence sources believe Saeed sent $100,000 to Mohamed Atta, the suspected ringleader of the Sept. 11 terrorist hijackings,” although they apparently think the hawala system was used for this. [Associated Press, 2/9/2002] Some evidence suggests Saeed may also have sent Atta a similar amount in 2000 (see (July-August 2000) and Summer 2000).
A suicide truck-bomb attack on the provincial parliamentary assembly in Indian-controlled Kashmir leaves 36 dead. It appears that Saeed Sheikh and Aftab Ansari, working with the ISI, are behind the attacks. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/2002; Vanity Fair, 8/2002] Indian intelligence claims that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is later given a recording of a phone call between Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Maulana Masood Azhar and ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed in which Azhar allegedly reports the bombing is a “success.”
[United Press International, 10/10/2001]
Indian gangster Asif Raza Khan, an associate of Saeed Sheikh and Aftab Ansari, is shot dead by Indian police. Police claim he was trying to escape. [Los Angeles Times, 1/23/2002] A month or two before his death, Indian investigators recorded a confession of his involvement in a plot with Ansari and Saeed to send kidnapping profits to hijacker Mohamed Atta. This information becomes public just before Saeed is suspected in the kidnapping and murder of reporter Daniel Pearl. [Independent, 1/24/2002; India Today, 2/25/2002] Many in Ansari’s Indian criminal network are arrested in October and November 2001, and they confirm Khan’s money connection to Atta. [India Today, 2/14/2002]
A terrorist lies dead near the entrance to the Indian Parliament building. [Source: R. V. Moorthy]The Indian Parliament building in New Delhi is attacked by Islamic militants. Fourteen people, including the five attackers, are killed. India blames the Pakistani militant groups Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Toiba for the attacks. Twelve days later, Maulana Masood Azhar, head of Jaish-e-Mohammed, is arrested by Pakistan and his group is banned. He is freed one year later. [Agence France-Presse, 12/25/2001; Christian Science Monitor, 12/16/2002] The Parliament attack leads to talk of war, even nuclear war, between Pakistan and India, until Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf cracks down on militant groups in early January. [Daily Telegraph, 12/28/2001; Wall Street Journal, 1/3/2002; Guardian, 5/25/2002] As a result of the rising tensions, Pakistani troop deployments near the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan are halted, allowing many al-Qaeda and Taliban to escape into Pakistan (see December 10, 2001). It appears that Saeed Sheikh and Aftab Ansari, working with the ISI, were also involved in the attacks. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/2002; Vanity Fair, 8/2002]
A crowd of mostly unarmed Indian police near the US Information Service building in Calcutta, India, is attacked by gunmen; four policemen are killed and 21 people injured. The gunmen escape. India claims that Aftab Ansari immediately calls to take credit, and India charges that the gunmen belong to Ansari’s kidnapping ring are also connected to funding the 9/11 attacks in August 2001 (see Early August 2001). [Daily Telegraph, 1/24/2002; Associated Press, 2/10/2002] Saeed Sheikh and the ISI assist Ansari in the attack. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/2002; Vanity Fair, 8/2002] This is the fourth attack in which they have cooperated, including the 9/11 attacks, and attacks in October and December 2001.
FBI Director Mueller visits India, and is told by Indian investigators that Saeed Sheikh sent ransom money to hijacker Mohamed Atta in the US. In the next few days, Saeed is publicly blamed for his role with gangster Aftab Ansari in financing Atta and organizing the Calcutta attack (see January 22, 2002). [Press Trust of India, 1/22/2002; Los Angeles Times, 1/23/2002; Independent, 1/24/2002; Agence France-Presse, 1/27/2002; Daily Telegraph, 1/27/2002] Meanwhile, on January 23, Saeed helps kidnap reporter Daniel Pearl and is later arrested. Also on January 23, Ansari is placed under surveillance after flying to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. On January 24, Mueller and US Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin discuss Saeed at a previously scheduled meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Apparently Saeed’s role in Pearl’s kidnapping is not yet known. [Associated Press, 2/24/2002] On Mueller’s way back to the US he flies to Dubai to pressure the government there to arrest Ansari and deport him to India. Ansari is arrested on February 5 and deported four days later. [Associated Press, 2/10/2002; Frontline (Chennai), 2/16/2002; India Today, 2/25/2002]
Aftab Ansari in Indian custody shortly after being arrested. [Source: Rajeev Bhatt]Gangster Aftab Ansari is deported to India. He was arrested in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on February 5. [Independent, 2/10/2002] He admits funding attacks through kidnapping ransoms, and building a network of arms and drug smuggling. [Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg), 2/11/2002] He later also admits to close ties with the ISI and Saeed Sheikh, whom he befriended in prison. [Press Trust of India, 5/13/2002]
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