Special Report

Dubai Wiseguys

There would be less cause for concern if they didn't have al Qaeda ties.

By 2.26.06

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In theory, I don't have a problem with the United Arab Emirates managing our ports. I'd rather an American firm had stepped up to the challenge but I guess this is one of those jobs which President Bush says that Americans "just won't do." So I'll trust the Emirates to do the job as soon as they sort out one small matter for me.

I've written previously about Dawood Ibrahim, and dubbed him "India's Keyser Soze." Author Gilbert King has called him "The Most Dangerous Man in the World." Ibrahim is not only a heroin kingpin and head of an international criminal syndicate called "D-Company," he's also been designated a terrorist by the U.S. Treasury Department, which notes he has enjoyed the protection of the Taliban and permits Osama bin Laden to use his smuggling routes. He's also accused of funding the Islamic terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and most importantly, of masterminding India's 9/11: the serial bombing of the city of Mumbai in 1993, a carefully-planned, brutal terror attack which killed 257 people.

Part of the Mumbai bombing, including the landing of the RDX explosives in 1992, was planned from Dubai. In fact, D-Company still has a significant presence there.

Dawood Ibrahim himself is, by all accounts, living in Pakistan, but his baby brother Anees -- another suspect in the 1993 bombing -- was recently hanging around in Dubai. In 2002, Emirates authorities arrested Anees, and India finally expected to be able to bring him to account. But rather than extradite him to India, the UAE abruptly released him on bail and deported him back to the brier patch -- Pakistan.

One of India's most sensational cases last year involved a feud between rival manufacturers of "Gutka pouches" (a kind of chewing tobacco), who in 2002 asked Dawood Ibrahim to mediate their dispute. As payment, Ibrahim demanded that the Dubai-based chaw tycoons set him up with his own gutka-manufacturing business in Pakistan.

Getting the equipment from India to Pakistan was illegal and required some smuggling expertise. According to the confession of a hoodlum nicknamed "Jumbo," he stuck a pistol in the face of an Indian businessman who shipped the machines to Dubai. There, says Jumbo, Anees Ibrahim and an associate named Farooq Mansuri shipped the machinery on to Karachi. Anees and Farooq remain at large, but here is an example of this terrorist syndicate exploiting Dubai's ports to smuggle machinery.

Anees Ibrahim wasn't the only narcoterrorist who cashed in a "get out of jail free" card in the Emirates. Another suspect in the Mumbai bombing named Abu Salem was captured in UAE in 2001, and then quickly released before India could even request his extradition. Salem was later picked up in Lisbon, Portugal, after spending some time in Atlanta and attracting the attention of the FBI. Indian journalists and politicians report that Salem, after falling out with D-Company, had taken up with al Qaeda.

I don't doubt that the UAE has provided a great deal of assistance to the United States in the War on Terror, for which we ought to be grateful. And all nations will have organized crime of one variety or another, so the presence of some wiseguys in Dubai doesn't disqualify them from doing business in the U.S. My point is that these particular gangsters are also Islamic terrorists with serious links to al Qaeda, and there is precious little evidence that Dubai is serious about stopping them.

However, some good news on this front is that another 1993 bombing suspect, Ejaz Pathan, was deported from Dubai to India in 2003. The Emirates can throw terrorists out when they get serious about it, so an excellent reassurance would be the arrest and prosecution of some D-Company hard guys, and the arrest and extradition to India of Farooq Mansuri, and if he shows up again, Anees Ibrahim.

The UAE and the White House have talked about delaying the transition of the ports until the public can be reassured about it. What I would find reassuring is evidence that D-Company's operations in Dubai have been crushed and will not be allowed to return.

You can either do business with terrorists, or you can do business with the United States. In the coming weeks, let's watch the Emirates make crystal clear which side they have picked.

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