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November 22, 2008
They can run, but they can't hide
The mastermind of a 2006 airline bombing has been killed in a missile attack in northwest Pakistan according to a Pakistani intelligence source.
Rashid Rauf along with another al-Qaeda operative died in a pinpoint strike from a fighter jet on their hiding place. AFP reports that Rauf was wanted in connection with an airline plot that resulted in several dozen arrests in Great Britain:
British-Pakistani Rauf was arrested in 2006 in Pakistan over the bomb plot, sparking a worldwide security alert, and 24 people were detained in Britain in a major swoop.
A day later a massive security operation at London's Heathrow Airport resulted in mass cancellations for several days, amid fears of a terrorist attack using liquid explosives on London flights bound for the US and Canada.
The British government had requested Pakistan extradite Rauf to London, where he was wanted by police in connection with the murder of his uncle in 2002.
But four years later an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan dropped terrorism charges against him relating to the conspiracy, although its order was suspended when authorities lodged an appeal.
Rauf was being held under the Security of Pakistan Act and faced charges including impersonation, carrying a fake identity card and fake documents -- which he denied -- when he escaped from custody in December 2007.
He was heading back to jail in Rawalpindi following an extradition hearing in Islamabad when his uncle asked the police escorts if they could all drive there in his more comfortable van rather than in a police vehicle.
The officers agreed and even stopped at a fast food restaurant where the uncle bought a meal for all four of them. The officers then allowed Rauf to stop and pray at a mosque, where he was uncuffed and managed to make a break for freedom.
The Pakistani government ordered a high-level investigation into the suspicious circumstances of the escape.
That was under the Musharraf government whose devotion to the war on terror was tepid at best. The new government is, if anything, even less enamored of assisting the US although after a wave of terrorist attacks inside Pakistan, that attitude may be changing.
It is likely that Bin Laden is hiding somewhere in that area as well. The tribesman are loyal to the Taliban and the government has been ineffective in rooting out terrorists in the mountainous landscape.
I really think that someday we will get news that such an attack has killed Bin Laden. Until then, the US military is making good on Bush's promise that the terrorists can run but they can't hide.