Mohammed Jabar Ahmed was a British citizen who moved to Pakistan and reportedly became involved in planning to carry out terrorist attacks in Europe as the leader of a group called the Islamic Army of Great Britain. He died in a drone strike in either September or October 2010. The following year, his brother Mohammed Azmir Khan was reportedly killed in a separate drone strike.
Ahmed later assumed the name Abdul Jabbar, and most reporting on him refers to him under this name.
Jabbar was born in Sheffield, and his family later moved to Ilford, east London. He was the youngest of three brothers.
Much of what has been reported of Jabbar’s life comes from details provided by an al Qaeda ‘supergrass’, Mohammed Junaid Babar. Babar gave testimony on a number of alleged British terrorists in the 2004 Operation Crevice trials, in which five British men were jailed for planning bombings of targets in Britain, including the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London and Bluewater shopping centres.
According to reports of his testimony by CNN and terrorism analyst Raffaello Pantucci, Babar claimed that Jabbar, Khan and their elder brother Mohammed Tunveer Ahmed (also known as Tanveer Ali and Michael Marteen) worked in the London offices of Al Mujahiroun, a group that was later banned. Together with Ahmed, he travelled to Afghanistan at around the time of September 11 2001, moving into Pakistan after the US invasion to ‘further the interests of jihad’, CNN reported. They worked in the Lahore offices of Al Mujahiroun.
Pantucci adds that Babar’s testimony linked Jabbar to Omar Khyam, who was jailed in the UK for his role in a plot to bomb targets including Bluewater shopping centre (Babar’s evidence was a key part of the prosecution’s case). In Pakistan, Jabbar and Ahmed reportedly also made contact with British militant Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was responsible for the kidnapping and beheading of US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002. CNN and Pantucci report that Sheikh organised for the brothers to get explosives training in Kashmir. Reports published after Jabbar’s death also tentatively linked him to the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad.
Jabbar’s movements are unclear for the next couple of years. However, he appears to have returned to the UK at some point, where he and his brothers came under scrutiny from the British government.
On August 2 2007, the British Treasury issued orders freezing the assets of all three brothers ‘because the Treasury had reasonable grounds for suspecting’ that they could, or may have ‘facilitated the commission of acts of terrorism’, court documents later explained. Jabbar and Ahmed were described in a court ruling as ‘East London based Al Qa’ida facilitators with [Ahmed] as the leader of the group’. It adds: ‘No other allegations were made against [Jabbar]’.
The brothers had two weeks to submit full details of all their financial assets, including their wives’ earnings and assets. They appear to have been in the UK at the time, and appealed the freezing of their assets.
A Court of Appeal judgment notes: ‘From 2 August their bank accounts have been frozen and they have not been permitted access to their assets, although they have been granted licences to be paid social security benefits.’ Jabbar’s conditions appear to be slightly less stringent than those of his brothers, who were banned from receiving any money at all – with all benefits to be paid only to their wives.
In January 2010 the Supreme Court overturned the asset freeze, ruling that the government had overreached its powers in infringing on the men’s fundamental rights using an executive power that hadn’t been approved by Parliament.
At the time of the Supreme Court ruling, neither Abdul Jabbar nor Khan was still living with their families; ‘their current whereabouts are unknown’, the Supreme Court judgment notes. Their solicitors, Birnberg Peirce, blamed their disappearance on the ‘damaging effects upon them and their families of the regimes to which they were subjected by the Treasury’, the judgment adds. Birnberg Peirce had not had contact with them for ‘months’.
The Guardian reported after his death that Jabbar had returned to Pakistan in May 2009. The Mail adds that he had a British wife, although it does not specify whether she accompanied him to Pakistan, and that he was living in Punjab.
An anonymous ‘trusted, senior security source’ toldNewsnight in October 2010 that intelligence agencies had noted Jabbar’s presence at a large meeting of militants in North Waziristan three months earlier. This meeting was reported to have included al Qaeda and Taliban members. Newsnight’s source said 300 had attended the meeting, although analyst Imtiaz Gul told the Guardian they doubted it would be possible for that many suspected militants to gather as it would be ‘too much of an easy target for drones’.
At the meeting, Jabbar was reportedly chosen to command a new group, to be known as the Islamic Army of Great Britain, the Daily Mail reported. The group’s mission was to prepare for European attacks modelled on those carried out in Mumbai in November 2008. The Daily Mail adds that Jabbar’s appointment was contested by some at the meeting, and a second meeting was called – but that he was killed before this could take place.
As reports of the plot emerged, the tempo of drone strikes in the tribal belt accelerated to its fastest pace ever – between July and October 2010, 50 strikes took place. A series of European militants were among the dead.
Three of those strikes took place on September 8. The last of these hit a house in the village of Danday Darpakhel, killing up to 10 alleged militants. The initial reporting said the building was linked to the Haqqani Network, although the Long War Journal claimed the dead included an Uzbek named Qureshi who was a commander in the Islamic Jihad Group. Newsnight reported the following month that Jabbar was killed in this strike.
However, in December 2010, Pakistani paper The News reported that Jabbar had been present, but had survived the strike, going on to die in a drone strike on a building in Mir Ali on October 4 2010. The others killed included a German citizen, Bünyamin Erdogan, and a German-Iranian citizen, Shahab Dashti.
Sources and Citations
Reports (The News, Long War Journal); A senior Pakistani security source (Daily Mail); Pakistani intelligence official (Daily Telegraph); senior UK counter-terrorism officials (Guardian, Daily Telegraph); Pakistani intelligence official (Reuters);