A Kiwi who trained with Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group has featured in a US television documentary marking the third anniversary of the Mumbai terror raids.
In April the Sunday Star-Times revealed the role Charles Wardle, 28, had with Lashkar fighting Indian rule over Kashmir.
Wardle, now a university student, was recruited by Lashkar foreign jihadist leader Sajid Mir, whom he met in Pakistan.
Mir directed the Mumbai attacks, which began on November 26, 2008, and lasted four days, leaving 166 dead and 308 wounded.
“He is one of the most charismatic people I’ve met,” Wardle told the Star-Times. “He was so busy you would hardly ever meet him, and yet when you did, you got the impression he really liked you and was interested in you.”
Wardle features in a Public Broadcasting Service Frontline documentary on the attack and the role of Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley.
His presence was first noted by the ProPublica news service, which has published a major investigation on the attacks. Wardle is one of Mir’s few known recruits who is not dead or in prison.
“My impression was that he was an authority and a power in his own right,” Wardle told US media. “He could pretty much do whatever he wanted.”
Wardle is described as an angry drifter who “hung out with American, French and British trainees whom Mir later deployed to procure equipment and scout targets in the United States, and to carry out a bomb plot in Australia that was foiled in 2003”.
The recruits included a Korean-American and a French-Caribbean convert – Mir was looking for operatives with unlikely profiles suited to espionage-style work.
Mir didn’t let Wardle take paramilitary training because he had just converted to Islam, but gave him cash and kept in touch when he travelled to Saudi Arabia, where Lashkar militants helped him reach Iraq, where he fought alongside militants.
In summer 2003, Mir sent Wardle to Dubai for training in explosives and espionage techniques. Wardle said that Mir gave the impression “I would be returning to my country, and with explosives training, I guess he would have had a target in mind”.
He returned to New Zealand in 2003 and told the Star-Times he maintained email contact with Mir. “He asked me what I thought of them, and I said I didn’t agree with attacking Muslims…” Mir then ended contact.
Wardle does not remember Headley but does recall Caribbean-Frenchman Willie Brigitte, part of al Qaeda, who went to Australia planning to attack a nuclear plant.
Sunday Star Times