Rashid Rauf (born ca. 1981 – died November 22, 2008) was an alleged Al-Qaeda operative. He was a dual citizen of Britain and Pakistan who was arrested in Bhawalpur, Pakistan in connection with the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot in August 2006, a day before some arrests were made in Britain. The Pakistani Interior Minister, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, claimed that "he is an al Qaeda operative with linkages in Afghanistan". He was said to have been be one of the ringleaders of the alleged plot. In December 2006, the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi found no evidence that he had been involved in terrorist activities, and his charges were downgraded to forgery and possession of explosives.
Rauf was born in England to Pakistani parents, and brought up in Birmingham where his father was a baker. Rauf was married to a relative of Maulana Masood Azhar, who is the head and founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed, an Islamist militant group in Pakistan. One of Rauf's brothers, Tayib Rauf, was among those arrested in Britain, although he was later released without charges.
Rauf escaped from custody in December 2007. He was killed by a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan on November 22, 2008, carried out by the CIA's highly secretive Special Activities Division. The report was based on communications intercepted from militants in North Waziristan. His family initially denied that he was killed. While CIA and Pakistan intelligence officials maintained that Rauf was killed in the airstrike, the news site Long War Journal believed otherwise.
On August 11, 2009, Asia Times Online claimed that Rauf was alive and living in North Waziristan. On July 8, 2010, however, a U.S. counterterrorism official told the New York Daily News that Rauf was killed. Some of Rauf's associates also believe that he never escaped from prison in 2007 and that he might have been dead long before the airstrike; Hashmat Malik, a lawyer representing the family of Rauf's wife Umat al-Warood, has also argued that Rauf was probably killed during a prison shootout at the time of his alleged escape. MI5 and MI6 officials also believe he might still be alive and plotting a new wave of attacks. In 2012, following Midi-Pyrénées shootings, it was suggested that while Rauf may have been killed by a drone in 2008, his tactics still remain an inspiration for pro-Al Qaeda extremists plotting terrorist attacks in Europe.
On October 27, 2012, Rauf's family officially confirmed that he was killed in a US drone strike. A family friend also told the Sunday Mercury that Rauf's family was filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the British government, claiming that “They want justice for their son who was killed in murky circumstances that amount to cold-blooded murder. Rashid never had a chance to defend or explain himself. He was accused of some heinous crimes and without any trial, judge or jury he was blown to pieces by a unmanned Predator drone aircraft controlled by a soldier sitting thousands of miles away in the US. The Americans could not have found and killed him without help from British intelligence officers who shared information."
August 12, 2006: U.S. and British sources said Rauf had a key operational role in the alleged plot. Rauf, a British citizen, appeared before a magistrate, according to Pakistan's Interior Ministry. Rauf is believed to have left the UK after his uncle was killed in 2002. He was not charged over the murder, which has never been solved.
August 17: The alleged UK airport terror plot was sanctioned by al Qaeda's then-number two, Ayman al Zawahri, according to Pakistani intelligence. The latest investigations by Pakistan indicate that Rauf was the planner of the alleged attacks. "We have reason to believe that it was al Qaeda sanctioned and was probably cleared by al Zawahri", said a Pakistani official.
August 19: After two weeks of interrogation and a careful search of his house, too little evidence had been found to justify his extradition.
August 22: In Pakistan, law enforcement authorities continued to interrogate Rauf over his alleged key role in the plot. Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said British police were conducting inquiries in Pakistan but were not involved in questioning Rauf.
August 26: Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Sherpao said Rauf had “wider international links” and was in touch with an Afghanistan-based al-Qaida leader. He did not offer any evidence to back up his claim. Pakistan has withheld information about at least seven suspects, whom security officials say were arrested on Rauf’s information. Pakistan has no extradition treaty with Britain, but Sherpao said they would consider deporting Rauf to London if a request was made. Rauf, in his mid-20s, is believed to have been interrogated by Pakistan agents near the capital, Islamabad.
December 13: The terrorism charges against Rauf are dropped. The Pakistani court finds there is no evidence that he is involved in terrorism. The British government has stated this does not impact their proceedings against the other suspects whom they hold.
December 14, 2007: Rauf mysteriously escaped from jail. Authorities say he escaped after freeing himself from handcuffs. The two police officials on duty were arrested by Islamabad police. The police also tightened security at public transport routes and especially in Rauf's native town, Mirpur. A month after this report surfaced, Rauf's lawyer denied he had escaped and said he was probably still in custody.
2008: Rauf had contact with Bryant Neal Vinas, an American who joined al-Qaeda. Vinas was captured in November 2008, and convicted of participating in and supporting al-Qaeda plots in Afghanistan and the U.S.
November 22, 2008: Rauf is reportedly killed in a U.S. missile strike in Pakistan. After the Pakistan government failed to hand over his body, his family disputed the reports and believed he was still alive.
April 8, 2009: British security sources claim Rauf was the mastermind behind an alleged terror cell, the members of which were arrested in North West England. It is unclear whether they thought he was still alive at this time.
March 2012: Mohammad Merah, a lone wolf terrorist, kills three French soldiers as well as three Jewish children and their teacher. He is later found and killed in a shootout with French authorities. It was reported afterwards that while Rauf may have been killed in a drone strike in 2008, he still remains an inspiration for pro-Al Qaeda terrorists plotting attacks in Europe.
October 27, 2012: Rauf's family officially confirms that he was killed in a US drone strike and it is announced that they plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the British government, accusing them of assisting the US in organizing this attack.
- Cobain, Ian (November 22, 2008). "Rashid Rauf". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- today.reuters.com. "Pakistan says al Qaeda member held over foiled plot". Reuters. Retrieved August 11, 2006.
- "JeM chief's father questioned about Rauf", NDTV, August 18, 2006. Retrieved on August 18, 2006
- Airstrike Kills Qaeda-Linked Militant in Pakistan, The New York Times, 2008-11-23
- Hussain, Zahid; Loyd, Anthony (November 24, 2008). "MPs seek answers as CIA kills British terror suspect Rashid Rauf". The Times (London). Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- Shah, Saeed (November 25, 2008). "Rauf did not die in US attack, say fugitive's family". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- Shahzad, Syed Saleem. "Guessing games over Taliban leader". Asia Times Online. August 11, 2009.
- Cobain, Ian (September 8, 2009). "Rashid Rauf: the al-Qaida suspect caught, tortured and lost". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- Gardham, Duncan (September 10, 2009). "Airlines plot: al-Qaeda mastermind 'is still alive'". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- Reider, Bruce (March 27, 2012). "Al Qaeda's Ties to Toulouse Shootings". Retrieved April 2, 2012.
- Bassey, Amardeep (October 27, 2012). "Family of Al Qaida terrorist Rashid Rauf to sue British Government for murder". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved May 29, 2012.
- Terror plot: Internet cafes raided CNN
- UK police search for explosives CNN
- Al-Qaeda Sanctioned Plot Sky News
- Glen Owen (August 19, 2006). "Pakistanis find no evidence against ‘terror mastermind’". The Daily Mail. Retrieved December 18, 2006.
- Air plot suspects appear in court CNN
- Airline terror pilot suspect gives 'vital clues' Evening Echo
- "UK 'plot' terror charge dropped". BBC News. December 13, 2006. Retrieved December 18, 2006.
- Cobain, Ian (January 28, 2008). "The mysterious disappearance of an alleged terror mastermind". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- Rotella, Sebastian; Meyer, Josh (July 24, 2009). "A young American's journey into Al Qaeda; Bryant Neal Vinas of Long Island, N.Y., tells investigators how he trained and fought alongside terrorists.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 26, 2010.
- Rotella, Sebastian and Josh Meyer U.S.-born militant who fought for Al Qaeda is in custody. Los Angeles Times. July 22, 2009.
- Rashbaum, William K. and Souad Mekhennet. L.I. Man Pleaded Guilty in Attack on U.S. Base in Afghanistan. New York Times July 22, 2009
- "Transcript of Guilty Plea; U.S. v John Doe; Sealed Pages". US District Court, Eastern District of NY. January 28, 2009. Retrieved February 26, 2010.
- Rayner, Gordon; Gardham, Duncan (April 9, 2009). "Terror blunder: Met anti-terror chief's mistake". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved April 9, 2009.[dead link]