It is not known exactly who first brought the tulip to Northwestern Europe, but the most widely accepted story is that it was a 16th Century Flemish diplomat, Oghier Ghislain de Busbecq, an ambassador for the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, to the court of the great Ottoman Emperor, Suleyman the Magnificent.
Enchanted by the flowers and on hearing that the Ottoman Emperor in turn had received them from an envoy to Libya, Busbecq had brought some over and planted them in his city of birth, Amsterdam. And there they flourished.
Since then, it didn’t take Europe too long to turn tulip-crazy. Today The Netherlands and Denmark turn golden, crimson, orange, pink and purple, in the early summer, with tulips bursting forth in every garden and every street corner. Millions of tulip tourists travel to Denmark and Holland from all over the world just to take in the sights of undulating rainbow-colored tulip fields.
The May of 2009 was no different, a time of the year when Copenhagen had as usual turned into a tourists’ Mecca. It was teeming with strange new faces, mainly young European and American students taking a sabbatical from their studies for a bit of fun and frolic. In the hubbub, this city of just 600,000 didn’t take particular notice of the man from America who had come here ostensibly on business, but wanted to enjoy some tulip-gazing first.
Even though he was 39 at the time, the American, robust and boyish, seemed like not a day more than 25 and just as any young tourist would do, he rented a bicycle. He began pedaling around the busy streets of Copenhagen, balanced precariously on his bike, with one hand on the handle-bar and the other recording the sights and sounds with his Sony Handycam.
And as any young visitor was apt to do, the American freely mingled with the local Danes, especially the girls, who fell for his eyes. He had very distinctive irises in his eyes – one was hazel blue and the other deep brown, a condition that is known as heterochromia iridium. This made him instantly recognizable to those who had seen him before.
The American might have been playing the part of a tourist but his true intent was to study the layout of the city and to this end, he wandered around, recording not only the sights but also his own voice as he narrated into the camera the places that he filmed, including whether some of those places could be considered as his Plan-B strategic targets.
One building in particular caught the American’s fancy, even though it appeared unremarkable. It was a nondescript office building that had the offices of Thai Airways, the Dexia Bank and other commercial firms. He biked by the building multiple times, studying not only the structure but the traffic patterns around it, throughout the day. He also noted the presence of one vehicle that seemed to be a permanent fixture in the scenery – a police van, parked across the road from the building.
Of course, the American knew why there were cops permanently stationed on the scene – because, besides the airline and the bank, that building also housed the offices of Morgenavisen Jyllands Posten (The morning Jutland Post), an independent center-right newspaper which supported the Danish Conservative Peoples Party. Four years prior, the Posten had published twelve cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad that had outraged the Muslim world.
Now he, the American, was going to take it down, with every living soul working within it’s walls.
In Copenhagen, the American went about posing as a businessman who needed media coverage for the launch of his products, through advertising and publicity. To this end, he simply walked into the offices of the Posten one day and zeroed in on a comely female staffer. He charmed her pants off, one thing led to another and soon she invited him in, showed him around the layout of the office and even introduced him to her colleagues. She hoped that this was the start of not only a business relationship but also a personal one. To the American, being recognized as a familiar sight by those who worked there, was critical to the success of his plan.
More importantly, since the building was under constant police surveillance after the publication of those cartoons, letting the police officers see him come and go and thus establishing an ostensibly harmless pattern, was essential. The female Jyllands Posten staffer, who dealt with the American, later shell-shocked to know whom she had been friendly with, testified that he seemed very professional, every bit like the businessman that he claimed to be.
The American tourist’s Copenhagen recconaissance mission had been sponsored by a very scary man named Ilyas Kashmiri, who was at the time a member of Osama Bin Laden’s inner circle and leader of the Pakistan-based terror group, Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami. Prior to that, Kashmiri had been a decorated officer of the Special Services Group (SSG), the special operations black ops wing of the Pakistani Military.
Ex-Pakistani Special Forces officer, Ilyas Kashmiri, gained notoriety in the Jihadist community, when he wrote an instruction manual in the art beheading. He would spend time in Pakistan’s terrorist training camps, showing rookie militants how to carry out a beheading without much fuss and blood.
But here’s the good news – one needn’t worry about this Kashimiri guy anymore. He is currently scratching his head, wondering how come those 72 virgins that the Iblis gave him in hell are so ugly. Two years after he was the American’s handler, Ilyas Kashmiri suddenly died a very violent death, when he unwittingly received an uninvited guest, an American MQ-9 launched Hellfire missile, right up his sphincter. The titanium-sheathed guest tore him apart, just as it was designed to do.
Pity. I would have wanted his demise to be slower though, but heck, one can’t have everything, can one?
Ilyas Kashmiri’s transition from army officer to a terrorist with a $ 2 million bounty on his head must have been a seamless one, given the fact that the two (the Pakistani establishment and the Pakistani terrorist brotherhood) are nothing but two arms of the same evil. There is even speculation that he had never really left the Pakistani armed forces – he had only been posted (seconded, if you will) to the Al Qaeda.
While he was still in Copenhagen, the American was having detailed exchanges with Kashmiri on how the plot would go down. Three, maybe four heavily armed militants would gain entry into the premises of the Jyllands Posten, taking advantage of the American’s familiarity there. Once inside, they would lock down and massacre everybody inside. To this however, they would add a twist of lime and soda – they would behead the victims and throw their heads out the front window onto the street below. They would then simply hunker down and fight off the security personnel to the bitter end, giving their lives in the process. Simple. When you are ready to die, unburdened by the stress of having to keep an escape plan in mind, no plan is too complicated.
At this point, Kashmiri was heard telling the American,”Make sure the hostages are dead before you behead them. Beheading alive is messy. They are not like chicken, you know.” Kashmiri then made the kokro-ko-ko sound of a chicken and the phone line dissolved into raucous laughter.
The beheadings would have been symbolic, a horrendously more powerful message than anything that terrorists had ever conveyed to the world before. The American and his cohorts would be feted as heroes all over the Jihadist brotherhoods of the world.
Unbeknownst to the American and Ilyas Kashmiri however, every move he made, every step and every bike ride he took, was being monitored and recorded by both, the American and the Danish intelligence services.
The Americans in fact knew all about him. Heck, why wouldn’t they? He had been working for them. He had become an informant for the US Drug Enforcement Agency, after he was nabbed with a kilo of pure heroin that he had tried to smuggle in, from the Waziristan region of Pakistan.
The American was a wily survivor. He promptly gave up all his associates and while they got long jail terms, he copped a plea deal and became an informant. Later on, as his work with the DEA chugged along, he would slip off, out of sight, for brief periods but to the DEA he was a young rich kid and heck, boys will be boys, right? To the Americans, he was one of the good guys.
What the Americans couldn’t realize was that he was, in espionage terms, the equivalent of a double agent actually. While he made the Americans believe that he was working for them, he had actually gradually radicalized and turned into a deadly instrument, the perfect weapon for his terrorist masters. White-skinned, Caucasian looks, tall and swarthy, fully fluent in American English, he could pass off as a white male without a problem.
And why not?
David Coleman Headley was born Daood Gilani, son of prominent Pakistani diplomat and radio host, Sayed Salim Gilani, and Irish-American socialite and heiress, Alice Serill Headley. Fortunately for him, he got most of his mother’s genes and looking at him, it was impossible to tell that he was anything but white.
Denmark was happy with it’s tulip tourist.
And Iblis …….. with his velvet glove.