When nation-states engage in covert actions, such as assassinations, bombings and CBW attacks, do they use free-lance terrorists groups to camouflage their participation? If so, are there instructive examples of disguised state-sponsored terrorism?



Yes, since the purpose of a covert action is to hide the role of the state, their intelligence service specialize in disguising their participation. A convenient element in the disguise kit is to involve a free-based subversive or terrorist group on which the event can be blamed. Some covert actions have been highly successful, such as the
operation in which German intelligence smuggled Lenin and 30 other exiled revolutionaries into Russia in 1917 — and which resulted in the Bolshevik coup d’etat. Other covert actions proved less successful, such as the Kennedy Administration’s attempt to overthrow Castro in Cuba in Operation Mongoose in the early 1960s. In that case, the White House task force, called the Special Group Augmented, assign such "planning tasks" as using biological and chemical warfare against Cuban sugar workers; employing Cuban gangsters to kill Cuban police officials, using anti-Castro dissidents to sabotage mines and, in what was called Operation Bounty, paying cash bonuses of up to $100,000 for the elimination of government officials, but they were never successfully carried out..

There is no shortage of examples of nations using Mujahideen groups of Jihadists for camouflage. Consider Brigadier Mohammed Yousaf, the Pakistan intelligence officer who organized the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, autobiographic account, The Bear Trap. (Leo Cooper, London, 1992). In it, he describes how Pakistan’s military strategy to drive the Russians out of Afghanistan in the nineteen-eighties required the creation of an “elaborate smokescreen” through which Pakistan could officially deny
it was training, arming, recruiting, organizing and directing the anti-Soviet campaign of ambushes, bombings and other attacks in Afghanistan (and later the Soviet Union itself.) He asserts that “even the most senior generals in the Pakistan army had no idea” of the extent to which Pakistan, with immense logistical support from the CIA, was planning and staging these attacks and acts of sabotage. Pakistan subsequently
used Mujahideen called Lashkar-e-Taiba-(Army of Pure) and Jaish-e-Muhammad (Army of Muhammed) for a similar guerrilla war against India in Kashmir.

Arab countries and Iran have also have made use of extremist groups, including Hizballah, Fatah, the Islamic Action Front and al-Qaeda, according to Jane’s Intelligence Reports. As a consequence, it is not always possible to separate the work of a free-based group from that of state intelligence service.