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Why Act Shocked Now?

The attack in Bangalore was only the more visible evidence of a long-term war of attrition by Pakistani state agencies and their jehadi surrogates, intended to undermine India's political stability, increasingly by attacking its economic, scientific

Why Act Shocked Now?
| AP
Why Act Shocked Now?
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
Appalling as the senseless killing of an elderly scientist at one of India’s premier science institutions may be, there should have been no surprise over the terrorist attack at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore on the evening of December 28, 2005. Indeed, what is surprising is that an attack on such a target had not occurred earlier, given the capacities and intentions, as well as the frequent declaration of such intentions, by Pakistan-backed jihadi organizations, to target India’s economic muscle, and particularly its booming information technology (IT) sector, significantly concentrated in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.

As usual, there has been much media furor over the opening of a ‘new theatre’ of terrorism, but this is, again, misleading and misinformed. ‘South India’ has generally been projected as an area free of the jihadi scourge, but it has been systematically targeted for years now, and has been the site of several waves of terrorist attacks in the past which have, unfortunately, been forgotten in the absence of a public and media memory that extends beyond immediate sensation. The sarkari (state-supported) jehadi groups based in Pakistan, as well as the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) have systematically developed an elaborate network across South India, and while this manifests itself in the drama of a terrorist attack only occasionally, it has been continuously discovered through a relentless chain of arrests and seizures of arms and explosives across the region, and over the years.

It is useful, first, to assess the more proximate indicators that augured the outrage at Bangalore. The most recent of these had come with the arrest of three persons at Delhi on December 26, whose interrogations revealed that, among their various planned targets, were software parks in South India. The trio, who had undergone training in the Balochistan province of Pakistan, had planned to target prominent politicians in Andhra Pradesh, software parks in Hyderabad and Bangalore, as well as markets and railway stations.

There had, further, been a suicide bombing at the office of the Police Special Task Force (STF) at Hyderabad on October 12, 2005, executed by a Bangladeshi national, Mohtasim Bilal. The subsequent arrest, on December 18, of Kaleem aka Arshad, in connection with this case revealed that three other persons, now believed to have returned to Bangladesh and Pakistan, were also involved in the Hyderabad operation. Kaleem confirmed the Bangladesh-Pakistan link in the terrorist strategy, disclosing that he had been recruited by Ghulam Yazdani aka Naveed, and had been taken to Bangladesh for training in weapons and explosives. Kaleem and Bilal returned to Hyderabad two weeks prior to the STF incident. The arrest of two persons involved in weapons smuggling from Bangladesh in the Murshidabad District of West Bengal, including a terrorist of the Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami Bangladesh (HUJI-BD) threw further light on this case. The HUJI-BD cadre, Hilaluddin aka Suhag Khan, a resident of the Rajshahi District of Bangladesh, admitted to his involvement in the STF office blast. A third person, Mohammad Ibrahim, arrested in Hyderabad and brought to Delhi for questioning in early December, revealed that Pakistan’s ISI was running terrorist training camps in Balochistan, and had been ferrying both Indian and Bangladeshi nationals there for weapons and explosives training. Ibrahim revealed further that Bangalore was the target of militants operating from Bangladesh. Ibrahim had crossed over to Bangladesh in December 2004, was sent to train in Pakistan in April 2005, and was specifically tasked to attack the Software Technology Park in Bangalore on his return.

The Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) has, for some time now, been instructing cadres to attack unconventional targets such as the IT industry, as well as leading scientific and industrial establishments across the country, particularly in Bangalore and Hyderabad. The arrest of an LeT cadre in Kashmir in December 2005 had exposed plans for attacks on the IT infrastructure in Bangalore and Hyderabad. Sources also indicate that the Intelligence Bureau had communicated at least three alerts to the Bangalore Police in November 2005, regarding the possibility of attacks by the LeT and the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen (JuM), on vital installations, including the Indian Institute of Science and IT companies in Bangalore, though specific targets and plans were not know.

Earlier, in May 2005, the police in Delhi had arrested an engineer who had worked for the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), and had recovered maps of HAL facilities at Kanpur and Bangalore from him.

On March 5, 2005, three LeT cadres were killed at Delhi. Subsequent arrests of some of their associates had revealed that these terrorists had visited Bangalore in December 2004 and surveyed the locations of several software companies there. Their planned targets included such software companies, HAL facilities, and the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun.

It is useful, also to take a brief overview of the major ISI-jehadi modules discovered and disrupted in the region in 2004 as well:.

January 10, 2004: Six youth suspected to be ISI agents were arrested from Hyderabad and Siddepet in the Medak district in Andhra Pradesh

March 9, 2004: A 40 year old Pakistani national, Arshad Mahmood, in possession of a Bangladeshi passport, was arrested at Hyderabad. Photographs of army units and locations, as well as sketch maps, were recovered from him.

June 10, 2004: The Andhra Pradesh Police arrested a suspected Hizb-ul-Mujahiddeen (HM) cadre, Anees Moinuddin, from the Begumpet Airport, Hydrabad.

August 29, 2004: Eight suspected LeT cadres, who planned to attack Americans visiting the State, and to incite communal tensions through a series of explosions, were arrested at Hyderabad, and explosives and other materials were recovered from them.

To detail the sequence of terrorist attacks and activities in South India even further, it is useful to recall the series of 13 bomb blasts in various churches in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa between May and July 2000, executed by a Peshawar (Pakistan)-based Islamist sect, the Deendar Anjuman.

Another series of 19 explosions had earlier, on February 14, 1998, left over 50 dead and more than 200 injured in the Coimbatore District of Tamil Nadu. While the Al Umma group, founded by S.A. Basha, was blamed, investigations and subsequent arrests exposed the involvement of the ISI and a wide network of extremist Islamist organisations across South India. These included the Indian Muslim Mohammadi Mujahideen, the Tanzim Islahul Muslimeen, the Jihad Committee in Tamil Nadu; and the Islamic Sevak Sangh, subsequently banned and revived as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), headed by Abdul Nasser Madani, in Kerala.

The first major bomb blast in Tamil Nadu occurred in 1993 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) office was blown up in Chennai. It was reported that Islamic fundamentalist groups, which had been proliferating, had masterminded the blast. Imam Ali, who was arrested in 1994 in the in the Mettupalayam forests in 1994 while imparting weapons training to youth, was believed to have been trained by extremist organizations operating in Kashmir, and some linkages were also established with Bangladesh. Three bomb blasts were subsequently reported on different trains in Tamil Nadu and Kerala on December 6, 1997, and pamphlets recovered from the incident site pointed to the involvement of the Islamic Defence Force (IDF). Ten members of two Islamic fundamentalist groups were chargesheeted on October 5, 1998, for a bomb blast on a Coimbatore-bound train on December 6, 1997. The IDF also claimed responsibility for a bomb blast that occurred under the Anna flyover in Chennai on January 10, 1998. This was followed by another blast in a rice mill at Thanjavur on February 8, 1998. Police investigations revealed that Abdul Khader, son of the mill owner, Abdul Hameed, was connected to Muslim fundamentalist organisations.

These various arrests and activities need to be assessed within the context of declarations by the Pakistani Islamist extremist leaders regarding an India-wide campaign of terrorism to further their objectives. Thus, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the Amir of the LeT, declared, in July 2005, "The jihad in Kashmir would soon spread to entire India. Our mujahideen would create three Pakistans in India."

Syed Salahuddin, the head of the HM had similarly declaimed, "Almighty Allah, by his will and tactics, is bringing the Jihad Movement of Kashmir on a track that will liberate not only the oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir but also crores of Muslims and other minorities in India oppressed by Brahmin imperialists…" . There is, indeed, a continuous stream of statements from jihadi leaders, over the years, in the same vein, revealing objectives and strategies that go far beyond the ‘Kashmir issue’, and that comprehend a strategy of subversion, disruption and terror across India. Crucially, this strategy and vision is integral, not only to the jihadi perspective, but underlies the state structures in Pakistan that support such terrorist groups, and, indeed, the basic ideology that underpins the Pakistani state and identity. Official pretensions of action against terrorist groups in Pakistan notwithstanding, it remains clear that all major jihadi groups currently acting in India continue to be based in and operate openly from Pakistan, and to receive support and instructions from the state apparatus in Pakistan. There is evidence, also, of increasing cooperation between the ISI and Bangladesh’s Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) in this regard, and between Pakistani and Bangladeshi jihadi groupings.

Unsurprisingly, according to data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management, at least 54 ISI-jehadi modules have been disrupted just over the years 2004-2005, leading to hundreds of arrests across India – outside Jammu and Kashmir and the troubled Northeast – in locations that extend from Uttaranchal in the North, to Andhra Pradesh in the South, and from Gujarat in the West to West Bengal in the East. Further, official sources indicate that, between 1998 and 2003, security agencies had neutralized more than 180 ISI-backed terrorist modules across the country (excluding J&K and the Northeast), who had been tasked to target security and vital installations, communication links, and commercial and industrial centres, as well as to provoke instability and disorder by circulating large quantities of counterfeit currency and by drug trafficking.

The attack in Bangalore was only the more visible evidence of a long-term war of attrition by Pakistani state agencies and their jehadi surrogates, intended to undermine India’s political stability, increasingly by attacking its economic, scientific and technological strengths. The objective is to gradually undermine India’s capacities for growth, as well as to weaken international confidence in the country and to create an atmosphere of pervasive terror over wide areas that would dampen the country’s capacity to attract foreign investment.

It is important to note, however, that despite occasional and inevitable ‘successes’, this relentless strategy – which has targeted virtually every concentration of Muslim populations in India for decades – has overwhelmingly failed to secure a base within the community, beyond a minuscule radical fringe. Further, the record of intelligence and security agency successes against such subversion and terror, although lacking the visibility and drama of a terrorist strike, is immensely greater than the record of the successes of this strategy.


Ajai Sahni is Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management. Courtesy, the South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal

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