This article was published in the South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal - Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 6, No.32, February 18, 2008
"The jihad is not about Kashmir only… About 15 years ago, people might have found it ridiculous if someone had told them about the disintegration of the USSR. Today, I announce the break-up of India, Insha-Allah. We will not rest until the whole (of) India is dissolved into Pakistan." – Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, Lashkar-e-Toiba chief, Lahore, November 3, 1999. The operational spaces for Islamist militancy in States outside Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) demonstrate indications of brisk expansion, even as terrorist violence declines in that State. The most recent arrests in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Karnataka are an indication that the Pakistan-backed Islamist groups operating in J&K have a wider subversive agenda, and have, consequently, created an elaborate network of terrorist cells in a number of other States in India. On February 10, 2008, three suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants – Suhail, Arshad Ali alias Baba, and Fahim – were arrested from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh (UP), while three others – Mohammed Sabahuddin aka Abu Qasim aka Sameer Singh, a resident of Madhubani in Bihar, and Imran and Farooq, both from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) – were arrested from Lucknow, capital of UP. The six militants were moving in two separate groups towards Mumbai, where they had identified multiple targets, including the Bombay Stock Exchange. According to Hemant Karkare, Joint Commissioner of Police (Anti-Terrorism Squad) in Mumbai, the places where Fahim conducted recces included Churchgate and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Stations, Haj House, Haji Ali Dargah, the Mumbai Police Headquarters, the Maharashtra Police Headquarters, Gateway of India and the Bombay Stock Exchange building. Fahim has reportedly confessed that he was the Lashkar’s Mumbai link, and was asked to arrange for accommodation in the city for the fidayeen (suicide cadres) so that they could plan and launch their attacks. Fahim, who holds a Pakistani passport as a resident of Rawalpindi, is actually a resident of the Motilal Nagar slums in Goregaon (West), Mumbai. According to Praveen Swami, Sabahuddin, "who helped execute the 2005 attack on the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore before going on to become the cell’s overall commander, used a Pakistani passport to travel between Karachi, Qatar, Dhaka and Kathmandu." Interrogation of the six militants has reportedly revealed that they had plotted an attack on the Indian Space Research Operation in Bangalore in 2005 before changing their plan and eventually targeting the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). Earlier, 22-year old Mohammed Riazuddin Nasir (hailing from Hyderabad), who was arrested on January 11, 2008, in the Davangere District of Karnataka in south India, reportedly confessed to his links with the LeT and that he received training in fabricating explosive devices in Pakistan. Nasir is the son of jailed Hyderabad cleric Mohammed Naseeruddin, an accused in the assassination of the former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya, whose murder was allegedly orchestrated by the LeT. Nasir and his associate Asadullah Abubakar, a student of Ayurvedic (an ancient system of health care) medicine at a college in Hubli (Karnataka), were initially arrested on charges of vehicle theft. The police had seized six vehicles, fake number plates, a pen drive, CDs containing religious literature, maps of Goa and some Karnataka towns and American dollars from them. The duo was planning serial bomb blasts on the beaches in Goa using the stolen motorcycles. Incidentally, recent Pakistan-backed terrorist modules had orchestrated blasts in Varanasi, Lucknow and Gorakhpur in UP, using motorcycle-based Improvised Explosive Devices. Nasir’s handlers in Pakistan had reportedly tasked him to carry out blasts at the Andhra Pradesh State Police Headquarters in Hyderabad and American software companies in Bangalore. He mentioned Microsoft and IBM as among his targets. Nasir’s links are reportedly spread across India and Police from at least 12 States are currently interrogating him. Based on the interrogation of Nasir and Abubakar, Police unearthed a terrorist training camp in the Dharwad District (north Karnataka) and an abandoned training centre inside a forest in the Uttara Kannada District. A decrease in terrorist violence in J&K in 2007 has been paralleled by a shift in the Pakistan-backed Islamist terrorists’ focus to the Indian heartland, with as many as 141 persons (all civilians) killed in Islamist terrorist attacks outside J&K through 2007, in locations as varied as Varanasi, Lucknow and Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh, Ajmer in Rajasthan, Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh and Panipat in Haryana. By comparison, 164 civilians were killed in jihadi terrorist attacks in the whole of J&K in 2007. These trends suggest that J&K is gradually emerging as a launching-pad for terrorist attacks across India. Investigations into these attacks have confirmed that each of them had linkages to the Kashmiri jihad in terms of human and logistics support. This shift in the pattern of violence from J&K to other locations offers Pakistan greater ‘deniability’, and also enables it to harness the grievances – real or perceived – among the Indian Muslims. Such a shift in strategy constitutes no radical departure, or even nuanced reorientation, of the ISI/jihadi agenda. It lies "entirely within the paradigm that has been sustained since the Zia-ul-Haq regime, and has progressively translated itself into the Islamist fundamentalist and terrorist movements in the region." Major incidents of Islamist terrorist violence in locations outside J&K and the Northeast during 2007 included: February 19: Sixty-six persons, including some Pakistani nationals, were killed and 13 others injured in explosions in two coaches of the Delhi-Attari Special Train. The bi-weekly train, connecting up to the India-Pakistan Samjhauta Express, had left Delhi at 10:40 pm for Attari near Amritsar and two of its bogies caught fire immediately after the explosions. The train runs non-stop from Delhi to Attari, where passengers are shifted to the Samjhauta Express, which goes to Lahore after customs and immigration clearances. May 18: Forty-four persons died in a powerful bomb blast at the Mecca Masjid (Mecca Mosque) near Charminar in Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh. August 25: Three persons were killed in twin bomb blasts at the crowded Lumbini Open Air Auditorium and a popular eatery, the Gokul Chat Bhandar, in Hyderabad. October 11: Three persons were killed when a bomb exploded near the Ahata-e-Noor courtyard in the dargah (shrine) of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer. November 23: Near-simultaneous blasts targeting lawyers in court premises in Varanasi, Faizabad and Lucknow in UP killed 15 persons. According to data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management, at least 95 Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)-Jihadi modules have been disrupted just over the years 2004-2008, leading to hundreds of arrests across India – outside J&K and the 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. These modules 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. The intent and strategy of the ISI is increasingly apparent in a wide range of activities intended to provoke communal confrontations, engineer terrorist incidents, and recruit soldiers for a pan-Islamist jihad in pockets of Muslim populations across India.
ISI-related Modules Neutralised outside J&K and Northeast, 2004-08
Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal