This article was originally published in International Terrorism Monitor as Paper no 419
Fifteen innocent civilians are reported to have been killed and over 100 injured in 15 serial blasts which struck Ahmedabad in the State of Gujrat on the evening of July 26,2008. This is the third State ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to be struck by jihadi terrorists, who have remained unidentified by the Police and intelligence agencies so far. A few minutes before the blasts, an E-mail message purported to be from "Indian Mujahideen" is reported to have been received by Indian authorities warning them of the impending attacks and challenging them to stop them, if they can. They couldn't. Jaipur in Rajasthan was targeted earlier in May last and Bengaluru in Karnataka on July 25,2008.
2. The blasts in Ahmedabad were of medium intensity meant to kill and the sequencing was well timed and well orchestrated. The fact that some of the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were kept in confined spaces such as inside a bus would indicate that the intention was to kill many though they might not have succeeded in killing more than 15. The Bengaluru blasts were in open spaces.3. The third serial blasts in succession in a BJP-ruled State would clearly indicate that the blasts were targeting the BJP Governments in particular. It is important to strengthen urgently security in all States in general and in the other BJP-ruled States in particular----specially in Madhya Pradesh and its cities of Bhopal, Indore and Ujjain. Many senior office-bearers of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) were arrested by the Madhya Pradesh Police earlier this year.4. The serial explosions in three cities of Uttar Pradesh last November were not connected with the BJP. They came in the wake of the judgements delivered last year in respect of the Mumbai serial blasts of March 1993 and the Coimbatore serial blasts of February,1998. In both the cases, a number of jihadi terrorists were found guilty and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. They also came after the arrest of three suspected members of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) in UP, who were alleged to have planned to kidnap a dignitary in order to secure the release of Afzal Guru, who has been sentenced to death for his role in the jihadi terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in December,2001. His mercy petition is under examination by the Government of India. The arrested JEM terrorists were alleged to have been beaten up by some lawyers when they were brought to court. The local lawyers also reportedly refused to defend terrorists in future. From these circumstances, it appeared that the explosions were meant to intimidate the criminal justice community, particularly the lawyers.5. An E-mail message purported to be from "Indian Mujahideen" received by some TV channels before the explosions in UP indicated that these explosions were about to take place. However, it referred to explosions in two and not three cities. "Indian Mujahideen" did not refer to any organisation, but it referred to Indian Muslims in general and said that the Indian Muslims had decided to take the offensive and wage a jihad. In justification of this decision, it referred to the severe penalties awarded to the accused in the Mumbai blasts of March,1993, and the lack of action against Hindu police officers, who allegedly committed atrocities on Muslims. It also referred to the Gujrat riots of 2002 and the assault on arrested JEM suspects by some lawyers. The message was not only a warning of their intention to act, but also an explanation of why Indian Muslims had decided to act. The main point, which the sender of the message sought to convey, was that the criminal justice system treated the Muslims severely, but was lenient to the Hindus. The language used was typically Indian, the context and arguments used were typically of Indian Muslims and the issues raised were those which had been agitating the minds of sections of Indian Muslims such as the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December,1992, lack of action against the Hindu police officers of Mumbai who were found guilty of excesses by the Sri Krishna Enquiry Commission, the severe penalties awarded to Muslims who had retaliated in March,1993, and the Gujrat riots.6.It admitted that the Muslims were responsible for the explosions in Varanasi, Delhi, Mumbai and in a restaurant and park in Hyderabad, but said they were not responsible for the blasts in Malegaon in September, 2006, in the Samjauta Express and the Mecca Masjid of Hyderabad. It was silent on the blast in the Ajmer Sharif, a Muslim holy place famous for its tolerant Sufi traditions.7. It said that the Indian Muslims had decided to wage a jihad for Islamic rule and talked of a "war for civilisation." It warned that their next targets would be police officers. Almost 24 hours after the blasts in Jaipur in May,2008, two TV channels of New Delhi were reported to have received an anonymous E-mail message claiming responsibility for the explosions on behalf of a group called "the Indian Mujahideen." The message was purported to have been sent by [email protected]8. On the basis of reports received last year, I had assessed on January 30,2008, in an article titled "After HUJI and HUJI (B), Now HUJI (I) " (http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers26/paper2572.html) that while continuing to give financial, training and arms assistance to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan was encouraging the LET to depend for its operations in Indian territory on Indian Muslims only and not to depute Pakistani Muslims for this purpose.9. It was evident that the ISI had also started following a similar policy in respect of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) by encouraging it to set up a separate organisation for India consisting of recruits from the Indian Muslim community with no involvement of Pakistani Muslims. The headquarters of the HUJI are located in Pakistan. It has an active branch in Bangladesh, consisting of Bangladeshi nationals only of the Afghan war (1980s and 1990s) vintage, which is referred to by US counter-terrorism experts as the HUJI (B). Members of the HUJI (B) were coming to India for organising terrorist strikes with the co-operation of recruits from the Indian Muslim community. I had further assessed that now, a HUJI set-up in India consisting of recruits from the Indian Muslim community has come up, which could be projected in future as a purely Indian organisation with no Pakistani or Bangladeshi involvement.10.I had further assessed as follows: " It is only a question of time before the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) and Al Qaeda itself set up their own outfits or sleeper cells in India consisting only of Indian Muslims so that these too could be projected as indigenous Muslim organisations of India and not as Pakistani or Arab organisations. The pan-Islamic jihad in India to support Al Qaeda's pan-Islamic objectives is sought to be given an Indian facade with the encouragement of the ISI."11.The blasts in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad mark a further step in the ISI-sponsored Indianisation of the jihad. The Indianised jihad is presently targeted against the BJP, but it could turn against the US and Israeli presence in India in due course. (26-7-08)
The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.