Counter-terrorism: Some home truths: B Raman

22 08 2008

Source: rediff.com

A stereotyped question often posed is: If the US can prevent acts of terrorism in its homeland after 9/11, why can’t India do likewise? Those, who pose this question, attribute the lack of any terrorism in the US homeland to the strong legal and operational measures taken by the US authorities after 9/11. They advocate similar measures in India.

A counter-question, which is relevant, is: How many acts of terrorism were there in the US homeland before 9/11 when these special measures did not exist? Hardly any. The Oklahoma explosion of 1995, the Atlanta explosion of 1996 and some fire-bombing incidents against Hindu and Jewish properties during the 1990s by a Pakistan-based organisation called the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra were not strictly viewed as acts of terrorism by religiously or ideologically motivated organisations. They were instead viewed as violent acts of marginal elements in the local society.

If we exclude these incidents, there has never been any major act of terrorism in the US homeland before or after 9/11. The terrorist strikes of 9/11 were an exception. They were staged by al Qaeda in retaliation for the US cruise missile attacks in August, 1998, on its camps in Afghanistan and on a chemical factory allegedly run by it in the Sudan. According to the US, this factory produced chemicals for use in acts of terrorism. According to al Qaeda, it produced anti-malaria medicine for poor people.

A group of 19 Arabs — all foreign citizens — entered the US, underwent flying training and staged the terrorist strikes against the two towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and against the Pentagon headquarters in Washington DC on 9/11. The US was taken by surprise. It was prepared for attacks in foreign territory, but not in the US homeland. It viewed these strikes as Pearl Harbour-style attacks by a non-state actor. It decided to retaliate against them militarily in Afghanistan from where these strikes had originated. It called it a war against terrorism and has been using its armed forces against al Qaeda with no holds barred.

The US and its people never excuse an adversary, who dares to attack them in their territory. During the Second World War, even though both Germany [Images] and Japan [Images] were the adversaries of the US, it used the atomic bombs only against Japan and not against Germany because it wanted to teach Japan a lesson for daring to attack it by stealth on its territory.

Similarly, the US and its people are determined to teach al Qaeda and Muslims who support it a lesson for daring to attack them by stealth in their territory. The US is prepared to fight against Al Qaeda [Images] and the organisations allied with it for as long as it takes to destroy them and thereby prevent another 9/11 in their territory. While many political leaders in the US criticise its involvement in Iraq and demand the withdrawal of its troops from there, one does not find similar criticism in respect of Afghanistan. There is support for the view often expressed by President George W Bush [Images] that if the US leaves Afghanistan with the “war” half-finished, al Qaeda will attack the US again in its territory. During the current presidential campaign in the US, the criticism against Bush is not for the US involvement in Afghanistan, but for the failure to kill Osama bin Laden and his senior associates and neutralise al Qaeda.

The US has been using its army, air force, navy and covert action groups against al Qaeda, the neo-Taliban and their allies in Afghanistan. The US use of heavy weapons and air strikes and the over-militarisation of the US counter-terrorism operations have resulted in large civilian casualties. There has consequently been an aggravation of the anti-US anger in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries of the Islamic world. This has led to more support for al Qaeda and the Taliban and more terrorism. Highly-militarised counter-terrorism as practised by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq has itself become a root cause of aggravated jihadi terrorism.

Since the US has been waging its war against terrorism against foreign nationals in foreign territory, the kind of restraints, which normally operate in counter-terrorism campaigns against one’s own nationals in one’s own territory do not operate. The more ruthless the US strikes with its armed forces, the more the civilians killed. The more the civilians killed, the more the recruits to al Qaeda. The more the recruits, the more ruthless al Qaeda’s operations The more ruthless al Qaeda’s strikes, the more ruthless the US military strikes. It has become a vicious circle.

More Americans have died at the hands of terrorists in different countries after the post-9/11special legal and operational measures than before 9/11 when such measures were not there. The post-9/11 special measures might have protected the US territory from any more terrorist strikes so far, but they have not protected US nationals in different countries. In fact, US nationals abroad and countries which support the US are more vulnerable to terrorist attacks today than they were before 9/11.

It is in view of this that an increasing number of analysts is advocating a mid-course correction with partial, if not total, dimilitarisation of counter-terrorism. At the annual conference of the Council on Security Co-operation Asia Pacific in Jakarta in December, 2003, I was invited to speak on India’s non-military approach to counter-terrorism.

It would be incorrect to compare India with the US and unwise to advocate an emulation of the US counter-terrorism measures by India. The US is located thousands of kilometres away from the Islamic world. India is right in the middle. The US has no Islamic state as its neighbour. India has two — Pakistan and Bangladesh — both not well disposed towards India. In addition, Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics are nearby. Most of the non-Palestinian jihadi terrorist organisations of the world were spawned in this region. Whenever the ill-winds of Islamic fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism blow from their region, India is in their path. India has the world’s second largest Muslim population after Indonesia. It has to be concerned all the time about the likely impact of its counter-terrorism policies on its Muslim citizens. The US has a very small Muslim population. It does not have to worry about the impact on them.

The situation in India is further complicated by the involvement of the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Bangladesh in sponsoring and assisting terrorism of different hues in Indian territory — the United Liberation Front of Assam, the Khalistanis of Punjab, the indigenous Kashmiri organisations and the indigenous Muslim organisations in other parts of India and of pan-Islamic Pakistani and Bangladeshi organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami of Pakistan and Bangladesh and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, which are members of Laden’s International Islamic Front.

These complications render the tasks of Indian intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies, including the police, much more difficult than those of the US. We have to fight terrorism in our own way according to our own ethos without letting our counter- errorism policies becoming copy-cat models of those of the US or Israel.

Despite the frequent incidents of terrorism, we have not been doing too badly. This would be evident from the fact that the terrorists have not succeeded in disrupting the communal harmony or political stability or the economic growth. Even at the height of Khalistani terrorism, Punjab continued to play its role as the granary of India and feed all of us in the rest of India. Despite the surge in jihadi terrorism in different parts of India, we have emerged as the leading IT power in the world. Our economy continues to grow at eight plus per cent. Foreign investment flows continue to remain high.

After every terrorist attack in a tourist resort — whether Bali or Mombasa or Casablanca or Sharm-el-Sheikh — there was an exodus of tourists from there and large-scale cancellations of air and hotel bookings. This has not happened after the Jaipur blasts. This shows the gratifying confidence still displayed by the international community –including the business class — in the Indian ability to deal with this problem and to protect them.

There is no reason for us to indulge in breast-beating after every terrorist strike. By doing so, we only add to the image of the terrorists in the eyes of their community. It is often easier to destroy the terrorists than the image which the media and the agencies unwittingly create of them by projecting them as if they are invincible. They are not.

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FATA is Pakistan’s Fallujah: B Raman

22 08 2008

Source: rediff.com
August 22, 2008

At least 78 persons, most of them civilian workers in a cluster of arms production factories located in the heavily-protected cantonment area of Wah, about 30 km from Islamabad [Images], were reported to have been killed on the afternoon of August 21 when two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside different gates of the factories during shift change.

The ease with which they penetrated this high security area would indicate either that they had accomplices in the security staff or that they were workers of one of the factories who had no difficulty in entering the complex. If suicide bombers could penetrate such a high-security area with so much ease, it should be equally easy for other terrorists to penetrate Pakistan’s nuclear establishments one day. The expression ‘high security’ has ceased to have any meaning in Pakistan’s sensitive establishments because of the penetration by the jihadi elements.

This is the third suicide attack in the non-tribal areas since the elected coalition government headed by Yousef Raza Gilani assumed office on March 18. The previous two targeted the Danish embassy in Islamabad (June 2) in protest against the publication by some Danish newspapers of caricatures of the Holy Prophet, and policemen who were returning to their stations after performing duty at the Lal Masjid in which a meeting was held (July 6) in memory of those killed during the commando raid in July last year.

The blasts in Wah came in the wake of the threat issued by the Tehrik-e-Taliban [Images] Pakistan to resume terrorist attacks in the non-tribal areas if the government did not stop the on-going military operations in the Bajaur Agency, where many leaders and cadres of Al Qaeda [Images] and the Afghan Taliban have reportedly taken shelter. Since the threat was issued by the TTP, the Pakistan Army [Images] has not been much active on the ground in the Bajaur Agency either by itself or through the paramilitary Frontier Corps. However, helicopter gunships of the army and the planes of the air force have stepped up their air strikes in response to the US pressure to neutralise the terrorist infrastructure in the area, which was making the NATO forces in Afghanistan bleed.

Making a statement in the NWFP provincial Assembly on August 21, Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti said thousands of foreign militants were present in the Bajaur Agency and claimed they would have captured the area if the military operation had been delayed for a couple of days.

According to him, in the past, the two traditional pillars of power in the tribal belt were the political administration and the Malik (tribal chief) system. He said a third pillar, inducted into the area during the 1980s, had emerged stronger than the traditional pillars. He added that some called this third pillar the Mujahideen [Images], some others called it the Taliban and yet some others termed it Al Qaeda. It was this third pillar which was now dominating the tribal belt.

According to him, there cannot be peace in the NWFP without peace in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and there cannot be peace in FATA without peace in Afghanistan. The ground situation in Afghanistan, FATA and the NWFP was closely inter-connected. He said before launching the military operation in the Bajaur Agency, the government had sent a delegation for talks with the local tribals, but there were thousands of Arabs, Uzbeks and Chechens in the area who are unaware of the Pashtun traditions and customs and came in the way of peace.

In retaliation for the air strikes, the TTP blew up an air force bus on Kohat Road in the NWFP on August 12 killing 13 persons, including seven administrative personnel of the PAF, and followed this up on August 19 with an explosion outside the district headquarters hospital of Dera Ismail Kahan in the NWFP, in which 32 persons, many of them Shia outdoor patients, were killed. The TTP claimed responsibility for both these attacks and projected them as being in retaliation for the continuing air strikes in the Bajaur Agency.

While the targeting of the PAF bus is explained by the anger of the TTP over the air strikes, its targeting of Shia outdoor patients is attributed by well-informed police sources to its strong suspicion that the Shias of the NWFP and the Kurram Agency of FATA have been collaborating with the Pakistan Army in its operations against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Over 100 persons — more Shias than Sunnis — have been killed in continuing Shia-Sunni clashes in the Kurram Agency for the last 10 days.

While the attacks of August 12 and 19 were in the tribal areas, the attacks in Wah on August 21 were in a non-tribal area. The TTP has already admitted responsibility for the suicide attacks in Wah and warned of similar attacks on military installations in other cities including Lahore [Images], Karachi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi if the government does not stop the air strikes in the Bajaur Agency and withdraw the Army from the Agency and the Swat Valley of the NWFP. The government has to take these threats seriously in view of the repeatedly demonstrated capability of the TTP to strike at military targets in non-tribal areas since the commando action in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad from July 10 to 13, 2007.

The anger of the TTP, the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda against the Pakistan Army has not subsided as a result of the resignation of Pervez Musharraf [Images] from the post of president on August 18. They hold Musharraf as well as the army responsible for the commando action in Lal Masjid and for the military operations in the tribal belt, which they view as undertaken to protect Western lives and in support of the NATO operations in Afghanistan. They are demanding not only the stoppage of all air strikes in the tribal belt and the withdrawal of the army from there, but also the stoppage of any co-operation with the US and other NATO forces against the Afghan Taliban.

It is only a question of time before the anti-Musharraf and anti-Army anger for their co-operation with the US broadens to include anti-Asif Zardari anger for the continuing co-operation with the US. The terrorists view Zardari as no different from Musharraf and as much an apostate as Musharraf. They are convinced that the air strikes and ground operations in the Bajaur Agency have been agreed to by Zardari and Gilani as a quid pro quo for the role of the US and the UK in persuading Musharraf to quit as president.

FATA is emerging as Pakistan’s Fallujah. After the US occupation of Iraq, Fallujah became the launching pad of terrorist strikes in the rest of Iraq — whether by Al Qaeda or by ex-Baathist resistance fighters. Only after the US ruthlessly pacified Fallujah and destroyed the terrorist launching pads there, did it start making progress in its counter-insurgency operations in the rest of the Sunni areas of Iraq.

The NATO forces will continue to bleed in Afghanistan and the jihadi virus will continue to spread in Pakistan unless and until FATA is similarly pacified through ruthless application of force. The Pakistan Army has not demonstrated either the will or the capability to do so. A more active role by the NATO forces under US leadership is necessary — either covertly or openly. A strategy for a Fallujah-style pacification of FATA is called for — with the co-operation of the Pakistan Army if possible and without it, if necessary.

The USSR was defeated by the Afghan Mujahideen in the 1980s because of the reluctance of the Soviet troops to attack their sanctuaries in FATA and NWFP. India has been unable to prevail over cross-border jihadi terrorism because of the reluctance of its leadership to attack their sanctuaries in Pakistani territory. The US is unlikely to prevail over the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan unless it is prepared to destroy their infrastructure in FATA.

Deniable Predator air strikes by the US intelligence agencies on suspected terrorist hide-outs in the FATA have been increasing and some of them have been effective in neutralising well-known Al Qaeda operatives. But air strikes alone will not be able to turn the tide against the jihadis. Effective hit and withdraw raids into FATA in the form of hot pursuit should be the next step. The longer it is delayed the more will be the bleeding.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi [Images], and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com)

B Raman





Terror’s new faces B Raman

20 08 2008

Source: Rediff.com

B Raman
August 19, 2008

The Gujarat police announced on August 16 the identification and arrest of 10 activists of the Students Islamic Movement of India in connection with the serial blasts in Ahmedabad [Images] on July 26. Nine of the arrests were made in Ahmedabad and Vadodara in Gujarat and the tenth arrest, of Mufti Abu Bashir, the leader, was made with the co-operation of the Uttar Pradesh [Images] police in Azamgarh.

According to details given by a team of senior Gujarat police officers at a special press conference, the arrested persons formed the core of a larger group of SIMI [Images] activists who had planned and carried out the blasts in Ahmedabad, under the name of Indian Mujahideen [Images]. They also said while they have definitively established the involvement of these persons and their associates not yet arrested in the Gujarat blasts, they have some indications that some of these persons might have also been involved in the serial blasts of May in Jaipur [Images] and in the blasts of November 2007 in UP. Further investigation is in progress.

We said it first: Exclusive! Breakthrough in Ahmedabad blasts case

All the persons arrested so far and the suspects not yet arrested are Indians. All the arrested persons are in their 20s. A collation of available details is given below:

Abdul Rashid, also known as Mufti Abu Bashir Ilahi, aged 26. Believed by the police to be the mastermind behind the serial blasts in Ahmedabad on July 26, and the planned but failed blasts in Surat [Images] the next day. Studied Arabic in the Deoband seminary in Uttar Pradesh. Comes from a lower middle class family in Azamgarh (village Beenapara) in Uttar Pradesh. Father, a paralytic, is unemployed and mother is a housewife. The family is dependent on his earnings as a teacher of Arabic in a madrasa in Hyderabad called the Jamait Ul Sheikh Al Maududi located at Pahadisharif in Hyderabad. The madrasa had been started by another native of Azamgarh called Maulana Abdul Aleem Islahi.

Abu Bashir has four brothers and one sister. Two of his brothers are working in Delhi [Images] and Mumbai. The other siblings are studying in a madrasa in Azamgarh. Abu Bashir worked for two years in the Hyderabad madrasa, till January 2007. According to the Hyderabad police, he left the madrasa for Azamgarh that month. According to his father, he returned to his village only about a month ago saying the madrasa was closed for vacations. For nearly 18 months, he was neither in the madrasa nor his village. Some of this period between March and July 2008, he had spent in Ahmedabad.

According to the Gujarat police, he was present in Ahmedabad on the day of the blasts. It is not yet known where he was from January 2007 to March 2008, when he allegedly took over as the head of the SIMI network after the arrest of Safdar Nagori, the general secretary of SIMI, and his brother Karimuddin by the Indore police. Bashir came into contact with SIMI when he was teaching in the Hyderabad madrasa and became its active member.

Maulana Abdul Aleem Islahi is an activist and known sympathiser of SIMI. His son Mohtasin Billa was also in SIMI.
While examining the cell phone records of Ahmedabad over a few months before the blasts, the Gujarat police’s crime branch identified five numbers which had only received incoming calls from public call offices located mostly at a place called Juhapura in Ahmedabad. Investigations indicated that during his stay in Ahmedabad Abu Bashir had purchased five SIM cards in the names of local residents. Zahid Sheikh was making the calls to Abu Bashir at these numbers. These numbers went silent after the blasts.

How the Ahmedabad blasts case was solved

Abu Bashir and Abdul Subban Quereshi were staying in a rented house at a place called Vatva in Ahmedabad. This house had been hired with the assistance of Zahid Shaikh and Sajid Mansuri.

Imran Ibrahim Sheikh, aged 23. Did a course in human rights and journalism in MS University, Vadodara, and arrested

Imran Ibrahim Sheikh. Bombs placed in Surat were assembled in his home.
Imran Ibrahim Sheikh. Bombs placed in Surat were assembled in his home.

in that city. Attended training camps in Kerala [Images] and Pavagadh near Vadodara under an assumed name. The police zeroed in on him after a scrutiny of his mobile phone records. During interrogation he denied any role in the blasts but mentioned the name of Zahid Sheikh. Imran Sheikh and Sajid Mansuri had visited Jaipur on May 13, 2008, when the serial blasts there had taken place.

The improvised explosive devices used in Ahmedabad and Surat were assembled at three different places — in the house at Vatva in Ahmedabad in which Abu Bashir was staying, in Imran Sheikh’s house in Vadodara, and in another house in Kalpur in Ahmedabad. It is not known who was staying in the Kalpur house.

Zahid Sheikh, a resident of Juhapura in Ahmedabad. Imran Sheikh’s interrogation led to him. He allegedly confessed that he had planted bombs on cycles in Ahmedabad. He named at least three people who were involved in the purchase of the bicycles and delivery of the IEDs.

Zahid Sheikh was under surveillance by the Ahmedabad police even before the blasts. He had also attended the training camps in Kerala and Gujarat under an assumed name. He had provided local logistics support for a team of nine — five from Madhya Pradesh [Images], two from Maharashtra and two from Karnataka — which had come to Ahmedabad. The team held meetings in the Bapunagar area of Ahmedabad in April, another one in a different city in May and the final one on July 20 at Zahid’s residence.

Zahid’s confession led to the arrest of Yunus Mansuri, Shanshuddin Sheikh, Arif Kadri, Gyasuddin from Ahmedabad and Imran, Usman Agarbattiwala, Iqbal Sheikh and Sajid Mansuri from Vadodara.

Indian Mujahideen is SIMI V2.0

Usman Agarbattiwala, aged 24. A BCom graduate from MS University, Vadodara, he attended training camps in Kerala and Pavagadh near Vadodara under an assumed name. His laptop was allegedly used for programming the timer chips for the IEDs planted in Surat, which failed to explode.


Sajid Mansuri. Chief coordinator of Ahmedabad blasts.
Sajid Mansuri. Chief coordinator of Ahmedabad blasts.

Sajid Mansuri, a former zonal secretary of SIMI in Gujarat, had been absconding since 2001 and was finally arrested from Bharuch after the blasts.

Abdul Subban Qureshi. An explosives expert who holds a diploma in electronic engineering, he allegedly procured ammonium nitrate and timers for the Ahmedabad operation and had them stored in a safe house in Bharuch, and had attended SIMI’s meetings to plan the serial blasts. The arrested suspects have claimed that it was Abdul Subban Qureshi who drafted the three e-mails claiming responsibility for the blasts of November 2007 in UP, May in Jaipur and July in Ahmedabad on behalf of Indian Mujahideen. He forwarded the drafts to Mufti Bashir. Qureshi is absconding.

Adnan, also known as Hafiz Mullah is a young computer engineer and a prominent SIMI organiser for South India. He was arrested along with some other SIMI leaders in Indore in March 2008. He had named Abu Bashir as being responsible for SIMI activities in Gujarat.

Kamaruddin Nagori, brother of Safdar Nagori, was in charge of organising training camps. He was assisted by Adnan, Shibly Peedical Abdul and his brother Shaduli. The first camp was in Karnataka between April and September 2007, the second in Kerala in October-November 2007, the third in Madhya Pradesh in December 2007, and the fourth in Gujarat in January 2008.

ISI’s Indianisation of jihad

The plans for the series of blasts in different cities were drawn up during the training camp in the jungles of Waghamon near Aluva (previously Alwaye) in Kerala where 40 recruits from different states were put through a commando course. This camp was addressed by both Safdar and his brother. This camp was followed by the blasts in three cities of UP in November 2007.

Kayamuddin Kapadia is chief of SIMI operations in Gujarat
Kayamuddin Kapadia is chief of SIMI operations in Gujarat.

The plan for the blasts in Gujarat was drawn up at the Gujarat training camp held in Pavagadh in the Vadodara area. Many of those arrested by the Gujarat police after the blasts had attended this camp. After the arrest of the Nagori brothers and Adnan by the Indore police, Abu Bashir, assisted by Abdul Subban Quereshi and one Kayamuddin of Vadodara, took on the responsibility for organising the reprisal attacks planned in Gujarat. Initially, they thought of hijacking a plane or a kidnapping to demand the release of those arrested in Indore, before deciding on the blasts.

Others arrested by the Gujarat police: Yunus Mansuri, Shamsuddin Sheikh, Arif Kadri, Gyasuddin and Iqbal Sheikh. Their particulars are not available.

Photographs Courtesy: Intelligence Sources