|Maj.Gen.Afsir Karim (Retd.)
New DelhI: The arrest of 18 Muslim suspects in an operation carried out by Bangaluru police recently indicates that some fundamentalist groups based in South Asia and Yemen may have started a new campaign of subversive activities in India. The interrogation carried out so far reveals the outlines of the new jihadi onslaught on India launched on the behest of Lashkar-e-Tioba and Al-Qaeda.
It seems new groups are being formed by bringing those persons together who have been indoctrinated through fundamentalist propaganda on websites. Many such individuals and groups are now being instructed to assassinate selected Hindutva ideologues to start a cycle of communal violence in India. As the arrests were made from such distant parts of the country as Bengaluru- Hubli in Karnataka- Hyderabad and Maharashtra, it show selected groups are being indoctrinated by the fundamentalists groups in many parts of the country.
There is a suspicion that these 18 individuals were being directed by the the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), or by other international Jihadi outfits. Whether this group of 18 were already part of the local terrorist/extremist network in India such as the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Indian Mujahedeen (IM) requires further investigation. If these 18 are not directly affiliated to indigenous groups this means new groups are being created to expand the jihadi network whose existence is so far not known to our intelligence agencies.
It is not yet known if our intelligence agencies succeeded in reaching and identifying the suspects by inside information or a tip off from any foreign agency, whether we have touched just the tip of the iceberg or have succeeded in penetrating deep in the whole setup is not clear.
It is most unlikely that various individuals from far off places could have been motivated to form a group by merely visiting common jihadi websites on the Internet and got together to plot assassination of local Hindutva leaders. It is more likely that the targets were indicated to them by a control organisation operating in India with connections and the assistance of an international jihadi group.
Jihadi organisation in India have generally been sending their operatives for training to Pakistan in the past but most individuals in this group do not seem to have visited Pakistan for training. This indicates that local training facilities for Indians groups have now been established within the country.
As this group was not found in possession of weapons it seems either weapons were stored somewhere to be picked up later; or are with those terrorists who have not been arrested yet. Many well educated Muslim youths who operate internets were indoctrinated by jihadi propagandists after the communal riots in Gujarat, discrimination against Muslims on religious grounds and fear of communal violence still tend to instigate some segments of Muslim to join jihad that is being propagated by them.
It is not surprising that all the 18 arrested men came from educated background and some had specialised in medicine, computer science or media management. These men could have been trained by various jihadi networks as instigators and planners rather than as common operatives.
The IM and SIMI have been recruiting IT experts for top posts and the idea of recruiting experts of special subjects by extremists is common in Indonesia, Egypt and many western countries. A dangerous aspect of the jihadi drive was revealed when it was found that a junior scientist of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was a part of the group. It is yet to be ascertained whether he was motivated and recruited after joining DRDO, or deliberately planted there with the aim of penetrating the DRDO – a sensitive defence establishment.
It has been reported that the suspects were communicating with each other through Skype and therefore their activities could not be detected earlier, this indicates that our capability for interception of sophisticated communication systems is still rather limited.
Al-Qaeda of Arabic Peninsula (AQAP) propagates methods of attack that need no elaborate organisation and are easy to execute, for example assassinations of targeted individuals is suggested by unusual method like hitting the target by truck or a car whenever there is an opportunity.
AQAP is based in Yemen; it beams its propaganda in English through the Net to many South Asian and Western countries. The interrogation of some Muslim suspects in India indicates their minds were influenced by AQAP propaganda material and their tools of attack and operational methods were adopted from there.
Although we keep a close watch on the activities of the Pakistani jihadi organisations in India and some neighbouring countries but pay little attention to the new sources of jihadi propaganda. We should widen our scope of investigation to include new sources of motivation of Indian Jihadi groups.