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“Mumbai Attacks: Millions Spent on Investigations Since 26/11… No Success”

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In spite of massive investments in investigation and counter-terrorism intelligence capabilities since 26/11, police forces across the country have made little progress in identifying the perpetrators of the five major urban attacks which have taken place since then.

Injured victims of the explosion in Zaveri bazar are taken to medical care in a truck, in Mumbai.

The attacks include the February 2010 bombing of the German Bakery in Pune; the April 2010 serial bombings at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore, the drive-by shooting at Delhi’s iconic Jama Masjid in September 2010, and the December 2010 bombing at the Shitla Ghat in Varanasi.

In May this year, a car bomb planted outside the Delhi High Court, mercifully caused no loss of life, apparently because the electronic circuits in the explosive device malfunctioned in the extreme heat.

The National Investigation Agency, set up with fanfare in 2009 to assuage public anger over a similar series of failures leading up to 26/11, has been assigned three of these cases – but it is yet to register success.

In 2010-2011, the latest annual report of the Union Home Ministry records, large investments were made in “new measures to meet the grave challenges posed by global terrorism.” The report says the MHA’s major achievements include the establishment of new rapid-response hubs for the National Security Guard special forces, and the establishment of an online National Intelligence Grid.

Experts say the poor dividends from these measures were predictable. “Even though both State and Central governments have been scrambling to set up all kinds of special counter-terrorism forces,” says Dr. Ajai Sahni, Director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, “there has been no real effort to improve intelligence-gathering and investigations capabilities from the bottom-up.”

“No computer,” he points out, “is going to help you solve a case if you’ve got no worthwhile data to feed into it”.

Flailing investigation

Investigators believe all the five attacks are linked to members of the Indian Mujahideen – the Lashkar-e-Taiba linked terrorist group responsible for a string of attacks in several Indian cities between 2006 and 2008. Little hard evidence, however, has emerged to support the claims, though police say the available intelligence suggests that the organisation has been attempting to regroup.

Part of that evidence, the Gujarat Police say, came from Danish Riyaz, a software engineer arrested earlier this year on charges of having participated in the Indian Mujahideen’s 2008 strikes in Ahmedabad.

Mr. Riyaz, the Gujarat Police claim, left his job with a software firm in Hyderabad soon after the bombings, and moved to Ranchi. There, he is alleged to have helped harbour several fugitive Indian Mujahideen figures – key among them being Abdul Subhan Qureshi, who liaised among the multiple jihadist cells which carried out the organisation’s urban bombing campaign.

Police say that Qureshi left Ranchi for Nepal in 2008, tasking Mr. Riyaz with finding new recruits for the organisation. He, however, did not, according to investigators, have any success. “Local members of the Students Islamic Movement of India,” an official associated with the investigation said, “did not want anything to do with his efforts.”

Eight other alleged Indian Mujahideen operatives, three of them linked to the 2008 attacks in Gujarat, were recently arrested by the Madhya Pradesh police. Investigators say interrogation of the three men, Mujeeb Sheikh, Muhammad Faisal and Mehboob Malik, did not throw up any specific information that fresh attacks were being planned.

Police have been accused, with some reason, of attempting to manufacture evidence in an effort to conceal the lack of progress.

In May 2010, Mangalore resident Abdul Samad Siddibapa was arrested on charges have having carried out the attack – an apparent breakthrough that led the Union Home Minister to publicly congratulate State and Central authorities on “apprehending the prime suspect within hundred days of the incident.”

The Hindu, however, first revealed that Mr. Siddibapa, who had been interrogated several times for his possible connections with the Indian Mujahideen, had no connection with the incident.

Fabrication of evidence

Later, Mumbai Police investigators claimed to have evidence linking Latur resident Mirza Himayat Baig to the Pune bombing. In a charge sheet filed in December, the investigators said Mr. Baig was ordered to carry out the attack by Muhammad Zarar Siddibapa – Mr. Siddibapa’s younger brother, who closely resembles a man captured carrying the bomb by closed-circuit television cameras.

The charge sheet also states that Mr. Baig was trained by fugitive Lashkar operatives Fayyaz Ahmad Kagzi and Zabiuddin Ansari, who are alleged to have been responsible for a series of strikes

Lawyers for Mr. Baig have, however, since said that Mr. Baig was in the custody of the Maharashtra’s anti-terrorism police at the time the German Bakery was bombed.

Fabrication of evidence by the police forces is alleged to have undermined past investigations into several Indian Mujahideen attacks. Investigations by The Hindu, for example, revealed credible evidence that Indian Mujahideen operatives likely carried out the 2006 bombings of Mumbai’s suburban train system – an offence for which several other suspects are now being tried.

The pictures of people injured or killed in the Mumbai bomb explosions may cause distress to readers. They are being published to show the horror, the trauma, and the human suffering inflicted by the terrorist attacks.

Indian engineer is an Al Qaeda member

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The first Indian Muslim to be associated with global terror network al Qaeda, who was arrested in France two weeks ago, is a mechanical engineer from south India, Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram announced on Monday.

Mohammad Niaz was arrested in France for links with al Qaeda’s Algerian arm.

Mohammad Niaz, who hails from Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu, had been “radicalised” very early in life and had been in touch with the proscribed Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi), Chidambaram told reporters in New Delhi. “He joined Simi based in Tamil Nadu at the age of 21 and had been on the scanner of Indian intelligence agencies before he was arrested (in France),” he said. Simi is also allegedly allied with the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which the Indian government believes is responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Niaz was arrested at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris on May 10 upon arrival from Algeria, where he had developed links with an al Qaeda franchise. “It is reported that Niaz has been arrested for links with the terror group that is recruiting people for jihad in the Pakistan and Afghanistan region,” Chidambaram said. “The inputs that the government has on him indicate that he is a trained activist with a militant bent of mind,” he said.

Niaz is among seven suspected terrorists held by French authorities earlier this month. But the French government has not linked them to any specific plan to carry out attacks in that country. French Interior Minister Claude Gueant described Niaz as a man with a high level of technical training.

The Mohali Maelstorm

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By: Rohit Kumar

–‘The Times of India reports that India has asked its envoy in Pakistan to reach out to Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, which “could open up new possibilities of deepening Indo-Pak engagement” (ToI). India’s and Pakistan’s home secretaries, the top civil servants in charge of security issues, have begun talks in New Delhi ahead of this week’s semifinal match-up between India and Pakistan in the cricket World Cup, their first formal peace talks since the 2008 Mumbai attacks (Dawn, AFP/Reuters). Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani to watch the match with him, and also invited Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari (Dawn).’—

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The Mohali Maelstorm

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By: Rohit Kumar

–‘The Times of India reports that India has asked its envoy in Pakistan to reach out to Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, which “could open up new possibilities of deepening Indo-Pak engagement” (ToI). India’s and Pakistan’s home secretaries, the top civil servants in charge of security issues, have begun talks in New Delhi ahead of this week’s semifinal match-up between India and Pakistan in the cricket World Cup, their first formal peace talks since the 2008 Mumbai attacks (Dawn, AFP/Reuters). Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani to watch the match with him, and also invited Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari (Dawn).’—

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No evidence to prove Pakistan supports Naxals

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US intelligence group acknowledges business-type relations

BY Iftikhar Gilani

A global team of US intelligence professionals has found no evidence of any link between Maoists or Naxalites and Pakistan-based terrorist groups or that country’s Inter-services Intelligence (ISI).

Creating a flutter, Chhattisgarh Police Director General Vishwa Ranjan last week had mentioned a meeting between Naxalites and Pakistan-based militant outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). He said two LeT operatives had attended a Naxalite meeting in April or May calling it a new policy and planning for increasing “armed resistance.”

Such visions are alarmist and do not reflect the true nature of the situation, stated US-based intelligence group Stratfor after investigating the source of Naxalite weaponry and training. It concluded that the rebels appear to remain a very self-reliant group and have not established a strong partnership with Pakistan when it comes to weapons and training.

Home Ministry officials had been implicating terrorist groups and Kashmiri separatists tying up with Naxalites, referring to increasing attacks in rural parts of central and eastern India.

“Stratfor has watched Pakistan’s links with Naxalites before. But we are yet to see significant changes on the ground that would give any credence to the scenario. Many Indian officials are equally insistent that no connections exist between Naxalites and Pakistan. Although Naxalites have provided rhetorical support for Kashmiri (and other anti-India groups) opposed to New Delhi earlier, there has been little action to back up the rhetoric,” said the intelligence analyst Ben West.

While examining the Naxalites’ weaponry, West concluded, “There was evidence of some Pakistani involvement in supplying weapons,” but he hastily added, “It was through third parties.” He believed that Maoists have obtained arsenal from four different sources, from Indian security forces, theft from businesses, local arms factories and procuring from external militant and criminal groups.

The group has even recovered NATO ammunition, variants of the AK-47 assault rifle and even Israeli-made sniper rifles like the Galil 7.62mm from Naxalites. Over a period of six month, the report stated, one zone command spends more than three-quarters of the unit’s budget on weapons ($70,214) with the rest ($20,604) spent on supplies. Such evidence suggests that Naxalite weapon procurements from outside have their limitations; obtaining them locally is far cheaper and can be done by virtually any Naxal operative.

Further, the Naxalite arsenal is vast and diverse, consisting of weapons manufactured in China, Russia, the US, Pakistan and India. The lack of weapons uniformity among Naxalite groups indicates that they do not have a benefactor that has bestowed on them a reliable, standardised arsenal, and have had to build up their own from scratch.

Quoting its sources in India, Stratfor report claimed that Pakistani intelligence has established business-type relationships with Naxalites to sell arms and ammunition apart from attempts to use Naxal bases for anti-India activities. There is evidence that the ISI is providing arms to Naxalites in exchange for money or services, mostly through third parties like the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) or the ostensible Bangladeshi militant leader Shailen Sarkar.

But Indian army sources told the US group that their investigations don’t have the evidence to prove a direct link between Naxalites and ISI, since the Pakistanis continue to play a peripheral role.

The group has, however, found Naxalite links with ULFA, the People’s Liberation Army of Manipur, the National Social Council of Nagaland-Issac Muivah, and Nepalese Maoists comprising the militant wing of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal, apart from Sarkar.

Home Ministry accuses Sarkar’s group of training Naxalites at ISI-funded camps in Bangladesh. The ministry also claims that Sarkar has met with Naxal leaders in India.

Admitting that evidence of direct links between ISI and Naxalites was hard to come by, the report said that murky and circuitous relationships were preferred the most in a tense diplomatic environment.

Further, the report said Naxalism is a low-maintenance, self-sustaining movement that will continue to undermine Indian rule. Pakistan does not need to expend more resources to sustain this. Naxalites are likely wary of undermining their own local legitimacy by accepting too much assistance from an outside government.

“While something like a standardised arsenal compliments of ISI would benefit the Naxalites operationally, such a move would be a high-risk, low-reward effort for Islamabad as it seeks to operate very subtly in India for the time being while tensions over the 2008 Mumbai attacks continue to cool off,” it added.

Preserving the slender thread in Pakistan

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Kaustav Chakrabarti

The arrest of Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, the alleged Times Square Bomber, resulted in a flurry of public warnings from senior US officials. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton warmed Pakistan of ‘severe consequences’ should another terror act be traced back to Pakistan’s tribal areas, while urging Pakistan to target militants in North Waziristan. Broadening the aperture of counterinsurgency is a legitimate expectation of the west and Pakistan’s neighbours. However, issuing public warnings and accusations (Clinton also made a veiled reference to Pakistan not sharing full information about Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar) is counterproductive and will only serve to snap the slender thread of consensus forged against terrorism among the people and the soldiers of Pakistan. Repeated ‘orders from Washington’ runs the serious risk of undoing arguably the most decisive driver behind successes in Swat and South Waziristan – Pakistani ownership of its war against extremism.

The Slender thread – Pakistani ownership of its struggle

Last year’s much-celebrated offensives in Swat Valley and South Waziristan, the nerve centre of the Pakistan Taliban, were not a result of pressures from United States. In fact, they were the outcome of internal dynamics. Operation Rah-e-Rast in Swat began after the local Taliban refused to abide by a peace deal, even after their popular demand of Shariah was met. It was Taliban excursions into abutting districts, and not a sophisticated information campaign, that cost them local support; a death blow to any insurgent. On the other hand, Operation Rah-e-Nijat in South Waziristan commenced after militants linked with the Taliban attacked the army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Since then, officers and soldiers killed fighting the Taliban have been afforded the status of shaheed (martyr), an honour that till recently, was exclusively reserved only for those who died fighting rival India. Large number of people gathered to pay homage to the Brigadier who laid down his life defending GHQ, and the young officers who were executed by militants in Swat. When the Taliban attacked a military mosque in Rawalpindi, the entire nation shared the grief of soldiers who lost family members. Surveys prove that more Pakistanis approve of fighting terrorism; what they can’t quantify is the trauma that they’ve gone through before collectively agreeing for the need to slay demons of the past. The silver lining, if there ever is a silver lining to suicide bombing, is this very internalised consensus – a home-grown response to a home-grown problem.

Change in public opinion

Things were not always like this. Just a few years ago, the army’s assault on Lal Masjid in Islamabad, after the mosque had become a haven for militants, hardly generated the public approval that has become the norm since 2009. Deaths of students, most of who belonged to the tribal areas, angered large sections of the Pashtun community and brought them even closer to the Taliban. Not surprisingly, the aftermath of the raid witnessed an unprecedented hike in suicide bombings across Pakistan. The fact that major operations in those years took place at the same time as General Pervez Musharraf happened to be visiting Washington did not help matters either. To put things in perspective, compare 2007 Pakistan with the American experience in Vietnam or, the Indian experience in Sri Lanka – a nation that refused to agree with the war its army was fighting.

Why exercising patience is a wise option

Exercising restraint in the face of Times Square-like incidents might seem counterintuitive. However, the United States should remain patient, especially in such trying times.

The US can achieve greater success with Pakistan by simply lowering its visibility, or rather its noise level. No country likes to take orders from outsiders, least of all the proverbial ‘epicentre of terrorism’ that does not take favorably to American foreign policy in a post-invasion of Iraq world. Coercive public diplomacy with Pakistan has outlived its utility. Rather, by consciously negating the perception that the government of Asif Ali Zardari is a surrogate of the United States – and accentuating Pakistan’s sovereignty over matters internal to it – the coming convergence of militant groups in Pakistan will by itself cause Pakistan to expand its counter insurgency aperture.

Greater numbers of militants have begun to identify the United States as their main enemy. While earlier, Jaish-e-Mohammad confined its attention to Kashmir, and Lashkar-e-Janghvi exclusively targeted the Shiite community, significant elements within these groups have now coalesced to target the Pakistani State, who they all agree is run by ‘remote control from Washington’. The attack on the Marriott in September 2008 was neither against those suggesting a political, non-Jihadist solution to Kashmir nor was it against Shiite traders; it was a challenge to the very state of Pakistan. The growing collaboration of the previously independent militant groups in Pakistan has no doubt increased their collective lethality. However, a game-changing byproduct of increased networking between Pashtun, Punjabi, sectarian, pro-Taliban and pro-Kashmir groups, all aided by al-Qaeda, is that it will compel Pakistan to expand its counter terrorism/insurgency strategy, and that too under the weight of its own security imperatives. By extrapolating these trends, it is not hard to imagine a greater congruence of the counter-terrorism objectives of Pakistan, its neighbours and its western allies in the near future.

Unintended consequences of browbeating Pakistan

By issuing public threats to Pakistan, the United States will inadvertently endanger Pakistan’s brittle consensus, already under attack by elements that continue to blame the United States for all of Pakistan’s problems and insist on halting military operations. Clinton’s remarks will only serve the purpose of those who continue to seek distinctions between good and bad armed Jihadis.

Tactical reasons too call for prudence. Armies the world over have little trouble in smashing rebel camps, tasks that are not dissimilar to conventional warfare. The real challenge lies in what follows – giving a sense of security to the population, preventing a resurgence of militancy, and carrying out fast-track development; tasks that are all manpower intensive. Insurgents, therefore, take it as matter of doctrine to wait till the counter-insurgent shifts his attention to other ‘terrorist hotbeds’, and strike when supply lines thin. There is plenty to learn from Mao -‘…extend guerrilla warfare…, make a front out of the enemy’s rear, and force him to fight ceaselessly throughout the territory he occupies’. Antagonizing more militants will require Pakistan to deploy more troops to control the ‘liberated’ population, who will subsequently demand the army to provide it with security and logistics and, very likely, shift its allegiance if those demands are not met.

The extra troops can come from only one place – Pakistan’s border with India, where tensions have flared since the Mumbai attacks. Here, the best the United States could do is to maintain a safe distance. Lacking legitimacy as an interlocutor in both New Delhi and Islamabad, even well-intentioned efforts by Washington will be viewed as ‘taking sides’, complicating matters further. Confidence building measures between India and Pakistan have a high gestation period. Accepting this fact and showing perseverance will yield better results and reduce trust deficits between the three countries.

India Reversing the Militant Card On Pakistan

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India’s foreign secretary said India and Pakistan should not let Islamist militants sabotage efforts to improve bilateral relations after a meeting with her Pakistani counterpart June 24. This statement marks a noteworthy shift in New Delhi’s attitude, which since the 2008 Mumbai attacks had been adamant that it would not hold any substantive talks with Islamabad unless the latter prevented militants from attacking India. The shift in India’s position is informed by its desire to exploit the Islamist militancy within Pakistan to its advantage, as well as by the U.S.-Pakistani alignment on Afghanistan. But the Indo-Pakistani rapprochement is very new, and could well still founder.


During a joint press conference in Islamabad on June 24 with her Pakistani counterpart, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao called on the two South Asian nuclear powers to deny terrorists the opportunity to derail improving Indo-Pakistani relations. This latest bilateral meeting follows an April 30 meeting between the prime ministers of both countries, which ended with a call on the two countries’ foreign ministers to meet as soon as possible to discuss ways to resume the normalization process, which was undermined by the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.

After the meeting between the two prime ministers, STRATFOR pointed out that the rationale behind the softening of the Indian stance had to do with the U.S.-Pakistani alignment on Afghanistan. Washington needs to cooperate with Pakistan to achieve its goals in Afghanistan, a need that has resulted in improved U.S.-Pakistani relations and that raised serious concerns in India that Islamabad was no longer under pressure to act against Islamist militants targeting India. U.S. and Indian interests had aligned after Sept. 11, resulting in pressure on Islamabad that New Delhi saw as a means of containing Pakistan from using Islamist militant proxies to counter the growing gap between Indian and Pakistani military capabilities.

This dual pressure sparked a domestic jihadist insurgency in Pakistan, with Islamabad losing control over its complex Islamist militant landscape. The need to align with Washington in the war against jihadism and avoid war with India forced Pakistan to rein in Taliban and Kashmiri Islamist militant entities – a process that saw the rise of a Pakistani Taliban phenomenon and saw many former Punjabi and Kashmiri militants waging war against the Pakistani state.

The domestic insurgency became so powerful that it forced a shift in Pakistani thinking regarding the use of Islamist militants as a means of projecting power across its eastern and western borders. At a time when there is a major fire raging at home fueled by Islamist extremism and the country’s military-intelligence establishment is having a hard time extinguishing it, Pakistan does not appear to be in a position to use Islamist militant non-state actors – especially against India, which carries the risk of war. Moreover, backing Islamist militancy against India – to the extent that it is even possible – would only aggravate the war at home.

And herein lies an opportunity for India to exploit to its advantage. Pakistan’s domestic insurgency, which has claimed some 20,000 lives in recent years, has seen public and government opinion turn against the Islamist militants. From India’s point of view, this new dynamic needs to be encouraged, as it is the only effective way of containing Pakistan-based Islamist militancy directed against India.

Previously, New Delhi has had no effective means of getting Pakistan to give up its militant card against India. Years of intense pressure from both India and the United States on Islamabad failed to prevent the worst terrorist incident in Indian history when Pakistan-based militants struck in Mumbai in November 2008. Responding with war with Pakistan was not an option, as such a conflict could quickly go nuclear. But now that Pakistan is suffering from the same forces that it historically deployed against India, the Indians see a possible opportunity to try and encourage the growing movement against extremism and terrorism.

The only way India can take advantage of this opportunity is to engage Pakistan in meaningful dialogue, which explains the change in New Delhi’s behavior. It is not clear if India will be able to succeed in its strategy, as the dynamic in Pakistan remains in its nascent stage. Everything depends upon how the situation shapes within Pakistan in terms of the outcome of Islamabad’s war against Islamist extremism and whether Pakistan can prevent jihadists from sabotaging the peace process with India by launching another attack. Even if Pakistan regains control over Islamist militants, it might well return to its old policy of using militants as instruments of foreign policy, especially given that it has no other way of containing growing Indian military power.