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Bullet 313: An IM front to mislead sleuths?

Last updated on: September 27, 2011 16:30 IST

Bullet 313: An IM front to mislead sleuths?

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Vicky Nanjappa

In the past one and half years, the nation has witnessed three attacks --Varanasi, 13/7 and the Delhi high court blasts. For quite sometime now, the investigators have been clueless about the attackers and now, leads are trickling in. Investigators are closing in on Bullet 313, a group within the Indian Mujahideen which could have carried these attacks. Vicky Nanjappa reports.

Post 13/7, Bullet 313's name come up very briefly. The name of this outfit was picked up based on intercepts and the interrogation of a couple of Indian Mujahideen operatives, who are in custody in various parts of the country.

The IM story is nothing new, and everyone is aware of the rise and fall of the group. However, since the past two years, there have been very slow attempts to revive the outfit and the group has been working on some small level operators who have come together to form Bullet 313.

The name is inspired from al Qaeda's 313 Brigade, this group was originally created to carry out attacks in India under a new banner.

Earlier, there were communications which indicated that the IM was planning terror attacks. However, this time around, there was no mention of the name of this new outfit between the operatives on email or phone was nil.

This had made investigators run around in circles, and this only helped these operatives carry out their business.

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Image: Plain clothed policemen at the blast site in Dadar, Mumbai
Photographs: Reuters
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The cops had no clue about the group for a long time

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Today, the Bullet 313 is a growing force and could turn into a big headache if not curbed in time.

Sources in the Intelligence Bureau say that they wanted a slight change in their strategy and did not want too much publicity about the new name, since they wanted to set up a strong outfit.

This outfit was set up a year ago, and it was decided that all new operations on the Indian soil shall be undertaken in this name.

Take the interrogation of the various IM operatives in the country which were conducted after the Varanasi blasts. The investigators realised after the blasts that this had marked the return of the IM, but the newer pattern that was being used was something that had foxed them.

Under the new 'banner', a lot of IM's usual traits were not witnessed. There plans were not extensive, and the operations were on a smaller scale. People chosen for the job had no history in police records and the use of technology was almost zero.

Most importantly, the brazen mails were also missing after the attacks. For quite sometime, the police had no clue about this group, and who had even carried out the attack. 

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Image: Onlookers stand at the site of a blast in Varanasi
Photographs: Reuters
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The Bullet 313 now has cells in 4 states across India

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Then came the 13/7 blast in Mumbai, which was a slightly bigger operation compared with the Varanasi attack. It was the high court blast in Delhi, which in fact, for the first time, showed signs that it was an IM-like operation.

A mail was sent out, but the intention was more to confuse the investigators leading them to believe it was the Harkat-ul-Jihadi which had carried out the blast. By the time the Delhi blast occurred, the police had a fair idea as to who exactly were carrying out these attacks.

The mail after the Delhi attack was an intentional ploy to distract the investigators.

As per the preliminary investigation, reports pertaining to all the three blasts, Bullet 313 was set up in Delhi. Now, the group has its cells in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh.

Moreover, the formation of the Bullet 313 is keeping in tandem the tradition of creating new names every time a ban is round the corner. Just before it was banned, the Students Islamic Movement of India had formed a radical side to it which later went on to become the IM.

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Image: A plain-clothed policeman at the Opera House blast site in Mumbai
Photographs: Vivek Prakas/Reuters
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The group has approximately 500 members

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The case of the IM is the same. After the crackdown and just when a ban was round the corner it formed the Bullet 313. Terror groups do this very often to keep the heat off.

A source said that currently Bullet 313 has approximately 500 members and the entire network works on word of mouth. As mentioned earlier, the use of communication even through phones is very minimal.

They have also relied very less on the use of foreign funds and kept the number of cadres and modules to a bear minimal. The basic idea was not to carry out large scale attacks, but to keep causing an irritation to the establishment with smaller attacks.

Smaller attacks needed a maximum of four persons and they could have communicated personally and carried out the attack and this exactly is what we are witnessing today.

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Photographs: Vivek Prakas/Reuters
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IM operatives misguided the cops for a long time

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Over the past couple of months, the police have been interrogating several operatives of the IM and each of them has spoken about how the outfit has been trying to regroup. Be it Danish Riyaz or Salman alias Chotu, each one has been telling the police that some youth had been planning on staging a comeback.

However, none of them even spoke about the name of the outfit which ultimately turned out to be Bullet 313. Riyaz even went up to the extent of telling the police that he had recruited around 30 new cadres for the outfit.

However Riyaz also went on to confuse the investigators by saying that certain attempts to regroup had been made, but due to the lack of funds they had to shelve the plans.

The police were misled by this statement of Riyaz and this proved fatal since what followed was Varanasi, 13/7 and Delhi blasts.


Image: File photo of 'IM founder' Riyaz Bhatkal

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