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  -  Azam Ghauri: The ISI

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  -  Profile of an ISI agent

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Liberating Hyderabad
is a priority for Lashkar-e-Toiba

George Iype in Hyderabad

For the last five years, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu has been working to make Hyderabad the Silicon Valley of Asia.

And for the last eight years, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, the most deadly agency that aids militancy in South Asia, has been spreading that side.

Its mission: make Hyderabad the hub of its activities in South India.

The ISI today has a massive base in Hyderabad. 'Its thrust, subversive activities and secessionist plans are of grave concern and great threat to the state's security,' notes a secret Andhra Pradesh intelligence document.

Sleuths give several reasons for Hyderabad -- especially the Muslim-dominated Old City area -- emerging the epicentre of ISI operations after 1992. The Union home ministry and the state police have deployed special squads to bust its network, which officials concede connects Hyderabad to other sensitive areas in the south Indian states of AP, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.

Thus, Hyderabad, Warangal, Nalgonda and Mahboobnagar in AP, Bangalore and Gulbarga in Karnataka, Malappuram and Palakkad in Kerala, and Madras, Coimbatore and Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu are under the scrutiny of intelligence agencies.

Their brief: prevent the madrasas [Muslim religious schools] from being used as recruiting centres for militants.

  -  The unwelcome
  -  Azam Ghauri: The
     ISI kingpin
  -  LeT, the army of
  -  Profile of an ISI
The nearly 12 Islamic fundamentalist organisations that are active in the four southern states, too, are under observation, sources say.

THE Naidu government has reasons to be worried. In the last eight years the police have arrested nearly 65 ISI agents responsible for minor and major bomb blasts, killings and communal violence, and seized several trucks carrying RDX explosives in select areas of the state.

"Hyderabad attracts the ISI for various reasons. First, it is the city with an active Muslim population from whom the Pakistani agency has been recruiting youths to various militant outfits," says Additional Director General of Police, law and order, M L Kumavat.

Kumavat had worked for five years in Bombay probing the ISI network after the serial bomb blasts of 1993. He says the ISI has selected many soft targets across the country, and "carefully cultivated" a network in the southern states.

"Militancy in madrasas is the most dangerous threat that the ISI is posing these days," he feels.

According to Kumavat, one reason why "Hyderabad is a soft and easy target" is that there are a number of vital defence installations in the city, especially those of the Defence Research Development Organisation. Hyderabad's proximity to Bombay and other Maharashtra districts like Aurangabad, Nanded, Beed and Akola, which are escape routes, is another advantage.

Intelligence records show that the kingpin of the ISI operations in Hyderabad was Azam Ghauri. The police claim to have killed him in an encounter in April.

The most active terrorist group that is recruiting Muslims from the city is the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the ISI-aided urban warfare outfit operating in the Kashmir valley.

It was LeT's supreme leader Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed who recruited the Warangal-born Ghauri a decade ago. In messages to several Muslim fundamentalist organisations in the country, Sayeed had proclaimed that LeT's priorities "were the liberation of Kashmir and Hyderabad."

After being trained at the LeT headquarters in Pakistan and with the Taliban militia in Afghanistan, Ghauri reached Hyderabad in 1993 and began terrorist strikes across southern states. He subsequently floated the Indian Muslim Mohammadi Mujahideen, that claims to be the LeT's sister outfit.

The police estimate that Ghauri alone has recruited over 100 Muslim youths from Hyderabad. They were trained in various LeT camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. They then formed different groups and have carried out some 60 operations in Hyderabad and across Andhra Pradesh in the last few years.

The first ISI killing masterminded by Ghauri was in 1992, when G Krishna Prasad, an additional superintendent of police, was killed in Hyderabad.

In 1993, four ISI agents killed two Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists, Nandaraj Gaud and Pappaya Gaud. Because, they participated in the kar seva in Ayodhya that led to the Babri Masjid demolition in December 1992.

In 1994, ISI operatives led by Jalees Ansari of Bombay planted bombs at the Madina Education Centre, AP Express and the Secunderabad railway reservation complex.

In 1998, the police seized a huge quantity of explosives. LeT's Salim Junaid was arrested. In November 1999, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh worker, Devender Sharma, was killed by members of the LeT and IMMM.

These Islamic outfits carried out their most famous killing early this year, when they executed Mahavir Prasad. A Hyderabadi jeweller, he had sparked a furore in 1997 when he ordered his staff to search a burkha-clad Muslim woman whom he wrongly accused of shoplifting. The ISI had pledged to kill him for the "unIslamic act."

The police shot Ghauri in April. However, they admit that Ghauri's trained men numbering over 100 are at large in different parts of Andhra Pradesh.

"Several fundamentalist organisations in the state are acting as fronts for ISI terrorists," says special branch Deputy Commissioner of Police E Jayarami Reddy.

Officials like Reddy admit that tackling the growing militancy in the Muslim-dominated Old City, which has a minority population of around 2 million, is tough. The menace has forced the Hyderabad city police commissioner to restrict some 50 cable operators from showing Pakistan television.

A special task force, specially created for tackling ISI activities, closely monitors the Friday prayers in the mosques and the Urdu schools in the city and surrounding districts.

"We have information that some of these mosques are being misused by the ISI for recruiting Muslim youth," says a police officer.

MUSLIMS in the Old City say it is unemployment that encourages their kith to join the ISI.

"There have been some cases of Muslim youths joining organisations like IMMM and the Students Islamic Movement of India. But the real problem is that we do not know how many Pakistanis are illegally staying in the city," says Mohammad Hamid, a schoolteacher.

Community leaders like Hamid claim that though after the Babri Masjid demolition Muslims in Andhra Pradesh have began to support the Telugu Desam Party, the latter's joining hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party has forced many to join fundamentalist groups.

Moreover, the Muslims of Hyderabad are increasingly being deprived of their property and businesses; majority community businessmen are "invading" real estate, pearls, jewellery and textiles. The depressing job markets in the Gulf countries too add to the problem.

These days audio cassettes with anti-India speeches and pamphlets are being secretly circulated whenever there is a major terrorist strike in Jammu and Kashmir. During the Indian Airlines hijacking in December, the police had seized hoards of such cassettes and pamphlets containing the provocative speeches of the released militant Maulana Masood Azhar.

Such literature is distributed in the city at regular intervals: during the Kargil war, after India's nuclear tests and, lately, on the day when Jammu and Kashmir passed the autonomy resolution.

The ISI became active in the South after the BJP started winning elections there

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