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The Indian Mujahideen threat is real
B Raman
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September 13, 2008

The so-called Indian Mujahideen [Images] has once again, through an e-mail sent to some media offices, claimed the responsibility for a series of explosions in three crowded market places of New Delhi [Images] between 6-45 pm and 7 pm on September 13.

The message is reported to have been sent five minutes before the explosions took place. It speaks of nine Improvised Explosive Devices planted in different places. Five of these exploded. Three are reported to have been detected by the police before the explosion could take place. One remains unaccounted for.

One has to await details of evidence regarding the IEDs before one can comment on their similarity, if any, with the earlier blasts in three cities of Uttar Pradesh [Images] last November, in Jaipur in May and in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad in July, but the means of communication used to claim responsibility for the blasts and to provide authenticity of the claim are the same. The use of e-mails signed by similar kuniyats (assumed names such as al-Hindi or al-Arabi) and similar-sounding e-mail addresses indicate the same organisation has been responsible.

View: Why terrorists attack soft targets

It is already quite clear that a wide area pan-Indian network of terrorists has come up in our midst and has managed to train a number of local youth not only in assembling IEDs, but also in clandestine methods of operation and communication.

From what one heard of the contents of the message from the IM about the New Delhi blasts, there is an element of bravado in it. It taunts the security experts for not being able to establish who are behind these messages. It shows a certain confidence that the police are not yet on the trail of those sending these messages.

The success of the UP police in identifying some of those involved in the blasts of last November did not prevent the blasts that followed in other cities.

Similarly, the success of the Ahmedabad [Images] and Jaipur [Images] Police in arresting many of those responsible for the blasts in their cities has not come in the way of the successful strike in New Delhi.

Investigators say Indian Mujahideen is SIMI, V2.0

Normally, timely preventive intelligence comes either from intercepts of communications and/or penetration of the terrorist organisations. The IM has apparently been using the Internet for its internal communications and not telephones. If so, this highlights our inadequacies in intercepting Internet communications. Since we still do not know the identity and organisational structure of the IM, penetrating it would have been understandably difficult. We were presuming before the UP blasts of last November that all terrorist strikes must be the work of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayiba or the Pakistan/Bangladesh based Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami.

Since November last, we have been focussing on the Students Islamic Movement of India. It is possible that elements from all these organisations are involved. It is equally possible that there are other elements who had not come to the notice of the police earlier. It is important to keep an open mind and establish the composition and structure of the IM. Only then penetration is possible.

Preventive intelligence also comes from the thorough interrogation of those arrested in connection with the previous blasts. All the arrests made so far, whether in UP or Jaipur or Ahmedabad , were mainly of those involved in those blasts. They apparently did not enable us to identify and arrest those trained with a capability for assembling IEDS, but who had not yet participated in any terrorist strike.

It should be apparent by now firstly, that we have only identified the tip of the jihadi iceberg in our midst. The iceberg itself remains unexposed. Secondly, we have not yet been able to identify the command and control of the IM. Thirdly, like al Qaeda, the IM is divided into a number of autonomous cells each capable of operating independently without being affected by the identification and neutralisation of the cells involved in previous blasts.

 IB: Why smaller towns are targets

All these years, our focus was on the training camps for jihadi terrorists in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Interrogation of those arrested since the beginning of this year has brought out that many training camps had been held in different parts of India by SIMI [Images]. We were apparently oblivious of the details of these camps and the identities of those trained.

It is important to have a common investigation cell for the whole of India to identify the various elements involved in this wide area network and neutralise them. Piecemeal investigation in different states ruled by different political parties each with its own partisan perception and agenda will result in our continuing to bleed at the hands of this network.

B Raman
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