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Why Abu Hamza's arrest is BIG news

By Vicky Nanjappa
June 25, 2012 09:55 IST
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The arrest of Abu Hamza in New Delhi on Monday is significant.

Hamza showed up in the intelligence radar following the Mumbai attack. They suspect Hamza was the handler who pieced together the chillingly coordinated attack that killed over 160 people.

Sources say that after the botched IISC attack in Bengalaru, his masters realised Hamza's skills lay elsewhere and definitely not in the field. In the three years since then, intelligence sources say the man who took jihadi terrorism to South India has risen to become one of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba's ace handlers

Intelligence sources believe the Pakistani national was first made a handler because he knew too much about the Lashkar. Sending him out on operations was a liability and making him a handler was the only way he could be turned into an asset.

A handler does an extremely important and sensitive job; he is the pointsman constantly in touch with all the operatives of a particular mission. A handler is also assigned the job of overseeing the recruitment and training process. Prior to every attack, information about the target is passed on to the handler. He in turn assigns and plots the job for the men on the field.

Investigators believe that Hamza, apart from playing a key role in plotting the Mumbai attacks, was also in constant touch with the 10 terrorists. Evidence pieced together by the Intelligence Bureau suggests that Hamza's job began in November 2006.

IB sources believe Hamza was present at all the training camps where the terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks trained. They also say he was the one in touch with Fahim Ansari, who reconnoitered Mumbai and got maps and videos of the targets.

The Mumbai operation was extremely crucial for Hamza on a personal level too. Sabauddin, Hamza's partner from the botched IISc attack, had told the Bangalore police during his interrogation that both of them had received a dressing down. Both were given one more chance to prove themselves, Sabauddin also told the Bangalore Anti Terrorist Squad during his interrogation around five months ago.

While Sabauddin was sent to carry out the attack on the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force in Uttar Pradesh's Rampur town, Hamza stayed back in Pakistan and plotted the Mumbai operation.

Security agencies are now trying to ascertain whether some of the calls made by the Mumbai attackers were to Hamza. He is said to have briefed the Mumbai attackers on how they could return to their base in case of any problem. He gave them details of the route from India into Pakistan: The same route via Kathmandu that he used to flee India. This route is a often used by the terrorists and the likes of Riyaz Bhatkal and Abdul Subhan, two of the most wanted men in India, had also used the same route.

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Vicky Nanjappa