Tuesday, October 19, 2010



Indo-US co-operation in counter-terrorism has the following components:
• Assistance in capacity building in traditional counter-terrorism: Started in the early 1980s during the administration of Ronald Reagan when some officers of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) were sent initially to the UK and then to the US for training in matters like dealing with hostage situations. Aviation security to prevent and deal with hijacking was an important initial area of US assistance in capacity-building. This has since expanded to cover other areas such as forensic examination of explosive devices.
• Assistance in capacity-building in non-traditional areas: Started in 2001 during the administration of George Bush at the initiative of Richard Armitage, the then US Deputy Secretary of State. Cyber security was the initial area of US assistance. This was extended to other areas such as maritime security in ports and container vessels, prevention of catastrophic acts of terrorism involving the use of weapons of mass destruction material etc.
• Assistance in strengthening the physical security of vulnerable establishments and sectors such as urban transport: Started during the administration of George Bush after the explosions in some Mumbai suburban trains in July,2006.
• Mutual legal assistance in the investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases: Started during the second term of Ronald Reagan when the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was sought by India for the investigation of the assassination of Gen.A.S.Vaidya, retired Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), by some Khalistani terrorists in Pune in 1985. The co-operation declined during the administration of Bill Clinton. The US agencies were only partly helpful when their assistance was sought in the investigation and prosecution of the Mumbai blasts of March,1993. The co-operation has improved under the George Bush and Barack Obama Administrations. Under the Obama Administration, the FBI was helpful in the forensic examination of the intercepts during the 26/11 terrorist strikes. For the first time, FBI officers testified before the trial court through video-conferencing. In the past, the FBI's policy was not to allow its officers to testify before an Indian court.
• Intelligence-sharing: This is the most unsatisfactory aspect of Indo-US counter-terrorism co-operation. Before 26/11, the US had hardly ever shared with India any worthwhile preventive intelligence. However, in 2008, during the Bush Administration, the FBI was reported to have passed on to Indian agencies three fairly specific bits of information about the plans of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) to launch a sea-borne attack on some seafront establishments in Mumbai including the Taj Mahal hotel. This information cannot by any means be described as vague or non-specific. If the Indian agencies had promptly acted in strengthening physical security as a follow-up to this, 26/11 might have been prevented. Despite this instance, intelligence-sharing from the US has generally been unsatisfactory due to the following reasons. Firstly, the large, prosperous and politically active Sikh community in the US prevented their Governments from co-operating fully with the Government of India in dealing with Khalistani terrorism. Secondly, all US administrations have as a matter of policy refrained from sharing with India intelligence relating to terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir. Thirdly, the US agencies are allowed to share with India only preventive intelligence relating to planned acts of terrorism by jihadi organisations in Indian territory outside J&K. Here too, the agencies are required to share the intelligence in such a manner as not to implicate Pakistan and not to add substance to India's case against Pakistan for the sponsorship of terrorism in Indian territory. There have been exceptions to this such as the reported US warning to India about a planned terrorist strike against the Indian Embassy in Kabul by terrorist elements instigated by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). So long as the US continues to attach importance to counter-terrorism co-operation from Pakistan for dealing with the situation in Afghanistan, its intelligence-sharing with India and co-operation with India against Pakistan will be half-hearted.
• Mutual assistance in the interrogation of arrested terrorist suspects, sharing of the produce of the interrogation and opportunities for the examination of captured documents: Another highly-unsatisfactory area of co-operation due to the US keenness to protect Pakistan from the consequences of its using terrorism against India. It was reported that after the US troops entered Kabul in 2001, the US response to Indian requests for the interrogation of some suspects and for the examination of some documents relating to the Kandahar hijacking of 1999 was unsatisfactory. So was its much-delayed response to Indian requests for the prompt interrogation of David Coleman Headley of the Chicago cell of the LET who had visited India five times for collecting targeting information for the LET. While the FBI did share with India information relating to the planned terrorist strikes in Mumbai (the dates were not known), it did not share with India collateral information which might have enabled India to unearth the LET network in India. Fears that if it shared the collateral information with India, its agencies might arrest and interrogate Headley thereby exposing his links with the US agencies seem to have stood in the way of this sharing. The recently reported disclosures of two ex-wives of Headley----one living in the US and the other in Pakistan---about their alerting an FBI Task Force in New York and the US Embassy in Islamabad regarding Headley’s terrorist links with the LET could have embarrassing legal consequences for the US Government. The LET was designated by the US State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) under US laws in 2000. It is criminal for any US national to maintain contacts with an FTO or to assist it in any way. The alerts of the two ex-wives showed that Headley had violated US laws relating to contacts with an FTO. He should have been immediately detained, investigated and prosecuted. The FBI did not do so. He continued to maintain his contacts with the LET and we have an instance of an American national helping an FTO in killing some US nationals in Mumbai without the FBI taking any action to stop this. If the relatives of the Americans killed in Mumbai take the State Department, the US Embassy in Islamabad and the FBI to court for this, they could face difficulty in defending themselves.

2. Before 2000, there was no institutional mechanism for facilitating and co-ordinating Indo-US co-operation. The co-operation was handled informally at the level of the intelligence and investigative agencies of the two countries. During their meeting in London in January 2000, Jaswant Singh, the then Indian Foreign Minister, and Strobe Talbot, the then US Deputy Secretary of State, agreed to set up an institutional mechanism in the form of the Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism. This was followed by the setting up of an Indo-US Cyber Security Forum as suggested by Armitage in 2002. The Forum ran into controversy following Indian suspicions that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had misused it for penetrating the National Security Council Secretariat. During Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Washington DC in November last year, the two countries launched what was described as a Joint Counter-Terrorism Initiative to strengthen counter-terrorism co-operation in different fields such as forensics, megacity policing etc. This was formalized into a Memo of Understanding in July,2010. It is not clear which institution co-ordinates and monitors its implementation. The Headley case illustrates deficiencies in its implementation.

3. After the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984, India and the UK set up what was called Indo-UK Back Channel For Counter-Terrorism Co-operation, which at that time was mainly directed against Khalistani terrorists. This consisted of hot lines connecting the chiefs of the intelligence agencies of the two countries and periodic co-ordination meetings between the counter-terrorism experts of the countries. It worked very well because the trust level between the Indian and British agencies was high.

4. The trust level between the Indian and US agencies leaves much to be desired. The US anxiety to protect Pakistan adds to the distrust. How to improve the trust level and what should be the institutional mechanism for improving co-operation are important questions which should be discussed by our Prime Minister and President Obama during their forthcoming meeting in New Delhi next month. ( 20-10-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Sunday, October 17, 2010




More disclosures relating to David Coleman Headley of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) embarrassing to the USA’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have been brought out in two detailed investigative reports by Sebastian Rotella of ProPublica, a public service web site which specializes in investigative reporting. These two reports titled “ FBI Was Warned Years in Advance of Mumbai Attacker’s Terror Ties’ and “Feds Confirm Mumbai Plotter Trained With Terrorists While Working for DEA”, which were published on the web site on October 15 and 16,2010, have also been used by the “Washington Post”, thereby adding to their credibility.

2. About three-fourths of these reports are based on a study of the court documents filed by the prosecution against Headley. The remaining is fresh information gathered from two ex-wives of Headley ---one an American based in the US and the other a Moroccan based in Pakistan--- and serving and retired officials of the FBI and other agencies whose identities have not been revealed for valid reasons.

3. The salient points in the investigative reports are:

• “In three interviews with federal agents, Headley’s wife (based in the US) said that he was an active militant in the terrorist group Lashkar-i-Taiba, had trained extensively in its Pakistani camps, and had shopped for night vision goggles and other equipment, according to officials and sources close to the case. The wife, whom ProPublica is not identifying to protect her safety, also told agents that Headley had bragged of working as a paid U.S. informant while he trained with the terrorists in Pakistan, according to a person close to the case. Federal officials say the FBI “looked into” the tip, but they declined to say what, if any, action was taken. Headley was jailed briefly in New York on charges of domestic assault, but was not prosecuted. He wasn’t captured until 11 months after the Mumbai attack, when British intelligence alerted U.S. authorities that he was in contact with al Qaeda operatives in Europe.”
• “On Saturday (October 16), the New York Times reported that another of Headley’s wives – he apparently was married to three women at the same time – had also warned U.S. officials about his terrorism involvement. In December 2007, the Moroccan woman met with officials at the U.S. embassy in Pakistan and told them about Headley’s friendship with Lashkar members, his hatred of India and her trips with him to the Taj Mahal Hotel, a prime target of the Mumbai attacks, the Times reported. On Saturday federal officials said the women’s tips lacked specificity. “U.S. authorities took seriously what Headley's former wives said,” a senior administration official said. “Their information was of a general nature and did not suggest any particular terrorist plot."
• “Headley’s relationship with the U.S. government is especially delicate because the investigation has shown that he also had contact with suspected Pakistani intelligence officials and a Pakistani militant named Ilyas Kashmiri, who has emerged as a top operational leader of al Qaeda.”

4. The following conclusions emerge from the two investigative reports :

• Firstly, Headley was initially an informant (source) of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). He was being used for the collection of intelligence about the activities of the LET in Pakistan. For this purpose, he used to visit Pakistan.
• Secondly, in Auguat 2005, his US-based ex-wife had alerted an FBI task force about Headley’s links with the LET, his training by the LET in Pakistan and his helping the LET in the procurement of equipment like night-vision glasses. She had also told the FBI about his E-mail and other contacts in Pakistan. She had also complained that he was ill-treating her and beating her. The FBI questioned him about her allegations of ill-treatment, but did not seriously follow up her tips about his ties with the LET. ( My comment: The FBI probably did not question him about his links with the LET on the basis of her tips because it was already aware of the details since he was its source).
• Thirdly, in December 2007, his Moroccan ex-wife complained to the US Embassy in Islamabad about his links with the LET. (My comment: It is not clear what action the US Embassy took on her complaint )
• Fourthly, during 2008, the FBI came to know about the plans of the LET to launch a sea-borne terrorist strike on certain targets in the Mumbai sea-front, including the Taj Mahal Hotel. It promptly passed on the information to the Indian agencies. (My comment: The FBI could not have been expected to tell the Indian agencies that the information came from Headley. This was a specific piece of information complete in many respects except the date of the planned attacks. No intelligence or investigation agency would reveal the name of a source giving such specific information. )
• Fifthly, Headley had visited India five times on behalf of the LET to collect operational intelligence and to help the LET in the selection of targets and the landing point for the boat. ( My comment: Before starting his visits to India, he had taken a new passport under the name David Coleman Headley in place of his previous passport under the name Daood Gilani in order to conceal his Pakistani origin from the Indian consular and immigration authorities. The FBI would have been expected to share this information with the Indian authorities, but it did not do so. Had the FBI done so, the Indian authorities might have been able to establish the details of his Indian network, arrest and question him and pre-empt the attack ).
• Sixthly,he visited India once again after the terrorist strike under the name Headley. Even then, the FBI did not alert the Indian authorities.
• Seventhly, why did the FBI not arrest and interrogate him immediately after the Mumbai terrorist strikes? It seems to have arrested him only after it intercepted messages about his being used by the LET and Ilyas Kashmiri of the 313 Brigade for planning a terrorist strike in Copenhagen against a newspaper which had published cartoons of Prophet Mohammad in 2005. The arrest was made actually after the British intelligence came to know of his contacts with some assets of Ilyas in Europe for planning the attack in Copenhagen. The FBI moved against him seriously only after coming to know of his role in the planned attack in Copenhagen. It did not show the same seriousness in respect of his role in the Mumbai attack.

5. How helpful was the FBI in helping the Indian agencies in this case? It would be difficult to answer this question unless one knows the following details:

• When did the FBI first take the initiative in informing the Indian agencies about the arrest of Headley and the information obtained from him?
• Why did the FBI delay its response to the Indian request for permission to interrogate him?
• Why did the FBI insist on his being interrogated in US custody in the presence of FBI officers and did not allow Indian officers to question him in their custody?

6. During the visit of Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh to Washington DC, in November last year for talks with President Barack Obama, the two countries had reached what was described as a Joint Counter-Terrorism Initiative to promote counter-terrorism co-operation between the agencies of the two countries. The suspicious conduct of the FBI in keeping the Indian agencies in the dark about all relevant aspects of the involvement of Headley with the LET and his role in helping the LET in carrying out the terrorist strikes, delaying their interrogation of Headley and imposing conditions on the way he was interrogated would add to the suspicions of the Indian agencies that the Joint Counter-Terrorism Initiative was an eye-wash sold to India to cover up the sins of commission and omission of the FBI and to conceal from the American families whose members were killed by the LET in Mumbai the extent of the FBI’s knowledge which could have been used to prevent the strikes.

7.While this issue may not have any major impact on the forthcoming visit of Obama to India next month, it will definitely add to the traditional distrust nursed by the Indian agencies about their US counterparts. ( 17-10-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Friday, October 15, 2010


India wins gold in security

By Rory Medcalf - 15 October 2010 1:31PM

Whatever the mixed reviews of the management side of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India's security forces deserve praise for their exceptional success in preventing terrorism there.

At the start of the Games, I published a Lowy Institute Perspective explaining the risks and the wider context of terrorism in India. My assessment was that a major attack was unlikely, but that it would very difficult to prevent small attacks on soft targets distant from the Games venues, along the lines of the shootings of two Taiwanese tourists in Old Delhi on 19 September.

Yet preventing more such attacks was precisely what the massive Indian security blanket did. Who knows what scares or near misses we may never hear about, or what plots were thwarted at an early stage. And who knows whether this confirms that, when the military and intelligence powers-that-be in Pakistan do not want to see terrorism in India, suddenly there is a miraculous absence of violence.

Still, it would seem that reform of India's internal security apparatus has come a considerable distance since the disaster of Mumbai in November 2008. In any case, I am delighted if some of the more downbeat elements of my assessment now stand corrected.

India is a prominent target of terrorism — it shares with Israel, the US and its allies the honour of being on Osama Bin Laden's hate list. And it has internal political and security challenges that no other democracy — let alone an authoritarian state — could imagine. The presence of thousands of foreigners in New Delhi for two weeks — many of them from nations previously attacked by jihadis — must have been a tempting target.

India has protected its guests and itself, and on security grounds at least deserves a gold medal.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010



More people were killed and more material damage was caused by the quake in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and some parts of the North-West Frontier Province ( now called Khyber Pakhtunkwa ) in 2005 than by the recent floods, but the fatalities and damages were confined to a small geographic area.Moreover, there was no long-term damage to Pakistan's economy. Gen.Pervez Musharraf, who was then in power, got over the initial bungling in disaster management and ensured that the Army and the civil administration worked together in dealing with the disaster. He did not have to worry much about the impact of the quake on the morale of the army since very few families of serving soldiers were affected.

2.The disaster caused by the recent floods in Pakistan was spread over a large geographic area extending right across Pakistan. It has caused severe damage to Pakistan's agricultural economy. Many of the strategically important and sensitive areas of Pakistan were affected----particularly in Punjab and in Khyber Pakhtunkwa. Those are the areas from which both the Pakistan Army and the so-called Pashtun and Punjabi Talibans make their recruitment.

3. The disaster has affected the Army and the Talibans in different ways. In the Army, the families of many soldiers have been affected. Their land holdings have been rendered unfit for cultivation for some months. The families need all the assistance they could get from the family members to put the land back to cultivation. Difficulties in obtaining leave have created pockets of unhappiness in the lower ranks of the Army. This unhappiness is directed against the senior military and political leadership. Fotunately, desertion rates and instances of unauthorised absence from duty have not gone up. At least, not yet, but they could as the soldiers face increasing pressure from the families to come home on leave to rapair the flood damages to the family land holdings.

4. Gen.Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), who used to be viewed as the soldiers' General has lost some of his shine. His recent stoppage of logistic supplies to the NATO troops in Afghanistan in retaliation for the deaths of two para-military soldiers in a NATO helicopter raid into Pakistani border areas was an attempt to regain his shine as the soldiers’ General. The soldiers, whose families have been affected by the floods, are unhappy with him for two reasons. Firstly, for failing to attend to their problems. Secondly, for failing to force the civil administration to help their families. The Army was active in rescue missions at the height of the floods thereby winning the praise of many civilians, but its role in rehabilitation measures has been very limited. Moreover, the Army is blamed for the inadequacies of the civilian adminstration. "Musharraf would have handled the situation differently", is the comment one often comes across among the lower ranks of the Army.

5. This seeping unhappiness is not only likely to affect its counter-insurgency performance, but it would also add to the sympathy for the Talibans in the lower ranks, thereby possibly sowing the seeds for the Talibanisation of the Army. Osama bin Laden, who has come out with an audio message on the flood situation, has sensed the jihadi opportunities in the country as a whole and in the army in particular as a result of the floods.

6. The impact of the floods on the jihadi organisations has been of a different character. They have stepped up the assistance for putting the rural economy back on its feet----- in the form of seeds and fertilisers and contribution of voluntary labour by their cadres and humanitarian workers to bring the damaged land holdings back under cultivation. They have allowed or even encouraged their trained jihadis to go back to their villages to help their families in coping with the situation. Hence, the drop in recruitment and in the number of terrorist attacks by these organisations since the floods. They are prepared to accept a slowing-down of their jihad in the interest of keeping up the morale of their cadres and winning more support from the rural areas.

7. The political leadership has failed to evaluate the strategic consequences of the floods from the point of view of damage to the rural agricultural economy and the fight against extremism and terrorism. There has been very little co-ordination between the Army and the civilian administration in dealing with the situation. The likely impact of the floods on military morale has not been properly analysed and corrective action has not been taken. The Government of Pakistan and its international backers have been behaving as if all that was needed was more and more money. Financial assistance has been plenty, but this assistance has not addressed the problems of the rural families, which are the mainstay of the Army as well as the Talibans.

8. The result: A situation which could lead to greater instability in Pakistan and provide a more fertile soil than in the past for the spread of jihadi terrorism. An unhappy soldier class could become a new factor in Pakistan's future woes. (13-10-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Wednesday, October 6, 2010




After the Arabs and the Pakistanis, the Uzbeks have come to the forefront of Al Qaeda-inspired global jihad.

---- From my article of September 6,2007, titled “Global Jihad: Uzbeks To The Fore - International Terrorism Monitor---Paper No. 273” at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers24%5Cpaper2360.html

On August 15,2007, the Pakistani authorities handed over to Germany Tolga Durbin, a German citizen of Turkish origin, who belonged to the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), an Uzbek terrorist organization, which claimed to represent the Muslims of the world and not merely the Uzbeks. It was closely aligned with Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban and drew its recruits from the non-Arab sections of the Islamic world, particularly the Uzbeks, the Turks who are ethnically close to the Uzbeks and European white converts to Islam.

2.After interrogating him, the German Police arrested on September 4, 2007, Fritz Martin Gelowicz, 28, a German convert to Islam, Daniel Martin Schneider, 21, another German convert to Islam, and Adem Yilmaz, 29 of Turkish origin on charges of their being members of the IJU. A fourth person Gofir Salimov, an Uzbek, who was also suspected to be a member of the IJU, managed to flee Germany before he could be arrested. The German authorities claimed that the arrested persons, who were led by Gelowicz, were planning to attack with massive car bombs the Ramstein military airbase, about 140 km South-West of Frankfurt, and the Frankfurt airport. The Ramstein airbase is the largest base used by the US army in Europe. The investigation brought out the name of another member of the IJU in Germany Attila Selek, also known as Muaz. He was also arrested.

3.It was reported that the objective of the planned attack on the Ramstein base was to force Germany to close down its air base in Termez, Uzbekistan, which was providing logistic support for some 3,000 German soldiers serving in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. During the searches undertaken by the German Police after the arrest of the four persons, they recovered a 35% solution of hydrogen peroxide, stored in a hideout, which could have been converted into an explosive device and 26 military detonators smuggled from Istanbul to Germany. The police filed a charge-sheet against the arrested persons on September 2,2008.

4. During the trial, Gelowicz and the three other defendants admitted that they were members of the IJU and that their planned attack, which could not be carried out due to their arrests before their plans could make progress, was timed to coincide with a vote in the German parliament on extending the country's military presence in Afghanistan. In their testimonies they also said that they went to Pakistan in 2006 to undergo training in a camp of the IJU.

5. All the four were found guilty by a Dusseldorf court on March 5,2010. Fritz Gelowicz and Daniel Schneider, the two German converts to Islam, were jailed for 12 years each and the two Germans of Turkish origin, Adem Yilmaz and Aytila Selek, received 11-year and five-year prison terms respectively.

6. During the investigation of this case, the German Police reportedly found that Eric Breininger, another white convert to Islam who changed his name after conversion as Abdul Ghafar, had escaped to Pakistan via Egypt and Iran and was operating from a camp of the IJU in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). He was born in Neunkirchen in the Saarland region of Germany, in 1987. His parents divorced when he was a child. In 2006, he met some members of the IJU and embraced Islam. On May 23,2008, a web site associated with the IJU posted a video interview with Eric Breininger in which he warned that "Germany - along with every other nation taking part in the occupation of Afghanistan - should expect attacks by Muslims". On September 25, 2008, the German Police issued a look-out notice for Eric Breininger, and Houssain Al Malla, who were wanted for trial in the Ramstein plot case. On October 21,2008, another video message of Breininger was posted by the IJU in which he denied any plans for a terrorist attack in Germany. Elif Medya, a Turkish-language jihadi media outlet, released a video on September 11, 2009, showing Ramadan donations being given to the German and Turkish members of the IJU in which Breininger was shown along with another person who was described as the Turkish jihadi commander Abu Zarr (Ebu Zarr). It was stated that Abu Zarr had traveled from Chechnya to Afghanistan/Pakistan. On April 15, 2010, in another video message Breininger claimed that the “German Taliban Mujahideen” had carried out an attack against an American base in Paktika, East Afghanistan, between Kabul and Kandahar. He described it as the first operation of the German Taliban in Afghanistan. Subsequently, the Pakistani authorities claimed to have killed him in an encounter on April 30,2010.

7. While the Dusseldorf trial was on, the German Police arrested in February,2010, two persons of immigrant origin with German passports, one of whom, a woman, was described by the media as the wife of Gelowicz on a charge of collecting money for the IJU from the Muslim community in Germany and sending it to the IJU through an intermediary in Turkey. They said a third person of immigrant origin wanted in this case was absconding. The police did not give the full names of the three persons. They were merely identified as 21-year-old Alican T, 31-year-old Fatih K, and a woman, 28-year-old Filiz G. They were charged in a local court in August,2010, with supporting the IJU and an organization described as the German Taliban. They were also accused of recruiting members for Al Qaeda and spreading propaganda material online.

8. In July 2010, Ahmed Sidiqi, a German citizen of Afghan origin who had disappeared from Hamburg along with 11 other Muslims including his Indonesian wife in 2009, was arrested by a group of plain-clothed US soldiers in Kabul while he was going to the German embassy. Sidiqi went to Germany from Afghanistan in the early 1990s. He became a naturalised German citizen in 2001. He worked at Hamburg's airport as a cleaner. In March,2009, he and his wife flew to Peshawar, where they joined 10 others including a German of Syrian descent, Rami Makanesi, a German of Iranian origin, Shahab Dashti and Naamen Meziche, a French citizen of Algerian origin. According to the German news magazine Der Spiegel, Sidiqi told his US interrogators that after receiving training in Pakistan, he fought in Afghanistan and met Said Bahaji, who is wanted for involvement in 9/11. Sidiqi reportedly moved to Mir Ali, a border town in North Waziristan where he met Sheikh Younis al-Mauretani, who Sidiqi said had become Al Qaeda's third most senior leader. The Sheikh told him about plans for a series of attacks in several European countries, including the UK, Germany and France, according to Der Spiegel. Sidiqi claimed that Osama bin Laden had approved the plot and also provided some funding.

9. The claims made by Sidiqi seem to have triggered concerns in US and European security agencies about the likelihood of Mumbai-26/11 style terrorist strikes in the UK, France and Germany involving commando style attacks with mixed modus operandi combining the use of hand-held weapons and explosives. The objective will be to punish EU countries playing a prominent role in the operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Madrid terrorist strikes of March 2004 and the London terrorist strikes of July 2005 were directed against the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. The terrorist strikes planned now would seek to punish the West for its involvement in Afghanistan.

10 In the Madrid strikes, North African members of Al Qaeda played an active role. Pakistani suicide bombers played an active role in the London blasts. It is likely that a mix of jihadis of Pakistani (in UK), North African (in France) and Uzbek and Turkish origin (in Germany) could play a role in the Afghanistan-focused terrorist strikes now being planned. One found an Afghanistan focus even in the Mumbai—26/11 terrorist strikes by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) since many of the foreigners killed came from countries whose troops were fighting in Afghanistan.

11. Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban are looking for an Afghanistan-focused operation in Europe, but there are no indications that trained persons for such an operation might have already been dispatched to Europe. The current Drone strikes in North and South Waziristan, in which some persons of German origin had been killed, are intended to pre-empt any new terrorist strikes in Europe by killing those trained or being trained for this purpose before they could be dispatched to Europe. The security alerts and travel advisories issued by the US and others indicate that despite the success of the Drone strikes, there is a fear that some trained jihadis might have already reached Europe. Ziercke, the head of Germany's Federal Office of Criminal Investigation, reportedly said in a recent interview with the Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel that there was evidence that at least 70 Islamic radicals from Germany had undergone military training in Pakistan, and that 40 of them are believed to have gone on to fight coalition forces in Afghanistan ( 6-10-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Monday, October 4, 2010




On December 5, 1988, an unidentified man with an Arabic accent telephoned the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki, Finland, and warned of a plot by the Abu Nidal Organisation to blow up, within two weeks, a Pan Am flight from Frankfurt to the United States. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the US issued a security alert the same day to all US airline companies having flights to Europe. The US State Department forwarded the same day copies of the FAA alert to all US diplomatic and consular missions in Europe. On December 13,1988, the security officer of the US Embassy in Moscow posted the security alert received from Washington DC on the bulletin board for US citizens living in Moscow in the U.S. Embassy and also mailed copies to all US citizens living in the USSR.American nationals living in the USSR reportedly cancelled or changed their travel plans after seeing the travel advisory.

2.On December 21, 1988, a Pan Am aircraft flying from London to New York was blown up in mid-air near Lockerbie in Southern Scotland killing all the 259 persons on board. Eleven villagers on the ground were killed by the falling parts of the disintegrating plane.

3. During the subsequent enquiries, inconvenient questions were raised as to why the US nationals except in the USSR were not informed of this threat and why the security advisory was circulated only to the US missions in Europe and the US airline offices and not shared with the general public. The practice of issuing in a systematic manner travel advisories cautioning US nationals about likely threats to their security when they are abroad started after this incident. Many other countries started emulating the US practice. After 9/11, many private companies in the travel industry and many banks started issuing their own travel advisories to their customers travelling abroad. This caused some confusion.

4. At the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security held at Madrid from March 8 to 11,2005, I had raised during a panel discussion the tendency of the US and the UK to issue frequent travel advisories against travel to certain countries on the basis of weak intelligence or, in some instances, even rumours. I pointed out how this practice of these two countries often created problems for India and other countries in Asia. I also narrated an instance of November,2002, when an American private bank in Thailand issued its own terrorism alert to its customers visiting Thailand, the nervousness it caused amongst tourists of all nationalities and the strong protests it evoked from the Thai authorities.

5. While there was no response to my intervention from any of the American experts present in the Panel, a British expert clarified that following strong representations from the airline industry, the British authorities were much more careful before issuing such advisories. I also stressed that travel advisories, where really necessary, should be issued only by Governments on the basis of advice from their intelligence agencies and that the practice of private companies issuing their own advisories should be discouraged. In this connection, kindly refer to my article of April 7,2005, titled " MADRID IMPRESSIONS--II: Economic Impact of Terrorism "at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers14%5Cpaper1328.html .

6. Against this background, one cannot find fault with the travel advisories issued by the US, Japan and some other countries to their nationals after the receipt of some information regarding the alleged plans of Al Qaeda and its associates to organise Mumbai--26/11 like terrorist strikes in the UK, France and Germany and by the authorities of Australia regarding the likelihood of terrorist incidents during the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Admittedly, the information on the basis of which they had issued their security alert is weak and uncorrobated, but their Governments have an obligation to inform their citizens that they are in receipt of such information. Otherwise, if the information proves to be correct and there is a terrorist incident, their Governments may find themselves taken to court for not cautioning the travelling public.

7.In the Western countries, victim activism in taking their Governments to task for not protecting them from terrorism is very strong after the Lockerbie incident and 9/11. The Governments have, therefore, to be very careful and keep their public informed. In India, despite the fact that it is one of the worst victims of terrorism, there is no victim activism even today. As a result, our Governments are able to get away with any sins of commission and omission.We saw it in the case of Mumbai-26/11. None of the relatives of the 141 Indian nationals killed has taken the Government to task for failing to protect them despite the availability of intelligence regarding the plans of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) to attack some hotels on the sea-front.Not even the Bharatiya Janata Parrty (BJP), which talks loudly from the roof-top about its hard stance on terrorism, has ever fought for the principle of victim activism and for victims' rights. ( 5-10-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )




Reference is invited to my article of September 22,2010, titled "Use of Motor-Bikes for Terrorism" at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers41%5Cpaper4055.html.

2. It is learnt that on the night of October 3,2010, eight unidentified persons riding four motor-cycles reached an open space adjacent to the Grand Trunk Road in Islamabad and the persons sitting on the pillion seats threw some inflammable liquid at the vehicles in a convoy hired by the NATO for carrying fuel to the NATO troops in Afghanistan and fired at the vehicles from firearms held by them. Twenty-eight vehicles were burnt to ashes and six persons were killed. The terrorists escaped on their motor-bikes. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is suspected. The convoy had halted in the open space for rest when it was attacked.

3. It may be recalled that on September 19 two persons riding a motor-bike opened fire and injured two Taiwanese tourists near the Jumma Masjid in Delhi. In a message subsequently received by some media offices, a claim of responsibility for the attack had been made on behalf of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) and a threat held out for a terrorist attack during the currently on-going Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. There has been no further claim or threat by the IM. Despite this, the need for further strengthening precautions against motor-cycle riding terrorists needs to be emphasised. ( 4-10-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )