INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR---PAPER NO. 465
The number of fatalities in the serial explosions in Assam on the forenoon of October 30,2008, has since gone up to 75, with the death ofsome of the injured in the hospitals. Another about 300 persons are undergoing treatment in the hospitals and some of them are stated tobe in a serious condition.
2. According to the Police, there was a total of nine blasts timed to take place in four different cities or towns in the State between 11 and11-30 AM.The most devastating in terms of casualties (35 killed), property damage and psychological effect on the people were the three inGuwahati, the Capital. In all these three cases, the improvised explosive device (IED) was kept in the boot of cars. The use of the boot of acar for keeping the explosives enabled the perpetrators to keep more explosive material than one could in a bicycle or in a tiffin box. In theAhmedabad blasts of July,26,2008, the explosive device was kept in a car in the incident near a local hospital. Motor-vehicle- borne IEDsalso cause more casualties due to the splinter effect and large fires, which have a traumatic effect on the local population. Many who rangme up after the Guwahati explosions remarked that the scene with cars burning reminded them of what they had been seeing on the TVabout similar incidents in Baghdad. This kind of trauma one did not witness during the earlier serial explosions in three towns of UttarPradesh in November last year, in Jaipur in May,2008, in Bangalore and Ahmedabad in July, in New Delhi in September and in Agartala inOctober. The three cars had been kept parked with the IED near a vegetable and fruit market at Ganeshguri below a fly-over, in front of theoffice of the Kamrup Deputy Commissioner, and near a police station in the Fancy Bazaar. The Ganeshguri area is near the high securitycomplex of the capital.
3. There were three explosions in the town of Kokrajhar in which 21 persons were killed. The IEDs were kept inside bags. A bag left in alocal fish market seemed to have caused the largest number of casualties. Kokrajhar is the town headquarters of the Bodoland TerritorialCouncil (BTC). There were recently violent attacks on illegal immigrants from Bangladesh by sections of the Bodo tribals.Eleven personswere killed in two explosions in the Barpeta area. There was one explosion in the Bongaigon area, which does not appear to have causedany fatality. According to one report, the IED left in the Bongaigon area, which initially failed to explode, exploded after the police found itand were trying to defuse it. Ten persons were injured.
4. Forensic experts have not yet identified the explosives used, but the local police have been suspecting that the perpetrators hadprobably used a mix of the RDX and TNT. If they had used a high-power explosive like RDX and kept it in the boot of a car, the number ofinstant fatalities must have been more. Anyhow, one has to await the forensic report.
5. The traumatic nature of the explosions, the like of which Assam-----particularly Guwahati---- had not seen before caused an outburst ofpublic anger against the authorities for failing to prevent the explosions. This necessitated the imposition of a curfew in some parts of thecapital.
6. While Assam has been seeing for some years well synchronised serial blasts----either in different places in the same town or in differenttowns simultaneously--- those blasts were carried out with low-intensity explosives with low lethality. The synchronisation, the lethality andthe expertise in assembling the IEDs exhibited in the October 30 blasts show the availability of higher lethality explosives and betterexpertise in using them. It is the assessment of the local police officers that the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), the ethnicterrorist group which has been fighting for an independent Assam, does not have the kind of material and expertise used on October 30.Only jihadi organisations----of local as well as Bangladeshi origin--- have such material and expertise. Among such organisations are theHarkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami of Bangladesh known as HUJI (B) to distinguish it from the HUJI of Pakistan and the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen (JUM),which had carried out nearly 450 synchronised explosions of low intensity IEDs in different places in Bangladesh on August 17,2005. TheJUM's activities in Bangladesh are in a state of disarray following the arrest, trial and execution of some of its principal leaders by theBangladesh authorities last year. While the Bangladesh authorities have been able to neutralise its top leadership, its middle-levelleadership, infrastructure and trained cadres are still intact. Its capability for carrying out serial blasts of the nature seen on October 30 isunimpaired. The leadership, infrastructure and trained cadres of the HUJI (B) are also intact.
7. The Assamese police authorities, therefore, suspect that the explosions were more likely to have been carried out by one of theseorganisations or both, with the role of the ULFA, if at all there was any, limited to providing local logistics. The ULFA itself, through aspokesman based in Assam, has strongly denied that it had organised the explosions. The denial might have been motivated by the strongpublic anger over the blasts.
8.An organisation identifying itself by the abbreviation ISF (IM) has claimed responsibility for the blasts in a text message sent to a local TVchannel in Guwahati. The authorities think that these abbreviations stand for Islamic Security Force (Indian Mujahideen). A local jihadiorganisation by the name Islamic Security Force had come to notice in 2002, but it had not indulged in such activities so far. The textmessage might have been sent from a stolen mobile. Before the recent Olympics in Beijing, there was an explosion in a bus in Kunming. Theperpetrator of that blast had also claimed responsibility in a text message sent from a cell phone. He could not be traced by the localauthorities.
9.Before the visit of L.K.Advani, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to Shillong on September 28 and 29, 2008, the local policeand media reportedly received two E-mail messages holding out threats against him. One of these messages was from a local law studentby name Mominul Haque. He was identified as the suspected originator of this message and arrested. The second message purported to befrom what was described as the North-East branch of the IM. It was reportedly received by a local media house on September 25. Theoriginator of the message gave his name as Ali Hussain Badr, field commander of the IM in the North-East. The message said: "Our mainobjective is to blow Advani to pieces. Our suicide bombers are ready for this prestigious assignment. Advani's Hindutva demand seems topush India into a fascist mould and, as is well known, the proclaimed and identified main enemy of the architects of Hindutva (are) theMuslims and the Christians. Apart from the Babri Masjid demolition to the Gujarat massacre and the recent attacks on churches in Orissa,Karnataka, and some parts of Madhya Pradesh, Advani has always tried to portray the Muslims and Christians as inveterate enemies of theHindus.This will be history in the making in the state of Meghalaya when our suicide bombers will rock Shillong. Stop us if you can. We havealready set our foot in Shillong to kill Advani." The Shillong Police took added precautions and no terrorist strike took place during Advani'svisit. The serial blasts in Agartala took place two days after his visit to Shillong.
10 It is difficult to comment on the authenticity of these messages sent in the name of the IM because the originators had not given anyindicator of authenticity. After the Jaipur and Ahmedabad blasts, the originators had given such indicators in the form of pics of the IEDs atthe spot where they were left.
11. For the present, I am inclined to agree with the assessment of the local police that there is a greater evidence of jihadi involvement thanULFA involvement. The ULFA, being an ethnic terrorist organisation, generally takes care to target mainly non-Assamese from other parts ofIndia such as Biharis and Sindhis working and living in Assam. It avoids indiscriminate placing of the IEDS which might kill Assamese aswell as non-Assamese Indian nationals. The jihadis kill indiscriminately.The October 30 killings appear to have been indiscriminate
12. If one carefully analyses the various serial blasts which have taken place in different parts of India since November,2007, one couldnotice an organic, mushroom-like growth of jihadi terrorist cells in different parts of India----- self-radicalised, self-motivated, self-organisedwith self-planning and self-execution of the strikes---- with each cell motivated by its own local grievances, but with all these cells having anas yet invisible connectivity with a single brain and a single source of inspiration orchestrating them. The police of Ahmedabad, Delhi andMumbai have been able to identify and arrest the individual perpetrators, but they still do not have an idea of the brain and the commandand control of these perpetrators.
13.The intelligence agencies and the police have been repeatedly taken by surprise and there are many inadequacies in theirperformance.But I find it cruel to keep criticising them all the time because they can be effective only if the political leadership allows themto be effective. Despite the wave of serial blasts and mass casualties caused by the jihadis from our Muslim population, the present politicalleadership in the Government of India and the Congress (I) continues to be in a denial mode. For them, the Muslim votes in the forthcomingelections are more important than the lives of innocent men, women and children. They are not prepared to admit that some Muslim youth inour own Muslim population have taken to jihadi terrorism of Al Qaeda kind. To admit that would amount to admitting that their policy ofmollycoddling the Muslims has proved counterproductive and is threatening the unity of the country and its well-being. One can seeevidence of this disturbing mindset in the case of the Assam blasts of October 30 too. While the professionals have been saying that thejihadis have done it, the political leadership is not mentally prepared to blame the Indian jihadis.
14. In the face of the inaction by the Government of India, the Indian Mujahideen is growing, like the Internet, organically----- with nobodyknowing where is the beginning of this Jihadi Net, where is its end, how the various jihadi cells are connected with each other and who isfacilitating their connectivity. It is a frightening scenario.
15. The Annexure gives extracts from my earlier articles on the subject. (1-11-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com)
1.Despite the recent arrests by the police of Gujarat, Delhi and Mumbai of elements associated with the IM and the SIMI in connection withthe serial blasts of the past, explosions continue to take place in a widespread area across the country. This clearly indicates that while theperpetrators of the previous blasts have been identified and in some cases arrested, the jihadi iceberg and its command and control are yetto be identified. The analytical reports regarding the IM and its linkages being carried by the media on the basis of police and intelligencebriefings show that our police and intelligence agencies have been shifting from one speculative assessment to another. ( 2-10-08Mushrooming Terrorism: Now Agartala http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers29/paper2866.html )
2.Pleasing the Muslims at any price----by closing our eyes to the depredations of the jihadi terrorists in our midst--- in order to retain theirsupport during the election has become an important driving force of the electoral strategy of the ruling coalition. If hundreds of innocentcivilians have to die as a result, so be it. Keeping the Muslims happy is more important than protecting the lives and property of the citizensof this country. Another disturbing trend has not received the attention it deserved. Many members of the Cabinet of Manmohan Singh andmany leaders of the ruling coalition are reportedly unhappy with the intelligence agencies and the Police for speaking of home-grown jihaditerrorism. They are also reportedly unhappy with the Prime Minister himself for drawing attention to this in his address to the Governors'conference. They want that the focus should continue to be on Pakistan and the terrorists sponsored by Pakistan and that one should nothighlight the role of the Indian Muslims in the global jihad. They are worried that the talk of home-grown jihadi terrorism might increasepressure on the Government to step up the monitoring of developments in the Indian Muslim community and identify and neutralise theIndian Muslims taking to jihadi terrorism. ( 20-9-08 JIHADIS HOLD INDIA TO RANSOM http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers29/paper2850.html )
3.If these blasts continue in this manner with the police and the intelligence agencies being perceived not only by our public, but also byforeign Governments and investors as helpless, it could come in the way of our efforts to invite more foreign investment. The foreigninvestors have till now shown signs of continuing confidence in the capability of our Police and security agencies to prevail over theterrorists sooner than later. But, if such incidents continue at regular intervals, this confidence could be shaken. (19-9-08 Counter-Terrorism:Act Now. http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers29/paper2848.html )
4.It should be apparent by now firstly, that we have only identified the tip of the jihadi iceberg in our midst. The iceberg itself remainsunexposed. Secondly, we have not yet been able to identify the command and control of the IM. Thirdly, like Al Qaeda, the IM is divided intoa number of autonomous cells each capable of operating independently without being affected by the identification and neutralisation ofthe cells involved in previous blasts. (13-9-08 Self-Styled Indian Mujahideen Strikes in New Delhi http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers29/paper2844.html )