Saturday, March 29, 2008




The Intelligence Bureau (IB) of the Government of India and the Police in different States----more particularly in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh--- need to be complimented for some major successes scored by them since the beginning of this year in the fight against indigenous jihadi terrorism. These successes will hopefully result in a disruption of the command and control of the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which has been functioning since 1993 as a feeder organisation to meet the human resource requirements of different indigenous and Pakistani jihadi terrorist organisations and as a propagator of the pan-Islamic ideology of Al Qaeda among the Indian Muslim youth. They have also resulted in the detection and neutralisation of a number of indigenous jihadi terrorist cells, which had come into being to carry out terriorist strikes in the future.

2. Their successes could be placed in the following three groups:
Arrests of long-absconding leaders of the SIMI, who had gone underground after the organisation was banned in 2001.The most significant of these arrests were made by the Madhya Pradesh Police at Indore this week. Among the 10 SIMI leaders arrested were Safdar Nagori, its Secretary-General and contact man with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) of Pakistan, and Shibly Peedical Abdul, a Kerala-born computer engineer.

Arrests of SIMI-connected suspects involved in various terrorist strikes since 9/11 in different parts of India outside Jammu & Kashmir. Peedical Abdul himself was suspected to have been involved in the synchronised explosions in Mumbai's suburban train network in July,2006. Among other suspected perpetrators arrested are Mohammad Sabahuddin, suspected in the killing of a participant in a conference at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, in December,2005, and in other strikes in Uttar Pradesh and his associate Fahim Ansari.

Arrests by the Karnataka Police of SIMI-connected terrorists , who were reportedly involved in planning future strikes in, among other places, in Bangalore and Goa.

3. Almost all the over 20 persons arrested are Indian Muslims with linkages to Pakistan and the Gulf. Some of them such as Nagori were admirers of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, but no evidence has yet emerged to show that they were acting at its behest. The arrests and the interrogation show a mix of two motives influencing the Indian Muslim youth taking to jihadi terrorism---- indigenous arising from their persisting anger over the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December,1992, and other acts, which are perceived by them as anti-Muslim, and external arising from the happenings in Iraq and Afghanistan. The text of an interview given by Nagori to "India Today" on April 2,2001, is attached. It gives an idea of his thinking and motivation.

4. The successes since the beginning of this year have been due to:

Better human intelligence. Many of the arrests were reportedly made on the basis of high quality HUMINT and not technical intelligence.

Better policing in the form of patrolling, local enquiries etc. The initial breakthrough in Karnataka could be attributed to better policing. The arrest of a person by a Head Constable in one of the districts on suspicion of involvement in auto thefts and his interrogation led to the neutralisation of a cell, which was planning attacks in Goa and Bangalore.

Better relations between the Police and the law-abiding members of the Muslim community, which has facilitated the flow of HUMINT. Better interrogation.

Better co-ordination between the IB and the State Police.

5. A trend noticed all over the world since 2004 is that jihadi terrorists are more and more self-motivated and less and less leader-dependent for their operations. They have shown a capability for operating autonomously even if their command and control is disrupted. The arrests made since the beginning of this year and the disruption of the command and control of the SIMI need not mean the beginning of the end of indigenous jihadi terrorism. Like Al Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the SIMI has shown in the past a significant resilience and had been able to recover fast from set-backs. It must be presumed that its capability for resilience remains intact even after these arrests.

6. The break-through made since the beginning of this year is definitely a feather in the cap for the Government of Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh. In an article (annexed) of December 15,2007, titled 'Fight against Terrorism: A Score Card", I had graded its counter-terrorism performance as "C". It can now be upgraded as "B". (30-3-08)

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

There has been an interesting debate between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress (I), during the course of the Gujarat election campaign, as to which party did better in the fight against terrorism. One should welcome the debate since it shows that as in the Western countries, in India too, counter-terrorism is becoming an important electoral issue. One wishes, however, that the debate was more professional than polemic.

2.The effectiveness of counter-terrorism depends more on the political leadership provided by the Prime Minister/Chief Minister of the day than on which party is in power. If one were to award objective gradings to different Prime Ministers/Chief Ministers for the political leadership provided by them in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency, one would award the following gradings:
Mrs. Indira Gandhi: A
Shri Rajiv Gandhi and Shri Narasimha Rao: B
Shri A. B. Vajpayee and Dr. Manmohan Singh: C
Shri V. P. Singh, Shri Chandrasekhar, Shri Deva Gowda and Shri I. K. Gujral: D
The late Shri Beant Singh, former Chief Minister of Punjab: A
Shri Sharad Pawar, former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Miss J. Jayalalita, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, and Shri M. Karunanidhi, present Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu: B
Shri Narendra Mod, Chief Minister of Gujarat: C
3.Why these gradings:
(a). Mrs. Indira Gandhi: The peace process in Nagaland was initiated by her through the Shillong Accord in 1975. The peace accord in Mizoram was at her initiative, though the final agreement was reached under Shri Rajiv Gandhi. No other Prime Minister of India handled hijackings as effectively as she did. There were eight hijackings when she was the Prime Minister----one by the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and the remaining seven by the Khalistanis. All these hijackings were got terminated without conceding the demands of the terrorists. She exploited the hijacking of an aircraft of the Indian Airlines to Lahore by two terrorists of the JKLF to set in motion the train of events, which led to the defeat of the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh. She managed to persuade the UAE authorities to terminate a hijacking by the Khalistanis when they took an IAC plane to Dubai, arrest the hijackers and hand them over to India. When the JKLF kidnapped Ravi Mhatre, an Indian diplomat posted in the Indian Assistant High Commission in Birmingham, and demanded the release of Maqbool Butt awaiting the implementation of a death penalty, she refused to concede their demand. When they killed Mhatre, she ordered the immediate execution of Butt. When the Khalistani extremists and the Akali leaders repulsed her offer for a political solution to their demands, which were considered legitimate, she did not hesitate to send the Army into the Golden Temple to flush out the terrorists. Of course, she was blamed for creating the Bhindranwale phenomenon, but one is not quite convinced of the validity of this allegation. On the negative side, the situation worsened in Manipur, Assam and Tripura during her Prime Ministership,. but she did take initiatives to address some of the grievances of the people of these areas. In counter-terrorism, she was the most defiant in the face of intimidation and the most proactive Prime Minister we have had. She initiated operational steps to teach Pakistan that its use of terrorism against India would not be cost free.
(b). Shri Rajiv Gandhi: The success of Operation Black Thunder in 1988 when the Khalistanis again occupied the Golden Temple was in no small measure due to the political leadership provided by him and the operational leadership provided by Shri K. P. S. Gill, the then Punjab Police chief, Shri Ved Marwah, the then chief of the National Security Guards, and Shri M. K .Narayanan, the then Director of the Intelligence Bureau. He carried forward Mrs. Gandhi's talks with Laldenga through intermediaries and successfully concluded the peace accord with the Mizo National Front (MNF). He initiated talks to find a peaceful solution in Punjab and Tripura, and did make some headway. He strengthened the counter-terrorism capabilities of the intelligence agencies and carried forward with vigour Mrs. Gandhi's policy of teaching a lesson to Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism against India. The credit for making Pakistan reverse its policy of supporting the Khalistanis should largely go to him and Shri Rao. Of course, he mishandled action to deal with terrorism by the LTTE, which set up innumerable sleeper cells in Tamil Nadu and spread its acts of terrorism to the territory of Tamil Nadu, with the collusion of some political elements in Tamil Nadu.
(c). Shri V. P. Singh, backed by the BJP: His soft policy towards the Khalistanis aggravated the problem of terrorism in Punjab. The gains made under Shri Rajiv Gandhi were neutralised and the Police morale was shattered.. When the JKLF terrorists kidnapped the daughter of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the then Home Minister, and demanded the release of some detained terrrorists, he and his Government shockingly capitulated before them. This marked the beginning of large-scale terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir. When the terrorists subsequently kidnapped the then Vice-Chancellor of the Srinagar University and two others and demanded the release of some more terrorists, he took a strong line. The terrorists executed their captives. The double standards followed by him---- softness in the case of the daughter of his Home Minister and a hard line in the case of some innocent civilians who had no political influence--- destroyed his credibility as a person capable of providing leadership in counter-terrorism. Showed very little interest in the North-East. The Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) was withdrawn from Sri Lanka under pressure from his Tamil Nadu political allies under conditions, which were widely seen as humiliating.
(d). Shri Chandra Sekhar: He was the Prime Minister for too short a while to make a major impact, but continued with the policies of Rajiv Gandhi.
(e). Shri Narasimha Rao: Carried forward the policies of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi for making Pakistan realise that its sponsorship of terrorism---whether in Punjab or J&K-- would not be cost free. Gave a free hand to Beant Singh, K. P. S. Gill, and Rajesh Pilot, his Minister of State for Internal Securty, for neutralising Khalistani terrorism. Khalistani terrorism was brought under control under his Prime Ministership. It was under his leadership that the indigenous Kashmiri militant organisations started losing steam. He gave a free hand to Shri G. C. Saxena, former chief of the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) who was appointed as the Governor by V. P. Singh, and Gen. Krishna Rao, who succeeded him, to deal with terrorism in a professional manner. When the indigenous organisations started losing steam, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) started infiltrating Pakistani jihadi terrorist organisations into J&K and the rest of India. He handled two hijackings and the occupation of the Hazratbal holy shrine in Srinagar by the terrorists in an effective manner. Continued with Rajiv Gandhi's policy of strengthening the capabilities of the intelligence and security agencies. However, his failure to prevent the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December,1992, created a fertile soil in the Indian territory outside J&K for the spread of jihadi terrorism. Handled effectively the sequel to the Mumbai blasts of March,1993.
(f). Shri Deva Gowda: Did not make any impact one way or the other.
(g). Shri Gujral: Damaged the pro-active capabilities built up under Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao under the Gujral Doctrine of unilateral gestures to our neighbours.
(h). Shri A. B. Vajpayee: Never carried out many of the brave statements of the BJP before coming to power. The hopes of the intelligence and security agencies that he would reverse the policies of Gujral and restore their teeth were belied. Very badly mishandled the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar. There was total confusion in the corridors of power when the plane was hijacked. Two opportunities to have the hijacking terminated at Amritsar and Dubai were missed. When the hijackers took the plane to Kandahar, he faced a self-created situation in which he had no other option but to capitulate to the terrorists in order to save the lives of the passengers. Hard in rhetoric, soft in action. Did not publish the promised White Paper on the ISI's sponsorship of terrorism in Indian territory. Ill-advised lionisation of Pervez Musharraf before the fiasco of the Agra summit conveyed a wrong message to the terrorists that there was counter-terrorism fatigue in Delhi. The move for talks with the Hizbul Mujahideen was handled in a very unprofessional manner, with an eye more on media publicity than on concrete results. The outcome: Moderate elements in the Hizbul Mujahideen found themselves marginalised and some even eliminated. The effective manner in which the security forces repulsed jihadi terrorist attacks on the Akshardam temple in Ahmedabad in 2002 and the Parliament in Delhi in 2001 were a tribute to their bravery and reflexes and not to the political leadership of Vajpayee. The much-hyped mobilisationn of the Indian Army after the attack on the Indian Parliament and the subsequent policy of coercive diplomacy against Pakistan did produce some beneficial results and brought down the level of terrorism in J&K under Vajpayee as well as Manmohan Singh. But no impact on jihadi terrorism in the rest of India. Took a number of steps to strengthen the counter-terrorism capabilities of the police and intelligence agencies. Their morale improved.
(i). Dr. Manmohan Singh: The improvement in the ground situation in J&K has continued, but he has not been able to arrest the deterioration in the situation in the rest of the country. He upgraded the priority given to action against the Naxalites and the Maoists. The additional powers given to the Police under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) were withdrawn. A lack of focus and vigour in dealing with terrorism in a comprehensive manner. The morale of the counter-terrorism agencies, including the police, not very high. This is reflected in the poor pace of investigation of terrorism-related cases since 2004. His perceived softness towards Pakistan is likely to prove counter-productive.
(ji). Shri Beant Singh: Punjab was fortunate to have had him as its Chief Minister in the 1990s.His role in the fight against Khalistani terrorism was highly commendable. He provided political leadership of a high order in counter-terrorism matters.
(k). Shri Sharad Pawar: The vigorous political leadership provided by him in the aftermath of the Mumbai blasts of March,1993, led to the successful investigation and prosecution of the first act of mass casualty terrorism on the ground in Indian territory.
(l). Miss Jayalalita and Shri Karunanidhi: The credit for effectively neutralising the activities of Al Ummah and for the successful investigation and prosecution of the Coimbatore blasts case of February,1998, should equally go to them. Efforts of the Lashkar-e-Toiba to start sleeping cells in Tamil Nadu were detected in time by the Tamil Nadu Police and neutralised. The Tamil Nadu Police has been very pro-active in dealing with terrorism--- whether of the jihadi kind or the Maoist/Naxalite kind or the new sleeper cells of the LTTE. Tamil Nadu provides a good case study of how to deal with jihadi terrorism firmly without antagonising the community from which the terrorists arose.
(m). Shri Narendra Modi: His main claim has been that there has been no major act of jihadi terrorism in his State after the Akshardam incident, but Gujarat has always had a very little history of terrorism---whether of the jihadi or the Naxalite kind. The tribute for keeping away from terrorism should go more to the people of the State than to any political leader.



India Today April 2,2001 "I Am Very Bitter About Being An Indian"
Safdar Nagori, SIMI's secretary-general, spelt out his group's agenda to principal correspondent Sayantan Chakravarty:
"We have no regard for Nehru, Gandhi... Osama has shown great character." Q. Are you aware the Government is keeping a watch on SIMI?

A. Yes, we are. But it is expected of this Government, isn't it?

Q. A line on your calendar says that "Jehad is our Path". Can you elaborate?

A. Let me explain the concept of jehad as detailed in the Quran. It is not when an individual is harmed but when an entire community findsitself collectively persecuted that the cry for jehad is given. There are various stages. You raise your voice. Protest democratically. Warn. Ifnothing works then one is forced to revolt, take to arms.

Q. So what stage of jehad do you find yourself at?

A. When the Muslim voice is muffled, when we are fired upon and killed, like at Kanpur, when you find the Sangh Parivar making statementsthat the mandir will be built by March 2002 at Ayodhya, then I can say Muslims will not take it lying down. And I am not too sure of theconsequences.

Q. But the Government is not being run by the RSS.

A. Of course it is. Atal Bihari Vajpayee's statement that "I am a swayamsevak" has left no doubt in the minds of the Muslims. At times heseems to be shedding tears for the Babri episode but they are only crocodile tears.

Q. SIMI is known to launch vitriolic attacks against Indian leaders. Why?

A. We Muslims, and not just SIMI, do not recognise leaders as ideals. There is only one true Lord, one true Ideal.

Q. Can you elaborate?

A. When we are told that there is a rashtrapita in Gandhi, and another great statesman in Nehru, we feel it is a direct attack on ourfundamentals. Nehru wanted Muslims to recognise Ghulam Ahmed Qadaini as our Prophet. He was forcing us to alter our religious belief andwe have no regard for such a man. Also, Gandhi is not our greatest ideal by any stretch of the imagination. Nor is Indira Gandhi.

Q. So what is your agenda. Is it to Islamise India?

A. Look, we have respect for the practitioners of other religions. As true Muslims, we always will. But at the same time our aim is topropagate the Quran's tenets. This will be done even among non-Muslims but there will be no coercion. It's not like you want everybody tosing Vande Mataram.

Q. You seem bitter at being Indian.

A. Yes. Very bitter. Even in Jerusalem where the atrocities on Muslims have been like in no other part of the world, the main mosque,Masjid-e-Aksa, is still intact. At Ayodhya, sadly, it isn't. They use rubber bullets to keep protesters at bay in Israel, here they kill Muslims, likein Kanpur.

Q. In your conferences you have openly eulogised Osama bin Laden.

A. Not once, but dozens of times. We believe that he has shown great character in standing up to the Americans, the biggest terrorists in theworld. The US made allegations that he was behind the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, but we know that Osama had nohand in them.

Q. But he does support the ISI's terrorist activities in India.

A. Incorrect. The ISI is different. Osama has no links with the ISI. His enemy no. 1 is not India, but the US.

Q. At SIMI meetings speeches of Qazi Hussain, the Jamait-e-Islami chief in Pakistan, are played. Why?

A. We link up with him in Pakistan through phones and the speeches are amplified for the audience. The Qazi wants us to take Islam tonon-Muslims.

Q. Is SIMI's presence in the north stronger than in the south?

A. We are everywhere, as strong in Kerala and Maharashtra as we are in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Even Assam.

Q. Where do you see your agenda taking you?

A. We are not interested in focusing on leaves and branches. We are interested in changing things at the roots. In the world's largestdemocracy there must be open ideological discussions and not just false propaganda. Our madarsas are not nurseries of terror.



( Extract from my forthcoming book titled "Terrorism: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow")

Since hijacking of Indian planes started in January, 1971, when two members of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) hijacked a plane to Lahore and blew it up with explosives given by the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) at Lahore after releasing the passengers and crew, there have been 13 hijackings--all of Indian Airlines aircraft. During the training of terrorists, the ISI instructs them to avoid Air India planes lest international concern be aroused due to the presence of a large number of foreign passengers.

Three of these hijackings took place in the 1970s, of which one by Kashmiri extremists was sponsored by the ISI, while the other two were personally-motivated.

There were five hijackings in the 1980s--three of them in 1982--all by Sikh extremists backed by the ISI.

There were five in the 1990s---four of them in 1993, all personally-motivated, and the fifth, of IC- 814, in 1999 was by an international Islamic jihadi organisation backed by the ISI.

Thus, of the 13 hijackings, seven were by ISI-trained organisations---- five by Sikh extremists, all India-based, one by Kashmiri extremists, again India-based, and the seventh by a Pakistan-based international Islamic jihadi organisation.

All these hijackings took place when the military was in power--five under Zia-ul-Haq and one each under Yahya Khan and Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

After a series of five hijackings in quick succession by Sikh terrorists between 1981 and 1984, India managed to get clinching evidence of ISI involvement in 1984 in the form of a West German report that the pistol given to the hijackers of August 24,1984, at Lahore by the ISI was part of a consignment supplied to the Pakistan Government by the West German manufacturers.

This resulted in a severe warning to Pakistan by Washington and a total discontinuance by the ISI of the use of hijacking as a weapon against India for 15 years till the post-Kargil hijacking on December 24,1999, after Gen. Musharraf seized power on October 12.

• This was the first hijacking of an Indian plane by a Pakistan-based international Islamic jihadi organisation, namely the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), previously known as the Harkat-ul-Ansar, which was declared by the US under its laws as an international terrorist organisation in October, 1997, and which, according to the annual reports of the Counter-Terrorism Division of the US State Department, is a member of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front For Jihad Against the US and Israel and a signatory of his fatwa against US and Israeli nationals.

• This was the second hijacking in the world by an Islamic fundamentalist organisation of Afghan-war vintage. The first was the hijacking of an Air France flight from Algiers by four terrorists of the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria on December 24,1994.The French terminated the hijacking at Marseille by killing all the hijackers.

• This was the first hijacking in India in which the hijackers intentionally and brutally killed one of the passengers in order to intimidate the pilot. In the past hijackings, the terrorists had avoided ill-treating the passengers. In the Air France hijacking too, the Algerian terrorists of Afghan war-vintage had intentionally killed three passengers.

• This was the second largest terrorist team (five hijackers) to have hijacked an aircraft anywhere in the world. The terrorist team, which hijacked the Air France flight to Entebbe in 1976, had ultimately seven hijackers, but only four of them had flown by the aircraft and the remaining had joined the team after the aircraft landed at Entebbe. Six terrorists of the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) had hijacked an Olympic Airlines flight from Athens to Beirut, on July 22,1970. The Greek authorities accepted the demand of the hijackers for the release of seven terrorists. A mixed group of five Palestinian and Japanese terrorists hijacked a Japanese Airways flight from Amsterdam to Tokyo on July 20, 1973. The terrorists blew up the plane at Tripoli in Libya after releasing the passengers. All other hijackings of the world involved between one and four hijackers, most of them only one. When there is only one hijacker, he would generally be in the cockpit. Danger to the passengers from a commando intervention is the least, unless the lone hijacker has explosives. When there are two hijackers, the danger is more, but still manageable since the second hijacker would generally be near the front door, which reduces the danger of deaths of passengers in cross fire. If there are three hijackers, one each would be at the front and rear doors, increasing the risk of cross-fire deaths. The maximum vulnerability of the passengers arises when there are more than three hijackers, with one or more of them stationed in the middle.

• This was the sixth longest hijacking since 1948 after those of the El Al by the PFLP on July 23, 1968 (40 days), the Air France (Entebbe) by Palestinian and German terrorists on June 27,1976 (8 days), the Pakistan International Airways by the Al Zulfiquar on March 2,1981 (13 days), the TWA by a Shia group on June 14,1985 (18 days), and the Kuwait Airways by a Shia group on April 5,1988 (18 days).

• This was the sixth major hijacking since 1948 in which the targeted Government conceded the demands of the hijackers, wholly or in part. The others were: the release of seven convicted Palestinian terrorists by the Greek authorities after the hijacking of an Olympic Airways flight on July 22,1970;the release of seven Arab terrorists imprisoned in the UK, West Germany and Switzerland after the hijacking of three flights of the Pan-Am, TWA and Swissair by the PFLP on September 6,1970; the release by West Germany of the Arab terrorists arrested for the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics after the hijacking of a Lufthansa aircraft on October 29, 1972, by Al Fatah; the release of four Arab terrorists arrested for acts of terrorism in Cyprus after the hijacking of a KLM plane on November 25,1973; and the release of nearly 30 political prisoners by the Zia-ul-Haq regime after the hijacking of a PIA aircraft by the Al Zulfiquar on March 2,1981. These were the publicly-admitted instances of conceding the hijackers' demands. There have been other unadmitted instances.


The handling of hijackings has the preventive and crisis management aspects.

Of all terrorism-related offences, plane hijacking is the easiest to prevent through thorough physical security at the airport. The prevention drill involves evaluation of the psychological profile of the passenger at the time of his checking-in through carefully-framed questions; x-ray of the checked- in baggage and, if necessary, their identification by the passenger before they are loaded; X-Ray of hand baggage; door-frame metal detector tests of passengers; their personal search; and ladder point checking by the airline staff to neutralise dangers due to negligence of the airport security staff or their complicity with the hijackers.

If this security drill is strictly followed, chances of a hijacking could be reduced by 90 per cent. There could still be a 10 per cent threat due to the hijackers somehow managing to take arms inside due to the negligence or complicity of the airport as well as the airline security staff or their intimidating the pilot by pretending to be armed, even though they may not have arms.

To eliminate even this 10 per cent possibility of a hijacking, many airlines have well-trained security staff travelling on each flight under the cover of either passengers or cabin crew members. The effectiveness of these in-flight security officers depends on the deniability of their presence. For in-flight security duties, the El Al of Israel takes serving and retired officers of the Shin Bet, the Israeli equivalent of our Intelligence Bureau, and Ya'ma'm, the Israeli equivalent of our National Security Guards. Shin Bet officers under the cover of airline staff are also attached to the traffic counter at the airport to scrutinise the travel documents of the passengers and study their psychological profile. Those responsible for in-flight security duties are issued with weapons with specially-designed low-intensity, low-impact bullets, which would enter the human body, but not exit. To prevent damage to the aircraft in cross-fire, the fuselage is armour-plated. They are also given well-concealable transmitting sets to discreetly transmit to the ground all the happenings in the cabin if the plane is hijacked. The plane has concealed cameras in the cockpit, cabin and toilets. These security measures have ensured 100 per cent security of El Al flights. While El Al's airport and off-airport facilities have been subject to terrorist attacks, an El Al flight was successfully hijacked only once in 1968.


The crisis management drill comes into force if an aircraft is hijacked due to a failure of preventive measures. The drill deals with the management of the relatives, the media, the aircraft and the hijackers, preparation of the groundwork for commando intervention, if it becomes necessary and, has operational, psychological and political aspects.

The operational aspect focusses on ensuring that the aircraft remains in an airport of our territory, if possible, or otherwise, in an airport of a friendly country and does not go to an airport in a hostile country and collection of intelligence and other inputs needed for commando intervention.
The psychological aspect focusses on keeping up the morale of the relatives of the passengers, encouraging self-restraint in media coverage till the hijacking is terminated and keeping the hijackers engaged in negotiations in order to persuade them to give up the hijacking, if possible, and give time to the commandos to prepare themselves for intervention, if necessary.

The political aspect relates to winning the co-operation of other countries and our own political parties in terminating the hijacking.

The hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar in December,1999, brought to light the following serious deficiencies in our national security management (NSM):
• The failure of the intelligence and counter-intelligence machinery to detect the presence and activities of the HUM (Harkat-ul-Mujahideen)hijackers in Mumbai since November 5,1999.

• The failure of the Govt. of India and the Indian Airlines security set-ups to ensure an effective second line of security at the Kathmandu airport, knowing fully well the security vaccum there.

• The failure of the crisis management group to have the plane grounded at Amritsar, when it first landed there.

• The failure of the Govt. of India to persuade the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities to have the plane detained at Dubai, as they did with the 1984 hijacking of an IA plane by the Sikh extremists.

• The delay in starting the negotiations at Kandahar, knowing fully well that once we let the plane reach hostile territory in Kandahar, we had no other option, but to negotiate.

• The total lack of coherence and professionalism in the handling of the crisis by the crisis management groups at the political and professional levels. (30-3-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )



It may be recalled that on March 7,2008, the Chinese authorities had claimed to have foiled an attempt by three Uighurs to blow up a plane of the China Southern Airlines flying from Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang province, to Beijing. The persons involved had allegedly managed to smuggle inside the aircraft gasoline concealed inside a can of soft drinks. The plot was foiled by alert security guards on board the plane and two of the perpetrators were arrested. A third was arrested subsequently. Here is the English translation of an interesting account of it in the Chinese language found in a blog site. The identity of the narrator, who has given his name as Ding Bu, is not known:

In Search of Eyewitnesses for CZ6901 Incident
(Southern Weekend) Searching for Eyewitnesses for CZ6901 Incident. By Ding Bu (??). March 11, 2008.
[in translation]
Once again, this was an extremely urgent situation. Late at night on March 10, I received a telephone call assigning me to write the story of the "attempted hijack of China Southern Airlines flight CZ6901 on March 7." "This story must be included in this issue!" said the voice on the telephone. Oh my God! The cutoff would be Wednesday morning. I knew nothing about this incident, and I had only 24 hours left. There were more than 200 passengers on that airplane and they are somewhere out there amongst the hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens. Our goal was to find these eyewitnesses in order to report what happened. This was like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Recently, I seemed to be involved with the subject of airplane hijacking. I had just worked on one story last week about hijacking.
So I started to think. I know that two fellow alumni are working at two different airports. I can try to contact them first thing tomorrow morning. Another former colleague is now working in a key position at a web portal and he can help me locate eyewitnesses through a blog over there. Another current colleague has a younger fellow alumnus working at China Southern Airilnes and he can inquire too. That night, I sent an SMS to that former colleague and expressed my hope that he would publicize this as a "major incident" for a blog. But at this point in time, I still had not established a blog at that website.
Early morning on March 11, I established a blog that my former colleague highlighted in bold red on the front page of the web portal. The title was . I posted my mobile telephone number there. Meanwhile, my fellow alumni gave me the bad news -- they were not present at the Urumqi, Lanzhou or Beijing airports and therefore they have not seen the so-called from the China Civil Aviation Administration. But I was able to obtain a clue from the Internet -- over at the Shumu Community forum, a netizen with ID "Luckie" had posted from Zhongchuan airport in Lanzhou on March 7 and described his experience during more than ten hours there.
So I asked a fellow alumnus for his Shumu ID and password and I sent an email to Luckie. I prayed that he would agree to be interviewed.
A colleague then sent me an SMS with the name and mobile telephone number of a first-class passenger on CZ6901 that day. The colleague said that the standard procedure at China Southern Airlines is to retain information about passengers for only three days. Therefore, this fellow alumnus friend working at China Southern Airlines would ordinarily not have that information. But this particular passenger had reserved an extra ticket, which explained why his information was retained for a longer time. The heavens were helping me!
I called that number immediately. The voice over there was hesitant: "How did you find my number? It is not appropriate for me to speak. The relevant authorities will disclose the information. It is not appropriate for me to speak ..." I tried emotional and rational appeals for more than ten minutes. This passenger was steel-willed and refused to talk. I hung up the telephone in extreme disappointment.
It was 12:11pm. Half a day had gone by already. Suddenly an unfamiliar telephone number appeared on my mobile telephone. But the person hung up after one ring.
I called back. The other party said: "I was on that airplane. I read your blog."
Oh my God! I had published my blog post at 9:04am. In three hours' time, a targeted person had found me. I was astonished by and grateful for the speed of modern communication methods.
The following is what that person told me:
On March 7, the airplane was scheduled to depart at 10:30am. The airplane was delayed for about 10 minutes. At that time, everybody was already on board, so we must be waiting for the permission to take off. The flight was normal thereafter.
After flying for about an hour, a passenger remarked that there was the smell of gasoline. The attendant also smelled it because it was too strong.
We were flying on a Boeing 757 that day. The plane was not big, and the rest rooms were located between the first-class cabin and the economy cabin. There were more than 200 passengers. The airplane was not full, because there were two vacant rows of seats in the rear.
I was seated towards the back, and I heard a quarrel. An Uyghur woman about 20 years old was on her feet. This Uyghur woman was seated towards the front to my right. She was probably in the fourth or fifth row of the economy-class cabin.
A man went over there. My guess was that he was the security guard. He held the woman down and found a bottle. He removed the bottle and then escorted her to the restroom.
We had no idea what was happening. There was no announcement. During the entire process, there was no chaos. It was very calm. At least I felt very calm. Someone in the rear slept through the whole thing without being aware at all.
At past noon, we began to feel that the airplane was descending. An announcement came that there was an emergency situation and the airplane was going to land at Zhongchuan Airport in the city of Lanzhou. A few minutes after that announcement, the airplane touched ground.
According to the flight schedule, the airplane was due to land in Beijing at 2:05pm. Instead it landed in Zhongchuan airport (Lanzhou city) at 12:46pm.
reported that the China Civil Aviation Administration issued an internal urgent notice that the suspects had intended to ignite inflammable material inside the restroom in order to blow up the airplane. However, the flight crew foiled the plot in time.
There were two suspects. The notice said that the preliminary investigation showed that there were major gaps in airport security in Xinjaing which almost allowed a tragedy to occur.
After the airplane landed, the Uyghur woman was taken away.
Xinjiang Autonomous Rule Region chairman Nur Bekri was attending the two Congresses in Beijing. He said that the unscheduled landing was due to "people attempting to create an air disaster." He said: "Based upon what is known at this point, there was an attempt to create an air disaster. Fortunately, the flight crew took decisive action. They discovered the plot in time and prevented the action. This incident had just happened. We are investigating who these people are, where they came from, what their purpose is and what their backgrounds are."
After the airplane landed, netizen Luckie's post mentioned: "The airport personnel said: We cannot let a single suspect go to Beijing. We must get to the bottom of this in Lanzhou."
The earliest post from Luckie was posted at 6:10pm on March 7. The post appeared at the New Express area of Shumu Community. The post said: "I was flying from Urumqi to Beijing. Halfway there, someone was found to be carrying gasoline and behaving oddly. The airplane was forced to land in Lanzhou. The police took away four Uyghur persons (note: this remains to be confirmed). We went through a new round of inspection at the airport. Many people were interrogated. We have been waiting for six hours already. We don't know when we can leave. Everybody is extremely agitated. What rotten luck!"
Periodically, Luckie would use his notebook computer and wireless card to post from the airport.
When asked "if the airport inspection did not discover it, then how was it uncovered on the airplane?" the explanation from Luckie at 6:20pm was that "the bottle was opened on the airplane and many people smelled gasoline. That traveler took the gasoline into the restroom and remained in there for a long time."
Then at 6:20pm again: "They are registering information about everybody right now. I don't know if I can get back to Beijing today ... the female passenger who carried the gasoline had used perfume to cover up the smell. It must have been intentional."
"I am lucky to have escaped," reflected Luckie.
6:53pm: "It's been six-and-a-half hours. Everybody has been registered. They say that they have to issue new tickets to us. I don't know if we can leave today. More than 200 people are stuck here. They are not even providing decent service."
8:38pm: "it's been eight hours already. They have just distributed rice boxes. This matter has alarmed the public security bureaus of several provinces as well as the National Security Ministry. Supposedly, four cans of gasoline had been found."
8:49pm: "Among the four individuals were foreigners, who are believed to be Eastern Turkestan elements."
9:04pm: "We have been on the ground for eight-and-a-half hours and we are not going anywhere. I guess we won't make it back to Beijing tonight. The airport personnel said: We cannot let a single suspect go to Beijing. We must get to the bottom of this in Lanzhou."
11:22pm: "Eleven hours have gone by. They are still taking down statements from people. Through our strong insistence, they have provided Chinese chess sets and poker cards. I don't know if they intend to keep us here overnight."
11:32pm: "It was obviously a case of sloppy inspection, but we get to suffer the consequences."
As Luckie wrote, the obvious problem was just how several canisters of gasoline got through airport inspection. There was not much technical subtlety with this type of method.
The information showed that since May 1, 2007, the China Civil Aviation Administration has required that all domestic airline passengers may carry not more than 1 liter of non-alcoholic liquid when they travel. The liquid must be inspected before being allowed on board.
On May 7, 2002, a China Northern Airilnes McDonnell 82 airplane was flying from Beijing to Dalian. At 20 kilometers to the east of Dalian airport, that airplane plunged into the sea. The ensuing investigation showed that a passenger brought inflammable liquid onto the airplane. As the airplane got ready to land, the liquid caught fire and the airplane went out of control.
On February 5, 2003, the Civil Aviation Administration issued the . The rules require rigorous inspection of the fluids brought by passengers in order to ensure safety in the skies.
Nevertheless, the new rules of 2007 were still unable to prevent this case from happening.
During the two Congresses, China Civil Aviation Administration chief Li Jiaqiang was interviewed by the media and said the fact that this airplane eventually landed safely with the passengers and crew intact showed that the overall safety measures in air transportation in China are rigorous.
He said: "Over the past years, the safety level of Chinese civilian aviation is amongst the world leaders. We have the ability to guarantee air transportation safety across our vast country."
The information that I obtained later from Beijing airport was that CZ6901 landed there at 6:02am the next morning.
That day, I also contacted a colleague working in Lanzhou media. He explained the entire process by which Zhongchuan airport handled the case and even had some photographs. But he wanted to consider whether the information ought to be disclosed. The Southern Weekend editors also contacted an anti-terrorism expert in China. Other colleagues did their best to locate persons close to the incident. But none of this matters anymore, because on the afternoon of March 11, this story was aborted for reasons that everybody knows about. [Translator's note: This is the standard terminology to describe a ban order from the Central Publicity Department or some other relevant department]
What a pity!
Latest news: Today, China Southern Airlines chairman Liu Chaoyong said that a female passenger came out of the restroom and passed by the flight attendant who detected a suspicious smell. The attendant alertly sensed that the smell was suspicious. Then she smelled the scent of perfume and gasoline in front of the restroom. The attendant immediately searched the restroom and ultimately found an inflammable substance inside the garbage bin of the restroom.
The attendant notified the airplane security guard immediately. Based upon how the female passenger spoke and acted, they realized that the male passenger next to her was a companion. The two individuals were sequestered. The airplane crew then moved the suspicious substance into the special container bin for handling such materials. The airplane made an unscheduled stop at the Lanzhou airport. The two suspects were taken away by the police.
Liu Chaoyong said that the preliminary analysis was that the two individuals intended to stow away the inflammable material and then take action at the appropriate moment. Fortunately, the flight attendant foiled the plot in time.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. The writer is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )


President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan is still strong on paper. All the powers, which he had accumulated in his hands during his more than nine years of dictatorial rule, are still intact. de jure, he is still a strong President but,de facto, there has been a steady erosion of his ability to exercise those powers and to have his orders enforced.

2.He is finding himself in the same humiliating position as the late Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the then President, found himself after Benazir Bhutto returned to power in the elections of 1993 and Mr.Farooq Leghari, the then President, found himself after Mr.Nawaz Sharif swept to power in 1997 with a two-thirds majority. They found themselves reduced to irrelevance and chose to quit and fade away.

3.It is only a question of months, if not weeks, before Musharraf finds even the de jure powers being taken away by a hostile Parliament and Cabinet. He may find that he has no other option but to follow in the footsteps of Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Leghari.

4.Musharraf came to power with a bang in October,1999.He seems set to disappear, sooner or later, with a whimper. Those, who have been seeing him on the TV in recent days, would have noticed that the swagger in him is gone.

5.Nothing brought out the winds of change sweeping across Pakistan more dramatically than the way former Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury and other judges sacked and kept under house arrest by the police on the orders of Musharraf found themselves freed and hailed by the very same police. After he was elected as the Prime Minister by the National Assembly, Mr.Yousef Raza Gilani said in his speech thanking the Assembly that his first order after assuming office would be to free the sacked Chief Justice and Judges from their house arrest. The Police did not wait for him to assume charge as the Prime Minister and issue a formal order lifting the house-arrest. They just released those under house-arrest without waiting for formal orders.

6. There is an air of elation in the civilian bureaucracy and the Police over the discomfiture of Musharraf. No other military dictator of Pakistan treated the civilian bureaucracy and the Police as contemptuously as Musharraf did. It is no wonder they have chosen to cast their lot with the new democratic dispensation under the Prime Minister. Hereafter, they will take orders---- whether in respect of counter-terrorism or in other matters of governance--- only from the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers and the Chief Ministers of the new Governments in the provinces and from no Army General.

7. Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), who has already called on the new Prime Minister, has to walk on a tight rope hereafter. His loyalty to and friendship with Musharraf are still strong. He would still prefer that Musharraf's pre-eminence in national security matters and in matters pertaining to the Armed Forces remain strong. At the same time, his future effectiveness as the COAS would depend on the trust which he enjoys from the elected Prime Minister. Can his continued loyalty to Musharraf as the President be reconciled with need for equal loyalty to a civilian and elected Prime Minister?

8. That is only one of the dilemmas facing Kiyani. The other arises from his equation with the military leadership in the US. The Pentagon thinks well of him. He had in the past got along well with his counterparts in the US Armed Forces. He has been as keen as Musharraf to do all he can to co-operate with the US in its counter-terrorism operations. He understands and appreciates the US concerns over the dangers of another 9/11 in the US homeland arising from the Pakistan-Afghanistan region. He finds himself having to moderate the professional need for continued co-operation with the US in the light of the openly expressed hostility of large sections of the new coalition to such co-operation. Mr.Nawaz Sharif and Mr.Afsandyar Wali Khan, the chief of the Awami National Party (ANP) of the North-west Frontier Province, both of which are important props of the new Government, have the firm conviction that the policy of co-operation with the US as followed by Musharraf has aggravated the threat of terrorism and is the reason for the present wave of suicide terrorism sweeping across not only the Pashtun belt, but also areas outside the tribal belt.

9. Another person facing a dilemma is Mr. Asif Zardari, the Co-Chairperson of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP). When Benazir Bhutto was alive, he shared her good vibrations for the US. After her death, he continues to have those vibrations, but is not in a position to give effect to them. His party failed to win an absolute majority under his stewardship in the elections of February 18,2008, thereby forcing it to seek the co-operation of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of Mr.Nawaz Sharif and the ANP.

10. Mr.Sharif and Mr.Wali Khan seem determined to impose their thinking on the policies of the new Government--- whether it be in respect of the fight against terrorism or co-operation with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Mr.Altaf Hussain, which has retained its pre-eminent position in the urban areas of Sindh.Mr.Sharif and Mr.Wali Khan never speak of Al Qaeda and its presence and activities from Pakistani territory. They seem to look upon it as a figment of the US imagination or as a threat over-projected by the US to serve its own strategic interests in this region. They also do not talk of the activities of the Neo Taliban headed by Mulla Mohammad Omar, its Amir, from Pakistani territory.

11. Their main concern is with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has been behind the wave of suicide terrorism in Pakistan. They blame the policies of Musharraf and his co-operation with the US for driving the Tehrik to take to terrorism. They do not accept that the Tehrik is the Trojan Horse of Al Qaeda. They are determined to make overtures to the Tehrik through a suspension of military operations against it to be followed by a dialogue. Mr.Wali Khan has already announced that the new Government in Peshawar headed by his party would order the suspension of the military operations in the Swat Valley and enter into a dialogue with those, who have taken to arms against the Pakistan Government.

12.While Mr.Nawaz Sharif and Mr.Wali Khan make no secret of their keenness to bring the Tehrik into the mainstream, they are at the same time opposed to Mr.Zardari's attempts to keep the MQM in the mainstream. They make no secret of their distrust of the MQM and the Mohajirs, the refugees from India, whom it represents. Each distrusts the MQM for his own reason.Mr.Sharif distrusts it because of its perceived co-operation with Musharraf. Mr.Wali Khan distrusts it because of its alleged hostility to the Pashtun settlers in Karachi.

13. Mr.Zardari realises that Musharraf's action in bringing the MQM into the mainstream dramatically brought down sectarian and inter-ethnic violence in Karachi, which had become virtually ungovernable in the 1990s because of the violence. Mr.Zardari would like to accommodate the desires and concerns of the US----whether in respect of Musharraf's continuance in office or the counter-terrorism co-operation--- but is unable to do so because of the weak electoral position of the PPP.

14.As new political equations, new policies and new ideas are taking shape and contending with each other for acceptance, the US is showing signs of having already come to terms with the reality that Musharraf is an ally of yesterday, but is unlikely to be any longer of today and tomorrow. It has to search for new allies and new political and professional equations in Pakistan. One of the main purposes of the four-day visit of Mr.John Negroponte, the US Deputy Secretary of State, and Mr.Richard Boucher, the Assistant Secretary of State, to Pakistan, which ended on March 26,2008, was to test the winds of change and share the US concerns over terrorism and its determination to prevent another 9/11 with the new leadership before they make any major changes in policy. They met not only Musharraf, Gen.Kiyani and other senior Army officers, Mr.Zardari, Mr.Sharif and Mr.Wali Khan, but also many of the new provincial leaders in the NWFP and Sindh.

15. The timing of the visit was significant. Normally, one would have expected them to come after the new Government was in position. Their decision to come even before the new Government was in position ran the risk of being misinterpreted as an interference in Pakistan's internal affairs. Despite this, they came in order to make it clear to their interlocutors the US thinking and concerns on the various issues on which policy changes are being demanded.

16. There are three issues of major concern to the US---- the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, continued Pakistani military operations against Al Qaeda and its associates operating from Pakistani territory and continued logistic supplies to the NATO forces in Afghanistan through Pakistani territory from Karachi. It had been accepted by all political formations even in the past that the Army would be in the driving seat of all decision-making relating to the nuclear arsenal. The US would prefer that Musharraf continues in power and exercises this responsibility. If his exit becomes inevitable, they would like this responsibility to be exercised by Gen.Kiyani and not by the political leaders of the new Government. At present, none of the political leaders wants to disturb the role of the Army in this field.

17. In anticipation of a possible decision by the new Government to stop the logistic supplies to the NATO forces in Afghanistan through Pakistani territory, the US and other NATO countries are already negotiating with Russia and Uzbekistan about the use of their territory for this purpose. They seem to be inclined to accept the NATO request. Even if they don't, the US should be able to find a way out.

18.What is really worrying the US is the dangers arising from a Pakistani non-co-operation in the operations against the sanctuaries of Al Qaeda and its associates in the Pakistani territory. There are three issues of concern here. Firstly, the technical intelligence operations of the US' National Security Agency (NSA) from Pakistani territory. Musharraf had allowed the NSA to expand its presence and operations in the Pakistani territory. The NSA stations in Pakistan played a very important role in the location and capture of many of Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan. If a Nawaz Sharif-dominated Government orders the US to close down the NSA stations, the US could find alternatives in Afghanistan and on board US ships in the area.

19. Secondly, the tremendous expansion of US Human Intelligence operations in Pakistani territory. These operations are in the form of raising and running sources and interrogation of terrorism suspects arrested by the Pakistani intelligence. While the more important Al Qaeda operatives such as Abu Zubaidah, Ramzi Binalshibh, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Abu Faraj al-Libi etc were flown out of Pakistan for interrogation, hundreds of less important ones were interrogated in Pakistan itself. Among those interrogated by the FBI in Pakistan itself were two retired nuclear scientists and some doctors with suspected contacts with Al Qaeda. A Nawaz Sharif-dominated Government may put an end to such HUMINT operations from Pakistani territory. This would create operational difficulties, which it would be difficult for the US to overcome.

20. Thirdly, the most important concern is that the new Governments in Islamabad and Peshawar may order the Pakistan Army to suspend all its military operations in the Pashtun belt,thereby adding to the difficulties of the US and other NATO forces in Afghanistan and increasing the possibility of another 9/11 in the US homeland and terrorist strikes in West Europe, including Denmark. Al Qaeda has been repeatedly warning of reprisals against Denmark for the cartoons depicting the Holy Prophet.

21. This is a danger which the US will not be prepared to accept. Till now, the US forces in Afghanistan have been avoiding exercising their right of hot pursuit into Pakistani territory when they were attacked by Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists operating from Pakistani territory. The US has also been restricting its use of unmanned aircraft to strike at targets in Pakistan to the minimum unavoidable. It was afraid that by undertaking frequent operations in Pakistani territory, it might add to the political difficulties of Musharraf.

22. Hereafter, in the absence of co-operation from Pakistan, this factor will no longer inhibit US operations in the Pashtun belt. It will act against Al Qaeda and its associates in the Pakistani tribal belt with no holds barred---- hot pursuits, missile strikes from the air and across the border and, if necessary, even temporary occupation of Pakistani territory to destroy Al Qaeda infrastructure if the worst comes to the worst.

23. If the new Government stops its co-operation against Al Qaeda and its associates, the US will do whatever it considers to be necessary to neutralise threats to its nationals and troops and to prevent another 9/11 in the US homeland. It is learnt from reliable Pakistani sources that this was the message which Mr.Negroponte and Mr.Boucher conveyed to some of their Pakistani interlocutors.

24. Mr.Nawaz Sharif has a short memory. Otherwise, he would remember that in August, 1998, the Clinton Administration ordered Cruise missile strikes from its ships on Al Qaeda camps in Afghan territory in retaliation for the explosions outside the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. The missiles flew through Pakistani air space. The Clinton Administration did not take the prior permission of the Government of Mr.Nawaz Sharif, which was then in power, because it distrusted him. Gen.Anthony Zinni, the then Commander of the US Central Command, transited through Islamabad, his transit halt coinciding with the firing of the missiles. Just before the missiles were fired, he called Gen.Jehangir Karamat, the then Chief of the Army Staff, to the airport and told him that Cruise missiles were on the way and that Pakistan need not worry about them and should not mistake them for possible Indian missiles.

25. More such unilateral strikes by the US on Al Qaeda and Neo Taliban targets in Pakistani territory are likely if the new Government avoids co-operating with the US. (29-3-08)

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

Saturday, March 22, 2008




Among those presently undergoing imprisonment in the US for their role in the explosions in the New York World Trade Centre inFebruary,1993, is Ramzi Yousef, a Kuwaiti resident of Pakistani origin. Before his arrest in Pakistan and conviction in the US, he hadplanned a series of explosions on board a number of planes. He plotted this from a hide-out in Manila. Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, a principalarchitect of the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US, was also involved in this conspiracy.

2. However, the plot was thwarted by the Filipino police after an accidental fire in the Manila apartment of Ramzi Yousef alerted them to it.Ramzi Yousef ran away to Pakistan, where he was arrested by the Pakistani authorities and handed over to the Federal Bureau ofInvestigation (FBI) of the US. The investigation brought out that Ramzi and KSM were plotting to blow up the planes with the help of liquidexplosives smuggled into the aircraft.

3. While Ramzi was facing a trial in the US for his involvement in the explosions of February,1993, in the New York World Trade Centre, , theUS Justice Department had persuaded Greg Scapra, a jail-mate, to develop friendship with Ramzi and sound him as to how to make liquidexplosives. It was reported that Ramzi not only told him orally, but also gave him hand-written notes, explaining how to smuggle liquids intoaircraft, how to mix them on board aircraft to make explosives and how to detonate them. This was in 1996.

4. In the London blasts of July,2005, the suicide bombers, three of them of Pakistani origin, had reportedly fabricated the explosive materialby mixing in the bathtub of the apartment of one of them women's cosmetic items.

5. In August,2007, the London Police discovered a plot by a group of terrorist suspects of Pakistani origin to simultaneously blow up anumber of US-bound planes by taking into the aircraft liquids such as cosmetics of day-to-day use, mixing them in the toilet after theaircraft had taken off and using the explosive material thus fabricated to blow up the aircraft. Rashid Rauf, a British resident of Mirpuri(Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir) origin, who was arrested by the Pakistani authorities, was reported to have given the initial information about this plot, which led to its discovery by the London Police and the arrests that followed.

6. Rashid Rauf is related by marriage to Maulana Masood Azhar, the Amir of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM). He was arrested in Bahawalpur,the home town of Azhar. The police recovered from his house a peroxide-based liquid. Rashid reportedly contended during the interrogationthat the peroxide-based liquid was used by him to disinfect injuries. He denied that it was meant for possible use as an explosive material.For mysterious reasons, Rashid Rauf was not handed over to the British for interrogation. He was kept in detention in Pakistan. He escapedfrom custody on December 15,2007, while he was being taken back to jail after a court hearing. He has not so far been traced.

7. Thus, since 1993 jihadi terrorists of Pakistan as well as foreign terrorists based in Pakistan have been planning to use liquid explosivesmade from day-to-day material on board planes to blow them up. After the discovery of the London plot of August,2007, physical securityagencies all over the world initially banned the passengers from carrying any liquids on board the flights. Subsequently, they modified thisto allow passengers to carry only liquids such as alcohol and cosmetics bought in the duty-free shops, which have to be carried intransparent bags provided by the shops.

8. Initially, they allowed the passengers to carry bottles of soft drinks and mineral water, but not cans, but the security staff made thepassengers drink some portion of the drink inside the bottle in order to check for effects on the passenger if they had mixed the drink with aliquid capable of being used as an explosive.Subsequently, they apprehended that liquid explosives, because of their heavier density ,wouldgo down the bottle and that drinking from the top would not have any ill-effect on the passenger. They, therefore, totally banned passengersfrom carrying soft drinks and mineral water bottles on board the flights.

9. In the light of this, one was surprised to note that the two terrorist suspects detained by the Chinese authorities on March 7,2008, forallegedly trying to blow up a plane going from Urumqi in Xinjiang to Beijing (a third person escaped) had carried the explosive liquid onboard the aircraft in soft drink cans. If true, the fact that the airport security at Urumchi allowed these cans to be carried---- when all overthe world there is a ban on such cans and bottles being carried--- speaks poorly of the physical security at some Chinese airports,

10. The 'News" of Pakistan has reported online on March 21,2008, that the two suspects arrested---- a woman and a man--- travelled withPakistani passports. The woman has been described as an Uighur living in Pakistan and trained in a Pakistani jihadi camp and the man as a Central Asian (Uzbeck?). The third person, who escaped, has been described as a Pakistani, who had masterminded the plot. No furtherdetails are given. Could it be Rashid Rauf, who was knowledgeable on the smuggling and use of liquid explosives?

11. Even the meagre facts available so far about the thwarted plot speak of deficiencies in the physical security set-up in China. It is suchdeficiencies, which the jihadi terrorists wanting to disrupt the Olympics will exploit. As the Olympics approach, there is a need for a reviewof the physical securitry measures in the light of the lessons from the Urumqi incident.

12. As of now, there are two possibilities which have to be factored into by the Chinese authoritiesn in their physical security plan. Firstly, aterrorist strike by pro-Al Qaeda Uighurs either at Beijing or in Xinjiang or elsewhere. Secondly,a Munich,1972 like terrorist strike by Al Qaedaor pro-Al Qaeda organisations in Beijing itself. Apart from the usual physical security measures, the Danish teams will need specialprotection. If there is an attempted repeat of Munich, it will most probably be directed against the Danish participants because of thecontinuing anger of the Muslims against the publication of cartoons in the Danish media showing a depiction of the Holy Prophet. (21-3-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

Thursday, March 13, 2008




I was in receipt of some feed-back in response to my earlier paper titled "Threat To Beijing Olympics From Uighurs" from readers in West Europe and the US. Some of the comments expressed skepticism about the Chinese accounts of the threat. Some others questioned my comments on the presence of a group of pro-Western Uighurs in Albania, Kosovo and Turkey. One comment from the US even alleged that my reference to Albania and Kosovo affected the credibility of my article. My comments in response to this feed-back are given below:

"Assessments are based on available facts. For assessments to be 100 per cent accurate, one needs 100 per cent facts. It is not possible to get 100 per cent facts---neither in the intelligence profession nor in journalism. Assessments asserted with conviction today may prove to be wrong tomorrow in the light of new facts since available. This was true in respect of conventional wars between States. It is true in respect of unconventional confrontations between States and non-State actors such as terrorists. What I have stated is my assessment based on the facts available to me from Pakistani media and police accounts of the terrorist situation in the Pashtun tribal belt. There are now and then references to bodies of Uighurs and Tajiks being found in addition to bodies of Uzbeks and Pashtuns.. There was at least one instance of the identification of an Uighur who was killed. There are references to some Uighurs and Tajiks acting as the junior partners of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Jihad Union. From this I have concluded that there is a small group of Uighurs, probably from the Uighur diaspora in Pakistan, which has been operating jointly with the IMU and the IJU under the umbrella of the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement. Their objectives are not West related, but China related. I allow for the possibility of deliberate exaggeration or unintentional over-estimation in the Chinese accounts of this threat. But this does not mean that the threat is imaginary and politicised to serve Beijing's Han agenda. As regards the pro-Western group being exploited by the US to needle China, I have known some of them personally in the 1980s and early 1990s when they used to work for the CIA-funded Radio Liberty, then based in Munich. I had attended some of the public meetings and discourses on Tibet in West Europe in the 1980s and the 1990s. Uighurs, who were working for Radio Liberty, used to be in the forefront of the organising committees."

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

Wednesday, March 12, 2008




An official statement issued by the headquarters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on March 11,2008 (text annexed) on the high-profile visit of Lt.Gen.Sarath Fonseka, the chief of the Sri Lankan army and the architect of the successful counter-terrorism operations by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, to India in the first week of March,2008, is an indicator of the desperation of the LTTE and its bitterness against the Government of India.

2. Its desperation arises from its loss of control of the territory administered by it in the Eastern Province during 2006 and 2007, its inability to counter effectively the successful air strikes by the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) against positions held by it in the Northern Province and the steady diminition in its operational capabilities due to the successful disruption of its capability for the replenishment of its stocks of arms and ammunition and explosives by the Sri Lankan Air Force and Navy, with the co-operation of the international community, including India, in the form of timely supply of valuable intelligence.

3. The LTTE is not yet a failed or a failing non-State actor. It still has considerable biting capacity. It still has a large supply of well-trained and well-motivated cadres. In the Northern Province where the battle lines have shifted, it has much greater local support than it had in the Eastern Province. Its morale, capacity for innovation and determination to continue fighting are intact. But in the absence of material replenishments, its capacity for offensive operations has been eroded and it has been forced to fight a defensive battle to save the territory still under its control. Till now, it has been doing well despite the claims to the contrary by the Sri Lankan defence spokesmen.

4. India's policy till now has been one of covert assistance to the Sri Lankan intelligence in improving its collection and assessment capabilities, sharing of intelligence collected by the much-better endowed Indian intelligence agencies, strengthening the defence capabilities of Sri Lanka in the matter of anti-aircraft equipment and facilitating the operations of the Sri Lankan Navy for disrupting the overseas supply channels of the LTTE.

5. Indian public opinion, including public opinion in Tamil Nadu, could not have objected to these measures for co-operation since they remained covert and not brazenly overt and since there was a well-defined Laxman Rekha (dividing line), which our Armed Forces and intelligence agencies were told not to cross. That Laxman Rekha related to co-operation between the two armies, which could have facilitated the Sri Lankan Army's ground operations against the LTTE in the Northern Province.

6. Independent analysts and reliable sources are agreed that the Sri Lankan Army's successes in the Eastern Province were achieved at a tremendous human cost, with large-scale violation of the human rights of the civilian population. Lt.Gen. Fonseka and Mr. Gothbaya Rajpaksa, the brother of President Mahinda Rajapksa, who is the Defence Secretary, are not models of rectitude in matters concerning respect for the human rights of the Sri Lankan Tamils. Sensing what they see as a historic victory in their fight against the LTTE, these two have been contemptuously dismissing all reports regarding the violation of the human rights of the Sri Lankan Tamils. There are some indications of Western re-thinking on their attitude to the Rajapaksa Government because of its brazen dismissal of all concerns regarding the human rights situation in the Tamil areas.

7. Senior officers of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces have been visiting India from time to time for discussions on Indian assistance and military-military relations. Even Gothbaya Rajapaksa has been visiting New Delhi periodically. But these visits were low profile and the Government of India took care not to create an impression of Indian lack of concern over the human rights situation. The high-profile visit of Fonseka and the kind of honours openly accorded to him indicated that the Laxman Rekha, which has so far characterised the co-operation between the armed forces of the two countries, is ceasing to exist and that there is probably a greater readiness----even eagerness--- on the part of the Indian Army to co-operate with the Sri Lankan Army in matters which might facilitate its ground operations against the LTTE in the Northern Province. This perception of a disappearing Laxman Rekha is not confined to the LTTE. It is palpable among large sections of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka and in the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora.

8. The desperation and the bitterness caused by this perception have triggered off the official statement of the LTTE. In a language reminiscent of the language which it was using withn regard to Indian policies before the shocking assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May,1991, it has charactetrised any possible change in the Indian policy as amounting to a new historical blunder and insinuated that the Government of India is putting itself in a position, which could be viewed as complicity in what it sees as the Sri Lankan Government's policy of genocide of the Tamils.

9. The LTTE, like other international terrorist organisations, follows a policy of coming out with comments, not amounting to official statements, which are disseminated by the media controlled by it and coming out with an official statement only in exceptional circumstances. The fact that the LTTE has now come out with an official statement on the co-operation between the two armies indicates that it might be considering the options available to it to counter this.

10. It is important to re-examine and revamp our intelligence and operational capabilities to neutralise any plan of the LTTE to mount another terrorist strike in Indian territory or against Indian nationals or interests. It would be unwise to dismiss its statement as a desperate outburst of no or only limited consequence.

11. In recent months, the Police in Tamil Nadu and Kerala have detected attempts by the LTTE to procure supplies and possibly ships also from India through locals. From the published reports, it would seem that many of the locals, who had helped the LTTE, did so for money and not out of sympathy for its cause. But the likely re-emergence of pockets of sympathy for the LTTE's cause is an ever-present danger.

12. Both the Governments of India and Sri Lanka want to neutralise the LTTE for different objectives. The Indian objective is to punish it for its assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and to render it incapable of terrorism. The Sri Lankan objective is to crush it as a terrorist organisation and re-impose the will and interests of the Sinhalese majority over the Tamil minority. Despite all the sweet talk from President Rajapaksa and his officers and advisers, their policy towards the Tamils continues to be characterised by their desire for a dictated peace and their modus operandi of divide and rule.

13. India should not give an impression that there is a convergence of objectives between the two countries. The Laxman Rekha has served us well in the past and should serve us well in future. (13-3-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )
Head Quarters
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Tamil Eelam
10 March 2008

Is the Indian State attempting yet another historic blunder?

The State welcome given by the Indian State to the Sri Lanka military chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, who is heading the Sri Lankan State’s war of ethnic genocide against the Eelam Tamils, has deeply hurt them.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) strongly condemns the Indian State action of extending a State welcome to the military chief of the Sinhala State which has unilaterally abrogated the ceasefire agreement and has launched widespread military offensives in the Tamil homeland.

The Sri Lankan State is facing many warnings and condemnations for its attempt to seek a military solution and for its enormous human rights violations.

Despite this, the Sinhala State ignores these warnings and condemnations and continues with its abductions, killings, and arrests of Tamils.
The Sinhala State, keen to cover up this truth, is blaming the freedom movement of the Tamils, the LTTE, for the continuation of the war and is seeking assistance from the world for its war of ethnic genocide.

Many of the European countries, understanding this hidden motive of the Sinhala State, have halted all assistance that could support the ethnic genocide of the Tamils.

The Indian State also knows this truth. Yet, while pronouncing that a solution to the Tamil problem must be found through peaceful means, it is giving encouragement to the military approach of the Sinhala State. This can only lead to the intensification of the genocide of the Tamils.

LTTE wishes to point out to the Indian State that by this historic blunder it will continue to subject the Eelam Tamils to misery and put them in the dangerous situation of having to face ethnic genocide on a massive scale. On behalf of the Eelam Tamils, LTTE kindly requests the Tamils of Tamil Nadu to understand this anti-Tamil move of the Indian State and express their condemnation.
We did not leave the ceasefire agreement and we did not start the war. We are only undertaking a defensive war against the war of ethnic genocide of the Sri Lankan State.

We still have not abandoned the Norway sponsored peace efforts and we are ready to take part in such efforts.

In this context, the Indian State’s move of propping up the politically-militarily-economically weakened SriLankan State has upset Eelam Tamils.
The view expressed by the Indian military chiefs, "India wants to ensure that the Sri Lankan Army maintains its upperhand over the LTTE", just illustrates the efforts of the Indian State to prop up the Sinhala war machine.

The Indian State must take the responsibility for the ethnic genocide of the Tamils that will be carried out by the Sinhala military re-invigorated by such moves of the Indian State.



There were 56 acts of suicide terrorism in Pakistan during 2007. Four of these were committed during the first half of 2007 before the Army's commando raid in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad from July 10 to 13,2007. The remaining 52 were committed between July 13 and December 31,2007.

2. As against this, there have already been 17 acts of suicide terrorism between January 1,2008, and March 11,2008. Ten of these were committed before the elections on February 18,2008, and the remaining seven after the elections. There were three in January, nine in February and five till March 11,2008.

3. Area-wise comparative figures are given below (figures within brackets indicate the number of suicide attacks till March 11 this year )
Federally-Administered Tribal Areas ---- 23 ( 4 )
North-West Frontier Province ---- 21 ( 7 )
Punjab --- 9 ( 6)
Balochistan --- 2 ( Nil )
Sindh ----- 1 ( Nil )

4. Of the seven attacks in the NWFP this year, three were in the Swat Valley (Mingora), two in Peshawar and one each in Charsaddha and Darra Adam Khel. Of the six in Punjab, four were in Lahore and two in Rawalpindi. Of the four in FATA, two were in North Waziristan where according to the US, the sanctuaries of Al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and other pro-Al Qaeda groups are located, one in the Kurram Agency where there have been frequent Shia-Sunni clashes and one in the Bajaur Agency where it is suspected that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No.2 of Al Qaeda, has taken shelter. So far this year, there has been no act of suicide terrorism in South Waziristan, where the headquarters of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan headed by Baitullah Mehsud is located. In 2007, there were 20 attacks of suicide terrorism by the Mehsuds in South Waziristan.

5. According to reliable Pakistani police sources, the needle of suspicion points as follows:
Al Qaeda or the IMU or the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan --- the two attacks in North Waziristan and one in Bajaur

The Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohamadi of Maulana Fazlullah --- the three attacks in Swat.

The Jaish-e-Mohammad, the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Tehrik-e-Taliban--- The six in Punjab, two in Peshawar and one each in Charsaddha, Darra Adam Khel and Kurram.

6. There have already been 266 fatalities --- combatants as well as non-combatants--- till March 11, 2008, as against 636 the whole of last year.

7. It is learnt that the Lahore office of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which was attacked on March 11,2008, and severely damaged, houses, inter alia, a Joint Interrogation Centre to interrogate arrested terrorist suspects. It also has the office of a top secret counter-terrorism investigation division trained in the US. The private advertising agency of Model Town, Lahore,, which was attacked the same day, is located close to the office of a Special Counter-Terrorism Investigation Unit of the Punjab Police. The police suspect that finding it difficult to penetrate this office because of its strong physical security, the suicide terrorist must have caused the explosion in the nearby office of the advertising agency, hoping that the blast would also damage the office of the police unit. It did not.(12-5-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. )

Tuesday, March 11, 2008




Fourteen members of the staff of the Lahore office of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of Pakistan and 10 others were killed in two explosions by suicide terrorists in Lahore on March 11,2008. One of their targets was the local headquarters of the FIA in which 14 members of the staff and six others were killed. The second target was an office of an advertising agency in a residential area in which four persons, two of them children, were killed.

2. The FIA is the Pakistani equivalent of India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). It is the principal agency for the investigation of all corruption-related cases. It also co-ordinates terrorism-related investigations.It is one of the three central police agencies of Pakistan---the other two being the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Narcotics Bureau. The FIA is largely manned by police officers taken on deputation from the provinces and direct recruits. President Pervez Musharraf had inducted a number of serving and retired military officers into it to monitor the investigation of corruption-related cases against Mrs.Benazir Bhutto, Mr.Asif Zardari, Mr.Nawaz Sharif and other political leaders. Before the recent elections and thereafter, the investigations into all the corruption-related cases against Benazir and Zardari were discontinued on the orders of Musharraf, but not the investigations against Nawaz. Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani withdrew from it the serving military officers deputed for monitoring the investigations.

3. The FIA had always been considered a highly politicised agency used by different leaders for witch-hunt against their opponents. It became particularly controversial during the second tenure of Benazir as the Prime Minister from 1993 to 1996. Zardari was accused of misusing the FIA and its officers for allegedly harassing his political opponents and businessmen, who were reluctant to pay commissions.

4. Before Benazir returned from political exile on October 18,2007, her associates decided not to leave her security totally in the hands of the Government, but to make their own arrangements for her security. Zardari, then based in Dubai, co-ordinated the security arrangements. To assist him, he chose Mr. Rahman Malik, a highly controversial Police officer who was in the FIA during her second tenure as the Prime Minister. There were widespread allegations of corruption against Malik. When Mr. Farooq Leghari, the then President of Pakistan, dismissed Benazir in November,1996, he also dismissed Malik and ordered his arrest on charges of corruption. He managed to escape to London and was living in exile since then. From London, he was co-ordinating her security during her travels abroad. Sections of the Pakistani media blamed him for alleged negligence which, according to them, led to her assassination on December 27,2007, at Rawalpindi. Despite this, he continues to enjoy the confidence of Zardari and acts as one of his principal advisers. He also acts as the liaison man with the security agencies for ensuring the physical security of Zardari.

5. The present wave of suicide attacks started after the commando raid in the Lal Masjid in July,2007. Initially, the suicide terrorists were targeting the Army, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Special Services Group (SSG), a US-trained commando group of the Army, all of which were involved in the Lal Masjid raid. They then attacked political leaders, who had supported the commando action. This included some workers of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), who were attacked in Islamabad, Benazir Bhutto and Mr.Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, who was the Interior Minister during the commando action. He escaped two suicide attacks. They then attacked targets in the Army, the Frontier Corps and the Air Force, which were involved in the military operations in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). Thereafter, they attacked the Naval War College in Lahore. The Pakistan Navy is a member of a multi-nation naval task force which provides naval cover to the US operations in Afghanistan. It also provides security for the unloading at Karachi of logistic supplies for the NATO forces in Afghanistan.

6. They have also attacked provincial police units and officers. Many police officers performing physical security duties were killed when the jihadis attacked non-police targets. Now, for the first time, they have attacked an important office of a central police agency. Like the CBI in India, the FIA not only investigates cases of corruption, but also supervises the investigation by the police of important terrorism attacks. Where necessary, it investigates the terrorism cases itself just as the CBI investigated the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. It has been monitoring and co-ordinating the investigation of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto allegedly at the instance of Baitullah Mehsud, the Amir of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. The attack on the FIA office came two days after the reported issue of a warrant by an Anti-Terrorism court for the arrest of Baitullah on a charge of masterminding her assassination.

7. It is not clear why the jihadis attacked the advertising agency.(11-3-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Sunday, March 9, 2008




"While considerable focus would be on terrorism-related scenarios likely to arise from foreign terrorists, likely scenarios from domestic disgruntled elements should be given adequate attention. Among these one could mention the Uighur jihadi terrorists who have close links with Al Qaeda and the International Islamic Front (IIF), the Tibetan activists, the members of the Falun Gong and irrational Chinese individuals. On the basis of the evidence presently available, it is assessed that the Uighur terrorists have a capability for diversionary attacks in Xinjiang and against Chinese nationals, interests, diplomatic missions and offices in Pakistan and the Central Asian Republics. The Tibetans have motivated activists, who might indulge in political acts such as shouting slogans, demonstrations, self-immolation etc. The Falun Gong could also indulge in such political acts. In the case of irrational elements, one cannot rule out acts of copy-cat terrorism similar to what happened at Atlanta."
Extract from my paper titled "Security During Beijing Olympics" carried by the South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG) and the Chennai Centre For China Studies in September,2007. Available at
After a long interval of inactivity in the Xinjiang region of China, Uighur extremist elements have again been involved in two incidents reported by the Chinese authorities from that region.

2. The first incident took place at Urumqi, the capital of the province, on January 27,2008. There was reportedly an exchange of fire between the police and some Uighur extremists when the police raided a hide-out of a suspected sleeper cell of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), an associate of Al Qaeda with close links to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) or Group, another Uzbek group. While the objectives of the IMU are regional and confined to Uzbekistan and other Central Asian Republics and Xinjiang, those of the IJU are global. The IJU projects itself as a global jihadi organisation with no specific ethnic identity.

3. According to the official version of the raid, two Uighur extremists were killed and 15 others arrested by the Police. Five police officers were injured. Chinese officials refrained from giving publicity to this incident for nearly a month. They officially gave out the details only after the regional media in China started reporting about it, presumably on the basis of briefings from officials at the lower levels.

4. The Chinese authorities have assessed this incident as an indicator of a revival of the ETIM's activities as a prelude to a possible terrorist strike to be staged just before or during the Beijing Olympics of August,2008. While there is no reason to doubt the veracity of the facts as reported by Chinese officials, their linking it to the Olympics seems to be based more on precautionary speculation than on concrete evidence.

5. The second incident was reported to have taken place on board a Chinese commercial plane flying from Urumqi to Beijing on March 7,2008. Security guards travelling on board the plane overpowered two suspected Uighur extremists, who tried to create an incident. The Chinese media has characterised the incident as an attempted terrorist strike. The plane made an emergency landing in the northwestern city of Lanzhou. The two persons overpowered by the security guards were handed over to the local police for interrogation. The other passengers were also questioned. The police claim to have found some inflammable liquid in one of the toilets on board the aircraft. Further details are not yet available.

6. It is to be expected that anti-Beijing elements in the Uighur community in China as well as abroad would try to embarass the Chinese authorities and draw attention to their demands in the period before and during the Olympics. These elements fall into two groups. The first group consists of those inspired by the pan-Islamic ideology of Al Qaeda and acting in co-operation with it. In one of his messages of 2006, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No.2 of Al Qaeda, had included Xinjiang in the list of lands historically belonging to the Muslims now under the control of non-Muslims. He wanted all these lands to be "liberated" from the control of non-Muslims. The pro-Al Qaeda Uighurs mainly operate from the camps of the IMU and the IJU in the North Waziristan area of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. It has been difficult to quantify their number. Different reports estimate their number differently----ranging between 30 and 100.

7. The second group consists of pro-Western Uighurs, who mostly operate from Albania, Kosovo and Turkey. This group includes three or four Uighurs, who were handed over by the Pakistani authorities to the US for being interrogated at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba. They were released subsequently since no evidence could be found against them that they posed a threat to US nationals and interests. They settled down in Albania and keep moving between there and Kosovo.

8. For the last two years, two anti-China video films purported to have been produced by unidentified Uighurs have been disseminated through the Internet. They do not appear to have been produced by As-Sahab, the Psywar and propaganda division of Al Qaeda.

9. While there is so far no specific evidence that these two groups are planning to stage Olympics-related incidents, the possibility of such incidents has to be factored into in any security plan for the Olympics. The possibilities are incidents not involving the use of violence by the pro-Western Uighurs and incidents amounting to acts of terrorism by pro-Al Qaeda Uighurs. (10-3-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. )