INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR--PAPER NO.452
The serial blasts of September 13,2008, at New Delhi,which are still under investigation by the local Police, have been followed by threestand-alone (not serial) explosions at Mehrauli in Delhi on September 27,2008, at Modasa in the Sabarkantha district of Gujarat and atMalegaon in Maharashtra on September 29 and an orchestrated series of four blasts and two failed blasts at Agartala, the capital of theState of Tripura bordering Bangladesh, on the night of October 1.
2. The blasts of September 29 were in areas with a strong Muslim presence and resulted in many casualties in the local Muslim community.The blast in Delhi and those in Agartala took place in areas where members of different communities live. Tripura has a large presence ofMuslim illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
3. The modus operandi used in the Delhi and Modasa blasts were similar. The timed improvised explosive device (IED) was kept inside acontainer and dropped in full public view at the scene of explosion by two unidentified men on a motorcycle. A young boy was blown up inDelhi when he picked up the bag containing the IED container thinking it had accidentally fallen from the motor-cycle and tried to call out tothe motor-cyclists that they had dropped a bag. At Modasa too, a bag with a container having an IED inside was dropped on the scene in fullpublic view by two motor-cyclists. The IED exploded in the hands of a local Muslim by-stander as he picked up the bag and was examiningits contents. He and one other person were killed. The same morning, the Ahmedabad Police recovered 17 unexploded crude explosivedevices at Kalupur in the old city area.
4.The blast in Malegaon, which had earlier been the target of a terrorist strike involving IEDs in September,2006, took place near a hotel inBhikku Chowk around 9-45 PM.The IED was reportedly planted in a motorcycle, which was kept near the site. Four persons were killed----allMuslims. The blast led to protest demonstrations by some members of the local Muslim community during which some policemen werereportedly injured.
5. As the Police in Delhi, Modasa and Malegaon were trying to find out----without success so far---- as to who were responsible for theseblasts---- four serial blasts orchestrated between 7-30 PM and 8-15 PM were reported from Agartala on the night of October 1. According tomedia reports, the first explosion took place around 7.30 pm at the Radhanagar bus stand. Minutes later, there was another blast atMaharajganj Bazar in the heart of the city. The two are about 2 kms apart. Two bombs were found at the Motor Stand and the ColonelChoumohany area near the palace compound.As the injured were being taken to the Agartala Government Medical College hospital, anotherblast rocked GB Bazar, which is on the route of the ambulances taking the injured to the hospital. A similar modus operandi of attackingambulances carrying the victims to hospitals was followed by the terrorists in Ahmedabad on July 26 when a local hospital, where theinjured were being taken, was targeted.The fourth blast at 8.15 pm was near the Kathiababa Ashram on the outskirts of the state capital.There was a heavy rush of Hindu puja ( a religious ceremony starting on October 4) and Muslim Id shoppers at the Radhanagar bus stand,Maharajganj Bazar and GB market, all in the heart of the city, at the time of the explosions. Four persons were killed and 76 injured.
6. All these explosions since September 27 have coincided with the last days of the Muslim fasting period of Ramzan, which ended onOctober 1, and the beginning on October 4 of the Hindu religious festival of Navratri. The blasts at Modasa and Malegaon seemed to havebeen timed to coincide with the Muslim fasting period. The blasts took place as the local Muslims were coming out to break their fast. Theserial blasts in Agartala coincided with the beginning of the preparations for the Hindu festival, when a large number of Hindus flock tomarket places to do their shopping for the festival. The blast at Delhi does not appear to have had any links with Muslim or Hindu religiousfestivities.
7.No organisation has so far claimed responsibility for any of these terrorist strikes. The so-called Indian Mujahideen (IM), which had sent tomedia channels messages claiming responsibility for all the previous serial blasts except those at Bangalore on July 25,2008, has not sentany such messages in connection with the blasts mentioned above.
8.The Agartala blasts have come in the wake of a visit to Shillong in the North-East by L.K.Advani, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP), on September 28 and 29. Before his visit, the local police and media reportedly received two E-mail messages holding out threatsagainst him. One of these messages was from a local law student by name Mominul Haque. He was identified as the suspected originator ofthis message and arrested. The second message purported to be from what was described as the North-East branch of the IM. It wasreportedly received by a local media house on September 25. The originator of the message gave his name as Ali Hussain Badr, fieldcommander of the IM in the North-East. The message said: "Our main objective is to blow Advani to pieces. Our suicide bombers are readyfor this prestigious assignment.Advani's Hindutva demand seems to push India into a fascist mould and, as is well known, the proclaimedand identified main enemy of the architects of Hindutva (are) the Muslims and the Christians.Apart from the Babri Masjid demolition to theGujarat massacre and the recent attacks on churches in Orissa, Karnataka, and some parts of Madhya Pradesh, Advani has always tried toportray the Muslims and Christians as inveterate enemies of the Hindus.This will be history in the making in the state of Meghalaya when oursuicide bombers will rock Shillong.Stop us if you can. We have already set our foot in Shillong to kill Advani." The Shillong Police took addedprecautions and no terrorist strike took place during Advani's visit. The serial blasts in Agartala took place two days after his visit toShillong.
9. While there are grounds for suspecting that the blast of Delhi and those of Agartala might have been carried out by the IM and itsassociates from the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in Delhi and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) of Bangladesh in Agartala, the blasts in Modasaand Malegaon seem to stand apart. Though the Gujarat Police are reported to have detained some members of the Students' IslamicMovement of India (SIMI) during their investigation of the Modasa blast, the Modasa and Malegaon blasts do not carry any unique signature.More evidence will be required before one could analyse as to who might have been responsible.
10. Tripura like other States of the North-East has a large community of illegal Bangladeshi migrants, who often act as a reservoir forrecruitment by the HUJI of Bangladesh. This is the first time that jihadi terrorists have struck in a State ruled by the Communist Party ofIndia (Marxists). The terrorist strike of January, 2002, at Kolkata, by a mafia gangster acting at the behest of the HUJI, targeted the securitypersonnel guarding the US Consulate and not innocent civilians.
11. Despite the recent arrests by the police of Gujarat, Delhi and Mumbai of elements associated with the IM and the SIMI in connection withthe serial blasts of the past, explosions continue to take place in a widespread area across the country. This clearly indicates that whilethe perpetrators of the previous blasts have been identified and in some cases arrested, the jihadi iceberg and its command and control areyet to be identified. The analytical reports regarding the IM and its linkages being carried by the media on the basis of police andintelligence briefings show that our police and intelligence agencies have been shifting from one speculative assessment to another.
12. The Pakistani Police and agencies have been facing a similar problem since the wave of suicide terrorism started in July last year. Their difficulties are due to the fact that an increasing number of self-motivated individual Muslims with no previous police record and with no previous organisational affiliation have been taking to terrorism. Terrorism analysts use different expressions to characterise thisphenomenon--- the Jundullah (Soldier of Allah) phenomenon, the Citizen Jihadi phenomenon and the Leaderless Jihad phenomenon.Are wefacing a similar phenomenon in India? (2-10-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )