Tuesday, September 21, 2010




The use of motor-bikes for committing acts of terrorism, including suicide terrorism, is a modus-operandi that was first seen in Pakistan in the 1980s. This MO involves two terrorists sitting on a motor-bike approaching their target and the one in the pillion seat either firing at the target with a gun or throwing a hand-grenade and then getting away through small lanes where police patrol cars may not be able to enter. Targeted firing from a moving motor-bike is not easy. It requires some training and practice.

2. This MO was frequently used in Karachi in the 1980s and the early 1990s by the then Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) and its rival called the MQM (Haquiqi) against each other. It was also used by the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) to kill their Shia targets. The SSP and the LEJ continue to use this MO in addition to other MO. The Pakistani authorities have tried to deal with this by banning pillion-seat riding in some of their cities.

3.The MO varies depending on whether it is an act of non-suicide terrorism or suicide terrorism. For acts of non-suicide terrorism, two persons are used, with the person sitting at the back opening fire on the target. For acts of suicide terrorism, only one person will do. He will activate an explosive device while crossing the target.

4. The Haqqani network in Afghanistan has reportedly been using this MO.According to the “Guardian” of UK, one of the documents of 2007 recently leaked through Wikileaks claims that the Pakistani intelligence had given some motor-bikes to the Haqqani network for use in acts of terrorism.

5. From the Af-Pak region, this MO spread to Southern Thailand and Yemen. In Southern Thailand, Muslim separatists have been using this for killing government officials, security forces personnel and Muslims co-operating with the Government. In Yemen, this MO was used by Al Qaeda to kill public servants.

6. Benjamin Joffe-Walt of “The Media Line”, which disseminates news about the Middle East, had reported recently as follows: “Authorities in Yemen’s Abyan Governorate, a growing stronghold for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have banned motorcycles from cities in the region. “Using motorbikes in terrorist operations to assassinate intelligence officers and security personnel have been massively mounted over the past nine months in the province,” a Yemeni Interior Ministry official told the Xinhua news agency. The news, first reported in the pan-Arab London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, follows a series of recent assassinations by Al Qaeda militants throughout Abyan and will affect some 5,000 two-wheeled vehicles, according to local media. Militants on motorcycles have killed at least 30 Yemeni soldiers, intelligence officers and security personnel over the last three months alone, using the bikes to make a quick escape.”

7. The report added: “Motorcycles are typically used by terrorists and insurgents to deliver weapons directly if it is a suicide attack or to make a quick getaway,” Dr Theodore Karasik, director for Research and Development at the Institute for Near East Gulf Military Analysis told The Media Line. “The banning of motorcycles is indicative of how the government, with help from US officers, is trying to cut down on the movements of Al Qaeda members and tribal members who support them.”

8. It said further: “Brig Gen (Ret) Musa Qallab, the former programme manager of Gulf Defence Issues at the Gulf Research Centre, said motorcycles are the ideal tool for a terrorist attack. “They are easy to rent, easy to buy and easy to use,” he told The Media Line. “So many people drive motorcycles so it’s easy to hide, easy to cheat and more importantly very easy to escape from the scene through narrow passages. It’s very hard to stop them in a crowded area full of traffic.” Dr Stephen Steinbeiser, resident director of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies in Sanaa, said the move showed that the government was taking the threat seriously. “Motorcycles and scooters are easy to manoeuvre and to get around roadblocks, so I’m surprised they didn’t think of this earlier,” he told The Media Line. “I don’t think its a sign of desperation, I see it as a sign that the government is taking this seriously, doing anything it can to protect themselves, and is taking practical and creative ways to change the way they do business and tackle a rising threat.”

9.Two as yet unidentified assailants, allegedly belonging to the Indian Mujahideen (IM), used this MO near the Jamma Masjid in Delhi on September 19, and injured two Taiwanese tourists and got away. If it is established that they are from the IM, it is the first time it has used this MO. The use of motor-bikes by the IM could enable it to target the buses carrying the participants in the forthcoming Commonwealth Games. Pillion-riding needs to be banned at least in the core areas where the venues and the Games village are located till the Games are over and the participants leave India.

10. Indian intelligence and security officials should not fight shy of consulting their US counterparts on how they counter this MO. ( 22-9-10)

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