Wife to spill beans on hubby’s ops

The Bengaluru police will seek the custody of Soofiya Madani, wife of Kerala-based Islamic leader Abdul Nasser Madani, in relation with the Bangalore blasts case.

Sources say Soofiya, who stands before a court seeking bail, is fast becoming a major link in several terror operations undertaken both in Karnataka and Kerala.

The investigators stumbled upon the links while interrogating T Nasir, an accused in the Bangalore blasts case.

Investigations conducted by the Bengaluru-Kerala-Tamil Nadu police reveal Soofiya was angered by the fact that her husband Madani was being treated poorly by the Coimbatore police.

The first part of the investigations suggests that the woman had directed Nasir and his accomplices to burn down a bus in Kalamassery so that a message could be sent out to the then Tamil Nadu government.

“Our investigations show that both Nasir and Abdul Sattar, the man who manufactured the bombs, were in contact with Soofiya,” Bengaluru police sources said.

Moreover, there is ample proof, they say, to indicate that both Nasir and Sattar were part of the Madani camp.

Both these persons were closely associated with Nasir after they joined his Islamic Sewak Sangh which was established in Kerala.

Nasir’s interrogation reveals that Soofiya had played an active part in the bus-burning incident. Besides, he told interrogators that she had also directed him to plant a bomb at the Press Club of Coimbatore in retaliation to her husband’s ill-treatment in jail.


Tussle over Headley not political

There seems to be a tussle between India and the United States of America over Pakistan- born American national terror suspect David Headley’s extradition. While Indian agencies indicate Headley was a double agent of the Central Intelligence Agency, the American agency denies any such news.

C D Sahay, former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, feels that extradition is a legal process, not a political one. In this interview with Vicky Nanjappa, Sahay says that there could be certain legal issues involved and the best way to go about it is to get relevant inputs through backchannel arrangements.

India is finding hard to extradite David Headley from the US. Does that mean that all is not well between the two countries?

Extradition is a legal process, not political. Each country has a clearly defined procedure for initiating an extradition process. I do not think that process has commenced as yet. And I do not consider this is indicative of the state of relationship between the two countries

It is said that Headley was a Central Intelligence Agency agent who turned rogue. Do you think that is why the US denied India from questioning Headley?

There is no official statement yet on Headley’s CIA credentials. In fact, the CIA has denied this proposition. If he indeed was, it could be one of the considerations. Even on the question of granting access to Headley, certain legal issues could be involved. Normally in such situations, it would be more convenient to get relevant inputs through back channel arrangements.

According to the FBI, Headley moved around in India freely and visited various places including those targeted during the Mumbai attack. Do you consider this to be an intelligence failure on India’s part? Was there a lack of coordination with the US agencies?

I would not go to the extent of calling it “intelligence failure’. Perhaps, this calls for immediate upgradation of our immigration monitoring system to ensure that such activities to get ‘flagged’ for on ground enquiry.

Ilyas Kashmiri, an al-Qaeda operative, says that India’s meddling in Afghanistan would lead to a series of attacks on Indian soil. What should be India’s approach towards Afghanistan?

In my view, al-Qeada’s operations or objectives in India are not driven by our Afghan policy since we are not doing anything beyond what is permissible under the norms of diplomatic activities and defined by the terms of bi-lateral cooperation.

Is the US serious about defeating ISI-sponsored terrorism on Indian soil?

The ISI-sponsored terrorism in India, I firmly believe, should be our concern. We should deal with this on our own and not expect others to do it for us. Indeed any cooperation in these efforts would be welcome.

How different is the world after the Mumbai attack? Do you think intelligence-sharing and co-ordination between India and the other countries in terms of intelligence sharing has improved? If not, what should India do?

I can’t comment on the current status and intensity of intelligence-sharing on terror-related issues.

Post 26/11, there was talk of going to war with Pakistan. Do you India should have carried out surgical strikes?

This matter is raised every time a major terrorist incident takes place. Even after the attack on our Parliament, the issue was debated in the media and elsewhere. I believe that war or surgical strike will not solve the problem; it may only get aggravated.

Do you think that al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Tayiba have come together and will be successful in launching global jihad as they have been proclaiming?

Their agenda and resolve are well stated. How far they would succeed will depend on how well prepared we are in meeting the challenges.

How serious is the threat from internal groups in India like the Indian Mujahideen when compared to terror groups across the border?

It is serious, but quite often they tend to complement the designs of the terror groups from across the border

Churchill has unfinished business at Bangalore Club

Former prime minister of Britain Winston Churchill has unfinished business at the Bangalore Club.

A ledger entry, which is part of the Club World Book, which was released as part of the 125th anniversary celebrations of the Club states that Churchill owes Rs 13 in unpaid bills to the club.

The Bangalore Club is considered to be one of the most elite clubs in the country and was started in 1868 by a group of British officers.

Churchill is one among the 17 defaulters named in the ledger entry dated June 1, 1899. Lt WLS Churchill’s name accompanied by his photograph comes third in the defaulters’ list.

Secretary of the Bangalore Club Colonel Krishnan Dakshina Murthy told rediff.com that the issue has gained significance since Churchill went on to become the prime minister of Britain.

He had arrived in Bangalore in 1896 as an army officer and left the city in 1899 to fight in the North West Frontier, which is now Pakistan.

“This is a rare case,” says Colonel Murthy.

“Who would have thought back then that he would become the prime minister of Britain? He also adds that the dues that Churchill owed to the club were discovered posthumously and after it had become public several visiting British citizens offered to clear off the dues.

Churchill during his stint in Bangalore spent many evenings at the Bangalore Club drinking whiskey. He may have accumulated this sum due to this.

Churchill had also mentioned in his memoir My Early Life that Bangalore was a “third rate watering place” with lots of routine work to do, without society of good sport.

Rao did not act despite warnings on Babri

Former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao is back in the news with the All India Muslim Personal Law Board accusing him of being equally responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. The board says that Rao could never be forgiven for the demolition of the mosque.
Dr S Q R Ilyas, convener, Committee on Babri Masjid of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, told rediff.com’s Vicky Nanjappa about Rao’s role and also on what should be done to put to rest the entire controversy.

What role, according to you, did Narasimha Rao play in the demolition of the Babri Masjid?

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board is of the opinion that without the tactical help of people in the Union government at that point of time, the demolition would have not been possible at all. Narasimha Rao was the prime minister and had all the information regarding the demolition, despite which he did nothing to stop it.

Is it something that you just realised or did you know it all along that the ruling government was aware of this plot?

No, it is not something that we have just realised. In fact, we had known this all along. A couple of days before the demolition of the Babri Masjid, we had even met with Rao and expressed our fears to him regarding the same.

What did he say then?

He assured us that nothing would happen and there was nothing for us to worry.

It could have been a failure of the intelligence also. Why blame Rao alone for this?

I am not blaming him alone. There was no failure of intelligence. Rao had all information through the Intelligence Bureau. This fact has been indicated by the Liberhan Commission report too. I can say for a fact that the Union government then was equally responsible for this incident. Being the head of the state, Rao ignored the warnings. He was in a position to stop the act, but sadly that did not happen.

Do you think that Rao had intentionally not acted despite having specific warnings?

I would not say it was intentional. In fact at the moment I cannot say that he had not acted intentionally. However, it is on record that he did not act despite having all information and also absolute control over the situation.

So do you think that the Union government at that time was the main culprit?

No I don’t think so. We still maintain that it was the Bharatiya Janata Party, which was the main culprit.

What about Atal Bihari Vajpayee?

Vajpayee is also responsible for this incident. He was heading the BJP at that time. However, we would like to point out that there has been a flaw in the Liberhan Commission report. Despite naming him, he has not been issued with a notice. We demand that a notice be issued to him and he be called on to explain what he thought of the situation at that point of time.

What is the demand of the board at this moment?

The board has always and will continue to demand that Section 120 (B) of the Indian Penal Code (Conspiracy) be included in the chargesheet against those involved in the incident. We demand that those responsible for this incident, and who continue to walk free, be brought to book.

In this case there is so much emphasis on the courts, which are seized off the matter. Why is that none of you are even bringing the judiciary into this issue?
We demand that the cases against the accused be expedited in the various courts that are hearing the matter. The very fact that despite so many years these persons walk about freely, is an indication that the legal system is not working properly.

What everyone tends to forget is the core issue. Bringing these persons to justice alone will not solve the problem. Do you agree with this?

Yes I do. The core issue is the title suit which is still pending before the Allahabad high court. Once this issue is resolved, only then there will be a solution to the problem.

What is the progress of the case?

One of the judges in the bench has been transferred and the hearings have been postponed after that. There needs to be a day-to-day hearing of the matter so that the matter is closed as soon as possible. A new bench needs to be constituted immediately, and despite several demands, it has not been done as yet. Prior to one of the judges on the bench getting transferred, we were hopeful that that the matter would have ended soon.

What do you expect from the BJP leadership in such a situation?

The BJP has no role to play now. It is the Union government which should act upon the report, and also ensure that the case is settled immediately. Everything depends on how the Union government deals with the matter, and even the state government has no role to play in this anymore.

When do you think this entire issue will end?

The day the people responsible for the shameful act of demolishing Babri Masjid are punished and the matter pertaining to the title suit is disposed off.

Ram and Rahim as Good neighbours

Ram Puniyani
The leak and tabling of Liberhan Commission report has created a big turmoil in the country. While most of the sides have been shouting hoarse about their own position on the issue, not much has been talked about the future solution of this vexed problem.
We recall that the mosque built by Mir Baqui around five centuries ago has been deliberately dragged into the controversy. At the time of Independence it was a mosque, no political party had claimed anything to the contrary. As per the understanding in the constitution, the status of 1947 was to be maintained in cases of places of worship. The installation of Ram lalla idols by deceit in midnight of 22nd Jan 1949 sowed the seeds of controversy. Later in 1975 the dispute between two local groups was taken up by Vishwa Hindu Parishad and in 1989, BJP decided to make a political issue out of it. The tragic demolition and the making of makeshift Ram temple there have added new dimensions to the issue. 
It is around this issue that Hindu and Muslim communalists raised the emotional pitch and the tragedies which followed, the demolition, the post demolition communal violence and communalization, polarization of society along religious lines are too well known by now. The court case regarding the same is dragging from last several years without any outcome so far. 
Where do we go from here? Do we let this sore to continue on the body politic of the nation? This may act as the trouble spot for the future. It is time that we look at all the aspects of the issue and try to bring a peaceful solution to the issue. 
The first step in the issue is to realize that it the communal forces from both communities which have claimed that they represent the community and so they will decide on behalf of Hindus or Muslims respectively. The fact of the matter and, this has been confirmed by Liberhan Commission report, is that these communal groups neither represent the community nor reflect the opinion the communities as a whole. It is imperative that we look forward to the liberal sections, leadership from these communities to come forward and talk in the language of reconciliation. The liberal sections are those who have so far been ignored, but they are the one’s who have talked of peace and accommodation. The election results have also shown that those claiming to represent the aspirations of a particular community have been routed in popular elections. The elected representatives of the area have a major role to play in bringing the consensus. We cannot undo the past but we can definitely chart a peaceful path for future. The peaceful talks between these sections along with the local people of Ayodhya are the central core for solution.
The people of Ayodhya have also been the victims of the demolition and other offshoots of the dispute. What they think should be done at the site has to be taken seriously. They have to be taken on board along with the liberal leadership of the communities. Today the most amicable solution has to veer around respecting Ram and Allah both. Both temple and mosque can be accommodated in the area, with equal importance and respect. 
Along with temple and mosque in the same spot we need to bring up a museum dedicated to the great tradition of Ayodhya. Ayodhya has not only been popular for Lord Ram, but it had also been a place for Buddhists and also people of other faith as well. It has been a sort of ‘No War zone’ (A- no, Yudhya-War, Ayodhya- A no war zone), and that spirit has to be cultivated all around. The emotive and divisive appeals need to be rejected by the nation as a whole. In that light the museum-memorial has to be the one of syncretic traditions, of saints who were followed by Muslims and Hindus both, of Sufis who again were respected by Hindus and Muslims both. While the history has been made to degenerate into hoarse shouting, a cool reasoned archeological based understanding should help us to go further. The negotiations between the communities have to be encouraged to the last. 
The second line of action has to relate to the court verdict. The court verdict should be final for all of us. The formulation that faith will decide the birth place of the Lord has no place in a society governed by law and reason. The community leaders must give undertaking to respect the court verdict and act accordingly. Those not having faith in the courts cant be the part of the process of reconciliation as reconciliation has to be done in the framework of Indian Constitution. We have invested too much in this issue and it is time that not only this but even other such issues are not given any importance to ensure that the country, nation, can focus on the issues related to bread, butter shelter, employment and health.

Kashmiri ready with Ghazb-e-Hind

The Al Qaeda, along with the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, has decided to launch a terror mission against India, according to sources in the Intelligence Bureau. The mission is called Ghazwa-e-Hind (Battle against India), said sources, and cadres of the two terror outfits have been apprised about it.

Ilyas Kashmiri, commander of Qaeda’s 313 brigade, has informed all his cadres that they should be prepared to sacrifice their lives for a ‘noble cause’ like Ghazwa-e-Hind.

Kashmiri was helped by David Headley, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in early October in Chicago, said IB sources.

Headley conducted the reconnaissance of several likely terror targets across India and he has provided details about them to Kashmiri, said sources.

Kashmiri has already indicated that the Al Qaeda has outlined a terror plot for India which is far more destructive than the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai.

IB sources suspect that the Ghazwa-e-Hind will conducted by carrying out terror attacks with the help of fidayeens (suicide squads).

According to intelligence reports, Kashmiri has trained over 100 youths in Pakistan for this operation and is also relying heavily on local support to carry out strikes in various Indian cities.

The boldness that Kashmiri has exhibited by announcing his plans to strike terror in India indicates that he might be getting support from the Inter Services Intelligence. The ISI and the dreaded terrorist reportedly had a fall-out earlier, and they had been working separately since then.

Former IB chief Ajit B Doval had told rediff.com earlier that the threat from Al Qaeda should be understood and dealt with as an ideological movement, rather than a hierarchically structured terrorist outfit. He had cautioned that the Qaeda’s ideology and methodology could prove to be dangerous.

Terror outfits like the LeT and the HuJI, which owe allegiance to Qaeda, have been targeting India.

Kashmiri, once a trusted aide of Pakistan’s spy agency, has also served in the country’s elite Special Services Group. He was trained in Pakistan’s Special Operations Unit. Acting on the ISI’s instructions, he set up the HuJI in early 1990s, with its headquarter in Bangladesh.

But his relations with the ISI soured after Kashmiri turned down the spy agency’s request to join the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

Both ideologically and operationally, he constitutes an imminent threat as he is capable of mounting terrorist actions against India, through the HUJI terrorists based in Bangladesh.

Dropping Headley’s name indicates a pattern

There appears to be a pattern in the manner that the accused in the 26/11 case are making statements before the court. First Sabahuddin claimed that David Headley had interrogated him along with the FBI team that visited India post 26/11 and today it was the turn of prime accused, Ajmal Kasab to issue a similar statement.

A week back Sabahuddin had made a similar statement in the special court claiming that one of the officers who had come down to interrogate him along with the FBI was David Headley. He had told the court he had seen a sketch of Headley in the newspaper which he gets in prison and it was then that it occurred to him that he was one of the persons who interrogated him in a Mumbai prison. Based on the submission made before the court, he was directed to file an application through his lawyer, Ejaz Naqvi before the Magistrate to seek any sort of orders in this regard.

Today before the special court, Kasab too towed the same line. He too claimed that he was interrogated by FBI agent Headley. Sources in the intelligence bureau told rediff.com that it is highly unlikely that the FBI would have brought down Headley to interrogate the Mumbai accused. The FBI would have been taking too much of a risk in doing so. We have been verifying this information and nothing concrete has emerged as yet on this.

As far as both the accused are concerned, it appears that it is only a tactic to delay the proceedings. If the accused continue to pursue the matter before the court, they will have to move an application before the Magistrate and seek to direct the investigating agency to probe into this matter.

IB sources say that it is highly unlikely that Headley would have come down and interrogated the two accused. First and foremost there is only a sketch of Headley that is available and the accused may have mistaken him for someone else. Sources however say that with the allegation of Headley being termed as a FBI agent and now these statements, the US would be under pressure to hand over Headley to India so that a lot of confusion is put to rest.

Headley was an informer or approver for the FBI who had been sent to the AF-Pak region to pass on information regarding the drug trade in that region. However he cozied up to the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and became their operative. The FBI was not in the loop about his operations for a long time. It was only in early 2008 that they started to keep a tab on him and based on this they had also warned India about an attack on Mumbai in September 2008, the same month, the FBI lost track of this man. The Intelligence Bureau says that the fact that Headley was an approver is a confirmed fact, but there is some discrepancy regarding his date of arrest as we believe that he was picked up a couple of months after the 26/11 attack at Mumbai.

German intel helped foil attack on BSE

The Bombay Stock Exchange, which was attacked during in the 1993 Mumbai serial balsts, could have become a target again in 2008 had German intelligence agencies not shared timely inputs with their Indian counterparts.

Intelligence Bureau officials told rediff.com that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba had plotted to strike the BSE. The terrorist outfit had delegated their Nepal module — comprising Imran Shehzad — to carry out the attack.

However, this was not to be a ‘fidayeen’ (suicide) attack, but a replica of the 1993 attack.

The Lashkar had planned the attack as early as October 2007. Intelligence regarding this attack kept trickling in, in bits and pieces, and it was only towards the end of 2007 that the plan became clearer.

Specific inputs shared by foreign agencies indicated that a couple of Lashkar youth from the Nepal module were being utilised for this operation. Fahim Ansari, who is being tried in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, too had played a part in this operation. He had conducted a reccee of the BSE building and reported back to his bosses in Nepal.

Shehzad, who also took part in the CRPF attack at Uttar Pradesh in January 2008, was the key person in this plan. He was delegated the job of planting the bombs at the BSE. He was initially part of the ‘fidayeen’ squad for the CRPF attack and had later slipped into Nepal for a while.

However, he was asked to return to India and execute the BSE attack. All arrangements had been made on part of the Lashkar and the plan was drawn out. But the moment he set foot on to Indian soil, he was picked up by security agencies based on intelligence inputs.

For Lashkar Bangalore is next to Mumbai

Rs 50,000 — That’s all it cost to execute the Bangalore serial blasts in 2008, according to T Naseer, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative who is the prime accused in the case.

During his interrogation, Naseer, who was arrested recently on the Indo-Bangladesh border, told the police that local materials were used for the blasts and this ensured that costs were low.

Naseer further said they did not even have to pay for the explosives, detonators and also the timers. “We stole all these things from a shop in Kannur and assembled it by ourselves,” Naseer told interrogators.

Money was only spent on housing cadres. “We found cheap accommodation on the outskirts of Bangalore city,” he added.

‘Bangalore was the easiest to bomb’

Naseer’s confession also reveals the poor security in Bangalore. During his interrogation, he pointed out that they had first picked Chennai, but then decided against it, since the security was top notch there.

When they conducted a reccee in Bangalore, they realised that security was poor and it would be easy to carry out a strike there.

He pointed out that they also had in mind that the growing status of Bangalore. “In the Lashkar circles, Bangalore is next to Mumbai and striking this city, where there is so much American investment, would give us a lot of publicity,” he told his interrogators.

“Moreover, I have been a regular visitor to this city along with (Indian Mujahideen co-founder) Riyaz Bhatkal, and the two of us know the terrain of this city very well,” Naseer said.

Kasab’s retraction won’t hinder the 26/11 trial

While the lone surviving gunman in the Mumbai terror attacks, Ajmal Kasab, retracting his confessional statement before the special court trying the 26/11 case is a stumbling block, legal experts are of the opinion that it will not be an insurmountable hurdle.

Legal experts say had Kasab not retracted his confession, it would have made the court’s job much easier and it could have gone ahead with the sentencing directly. Now it will have to examine the circumstances under which the confession statement was made. The first and foremost point is whether the confession was judicial in nature.

In this case, the confession was made before the magistrate and hence it is judicial in nature. But this does not give the prosecution a blanket protection from having to explain under what circumstances the confession was made.

The prosecution will now have to explain to the court whether the confession was voluntary in nature or if it was forced upon the accused. Had Kasab not retracted his statements before the magistrate, the prosecution could have sought his immediate sentencing.

However, there is nothing for the prosecution to worry about, say experts. The statements of over 200 witnesses have been recorded all of which points to Kasab’s guilt.