Threats as bizarre as these

Last week, there were two back-to-back warnings from intelligence agencies regarding a possible terror threat to the nation. While the first spoke about a possible hijack, the second dealt with the Lashkar-e-Tayiba procuring paragliders in order to carry out a strike.

There are times when inputs from the intelligence or security agencies go horribly wrong and at the end of it, it starts reading a comic book.

However, our Indian agencies are not the only ones to issue such bizarre alerts. Spy agencies around the world too have, at times, issued some really hilarious warnings.

Let’s take a look at some of the bizarre alerts that have been issued and also try to understand why such bloopers occur in the first place.

Anthrax in a postcard
This threat emerged just after the 9/11 attacks in United States. People went berserk when the CIA issued this alert.

As the alert started doing the rounds, people began to believe that the deadly powder would be delivered in postcards. Thought the issue did create a flutter, it eventually died a natural death.

The FBI was never able to prove that this threat was part of a terrorist attack. For several days, several theories were floated. Some believed Al Qaeda was behind the attacks, some doubted Saddam Hussein while few others saw a major Jewish conspiracy behind it.

Some Americans had other doubts. It could be the Bush administration, the CIA, a cranky scientist, the next-door guy or even some writer out to boost his book’s sales, they thought.

Security experts say that this was more of a prank act and that the Al-Qaeda did not have the capabilities to produce anthrax. And even if they had the capability, the outfit would have used it on a larger scale.

Terror through a smoke detector

Security agencies in the United States issued this alert a couple of years ago.

According to the alert, terrorists had obtained the capabilities to prepare a chemical substance and rig smoke detectors to use them. The idea was to infect people with radiation sickness.

The alert further stated that a terrorist outfit was planning to use a chemical called Americium-241 in a bomb and plant it inside smoke detectors.

This theory turned out to be pretty bizarre since the quantity of Americium required to carry out such a strike would have been large. Moreover, the investment would have been huge and terror groups would have needed to place such a bomb in 1,00,000 smoke detectors in order to get 1000 people affected.

This threat emerged just after the 9/11 attacks in United States. People went berserk when the CIA issued this alert.

As the alert started doing the rounds, people began to believe that the deadly powder would be delivered in postcards. Thought the issue did create a flutter, it eventually died a natural death.

The FBI was never able to prove that this threat was part of a terrorist attack. For several days, several theories were floated. Some believed Al Qaeda was behind the attacks, some doubted Saddam Hussein while few others saw a major Jewish conspiracy behind it.

Some Americans had other doubts. It could be the Bush administration, the CIA, a cranky scientist, the next-door guy or even some writer out to boost his book’s sales, they thought.

Security experts say that this was more of a prank act and that the Al-Qaeda did not have the capabilities to produce anthrax. And even if they had the capability, the outfit would have used it on a larger scale.

Terror through Botox

This alert was quite a hilarious one issued by the Russian security agencies.

They believed that some terror groups had managed to lay their hands on a nerve agent called botulinum. The alert suggested that terror groups had planned on poisoning the country’s food supply.

One again, the fact that botulinum would have been difficult to convert into a biological weapon makes the threat redundant. Any plan to inject it through water would have failed, as the substance would have been rendered inactive within a couple of days after coming in contact with water.

As far as contaminating the food supply is concerned, it would have been a difficult task since developed countries maintain strict food testing standards.

Paraglider attack

According to Indian security agencies, terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Tayiba had obtained 50 paragliders, which it would use to drop down on specific targets and carry out a strike.

However, the possibility of such an attack is pretty remote, as the terrorists would first have to take off from a higher point. The alert was, however, issued for India’s cosmopolitan cities.

Secondly, the chance of them being air dropped from an airplane is also remote, as it would be difficult for terror groups to operate an aircraft in the midst of a crowded city unnoticed.

Insect attack

The most bizarre alert ever to be sounded was about infected insects being sent in to kill millions of people. The Americans issued the alert — known as an entomological strike — post the 9/11 attacks.

There are practical difficulties involving such an attack. First and foremost, terror groups would have to collect a large number of insects and then infect them with a biological agent. This is highly risky since the person infecting the insect runs the danger of infecting himself.

Even if all this were to be possible, the big question would be on how to direct these insects to a particular target. Terror groups would definitely prefer a full-fledged fidayeen (suicide attacker) to an insect.

Not all humour
Although the above-mentioned threats are very laughable in nature, our intelligence agencies would continue to issue such threats in the future. Some officials say they ought to be aware of every possible type of threat. There are times when intercepts of terrorists actually planning such an attack are recorded. It could be just discussed and never put to test, but there is no harm in staying alert.

Terror groups are constantly looking to innovate. Although, at times, we too feel that it is pretty laughable, we do need to be prepared and alert. After all, who expected a 9/11 or a 26/11?


Meet the Indian Face behind the 26/11 attack

The Indian face behind the November 26, 2008 carnage in Mumbai has emerged out of the shadows. Intelligence agencies have revealed that the mystery man with a heavy Indian accent who was handling the Mumbai attacks was 29-year-old Syed Zabiuddin Syed Zakiuddin Ansari.

The various transcripts and telephonic conversations between the handlers and the attackers, which are in possession with the Mumbai police and the Intelligence Bureau, point out to the role of Syed Zabiuddin in the attacks.

His exact words at the start of the attack at the Nariman House in Mumbai were ‘Tell the media that this is just the trailer, the real movie is yet to begin’. He stayed in touch with the fidayeen member Abu Akasha and his men at the Jewish centre and during the course of the attack used words such as gathbandan (alliance), karenga (to do something) and prashasan (administration), which are very typical Hindi words as against the strong Urdu spoken by the rest of the handlers, who were of Pakistani origin.

The tapes also reveal that Syed Zabiuddin was extremely particular that the fidayeens on the ground should conceal their Pakistani identity at any cost. He is heard saying on tape to the Nariman House attackers to identify themselves only as Indian citizens.

He also directs them to say that they hail from the Toli Chowki area in Hyderabad.

According to the IB, while listening to the transcripts they had a strong doubt about a man of Indian origin present in the control room. While we were sure that Abu Jundal, who is also of Indian origin, was present along with the 26/11 operations team, we were trying to ascertain who this other Indian in the camp was.

Abu Jundal is the man who imparted accent training to the 26/11 attackers so that they could speak like Indians and not get identified as Pakistanis.

The Syed Zabiuddin story

Indian intelligence agencies say that the rise of Syed Zabiuddin was phenomenal. We have been able to establish that he is from Gevrai, a small village in Beed district, Maharashtra.

Born on November 13, 1981, he almost made it to the second rung of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, barely seven years after taking the terror path. The son of an insurance agent, Syed Zabiuddin did his schooling at Gevrai and then joined the Indian Technical Institute in Beed district.

It was at this time that his entire path changed and he started drifting towards terrorism.

Like several other jihadis produced on the India n soil, Syed Zabiuddin too made up his mind to join an extremist outfit following the Gujarat riots. Through his earlier days, he had witnessed communal riots in Maharashtra and also was keen on the happenings following the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Immediately after the Gujarat riots, he came in contact with the Students Islamic Movement of India.

Syed Zabiuddin shuttled between Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, organising camps and recruiting youth into the SIMI. Prior to taking the terror path, he was sent along with several other SIMI activists to train with the Lashkar. He was asked to approach Mumbai-based operative, Rahil Sheikh who managed to slip him into Pakistan and undergo training.

The IB says that Syed Zabiuddin trained along with several other Indian operatives on the Pakistan-Iran border before returning to India.

According to the IB, he remained with the SIMI for nearly two years before moving completely into the Lashkar. His main areas of operations were Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, from where he managed to recruit the highest number of persons.

From India operations, Syed Zabiuddin was asked to move into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and take care of operations there for some time. Here too he was given the task of facilitating the entry of Indian operatives, who could fight alongside the Lashkar in Kashmir.

Over a span of just four years, he had built up an excellent network. Although his biggest assignment with the Lashkar was the Mumbai attack, he started off with the Delhi serial blasts, which occurred in 2008. The blasts at New Delhi were mainly an Indian Mujahideen-based operation and the attack on the capital city was probably one of the biggest assignments for the IM.

Prior to handling the Delhi blasts, Syed Zabiuddin was also given a brief to carry out a fidayeen strike in Gujarat, which was to result in the assassination of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

He slipped into Gujarat along with 11 other operatives and was getting ready for the operation. But the IB picked up information and passed it on to the Gujarat police, which foiled the plot. Ansari managed to give them the slip and fled to Pakistan. His 11 accomplices were, however, arrested.

After executing the Delhi blasts, Syed Zabiuddin was instructed to lie low before being summoned to handle the Mumbai attack. The Lashkar thought that it would be a good idea to use Ansari in this attack since he was familiar with the Mumbai terrain and could guide the attackers well.

Moreover, the Lashkar also wanted to ensure that there was a person speaking with an Indian accent, as it would then look as though the attack was being manufactured in India.

Intelligence sources point out that Syed Zabiuddin is very much in Pakistan and as of today, he is one of the most important men in the Lashkar network that India would like to lay its hands on.

Was IM training pilots for terror ops

The arrest of Shahzad Ahmed alias Pappu, an accused in the Delhi serial blasts case and the Batla House encounter, is a major breakthrough for investigating agencies. These agencies are now trying to ascertain whether Pappu had undergone a pilot training course in Bengaluru.

Pappu is reportedly a member of the Indian Mujahideen, which operates under the aegis of terror outfit Lashkar-e-Tayiba, and he had played a key role in planning the Delhi serial blasts in September, 2008.

Investigators suspect that it was Pappu who had shot M C Sharma, the senior police officer who lost his life during the encounter at Batla House in Delhi.

Investigating agencies are now trying to find out if Pappu had taken a course in pilot training in Bengaluru and whether the Indian Mujahideen and the LeT are planning a 9/11-type attack in India. The police are trying to find out whether other personnel from the terror outfit also underwent similar training.

Based on this information, intelligence agencies have sounded an alert against a possible airborne attack.

Meanwhile, several Muslim organisations from Azamgarh have condemned Pappu’s arrest. A publication in the Milli Gazete suggests that approximately 25 armed plainclothes men arrived in Azamgarh at 3.30 pm on Monday and barged into the house of Niyaz Ahmed, who is Pappu’s grandfather. The policemen reportedly dragged Pappu out.

Local residents immediately approached the police and they were told that Pappu had been held for his alleged role in the Batla House encounter.

Attack on Dalit woman

A Dalit woman from Lakshmisagar village in Chitradurga district, Karnataka, has filed a case against eight men of Nayak community for assaulting her and parading her naked on the village’s streets on January 17.

The men, belonging to a dominant Nayak community of the village, accused the woman of helping a Dalit man and a Nayak girl elope from the village.

Eyewitnesses said a group of about 40men beat up 25-five-year-old Bhagyamma before parading her on the streets.

The Superintendent of Police, Chitradurga, Labhuram confirmed that Bhagyamma had filed the case.

“Bhagyamma has filed a complaint against eight people.”

He said a couple hailing from different communities had eloped, leading to a rift between the two communities.

“We traced the couple and brought them back to Chitradurga from Davanagere. The girl has given a statement saying that she had willingly eloped with the Dalit boy,” he added.

However, the Chitradurga Deputy Police Commissioner denied that the incident took place in the village.

“If a Dalit woman was beaten up and stripped naked, it would have definitely come to my notice. I checked with the superintendent of police, it was only a elope case. For further details contact the SP,” he said.

However, Bhagyamma said at least 30-40 men from the Nayak Community barged into her house on the morning of January 17 and assaulted her.

“Holding my hair, they paraded me to the Panchayat office. No one came to my rescue except a Panchayat member. The men beat up my husband also,” she said.

“We were taken to the Bharamasagara police station at 11am that day and let off in the evening,” she said.

Ravi Kumar, a villager who said he was a witness to the incident, said more than 200 men from the Nayak community had barged into the houses of Dalits that day and warned that their houses would be burned down.

Hanumanthappa, belonging to the Nayak community from the village, said it was only a “small clash” between the two communities.
“There was a small clash and nothing much happened.”

T state- Crucial meet on Feb 7

The Teleangana issue is expected to heat up further with two major meetings scheduled for February 7.

While 300 students supporting Telangana will complete their padayatra and hold a massive meeting at Warangal on February 7, the United Andhra Students Joint Action Committee will conduct a meeting at Hyderabad on the same day.

Meanwhile, there is a clash on between the two factions regarding the role the committee to be formed by the Centre would have to play in the process.

While both parties are agreeable to the formation of a committee, the agendas appear to be completely different. The persons supporting united Andhra Pradesh told that the committee must be formed, but it should study the problems and make recommendations to improve the situation.

However, the people of Telangana say that although it is unnecessary, the committee should be formed to recommend the formation of a separate state.

Both parties will now make a final push to meet their demands on February 7.

The leaders who will form part of the Hyderabad meeting said that there is no point in dividing the state.

“We must stay united as Telugu speaking people. Only when we stay united, we can demand the best from the Centre,” they said.

Meanwhile, Subhash Reddy, who is coordinating the students’ padayatra, said that they are covering 495 kilometres and people from both north and south Telangana will come together in Warangal and hold a meeting.

He said that the Union government has no option but to grant a separate state.

“We hope that the announcement will be good. Come to any village in Telangana, however big or small the village is, there is a demonstration on. Moreover, there have been a number of suicides almost totaling 150 since the agitation began. Who will account for the loss of those lives?” he said.

The Centre too is under immense pressure to act on this issue, since there are various reports, which suggest that if no decision is taken soon, the Naxal movement will build up, and the law and order situation will deteriorate.

The Naxals are constantly on the look to make inroads into the movement, but the Telangana leaders have kept them at bay, since they want a different colour to the movement.

The Telangana Members of Legislative Assembly too have appraised the Centre of this growing danger and the Union government is taking no chances with law and order issues.

All the 119 public representatives and 17 Members of Parliament from the Telangana region have decided to remain united in their cause and push the Centre for the formation of a separate state.

Meanwhile, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen party, which had not taken any stand on the Telangana issue so far, appears to have come around and now says that it wants to know what benefits the minorities would get if Telangana state is formed.T

Bengaluru skies dotted with colourful kites

The Bangalore Palace grounds were a centre for activity a couple of days ago. The maiden kite festival which was held on Republic Day has thousands of people from across the state make a beeline to the Palace Grounds to enjoy the spectacle.

Organised by the Junior Chambers International, this kite festival saw over 300 different kinds of kites. The oganisers said that this was the first time that Bengaluru has hosted such an event and it was a huge success. The proceeds of this festival were donated to an institution that works for the welfare of orphaned children.

There were kites in all shapes and sizes.The clear favourites were the dragon shaped and Charlie Chaplin kites.Teenagers could fly these kites for a fee.There were a large number of children who took part in the festival and even the visiting crowd was dominated by children.

The visitors were awestruck with the beautiful display of the kites and most of them termed the event as an amazing experience.

“It has been a long time since the skies of the city have been lit up with so much colour,” a visitor at the Palace grounds, said.

Photograph courtesy: KPN Photos

Rahul Dravid advised 15 days rest

Rahul Dravid, who sustained a jaw injury during the Bangladesh series, has been advised by his doctors to stay away from active sports for the next 15 days.

The ace batsman, who had to prematurely retire from the just-concluded Test series which India won 2-0, underwent surgery on his jaw at the Manipal hospital in Bangalore on Friday.

Doctor Dr Kishore Naik, who performed the surgery, said that the operation went off smoothly and Dravid would be discharged by Friday evening.

“He has been advised rest and told not to play any sport for the next 15 days,” he added.

Dravid was injured during the second Test at Mirpur when he was batting on 111. He tried to duck a low bouncer from Shahadat Hossain and was hit on the ear guard of the helmet. He sustained a nasty blow that left him with a broken jaw.

He was kept under observation in the ICU at Square Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh, before being shifted to hometown Bangalore, where he underwent surgery.

Robin on Ranji Heartbreak

It was glory for Mumbai for the 39th time and heartbreak for Karnataka after the latter lost a closely-contested Ranji Trophy final in Mysore earlier this month. A dogged century by young Manish Pandey notwithstanding, Karnataka lost to the defending champions by just six runs.

India discard Robin Uthappa, who captained Karnataka, following Rahul Dravid’s exit from the squad because of Team India duty, looks back on the final and his own form this season.

‘There was a lot of hype surrounding the game and we were under pressure to perform in front of our home crowd. In every game one side has to win, and this time it was Mumbai. It was a closely-contested game and exciting from the word go. The intensity and pressure was immense, and since there was so much riding on it, on several occasions tempers frayed. This itself shows the amount of pressure that was on both sides.

“Although we would have loved to be on the winning side, I would say that that I thoroughly enjoyed the game. It was a good game of cricket. The boys worked hard. They are all in their second season and, hence, there was a lot of cricket behind them. The fact that they played so well and reached this stage is a great achievement by itself.

“I would like to make special mention of Manish Pandey, who played his heart out in the game. Mark my word, he is a boy for the future! The manner in which he is coming up the ranks is extremely good. He played an excellent knock; the boy really played his heart out!

“Well, there are several lessons we learnt from the game. The most important is that when we had the advantage with us, we should not have given them a chance to come back. This was an error that cost us.

“It happened a couple of times with us during the last season when we had the advantage and let the other side come back. We have realized this and are working on this aspect.

“About my personal form, I am unhappy. I have underperformed this season. I scored just 400 runs compared to 1,200 runs last year. However, I am working on it and believe that form is a temporary problem. One needs to be honest with himself and believe in hard work. I believe in hard work and I know I will return to form.

“The presence of Rahul Dravid would have made a huge difference to the side. It is unfortunate that he had to leave at the last moment when we had to play the final. Regarding Rahul, what do I say? We would have loved to have him with us. More than the runs, I am sure his presence alone would have made a huge difference to the side.

“On whether it was a blunder to chose the Mysore pitch over the Chinnaswamy ground at Bangalore, I would say that it would have been a safer bet chosing the ground at Bangalore. However, we chose Mysore since we wanted a result in the game. We wanted a result in the game. The wicket at Bangalore was not condusive to our strength and, hence, we chose Mysore.

For Karnataka cricket, the match was a huge stepping stone. We are working on our weaknesses and I am sure that we will overcome all small problems. Karnataka cricket will only go forward from here onwards and the boys are working hard towards it. We will improve and are confident of playing better cricket in the next season.

“We are hopeful of lifting the trophy the next season.”

Confession of LeT’s south India cheif

T Naseer was a prized catch for the Indian security agencies. The man the intelligence agencies claim is Lashkar-e-Tayiba’s chief of southern India was picked up from the Bangladesh border a month ago. A dossier on him prepared by the Bengaluru city police provides more information on Naseer.

Name: Thadiyantavida Nazer aka Haji aka Ummer Haji aka Khalid.

Date of Birth: April 23, 1977.

Nationality: Indian.

Educational Qualification: Class 9 pass. Certificate course as an AC mechanic.

Parentage: Father, Abdul Majeed Kambatavida; mother, Khadeeja.

Languages known:
Malayalam, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu.

Political affiliation: Member of the Peoples Democratic Party; an active member of the Majlisthul Thabiyathul Muslimeen, the PDP’s secret wing.

Visits Abroad:
Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh.

Physical description:
5’10”, slim built, medium complexion, long face, sharp nose, sharp gaze, a big mole on left leg just below the knee and a mark on the left forehead.

Naseer’s confession:

‘The terror threat looms larger over northern India when compared to the south. There are 26 very powerful sleeper cells in north India which are awaiting orders from the Lashkar-e-Tayiba in Pakistan. One call from our Lashkar bosses would be sufficient for these cells to activate and carry out strikes. The Lashkar has focused largely on north India.’

‘The number of such active cells in south India currently is just three.’

‘I escaped to Bangladesh soon after the Bengaluru blasts and took shelter with my co-brother (they are married to sisters) Shafaz in Halishahar in Chittagong. I did this at the behest of my Lashkar bosses in October 2008. It was during this time that I heard from a person by the name Shamshuddin, a Pakistani national and a Lashkar operative, that there are 26 active sleeper cells in north India.’

‘During the entire operation of the Bengaluru serial blasts, I never stayed directly in touch with the Lashkar. We used to talk to the bosses through another operative by the name of Sarfaraz Nawaz, who was based in Muscat at that point of time.’

‘Nawaz contacted me after the army attack on the Lashkar camp in Kashmir, in which five youth from Kerala were killed. Immediately after getting information, I traveled to Mumbai. From there we contacted Nawaz and sought his help to flee the country.’

‘He told us to get in touch with a man by the name Zaildeen, an agent who would in turn help us cross the border to Bangladesh. We were told that we should pay him Rs 3,000 for the help he was rendering.’

‘We left for Howrah and contacted him. He asked us to reach the Bankapura Gate, which is on the India-Bangladesh border. We reached this place by bus. From here we were taken on a boat, and on reaching Bangladesh, we were handed over to a couple of youth over there.’

‘Before the youth could take us, there was some confusion and we were asked several questions. We dropped the name of Zaildeen and then the confusion was cleared. We were then kept in a hut for two days before being taken to Dhaka by bus.’

‘At the Dhaka bus stand we met Salim, another Lashkar man, and from there we were taken to the Cox Bazaar area, which is on the coast. During this period we were asked to keep changing our place and we had to change at least 11 hotels during this time.’

‘There was major confusion during this time since the 26/11 Mumbai attacks had taken place. The Bangladesh police started to search for Salim, and finally they picked him up and handed him over to the Pakistani government.’

‘I was informed that we would not be sent to Pakistan. The Lashkar in Pakistan wanted us both to shift permanently to the Gulf and handle operations from there. I managed to get in touch with Nawaz during this time and he managed to arrange for some money.’

‘Another operative by the name Asif got in touch with us and gave us an e-mail id and password to stay in touch with Nawaz, so that the money could be arranged.’

‘We stayed in touch and finally the money was transferred. We received Rs 70,000 through a hawala transaction and we were to use this money to reach the Gulf and set up base.’

‘We then visited an agent and sought a Gulf visa to go to Dubai. However, before we could complete the task, we were picked up by Bangladesh detectives and handed over to India.’

Al Qaeda raising billions, planning chemical strike

The United States and its allies may be on a drive to wipe off Al-Qaeda from the face of the earth, but records show that the most dreaded terrorist outfit continues to raise funds globally.

Records available with Indian security agencies show that the Al-Qaeda has raised $400 billion only through donations in the past year.

Intelligence Bureau officials say that the Al-Qaeda is using to their advantage the sympathy gained in the Arab world from their fight against the United States.

A major chunk of the donations has been coming in countries such as Kuwait, Qatar and Dubai. However, the last year has seen a large number of persons from Switzerland, Africa and Russia contributing towards the Al-Qaeda coffers.

The report states that the terrorist outfit managed to tap businessmen in these countries, who sympathise with the organisation and have never hesitated in funding the latter’s operations.

The IB says that convincing these rich persons was not hard for them. The Al-Qaeda has several sub-organisations, which handle the collection of donations. Working on lines of a corporate set up, there are dedicated people who tap rich businessmen and collect funds from them.

The IB says that there has been a major shift in funding operations when compared to the previous years. Earlier, the outfit largely relied on drug trade to raise finances. But over the years, they have been finding it hard to do so owing to stepped up security on the Afghan borders from where a major chunk of the trade commences.

Thanks to the improved funding, the Al-Qaeda has managed to set up more wings in countries like Nigeria, Sudan, Yemen, Morocco, United Kingdom and the latest one in California.

The IB says that the Al-Qaeda is constantly trying to change its modus operandi and at the moment is concentrating heavily on carrying out a biological and chemical strike.

The growing activity of Al-Qaeda operatives in Georgia is an indicator of the outfit’s changing focus. It is said that Georgia is the primary source for radioactive material. The country’s open borders have proved to be a big advantage for the outfit.

Intelligence agencies believe that smuggling chemical weapons out of Georgia is as easy as buying a chocolate from a shop