The men behind the Varanasi attack

Photo courtesy: NDTV

Based on intelligence reports the police now say that the masterminds of the Varanasi blasts could be two men by the names, Asadullah Akhthar and Dr Shahnawaz. In addition to this they have also named the Bhatkal brothers to be behind this attack.

If the police are able to establish this then that would mean that this entire attack has emanated out of Sharjah. Iqbal Bhatkal, Dr Shahnawaz and Asadullah as per reports of the Intelligence bureau are all in Sharjah at the moment. While tracking the movements of prime operative of Riyaz Bhatkal who is the brother of Iqbal, the investigating agencies have found that he too has frequented Sharjah several times from Karachi where he is primarily based.

According to preliminary leads which have been mentioned by the Mumbai police, the Bhatkal brothers helped plan the operation while Shahnawaz and Asadullah executed the attack.

Iqbal Bhatkal or Iqbal Shahbandri who hails from the coastal town of Bhatkal in Karnataka went absconding two years back from his home town. He was accused of operating for the IM along with his brother Riyaz and the moment the police stepped up the hunt for this man, he went missing. Although people at his native claim that he left the country since he was framed and feared police arrest. However according to the investigators, Iqbal ran the module in Pune following his brothers departure and was even involved in recruiting cadres for their modules both in Maharashtra and Pune.

The first time the names of Shahnawaz and Asadullah cropped up was during the Delhi serial blasts and later once again during the Batla House encounter. Today the two of them are in Sharjah according to intelligence reports and it is said that the attack could have been masterminded from there.

Dr Shahnawaz an MMBS and Asadullah a pharmacist both hail from the town of Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh and began their association with terror when they first joined the Students Islamic Movement of India. However the duo later branched into the Indian Mujahideen have been part of that group for around four years now.

When the 27 year old Shahnawaz’s brother Mohammad Saif was arrested in connection with the Batla house encounter, the IB had sent out warning signals of a possible aggression by him. The IB had said that he would try and help re-group the IM in order to avenge the Batla House encounter. Shanawaz is not new to Varanasi. He is believed to have frequented that place many times when he stayed at Lucknow for two years while working at a hospital as a doctor.

Asadullah on the other hand left India after the Delhi blasts in the year 2008. Information available regarding him suggests that he was the one who had assembled the bombs for the Delhi blasts. According to the IB, Asadullah shares a longer relationship with the IM when compared to Shahnawaz. He was one of the core members who was part of the core group of the IM when it was founded. His first tryst with terror was during the Jaipur blasts in which he has been named as one of the accused.

His strongest case is however the Delhi serial blasts in which he has been accused of planting the bombs at Greater Kailash.

Why do IM mails come from Mumbai?

An interesting thing witnessed following the Varanasi blast that occurred yesterday was that the mail that was sent by the Indian Mujahideen was once again sent out from Mumbai. Even as the Mumbai ATS orders a parallel probe into this aspect.

The question now is whether there still exists a strong technical cell of the IM and also whether operatives of the IM continues to use servers in Mumbai and bounce their mails from other places.

Before getting into these aspects let us take a look at previous instances in which the Indian Mujahideen has used systems in Mumbai to send out mails before and after terror attacks.

In the month of July 2008, the Indian Mujahideen sent a mail ahead of the Ahmedabad blasts which was traced to a flat in Navi Mumbai.

Another mail speaking about the probe into the Ahmedabad blasts was sent out on August 2008 and the same was traced to Khalsa College in Matunga.

A month later in the same year a mail of the IM following the Delhi blasts was traced to Chembur.

The mail sent after the Jama Masjid firing was traced yet again to Mumbai.

The mail sent after the Varanasi blast was traced to Malad in Mumbai.

Indian intelligence agencies point out that this is an interesting trend to see the mails being sent out from Mumbai after all major attacks on Indian soil. Initially mails were being sent out from Mumbai since the Indian Mujahideen had basically set up its tech module in Mumbai under the leadership of Mansoor Pheerbhoy who was later arrested by the Mumbai police. Today they continue to use servers in Mumbai to send mails with the sole intention of playing hide and seek with the Mumbai police who according to them were the primary force to decimate their organization.

Look back at the mail that the IM sent in the aftermath of the Jama Masjid attack. It clearly takes a dig at the Mumbai police and Rakesh Maria in particular. The mail goes on to say that the Mumbai police need not feel happy that they had broken their organization and the core strength of the IM was still existent and was capable of striking at any time. The IB points out that the mail was more of a challenge to the police which gave the message, “ catch us if you can.”

When the IM started off it decided to set up a technical cell since it was aware that the Indian police were light years behind when it came to cracking technology. They were aware that if they sent out mails after every attack, the initial part of the investigation would be disturbed since the police would try and chase the mails sent out by them and in the meantime the real operatives could give the slip.

This task was assigned to Abdul Subhan and Mansoor Peerbhoy. The first idea deviced by them was to set up the cell and also use wifi networks that were not secure. However the idea was never to sit in a particular city and send out emails. Mansoor managed to impart knowledge on a lot of cadres on how to hack a wifi network from anywhere in the country using the IP address and bounce mails out of that server.

The IB says that these skills are known to a lot of people in the IM including the low ranking cadres. While during the initial part of their operations they sent out mails from Mumbai, today they are able to send mails using servers in Mumbai from other cities.<

Sending mails from servers in Mumbai does not necessarily indicate that their tech cell exists in the strength that it used to. This is just a challenge to the Mumbai police which was responsible for cracking down on this cell in the first place.

In addition to Mumbai, the IM had also set up a technical cell in Thane. This was infact revealed by a person by the name Abdul Bashir who was arrested in connection with the Gujarat blasts. This particular cell was headed by a person by the name Toufiq Bilal. The IB says that they would need to look into the working of this cell too since it was not active at the time of Operation Bangalore Ahmedabad Delhi, but could have well revamped now and is sending out the mails.

Places of worship under attack

From Left:The Akshardham temple after attack, Varanasi blast site, Mecca Masjid, The Malegaon blasts. Photo courtesy: From various new websites
From Left:The Akshardham temple after attack, Varanasi blast site, Mecca Masjid, The Malegaon blasts.

Terror in religious places is becoming quite common in India. Watching the Varnasi blast it becomes clear that the entire operation was carried out to create a communal divide in the country.

Terror attacks at religious places is not a new phenomenon and it has occurred several times in the past. Experts on terrorism say that the motive behind attacking a religious place is very clear. It not only aims at causing death and panic but also at hurting religious sentiments which ultimately leads to a communal clash.

Here are some of the instances in India where places of worship have been attacked in the past.

The Akshardham attack: On September 25 2002, the Akshardham temple at Gujarat, Gandhinagar was attacked by two armed terrorists. After gaining access to the temple they opened fire and in the bargain killed nearly 29 persons. At the end the terrorists suspected to be Lashkar-e-Tayiba militants were neutralized by the National Security Guard commandos. While Pakistan remained in denial about its operatives carrying out the blasts, David Headley in a recent confession suggested that it was the Lashkar which carried out the attack.

Varanasi blasts– In the year 2006 Varanasi which was attacked again today was struck in two places- the Sankat Mochan Hanuman and the Varanasi railway station. This blast claimed 20 lives. This was an operation carried out by the HuJI (Bangladesh) and the blasts were triggered off by a timer device. All trails led to the modules of the HuJi (B) and several arrests were carried out in this regard.

Mecca Masjid blasts– On May 18th 2007, the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad was bombed. In all 14 persons were killed in this blast and ironically out of this number 5 died in police firing. The bomb was kept in a pipe and triggered off by a cell phone. This led to violent protests by the Muslim community following which the police opened fire and killed five persons.

This case has seen many flip flops with the Hyderabad police maintaining that it was an act committed by the HuJI. However there was a demand for a CBI probe which was finally instituted. Today the CBI has said that it was the doing of some Hindu groups and investigations are in progress.

The Malegaon blasts– In the year 2006 a series of blasts ripped a Muslim cemetery in Malegaon in Maharashtra in which 37 people were killed and several others injured. These high intensity bombs were placed on bi-cycles and triggered off. The investigation went in various directions for quite some time and it was at first indicated that it could be the doing of some Pakistan based groups in order to rake up passions among the Muslim community so that there is a communal riot. However two years back under Hemanth Karkare as the chief of the Mumbai ATS, several arrests of Hindu persons were carried out which included Colonel Purohith and Sadhvi Pragya Singh. The investigations concluded a year back and a chargesheet was also filed in the case.

Who will carry out the attacks asked Riyaz Bhatkal

Riyaz Bhatkal

Who is going to bell the cat, if we have to come back strong in India, is what Riyaz Bhatkal, one of the founder members of the deadly Indian Mujahideen told Salman alias Chotu at a meeting at Pakistan a few months before the latter’s arrest.

This interrogation report of Salman who was nabbed while trying to cross over into through the Nepal border has the answers to all the plans of the Indian Mujahideen including the one pertaining to the sourcing of the explosives that were used in the Varnasi blasts.

The conversations between Salman and Bhatkal which took place in Karachi, Pakistan is proof of the fact that the Indian Mujahideen was desperate, wanted to strike but was unable to carry out a big operation due to the want of strong cadre.

After the decimation of the Indian Mujahideen by the Indian security agencies to a large extent there were plans being chalked out to revamp the unit. Salman who was a small time operative who managed to give the police the slip following the Batla house encounter was eager to carry out attacks in India. However he was finding it difficult since there was a complete breakdown of their mechanism and he thought he needed to meet with the biggies in Pakistan in order to chalk out a strategy.

Salman during his interrogation told the cops that he had managed to give them the slip following the Batla House encounter. There was a lot of anger among the youth in his community following this incident and they thought they needed to hit back. But they were facing problems with regards to man power and funding and that it when he decided to make a visit to Karachi to meet up with Bhatkal.

Bhatkal during the interaction said that his brother Yaseen would be working out a new strategy to carry out attacks in India. However nothing much could be achieved at the moment since there was a break down. We can carry out attacks and respond to the Indian agencies, but then who will bell the cat or who will carry out these attacks. We need strong cadres who are capable of planning and executing such attacks.

In addition to this Bhatkal also said that it was difficult to source ammunition into India since security was at an all time high. To this Salman responded by saying that there is still ammunition in small quantity left behind by those arrested and this could be used to carry out blasts.

The police who are probing the Varanasi blasts now say that this is a fringe group of the outfit which has carried out the blasts and the ammunition that has been used were left overs of the IM cadres before they were arrested. They had stacked up IEDs and also a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate which is accessible to these low rung cadres. Moreover these persons who are fringe elements within the IM have not been on the IB radar and that is the reason why they could have slipped in and planted the bombs. The bomb was assembled by a professional, but they lacked the equipment which usually was at the disposal of the IM when their network was strong. In addition to this they have also not been able to coordinate this attack to precision since the master minds too have gone missing.

Police sources say that they will need to step up the heat on these fringe elements who are found in abundance at Azamgarh, Old Delhi and Pune since if they are let away then they could well bring the IM back into shape as it used to be two years back.

 

The fringe factor of IM

Onlookers stand at the site of a bomb blast in Varanasi. Photo courtesy: http://www.guardian.co.uk/

There is much talk about the re-grouping of the Indian Mujahideen which once again continued its tradition of sending out an email after the Varanasi blast. A similar letter but with less improvised English was also sent out after a shoot outside the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi a couple of days before the Common Wealth Games.

While investigators continue to study the pattern and the motives behind these incidents, a new yet disturbing trend that is cropping is that these attacks are being carried out by low level operatives of the dreaded IM.

Both the above mentioned incidents show that the attacks were not sophisticated in nature and did not cause the kind of impact which the IM normally would have caused.

The biggest operation that the IM had carried out were the back to back blasts at Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi. Following this there was a massive crackdown on all their operatives such as Mansoor Pheerbhouy, Abdul Subhan and the rest. These persons who were appointed by former SIMI chief, Safdar Nagori who is now in custory were all given the chase. While Subhan managed to give the slip, Pheerbhouy was taken into custody. While the top rung was decimated to a large extent, there still remained people such as Riyaz Bhatkal and Salman who carried the organization forward. However after the blasts at Pune, the heat on these two men also grew and Bhatkal was forced to leave the country. Salman then became the most important person in the IM, but he too was nabbed while trying to get away from India. In addition to this, there was also a directive to Amir Reza one of the founders of the IM to stay underground since the numerous dossiers India sent to Pakistan post 26/11 takes his name.

These arrests and breaking down of the various modules of the IM created a huge vaccum within the group. In addition to this there was also a huge crackdown on their two most important modules at Pune and Uttar Pradesh.

Intelligence Bureau officials now tell rediff.com that these boys who formed the top rung of the IM have a lot of sympathizers and well wishers. These people believe that their role models had been wronged by Indian security agencies. The formation of the IM was seen as a hope for a lot of people in the old parts of Delhi and areas such as Azamgarh and to see their role models being reduced to nothing by security agencies has not gone down too well.

Even as there is a strategy being planned out in Pakistan to revamp the IM, a second rung of this group comprising rookies decided to come together and carry forward the outfit. According to the IB, this group does not enjoy the patronage to the extent the earlier modules did. They are constantly trying to carry out attacks in order to get noticed. The ISI is yet to show keen interest in this group and feels that these boys lack the sophistication that their seniors had to carry out major attacks.

The IB says that this fringe group within the IM will continue trying to shake up the security system and with whatever little skills they have they will continue undertaking such operations.

If one reads the mails that are sent out by them, they focus largely on emotive issues such as the Batla House encounter, the Babri masjid demolition and also the Kashmir issue which is a sign of desperation to garner local support. However this group is directionless and lacks the sophistication that their bosses use to have. Their networking is not as good as it used to be before and neither do they have access to sophisticated machinery to carry out attacks with a huge impact. Under the garb of seeking revenge on half a dozen issues, this fringe group’s major intention is the seek attention of the ISI so that they help them grow into a bigger outfit. However the ISI on the other hand has other plans and is roping in bigger persons on the field such as Shafiq Khafa to build up a home grown Indian module. The ISI has roped in these men and has asked them to open up fresh modules and have a new outfit on the lines of the old Indian Mujahideen which had carried out a series of deadly attacks in India. The revamp of a home grown module would rely heavily on the modules of the HuJI which is strong in areas of UP and in addition to this they would also look to create new modules in the rest of India.

Read More: On attempts of regrouping terror forces

The sad case of our cyber security

How safe are our systems? Pic-utsa.net

Three days gone and the website of the Central Bureau of Investigation is still down. When queried about the same, the answer was work was still on and more importantly the investigation was on in full swing.

It is an established fact that the hacking of the CBI website was the handi work of the Pakistan Cyber Army. Looking back at this attack there are many points that come to light and cyber security experts point out that the most disturbing of all the facts on the cyber security front is that the government of India is yet to notify a large number of sensitive websites as protected systems.

The amendment to the Information Technology Act made a provision for the government to notify all sensitive sites under it as protected systems. Under this provision, a mere attempt to access a protected system would invite a jail term of up to ten years. This would not deter a Pakistani from hacking the website under the classification of a protected system, but within the country the systems would be much more secure.

Pavan Duggal, an expert on cyber security tells rediff.com that most of the highly sensitive websites in India which are under the government ofIndia are not notified as protected systems. The IT act says that any person trying to even access the site under this category will imprisoned for ten years. The fact that the government has not done this despite the act being in place for nearly two years only speaks about the seriousness in fighting cyber crime.

The attack on the CBI site brought into question an important fact whether India has its own Cyber Army. India does have a set of ethical hackers who are meant to protect our systems. However there are a lot of issues that surround this and one ethical hacker who did not wish to be named pointed out the following problems that they face.<

He says that they do not enjoy the patronage of the government. The much needed security that they ought to have has not been provided by the government. This is in total contrast of the Pakistan Cyber Army which enjoys the complete patronage of both the Government and the ISI.

In addition to this some of the ethical hackers in India who were supposed to work for the government have complained about too much police interference. Very recently there was an incident in which the police had issued a couple of directions to the ethical hackers. These persons say that they were upset with this kind of interference and they should not be told how to go about their job. This kind of kills our motivation and we feel that our own system is against us. Our job requires precision and a lot of dedication and at times we would suo motu indicate the problems faced by the Indian systems. However there was not much reaction to this and we have been clearly told that we need to work when we are asked to work.<

Duggal points out that there are plenty of ethical hackers in India. However we do not have a cyber army in that sense of the word. It is high time that India thinks in that direction in order to act pro actively to protect our sovereign interests.

Look at the case of the CBI website. It has been four days and it is still not up when it should have been done in three hours time. The message we have sent out is loud and clear that we lack a pro active national cyber strategy on cyber crime. Moreover the Pakistanis have exploited our security loop holes and we are only showing how weak we are by undertaking the restoration process so late.

The Intelligence Bureau on the other hand has been constantly warning against such attacks. It has been more of a challenge this time, but there could well be a situation where our crucial data is accessed. A fully functional and dedicated cyber army is very much required and it should comprise IT professionals. It is more important that they constantly work towards securing our web sites than hack into systems of our neighbouring nations.

Meanwhile the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) says that it is developing a mechanism to make websites hack proof. The DRDO pointed out that cyber security is a major concern for national security and feels that they could develop hacking proof devices.

Read More: Cyber War-Where does India Stand?

An open letter to Ratan Tata

Open Letter to Mr. Ratan N. Tata, Chairman, Tata Sons Ltd.
Dear Mr. Tata,
It is with considerable concern and some confusion that I have watched your recent Television Interviews and press statements following the 2G scam and the exposure of the infamous Nira Radia Tapes.
I, as countless other Indians, have held the house of Tatas in great esteem and respect – have seen them as being different from so many other Indian corporates that play by a different set of rules and values. I, along with many Indians, consider JRD Tata as one of the true builders of modern India.

Ratan Tata

So, it is with considerable sadness and dismay that I am constrained to write this open letter to you. I trust you will not consider this as personal, since my letter has to do with issues of principle and conduct that are disturbing.
In your recent press interactions, you have made the point that the 2G scam needs to be investigated and have made several sub-points, including:
1. Out-of-turn allocation of spectrum;
2. Hoarding of spectrum by incumbent operators; and
3. Flip-flop of Policy
Let me wholeheartedly agree with you. Many in media and public life including me, have been saying this for several years now, so your belated realization of these critical issues is very welcome.
I sympathize with your concern about public-policy making in our country sometimes resembling that of a Banana Republic. But the forces behind this are helped considerably by the fact that people with power and influence remain silent and passive spectators to this. So many including I would have welcomed your intervention much earlier, as in the case of the alleged bribing offer 15 years ago, of Rs 15 Crores that you referred to only recently. You will agree that speaking out against corruption is most effective when it is happening and not decades or years later. Because then it becomes an intellectual post mortem, and not active resistance.

Rajeev Chandrashekhar

Since I was previously a telecom entrepreneur, there will be a temptation for those that advise you, to attribute agenda and motivations to this letter of mine. But I assure you that there is none. I write because I believe that there is a need to join you in this debate and necessarily bring to your attention the contradictions between your stand and the position of the Tata Telecom companies, that you may be unaware of, given your senior position in your organization.
1. Out-of-Turn Allocation of Spectrum
According to the CAG Report, the potential loss to the Exchequer on account of dual technology licenses at 3G rates is Rs. 37,154 crores. By virtue of dual technology – according to the CAG – your company has caused a loss to the Exchequer to the tune of approx. Rs. 19074.8 crores.
But it is not just this. It is a fact that the Tata Group is a beneficiary of out-of-turn spectrum. In fact, one of the biggest of them all.
It is a fact admitted by the Government on affidavit that 575 applications were received for 2G spectrum by 01 October, 2007. Using an illegal and arbitrary cutoff date, Mr. Raja processed only 122 applications received till 25 September, 2007. 110 were rejected and 343 applications were put in abeyance. Given the fact that there is no 2G spectrum available, these applications received till 01 October, 2007 (within the date represented by the Government) have now been put in the dustbin. In fact, the TRAI had already recommended on 11 May 2010 that no more UASL license with bundled spectrum can be given. This means that these 343 applications will never be processed and will never see spectrum.
In the meantime, 19 days after these 575 applications were received, the dual technology policy was announced through a press release by Mr. Raja. The Tatas put in their dual technology applications around 22 October. So, in effect, their application went in three weeks after the 575 2G applications were received.
Today, Tatas already have GSM spectrum allocated and GSM service launched in most of the circles – But the 343 applications submitted three weeks before the Tata Group have neither been processed nor have any chance of ever being processed – so much for First Come, First Serve.
You will accept that this seems to be a case of arriving late, forming a new queue, jumping the priority and accusing others of getting priority on spectrum allocation and meets your point of out-of-turn allocation of spectrum. I am sure the 373 applicants who were rejected for no fault of theirs, will agree – while the Tata Group has sold its equity for billions of dollars to NTT Docomo based on its out-of-turn GSM allocation on dual technology policy.
In my humble opinion, evidence suggests that the Tatas have benefited from out-of-turn spectrum allocation. The dispute between Tatas and Reliance Comm inter se on the allocation sequence cannot dilute the primary fact of bypassing other early applicants to this spectrum.

 

2. Hoarding of spectrum by incumbent operators
This is an important point you have raised. I concur with you that there is a need for Telcos, old or new, to pay market rates for spectrum. I also completely agree that the subscriber linked criteria allocation of spectrum is flawed and is encouraging fudging and false subscriber numbers. But I bring to your attention, that this is existing Government policy – flawed or unfortunate as it may be, and the only solution to this is to replace this with a new policy.
If by hoarding, you mean having more spectrum than number of subscribers that can be serviced – then please note that Tata holds spectrum both for GSM and CDMA. Based on the spectrum that Tata has, its average efficiency is perhaps the lowest amongst the large operators. Equally, that the CDMA spectrum that Tata holds is 3-4 times more efficient than the GSM operators – by its own admission, which I recall during the WLL scam. Moreover, Tata has received CDMA and GSM spectrum at 2001 rates. So even if the hoarding charge was to apply, it would also apply to the Tatas for having maximum cumulative efficiency (CDMA and GSM) to serve the least number of subscribers amongst the incumbents.
Again, I fully support the need to price spectrum beyond 6.2 MHz with incumbent operators at market rates. But the charge of hoarding that you make applies equally to Tata Tele – whether it is total spectrum held, or subscribers served based on that spectrum, or price paid to acquire such spectrum, vis-à-vis the cumulative efficiency of CDMA and GSM.

3. Flip-flop of Policy
In your interview, you have pointed out that a lot of the current dysfunctionality in Telecom has arisen from Policy changes and flip-flops. You would recall that one of the most horrific distortions of Policy was the infamous WLL scam in 2001– where Telecom companies with Fixed service licenses managed to muscle their way into cellular with active support of Policy makers of that time – and not to forget that it was all done in the name of benefit to the common man! You will further recall that in 2003, a convenient set of recommendations by the TRAI and Government allowed this illegality to be regularized through the UASL policy, opening the gates to unprecedented and unique (and unheard of) First Come, First Served form of licensing – bypassing tenders (a form of auction) that were the norm for obtaining cellular licenses till then.
Your company was the beneficiary of this ‘policy flip-flop’ and you chose to accept the benefits of this flip-flop at that time – despite this blatant violation and distortion. I am personally aware because I led the fight against it and remember being immensely disappointed at the Tata Group’s remarkably self-serving position. Further, in one of the most mysterious and indefensible acts, Tata Group took on board as a consultant, the very individual, who as the Chairman of TRAI was the architect of this UASL and other shames.
So in summary and respectfully, your positions in the recent interviews seem to be in stark contrast with the actual conduct, performance and position of Tatas’ Telecom companies in each of the three points you have raised.
There are several other questions that deserve answers, including why a group like Tata with its sterling character and reputation requires outside lobbyists to lobby on their behalf! That, in itself, is enough to shatter one’s confidence!
I reiterate that this letter is not meant to tarnish or disrespect or distract from the many achievements of the Tata Group including the acquisition of International Brands like Land Rover, Jaguar and its increasingly global footprint. But I believe, on behalf of many erstwhile supporters of the Tata group, that it is my duty to seek and spotlight the truth. The Tata Group has a responsibility, and indeed, owes it to its many admirers in India to actually live up to its image of ethical conduct, otherwise your statements and actions will seem to be hypocrisy – something that’s already available in plenty in our public and corporate life.

Respectfully,
RAJEEV CHANDRASEKHAR
Member of Parliament
New Delhi
06 December, 2010

The Lashkar’s Southern Game

Narendra Modi, on target. Photo courtesy: NDTV
The secret US state department cable suggested that Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi was on the hit list of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba based in Pakistan. The cable notes that a person by the Shafiq Khafa was in charge of this operation and he had been coordinating with cadres in India to carry out the job.

Indian intelligence agencies say that this bit of information was shared with them after the 26/11 attack and since then they have been gathering up details regarding this man Khafa. Khafa who is in his mid thirties had come into the picture following the heat being stepped up on both Amir Reza and Riyaz Bhatkal who were handling the Indian Mujahideen/Lashkar operations in India.

Khafa primarily based out of Karachi has been with the Lashkar since the past decade and he was put in charge of India based operations especially Southern India after there was a major crack down on the modules down South.

The IB says that Southern India was a potential ground for operatives of the Lashkar. This outfit had a lot of hope from this region and the build up under the likes of Bhatkal, Reza, T Nasir and the rest had commenced. The biggest operation that was being planned was an operation in Goa which was to be undertaken by Riazzuddin Nasir, a Hyderabad based operative. However a month before the operation could have been carried out he was arrested.

The Lashkar tried getting back into action since that arrest and started to build on its Southern module. They employed the likes of T Nasir to carry out operations, but the groups under him managed blasts at Bangalore which again did not create the impact that they would have liked it to have. In the midst of this, the Lashkar also tried pushing some of the cadres from South India into the Kashmir battle, but that attempt too failed.

The IB says that the repeated failures by the Lashkar to build up modules in Southern India had left them frustrated. They then made another attempt through Riyaz Bhatkal, but his involvement in the blasts at Pune, Ahmedabad and Delhi increased the heat on him forcing him to go underground. To add to their worries, India took the name of Amir Reza in its dossier to Pakistan which prompted the ISI to tell him to go slow in his operations.

These instances gave birth to the rise of Khafa who at that point of time was active in parts of Nepal and was helping the Lashkar set up operations. Under Khafa, the Lashkar expected that the Souther module would be strenghthened. The first thing that Khafa did was to get in touch with an India based operative by the Hussain who has been active in recruitment for around 5 years now. These two men were clearly told that there is too much heat on the Lashkar modules up North and there was no way in which they would give up on their expansion plans down South.

The Lashkar needed to strike badly using its Southern Modules since they wanted the attention for the modules down South. The IB says that if a module has managed to strike big, it inspires the other youth to join them and recruitment becomes less of a headache. The recruitment process down South had come down drastically and the Lashkar needed an issue. Moreover post 26/11, the Lashkar was aware that there would be a crack down on modules especially in Northern India and hence wanted to spruce up its Southern network. They were also aware that the police would pick up many of their cadres and hence it was necessary to carry out an attack of such an impact that the youth would be tempted to join them.

When Khafa was brought into the picture, he was told that the Southern module would begin with the assasination of Narendra Modi. There are mixed feelings about this leader in a particular community and issues such as him or the Babri Masjid demolition have always been trump cards for the Lashkar where building up modules or recruiting youth is concerned. Hence Khafa was told to target this leader.

However carrying out an operation of this nature was not going to be easy and they were aware of the security he enjoys. Moreover assaisinating a leader of this stature would also mean a communal mess in the country. A communal riot too has worked in the favour of terror groups and has made its job easy to find new cadres.

Khafa along with his accomplice, Hussain started the build up by pumping in cadres through the Nepal border so that these men could train the new recruits. In addition to this they also went about setting up a module in Sri Lanka since it was a closer border to South India. Khafa intentionally stayed away from setting up modules in Hyderabad since the activities of the Lashkar are very closely monitored over there. They chose the Tumkur region in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu for this operation. Khafa had already managed to inform some of his stooges in these states to find places to undertake training camps. In addition to this they were also involved in creating new routes to smuggle in arms and ammunition.

Security agencies says that this operation of theirs has once again slowed down since there was a lot of interception following the Intelligence alert. However one cannot take things lying down since it is a constant battle for the Lashkar to set up strong modules in South India

Cyber War-Where does India Stand?

The Hacked CBI Website

The website of the Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s premier investigation agency was hacked by the Pakistan Cyber Army. The website had the message from the PCA that this was being done to avenge the hacking of Pakistan government websites by the Indian Cyber Army.
The message on the CBI website also mock the agency for the lack of security and also questioned the manner in which the National Informatics Centre had put in place the security to safeguard government websites.
Immediate measures have been taken to rectify the problem since the website of the CBI is not only connected to all police stations in the country, but also directly linked to the Interpol. There is heavy damage control exercise which is on at the moment since there is crucial data on this website. The data contains records of wanted criminals and terrorists and this information is linked with the Interpol.
The attack comes close on the heels of a major warning by intelligence agencies that Indian government websites will come under severe attack by Pakistan based hackers. The IB had warned that Pakistan would launch a major cyber war and this could be a continous process and immediate steps had to be taken to secure our servers and websites.
The Pakistan Cyber Army which is the most lethal of the three Pakistan based hacking groups claims to have come into force after their websites were hacked. They say that the Indians had hacked into Oil and Gas Regulatory website in Pakistan. In an immediate retort they hacked into the website of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation.
India has been trying to put in place its own set of hackers. The core job of this group would not be to hack into websites of other countries, but to secure hackers from other countries from entering into our sites.
Currently India has a set of hackers who have capabilities, but the problem is that there is a need for a government clearance to get them to do the job legally. The advantage that a PCA has is that they enjoy the support of security agencies and hence they appear to be in a stronger position today. The IB says that it is not sufficient to rely on the government machinery, but experts from the private sector need to be brought in to secure Indian websites.
Experts point out that there is a need to put in place a dedicated cyber army to protect India’s websites. We have seen many attacks in the past and we should consider ourselves lucky that no serious damage has been done as yet. At the moment they only want to show that our system is weak and it is more of a game for them.