The Intelligence Agencies of India and Saudi Arabia have decided to work together in a bid to tackle the ISIS and Al-Qaeda menace which is becoming problematic for both the nations. The chief of the Intelligence Bureau, Asif Ibrahim who is in Saudi Arabia on a week long official visit is holding discussions with his counterparts to ensure that recruits from India do not use the Saudi Arabia route to land up in Syria and Iraq. Based on the intelligence shared by both the countries it has been found that around 38 youth were planning on landing in Saudi Arabia as Haj pilgrims and then moving out of there to land up in Syria and Iraq in a bid to join the ISIS. This bit of information is exremely crucial in the fight agaisnt the ISIS which is making a bid to recruit as many people as possible from the Sub-Continent. A close watch is also being kept on recruits who are joining the Khorasan an Al-Qaeda affiliate which is battling the Assad regime in Syria.
At one point in time bringing back the Indians from Iraq looked like an impossible task considering the mentality of the ISIS. The ISIS was in fact thinking of taking into their fold as many Indians as possible not with an intent of killing them, but to use them as shields and also for the sake of global publicity. However with militant you never know and what could trigger off a brutal assault.
Time was running out for the Indians and the Union Government realised that they needed to act quick. The Ministry of External Affairs which was tasked with the job of ensuring the safe return of the Indians accelerated its efforts and the man they roped in for this crucial job was the National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval. He made a secret visit to Iraq between June 23 and 25 along with the chief of the Intelligence Bureau, Asif Ibrahim and RaW chief Alok Joshi and this proved to be the icing on the cake for the operation that ensured that the Indians returned to their homes.
The Bihar government has always been extremely touchy when it came to the subject of terrorism and in the past two years they have made it clear twice. The refusal to question, Yasin Bhatkal leave alone file a case against him has been a shocker for the Intelligence Bureau who after nabbing him took him to Bihar first.
Sources in the Intelligence Bureau tell rediff.com that the big boss of the IB, Asif Ibrahim had personally spoken to the top rung of the Bihar police and tried convincing them about the importance of Yasin Bhatkal. However all this was to no avail. Continue reading “Yasin- Why Bihar cops developed cold feet?”
The arrest of Reaz Qadir Khan in connection with the suicide bombing on the ISI headquarters at Lahore is yet another wake up call regarding the security set up Maldives. This island nation has become a launching pad for Jihadis and the problems are galore for various security agencies across the world.
It was a concern that India has been speaking about ever since the 26/11 attacks took place and today the vice President of Maldives, Mohammad Waheed Hassan too has allayed the same fears.
Activity in Maldives over the past three years has been subtle, but steady. There is a gradual build up some Islamic forces and slowly the country is threatening to become one of the biggest breeding ground of terror for self styled jihadis after Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Does India have reason to worry? The answer would be yes and plenty. It is after all the radical section of the Students Islamic Movement of India which has infiltrated in large numbers into Maldives. Sources in the Indian Intelligence Bureau confirm this fact while stating that there has been a movement of some SIMI cadres into Maldives. They also say that there has been constant monitoring of the youth from Maldives who are coming into India.
The vice president of that country also made it clear that these youth who are mostly students are following a version of Islam which is very rigid. Sources say that he is most probably referring to the Wahabi style of the religion which is rigid and is being followed by the Al-Qaeda which does not believe in Dargah worship and also finds every solution in a bloody battle.
The common belief was that after the breaking down of the Students Islamic Movement of India there was a set of people in it who formed the Indian Mujahideen. While one section of SIMI did move on to become the IM, there was another set of radicals who preferred to infiltrate into Maldives in particular and start to wage a war over there. Police sources say that many in the SIMI network have gone out of the radar. There has been intelligence to show that many had set base in Maldives as they had found it to be a safe haven. Camps have been set up and it has become a major cadre collection point. Students who are hand picked by extremists outfits enter into Maldives quoting job and education as the reasons. While one point of their entry is on the radar after a couple of months they suddenly go missing.
From here the youth are sent to either Pakistan or Afghanistan where there are further radicalised, trained and prepared to wage a battle. India is sure on the radar of such extremists. There has been a lot of talk about how the Lashkar-e-Tayiba was setting up of its stronger bases in Maldives and would want to launch sea borne attacks from this country.
Maldives faces a herculean task today thanks to this phenomenon. Back in the year 2009 there was an Al-Qaeda video which was in circulation showing youth being indoctrinated for terror. The Al-Qaeda had been picking up Maldivian youth at that time to battle in Afghanistan and according to records in that year alone nearly 150 youth from Maldives had gone missing and later found to be fighting along side the Al-Qaeda.
The Lashkar on the other hand has been setting up camps. There has not been much to show that the youth from Maldives have been used to wage the Lashkar battle. The Lashkar in fact has played it along quite safely and inputs go on to suggest that they are going about their job in a slow and phased manner. The arrangement with Maldives which permitted their citizens to stay on in India for 90 days without a visa had proved to a boon for outfits such as SIMI and the Lashkar. A great deal of movement was seen at that time and the majority of it was reported from Kerala. According to sources, Lashkar and SIMI have been eying Maldives since the year 2007 when the Sultan Park blasts took place. It was a way of announcing their presence in Maldives and as per the investigation conducted on the basis of the statements made by Asif Ibrahim it was the Lashkar and the SIMI which undertook this attack. However the attack was not carried out in the name of either of these outfits but a shadow outfit by the name Jammat-e-Muslimeen was floated for this purpose. India also had the investigation report of a man by the name Inas Moosa who was associated with this outfit.
The Sultan Park blast according to the experts was a turning point. There was a major hunt down which was conducted post this attack and the police trail led to a mosque on Himendu where some of the militants were holed up. There was violence that followed and this in fact helped the recruitment’s surge. More on the investigations also pointed to the kind of influx there has been in this country which led to the bomb blast. There were Maldivians, Indians, Pakistanis and also Sri Lankans involved in this attack. This in fact is a testimony to show how much these radical elements prefer Maldives as a base.
According to the Intelligence Bureau, the Lashkar has had a very similar approach in Maldives as it did in both India and Pakistan. A shadow organisation by the name Idara Khidmat-e-Khalq considered to be a front for the Lashkar was sent into Maldives to help the Tsunami victims in the year 2004. Since that there has been activity in the country and the results of the same we see today.
Apart from recruitment’s the Lashkar has concentrated on getting SIMI cadres and also youth from various other South Asian countries to set up a very strong base in Maldives. The Islands give them a perfect launching pad and the 26/11 attack did prove that a sea borne attack could be deadly. Reports would suggest that from India alone the Lashkar has possibly used the services of nearly a 1000 youth to set up base camps in Maldives.
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An agreement with Maldives to permit its residents to stay on in India without a visa for 90 days has been proving to be a headache for investigating agencies especially in Kerala. Very recently Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh spoke about the challenges the two countries faced in fighting a common enemy called as terrorism.
Post 26/11, every attempt was made by Pakistan based militant groups to float more modules in Maldives and the message was clear that attacks would be more sea borne in future. Off late Intelligence Bureau reports show that there is a lot of influx of Maldives based terror operatives and they have been frequenting states such as Kerala.
The fact that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba has been setting up modules in Maldives to launch terror attacks is nothing new. However the state in India that they would depend on the most would be Kerala according to reports put out by security agencies. Groups such as the Lashkar have been tapping the modules in Kerala to keep their Maldivian operations afloat. Signs of a Kerala-Maldives link began to show in the year 2007 itself with the arrest of a key operative by the name Asif Ibrahim.
Till date the Lashkar has been using the modules in Kerala to carry out operations in the Maldives, but soon it could be vice versa when the outfit decides to target India. There is a steady growth of the Maldivian modules according to Intelligence reports. Not only are these groups strong ideologically, but they have the capabilities of launching sea borne attacks as well which is probably the toughest form of terror which India can fight.
The Male Sultan park blast was the first time that the India-Maldives terror link cropped up. Executed by an Islamic cell connected with the Lashkar, this attack made Indian agencies sit up and take notice of what was going on.
In this case the police managed to gather a lot of information through the interrogation of Asif Ibrahim who was also connected with the attack. This man who is a Maldivian national was arrested in Kerala and during his interrogation spoke in great detail about the links between the state and the groups in Maldives. The two regions are directly bound by the finance factor and most of the operations that are carried out in Maldives are funded through the modules in Kerala which are hawala experts.
During his interrogation he also goes on to say that they have launched a shadow outfit called the Jammat-e-Muslimeen which is a cover for the Lashkar. All operations connecting Maldives and Kerala are carried out in the name of this outfit. The Kerala police point out that this is nothing but a shadow outfit for the Lashkar and in the name of the JeM a lot of activites have been carried out. The problem is serious and under the guise of a 90 day no visa policy many operatives have managed to come in and go with no problem what so ever. Although there is this glitch, the police say they are taking all efforts to verify the details of those who come into Kerala from Maldives.
However Ibrahim’s interrogation went on to prove that the police were caught napping. They managed to procure arms and also funds with much ease from Kerala when compared to Maldives. Due to various factors in Kerala, the Lashkar has found it easier to stock weapons and also cash in Kerala and have also managed to smuggle it out with much ease, once again using the sea route.
The last of the operations connecting these two modules was the Sultan park bombing. The JeM which is still very much active has remained to remain low key for the moment. Although there has been no major incident, there is still a lot of activity that goes on and hence it becomes extremely important to monitor movements into Kerala, the police feel.
The other interesting aspect is the visit made by another man called Inas Moosa to Kerala before the Sultan Park bombing. His visit is part of the record in Indian circles, but there is no trace of the man today. All the police know through their investigations is that Moosa had come down to Thiruvananthapuram and met with a couple of operatives before the attack.
Although India, Maldives and Pakistan have been speaking of curbing terror activities in Maldives, it does not appear that the Lashkar has let go easily. They have roped their best operatives including the D Gang to carry out operations in the Maldives. The D Gang has in fact set up three front companies in Maldives through which operations go on.
The IB says that all eyes are on Thiruvananthapuram where the JeM is headquartered. This front is a direct link to the Maldives operation. There is an attempt that is being made by the Lashkar to move out of Pakistan and make Maldives a big base and there is a lot of dependancy on the Indian modules for the same.
Apart from records available even the interrogations of various other operatives would show that Maldives is becoming a major hub for the Lashkar. Sarfaraz Nawaz, Sabahuddin among others have spoken about the Lashkar’s plans for Maldives. Nawaz even goes on to say that apart from Kerala they were also planning on linking the Tamil Nadu based modules for operations in Maldives.