A silent war!

Barring a terror attack on July 13, 2011 things have been relatively peaceful in India. Indian agencies are busy figuring out this menace which is now being caused by fringe groups. However the big question is what are the bigger groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayiba doing during this period of lull and calm.

The biggest weapon which these groups have is their patience and Indian Intelligence Bureau officials say that while they are not carrying out terror attacks there is a lot of activity that such groups carry out. The war is always on, but it is different in nature. There is no doubt that they are planning larger attacks on the Indian soil, but in the meantime what they continue to do is circulate fake currency, smuggle arms and ammunition carry out recruitments and build up terror modules across the country.

Fake currency- The year 2010 alone has seen fake currency worth Rs 3200 crore in circulation while over all since the past ten years the amount is a stunning  Rs 12,00,000 crore. The notes continue to be under circulation and the Home Ministry says that every 5th note out every 1000 is fake today. The Lashkar which is the biggest beneficiary of this racket pumps in these notes through the Dawood Ibrahim network and it has now been established that the notes of very fine quality are being printed in Pakistan.

What has been worrying the Indian agencies is that the number of routes to smuggle in fake currency have increased and also the printing units in Pakistan too have gone up. Earlier the government owned printing press in Karachi was being used to print fake currency, but today the establishment feels that there is a need to increase the supply and hence have instructed their other state owned press at Quetta to do the same. This only means that the number of notes which will be in circulation especially in India will double and Indian agencies have a tough task ahead.

The earlier routes that were being used to pump in fake currency into India were through Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. However now the reliance on countries such as Thailand and also Dubai have increased. In the future one would get to see this racket emerging more from these two countries since the heat on the operatives are lower compared to the ones operating from Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Moreover within India too there have been changes and fake currency that is pumped in through Dubai has been landing in Thiruvananthapuram and then circulated into other parts of the country. Hyderabad always continues to be a hub for such a racket, Indian agencies point out.

India claims that it is doing its bit to counter this menace in every possible way it can. The issues such as the sourcing of paper to print the notes from London continues to be a contentious issue. The Pakistani agencies have adopted the same route to source their papers which has made the entire exercise very difficult for Indian agencies. India will raise this issue with the Financial Action Task Force in the month of October since it has decided that it would need the help of the international community to fight this menace.

Arms and ammunition- While studying this aspect of terror it becomes extremely crucial to understand why the closure of the D Gang is very important to India. While there continues to be infiltration into India through the borders of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal the whole other problem that comes along with it is the smuggling of arms and ammunition. While these are the normal transit points, there is a chunk of this coming in from Thailand as well which has led agencies to believe that recruits of the D Gang have been aiding this menace. While these arms that have been smuggled in are not being used for terror activities, they continue to be in circulation in the market and are being supplied to gangs and the money being raised out of this is used to fund terrorism on a 70:30 basis.

Recruitments- This is one of the most important aspects for any terror organisation. With the Indian Mujahideen down in the dumps and their modules in re-grouping mode, Pakistan based outfits have had to rely largely on their independent networks to carry out a recruitment process. The Lashkar in particular has been looking more into their Kerala connections through the Gulf and are carrying out recruitments. There has also been an increase in activity in Hyderabad and the ongoing problems in the area have only helped these groups go about their job without being noticed. The entire focus of the police is on the agitation and this has given terror groups a safe path to go about their recruitment. When looking at this issue on a national level, the IB says that most of the activity has been down south when compared to the North which has slowed down in the area of recruitment. However these recruits would focus more on carrying on the fake currency trade and also bringing in more youth into the outfit. There have been no instances in the past couple of months to show that recruits have been sent outside the country to train. They are taking it slow deliberately to avoid the heat and they would try and ensure that nothing is done on a large scale.

Terror modules- Realistically speaking the lashkar alone has around 500 modules across the country. While the big bosses are headquartered at Pakistan, the Gulf modules have been put in charge of setting up terror modules in the country. The IB explains that the money is pumped in from the Gulf which lands up either in Andhra Pradesh or Kerala. This in turn is passed on to the recruits in these areas who carry it around the country and help set up modules. Most of the modules which are operated are not as active as they may have been a couple of years back. The IB says that this lack of activity cannot be misunderstood as them being down. These persons apart from increasing the number of modules continue to aide the circulation of fake currency and also the arms trade.


13/7-2 suspects held, probe widens across nationwide

The police are seeking further remand of Riazul Sarkar who was picked up in Bihar in connection with the serial blasts case. The Intelligence Bureau which has been questioning him says that he has links with the Harkat-ul-Jihadi based in Bangladesh, but not many relevant details regarding his links to the serial blasts have cropped up as yet.

His remand may be extended since the National Investigating Agency now wants to question him regarding the same case. He has come across as a very suspicious character and they would try and ascertain if he was in any way connected directly or indirectly with the blasts.

During the probe they found that he was fluent in Kannada and Bengali. However what raised the suspicion that his addresses turned out to be false. The IB says that it is too early to come to any conclusion this man and we are not suggesting that he is involved in the case. However there are certain things that we still need to ascertain about whether he has any real link to the HuJI. The HuJI and the IM are very closely linked and their cadres help each other cross in and out of the border.

Nation wide questioning of the IM operatives continued with police not finding any substantial clues as yet. There is sharing of information between the police and they are picking up leads from interrogation reports. The police are also questioning a man by the name Haroon who is in a jail in Kolkata. This man who is believed to be an IM operative was picked up last month based on an intelligence bureau tip off. Apart from being questioned about the present case the police are also finding out details on his linkages to the sleeper cells and modules in Kolkata.

An official said that there is a lot of focus on the modules from Kolkata since there are some leads indicating that some of the men involved in the blasts could have come from there. Even during the Varanasi blasts the foot soldiers managed to slip out through Kolkata. Moreover the close links between the IM and the HuJI also make Kolkata a hot hub for such operatives.

Probe heads towards Kolkata

The 13/7 serial blasts probe which is underway is looking towards Kolkata for more leads. Two very strong angles to investigation have emerged-one being the Indian Mujahideen and the other the links to the underworld.

While looking into the angle of the Indian Mujahideen the police believe that some of the men who could have executed the blasts may have slipped into Kolkata.

The police is now closely examining those passengers who could have come into Maharashtra from Kolkata since the past ten days. We are still looking for leads and the Kolkata police have been informed about this who in turn are providing details to investigators. The Kolkata STF which is assisting in this probe has given an indication that some members of the IM had gone off the radar a couple of days back and they could be the suspects in this latest attack.

The Kolkata link to the case is an interesting one if the police does manage to find evidence of an IM involvement in the case. In the past many of the cadres of the IM have used Kolkata as a safe hide out due its proximity with Bangladesh. The IM members who have been interrogated have spoken about this route that they use for terror operations.

On the Bangladesh border such operatives have found safe hide outs and there are many people who are more than willing to help them out in their operations. The likes of T Nasir the prime accused in the Bangalore blasts had also found shelter in Bangladesh before he was picked up by the police on the border.

In addition to this the IM has used migrant labour from the border to carry out their operations as was done during the Varanasi blasts. There are a good number of people who are willing to carry out operations for terrorist groups for a small sum of money. These persons who happen to be illegal migrants have no file or record on them which makes nabbing them a near to impossible task for investigators.

Meanwhile raids continued at Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and also Karnataka in search of key IM operatives.

An NIA source said that they are still looking for leads into the case. We are conducting raids and also studying the various interrogation reports of IM members. We are examining every possible angle as of now and we cannot say for now who exactly is behind this attack

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How do the foot soliders slip out?

Have you ever wondered why those people who plant the bombs get away despite there being CCTV footage only on these men? Take the various blasts that have rocked the country in the recent past and you would realize that these foot soldiers are never nabbed. Even when on some ocassions when the police have made an arrest, it has always turned out to be the wrong person.

There are various questions that come to one’s mind while discussing this subject. Investigating agencies say that going by the past cases it becomes clear that terror groups never use any of their major operatives while planting the bombs. Earlier during the Hyderabad, Jaipur attacks they did use their operatives since they did not have confidence in other persons.

However there was a change in the pattern when the Indian Mujahideen executed Operation Bangalore Ahmedabad Delhi.  This trend even was seen during the Varanasi blasts.

The new modus operandi first came to light when the police interrogated T Nasir, a prime accused in the Bangalore blasts. He had told the police that he had hired a set of construction workers to plant bombs across the city. He also went on to add that none of these workers even knew what they had with them and they just did what they were told as they had been paid a considerable amount of money by him.

This trend was once again witnessed during the Varanasi blasts where construction workers from Bangladesh were roped in to plant the bombs. Police officials say that they pick and chose such workers who are desperate for money and use them for the job. For such workers even Rs 500 is a very big sum and they will execute a job without even questioning. Moreover what the IM has started doing is it has started to chose migrant workers from Bangladesh who infiltrate into India. These persons leave the place for good once the job is done which makes it extremely difficult or rather impossible for the police to track.

The reason why they have chosen these migrant workers for the job is because there is no record on these persons and this makes it impossible to track down these persons.

However agencies say that in blasts which are high profile in nature, they are more cautious and could even use some of their low ranking cadres. These cadres are picked carefully and every precaution is taken to ensure that there is absolutely no police file on them. Moreover these cadres are roped in from different states. They are meant to meet with the members of the module where the blast will be executed and then asked to plant the bomb and leave the place immediately.

More often than not these persons do manage to get away since the immediate reaction of the police is never to track these culprits. The police are too busy assessing the situation and also maintaining law and order which gives them time to slip out. Also the devices are timed in such a manner that the explosion goes off at least an hour after the person leaves the place. The time that these persons get to slip away is evident in the case of the IISC attack. Sabhahuddin who was part of that attack not only had the time to slip out of Bangalore but even managed to reach Nepal by the time the police figured what was going on.

The HuJI re-grouping saga

The recent threat by the dreaded Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) to bomb the Pakistan embassy in New Delhi is a pointer that this outfit is becoming more brazen and wants to focus most of its activities in India.

With the Lashkar-e-Tayiba taking a back seat where India operations are concerned for the time being, it looks like this dreaded outfit HuJI which operates primarily out of Bangladesh is planning on taking centre stage.

Sources in the Intelligence Bureau say that HuJI has always been looking to dominate in India. The original plan by the ISI was to keep India on tenter hooks from both sides ie Pakistan and Bangladesh. While the Pakistan border was to be controlled by cadres of the Lashkar, the border along Bangladesh was always considered to be the domain of the HuJI.

A dossier prepared by the Indian Intelligence Bureau goes on to show that there has been an increased amount of activity where HuJI is concerned. The recruitment is at an all time high and records would show that at least 150 youth from West Bengal have gone missing. Investigations have gone on to show that these youth were picked up by the cadres of HuJI and are being trained to launch operations against India.

However an interesting point that Intelligence agencies make is that the kind of terror that HuJI is looking to launch would be different in nature. They are looking for abductions of high profile individuals so that they can hold the state to ransom.

HuJI is known to specialize in this field and they would using their knowledge in this regard on the Indian soil as well. This would solve two issues for this terrorist outfit. One they would try and raise money through such abductions and secondly they will ensure that the state is held to a ransom through such activity.

The growing ties between India and Bangladesh have put the brakes on this outfit and both countries have agreed to jointly counter the menace of this outfit. HuJI relied on the counterfeit notes racket to a large extent like all other terror outfits. However with the relations with two countries growing stronger the brakes have been applied on raising money to a large extent.

The IB says that HuJI would surely try and focus on carrying out terror attacks. However first on their agenda would be to try and raise funds for such attacks. They have been offering lucrative packages to their cadres.

They have decided to go about their India operations in a systematic manner. First and foremost they would raise funds through abductions and later use the same funds to carry out terror strikes. They have even started to offer their cadres attractive packages and the families of the suicide bombers are being offered anything between Rs 20 and Rs 25 lakh, the IB says.

The strongest base for the HuJI in India had always been Hyderabad and this was set up by Shahid Bilal who was two years back killed in an encounter at Pakistan. The fall of Bilal and the police action in Hyderabad had put this outfit completely on the back foot. However today they are trying to make a come back and using all of their resources to ensure that they do successfully. They have appointed cadres mostly from West Bengal to set up sleeper cells and each one is being offered Rs 10,000 per month. All this information that has been picked up based on intercepts by the IB also suggest that these sleeper cells would be set up first in the Nothern part of India before they move down South.

There are already two control centres that have been set up in Bangladesh exclusively to monitor the operations in India. These centres have been set up to train the youth who have been picked up from India and once their training is complete they are sent back to carry on with their work.

Following a Home Ministry alert regarding these developments, security agencies have already started to monitor the youth who have returned to India from Bangladesh. The alert is high the IB says and all police stations from across the country have been alerted regarding these developments. Security agencies also warn that action needs to be taken swiftly. If one looks at the manner in which the HuJI is going about its work, it becomes clear that the outfit means business and is going out of its way to strengthen its base in India which it had lost 3 years ago.

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The extremist turf war in Nepal

The chargesheet in the Samjautha Express blasts case which was filed recently states that two crucial players in the case are still absconding. Ramji Kalsanghra and Sandeep Dange are two very crucial players, not only in this case but also in those incidents relating to the Mecca Masjid and Ajmer blasts.

The National Investigating Agency does realise the importance of nabbing both these men and say that a finality to this entire terror cycle can be attained only once these two are in custody.

The NIA is on a hot trail of these two men, but the more important question is where are these men hiding. Some intelligence inputs go on to suggest that the moment was heat was up, they managed to slip into Nepal. This is not the first time that a person from this module has taken shelter in Nepal. Praveen Muthalik who is an accused in the Malegaon blasts too has taken the same route. He was however nabbed when he made a visit to India a couple of months back.

The Nepal corridor has been often discussed and this used to be a primary route for ISI sponsored terror groups. However there is now a clear turf war on in this country between the two modules-one from India and the other from Pakistan. According to sources in the Intelligence Bureau, most of the Pakistan based modules have now shifted operations to Bangladesh since they find that to be a safer haven.

When some fringe elements within the Abhinav Bharath set out to carry out terror attacks one of the aspects that was discussed was relating to the hideouts. Every terror group when it commences operations takes into consideration this very important aspect since they need to find a safe haven once the attack is carried out.

These elements had discussed the possibility of Nepal being a hide out once operations were completed. The main issue at that time however was that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Dawood Gang were using this base extensively and they did not want any clash with them. Over the years, they started to set up modules within Nepal and also created a safe route to slip out once an attack was carried out. This group however did not exercise this option for quite sometime since all the attacks that were being carried out by them were being attributed to the Muslims. However when the investigations took a different turn, some of the key men involved in the attacks began moving into Nepal. For this group Nepal was the best option since it is a familiar terrain for them. The language, the culture were similar and hence they found it easier to gel with the locals there and remain undercover.

Once these modules in Nepal were activated there were changes in the Lashkar modules. There was a clash between the two modules and this prompted the Lashkar to close down several of its modules and shift into Bangladesh.The Lashkar too found this to be a better option when compared to Nepal since their operatives were finding it more comfortable to be in Bangladesh once again due to the similarities in cultures.

Investigations into the Samjautha, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blasts have gone on to show that there are very few modules within India. These men did thrive on the moral support of some people. Moreover it was also learnt that they did want to keep their operations a secret and hence did not involve too many people. Right from the planning stages, to the logistics and then the execution, the operations were known only to a hand full of people. The plan was to build up more modules within India over a period of time while they had decided to use all the modules created in Nepal as hide outs.

The NIA is however doing a proper check on the whereabouts of the two absconding men and are even ready to bring them down from Nepal. There are no major issues on the diplomatic front to bring down criminals and hence this task should not be difficult. However they would want to be 100 per cent sure before they can make a final move. The NIA does realise that the probe will hit a road block if these two men are not nabbed and hence the trail on them is really hot.

India’s new headache, JMB

Groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and its affiliates always posed and will continue to pose a security risk for India unless their mentors Pakistan act very seriously against them. Security experts are of the view that while the threat perception from the Pakistan border continues to be huge, there is growing activity on the Bangladesh border which needs to be taken seriously failing which the troubles for India will only grow.

When one speaks about Bangladesh, the first thought that comes to mind is that of the HuJI which has been dominant for some time now and has managed to spread its tentacles into West Bengal and the Hyderabad region courtesey the late Shahid Bilal. However now there is an added head ache and this comes in the form of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen. The JMB as it is known as was never much of a problem for India since the group focused largely on Bangladesh and followed the ideology that no civilians should be attacked and their war was only against the government. While this outfit was growing in strength during the early part of 2000, there was a decimation of its cadres when the government of Bangladesh cracked down on it and arrested nearly 95 of its cadres. In the later part of 2008 this group was down, but now according to Intelligence reports they have started to re-group and the worrying factor is that they are being backed by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba in this exercise of theirs.

The Lashkar realises the importance of having a very important ally in Bangladesh so that attacks could be launched on India from that border. Although the HuJI is an ally and will continue to be, the ISI/Lashkar feel that they have been too much on the radar and it may be difficult for them to carry out an operation with ease. They would want the HuJI to remain functional, but would prefer if it focuses more on the North Eastern states where enough and more seperatist movements are looking for external help.

The JMB gains importance in the wake of the Lashkar sending in its Bangladesh based cadres into India in the recent past. Security agencies say that there has been a clear change in plan and they will look to push in more through the Bangladesh border and this also would mean that the members of the JMB are playing a crucial role in this.

The Intelligence Bureau says that the JMB has already started to operate on Indian soil. For starters they have taken control of the Hundi operations which is a major fund grosser. They have their sympathisers in the Gulf and raising funds has not been much of a problem for them. In addition to this a few recent arrests of its members on the Indo-Bangladesh border have revealed that they have been pumping in fake currency and the Intelligence agencies see this as a first step towards them building up a network in India.

The first signs of this group being interested in operations in India came during the hijacking of the Indian airlines flight to Khandahar. While the Indian agencies have not been able to establish a direct link between the JMB and the incident, the interrogation of a man  by the name Belal Hosain who was a key member of the group revealed that he was aware of this plot. The CBI had only managed to establish that the entire operation was planned on Bangladesh soil but no member of the JMB was involved in this plot.

However the more important thing about that interrogation was that he told the CBI that the JMB was constantly trying to regroup and had even planned a series of attack on Indian soil. He had also told his interrogators his group was very upset with the joint offensive by the Bangladesh government which was supported by India against them.

The IB says that this outfit which was formed by  Sheikh Abdur Rehman in 1998. The group was formed after Rehman who was originally with the HuJI fell out with the group.

While the divide had remained for a long time, it is now the Lashkar which has stepped in to take advantage of this group as it thinks it is ready to launch full fledged operations once again.

What are these terrorists planning?

Four terrorists are on the loose in Mumbai city according to the police and the sketch of one was even released by the police on Thursday. As the police continue to chase these terrorists with the help of the intelligence bureau who are passing on inputs, it has become clear that these men have slipped in from Bangladesh via West Bengal.
On these persons arriving at Mumbai, an alert was sounded off and it was also said that these men were planning on carrying out strikes at high profile places which also included the police headquarters. Prior to the alert being sounded off against these four men, there was another alert three days back in which it was said terrorists may try and target Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
Interestingly the Mumbai police had a similar task on hand ahead of the Ganesh festival celebrations. At that time the intercept was that two terrorists had entered into the city and planned on carrying out attacks in the city. The two men Kalimuddin Khan alias Rameshwar Pundit and Hafiz Sareef had come into the city in the month of September and had planned on disrupting the festival. However till date these men have not been apprehended as yet.
The pattern looks interesting and according to intelligence bureau officials, such things would continue to happen and it could be seen more in Mumbai.
The first thing that one notices is that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba is sending in a lot of its cadres from Bangladesh into Mumbai when compared to the Pakistan cadres who were a regular in this city earlier. The second thing is that these men actually do not go ahead with the attack and vanish all of a sudden without leaving a trail.
The IB explains to rediff.com that in future Mumbai will see more and more men of the Lashkar from the Bangladesh unit. This is a carefully thought out move since there is more inputs on the Pakistan cadres when compared to their counterparts in Bangladesh. Post 26/11 the borders we share with Pakistan was better manned when compared to the one we have with Bangladesh. Infiltrating through the Bangladesh border is easier since there are not enough checks in West Bengal and this makes it an easier route for terrorists to enter.
The second point is that these men are not always sent to carry out attacks. Their job is basically to set up modules and also pass on money to the existing cadres. They do not come in with arms or ammunition in order to avoid the heat. They usually carry on them information and also money that will be passed on to the cadres who are part of the modules in Mumbai.
Such cadres who come into the city apart from doing the job of passing on information and money also act as distractions for the security agencies. They normally do this and ensure that a bit of information regarding them is passed on so that they can undertake a different mission without having the heat on them which would be more serious in nature. These men more often just slip into the city and then slip out immediately. They never hang around in the same place, the IB also adds.
There has been an exercise over the past couple of months to strengthen their base in the city and this is a continuing exercise. However such things cannot be taken for granted as they do also carry with them an element of surprise and could well strike and hence it becomes absolutely necessary to issue an advisory as we need people to be on alert.
The four Lashkar militants who are from Bangladesh have now been identified as Abdul Kareem Moosa, Noor Abu Ilahi, Walid Jinnah and Mahfooz Alam. The Mumbai police say that there are very much within the city and one of them could have even changed his appearance. The police are however taking no chances and have even formed a special squad to arrest these men. Apart from this the police have also sought information from the general public regarding these men.